What You Can Learn from TheSkimm as a Business Owner

theSkimm lessons for business owners

theSkimm lessons for business owners

By now, you’ve probably heard of theSkimm, the startup run by friends and business partners
Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg. In case you haven’t: It’s a daily email that rounds up news from around the world in a bite-sized, snarky format. If you’re not yet convinced, keep this in mind: Oprah reads theSkimm every day, they’ve received $6.25 million in funding, and in just two years, they hit 500,000 subscribers.

How does this relate to your solo business, even if you aren’t necessarily looking for venture capital or a business partner?

Here are a few lessons from Carly, Danielle, and the rest of theSkimm team that you can apply to your solo biz:

Make opting in the obvious choice

Shaming your readers? Probably not the best idea. Gently poking fun at them? Gold mine. theSkimm does this by making people feel silly for not opting in. When you land on the site, a pop-up appears with two choices: to click the sign-up button or to click the button that says “No thanks, I prefer to be miserable in the morning.” Kinda makes signing up seem like the obvious choice, right?

You can apply this in your business by utilizing a pop-up that evokes the same emotional response (it probably sounds something like this: “Haha! Welllllll…okay!”) or providing an opt-in that’s so valuable it seems silly not to sign up.

Tell people what to expect

theSkimm markets itself very clearly as a daily email delivered to your inbox at 6am EST. Their tagline is “We read. You skimm,” which notifies potential subscribers that they should expect an easily digestible format.

We’re not saying you should send out a daily email to your community (in fact, that seems like a completely unnecessary undertaking for a solo business owner!), but you too can capitalize on this transparency in your business. We sought to create consistency by scheduling The Hot Seat, our weekly “talk show,” every Wednesday so that people know exactly where and when to find us. Another common example? Marie Forleo followers know that every Tuesday, Marie will post a new episode of MarieTV.

Telling people what to expect isn’t limited to scheduling. Marketing a blog post as a “primer” or “101” instantly tells people that it’s basic, introductory content, just like titling a YouTube video “Quick Tip” indicates — you guessed it — that it’s a short video.

Create an instantly recognizable brand

You’ve probably heard more about branding than you care to know. (No? Then check out our Personal + Professional Branding theme!) But it bears repeating: your images, your colors, your tone, and your formatting should be recognized by your community no matter where you happen to be, online or off — your site, on social media, in the comment areas of other blog, or while giving a live presentation.

We’d wager a guess that any Skimm reader could tell you their signature color (Skimm Blue, as they call it), a few of their memorable subject lines (like Gobble Gobble in honor of Thanksgiving and Espresso Yourself), some of their frequent categories (Quote or Word of the Day, Repeat After Me, Skimm Reads), and their classic first line, “Skimm’d” which is always completed with both cheeky and relatable examples like “over Pillsbury cookie dough,” “watching the Emmys” and “from bed.” They even have a name for their “language”: Skimm-ese.

Capture your own signature pieces and rock those babies anywhere and everywhere.

Speak to your audience

It’s immediately obvious whenever you interact with theSkimm — on their site, on their Instagram account, or in their actual emails — who their audience is: busy millennial women who want to stay up-to-date on world events but don’t necessarily have the time or energy to seek it out. How do we know that’s their audience? They tell us — through that shade of Skimm Blue we mentioned and through references to white wine, “Law & Order: SVU” marathons, Equinox gym memberships, and the US Open.

How can you do this in your solo business? We’ll assume you know who you’re speaking to. Make two lists: one list of things that you identify with and another of things you constantly hear about from your community. In an actual or figurative Venn diagram (love us some Venn diagrams!), find the overlap. This is a version of the method we used to create some of our most popular offerings, like our Solopreneur Sanity Handbook (from conversations about productivity and self-care) and our Location Independence Month (from conversations about the desire of so many in our community to be able to travel and run a business simultaneously).

Make people feel included + incentivize sharing

We personally can’t stand the Mean Girls-inspired graphic circulating on Instagram that says “You can’t sit with us.” We’re opposed to references to exclusion and love the opposite approach: inclusion. theSkimm makes people feel included — and therefore, more inclined to share — in several ways: by mentioning all reader birthdays and by encouraging people to become Skimm’bassadors.

