Oh hi, I’ve been running this blog for just over a year and I’m about to pretend I’m an expert on branding. Kidding. No, I have actually picked up a lot of useful information. So while I’m not an expert, I do have a working knowledge and have built two brands that I’m extremely proud of all by myself.
If you’ve been reading for more than about a month, you’ll know that one day recently you clicked into Her Happy Heart and were no doubt blown away by the beautiful colours, stunning logo and streamlined fonts that hadn’t been there the day before.
Over the period of July I re-built the website, and at the same time I overhauled my brand.
When Her Happy Heart launched in August 2016, it had been built by a web designer friend, Andrew at Red Licorice. I’m actually planning a whole post in the near future as to why I utterly recommend paying someone else to build a website for you if you’re not technically minded, but the gist of it is this: I wanted a place to write that looked lovely and professional, and I didn’t have the faintest idea of how to achieve it. He did. And he did such a great job. Seriously, my heart soared the first time I opened the website he built for me. It was a perfect starting point while I found my feet in the blogging world. If you’re looking for someone to design a website for you, I can’t recommend him enough. He even trained me in how to use WordPress, making this strange new world immediately easy to understand. That alone was worth the money!
I busied myself using ten thousand different fonts, a weird mish-mash of iPhone photos and stock photos, and colours and styles that just didn’t gel. Our banner was earthy, our logo was minimalist, and our graphics were colourful and feminine. It was a mess.
Let me reiterate that this was my doing. Not Andrew’s. Andrew probably had a few cringes as I systematically destroyed the lovely brand he first developed for me.
Then I made the crazy decision to launch a second blog, and She the Fierce was born. Having picked up a good working knowledge of WordPress, I took the plunge and decided to build it myself. It was a lot more basic than the site that Andrew built for me, but that’s okay. From the get-go, I knew the kind of look and feel I wanted to convey with this new website, and so everything from the logo to the fonts to the feature images were (and are!) a lot more cohesive immediately. Click over, have a look for yourself. I was going for earthy, moody and beautiful, and within the limitations of the free theme I used to build the site, I definitely feel like I captured that vision.
You know that feeling of walking out of the house wearing a bra that matches your underwear, and you’re giddy with the matchy-matchy put-together feels? Like, hola, I’ve officially got my life together today! THAT’S WHAT GOOD BRANDING FEELS LIKE.
Suddenly Her Happy Heart was niggling at me. I had a couple of website audits done (another thing I seriously recommend!) and my suspicions were confirmed: my branding had become a mess. And it was ultimately affecting my traffic. The fact is, we live in a day and age where we subconsciously need things to be aesthetically appealing. This is why carefully curated Instagram feeds gain thousands of followers, why Pinterest is flooded with stunning food photography and eye-catching graphics. An unclean brand looks unprofessional, and it doesn’t matter how good your content is, the majority of people won’t come back.
It can be easy to fall into the trap of “Well, I’m a writer. My focus is on producing amazing content.”
But by placing equal importance on your branding, you’re actually honouring that golden content of yours. You’re giving it a chance to stand out. To make a reader say “Ooo! I like this!” within a second of clicking into your site – before your words have even had a chance to do the talking.
SO. I took the plunge and I built a brand for Her Happy Heart that I LOVE. It took time, a bit of trial and error, but it has resulted in a brand that I love, that feels like me, and that I’m not going to get sick of (hopefully) for a looong time.
Building a brand can be a lot of work, but it is seriously worth the time and effort. So here are my basic suggestions for creating a brand that you’re proud of
(I’ve linked to some more comprehensive resources at the bottom too)
1) Create a Vision Board
I attended an Instagram workshop a few months ago, and as part of that workshop we sat around cutting bits out of magazines and gluing them onto an A3 piece of paper. We were building vision boards reflective of how we wanted our Instagram feeds to look. I had never built a vision board before, and basically went to town with bright flowers, beautifully styled food and pops of colour. It was only when I consciously began considering my branding for Her Happy Heart that I realised: that mood board? That was exactly how I wanted Her Happy Heart to look and feel! It gave me a great spring board and I constantly referred back to it when I was considering the elements I wanted to include in my brand.
2) Choose Colours
But not too many. And don’t be vague. Specify the PANTONE hex code of the exact colours you choose (very easy to do right here) and stick to them. A strong colour profile is key to strong branding.
3) Choose Fonts
Different sources suggest 2-3 max (not including your logo font). I personally selected 3 fonts which are used across all my graphics. Don’t know where to start? I like a combination of one easy-to-read body text (ie the text within this blog post), one bold heading text, and one (easy to read!) cursive text – but that is by no means a rule! Find a combination of fonts that works for you.
4) Commission a Logo
Unless you are a graphic designer, I strongly recommend paying someone to create a logo for you. And guess what? It doesn’t even have to be expensive! I have had great experiences with designers on Fiverr and have never paid more than $20 USD. My theory is, you have to be willing to spend some money somewhere. And this is one thing I will always willingly spend money on.
5) Create a Brand Style Guide
Once you’ve started to develop an idea for your brand, it’s time to start documenting it! Brand Style Guides cover everything from the items above to your overall mission and ideal client. It really solidifies your brand like nothing else will, creates strong guidelines that you can refer back to, and it means if you ever bring someone else in for design work (or something related), you can provide specific guidelines as to how they need to work with your carefully constructed brand. There are heaps of resources and templates for Brand Style Guides on Pinterest, plus I’ve included a couple of awesome links at the bottom of this post.
I thoroughly recommend checking out Brand IT Girl – Sam Bell is a branding guru and actually conducted one of my website audits. She runs a free 5-day course called “Plan Your Brand” so if you don’t know where to start… start with that!
Ultimately, I know that re-building my website and developing my brand was a good move, as within a week of the new site going live I was contacted for my very first two sponsored blog posts, and two small partnership opportunities. My cohesive brand and professional-looking website means that other companies take Her Happy Heart seriously… so for me, it’s all the evidence I need.
Branding is good. Take your branding seriously!
Want to start your own personal blog but not sure where to start? Check out my tips!
And here are some great resources written by people who actually live and breathe branding:
How to Create a Style Guide for your Brand (Includes a free style guide kit)