Wednesday, 8 February 2012

A look back at my first year in business and some tips for the newbies.

As the saying goes, 'You can't judge a book by it's cover' but unfortunately people always do. Your logo has to say so much about you, your business, and what it is that you do in the first few seconds and if this isn't right then you have lost them before they have even seen what you have to offer (no pressure there then!)

When I started my little design business last year, if I'm honest the first thing I thought about was the logo. Maybe that's just me because that is what I do. I design things and I like to make things look pretty and organised.... although if you saw our bedroom tonight you may not believe me (seriously, piles of clean clothes everywhere waiting to be folded and put away, but that will have to wait, I've got work to do)

Honestly, even before I thought about pricing or anything else at all practical, I was thinking up lovely names for my business that reflected me and my life and imagining all kinds of lovely little images... it was doodles galore at my desk for a solid week! To be honest when I started out a year ago, I knew I had the talent and the ability to design logos, and my background in illustration and graphics and work in advertising behind me gave me extra confidence in those abilities, it was more the running of a business that I didn't have any idea how to do and I kind of dived in head first.

This was my first logo and at the time it reflected my style and me. My boys, my husband and our little home are the most important things in my world and I wanted that to show because that is who I was doing it for. That is our little front door of our cosy little Victorian Terrace in Portsmouth which Tom painted black because I thought it was much more stylish then yucky stained red wood. That is the wreath that I made myself which hangs there from spring to the end of summer when it is replaced by the autumn one and obviously a Christmas one in December. I loved it then and I still do.

The thing is with this logo, as time went by, and I designed more and more for different businesses, my style began to change. I spend stupid amounts of hours on Pinterest looking for inspiration, be it colour combinations, shapes, fonts or just even photos that might inspire me (usually when I can't get to sleep at 2 am because my head is buzzing with ideas) I started to move away from the hand drawn style that I started with and became much more about clean lines and colour and text. As this happened my logo just didn't seem to work anymore. I did still use the odd bit of hand drawn stuff but on the whole my drawing has become much more computer based and I create things on screen instead of paper.... It was time for a re brand ( and a reprice but that's a different blog post) This is fine for me because it's what I do, I could redesign my brand at any time, it was just a case of finding the time to do it.What if I couldn't do it for myself and I had rushed into a logo, had one designed for me when I wasn't entirely sure of what I wanted and then discovered 6 months down the line that it wasn't right and had to use more of my hard earned cash to get another one done?

I have had quite a few people come to me over the last few months who have been in the same situation I was in when I first started out. Its sort of a "OMG I am doing what I have always wanted and starting a little business doing what I love, I want it all sorted NOW" kind of a feeling ( I know because I am the most impatient person in the world!) and you want everything up and running as soon as you can. You lie awake at night imagining lovely designs and inevitably, as it does in wee small hours, your mind wanders until you end up miles away from where you started. My advice to anyone in this situation after this first year in business is wait a little bit and get to know your business and what you really want from a design for it. No one expects a brand new business to have everything sorted from the word go, especially if its something that you are doing part time or as a hobby that develops slowly.

Don't get me wrong, I am still learning as I go, but from what I have learnt in my first year there are a few things that I am going to be asking my customers to think about when they come to me for a logo for their new little baby.

If you are one of those people (and don't worry if you are, it DOES NOT make you a bad person or in any way shape or form silly and unfit for business, it just shows how excited you are and how much passion you have to put into your new project) then have a little look at these things to think about when starting a new business, it might help you work out what you want from your business branding when you are ready for it:

What does your business do or sell?
Who are you competing with?
What don't you do that your competitors might? (not a bad thing, just something to consider)
What makes you stand out from your competitors?
Where are you planning to take the business, is there room for growth and change as the market demands it?
Who is your ideal customer?

Three to five words your customer might associate with your business?
What does your business name say about your brand as a whole?
Where is your logo likely to be used a/now b/ in the next 6 months to a year (a logo designed specifically as a facebook profile pic will not necessarily work on a business card, don't forget, we can start with a simple design as the basis for your branding and go where ever you want to with the rest of your business branding.)

All these questions will give you a better idea of what you want for your business as a brand. It gives your designer a good idea of what you do, where your business might go and what the logo needs to say. Don't forget, it might be your baby and you might love pink and purple butterflies, but pink and purple butterflies will not tell your customer what your business does if you are starting a men's clothing brand.

Don't rush in to choosing a designer either. Shop around, ask other businesses for recommendations and I know that as a start up cash will probably be tight but PLEASE don't go for the cheap option because no one who charges pennies for a design can afford to put in the time or effort that you need. I know I would say that but consider how much time and effort you put into your work, be it a handmade item or a cake or jewellery, a good designer should put in that much effort for you. Think about how important your business image is to you and then find a designer that cares just as much as you do and is willing to take the time to ask these questions and understand you and your business before they do your work.

I hope this has helped anyone who is just starting out to work out what they are all about before rushing into anything, I promise a little bit of work now will save a whole lot of hassle later on.

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