When setting up a business, one of the first things on the to-do-list, especially for us visual people, is branding. The temptation to start with a visual identity is so irresistible, that I see the same mistake being made over and over again – jumping in head first too soon. Branding encompasses so much more than just a logo or a colour scheme, and to really get a handle on what your brand actually is, or should be, takes a while. It can be a costly mistake to pay out for a flashy website and logo right at the beginning, and then later on feel like it doesn't quite fit with how your overall brand has developed over time.
The good news is that you can take things slower, and still have something visually pleasing and professional looking, which you can then develop later on, without spending too much money. My go-to suggestion for those starting out is to look for young designers on Etsy. There are so many different styles and levels of packages to choose from, that you will be sure to find something that will feel right for you, at least for right now. Below I've gathered some examples that might appeal to creative people starting out.
Pre-made logo design
The simplest (and cheapest) way to start is to look for a pre-made logo design. Generally these are either ready to download, in which case you can edit them yourself to display your business name, or the name will be customised for you. Depending on what kind of a business you have, this is not a bad way to get things going and have something to put on your business cards. The downside is that your logo won't be unique, but if you operate your business locally, it's pretty unlikely that your customers will run into the same logo design. Just make sure that you won't get lazy and just stick with your starter logo forever and ever, it's only until you've been in business for a few years, have a better grasp of your brand, and have more funds to pay for a custom design.
Pre-made Facebook Business page tab images
Another way to create a more professional appearance is to change the tabs on your Facebook Business page into something more visually pleasing. A lot of small businesses first start finding customers on Facebook, so this is an easy and natural first step into starting to experiment with ‘new clothes' for your brand.
A custom logo doesn't necessarily need to cost the earth, but it does require some extensive research on your part to find a designer who's style you like and is in your price range. When you find one, hold on to that relationship!
Pre-made visual identity
Looking beyond just a logo, you can also go the pre-made route with the rest of your visual identity. It's perfectly acceptable to start with a pre-made theme that will be customised in your name. Again, it won't be unique to you, but just as long as the competition in your area/market place is not using the same identity, and provided that you really really love the design, I think this is a perfectly sensible way to get going. Just remember, it's not for life!
Custom branding/visual identity
Once you start having a better idea about what you want your business and brand to communicate, you can start moving towards customising your visual identity. While your budget is still modest, Etsy is still a great place to find designers. First, look out for packages that have a little less items in them. Even if you just get a logo, a colour scheme, and some key graphics, that will go a long way in giving your business a more professional and personalised look. If you are ready to spend a bit more, you can go for a package that will provide you with all the things you'll need from a logo, to fonts, graphics and designs for business cards etc. plus possibly even design for your website. Do check what's included carefully, and keep in mind that designers won't generally provide the coding for your website. They are usually happy to recommend people who have coded their designs before though, so will be easier to hand the work over to.
If you started with pre-made or custom designed bits for your visual identity, you might at some point want just get your website layout designed using the elements you have. You can find custom website layout packages to help you with this. As with above, remember that you will most likely still need to get a coder onboard to get your new website live.
I hope this post gave you some ideas on where to begin when thinking of establishing a visual identity for your brand. Just remember that a brand is not something you can just pick from a shelf, it's something you will have to grow into and find as you develop your business.