How to Build a Brand as a Bootstrapping Solopreneur
A Brand Strategist’s 5 Step Process
Ask any small business owner today how they started their business and most will have the same answer. They built it from the ground up, mostly on their own, figuring it out as they went.
We call this bootstrapping. Personally, I like to be hands on in every part of my business. It teaches you, it grounds you, and connects you to your business in the most fundamental way.
Branding a business this way has the same benefits. You don’t have to be a creative or a strategist to build a brand. You just have to start. So let me show you how to build a brand as the bootstrapping solopreneur that you are.
Why is Branding a Business so Important in 2023?
If you’ve spent any time in the entrepreneurial space online, you’ll quickly learn just how competitive the small business and solopreneur sectors have become. Anyone and everyone can find fulfilment starting their own business. How amazing is that?
But, if you’re starting a business online, you’re also competing with entrepreneurs from across the globe. So how do you compete?
You need to become a brand.
With the internet and social media at our fingertips, we all have the same advantages: free marketing, a vast reach, and a digital home. This is why branding your business is so important.
To get seen, to attract the right audience, to build trust and makes sales you need to build a brand. And it’s entirely possible to build and design your own brand.
Think of branding as intentionally shaping the reputation of your business.
The Benefits of Making Your Own Brand as a Solopreneur
There are many benefits of DIY branding, especially in the early days of your business journey. Here are the most notable:
1. It allows you to save money upfront without delaying the launch of your business.
Invest your time instead of your money to build a brand in the beginning. Your business will evolve, so start small. Don’t invest a ton of money until you have a better sense of clarity about your business. When you’re ready to invest with professionals, you’ll receive a much greater ROI.
2. Making your own brand allows you be part of the journey.
By making you own brand initially, you develop a greater understanding for what and how to be a brand. This leads to a deep connection within your brand — which many new business owners don’t have — even as your business evolves. Similarly, you’ll learn to trust the direction you’re taking because you developed the plan.
3. It provides you time to plan the best version of your business.
That first year or two is a lot of trial and error, changes and refinements. To make your own brand identity, one that’s simple but intentional, you allow room for natural growth and evolution as you become more certain about your business offerings.
Do I Need to Build a Brand Strategy as a Solopreneur?
This depends entirely on where you are in your business journey. If you’re just starting out as a freelancer who has a full-time job and a side-hustle, you don’t need to build a brand strategy. Yet. But you do need to design your own brand identity.
Now if your goal is to make your side-hustle your full-time career, then I’d definitely say yes! You will benefit from the strategy process immensely. Plus, it will allow you to get closer to quitting your job and becoming a full-time business owner.
The process of building a brand strategy is a great exercise, one that every business owner will grow from. It allows you to think critically about your business, leads to new ideas, shapes your brand, and lays the foundation for your entire business.
Side-Bar: Let me talk briefly about the difference between business and brand.
When comparing brand and business it reminds me of those old are you a Mac or a PC ads Apple used to air.
Your brand and business are so interconnected but the difference lies is in the way you think.
When you’re thinking like a business, you’re thinking about sales and growth.
When you’re thinking like a brand, you’re thinking about relatability, possibility and memorability.
Branding is all about community and connection. So when you think like a brand, you’re thinking about building that connection with your audience.
But when you think like a business, you’re mainly thinking about your bottom line and about yourself.
The reality is, as business owners and solopreneurs, we need to think like both. But where we need the most improvement is in strengthening our brand-thinking muscles.
As you begin to approach your business through the lens of brand and community-building, you’ll see the impact it has on sales and growth.
End of sidebar.
To build a brand that people will gravitate towards, there are critical building blocks you need that come from the brand strategy:
- your goals and trajectory as a business
- clarity in your mission
- knowing how to distinguish yourself from the competition
- developing ideal customer profiles to be intentional and impactful
- understanding and articulating the emotional benefits of your offers
- distilled brand messaging to increase memorability and relatability
These are just some of the elements that contribute to a more intentional brand and business. By diving into the work, you strengthen the underlying framework that supports, influences, and merges your brand and business.
Consider your brand strategy like a handbook, a map, a blueprint — truthfully, it’s all of these. It guides you and makes growing your business so much easier.
