Sometimes, when you take a good hard look at your business and brand, you might not like what you see.
For me, it was towards the end of my first year of fulltime freelancing. Coming back from Maternity leave, I was pumped to jump back in but something just wasn’t feeling right.
When I freelanced part time, I still had a full time job to keep me afloat. So naturally, I treated my freelancing as a side project. My branding and other parts of my business were terribly low on my priorities list because I simply just wanted a “creative outlet”.
Unfortunately, this mindset was no longer working once my business became my only source of income. So, it was time for some serious reflection and restructuring.
I went into full-time boss mode and started to make changes to how I was running things and what I wanted my branding to do for me.
Ultimately, I rebranded and repositioned my business from “freelancer” to a design studio. Lots of pre-planning and strategy went into this rebrand, but it felt like the right decision.
The road to rebranding can be intimidating. However, with a concrete plan and smart preparation, you can make it a successful and stress-free process. These 7 tips will make the rebrand experience easier and much more enjoyable.
#1. Give yourself permission to change your mind.
I learned the hard way that perfection is quite an illusion. It’s something I still have to remind myself of all the time.
I used to let the thought of “achieving ultimate perfection” stop me from doing virtually anything. I would quit hobbies because I wasn’t instantly good at them. I would hold back from ever starting a blog because my posts were never my version of perfect. (Can you guess how long this one took me? Ha!)
When I finally understood it was ok for me to change my mind and that I can always improve, it was a game-changer. So with whatever decisions you make, know that you can always go back and change it.
If you adopt this way of thinking while you rebrand and allow yourself to make mistakes while still keeping a high standard, I guarantee you will move forward. Getting stuck in “analysis paralysis” will stop you from ever moving on to the next step. It can make you feel unmotivated and stall progress.
Remember, we mature and we learn and that makes change a good thing! It signifies growth in you and in your business. That’s really what a rebrand is all about. So before you do anything else, give yourself permission to change and be ok with things not being perfect.
#2. Figure out what’s not working and write it down.
Before I even decided to rebrand, I had moments where things just weren’t going my way. I needed some clarification on what wasn’t working, so I put it in writing.
This way, I was able to pinpoint my obstacles and think about how I can change them in an organized way I can wrap my head around.
Start by thinking about what simply isn’t working for you.
A great way to get everything on paper very quickly is to have what I call a “brain dump”.
Grab a piece of paper and just write down everything you’re unhappy about. By doing this brain dump, you can clear your thoughts without stressing about what you may have forgotten. You can organize these thoughts later.
If you’re having a hard time getting things down on paper, here are some questions you can ask yourself to gain some clarity:
What makes me feel uncomfortable about my business?
Have my values changed?
Have my goals changed?
Have I outgrown my current branding?
Is my vision different? Is my message reaching my audience?
Do I want to attract a different kind of customer or follower?
Do I want to offer something different?
Once you scribble everything down, look over your paper.
What are your top 5 obstacles? List them. (hint: the biggest one is usually the first one you wrote down). These are the things you want to keep in mind when making any creative decisions during your rebrand process.
#3. Revisit your brand values.
A big reason for a rebrand is a shift in values.
Like an onion, your brand has many layers and a core. Think of your brand values as that core.
They dictate how you follow through with everything in your business, how you build relationships, your brand design, and voice.
Use them as your guiding compass and infuse them into every part of your business. These values will also be the reason your audience will resonate with you. Customers who share your brand values will stick around. Simple as that.
“If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.” -Howard Schultz, CEO, Starbucks
When rebranding, you have to decide: What are your current core brand values? and how they changed from before? (IF they changed).
Take a look back. It’s always a good idea to first focus on what you’ve learned so far since starting your business. Ask yourself:
Some values can only come from experience and maturity:
Finally, I would suggest sticking to 3-5 descriptive words. When you get specific about what your brand stands for, you will resonate more with the right audience.
#4. Embrace your authenticity.
Have you ever stumbled onto a successful entrepreneur on social media and thought how happy and successful they look and how original their brand seems?
Suddenly you find yourself thinking if you do exactly what they do, you’ll find the same success and in turn the same happiness. Or maybe you sit there and sulk about wanting what they have.
So you start to imitate.
You start offering the same things, writing about the same things, or even designing (if you’re a designer) in the same style.
Unfortunately, finding real success doesn’t quite work that way. I’ve had my share of success envy in the past (and I’ll admit, it still creeps up nowadays). Despite these feelings, I’ve learned that imitation doesn’t let me be creative. When I try to follow step by step what others are doing I fail to find my own strengths.
