Branding your business: when to splurge & when to save

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You don't need a professional logo to make money.

Hell, you don't really need a logo at all.

But, if your goal is to stand out and build trust, or position yourself as a quality, premium brand, the right look and feel can make ALL the difference. 

Whether you're re-branding or starting fresh, when it comes to creating a visual identity for your business, everyone has an opinion. For every person who tells you to invest, there's another telling you about the millions they made with a logo they made in MS Paint 20 years ago.

But, what's right for them may not be the right move for you. So today, I want to help you make an informed choice.

I'm sharing—

  • My advice on who should save their money and who should be investing in a professional.
  • The must-have's everyone should look for when creating a new visual identity.
  • Three options to create your visuals at different price points and the pros and cons of each so you can weigh up which is right for you. 

Heads up! This post contains affiliate links. Check out our affiliate disclosure for more info about what this means.

When to save and when to invest: some general guidelines

Do you invest in your visuals from day one, or do you find a cheap solution as a stop-gap? My opinion is that it depends on your specific situation.

You should save when—

  • You simply don't have the budget available.
  • You don't know whether your business or idea will be profitable yet. If you're still 'testing the waters' it might be best to save. If you think your audience or business idea might change significantly in the next 12 months there is a possibility you may need to re-brand. In this case, I'd wait until you have a better understanding of your business and audience.

You should invest when—

  • You're selling a premium or high end product. If you want to sell at a higher price point, every single one of your touchpoints has to tell your customer 'this is a quality product/service', including your visuals.
  • You know you have a very design conscious audience (designers, architects etc.) who'll be looking for brands who share their appreciation for beautiful visuals.
  • You don't have a clue where to begin or which colours to choose. If design isn't your strong suit you may be better off with the guidance of a designer.
  • You don't have the time or desire to do it yourself and you can afford to invest. Your time is probably better spent elsewhere.

The non-negotiables: What you don’t want to skimp on

A visual system

No matter what your budget is, you need a visual system. This is more than a logo. It's a system of visual elements that work together to create your unique look. This includes your colours, fonts and any other supporting graphics like photography styles, patterns and icons. 

Having a system will allow you to maintain a consistent visual style, which is incredibly important for standing out and building trust and credibility. It also makes it easier to create your own marketing materials everyday. Just check out how our lovely client Emma at The Pelvic Hub has curated her instagram feed using her visual identity guidelines and the simple instagram templates we created for her in Canva. She is killing it! 

Once you’ve decided on your visual system, pop it all into a brand style guide. Your visuals will always be consistent, no matter who creates them!

A vector logo

You need your logo to be scalable to big and small sizes without pixelating. This means your logo must be saved in a vector format (AI, EPS, SVG). If you want to learn more about file formats check out this article. To create a vector logo, you need the right software. Unfortunately software like Canva doesn’t support vector file exports, so if you need to create or edit a logo yourself, you’ll need something like Adobe Illustrator (you can get a free trial of this here).

A strategic approach

You need to know what kind of brand you’re building before you start designing anything. You should know who your ideal customers are and how you want your brand to make them feel. And, you should know why your offering is different or unique to the others on the market. Having a clear strategy before you begin will help you to avoid following trends, or choosing designs on personal preference alone.

We often get asked‚ 'is this a good font?', or 'is this a good colour palette?' But, the real question to ask is not whether it's good or bad, but whether it aligns with the brand you want to build. If you know your brand, then it's much easier to make strategic decisions about your visuals.