We do the same by allowing people to carry the #OneWomanShopBaton on Instagram, providing a badge that our members can put up on their sites, offering opportunities for members to be featured in the Member Spotlight, and choosing a Member of the Week at random, not to mention special little treats like a chance to win a Starbucks gift card (for a Pumpkin Spice Latte, of course) if you send out a tweet on our behalf.

Find creative ways to loop your community into your mission — and then make it easy for them to showcase their participation by creating Swipe Files of the content you want them to send out, including pre-drafted Click to Tweets, for example.

For goodness sake, make it fun

We imagine it’s a bit of a challenge to make serious world news both informative and fun, but theSkimm does just that. Likewise, teaching people about WordPress, for example, could be incredibly dull, but Shannon of WP+BFF does it in a fun, relatable way. Talking to people about productivity + self-care, like we do in The Solopreneur Sanity Handbook, could feel heavy-handed and boring, but we do our best to make it relatable with personal anecdotes and examples.

How can you make things just a bit more relatable, digestible, and yes, flippin’ fun for your community of clients, customers, and collaborators today?

7 Steps to Creating a Consistent Solopreneur Brand

Personal + Professional Branding

Sometimes it feels like you’re doing everything right and still no one comes to your blog. You spend days writing useful content, hours promoting it on social media and…. crickets. It’s enough to make you want to throw in the towel on this whole blogging thing.

But don’t do that just yet. We’ve all been there at some point or another. The problem might be that your followers may just not remember or recognize you because you’re blending into the rest of the noise on social media. That’s something we can fix.

So, how do you stand out from the crowd?

By having a consistent branding strategy. A good brand involves careful thought and design but consistency is what many are missing from their branding experiences. Consistency is key to building a brand that people know and recognize.

That consistency is what makes you memorable — and credible.

A consistent presence everywhere will help people recognize that they’re engaging with the same person and brand whether they’re on your blog, reading comments on another blog, or on social media. They’ll begin to associate your content with you and your brand.

So how do you know if your brand is consistent?

Do an audit of your visual assets

Start by doing an audit of all your visual assets. Create a document in Photoshop, Illustrator or Word and start copying and pasting all the visual elements from your blog:

  • Logo
  • Brand colors
  • Fonts
  • Blog graphics (blog header graphic, background images, blog post images, buttons, favicon, eBook covers, worksheets, etc.)
  • Social media graphics (profile photos, cover images, post graphics, etc.)

Now that you’ve gathered it all up, step back and take a look.

  1. Do the design styles follow a similar pattern or trend?
  2. Are the colors consistent and do they go well together?
  3. Are your fonts consistent with the design style? (Fun and quirky fonts for a fun blog, traditional fonts for a blog on a more serious topic, etc.)

If you answered no to two or more of these questions, there’s work to be done — but don’t fret. After today, you’ll be on your way to a more cohesive brand that people will instantly recognize when they see you around the web! Here are seven action steps you can take right now.

1. Define your mood and focus

This is #1 because before you can solidify your brand, we need to have a clear definition of who you serve. How else will you know how to present yourself to your target audience?

Download the worksheet at the bottom of this post. I recommend you fill it out electronically versus printing it out so you can easily edit it. Just save it to your computer and type right into the boxes. Start by filling in section one:

  1. Who is your blog for?
  2. Why do you write what you write?
  3. What pains or problems are you solving for your readers?
  4. What makes you different?
  5. How do you want your brand to be perceived?
  6. How should people feel when they visit your blog? Choose three words that best describe your brand. These are your “brand words.”

With those questions answered, you’ll have a better idea of who you are speaking to.

Go back to your blog elements. Is your content consistent with your audience? Is the design consistent with your content?

The trick is to get into the mind of your typical reader and ask yourself what type of experience they would want while reading your content. Always keep your brand words in mind when making decisions regarding your brand.

2. Use consistent colors

From your logo to your social media profiles, make your colors synonymous with your brand so that when someone sees those colors, they think of you. Here’s how you can do that:

  1. Think about how your brand words will translate into colors.
  2. Identify the mood you want to convey to your audience. Do you want calm, soothing colors or bold, dark colors or bright, playful colors?
  3. Study colors and their meanings. Colors have different effects on gender, age and type of audience.
  4. Pay attention to color schemes used by competitors in your niche.
  5. Use color tools like Kuler to help find a final color scheme.

Put it into action: if you write about how to be calm and peaceful in life, your blog should reflect that with light, soothing colors and simple, easy-to-read fonts.

