In this day and age you can DIY (do it yourself, for people not on the whole acronym train) just about anything. You can DIY a dresser into a whole new piece of furniture. You can DIY your bathroom because you found a step by step how to. (Thank you, Pinterest.) And you can even start a business the DIY route. But there are some things you can address right off the bat so that DIY doesn’t turn into WTF. (I’m not spelling that one out ; ) )
Contrary to popular belief, branding is not the process of getting a logo. You’ve probably seen this on the web all over the place because for the first time there is this huge upswing in educating people who think they need a graphic designer (not to mention what a designer actually does… Gramma.) There is a difference between branding and a brand. That little -ing makes a whole heaping difference and the reason it does it because one is a tangible thing and the other is an emotional thing.
Your brand is what people see. This includes your website, your logo, your business card, your pony painted your brand colors, whathaveyou.
Your branding is the emotion that you leave with your audience. This can include your tone, your voice, your service, your little and big interactions. It’s the feeling stuff you have about brands, like trust.
And I can hear it now, “But you’re a designer. Shouldn’t you be saying ‘Always go pro!’” Well you would think that but let’s get really real here. If you are just starting out, you’re probably paying out of pocket for anything that you purchase for your business. If you’re paying out of pocket, you typically want to keep costs low. I personally do not recommend hiring someone straight out the gate. That designer that you adore will be there in a year and you won’t put yourself in the poorhouse to do it.
By focusing on your branding first, you emphasize the importance of relationships in your business. This is where you really have the chance to shine. This is where you portray your values, establish a reputation, establish your expertise. This is where you really gain your “chops” in the niche you may or may not have yet. This is where you figure that out.
The visuals are important, but really focus on your branding and go from there. And from there, you can go straight to Canva. Boom. Typographic logo. On this note, please for the love of pearl do not pick Papyrus or Comic Sans for your logo (the exception for Comic Sans is the comic book industry.) If you look back into the way back when start of the blogosphere, you would see both of these fonts running rampant like they stole something. They really don’t lend to the modern internet space and can make you look unprofessional.
[points to self] Design snob? Probably, yeah. Sorry not sorry.
Aside from your brand and branding, make sure that you are doing this on the best possible platform that you can. That means your website. Your online real estate. And just like IRL real estate, your website can either help you (by being an investment and asset) or drag you down (like being underwater.) Your website is your online home and should be treated with the respect you would treat your home with. With that said, here are the big three for your website.
Buy your domain. It helps present you as a real professional and like you are invested.
Take your time putting your website together. It will never be perfect or finished, but be mindful.
- Do your freaking research. Set up your website up to reach your goals.
DIY Audience Building
I spoke before about having a niche and how important that is here. I’m not going to get super in depth on this here, but your niche will define a lot for your audience, like who finds you, who you want to find you and the space in between.
The commandments of audience building are as follows:
Know your audience. Who are you talking to? Don’t know? Well see the problem with this in the internet age and on the internet itself is that if you aren’t speaking to someone in particular, you’re speaking to no one. Know who you’re talking to. Need a hand? Check it out.
Create content that provides value to other people. If you are providing value and quality with the content that you create, you’re going to find that audience you want because you’ll be speaking to them and they will find you.
Don’t be afraid you’re being braggy. Unless you are being a real a-hole about it, you’re probably not going to rub everyone the wrong way. I love Kendrick Shope’s metaphor for selling. If you had the cure for cancer you wouldn’t hold it to your chest and question whether or not you’d tell people about it. You would climb to the highest point in your area and shout it out for the world to hear. I paraphrased pretty hard and may have butchered it, but you get the idea.
Do not put your eggs in someone else’s basket. I’m talking social media folk. Going to get maybe a little harsh, but your followers and likes are vanity numbers. They do not gauge the your business’s worth (or more importantly yours) and they do not mean that you have a rock solid foundation for marketing. You don’t own Facebook. That guy makes the calls and can totally screw you. Don’t put your eggs in Zuckerberg's basket.
Put them in your own. Build an email list. Get people on it. Those people are your people. You show up in their most personal spot online; their inbox. Don’t know what to say? Dig a little deeper into your weekly blog post. Share some tips and tricks about what you do. Give a sneak peek behind the curtain. You got this, boss.
DIY Wrapping It Up
Really, bootstrapping it can be hard. But it doesn’t always have to be. Below, I included the replay link for the DIYing Your Business webinar I gave on Monday. This webinar includes loads of great tools that have free options and can make bootstrapping it remarkably easier. It’s only available through Saturday, so if you want the rest of the content from that, click below!
DIYing your business doesn’t have to be killer and when you're the only one in charge, it can get super duper overwhelming. Hang in there. You got this.