Virtually every student I’ve taught in the past 5-6 years has told me the same thing: In courses on photography or home staging, entrepreneurship is hardly ever discussed! From the moment I was running my course Interior Photography with Natural Light (which I offered up until the middle of 2016), Every student asked questions about setting up and developing a business and a strong brand.
That is why I broadened the subject matter of my live courses. I decided to share my ten years of experience and knowledge in running a successful business, and in addition to entrepreneurship, branding has become an integral part of the classes.
Before I go further, I want to let you know that some of the links below contain affiliate links. When you purchase a product through one of them, I receive a small commission.
Build a strong brand
One element I deal with extensively since upgrading my interior photography course is branding.
Each student receives an analysis of his or her website and other assets of theirs I find online. Most of my students have many, many things to improve. Creating a strong brand is not just designing a logo and website; it includes everything related to your business.
Good branding is a combination of professionalism, your services, and your personality plus a focus on your audience: your ideal client.
What authority do I have to talk about branding?
I can hear you thinking, Uhm, Nicolet, you deal with real estate presentation. You know a lot about interior photography, but why are you teaching me branding?
Not many people know this, but not only do I create the design and branding of my logos, websites, and books, but I’ve done the same for others on many occasions! It’s not my core business, but through word of mouth and my network, I get regular branding and graphic design jobs.
For example, my first book design wasn’t my own Make Your Home a House, Ready for Sale (for now, just available in Dutch. It was a book for the Amsterdam Fire Department, with 700 copies distributed across fire departments in the Netherlands! But I’ve found that I prefer to work on branding and re-branding assignments for entrepreneurs like you and me.
Analyzing your audience
Before I start sketching a logo, my clients have to fill up a significant questionnaire. These answers are necessary to make the best choices for them during the design process. There are many steps required to develop good branding, and to create a strong brand, you’ll need to do things like analyze your audience and formulate your vision and mission.
I will explain why: As a solopreneur, you should always be building the reputation of your company. You need to be aware of your brand constantly and use it correctly. Only then will you be able to reach out to your audience in the best possible way, and your audience will get to know you like you want them to.
Reaching out is critical: if they don’t know you exist, if they can’t tell that you have the answers to their questions, you will get no customers!
1. Discover your Why
You simply have to know which questions to answer so you can give the solution. But more importantly, you have to understand your Why. Why should they choose you? Why did you start your business? And why do you offer photography? What is your vision, and what is your mission?
Maybe you’ve heard of the TED talk by Simon Sinek, Start with Why. If not, it’s a must-see, which explains why this question is so important:
There are numerous photographers, providing similar services. Of all the things that can differentiate among all of you, the most important one is your character.
Never underestimate yourself as a part of your branding. The connection you make with your potential customer will ultimately be the deciding factor in them choosing your business. Of course price is a factor, but in the end, the connection that you make is the reason they will buy your services. People want to buy from people!
3. Who is your ideal client
If you figured out your perfect customer, you know how to get access to them. Be specific in describing your perfect client. Is it a man or a woman? How old are they? What hobbies do they have? Do they have a more “classical” personality, or are they more the “alternative” type?
4. Find your brand’s voice
To attract your ideal customer, you have to speak their language, and you need to understand them and talk to them the way they’d like you to approach them.
Many entrepreneurs tend to approach their customers formally. That’s not surprising; it’s part of our upbringing and what we learned in school. But look at yourself: when you visit a website, how do you like to be approached? What touches you? Is it a distant and formal tone, or a more human one?
So what kind of connection do you want with your clients, formal or casual? Speaking for myself, I love being around my clients as casually as possible.
5. Define your style
While finding your style, it’s a good thing to create a mood board. You can use a secret Pinterest board as a starting point. With every single item you post on that board, whether it’s a font, a color, or a photo, keep your ideal customer in mind.
