When I first started freelancing over half a decade ago, I had no clue about what branding even was! I was a copywriter/content curator for e-commerce brands, and all I knew was that I liked pretty pictures and smart-sounding words.
Flash forward a few years and I’ve put in the hard work to reposition myself as a brand and web designer, and I’ve been able to work on hundreds of creative projects for fabulous brands. But not without a lot of learning pain along the way (and some silly mistakes, too!)
This past year I rebranded from Make.Be to Creative Day. Choosing a new brand name wasn’t the only important consideration here: My rebrand was mostly about sharing a more authentic story, one about giving myself time to explore creativity and connecting with other business owners who value the same thing.
In this post, I’m going through a few of my brand’s incarnations and sharing what I wish I would have known then, so you cna avoid some of the same mistakes.
My First Brand: Freelancing Under My Name
I started freelancing under my own name. That’s normal when you’re using a platform like Upwork, where I was.
If you’re on a platform, chances are that you will also be using your own name, even if you morph into an agency. Using your name is great for building personal brands, and a lot of people are using their given names once they “make it”. But before you make it, using your name can be difficult for a few reasons:
The problem with working under your name is that people associate your work with you. If you change your business entirely; if you perform poorly, or if you want to disappear from the online scene, it will be hard to do if you freelance under your own name.
Not to say that you’re going to do poorly — BUT, if someone does create a negative BBB or Yelp review about you, they’ll be using your name. Not good for future PR.
So use your name with care because you can’t clean up your image very easily.
My First Biz Name: Look Good In Print
About a year or two into freelancing, I was tired of only working on platforms and wanted to create a presence that I could control. To look a little more legit, I named my freelance writing business “Look Good In Print” and set up a Wix website.
Unfortunately, that’s about all I changed. I still didn’t have time to work on my online presence because I was too busy looking for work on platforms… as you can imagine, this one didn’t go far.
One serious niggle I had was the name. I chose it because I love print and pattern design… But, to others, if you “Look good in print”, it kind of implies that you might not be good underneath. So I had to rethink this one.
My main mistake? It was all about the brand name:
- Choosing an ambiguous name that might make people feel awkward and not know what my business is about
- Not even bothering to get a DBA
- Not creating an online presence
But it wasn’t all bad! During this time, I discovered that I loved creating websites and that I could take all my knowledge of conversion copywriting and my love of design, and join them into a new career as a web designer! I found a course online and started learning.
The Second Incarnation: Make.Be
Make.Be was a name that I came up with when I took my first visual designer course. One of our assignments was to create a fictitious brand name and create a logo and brand guidelines.
I admit that it was difficult for me to come up with a satisfactory logo that encompassed my brand vision even at this stage. Also, most people (including my instructors), didn’t understand why I chose that name and advised me to change, but I stuck with it. And that’s OK! I still love the vision behind it and some of my logo mockups.
But looking back, my mistakes on brand-building under Make.Be included:
- Using a period in my brand name
- Choosing a name that competes with other major brands (even if they’re in Belgium)
- Not spending enough time building up a cross-channel presence
- Not building my email list and keeping up relationships with the people I worked with
Pretty much, I let my business run itself. I created a store on Creative Market, Etsy, and my own website, but most of my time was spent doing client work and occasionally blogging, NOT working on my online presence. Big mistake.
I’ll write more later about just how important it is to start building your online presence from the beginning, but here I can only say that when I decided to rebrand to Creative Day, I decided to set things up properly.
What I’m doing differently now
This year, I started rebranding to Creative Day, and I’m doing things differently.
I worked on choosing a name that matched my story; I worked on getting legal from the start with more than a DBA; I’ve been investing in tools and education that will enable me to deliver more value and also run my business more smoothly.
Yeah, all of this is a bit boring and time-consuming. But after so many years of learning the hard way, I’m ready to switch gears into something more organic and sustainable.
I also like the name, and my story connects with others like me: those who want to design a business around their creativity that gives them room for a more fulfilling life.
Are you still treading water? Download my branding roadmap to see the 10-step process for creating a strong brand, right from the start.
Everything of value takes time and commitment, just like brand-building.
I hope this post helped you learn a little about my early branding mistakes, so you don’t make them yourself.
It’s better to start with a strategy and do things in the right order, without skipping a step. That’s the way to make a lasting brand and business that you won’t get tired of.
Of course, as you grow and change as a person and learn more about your values and capacities as a business owner, things will change, and you’ll be making lots of shifts and pivots. But at least you’ll have a strong foundation to start with, and know the next steps to take when it comes time for a change.
What have you learned since starting your own brand? Leave a comment below so others can also learn from you 🙂