3. Use consistent fonts

Just like your color scheme, your font palette has a mood, too. You can choose fun and flirty fonts or traditional and serious fonts. You can choose swirly, girly fonts or you can choose bold and sturdy fonts. It all depends on who you are targeting. Don’t forget to reference your brand words when selecting your font palette.

If you’re new to choosing fonts, I recommend picking just two to start with. These two fonts should be easy to read and used for your body copy and headings.

If you’re feeling brave, you could add a third, accent font to your palette. This accent font would only be used in small doses to pepper your design with flavor. Read more about choosing a great font palette here.

4. Create a style guide

Now that you have your ideal colors and fonts, you can make sure that these are being used throughout the different blog elements that we talked about earlier:

  • your logo
  • your header
  • your profile photo
  • your sidebar items and headings
  • your favicon
  • post images
  • the buttons throughout your blog

Not sure how to lay your guide out? Jamie’s Style Guide template from SpruceRd.com is perfect for this.

5. Use consistency within your profile images

Take a look at the profile photo of you in your blog. Is the background consistent with your brand colors? I hope so. Are you posing indoors for your outdoor-lifestyle blog? I hope not.

What about your clothing? Is it consistent with your colors and your messaging? Hopefully. Are you wearing frumpy dumpy clothing in your confidence-building blog? Hopefully not!

Put as much attention into your profile photo as you do with everything else. Be intentional about the background you select and the clothing you wear, especially the colors. Remember your brand words! Your expression should match the mood of your blog. More than likely it should exude confidence and/or joy. Above everything, make sure that it is a high quality photograph.

Once you have a profile photo that fits with your branding, you’ll need to use that photo (or a similar one from the photoshoot) throughout all of your social media profiles. Use the same photo for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google Plus, Pinterest, and each of your other platforms. Instant recognition can be a game changer.

Do the same for your social media cover photos. Use the same backgrounds, imagery, colors and fonts from your blog in your Facebook and Twitter covers.

Take this a little further: add the profile photo to your comments

If you regularly comment on blogs in your niche or industry, you will want your profile photo to appear next to your comments. This makes you recognizable in the blogging community, which helps when you are trying to build up your audience.

To ensure the right profile photo shows up in the various comment providers, upload your photo to the following websites:

  • Your Google account: Uploading your profile photo to Google will update it across all of your Google accounts: Gmail, Google+, YouTube, Blogger, etc.
  • WordPress.com: Blogs hosted on WordPress.com require you to sign in to your WordPress.com account to leave a comment. Make sure your profile photo appears with your comment by uploading it to your free account.
  • Gravatar: Many WordPress blogs use Gravatar to automatically add your profile photo next to your comment. Upload your photo to a free Gravatar account to ensure that it appears next to your comments.
  • Disqus: Blogs that use Disqus, a blog commenting plugin, require you to sign in using a social media account or your Disqus account. Again, you’ll want to make sure that your photo is uploaded here so that it appears by your comments.

6. Use consistent naming for your social profiles

Ideally, you would have your brand name be part of your social media handles (i.e. twitter.com/brandname), so what do you do if your brand name has been taken already?

Include your brand name in your profile names. For example, the Twitter account I opened up years ago is @marianney and does not include my brand’s name. So I include it in my profile name like this: Marianne // DYOB. This way when people see my tweets in their feed, they can quickly associate my name (and photo) with my blog.

7. Be consistent in your messaging

Brand consistency doesn’t only exist visually. It exists in your content and messaging, too. Your brand needs a tagline and a bio that explain what your brand does and the messaging needs to be consistent throughout all of your profiles.

A good tagline is quick, to the point, and doesn’t make people guess what it is that you do. People should instantly know what your brand is about when they read your tagline. A good bio (usually in your sidebar) goes into further detail about what you do for your audience.

Take out your worksheet again and fill in section two by copying and pasting what you currently have out there:

  • My about page
  • My tagline
  • My sidebar bio
  • My Twitter bio (160 characters)
  • My Facebook page description
  • My Google Plus page description
  • My Pinterest profile description (160 characters)
  • My Instagram profile description (150 characters)
  • Other

Look at them all side-by-side. Is the message the same throughout each one? Are you using some of the same phrasing and keywords throughout?

Pay attention to tone: this is one element that people tend to forget. Your brand’s tone and voice should be consistent with your brand words. For example, if your brand is playful, keep the tone of your social media postings playful and light.

