Branding Yourself as a Service Provider
Written by: Nicole Yang
Graphic Designer and Art Director
One of the biggest struggles we face as business owners is how to either separate or marry ourselves from our businesses. We're usually the face, the creative, and the vision behind our businesses, so do we appropriately brand ourselves so that customers know what they're getting? We ask ourselves, "should I be branding as a representation of me and my style (since that's what they'll be getting), or should I be branding as a function of my position in the marketplace and what clients expect to see?"
I'm a firm believer in middle-grounds and grey areas, so my answer is: both.
Branding is the summation of multiple parts, kind of like a set of nesting dolls.
Branding should subconsciously communicate to the client:
1. The client experience working with you
2. Your business's core values
3. How the client's life will look and feel after the process is complete
This means that your branding won't necessarily look just like you or represent your personal tastes to a T, but it will have bits of you in it, because you bring your values and approach to the table.
But there's another important component to branding that's especially needed in service-based businesses like design: branding yourself as the guide.
For those of you who hate talking about or marketing yourself, think of this less as an exercise in ego and more as a service to your clients.
Within your brand, you can exist as an avatar that guides them through your process and shows them the way to that ideal finished product. You're like the paperclip in old Microsoft Word programs, or Flo in Progressive Insurance commercials. You're not your entire brand, but you are an integral part of bringing personality, accessibility, and warmth to a process that most clients might find intimidating or abstract.
Visually appeals to your client's base desires
Communicates a larger idea of what's possible with design
Represents a trusted and deliberate process
Reassures the client that they're working with a professional and reliable organization.
Show clients what it’s like to work with you
Attract clients whose personalities may complement yours
Advocate for your brand like a spokesperson
You and your brand both:
Represent your core values
Show clients how they'll be taken care of
Here are a few examples:
I'm known for loving the color orange. Most of my clothes, the things I own, and the things I'm attracted to are this color. My Instagram feed is mostly orange. When it came to branding my own business, even though it had nothing to do with design, I leveraged it for my business. My copy often uses citrus and juice puns or idioms. I created iconography consisting of citrus characters. It is now an idea that is so closely associated with who I am as a person that people send me links to citrus-inspired products that they see on a daily basis. This allows me to infuse a brand voice and an avatar into my branding that's easy to follow and reinforces the idea that working with me should be fun and quirky. It is not a part of my logo, and it's not the first thing you see when you visit my website. But scroll a bit, click around, or talk with me for a few minutes, and it should be apparent what apparatus is going to guide you through the process.
One of former clients is known for loving spreadsheets. It's her default way of processing, and one of her greatest strengths in her business. We created a brand avatar for her that plays off the idea of robots, spreadsheets, and number-crunching. She has a robot icon that she can employ when she wants to indicate an opportunity for data-collecting. She uses copy that refers to herself as a "friendly robot." Even though her brand is bright, feminine, and welcoming, this concept adds a layer of nuance to her brand and gives clients a memorable first impression. This concept opens up the floodgates for a number of ideas, too
Interactive games and newsletter opt-ins that play off the idea of spreadsheet cells (like word searches and tic tac toe)
Creating fun infographics and visuals that nod back to virtual networks while teaching in her field of expertise
Creating Excel templates and worksheets as products, leveraging her strength for those who have a hard time getting started with data
So how do we brand ourselves?
You've got to identify distinct parts of your personality or the experience of working with you to create an avatar. This requires knowing yourself and knowing how people perceive you. Need some help getting started? Ask yourself these questions:
What words would people use to describe me?
What am I known for?
What expertise, strengths, or approaches do I bring to the table that no one else does?
How can I intersect these things with visuals and copy to play off each other and reinforce this idea?