Branding is more than just a logo. Yes, branding is more than just a logo! Your brand actually starts long before you even think about what things should look like. I’d even say that you don’t necessarily need a logo right away. Let me explain. 

Branding is what they say about you, not what you say about yourself. “They” are your audience. Of course, you have some control over this (and you should be quite intentional about building your brand), but ultimately, your brand is how your business is interpreted by your audience. 

In order to know your audience and what they say about you, I recommend taking some time to be in business to observe, shift, refine, and focus. How can you know what your audience is saying about you if you’re not doing business yet? Your mom’s opinion of your website does not count! (Unless your sweet mama is in your target audience.) 

I recommend having at least the following tacked down before opening up shop.

  • Determine your offering (this should be a straightforward offering) and break it into some bite-sized bits if your offering is complex.
  • Determine your position in your market. (Know your competitors and know how you are different/special.)
  • Determine your target audience (Who is your customer? Who wants what you sell? Be specific! “Humans” is not a target center.)
  • Determine your tone of voice. This is how you talk to your audience (some combination of words and images, usually) and BE CONSISTENT.
  • Select some intentional visual elements. Even if you have two colors (let’s say, Aquamarine and Charcoal Grey) and you select one typeface (let’s say, Comic Sans), it needs to be somewhat meaningful to your audience and you have to be, say it with me, CONSISTENT. Use the same system of messaging, colors, typeface, etc every time. 
  • Tell a meaningful story. I’m willing to bet that if you’re reading this, you’re not just a business owner to make tons of money. Small business owners are usually pretty passionate about what they do. Let that come through in your branding. Tell your audience why you do what you do and what makes you really amazing at it. This is so, so important since there are certainly other businesses doing similar-enough things that all want your audience’s attention. 

Armed with the above items, go get some months (6-18 months) of business under your belt. Observe what really works for you and your customer, shift (if needed) to better meet your customers’ needs, refine your offering to streamline things, and focus on your core offering. What is bringing you the most success? Do you still like doing this? 

After some time, hopefully, you’ve been wildly successful and have been so good with money that you’ve saved a good bit and now you can hire a human to work with you to craft an impressive and fully-customized brand identity system. That human can even make brochures and business cards and a website for you. Yay!

You should, of course, do what works for you. If you have a personal hangup with moving forward without a logo, by all means, get one! If your best friend is a designer and offers to do it for you, go for it! I say all of this to free you from the idea that you *have* to have a fully-realized brand before starting your business. A thoughtful visual brand system is something worth saving for. Whatever you do, be consistent. You must be consistent in order to be memorable, with or without a logo.

Content provided by Women Belong member Andi Mints Gilreath