Creating a Brand for Your Freelance Design Business

So you’re starting out your design business and need a brand. Or maybe you have been around awhile and can’t seem to build up a strong customer base. A strong brand will help make you memorable to both current clients and to prospective clients.

It will also make you much more noticeable in your marketing and networking efforts. If your audience sees the same brand elements on your website, on business cards, in your designs for postcard printing or any other marketing materials, then they will be more likely to see you as a legitimate professional in graphic design.

A brand that is memorable and noticeable, though, needs to communicate what it is you’re about and what you can do as a company. Seems pretty daunting, huh? With the right steps, it can actually be quite the enlightening process, and even a bit of fun since you get to learn about yourself and your business.

Therefore, to help you on your journey of company identification, the following are some steps you can follow for successful company identification.

Concept

First thing’s first: brainstorm. Grab a pen and paper, your laptop, some sticky notes and crayons, a markerboard and markers, or whatever will make this step as fun as possible. Using your favorite list-creating tools, write up a list of qualities that make up your company. Some of the best questions to ask during this process include

  • “Who is my main customer base?”
  • “What is it that I like about my freelancing services?”
  • “What do I specialize in?”
  • “What do I want to be remembered for?”
  • “How am I different from other companies?”

Discuss your answers with other people within the company, if applicable, or even with friends and family. Write your answers down once you’ve finalized each one, since these responses will guide your final brand outcome.

Logo

Get Inspired! Do some research and study up before jumping into logo design.

The tricky part about coming up with a logo is making it different enough from other companies while staying relevant to your own company and industry. There are a couple of different ways to go about creating a logo. Either you focus on some sort of image (think Target) or a phrase (“gimme a break” Kit Kat jingle). The best companies are ones that have a combination of the two.

Your logo catch phrase (tagline) can include a specific designer’s name, but keep in mind that this technique is really only useful if your name is easy to spell, you already have connections, or if it is especially fun to say, or maybe if you plan to do business Internationally. You could also create a catch phrase that pertains specifically to the goals of the company. Your logo’s purpose is to build trust and give a basic sum-up of what you are about as a company.

This is also where you need to decide on brand colors and maybe your fonts, although fonts can wait until your website design if they are not relevant to your logo design. Choose a specific color scheme that you can draw from for all of your company identity pieces. Be specific. For instance, you may want all of your titles to always be one or two colors, body text to always be another color, links on your site another color. Use these colors, or at least the most important ones in your logo. Write down your “brand color policy” and save it with the rest of your brand documents.

Since you are in the design industry, your logo must be top-notch. This is not the time to throw something together quickly. Remember that once you commit, your logo is going to be everywhere as you integrate it into your entire brand package.

Website

Your company website should blend well with your logo. In fact, that logo should appear loud and proud across the top or in the right or left hand corners of the page. On your website, unpack your logo’s “basic sum-up.” Take this opportunity to show in words or images what you can do. Show a wide breadth of creative abilities so as to give the best impression of your work as possible and be relevant to the highest degree of customers.

Use your brand colors and take the time to decide on fonts, if you haven’t yet done so. Choose a main font or two, along with a couple of styles (bold, italics, colors), and assign each specific tasks. For instance, your headings may be one font and style, the body text another style, and highlighted text a different color or style. Just as with your colors, write down your font policy and save it with your other branding documents.

Your website is also the place that you tell clients about your niche and strengths. So you don’t have the lowest prices? Not a problem. Focus instead on telling what about your product or company gives it great worth. Also, let clients know what you as a company value. Are you dedicated to product excellence? Keeping up with social trends? Are you religious? Environmentally friendly? Attached to a certain nonprofit organization? Endear yourself as a company to your audience.

Online Portfolio

As a designer, creating an online portfolio is one of the most important parts of your branding process. A few great places on which to create portfolios, besides your own website, are DeviantArt.com and Behance.net. If you don’t like either of these sites, a Google search can help you out. Different sites allow you different capabilities, so make sure you choose a site that is best suited to you as an artist.

This is one of those areas in which more is better. Sometimes a particular portfolio site gets a particular crowd. So tailor each portfolio to the audience while being true to your brand. While it can be a lot of work to get all the portfolios up and running, the payoff can be huge. With more than one portfolio platform, you are more accessible and have a greater chance of being seen by a larger audience.

Social Network Profiles

Social networking can be a great way to link up all of your different websites. The one thing to remember is to remain consistent on every site. Your website, Twitter, Facebook, and online portfolios should all have the same “tone.” For instance, don’t make your website appear highly corporate, and then represent yourself more like a freelancer on Facebook. However, since Facebook is a less formal platform, you can drop some formalities. Just be sure that you still sound corporate with a personal side (if this is your goal), rather than like an amateur switching between two identities.

You will probably want to separate your personal pages from your professional pages. Facebook and Google allow for pages that are strictly for business. So consider breaking out business from personal, which allows you the freedom to be yourself with your friends and family while focusing your brand on the business pages. This way, you can use your logo for your image on social media accounts.

Other Materials

Any other identity and marketing materials that you create for your business, such as business cards, posters, or online banner ads, need to be consistent with the brand look and feel you have created. Use your brand colors, fonts, tagline, and logo on each document. Of course, you can switch up which colors you blend together for each piece, but the idea is that every single document that will be in the public eye is easily recognizable as from your company.

Also, be sure that each piece points to other main brand documents. For instance, print materials can include a QR code that leads to your website along with the URL for your website and social media sites so that those without a smart phone can find you too. Always keep in mind that your brand should be one that leads your audience to easy access to you and your services. With this in mind and a strong brand that clients can remember, your freelance graphic design career will be well on its way to a successful future.