Whether you’re a newly minted entrepreneur or you’ve been grinding away for years, hiring a brand strategist or specialist is something we will all consider doing at some point in our journey. Because the truth is, even with all of the internet’s goodies to help run our businesses – from blogs and resources to tips and tricks – reverse engineering can only take us so far. When you hire a specialist, you’re not just hiring them for their Photoshop skills. You also hire them for their ridiculously good taste, creative knowledge, and ability to solve your problem.
When I started my first business, I fully embraced the entrepreneurial mindset and took a DIY approach whenever possible. I didn’t have a big budget and there were a lot of services I was quick to label as low-priority in the beginning. But as soon as I became more serious about my business, I also became smarter about knowing when something was worth doing myself, or when I should cut my losses and hire someone who could do it far better than I could. Some of the signs that let me know it was time to outsource:
- Topic overwhelm – if something seemed easy enough at first but then turned into a black hole of strategy and nuances
- Learning a new skill or project that took more time and energy than I could afford – if I could be spending the time it was taking me to learn how to do something on things that had higher priority for my business
- My own results were just okay – if I had any kind of inkling that I would want to re-do something later down the road (aka backtrack and spend more money). This took longer for me to learn because I had to be honest with myself. In the beginning, I definitely felt way more proud of implementing a new skill I had learned…despite getting no results!
While the journey of running your own brand or business comes with making a fair share of trial-and-error mistakes, there are certain things you want to consider getting right from the very beginning – like establishing a strong brand. So I made a list of the most common concerns I hear people have when they consider hiring a brand strategist or not. If you’re not convinced you need one for your brand, read on.
Why should I budget for this?
As an entrepreneur, you probably have only so many dollars to spend on marketing, and you have to get choosy. You may be thinking, I can always develop my branding after I launch first and start selling, right? Not necessarily. Without a well thought out brand, you could be creating more work for yourself by attracting a less-than-ideal audience — people who may look like your ideal customers and clients but in actuality will never buy from you.
But with authentic branding in place, you will attract better quality leads who will decide right away if you’re the right fit for them. Your product will sell itself and your branding will have done its job attracting those ideal customers. So the investment you make in creating a brand strategy will make every other aspect of your business easier and more efficient, from marketing and product development to management and hiring. And the best part is when done right, you’ll only need to do it once! Invest in a strong brand presence now and you’ll master your marketplace.
What if I already have a style guide? That means I have a brand right?
That’s great that you have a style guide! Believe it or not, not all businesses do. But having a logo or color scheme does not equal a “brand” per se. Your brand is the experience you’re selling, what you stand for, and who you are as a company. A style guide makes sure that experience is consistent in all of the content and work you produce. It can save you time, money, and tons of frustration later on by making your marketing materials easier to maintain and create. And it can also ensure that the work already done for your brand isn’t ruined by some new, less-skilled designer who doesn’t understand how your aesthetic is supposed to work. So while it’s not your actual brand, it’s important because it helps you to present your brand clearly and to establish trust with your audience.
Any blog, company, or website that wants a consistent and professional feel across the board should have a style guide. But even with one in place, many small business owners still struggle with how to be actionable beyond it. Especially when it comes to creating original imagery that aligns with their brand “look,” oftentimes due to lack of time or resources. If you want your audience to connect with your brand experience, your lifestyle imagery and photography should also tell your story in the same consistent style as the rest of your branding. Whether you use stock imagery or work with a professional photographer every time you need photos, be mindful that your branded photography works in unison with your guide and enhances your brand.
Why can’t I just use stock images?
Stock photos are great! They’re an affordable way to get nice quality photos in your marketing. But there’s definitely a time and place for them and I wouldn’t recommend using them for your most valuable pieces of content. Don’t forget that for every good photo you find, hundreds of other people will be sourcing that exact image to use for their businesses as well (especially if you’re on a free stock site). Kind of dilutes that special unique experience you’re trying to convey for your customers, right?
Branding is all about building real relationships between businesses and people. Producing original visual content for your brand will enable you to showcase the details that makes your company unique and different. This just isn’t possible with stock photography alone.
What if I already know how to create content? I can use my phone and my editing apps after all.
The best camera is certainly the one you have on you. And mobile photography has become an incredible niche on its own, with tons of resources and tools to make creating on the go a cinch. But unfortunately for your brand, it’s also made ad-hoc posting a really easy routine to fall into. Without a workflow or content plan in place, creating and editing photos on the fly can sometimes do more harm to your aesthetic than you think, serving inconsistencies to your customers that may be unbeknownst to you. But as long as you’re able to really marry the stylistic elements of your brand with lifestyle imagery that tells your story, then keep at it! You should always aim for each and every image to work harder for you so you can achieve greater results in your business.
Can’t I just do this myself?
Sure! There’s a lot of information on the internet. Like, a ton. But not all of it will be a good fit for your business (assuming it’s even correct). I’ve been there before – spending countless hours learning and researching but not nearly as much time implementing and taking action. If you’re serious about your business, you know what you want and you want it done right. That’s one of the best reasons to turn to a specialist. They have one goal and it’s the same as yours: to elevate your brand image to the next level.
Also, sometimes brand owners are so well-versed in their business that they become blind to seeing it in a new creative and strategic light. Working with a specialist can provide that much-needed outsider’s perspective to point out what makes your brand unique and special. A lot of magic can be made with the power of collaboration!
It’s always helpful to remember that branding is what your customers and audience think of when they hear your company’s name or see your logo. And you deserve to stand out with what sets you apart. I love helping my brands craft a strategy that communicates their vision and message clearly and effectively. The final result? A brand roadmap and beautiful imagery that empowers my client and has customers gravitating to them and their culture. The right branding means a loyal following that skips the hard sell.
If you have any questions, leave a comment below or shoot me an email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t feel completely ready to dive into a one-on-one? Check out more branding tips here.