Creating a visual identity: 3 ways to get started

1. Do it yourself

  • Best for: Those with a good eye for design. Those who have used design software before or are willing to learn.
  • Pros: The only cost is your time.
  • Cons: It’ll may be time-consuming, especially if you’re learning new software. You might not end up with the polished end product you'd hoped for.
  • Where you might get stuck: Overdoing it. When I was a teenager I would stack on my makeup in an attempt to look older. Ironically, this had the opposite effect to what I had hoped. Same goes for design. If you’ve never designed anything before, you might be tempted to overdo it, so it doesn’t look too ‘basic’. But, basic is better than butchered. Less is more, so keep it simple!
  • Visual identity style: Simple. Try creating a wordmark logo (no images or icons). Pair it with 2-3 colours and 1-2 fonts.  
  • Tips: Your logo should work on dark and light backgrounds and at really big and really small sizes. The colour and font in your logo don’t have to be the same as the colours and fonts you choose to use in your marketing materials. Use branding inspiration to guide you. 
  • How to start: Find brands that have a similar look and feel to what you hope to create. Pin your inspiration to a Pinterest board (or similar) so you can see your ideas side-by-side, then take note of trends— colours, fonts, styles. Once you know what you want to create, seek guidance and tutorials on youtube or via blogs to design your logo. You can find fonts online on Creative Market, Font SquirrelMyFonts, Google Fonts— there are a lot to choose from.  

2. Customise a pre-made template

  • Best for: Those who don’t want to start from scratch, or need a logo immediately. 
  • Pros: It’s inexpensive and your file is already setup for you. Depending on where you buy the your logo or branding kit the designer may also customise your logo for you.  
  • Cons: You might not end up with an original logo and it might not be the perfect fit for your brand. Depending on where you buy the logo, you may need to tweak the design yourself which might take some time (especially if you’re learning new software). If you don’t choose your logo style wisely, it might not work for your business name.  
  • Where you might get stuck: Choosing the logo template. Choose a template that you really like 'as is'. If you have to make major changes to the logo it might cost more, or get complicated if you're doing it yourself.     
  • Visual identity style: Choose any logo you like, but avoid overly complex icons (e.g. gradients, shadows, intricate embellishments) as these details can be lost at smaller sizes. Choose 1-3 colours and 1-2 fonts to accompany your logo across marketing materials.
  • Tips: Pay close attention to what you get when you buy the logo— check to see which files you will receive and whether the copyright licence is given to you upon purchase. Try and choose a logo that has a similar number of letters and/or words to your business name so you know it will typeset nicely. Never begin without a solid brand strategy first (you need to know your audience, your positioning and personality at a minimum).
  • How to start: Find brands that have a similar look and feel to what you hope to create. Pin your inspiration to a Pinterest board (or similar) so you can see your ideas side-by-side, then take note of trends— colours, fonts, styles. Once you know what you're looking for head over to Creative Market, Graphic River or other similar sites to find logo options.

3. Hire a pro

  • Best for: Those who want to save their own time and make sure it’s done properly. 
  • Pros: You can spend more time focusing on what you do best. You’ll get a custom, unique design that you love. If you get a strong visual identity system created first, it’s much easier for team members to continue to create consistent marketing materials for you in the long-term. 
  • Cons: It will probably cost more than the above options. 
  • Where you might get stuck: Choosing a branding team and knowing how much to pay them. Every designer will charge differing amounts, depending on the scope of work, their level of experience and where they live. Expect to pay at least a few hundred dollars for a junior or offshore designer and thousands for an experienced studio or agency. Here are some tips for finding the perfect designer for you.
  • Tips: Compare fixed prices, not hourly rates, as everyone works at a different pace. Always look at portfolios to see if you like their past work. Never begin a project without a solid brand strategy first (you need to know your audience, your positioning and personality at a minimum). Give your designer inspiration and a clear brief, but don’t be too prescriptive. Sometimes the best ideas happen when you’re given space to be creative! 
  • How to start: Find brands that have a similar look and feel to what you hope to create. Pin your inspiration to a Pinterest board (or similar) so you can see your ideas side-by-side, then take note of trends— colours, fonts, styles. Once you know roughly what you're looking for, search for designers who can match this style within you price range. You’ll find tips for where to find designers in this article. And, if you like what we’re all about, you are always very welcome to contact us!  

Where to from here?

No matter which avenue you take, do what you can with the resources you have. Once your business earns more money, you can invest it back into rebranding and updating as you go. Every brand starts somewhere—just look at some of these famous brand evolutions!  

Creating visuals is a place a lot of people get stuck on when they are starting out and they spend months trying to create the 'perfect' look and feel. While it’s important to look professional, it’s equally important to get out there and start helping your customers too!

So—which option are you? Let me know in the comments! And if you know someone who might benefit from this article hit the share button below.  

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