Selling More Creative Work, The Business of Brand Styling, Thinking Big, Upping your game

Getting the work you want

June 20, 2016
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Isn’t it frustrating how some people float through life picking up the sorts of projects you can only dream of? They get the best clients, the best work and they seem to be having a ball doing it. How do they do it?

The good news is that with the right focus you can do the same. Getting the sort of work you dream of really doesn’t need to be impossible, in fact, it’s really very simple.

You establish the sort of projects you dream of, the sort of clients you’d love to work with and you remind yourself of precisely why you are perfectly capable and well qualified to do the job. Then, and this is the important bit, you make sure that every single thing that you communicate shows those dream clients that you’re the only person or company for the job.

It really is so simple, so why do we make business so complicated?

In my last post we explored how you can radically change how you see your business and start to go after the work you really want, see this as the follow up.

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Celebrate your distinctive style and build your business

I know from painful experience how tempting it is to want to make your business as appealing as possible to everyone.

You have overheads to meet, staff to pay and suppliers snapping at your heels. You want to take on as many projects as possible and the last thing you want to do is put anyone off. So you create a safe brand identity. You show a little of everything in your portfolio; you talk to a generic audience and you start to become very, very disillusioned with your business.

You find yourself ‘quoting’ for a lot of work and winning very little.

People just don’t seem to want to spend money any more. The projects you do take on are a mixed bag. You have some lovely clients and a fair few who are a pain in the backside, but hey, this is running a business isn’t it? Who said it was going to be easy?

Projects don’t run quite as smoothly as you’d like and your clients micromanage you more than you’d choose but you accept that this is just how it needs to be if you want to be your own boss. You’re frustrated that people can’t just trust in your expertise but it’s hard to see that things could be any other way.

When you’re running a business like this it’s so easy to think that business is always going to be tough. It’s so hard to see the wood for the trees and when you’re in the thick of everything, even making a small change can be totally overwhelming. I’ve been there.

Start by getting focused

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Getting the work you want really is very, very simple. It’s simply a case of working out who you want to work with, the sorts of projects you want to work on and showing that you are the people for the job. Celebrate your unique creative style, find your distinctive voice and communicate on a deep and meaningful level with your dream clients. It’s the only way.

What you probably don’t realise is that by creating the generic sort of communications I describe above, you may think you’re not putting anyone off, but you are! You’re putting off the sort of client with taste, the sort of client who values good design and will invest in your creativity because she’s fallen hook line and sinker for what you do and she can’t comprehend working with anyone else.

Why? Because she’ll take one look at your website and run a mile. Because what you’re showing is a mishmash of everything and she’s looking for something a little bit special – and she’s prepared to pay for it too. Because she doesn’t have time to search through your portfolio for the one design she likes when there are others out there with more streamlined and polished portfolios and a strong design style.

Isn’t that sad? In your attempt to appeal to everyone you’ve actually put off the person you really want to be working with!

My friend Rona and I run business workshops for florists (in fact, we have a couple coming up in the autumn you might be interested in) and at every single workshop we have the same conversations with florists struggling to get the work they want. It’s the same in every case: rather than celebrating their own floral style they are shoehorning every floral style under the sun onto their website on the off chance that someone will see something they like.

It doesn’t work.

If you work in a creative industry people are coming to you because of your creativity. If you want to be valued for what you do and paid properly for it then you need to identify, hone and celebrate your distinctive style. You need to define your aesthetic, your voice and your creative style. And you need to communicate that throughout everything you do. Here’s how.

Cull your portfolio. Only show the work you’re achingly proud of and that reflects the sort of work you want to win in the future. While you’re transitioning your business I’m not saying you can’t take on the ‘wrong’ sort of work; but you certainly shouldn’t blog about it!

Stay focused in your social communications. Build your communication around what your dream clients want to see. Stay true to your aesthetic and build a strong picture around what you want to be known for.

Create a compelling and distinctive brand identity that reflects where you want to be right now. If you’ve recently changed your focus – perhaps you’ve gone more luxe, for example, then it’s time to check in with your brand and make sure that it reflects where you’re headed right now. Don’t be afraid to change it if it’s wrong – it’ll be holding you back.

Show why you’re the only choice for your dream client. You’re not right for everyone, but you are the only choice for your dream clients with their dream projects. Your portfolio is one way you can communicate that, but think about the way you write your copy and your creative process – is it relevant to put that one your website? And think also about how you respond to enquiries, how your invoices, proposals, quotes and creative presentations look. Every single impression matters – make each one count.

know it’s scary, but once you understand what your brand is all about, you can communicate with more focus and polish. And the more focused you are, the more compelling your business will be to those clients you really ache to work with. Good luck!

