The 9 Essential Brand Elements You Need To Start Your Online Business

 
Need help with your brand? I know just the thing for you — download the free Brand Essentials ebook and workbook and find out which brand elements you need to start your business and how to get them. | linachervenkova.com

There’s a lot of confusion going on about what a brand is, which elements you need to start your business and how to go about getting them. Let’s tackle this heads on so you’ll have a clear idea what to do, when you need to design a website and start your online business.

What is a brand?

If you google the word “brand” you’ll get a definition similar to “an overall experience of a customer that distinguishes a business or product from its rivals”.

That sounds very proper and it’s also true, but I don’t find it very helpful. For one, I don’t like the word “rival” — what are we, gladiators? I prefer the word peers (or business sisters).

And second, distinguishing yourself from someone else means you’ll be playing what I call “the comparison game”. Let’s be honest, you’ll be doing a lot of the “who’s better than me” dance and we all know where that particular rabbit whole leads. (Desperation. It lead’s to desperation.)

And this is not a good way to start anything, let alone something you’ll be pouring your heart, soul and every free second into.

 

Some healthy amount of research might be a good idea so you don’t copy somebody else’s visuals by accident but overall, if you are telling your story and following your style, you don’t need to know what everybody else is doing.

Here’s a way to think about branding that might make things easier for you:

Think of your business as a human being (and in a sense it is, since you are your whole operation right now). In this context, the brand fundamentals are the mind, the brand design is the body and the brand values are the soul of your business. Here’s what I mean by that:

 

MIND: BRAND FUNDAMENTALS

This is where it all starts - with your story, your ideal customer profile and your product or service. This is the core of your business.

And here’s a little secret: You can start building your brand without any training or special skills whatsoever. It’s true that for the design part you might need to learn a few things or hire a designer.

But I’m sure you already know how to tell a good story, talk to people and create offerings using your skills, talents and gifts.

BODY: BRAND DESIGN

Brand design is also known as brand identity or brand styling and it’s the most popular part of the branding process. It’s the visible part of your brand. This is how it all looks, sounds, tastes, etc. It includes your style, logo, colors, fonts, images, and more.

SOUL: BRAND VALUES

This is your reason for starting your business. It includes your brand vision, purpose, mission, etc. It’ll give people a reason to care about your business and it’ll give you a reason to keep going when it gets too hard or when you don’t see the meaning of it all.

And finally branding is the process of creating your brand.

 
Need help with your brand? I know just the thing for you — download the free Brand Essentials ebook and workbook and find out which brand elements you need to start your business and how to get them. | linachervenkova.com
 

Which 9 brand elements do you need to start your online business?

You need a total of 9 elements to start your business. You can have more, and you can have less, but this is what I consider the essentials.

They are brand story, ideal customer, brand positioning, brand style, logo, colors, fonts, images and brand purpose. I organized them in three categories - brand fundamentals (brand story, ideal customer, brand positioning), brand design, also called brand identity, (brand style, logo, colors, fonts, images) and brand values ( brand purpose, ethics, manifesto, etc.)

To help you get started right away, I created the Brand Essentials ebook and workbook. Download it, schedule a daily slot for branding and get to work.

 
 

Let’s get to know each of the 9 elements better, so you know how to create them yourself.

1. Your brand story

Your brand story is exactly what it says on the label - the story of how your business came to be.

Why do you need to do this?

Because it’s how you’ll connect with the people you want to serve. It’s how you get from “I want to sell you something” to “I want a solve a problem for you” or “I want to make your life so much better”. Tell the fairy tale of how you were inspired to start this business and how it came to existence to bring joy, comfort and support to your favorite customers.

How to do it?

Just write it as if you’re telling your story to a good friend. There’s no need to tell everything that comes to mind. Just like you don’t post to Instagram every single picture you take, curate your words, too.

I can’t repeat this often enough: Just because you don’t share ALL of you it doesn’t mean that what you share isn’t 100% YOU.

2. Your ideal customers

These are the people you want to spend your days with and who will need and want you the most.

Why do you need to do this?

Because your gifts are meant to help or delight certain people, not everybody. You might think that your products and services are for everybody but try to find the people who need and want them the most and talk only to them. Shower them with love and turn them to friends, customers and fans over time.

How to do it?

Do you remember when you were a kid and you came up with imaginary friends? Or was that just me? (#weirdoalert) Anyway, it’s never too late to start and the more cute little details you could muster about them, the better. Or if you’ve worked with real humans before, think of one or a combination of several that’ll be the ideal person for you — one you’d love to spend 20 hours a day with and one that’ll love you for all the good you’re doing for her.