Above all, keep it authentic.

Rewrite your profile bios: Edit your bios now while you can see them side-by-side and keep them consistent with each other. Don’t forget to keep your brand words in mind when writing these bios and also while word-smithing your social media updates!

The bios should convey your blog’s focus, the audience you serve and the solutions you offer them.

They don’t all have to match exactly. Some profiles need to be tailored to the platform to make sense and attract different types of people there. For example, in my Twitter and Instagram bios, I use hashtags and some personal info that helps me connect with others. I have a slightly longer bio in Facebook and a slightly different bio for Pinterest.

Bonus tip: don’t forget to include your blog’s URL in all your profiles! It blows my mind how many people don’t do this. Usually you can include the URL separately from your bio which saves on characters.

Consistency is crucial

I’ll say it again: consistency is key to building a brand that people know and recognize. By doing this, you’ll be helping people to recognize you in Twitter chats, on live scopes, in blog comments and in Facebook groups. It also helps visitors to your profiles to quickly identify what your brand represents.

Forgoing consistency can mean sacrificing potential connections with future and ongoing readers. It’s time to make it a priority for your brand today.

If you’d like more tips on creating a consistent look and feel for your blog and your brand with beautiful examples and step-by-step instructions, check out my ebook, Blog Beautiful: 50 Tips + Fixes to Make Your Blog Glow. You can complete each tip in one day or less with your existing design skills. Really!

Editor’s note: This post contains affiliate links. As always, we only promote products and services we truly feel can benefit your solo business!

The Essential Elements in Developing a Strong Brand

Personal + Professional Branding

We constantly hear this word thrown around: branding. It’s a popular term that’s become a bit of a buzzword — and one that’s widely misunderstood and often misused. Here’s why: most people confuse the term “branding” with a company’s logo or how they visually represent themselves, but that is only a small part of what a company’s brand really is.

Branding is vitally important to businesses who want to grow and reach new customers. For one-woman shops like us, it can help us stand out in the crowd and look the part. However, with the term branding being used to often mean different things, where’s a girl to start?

Let’s talk about exactly what branding is, the essential elements for a brand, and how you can create a strong brand of your own.

What is branding?

Branding is the term given to sum up how you look, how you act, how you represent yourself, and what others say about you. It’s the statement that is often used to describe your business and what you do.

The best way to get a grasp on exactly what branding is is to relate it to any single person. When you are asked to describe a particular person, you often describe how they look and dress, what they do for a living, how they carry themselves, their personality, how they act, and what others say about them. All of this together constitutes that person’s “brand.”

It can be summed up in four different areas:

  1. identity (how others visually see you, i.e. logos, colors, typography, imagery)
  2. recognition (what you want to be known for, i.e. writer and editor, web designer)
  3. perception (how others perceive you, i.e. professional and on point; laid back and knowledgable)
  4. reputation (what others say about you, i.e. “top notch” writer, “mediocre” designer)

In order to create a strong brand, every decision you make has to take into consideration each of these four areas. If one of them is missing or lacking, the rest of the brand falls apart. As they say, “the chain is only as strong as its weakest link.”

Essential elements of a strong brand

To make sure you have each of these four areas of branding covered, there are essential elements that every strong brand must have. Each element helps to formulate and build the different areas of a brand discussed above.

Definition

Definition is defining what it is that is being offered. Determining the exact product, service, or deliverable offered focuses the brand on making sure its other elements, such as messaging and positioning, are crystal clear to customers. Since no one business can do everything, it’s important to start with defining the exact product(s) and/or service(s) offered and how they’re delivered.

Position

Positioning carves out your ideal spot in the market, built on a mixture of price point and target customers. Are you more on the affordable side or premium side? Do you work with clients large or small? It’s called “positioning” because it is always relative to your competitors: i.e. “I charge higher (pricing) than the average for writers, but I also work with large clients (type of client) who need specialized writing services.”

Message

The next element of a strong brand is the message. This is often the force behind marketing strategies. The message tells others about who you are and what you do. It’s what you want people to know about you and how you can help them. For example, “I design and develop visual identities that help medium-sized businesses grow.” For someone you might recognize? Marie Forleo’s clear message is that she helps entrepreneurs “build a business and life you love.”