Building Your Tribe, Selling More Creative Work, The Business of Brand Styling

Building the business you really want

June 13, 2016
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When was the last time you gave yourself permission to just stop and dream really big about the business you want to create?

And I don’t just mean “I wish our clients had an extra £300 to spend with us” type thoughts; I’m talking about the sorts of radical dreams that have the power to transform your business overnight.

An example from one of my clients

A couple of weeks ago I had the complete pleasure of working with a design duo who were looking for my help in creating a set of robust processes that would gain their clients’ respect and introduce a bit more balance back into their lives. In their own words, they were “working and being treated like dogs“. Things needed to change.

In the first of several days we are spending together we talked a lot. About the sorts of projects they’d worked on, the clients they had and what they really wanted to be doing. Their current client base, were lovely, we established, but many were just thinking too small. Many didn’t value the duo for their creativity: more as a convenient way of carrying out a technical task they didn’t have the software for.

Undervaluing their own skill, battered and bruised by clients demanding more for less, the pair had set themselves a seemingly impossible task. They just hadn’t given themselves enough time to do a good job; their portfolio didn’t demonstrate what they were capable of; their pricing attracted the wrong sort of client and repelled those with serious money to spend. It was a vicious circle.

We started to talk about the sorts of projects the couple would be doing if nothing were standing in their way. These two are a super-talented, highly experienced and mature team with strong backgrounds in lifestyle PR and graphic design. The more we talked the more we began to pull out some exciting threads.

We started to see a boutique agency with a select number of clients that could complement each other. Clients would come to the girls for a complete experience in both creating and launching an aspirational brand. But more excitingly than that, the more we explored what the girls really wanted to be doing, the more we hit on something really big. Something so big that totally blew our original plan out of the water.

Something that meant that they could go from chasing their tails to just one, high value and highly creative project a month. Something that would give them their dignity back and their pride in their work. Something that would ignite their passion for their business and put fire in their belly.

I’m afraid I’m deliberately not going to be specific about what they are going to be doing because one day I hope to feature them as a case study and I’d like to maintain their confidentiality! However, there are a couple of really important takeaways for you to come out of this story that I’d like to explore.

Dreaming big and building the business you really want

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Firstly, by identifying where their true passions lay we started to identify the sort of work they really wanted to be doing. You can totally do the same. This isn’t about being restricted to what you’ve done but focusing on where you want to be. You can fill in the gaps later – give yourself permission to dream really, really big first of all.

Secondly we looked at what this duo offered that no one else we knew did: an integrated PR and design offering; a wealth of experience and contacts in the lifestyle sector and a whole bunch of commercial experience. What do you offer that makes you different to others in the market? How can you hone your offering to create something overwhelmingly compelling to your dream client?

Thirdly, and possibly most importantly, we looked at the sorts of dream projects they would be working on if nothing were standing in their way. This took several attempts. Starting with a couple of ‘this would be nice’ sort of stories until we got to the goose-bumpingly, spine-tinglingly interesting stuff that has formed the foundation of their route forward. Tip: if you’re not overwhelmingly excited and inspired about your new direction, your clients probably won’t be either. Keep thinking, keep dreaming until you get there.

Next, we looked at what their offering should be. What sort of deliverables, service, process did we feel these sorts of dream clients should experience for this dream project? (grr, this enigma is getting frustrating – I hope you’re keeping up!) Look past what you’re doing right now; look past what you think your clients will pay for and focus on what you think it takes to do a really exceptional job. What steps would you take? What would your clients get as part of the project? How do you want to run your business? After all, this is your business: run it the way you want to.

Following on from that, consider what each step requires in terms of your time and any expenses. This will give you a good idea of what each project will cost, what your dream client will need to spend and what sort of person will invest in what you’re offering. Don’t be afraid to set a confident price. One of the most important things I’ve learned over the years is that as long as you offer value, there will always be a market for what you do, whatever your price. So charge what it takes to do a really great job and focus on demonstrating the value in what you do.

Finally, think about this: what does this dream client need to see in order for you to be the only choice for your dream project? What changes do you need to make to your business to get to where you want to be? This might mean changing everything, it might simply be a new website and a little streamlining of your portfolio. No one is suggesting you need to do all of this overnight, but once you know where you want to be, you can start to make things happen intentionally.