3. Your brand position

Your brand position is where your business stands in the market.

Why do you need to do this?

Because it’ll help you connect what you have to offer with the people who need it and want it the most. What does that mean? Here’s the thing, if you skip this step you’ll have much harder time pricing your offerings in a way that’ll attract your ideal customer.

You need to know where you stand. You need to find a balance between being affordable enough so the people you’d love to work with can come to you without breaking the bank, but not too cheap so they still value your offerings.

How to do it?

By telling how what you offer will help or delight you ideal client in a specific way. By figuring out how your business is different from all other similar business out there. Also, by pricing your offerings in a way that attracts your ideal clients and by creating a product or service experience that only you can (think of bonuses, ways to delight people unexpectedly, etc.)

4. Your brand style

Your brand style is the look & feel of your visual brand elements.

Why do you need to do this?

Because this is the framework that’ll help you choose all other design elements to match together. This is the most important element of all 5 design elements. If you skip this the rest of your visual elements will probably look all over the place. If you do this, even if you don’t do it perfectly, you’ll have a brand design blueprint and you’ll enjoy the process of creating the rest of your design elements.

How to do it?

Just like you dress yourself in the morning — think of who you’re meeting, what you like to wear and what complements your curves and edges. Now think of your business the same way:

Who are you meeting? What style will help you connect with your ideal clients the best? What’s her style?

What do you like in terms of colors, fonts, images, etc.? Collect examples and take notes.

How can you showcase your strengths the best? For example if you’re a writer you’ll need much less photos and most of those will be of yourself. If you’re a photographer, you’ll have exactly the opposite brand style.

→ Related: How to Find Your Brand Style And Why You Should Do It Before You Design Your Logo

5. Your logo

Why do you need to do this?

Right now - to put on top of your page. In general - to make your brand more easily recognizable, to build trust and to look professional.

How to do it?

By keeping it super simple at first. Remember, your goal is to launch your website, connect with your people and start making money and changing lives, it is not to become a graphic designer.

You have two options for getting a logo:

OPTION 1: Hire a designer to create a logo for you.

If you have the budget and you know what you want, this is your best option. Most graphic designers offer service packages that include not just a logo but most of your brand identity elements as well.

This is a great option if you’ve been in business for a couple of months, you’ve found your path for the next year or so and

you’re sure you won’t be making any major changes such as changing your name or your business motto (your slogan) anytime soon.

OPTION 2: Do it yourself

If you’re just starting out and you want to test your idea and have the freedom to make changes as your business takes roots, this might be a better option for you, even if you don’t know how to design your logo yourself. Or if you are on a tight budget, this is definitely the best option for you.

However, you don’t have to do it all alone and you don’t have to start from scratch.

→ Related: 3 Ways To DIY Your Logo Design

PRO TIP:

If you’re designing your logo yourself, please keep it as close to the vision you have in your head as you possibly can.

Your combination of talents and gifts are unique and your business won’t be like anybody else’s. This is Why a brand designer asks all these questions before she starts creating your one-of-a-kind logo. But if this isn’t an option for you right now, I’d like you to be able to come as close as possible to a logo as you see in your head.

This is why I created seven logo kits and each offers a different design look and feel. Lavendera is botanical, Araminta is minimal, Luna is rustic, Cedrica is geometrical, Lea is all about mandalas, Luminea about crystals and Tulipa about flowers.

Download your logo kit and start designing your brand now.

6. Your Colors

Why do you need to do this?

When you’re starting out - to use on your website. In general - to create a feeling and convey your values in a subtle way.

How to do it?

By choosing colors you could actually work with on your website, not by simply picking your favorite colors. Here are several tips to help you choose your colors:

How many colors do you need?

Usually 2 to 6 colors are enough to design and launch your website.

Download your ebook and workbook and pick your brand colors.

7. Your Fonts

Why do you need to do this?

To display text and headlines on your website and in your images.

How to do it?

Choose the simplest option possible and without making big fuss about it, especially if you don’t know anything about typography.

I know that there are a bazillion font options out there and choosing one or two can be very hard.

Just remember that your fonts have a clear purpose - to show text on your website. That’s it. They don’t need to impress, or bedazzle in any way. Your fonts need to be clear, legible and simple.

And they are not the most important thing on your website or in your business, so don’t spend hours or days (can you imagine that?!) choosing them.

Plus, they are super easy to change when you feel you need to, as your business grows.