Drivers

Another element of a strong brand includes your drivers. Brand drivers are adjectives that describe you and what you offer. Most brands have about 3-5 short and sweet drivers. These drivers help steer your brand and are often the basis of your brand’s personality (up next). An example of brand drivers for Apple would include: sophistication, high design/style, upscale.

Tone/Personality

The next essential element of a strong brand includes the tone or personality. This is how you communicate or talk with others and includes how you talk about yourself in your marketing messages, how you write your copy and marketing materials, and how you talk with clients. Is the tone professional, relaxed, fun, and/or serious? For example, if you want to have a relaxed tone, write and speak as if you were talking to a friend: avoid language they may not understand, stay warm and friendly, and joke around every now and then.

Visual identity

Visual identity is the most common element of a brand. It consists of visual elements such as your logo, color schemes, typography, and overall design aesthetic. This term, as mentioned, is often interchanged for “brand” but is not your brand in its entirety; only a small part. When you think of a visual identity, remember it is the visual aspects that should allow people to easily and quickly point you out (think Starbucks and its iconic logo and green color scheme).

Six steps to create a strong brand

Now that you’ve got a handle on the essential elements of a strong brand and how they support your identity, recognition, perception, and reputation, how can you go about using them to create your own?

1. Define exactly what it is that you do (essential element: definition). Define the services or products you offer and the ones that you don’t. It’s important to narrow down exactly what your best offering is to your clients and be crystal clear about it.

2. Define who you you serve (essential element: position). Are you looking to work with medium-sized clients that employ more than 20 people? Or do you enjoy working with smaller businesses? This is where you’ll position yourself based on price, as well. Are you on the low end of the pricing scale or the high end? Positioning is always relative to others in your industry, remember.

3. Perfect your pitch (essential element: message). Think of this as your billboard headline: short, sweet, and explains exactly what you do, very quickly. It will take some time to craft that perfect sentence or two, and I highly recommend you get friends, family, others in your industry, and even your past clients to help you review your message.

4. Define how you want your brand to be perceived (essential element: drivers). Develop 3-5 drivers based on how you want your brand to be represented. Remember, these should be adjectives that you hope people would use to describe your brand. Is your brand funny, smart, and driven? Professional, driven, and passionate? Quirky, approachable, and motivated?

5. Develop your brand’s tone (essential element: tone/personality). This should fall closely in line with your drivers in how you plan to communicate with clients and others. Do you want to be perceived as relaxed, but always use a professional tone? It’s possible to be a blend, but be sure the tone you use in your messaging and communications supports how you want to be perceived.

6. Develop your brand’s visuals (essential element: visual identity). Only once these essential elements are defined can you begin to work on visually representing your definition, position, message, drivers, and tone. Work on developing a logo that represents you well and aligns with your tone, pick colors that work well with your drivers, and choose typography that aligns with your positioning.

Build your brand a home

Think of branding in terms of building a house. You have different rooms: identity, recognition, perception, and reputation, and those rooms are made up of essential elements (definition, position, message, drivers, tone, and visual identity). The rooms are each made up of a different blend of elements, but are only as good as the elements within them. Build a strong foundation, and your brand will be sturdy for years to come.

Your turn: how can you use the steps listed above to create or strengthen your brand?

Let Your Site Do the Talking: 5 Ways to Successfully Convey Your Brand Via Your Website

Personal + Professional Branding

When it comes to your brand online, your website is at the forefront. In many cases, it’s a person’s first interaction with your brand. As such, it’s incredibly important that your website represents your brand well. After all, with your website speaking for you, don’t you want it to be making a good first impression?

Here are five ways to successfully convey your brand via your website.

1. Choose your colors wisely

Every color has certain moods attached to it, which means it plays a big part in how your brand is perceived. Using the wrong choice in colors can negatively affect how others see your brand.

For example, if you have a natural foods company and use red in your branding, how do you think that would come across? Red is not a color people associate with nature and freshness. Instead, it is seen as passionate, assertive, and (sometimes) angry. Not exactly the connotation you want with your natural food brand, right?

Think about your brand’s values and choose colors that correspond. If you want to come across as cheerful and friendly, orange and yellow are good choices. Blue is seen as trustworthy and calming, while purple is associated with luxury and wealth. Your choice in colors can help you get your values across — or, choosing ones that evoke a different feeling can can confuse your audience.