It’s true, originality is very hard to come by, but authenticity is not originality. It means being your true self and leveraging YOUR strengths 100% of the time. Even if it’s already been done, being authentic means you have your own way of doing it.
People can always tell the difference between authenticity and imitation.
So remember, make your own success. Embrace your authenticity.
Start by thinking about YOUR strengths. What are you offering now that you enjoy and are confident you do well? Strengthen it by focusing on that product or service during your rebrand.
Next, What is your weakness? What are you currently offering that you hate to do or just do because everyone else is doing it? Stop offering that. Make space for more of what you like to do and do great.
#5. Identify your ideal audience.
Do you know who your audience is right now? Are they your ideal audience? A large portion of my decision-making process during my rebrand was guided by one thing: How I can serve my ideal client in the best way possible?
But first, you need to know if your ideal audience has changed. When I rebranded to position myself as a design studio, I first thought about who I’m currently serving and if I was happy with the audience my brand and my work was attracting. I wasn’t. It was causing me to take on work I wasn’t sure I wanted and then being let down by those same choices.
First, identify who your current audience is and ask yourself: Am I happy with who I am attracting?
If you’re not, then take a look at your service, products or content. Is there something that can be changed to attract your right kind of audience? If there is, you might want to go back to number #4 and spend some time on perfecting your services.
If not, then create a very specific target profile. Include the following:
Get real specific. The more you describe this person the easier it’ll be for you to rebrand with them in in mind.
#6. Start spreading your new and improved brand narrative through engagement.
Now that you’ve established your reason for a rebrand, identified your true target audience, got specific on your strengths and reviewed your brand values, let’s put it all together. It’s time to create your unique brand story.
But here’s the catch: you don’t get to write it, your audience does.
A mistake often seen by new and shiny entrepreneurs, is that they decide to tell their own story without thinking about who’s listening. That’s why it’s always a good idea to really get to know your target audience (see tip #5) before making assumptions of how they can best be served by you.
A strong brand narrative not only tells your audience what you’re brand is all about, but it also creates a conversation within your audience. It is much more valuable what your audience says about you than what you say about yourself. They essentially create your brand story for you.
So what’s the best way to start that conversation?
If you already have an audience, ask them questions relating to your brand and the services you offer. You can do this by messaging them on social media, creating a survey, in a newsletter if they’re on your mailing list, or facebook groups.
If you are building your audience, and you’ve already identified them (again, see tip #5), go out and find them!
Here are some ways to do so:
Once you’ve found them, ask ALL the questions. Get to know their obstacles and how you can help them by doing what you do best. The better you understand them, the easier it is to engage them.
Remember: Creating a great brand narrative takes time. Do the research and do the work that follows.
#7. Choose the right designer.
Now you’re ready to get visual!
Choosing the right designer for your rebrand is key to a successful (and enjoyable) launch. Let’s start by defining what their role should be.
Firstly, a brand or graphic designer should work with you, not for you. As a designer myself, I believe the communication and relationship with clients is what makes or breaks a project.
At best, they are guides that lead the way through creative uncertainty.
A designer should dig deep and get to know your brand goals and needs before even starting the design work. This could be done through a skype call, phone, or a questionnaire. Be prepared to answer LOTS of questions!
The right designer should have a clear organized process laid out for you and communicate it clearly. Make sure that this process works for you. You may like their work, but if the experience of working with them doesn’t suit you (and this could be in the form of timeline, pricing, etc), your best bet is to find one that is better suited to your project.
Remember to ask lots of questions as well! Usually, the designer will have your questions answered upfront either through a welcome guide or just your initial phone call, but here are a few good examples of what to ask:
Don’t be afraid to ask questions that you might think are dumb. The right designer understands that clients may not know the ins and outs of a branding process, and it’s ok. If a designer is bothered by any of your initial questions, that might be red flag.
Take your time looking for the right fit! I know there’s a right designer for every job!
Remember, stay focused on where you want your business to go, not where it presently is.
The biggest mistake an entrepreneur looking to rebrand can make is not thinking 5 steps ahead. When you go through the rebranding process always keep that in mind.
Take yourself and your business seriously. Even if you’re starting small, setting yourself up for bigger success is always a good idea. The whole point of a rebrand is growth, so with the right mindset, you can definitely make it a successful one.