Learn to think like a brand in the Brand Discovery Workshop™: an affordable brand foundations course for emerging small businesses and solopreneurs
The 5 Steps for Branding a Business as a Solopreneur
Think of branding as intentionally shaping the reputation of your business. It’s more than just your visual identity, but even that requires a lot of preliminary discovery work.
So to build a brand as a solopreneur, you want to focus on establishing your fundamentals first. This will influence how you show up so you can build and grow your business in the direction you desire.
Here are the 5 steps for branding a business as a solopreneur:
1. Develop a Nuanced Understanding of Your Ideal Customer or Ideal Client
The most fundamental component for building a brand is really knowing who your target audience is. We need to know what they’re struggling with as it relates to your business. We need to understand the emotional layers that problem causes them. We also need to know what they’re striving for, what their personality and lifestyle is like and what influences their behaviour.
By exploring who these individuals are in detail, you are able to:
- attract their attention
- craft better offers
- speak their language
- sympathize and build trust
Your ideal customer or ideal client should influence everything you do in your business. Get to know them personally, like you know your best friend.
2. Explore How You and Your Target Audience Relate
Relatability is huge for bridging the gap between you and your future customers. Write out your own story, the one that led you to starting your business and why you do what you do.
What is important to you as an individual and a business? Chances are your priorities, your values, and your story will share some overlap with their’s. By gaining clarity here, it influences and improves how you show up as a brand, how you’re able to connect with your audience, and how to craft your messaging in a way that encourages them to take action.
3. Decide What You Want to Be Known For
Imagine your business in 10 years: what do you want people to say when they think about your business? Having an eye on the future gives you a goal post to aim for. Even if it changes.
To build a brand is to shape your reputation. So, the question “what do you want to be known for?” asks you to think about WHY you’re in business, the VISION you have for your business, and the MISSION you’re working towards everyday.
The biggest challenge, but the most impactful, is to establish one key brand message that will become synonymous with your brand. Write it concisely, use emotion, and commit to using it repetitiously. This is how you shape the narrative around your brand and business.
4. Craft Your Brand Experience
Branding is largely an experience. So to strategically shape yours, start by understanding how you want your brand to feel when people interact with it.
Think about your favourite brands and how they make you feel: what personality and possibility do they convey through their brand experience? Be especially mindful of the type of experience your ideal customer or ideal client is seeking from a business like yours. Try not to let your own personal preferences hijack your brand experience. Always keep their needs in mind.
When you know how you want your brand to feel, let that influence your brand voice, overall style and aesthetic, and the way you build your brand touch points.
5. Design Your Brand Identity
The last of the five steps to build a brand is to design your brand identity. And yes, you can do this as a bootstrapping solopreneur, even if you’re not creative.
My professional designer advice is to opt for typographic logo designs in the beginning. This allows you to leverage the skills of talented type designers to create your brand’s logo collection. You want to avoid iconography so your future rebrand feels more natural, instead of like an entire overhaul.
The reason designing your brand identity is the last step, is because your creative choices are guided by all the preliminary brand discovery work you did in steps one through four.
This is important because we process visuals 60,000x faster than text. So those colours, styles, and patterns you choose will be designed to attract your target audience, communicate your specific brand feeling, and distinguish you from the competition.
To build a purposeful brand, you need these five steps. But don’t underestimate the amount of work that is required. If you want to build something that stands, you need to dig deep. And the deeper you dig, the higher you can build.
We get impatient in business, but good things take time, they take work, and in business, they take strategy. If you rush the process and try to build a brand on a shallow foundation, you’ll run into trouble.
Brand discovery reveals opportunities. It forces you to think critically about your business from a vantage point beyond where you currently stand. It asks you to consider how key components of your business work together.
It asks you to not just check boxes on your building-a-business to do list, it asks that you strategize their role and learn to think like a brand.
If you’re ready and committed to doing the work to build your brand, let the Brand Discovery Workshop™ guide you the entire way. Fifteen brief video lessons, five interactive workbooks, 170+ strategic questions and exercises, and a free Brand Strategy Guide template.
The Brand Discovery Workshop™ is designed for bootstrapping solopreneurs to build a brand they can be proud of. One that will grow with their business.
Jenny Henderson is a brand strategist and business mentor. She collaborates with service-based solopreneurs to design memorable brands that allow them to make a living doing what they love. Since 2020, her branding studio has become a place where small business owners learn to think like a brand.