2. Use appropriate fonts

Every font has a personality, and like your site’s color palette, it’s important to choose fonts whose personality matches that of your brand. The fonts used on your site in conjunction with your color palette will have an impact in making an impression on your site’s visitors.

Are you looking to come across as trustworthy and professional? Then keeping it simple with a serif or sans-serif font is the way to go. If your site caters to children, then a fun, whimsical font might be a better choice. Keep your audience in mind and use fonts that are geared towards them as well as the values you want to present.

When in doubt, choose a serif or sans-serif font. They’re simple and can be used in a variety of circumstances. In fact, it’s wise to use them for your site’s body copy anyway since they’re easy to read. Any other fonts you choose are better suited as accents, such as headings, due to readability.

3. Select photos that reflect your brand

The photos displayed on your site can really support your brand if done right. If not, like colors and fonts, they can send the wrong message.

Choose a photo aesthetic that reflects your brand. Yes, just like how you chose your site’s colors and fonts, your choice in photography should represent your brand. A rustic brand should include images that are warm, inviting, and of course, rustic. Light, airy images would look out of place here, as would dark and moody photos.

Besides the style of the photos you use, one other important thing to keep in mind is to use high-quality images. Regardless of your brand’s values, using low-quality images will make you look like an amateur. Images typically take up a large amount of space on a site, so it’s crucial that they make a good impression. Using grainy, poorly lit images won’t make a good one.

4. Use your voice

The tone you use in your site’s copy is just as important as aesthetics in conveying your brand on your site. Your brand is composed of everything you put out there, whether it be visuals, products, or content. If your words and imagery don’t match up, your brand won’t be as strong as it could be.

If your brand’s audience is children, you probably won’t be using large words and very formal language. In contrast, if your brand is professional, you won’t be using chat speak. Regardless of how you talk, it’s important to really think about the words you’re using for your brand. Channel your brand’s values and audience when speaking for it.

Every little spot on your site is an opportunity to let your voice shine through, so don’t just think in terms of paragraphs and blog posts. Think of the small details that make up your site.

That small little button on your sidebar? That’s a great place to showcase your voice. Think of the difference between “contact us” and “get in touch.” Both essentially mean the same thing, but one is a lot more formal while the other is friendlier.

5. Be consistent

Perhaps the most important aspect in branding your site is to be consistent. Everything from your site’s fonts, colors, and photos to the tone used in your site’s copy should inspire the same feelings.

That means picking a color palette and sticking with it. Don’t introduce new colors where they’re not necessary. Pick 2-3 fonts and use them throughout your site. Choose a photography aesthetic and make sure all the photos on your site align with it. Use the same tone in all your site copy.

Keeping everything consistent helps your brand remain cohesive and therefore, memorable, which is key to staying top of mind for your customers and clients.

Let your website do the talking

Your website is often your brand’s first impression on potential clients, customers, and readers. With consistent and on-point colors, fonts, photos, and tone, it’ll pave the way for your audience to get to know you and your business how you want them to.

To Be or Not To Be… Your Own Brand

Personal + Professional Branding

Whether you are establishing your first brand or are thinking it might be time to reposition your brand, we, as solopreneurs, have a choice of using our own name and being our brand, or creating a unique name. Both have strong upsides – you just need to discover which positives you can make the most of in your business. Let’s lay them out.

Upsides to being your own brand

1. Natural passion with unlimited growth

You already live what you’re passionate about. If you started your business out of your own interests, using your name brings authentic personality. You don’t have to try to be consistent or on point when you are your brand. You already know, in your gut, if it’s you. In addition, as your offerings (products/services) expand in subject matter, you aren’t limited by a creative name that’s descriptive of a certain expertise. Using your own name allows you to share what you love and be what you love.

2. Instant branding

Only you can be you. You don’t have to worry about trying to create a brand that stands out or differentiates enough from the competition. You won’t have to try to tweak one thing here or there to be “just different enough.” There is only one you. You are already unique. As you are creating your brand under your name, you can be proud of the individuality and distinctiveness built in.

3. Easy communication

This is such a pragmatic reason to be your own brand, but it’s a reality and something to consider. If you are your brand, it’s very easy for people to confidently contact you by name. However, if you are functioning under a creative name, your first name might not be immediately obvious. This is especially true if your brand name happens to sound like or play off another person’s name. If you are using a creative, unique name, make sure your real, personal name is used often throughout your brand content and readily available.

