Now there isn’t a set number of years that you need to be in business for you ditch the DIY train and go straight to professional town! That decision will be different for everyone. But here are a few things you need to consider:
How well do you know your industry and your target market?
You could be brand new to running a business, but you’ve worked in that same industry, as an employee, for 5 or 10 years before going off on your own. When you bring that kind of background to the table, you know a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t from seeing how your past employer’s business ran. In this scenario you’ll definitely be a step ahead, likely with much more insight compared to someone who has been running their business for a year with no prior knowledge into the industry.
If your business idea is something really innovative or you’ve never had the opportunity to work in a business like it before, you really want to make sure that the demand is there and that people actually want what you plan to offer. If you haven’t “proven your concept” or can see proof that it’s working in the market for others, then think about holding off on the branding side of things, until you can determine how viable it is. The last thing you want is to be steering a very expensive sinking ship all the way to the bottom of the ocean.
Do you know what makes you unique?
One of the potential stumbling blocks with investing in branding early on is that it is so many of us pivot and change our business direction as we grow. We often throw a bunch of stuff up against the wall to see what sticks. While it isn’t compulsory to have a niche, it can be extremely profitable, but so often we start a business working very broadly and only know where to narrow in after a few years of seeing what we love and what we hate and likewise what customers find valuable or non valuable. So if you’re working in a highly competitive industry and don’t really have a strategy for how you’re going to stand out or where you want to stake your claim in the market, then you may be jumping the gun a bit. A huge part of the branding process is establishing HOW you’re unique and WHY customers should pick you over your competitors. If you’ve got no idea what you bring to the table that your competitors don’t, then your branding may end up too general and not persuasive enough.
Do you know your true heart and soul?
Branding is a deep diving, extremely personal journey. When we can infuse our personality and beliefs into our brands, we can connect emotionally with the right kind of clients or customers we want, not just any joe schmo. That process makes running a business SO much more fulfilling. So if you are experiencing a bit of brain fog on “Who am I?” or “What’s my purpose” or “Why do I actually believe in starting this business”, then it might be a great initial step to do some self-reflection and figure out what’s driving you before you worry about your visuals.
For most business owners, there is something greater or more impactful driving their business forward than just making money. Once you can tap into that, then you have that magic fairy dust that’s able to make your brand come alive and dive deep into the hearts and souls of your customers. It’s also really important that you feel personally aligned and connected with the branding your hire someone to produce, especially as a solo-preneur, personal brand or service-based business when people really want to know WHO it is they will be working with and whether their personality will mesh well with yours. If you don’t know who you are, or what you’re striving for, then it’s way more likely your brand is going to come off as pretty generic, an outcome you’re likely not going to be that happy with.
Here’s a common scenario: You’ve hired a designer. They’ve gone off and done their thing. You’re looking at the designs thinking nothing feels right. Only problem is you can’t put your finger on what’s wrong with it, or what you want. You tell the designer “I’ll know it when I see it.” You have such a lack of clarity that you send the project around in circles, never coming to have positive result. — This is not what we want! You do risk not getting an outcome you’re happy with if you don’t have clarity into who you are and many designer’s don’t take a comprehensive approach like me to dig deep into who you before they jump into designing.
So seriously take some time to think yourself through before hiring someone. If you have enough life experience and self-awareness, you’ll be able to give your designer what they need to deliver your dream outcome. But sometimes you need to take a weekend to really map these things out. At the end of the day, our beliefs, values, personality and essence doesn’t really change much. It’s like your true north, it will always point you in the right direction. So as long as you know what they are, that can form the inspiration for an amazing brand which will never grow old and outdated.
Can you commit to your business long term?
Finally, you want to make sure that the business you’re establishing is something you can genuinely commit to and is something you’re going to actually love and feel inspired to do, day-in-day-out. We all know how trendy entrepreneurship is, but I can tell you right now that it isn’t all glitz, glamour and $100,000 launches. It takes hard work and determination to make your business successful. So the last thing you want is to have this false sense of what running your business will be like and then want out after you’ve made so many big investments in the business already. So really get clear that this is an industry that you are passionate about before you invest, so you don’t end up trapped in a business that doesn’t light you up, but that you’ve investment so much in it feels impossible to quit.
Are you trying to build a premium brand?
If you’re trying to build a premium brand, then there are certain expectations your customers are going to have, about how professional your branding should be. If you believe your product or service is worth a premium price tag, but you’re just breaking into the market, it may be VERY hard to establish your value or expertise without great branding to back you up.
Branding is all about perceptions. Just because someone has great branding does not mean they have the best offering. Likewise just because someone has terrible branding doesn’t mean you’re going to have a terrible experience. But we still make snap judgements about businesses, based on their branding, which influence our decisions on what to buy. First impressions are so important because people are busy and they often don’t have time to research your market in detail to make the right decision. The higher your price tag, the higher the customer’s expectations will be. When they feel your branding is in alignment with your pricing strategy, then they’ll feel WAY more comfortable about choosing you.
In this case, while I definitely recommend the above steps of understanding your market and customer, knowing what makes you unique, understanding your true heart and soul and making sure the business is right for you first, it’s even more imperative that you develop solid, attractive branding, fairly early on in the piece.
So how do you know when it’s the right time to invest in your branding? Well that’s only something you can answer. But if you’re passionate about what you do, you know your industry and your customers well, you feel you have compelling reasons why customers should use your business and you know yourself, then it might just be time! Just remember that the wrong branding could be holding you back from opportunities or discrediting your expertise, so don’t hold out on getting professional branding for too long that it starts to hurt your business.