7 Steps To Brand Your Online Business or Blog

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Creating a brand for your online business isn't easy!  Especially if you're like me and you love allll the fonts and colors. :)

But hey, you gotta start somewhere.  See the 7 steps below for creating brand guidelines you can easily stick to!

STEP ONE | RESEARCH + HOMEWORK

The very first step should be a total brain dump scribbling out on paper all of the adjectives that describe you, your target audience, and what you will be offering.

Think of your brand as a visual representation of the  marriage between you and your audience. 

I've constantly hear the advice to be thinking about your audience and what they want.  I've heard that you should wait to brand yourself until you have a following, because your once you know your followers you'll know how to brand yourself.

I have to kindly disagree.  While YES, you should absolutely be seeking to serve your audience... it's also essential to preserve the essence of who you are.  I believe that in the beginning, your brand should be somewhat flexible.  But it should always reflect YOU.

If you don't like XYZ colors, then don't use them even if you think it will be a hit with your target audience.  If you aren't excited about the way your brand looks and feels, then nobody else will either.  

So research, brain storm, and write down descriptive words about you, your favorite colors/fonts/style, and about your target audience, their favorite colors/fonts/style.  Where do they shop?  Write down the retail stores.  Are they male or female?  What age range?  

Start a board on Pinterest and collect color inspiration, pattern inspiration, fonts you like.  Narrow down.  See if it all looks good together on one page.  


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STEP TWO | CREATE A LOGO

If you are a solopreneur just starting out it's a good idea to keep your brand flexible.  One way to do that is by representing your business with your name and image.  This allows you to try all the things without any major hurdles to your branding.

For example, when I opened my first Etsy shop I thought about naming my shop Lauren Poole Invitations.  I ended up just using my name which was a life saver!  While I started out doing invitations, I almost never do them now.  Based on customer requests and feedback, I was able to tailor my offerings to something customers wanted that was also in line with enjoyable work on my end!

I have now changed my business name to "Lauren Lesley Studio."  Lesley is my middle name and I loved the alliteration it created.  Studio is a broad term, but it indicates the creative aspect I am offering.  The "Lauren Lesley" portion of my logo is my actual handwriting so it feels very personal.

My logo is a vector icon of me drinking a cafe latte, wearing aviator sunglasses, and wearing heart earrings.  This feels very "me" and also represents a key element of my business:  vector illustration.  So I'm advertising my own service with my logo.

Your logo should be easily represented as a small icon.  This absolutely comes in handy for all the profile pictures you have to upload or when you want to subtly include your branding on materials.  

If you need a designer to help you with your logo please email me at LaurenLesleyStudio@gmail.com.  I would love to work with you! :)


STEP THREE | HIRE A PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER

It's true.  So, so true.  Professional photography goes a LONG way.  There was once a time where I thought I could get my boyfriend to snap a few photos of me on my smart phone.  Nope.  He was super sweet for trying, but he knows literally nothing about photography. 

Once I worked with a real photographer it was like I could hear the angels in heaven singing, Hallelujah!  The angles were right, the coloring was amazing, and there were lots to choose from.  

Back in the early days of Instagram, you could get away with snapping a quick photo on your phone and using one of the built-in filters.  With the limited technology at the time, it looked incredible!  Those days are long over.  Using an unprofessional photo sends the message to your audience that you are lazy, cheap, or not serious.  

Also, if you are a solopreneur, your following wants to see YOU.  They want that personal touch of seeing your face and feeling like they are friends with you.

Hint:  If you are on a budget I recommend seeking out a photography student in your area.  See if they are willing to do a photoshoot with you for free or for a very low cost in exchange for allowing them to use the photos in their portfolio.

 
 
 

STEP FOUR | CHOOSING FONTS

One of the very first lessons taught in any Graphic Design class is how to choose fonts.  What is the difference between serif and sans serif?  What rules should you apply?  When is it okay to use cursive or script fonts?

The #1 rule is that the body of your copy is 100% legible.  This is not the time to get fancy.  Most websites are already pre-formatted this way, but you'll want to make sure to use a very basic sans serif print font (like I'm using in this blog post).  Your copy should be smooth, quick, and easy-to-read.

Next, I recommend choosing at least 1 print font for your header, navigation, titles, etc.  This font should stand out on the page.  You'll see my print font is HALIS GR BOLD.  I use this font all the time.  It's clean, bold, and modern.

I also recommend choosing at least 1 script font.  I chose 2 script fonts:  Blacktear Script and Madgue.  It's also nice to have a bold cursive script font as a title or as your signature.  You can see I'm using Blacktear Script for my signature name.

I added in Madgue, because it was feeling super fresh and seemed to fit better with my new 2018 product release of 80s Memphis Printables.  I can get away with it for now, but in general you should stick to the same 2-3 fonts for EVERYTHING.

A great place to research fonts is DaFont.com.  You can download any font for free although some may have licensing restrictions for personal use only.  Another great place to look is Creative Market.  Lots of incredible hand letterers are constantly listing fresh new fonts for sale.