How many fonts do you need?

Usually 1-3 are enough to design your website and launch your business.

8. Your Images

Why do you need to do this?

Because we are visual creatures and we expect to see them on your website. They showcase your style and your products, and they tell your story before your customer has read a single word of your website copy (the text on your website).

How to do it?

By creating a collection of images that look good together and match the look of your moodboard.

You have five options here:

OPTION 1: Free photos

First, I hope this goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway: Never ever use images you simply “found” on Google or Pinterest. They are copyrighted, so it’s most likely illegal and you don’t want the trouble that comes with that. Always check the license before using an image.

Instead, find websites that have truly free photos. I use Unsplash for all my free photos and I added a link to my collection to each Logo Kit.

The downside of stock photos is that many people use the same photo to communicate different messages. Keep this in mind when choosing yours.

OPTION 2: Premium photos

There are plenty of affordable photo bundles on Creative Market. Browse through them and make sure you keep your style consistent by using one photographer, or photographers with similar style.

OPTION 3: Shoot them yourself.

This is a great option if photography is one of your passions. You can do great things with your phone camera and a couple of free editing apps such as VSCO and Snapseed.

However, if you can’t make your photos look great on your website, or if you have limited time for your business, use free photos or buy a photo bundle instead.

OPTION 4: Hire a pro photographer.

When you’ve run your business for a little while you’ll notice what kind of images you use and need the most. This is a great time to invest in a professional photoshoot of yourself, your product and your home and place of business.

OPTION 5: The combo platter

I shoot most of my images for my website myself and I use free images or photo bundles for my products. Your images are a tool you use on your website, they are a means to an end, not something you can afford to spend days perfecting.

How many photos do you need?

A collection of 20-30 photos in a similar style will do the trick. You can crop them and edit them in many different ways. But this is a topic for another article, so stay tuned.

9. Your Brand Purpose

Why do you need to do this?

Because this is the reason you’ve been going through all these steps: getting up early to work on your business, turning down your girlfriends for a cocktails on Saturday evening, staying up late to listen to a copywriting lecture and so on. You need it to stay motivated when things get though and to connect with your ideal customer by sharing common values.

How to do it?

You reached the final brand element and it’s an important one! It’s the soul of your brand. Right now, you’re probably wondering what the heck am I talking about and what values should you have —you just want to launch your website and book your first client.

And you’ll be right. Your brand values are something you’ll figure out along the way and this is definitely not the time to get into details. There’s just one thing you need to know when it comes to your brand values right from the get go: Your brand purpose.

This is your so called “Why”, so figure out why you want so badly to start this particular business. Why is this so important to you? Why are you doing what you’re doing?

This is your true north.

I share my top 3 reasons for doing all this you see here in one of the welcome emails you’ll get after you subscribe to my email list. But here is the short version.

  1. I believe that every woman with a good idea and a desire to help people should have the opportunity to run her own business, be her own boss and make her own rules.

  2. We cannot continue doing "business as usual" and just pretending that everything is OK with our environment and society. I believe the way to make a positive change is to empower more kind humans to start their own businesses and run ethical, sustainable operations.

  3. I am the first generation of women in my family who can do whatever the heck I want with my life and I want to help other women have the same freedom. Whether you want to run a business while traveling the world or staying at home with your newborn baby, I want to help you brand it, organize it and run it with grace, style and compassion.

This is what gets me out of bed in the morning and fills up my heart with glitter and unicorns all day long.

Ready to brand your business?

Download the ebook here, schedule “brand work” in your calendar, brew your favorite potion (mine is ice tea at the moment) and get to work!

 
 

Do you have all essential elements?

Do you think that’s too much, not enough or just right? Let me know in the comments below.


 
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Need help with your brand? I know just the thing for you — download the free Brand Essentials ebook and workbook and find out which brand elements you need to start your business and how to get them. | linachervenkova.com
Need help with your brand? I know just the thing for you — download the free Brand Essentials ebook and workbook and find out which brand elements you need to start your business and how to get them. | linachervenkova.com Need help with your brand? I know just the thing for you — download the free Brand Essentials ebook and workbook and find out which brand elements you need to start your business and how to get them. | linachervenkova.com Need help with your brand? I know just the thing for you — download the free Brand Essentials ebook and workbook and find out which brand elements you need to start your business and how to get them. | linachervenkova.com Need help with your brand? I know just the thing for you — download the free Brand Essentials ebook and workbook and find out which brand elements you need to start your business and how to get them. | linachervenkova.com
 

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