Good luck! And let me know how you get on…

How to Style Your Brand

Marketing a bestselling book

May 18, 2016
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As I celebrate a year since I launched How to Style Your Brand this week I’m sharing my insights into what I’ve learned from publishing my own bestselling book. Today I want to look at marketing. I’ve already published a couple of posts with some of the resources I used to put together my marketing plan, you’ll find them here and here.

I guess much of this post is going to be about the good intentions I haven’t followed up on rather than a comprehensive blueprint for marketing a bestseller. And what I hope is that in reading it you’ll take heart in the knowledge that even if you don’t have a whacking great marketing budget or an army of assistants to execute all of your marketing plans, you can still make things work on your terms.

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One of the things I’m most proud of is that the book sales have grown organically. Without the big PR or marketing budgets of the traditional publishers I haven’t garnered much high profile publicity so spreading the word has really been about being featured on blogs, podcasts and social shares. For that I am so, so grateful for your support and enthusiasm.

On Tuesday I talked about numbers. I don’t know whether you think selling almost 10,000 books in a year is ridiculously small or ridiculously large. I’m not sure I really knew until last year but what I do know is that I’m delighted. I’ve sold more books than I needed to to make the project work and I’d love to spread the word more and see how much further this book can take me.

To give you a little perspective, Tim Grahl cites 10,000 books as being the magic number for a book gaining a life of it’s own. Most books don’t sell beyond 100 copies. And then of course there are the publishing sensations who sell millions and millions of copies. I guess I’m pretty happy with where I am on that spectrum for just a one girl band.

The power of sharing

Barely a day goes by when I haven’t been tagged in a photo or received an email from one of you telling me how helpful you’ve found the book. It means the world to me. To know that the book has helped you find clarity, unleash your creativity and move your business forward is everything I set out to achieve. 

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More than book sales, which have been undeniably better than I could have hoped; what inspires me most is to know I’ve created a book that’s useful. A book that’s been recommended and continues to be recommended is what makes me happy and inspires me to write the next book. 

It’s this sort of marketing that I hope will bring me sustainable and long term sales. I’d always intended that the book should have longevity. The branding process I’ve created is timeless. And as design fashions come and go, being able to identify how to communicate your brand values in a distinctive and emotive way is something that’ll never go out of fashion. 

Beautifully illustrated, this has become desk-bound and my absolute go-to reference guide. From understanding colour palettes to step-by-step launching of a brand, this is perfect for anyone trying to nail down what they want their brand to say.

The second it arrived, I read it from cover to cover because I couldn’t put it down! I am using this to piece together a branding approach for a small business and it’s perfect for that – but I’ve already used it for another small rebranding project.

Expert advice, excellent writing. An easy 5 stars.

Caz via Amazon.co.uk

Oh, and on that note, your honest Amazon reviews have meant so much. Any book marketing expert will tell you to ask for reviews, run review campaigns and swap downloads, freebies and goodies for reviews. I know I should do that too but I’ve just found it a little distasteful so I haven’t asked. Yet… But if you could spare a moment to leave your thoughts I would be so grateful. It really does make a huge difference. 

So… (squirms with embarrassment…) if you’ve read the book, please would you leave a review on the Amazon UK or Amazon USA site?

I really can’t say I’ve worked hard at promoting or selling the book. I just haven’t had the time and I’m intrigued by the potential of that. I’m just about to order another 10,000 copies, which will sharpen my mind a little and that’s probably not a bad thing. Next year my plan is to work harder to market the book and explore sales in more international territories. 

Overseas sales

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As you read this I’ll be in Tallin, Estonia for a week of book signings and workshops. About six months ago, Veronika emailed me about bulk prices for selling my book to her clients. Since then she has imported several hundred copies for her clients as well as all the universities and libraries in the country. 

It’s been a great opportunity for us both and it’s something I’d love to explore with more of you. If you live in a territory where the book is tricky to get hold of, would you be interested in distributing some? Email me and we can discuss!

Stockists

I’ve made a few tentative inroads into getting my book stocked in some bona fide bookshops. I still dream of Anthro and Oliver Bonas but for now you’ll find my book in some gorgeously select establishments including Mr B’s in Bath; Southwood Stores and Nest Home. You can also order via Waterstones and I’m pretty sure WH Smith too (although I’ve never tried…).