Upsides to not being your own brand

1. Provide context

While your name is specific to you, it doesn’t shed light on exactly what you offer or sell. Your unique brand name can allude to, or fully describe, what your brand is about. There is so much competition and noise out there –- a brand that can tell its own story in a name can sometimes gain the upper hand.

2. Common vs. original

In a world of domain names and social media accounts, we can’t all be “JohnDoe” or “MarySmith.” And some of us just have those names. (My maiden name ensured that there was always a name twin in any large group I was in.) By creating a unique name for your brand (so long as you’ve researched to make sure it’s not already taken), you get around all of that and are able to nab the domain and social media names you want.

3. Ready for (team) expansion

When your name is your brand and your brand is you, it can potentially be limiting in the future. As you expand your services or seek to bring on new employees, you may start to feel like your brand name is limiting. Of course, plenty of big name brands and celebrities have done it with ease (cough, Marie Forleo, cough) – but if you anticipate wanting to distance yourself from your brand and let your brand be emblematic of your employees, you may want to think today about choosing a creative name that allows for expansion.

“This above all, to thine ownself be true…”

Whichever direction you choose, make sure it feels natural and comfortable to you. Whether it’s your own name or a creative one, it’s a name you will be using often –- to represent you and your business. If it feels forced or just isn’t working, keep looking. Naming isn’t easy, but when you find the right name, all the authentic pieces of your brand will come together. And after all, “a rose by any other name is just as sweet,” but that’s a different play.

What road did you take for your brand — and what have you found to be the pros + cons?

3 Forgotten Aspects of Your Solo Biz Brand That Make a Difference

Personal + Professional Branding

What’s your “thing?”

Your little quirks. The little things that make you, you.

Everybody has one. Or two, or a dozen. (Some people are pretty quirky.)

But those quirks? They’re one of the most important parts of your brand. Someone else may choose similar brand colors. Or work in the same niche. But no one else has the same combination of quirks.

They’re the one true part of your brand that’s unlike any other, and also happen to be the most humanizing aspect. So why are they thrown onto the back burner so quickly when it comes to strategy?

These three brand components may not be immediately noticeable on someone’s first visit to your site, much like your tagline or logo is, but they’re the real way to stand out. So start paying attention.

1. Your history

Your experiences made you who you are today. Yeah, the future’s what matters, but that’s shaped by the past. All those contemplative voiceovers at the end of teen movies about not being defined by the past are wrong… kind of.

The past does matter, but you can control how it defines you when it comes to your brand.

How do you describe your history? On your about page, when you’re pitching new clients or partners — what do you say?

Why’s your story unique? Maybe your most successful business tactic is something the rest of your industry considers a joke (AltaVista SEO?). Maybe you have a unique hobby or anecdote you can talk about.

Work it into your elevator pitch. It doesn’t even necessarily need to be related to business. Wouldn’t you remember if someone you met in a Twitter chat is currently sailing around the world? The goal here is to be recognized and remembered.

2. Your words

Everyone has their favorite words. I went through such an ‘awesomesauce’ phase a year ago. It was all over my content without me even realizing it. It seeped into my brand.

My brand copy is also super conversational, sarcastic, and riddled with pop culture references and “dad jokes”, because that’s just how I talk. And I’m myself in my copy, so those quirks show up to the party.

Maybe it’s a stylistic thing: asking rhetorical questions; using in-depth descriptions; or Joanna Wiebe and her stance on cursing (which I love).

Or perhaps it’s specific words. Think Joey Tribbiani and “how you doin?” Or having a phrase you end every post and email with. (Like Elizabeth Gilbert and “Onward”.)

It’s not an official tagline. Think of it as your brand vocabulary: it’s something people can expect to come out of your mouth (or keyboard).

Once you’ve identified it, run with it. Make sure to include the words, phrase, or style all over, especially where it’ll get noticed most: your homepage, email opt-ins, and slogans.

3. Your interests

One Woman Shop member Jessica Lawlor recently asked “what makes your eyes light up?”

Think about your biggest passions, where you’re excited and happy and ambitious. That stuff needs to be part of your brand. Seriously, good luck finding staying power without it.

“Think about your passions – that stuff needs to be incorporated into your brand.”

Why? Because when you’re running your own business, it’s so important that it’s filled with as much excitement, happiness, and ambition as possible, so that you can sustain the hard work.