STEP FIVE | ESTABLISHING A COLOR PALETTE

Narrowing down a key color palette can be a bit daunting.  This is a major STRUGGLE BUS for me, because I love pretty much all the colors.  So sue me.  :)

A great way to do some research is to look at some new arrivals at retail stores you like.  Visit their website and see if any new color combinations inspire you!  Start collecting color inspirations and pin them to a Pinterest Board.  

I'd narrow down to 2 main colors to use for your website or blog.  My 2 major colors are pink and yellow.  This ties into everything including the color change when you hover over a link.  I also try to keep my designs and digital products in this same vein.


STEP SIX | SELECTING PATTERN

Once you have your color palette, you should select some patterns that fit with your brand.  It is key to keep your style in mind.  Is your brand whimsical, preppy, nautical, coastal, bohemian, sophisticated, or rustic?  Once you choose your patterns, your color palette can be applied.

Your patterns are awesome to use as a backdrop, on a letter head, on your website, and even on digital products to sell!  There are a million ways to use your patterns and it helps further establish your brand as a well thought out professional authority.

A good place to look for pattern is Pattern Bank, but keep in mind that other buyers can also buy the same pattern.  If you are interested in having an original pattern made please email me at LaurenLesleyStudio@gmail.com.  I'd love to work with you. :)


STEP SEVEN | KEEP IT CONSISTENT

Now that you have a badass looking brand, it's imperative to stay focused on these brand guidelines.  Consistency is key!  With so many online businesses, it is really difficult to stand out.  The repetitive nature of branding helps your followers recognize you anywhere. 

The combination of your logo, key fonts, limited color palette, and patterns that express your style will absolutely set you apart. 


 

To get a free template, click the button below.   

 

The template is a Photoshop file so if you don't already have Photoshop, click the pink button to install your free trial!

 

New Year's Vision Board: Career + Finance

I have been reflecting on my vision boards that I created last year around New Year's.  It's certainly interesting to see all kinds of crazy progress in each area of my life.  Setting your intention and being really clear about what you want is certainly a powerful thing to do.

Each vision board represents one of the main pillars of life.

  • Career + Finance
  • Health + Spiritual Wellness
  • Relationships, Friends, and Family
  • Home

The first one is Career + Finance.  

Let's be honest.  We spend the majority of our lives at work.  If you hate your job or feel like you're wasting time doing something that isn't your longterm vision it can be pretty depressing.

I made this vision board last year by collecting images of artists and designers that deeply inspired me.  Making the collage gave me unlimited energy, an excitement in my bones.  I got clear about my vision.  And you know what?  This past year I've been very intentional about working towards that vision and have seen LOADS of progress. 

I signed up with MailChimp, for one thing!  In the past, I worked with customers who happened to find me on Etsy.  Now, I am being proactive about staying in-touch with clients, because I want to be the go-to designer.  I want to create digital products that will make your life easier and prettier!  

The Universe cannot give you what you want unless you tell it exactly what you want.  I told the Universe what I wanted.  I made my vision board, I scripted about it, and I talked about it nonstop.  And it has manifested in amazing ways.

So what do you want?

Do you want to be debt free?  *Raises hand!*  If money wasn't an obstacle, what would you be?  (Are you looking at me??)  Yes, right at ya. ;)   

What are your financial goals?  Do you want to create passive income or achieve financial freedom so that you can give ALL of your time to the things that really matter?  It's absolutely possible.

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I've created a product to help you achieve your financial goals for 2018.  It's called The Ultimate Financial Planner and it includes a Printable (if you prefer to plan your finances on paper) and an excel spreadsheet that is pre-formatted as a budgeting balance sheet.  Hurray!  Setting your financial goals couldn't be easier.

Plus, it includes 32 PNG avatars to play with.  Yeahh. :)

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My Design Process: Ideas | Create | Share | Teach

I didn't always have a clear design process.  I simply made whatever I was in the mood to make and threw it up in my Etsy shop hoping someone would like it.  Those days are over, boo.  I've learned that in order to be successful online you have to be super intentional about your process.

Often times creatives are introverted (I know I am!) so while we rock out the first two stages of brainstorming ideas and creating beautiful designs, the last two stages of sharing and teaching can feel rather unnatural.  We don't like being the center of attention, we don't like self-promotion, and hey, there's a reason why we're not sitting in a classroom writing on a chalkboard everyday.  At least for me, I'm the happiest when I am deep in concept and creation mode. 

The problem is... you will have no customers, certainly not repeat customers, if you don't make the effort to get the word out and build relationships.

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You need all 4 phases in order to support the parts you love the most.  It will start to feel more natural as you get into a consistent rhythm.  When you share and teach, it gives you the opportunity to engage with customers and people who are interested in your work.  This ultimately provides invaluable feedback and nurtures the idea building process, which then allows you to create the best products ever!  It's a beautiful cycle. :)

'How To' Guide for DIY Holiday Cards

Have you binge-watched Stranger Things on Netflix, yet?  I literally can't get enough.  That's saying a lot, because I don't watch a ton of TV.  But I couldn't ask for a better way to wrap up the Fall season.