Similarly, if you’ve an online or offline shop and would like to sell How to Style Your Brand then please do get in touch. The book is available via Bertrams wholesalers or if you’d prefer to order via me (10 copies min), I’d be delighted to discuss.

I can also do you lovely rates on bulk orders for client gifts (as the gorgeous Ashley from Braizen did) or for workshop or retreat students like the lovely Vicki Knights did…

I’ve loved you sharing your photos of the book and also your progress as you style your brand. Here are a few of my favourites and you’ll find more on the Instagram hashtag #howtostyleyourbrand or #thebrandstylistbook.

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So all in all, this seems to be a book that has succeeded because of you guys. Because you’ve given it the support, enthusiasm and cheerleading that has spread the word and made my dreams happen. Thank you so much!

To say thank you…

As a thank you, I’d like to do two things. First of all, I’ll be holding a one hour Q&A on Instagram on Monday 23rd May at 2pm British Summer Time. Find me @thebrand_stylist and either tag me with your brand styling questions or join in the discussion on the post I’ll put up…

Secondly, lots of you have been asking for more resources on colour. And I’m working on them. As soon as I possibly can I’ll send you something out. I promise! I think you’ll like what I have planned…

 

The Brand Stylist Book

Self publishing vs traditional: finding the right approach for you

May 17, 2016
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This week I’m celebrating a year since the launch of my bestselling book, How to Style Your Brand, and sharing some of the things I’ve learned along my bumpy journey from trembling self publisher to sell-out sensation! Today I’d like to explore the question of traditional vs self publishing.

There are certainly a lot of preconceptions around self published books. I’ve bought several over time that have been poorly edited, designed and structured. Ten years ago it became a bit of a ‘thing’ to have a book as your calling card. Quality wasn’t as much of a priority as it perhaps should have been and for that reason, self publishers began to get a bad reputation. Certainly in my head I developed this notion that whilst anyone can publish a book but only good books are picked up by traditional publishers.

I hope that what’s happened over the past year has very firmly put that notion to bed.

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Some of my favourite images via the #howtostyleyourbrand Instagram hashtag. I love seeing how inspired you’ve been by the book!

Beautiful book! I loved how the author explained, step by step, how to determine what your brand identity should be for maximum effectiveness with your target market.

REALLY helpful book. Just the right length. It struck a good balance between delivering great information and not being overwhelming.

Would be excellent for any solo-preneur or small business who wants to establish their own brand identity, but it would also be a good book for those who might still end up hiring a designer. It’s an excellent place to start, for sure, and I give it my highest recommendation.

Dawn Michelle via Amazon.com

Over the past couple of years, and in the course of exploring whether I could get my book published the traditional way, I’ve learned a lot about the traditional publishing industry and the new wave of self publishers. I genuinely don’t want to knock the traditional publishing industry. They are experts at what they do and they bring a wealth of experience, perspective and knowledge to the table. But self publishing is changing.

Self publishing can be a real strength

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There are some genuinely exciting opportunities for small, creative self publishers to make beautiful, meaningful books that enrich our lives and our businesses. The Hoxton Mini Press is just one example of a boutique publishing company with a strong commitment to quality and big ideas. Over time, I hope to develop Copper Beech Press into something that can be world- renowned for creating beautiful business books: books that combine style and substance. (I guess I should start by getting that website built…)

Self publishing doesn’t need to mean your book won’t be taken seriously, or that it’s of lesser quality and it definitely doesn’t need to mean that you aren’t good enough.

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I knew based on Fiona’s blog that the book would be good. WOW!! It is better than good. I have never seen a book be able to marry up beauty with incredible, informative, how-to, practical information as this book does.

The beautiful layout and photos put puts me in such a creative state that I long to get to work on my brand identity and that is where the uncluttered, unclomplicated instruction comes to the forefront.

I have never met Fiona in person but I feel as though she is right there with her energetic personality helping me figure it all out. Best of all, while this book energizes you to create the best brand identity, it is practical and not one of those vague cheerleader type books.

Kathleen Murphy via Amazon.com

What self publishing does mean is that you are in control. You’re in creative control. You’re in control of your time, your destiny and your finances. It means you live and die by your decisions and for that reason, it’s not for the faint hearted. If you’re an entrepreneurial spirit then publishing your own book gives you the opportunity to do things your way. It gives you the opportunity to create really interesting, brave books that you know your tribe have a need for.

And very frankly speaking, it gives you the opportunity to enjoy the financial upside should your book be the success you believe it will be.