You’ll start to see coherence in your pins — this is you discovering your style. Don’t be afraid to remove things that don’t seem like they fit. When you’re satisfied with the style of your Pinterest board, you can collect images to create a mood board in Photoshop, but that’s not necessary.
This is the foundation to build on. The next step is to design your logo or integrate your style into your existing brand identity.
6. Your website
Your first impression online is decisive — and as a professional in photography, you know that first impressions count.
We all know that word of mouth is the best way to get customers. But even the potential client, who got your name via a reference from a friend or colleague will first take a look at your website before contacting you, so a professional looking site is a must.
7. Brand your social media channels
Don’t forget your social media presence. How often do you get tagged online? Anyone viewing your profile in one way or another is interested in you and what you have to offer, so show them who you are and what you stand for.
Coherence between these platforms, your website, and your visual identity is essential. It creates trust, recognition, and shows you are a professional.
8. Create branded visuals
The visual elements of your branding are more than just your logo, your website, and your business card. Your brand and vision should be consistent throughout: in your blog posts, Instagram photos, social media headers, and graphics. All visual communication concerning your business, both online and offline, have to reflect you, your knowledge, and your skills in a way that appeals to your ideal client.
9. Engage your audience
Of course, what you like is important — but does it attract your audience? For example, would you consider pink if your target audience consists solely of male brokers? I’d guess not. Don’t be a girly brand if your ideal client is male.
That’s why it’s so important to start creating the visual aspects of your brand only after you know your vision, your mission, and your ideal customer. Even if you already have a logo and corporate identity, it’s still essential to your success to have the answers to those questions.
When you decide to hire a graphic designer, and you aren’t asked any of the questions I mentioned above, turn on the alarm bells. If your designer doesn’t have the answer to those questions, they simply do not know what you need to create a successful business!
10. Make a brand board
Keep consistent while branding your business.
It’s a smart move to make a brand board. On this board, collect your logo and sub-marks, colors, two to three fonts you want to use, and any patterns. Also, you can create a color palette with the specific names and codes of your colors. Remember PMS and CMYK for printing, RGB and Hex codes for your website.
Whenever you need to make changes to your site or create a visual, dig up your brand board and color palette from your computer (or print and pin it on your wall!). Force yourself to stay consistent with your brand board and colors.
Here are three boards I’ve made in recent months for myself and my clients:
11. Use templates
Spend some time creating templates in your brand’s style for blog posts, banners in your sidebar, and on social media. Just like I do on this page. Don’t forget your offline appearance: you can create branded checklists and forms for your customer, a business card, brochure, or flyer within your style.
Want to know more?
Branding is a subject you can’t take for granted. As I mentioned in the introduction, there are many steps required to develop a good brand.
Are you ready to create a strong brand? I’m developing a course on branding your business! But for now, let me recommend the book How to Style Your Brand by Fiona Humberstone. You will love that book! It is a gorgeous, coffee-table style book with beautiful images. Fiona takes you through the entire branding process in a way that’s appealing to creatives.
Some links on this page are affiliate links. All of those links are from products I use myself and therefore can wholeheartedly recommend. By using the links on this page, I get a small percentage of the purchase price so I can continue to write valuable content. It doesn’t cost you anything. Actually, in some cases, it might even give you a discount. If you don’t like to use these links, that’s fine! You can buy your gear anywhere you like, no hard feelings.
Rika Guite says
Amazing write-up, Nicolet!
Being a professional photographer and graphic designer, my website has been the most important asset for my business. A professional website with optimized blog takes away the dependency on word-of-mouth and referral clients. I’ve built my website on Pixpa, and they allow users to manually use the SEO tools to rank photography websites. Adding alt text to every image and constantly updating blog is a tedious task, but the results are all worth it.
I’m happy you found the blog post helpful. I’ll check Pixpa out, have to be honest: never heard of it. My husband is using Format Pro for his website, he’s a photographer too and I must say, I really like the Format themes. But I’m so used to working in WordPress that I decided to stick with it and wait what Gutenberg is bringing.