And now it's time to start thinking about creative ideas for your holiday cards to send to all of your lovely friends and family.  Yayy!

Below is a quick 'How To' guide showing you how easy it is to create DIY Holiday Cards using the tool I created in Powerpoint called the Christmas Card Portrait Builder.

  • Step One
    • Download the file that best represents your family. 

  • Step Two
    • Open the PPTX file and get started.
      • Hint:  If you don't have Powerpoint, no worries.  Simply upload the file to Google Drive and you can edit it there.

  • Step 3
    • Start designing!
      • The first page is a pre-designed page.  Simply delete the existing people to start with a clean slate.
        • Hint:  You may want to save as a copy so that you don't mess up the original file in any way.

  • Step Four
    • Scroll down to the page showing the different bodies and skin tones (Slide 6 or 7). 
      • Click on the body you want.
        • Right click.  Copy.
      • Scroll up to the first page.  
        • Right click.  Paste.
    • Next, scroll down the page showing the different heads (Slides 2-4).
      • Repeat above steps.
    • Scroll down to Slide 9 to choose your greeting.
      • Merry Christmas
      • Seasons Greetings
      • Peace to All
      • Love + Light
      • Happy Holidays
    • Then delete the existing text, "Love the Millers" and write your own closing!

  • Step Five
    • Save Slide 1 as a jpeg.
    • Go to File > Export.
      • File Format:  JPEG
      • Click:  Save Current Slide Only
      • Click:  Export.

Now you have your Christmas Card ready to print!  I usually like printing online with Overnight Prints because it's so easy, but UPS or FedEx are great local options.


With each family template, there are over 75 different avatars so you are almost guaranteed to find matches for your family.  There are also options with glasses, facial hair, etc.  

Additionally, you can delete the Christmas-y background and use it for family prints (or however you want)!  Which, by the way, makes really special and inexpensive gifts. Just sayin'.  :)  Amazon has affordable white frames that look amazing.    With this tool, you get to be the designer so your creativity is limitless.

And if you don't see a good option for your family, but you are interested in buying this product, please email me at LaurenLesleyStudio@gmail.com.  I also take custom orders and would love your feedback.

Love + Light,

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How To Create a Color Palette for Your Brand

STEP 1 | COLLECT COLOR INSPIRATION

To get started, pour through Pinterest and gather all of the colors that really get your blood pumping.  Create a board called "Color Inspiration" and pin anything and everything you find attractive.  Search keywords such as Color Palettes, 2018 Color Trends, Color Schemes, Color Combinations, and Paint Colors.  Research sites like Design Seeds for constant newness and Pantone for well-researched color trends.  Use the Pinterest button to pin from these sites to your Color Inspiration board.

Next, observe what you've pinned.  Look for trends among your pins and start to organize them into sections.  A Section within a Pinterest board is my new favorite feature from Pinterest!  Check out how I started organizing my Sections:

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STEP 2  |  PLAY WITH COLOR

It's impossible to really narrow down the color palette that is perfect for your brand without allowing yourself to play with color.  If you're not a designer, I recommend doing this in Powerpoint (or Google Slides).  It's extremely easy!  You can eye-drop custom colors from the inspirations you saved in just a few clicks.  I've created a free template that you can download here.

First, import your inspirations into the board.  Then click on your first color chip. 

  • Click the Shape Format tab at the top.
  • Click the arrow beside Shape Fill. 
  • Click on More Fill Colors. 
  • Click on the Eye-Dropper tool and hover over your inspiration images. 
  • Click OK.
 

The 6 colors across will be your core colors.  I like to add color value to the palette as well - aka light, medium, and dark versions.  You can usually find these versions within the inspiration by hovering over shadows or lighter areas.  You can also simply use the Slider bar to adjust your color to be lighter or darker.  And don't forget to include at least 3 neutrals.  

 

STEP 3  |  APPLY YOUR COLOR

After you've played around with creating a few color palettes that feel good to you, apply it to your product, design, or brand.  Let's say you are creating a logo.  I would create a mock version of it in Powerpoint.  Even if it doesn't look exactly the same, it will give you a good idea of the color relationships.

  • Go to Slides.
  • New Slide.
  • Blank.
  • Insert > Shapes.

I always choose the circle to start.  Make sure to include your brand name and a few other design elements such as an outline.

Next, copy and paste your color palette to the new slide.  

  • Right click > Group.
  • Now, you can scale down your color palette to the corner without distorting the proportions.
  • Click on your shape > Eye-dropper tool.
  • Click on a color in your palette.
  • Click OK.
 

If you're not loving how the colors look together, go back and readjust some of your colors.  Try another palette.  If you're really in love with your palette, don't sweat it if you are having a hard time applying the color.  My suggestion would be to seek out a designer and provide them with your color palette as a general guideline.  The designer should be able to take the main idea and apply the colors in an awesome way you'll love.

 

 

 

If you're interested in learning more about color, I highly recommend this book!

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