So take what you love outside your biz and learn how to incorporate it. For Jess, that’s yoga. It’s part of her brand. For me, it’s comedy and television. Countless references are in the copy I use to represent my business. Sometimes, entire posts are dedicated to it.

It may seem frivolous, but it builds a connection between you and your audience. Just last week, a blog reader sent me a message asking for book and movie recommendations for her weekend. That’s one touchpoint I wouldn’t have had with her if I’d kept things strictly business.

You want to present yourself authentically, and that means getting personal and sharing non-business parts of your life.

Brand yourself

What’s one thing all of the above opportunities have in common? They’re not traditional things you think of when it comes to branding your website, or your business cards, or your products.

That’s because they’re ways to brand yourself. Because your business is more than your marketing assets. For a solo biz, your business is literally you.

Tell me: what’s a quirk, a word, or a passion you can incorporate into your brand to connect with your audience?

5 Branding Lessons Entrepreneurs Can Learn from the Kardashians

Personal + Professional Branding

Whether you love them or hate them, when it comes to the Kardashians, three things are probably true:

  • You feel strongly about them, one way or another.
  • You can probably name at least three of them.
  • You’re likely able to recite five of their news story headlines. (Yes, that includes you too, haters – don’t pretend you don’t know the stories relating to ‘Break the Internet’ and ‘Married for 72 Days’!)

No matter where you stand on the divisive cast of characters, you can’t argue that their branding game is on point. And when it comes to your business, I’ll bet you’d want the three above statements to be true to your brand’s target audience as well. Entrepreneurs and small business owners alike can learn from these principles that have helped the Kardashians become one of America’s most recognizable brands:

1. Take lemons and turn them into lemonade

A former boss of mine always used to say that every challenge is an opportunity to learn and grow. The Kardashians have certainly taken this mindset to heart, always spinning negatives into opportunities. What did Kim do when her private tapes leaked online? She used it to her advantage to build an empire. How did Khloe react to all the negative comments about being the ‘chubby’ sister? She became the fittest sister of the group. As a business leader, there are always going to be challenges that could drag you down, but take an opportunist attitude and learn from seemingly negative situations and use them to your brand’s advantage. Become that business that always sees the glass as half full and make every situation work for you.

2. Define what you want to be known for

Over the top. Always primped and polished. Curve central. Those are three traits that are undeniably associated with Miss Kimmy K herself. She wants to be known for that famous derriere, hence moves like the infamous cover shot for Paper magazine’s winter 2014 cover. She wants to be known for her fashion-forwardness, hence never leaving a hotel with as much as a single strand out of place. Kim has defined her brand personality’s characteristics and lives them every day. When thinking about both your personal and your business brand, clearly define how you want them to be perceived and always execute accordingly.

3. Stay true to your brand’s foundation

Whether they’re developing makeup, kids’ clothing, apps, retail stores or blow dryers (yes, seriously), every product slapped with the Kardashian name on it will share certain common traits: sleek, aspirational and on-trend. There’s no saying that your brand has to stay within one niche category, but any brand extensions you develop as a business owner must remain in line with the overall brand story and perception to maintain recognition with your target consumers.

4. Consistency is key

Remember before Kimye was a thing, Kim’s style was all over the place? Since pairing up with her famous rapper hubby, she’s evolved to a mostly monochromatic, streamlined and smile-free bodycon style. We’d be shocked if we ever saw Mrs. West show up on a red carpet in a pink princess-style dress. In business, your customers will grow to expect certain elements from your brand – a consistent tone of language, a specific colour palette, blog posts on a specific day, even a signature font. Deliver a constant and stable brand experience for your customers so they become familiar and comfortable with what they can expect from you.

5. On the other hand, don’t be afraid to experiment + evolve

While maintaining consistency is a staple for the majority of brands, what if your brand personality is known for constantly experimenting? Looking no further than the youngest of the K-sisters, Kylie Jenner. Kylie brands herself as the chameleon of the group, always playing with a rainbow of hair colours, lengths and styles. If something doesn’t work, she’s okay with hitting the reset button and trying something new. Evolution is a staple of the Kylie brand, while still staying in line with the overall family brand positioning of being sleek, aspirational and on-trend.

While not all of us may be interested keeping up with the Kardashians and their publicity-driven family antics, as business owners we can all most definitely take a page from their book of branding.