• Developing Your Brand by Developing Yourself

    Developing and defining yourself as a creative entrepreneur can be tricky, especially when you’re first starting out. Everything is new, and terrifying, and exciting, and terrifying. Unless you’re able to hire a brand and web developer right off the bat, there is no one telling you how to brand yourself, how to position yourself, how to represent yourself on social media, how to sell the products or services you provide, or hell, even how to start creating said products and services.

    A few nightmarish months in the rearview, and you’ve probably got a pretty good handle on things. You got all the legal stuff figured out (barely), you have a website up and running, you have some sort of social media presence, and you’re working on fine-tuning your products and services.

    But for some reason, you’re still not feeling quite right about the whole thing. For some reason, your brand identity doesn’t really speak to your individual awesomeness; it doesn’t showcase just how cool what you’re creating and putting out into the word really is. For whatever reason your brand feels disconnected and distant—underdeveloped and lacking somehow. Sound familiar?

    Well, you’re not alone—brand identity crisis ya’ll—it’s a real thing.

    In my case, I knew what I eventually wanted out of this whole business venture—to have an online business where I could sell quirky and fun hand-lettered…things. I just had no idea where to start, or how to get there; especially with the nonexistent business start-up funds and no education or knowledge in the whole, you know, starting a business thing.

    That’s when my boss suggested I open a custom chalkboard business. I had made a few for some of our floral clients and they seemed to be well received. I didn’t think much of it then; however, that tiny seed had been planted and I couldn't untangle myself from its spreading roots. The idea fascinated me, it intrigued me, and it led me to open ChalkWhimsy: hand lettered lovelies. It wasn’t necessarily what I had in mind for my business, but it was an affordable start down that entrepreneurial path. At least I was hand lettering...things.  

    With a newfound purpose, I worked feverishly to get the basics taken care of—legalities, website, social media presence, yada, yada and so forth. I wanted to get my name out there quickly; and so with fingers crossed, I cast a rudimentary brand in the deep void of the inter-webs, hoping beyond hope that it would lure in those dream customers.

    What I didn’t realize is that it takes more than a measly, tattered net to attract the prize fish. It takes skill, it takes precision, and most importantly, it takes time. Yes, time. There are many cases of beginners luck—and more power to those lucky few—but for most it takes leagues of meticulously spent time to excel in any particular field. It takes time to learn the trade, to polish your skills, to refine who you are and what you offer, and finally, how you offer it to your audience. 

    Cue my personal light bulb moment: it takes time to develop a strong, self-aware brand identity, because it takes time to develop yourself in this new position. Your brand is, after all, a reflection of you. How are you to know the true nature of that reflection when the ripples are still in motion?

    When I started ChalkWhimsy I knew what I eventually wanted it to become, but I didn't necessarily set up my brand with those ideals in mind. Now that I’ve tested the waters—so to speak—I am able to see what’s working, and what isn’t, what stays and what goes. After being knee-deep for a few months, I can evaluate my website, my offerings, my social media presence, my style and even my voice with a more discerning and critical awareness. Now that I have a better idea of who I am as a creative entrepreneur, I can cast that net with a steady and more poised hand.

    Luckily, we are not on this voyage of self and business discovery alone. Many a successful creative have helped map the coordinates toward that solid land of brand awareness; helping newer, less seasoned creatives maneuver the rough patches with a tad more ease.

    A couple of these pioneers have helped me narrow down my business vision and set me on a path towards intentioned brand identity—i.e., finding my personal voice and style and keeping it cohesive across platforms; narrowing down what I want to offer and how I want to offer it; being able to explain my business in a concise, well thought out and intentional sentence; knowing what my business stands for.

    CAITLIN L. HORTON is a business strategist who helps creatives build their brand, and fine-tune their website and marketing plan. This girl is legit.

    She’s currently offering a free “mini guide” of her Landmark Method that walks you through your business processes and helps you define what you want your business to be known for. Just a handful of pages, this interactive PDF is quick to fill out, but definitely packs a punch. It was just the tool I needed to organize my jumbled business goals and overall purpose. 

    Caitlin also just launched what seems to be a pretty cool course on how to completely revamp your About Page to better represent yourself and your business. I haven’t checked it out yet, but if her free “mini guide” is any indication of her branding brilliance and marketing prowess, I’m sure it’s pure magic.

    You can find Caitlin’s awesome freebie on her website, or follow her on Instagram @dizzycaitlin

    KATHLEEN SHANNON is someone you have all heard me talk about before…but, you guys—I just freakin’ love this chick!

    Kathleen is the co-owner/ creative of Braid Creative and the co-host of the ever-awesome Being Boss Podcast. She helps creatives brand themselves and build their business vision with intention. Her newsletters are insightful and educational—either leaving me with a new nugget of knowledge to start implementing ASAP, or just making me feel a little more empowered to take control of my business. Her Facebook Live chats and Webinars are inspiring and I live for her (and other rad Boss Babe, Emily Thompson) Podcast episodes. From Kathleen, I am always learning new and exiting ways to better my business by strengthening my brand.

    Find this boss at Braid Creative, or at BeingBoss. For daily inspiration, you can find her on Instagram at @kathleenshannon, @braidcreative & @beingbossclub

    So if you're feeling overwhelmed, or even underwhelmed by your brand lately, it's okay. It takes time to navigate yourself onto the right path when braving new territory. Rough waters and unseen obstacles may slow you down or veer you slightly off course, but by diligently practicing your craft and referencing those routes that have been mapped out with your success in mind, you’re bound to be smooth sailing before you know it. 


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