The opportunity to do this on my terms

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I was confident in my vision: I felt certain that there was a need for a book for entrepreneurs that explained how the brand styling process worked. I could see that the high-end design books were completely inaccessible to many entrepreneurs and they didn’t effectively explain the why. I could also see that the existing business books just didn’t cover off the creative side of branding. And – and this was the most contentious of all. It had to be full colour.

And here’s where my book just didn’t work in the traditional publishing model. Here was I, an experienced entrepreneur, wanting to write a business book that looked like an interiors book. That was my vision and in that I was totally immovable. But in that, I wasn’t a neat publishing proposition. Business book publishers don’t do full colour, illustrated books. And publishers of coffee table books don’t do business books.

This is what I’ve been looking for!

I’ve been working on my brand as I get ready to launch a new business and I kept finding myself getting overwhelmed with an inability to communicate a clear and consistent message and brand story. I am inspired by so many things which can be tricky when trying to figure out your own brand.

Fiona’s AMAZING book is helping narrow down what the key messaging of my brand is and how to convey that in logos, fonts, textures, imagery and mood. This book is worth every penny and I can’t wait to share it with others that I know are on this same journey. Thank you Fiona for helping us navigate the sometimes rough waters of finding our brand- I’m optimistic that it will be pretty smooth sailing from here on out!

Kristina V via Amazon.com

I sent several, very targeted proposals back in 2014 to publishers I felt my vision would be a good fit with, and held my breath. One editor told me it was the best proposal she had ever seen. But no one bit. Most didn’t even respond.

That was when I decided to embrace the opportunity that self publishing would give me. And rather than seeing it as a failing, I totally see this as the strength in my book and the reason for it’s success. It was only by self publishing that I could truly execute my vision for such an image rich book. I feel certain that had I pursued a publisher at all costs the photographs would have been sacrificed as I fitted into a traditional business book genre. And what a shame that would have been.

The right choice for me

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I don’t really think of myself this way, but I guess I’m a WAHM (work at home mum). I work in term times only, and mostly only when my littlest one is at nursery. Take out time for school runs, pilates and running and I don’t have much more than around 10 hours a week to work. I have to be ruthlessly efficient with my time and I work very, very hard (I don’t always succeed) to keep social media from encroaching on our lives.

I don’t have hundreds of thousands of social media followers, my blog hits aren’t in the millions but I’ve still maintained a bestselling book for pretty much a year.

Traditional publishing is a numbers game. More important than the quality of your book, your concept or your writing is your numbers. The number of visits to your blog, your social media stats. They matter. A lot.

I get it. The publishing industry is a business and they need to make money like the rest of us. A book written by a high profile blogger or TV personality is an easier sell than someone unknown. They have reach, they have a platform, a ready made audience. And with more overheads than I have, traditional publishers need to sell a lot more books than I do.

But I don’t have the stomach for building my platform. I want to write, to consult, to teach and to balance that with a visceral need to spend time with my children and my family. I can’t do it all and for me, the book slots into one part of my business. It can’t dominate.

I’m much more suited to self publishing. I’m entrepreneurial and I have a strong creative vision. I want to take the risk and be there to reap the rewards.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of the team, the marketing and the distribution, but ultimately I value my creative control, my financial interest and my balance more. There are no targets, no pressure and most important to me, no comparisons.

You probably don’t need to be a mum to acutely feel that pressure we are all under to do more, be more, achieve more. The idea that whatever you have achieved, it’s not enough. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day. I love the flexibility that self publishing gives me and I love the fact that I can define success on my terms.

If you hate marketing or recoil at the idea of running a business or taking the risk that self publishing involves then going down the traditional route is probably the right option for you. But don’t underestimate the power of self publishing: these are exciting times for those of us with a strong vision and dogged determination!

How to Style Your Brand

How to Style Your Brand: A Year On

May 16, 2016
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This is a story about believing in yourself. A story about ‘going for it’ when the experts are telling you no. It’s a story about following your dreams, challenging the norms and the power of creative vision.

Just a year ago I was quite literally trembling in my boots. The day had finally come when I was launching my book, How to Style Your Brand, into the world.

Timing is everything

I’d dreamed of creating a coffee-table style business book for at least five years. I’d had several, failed, attempts at writing the book before – getting so far and then getting blocked, losing momentum, never finishing.  For that I’m so grateful because clearly the time just wasn’t right. Everything happens for a reason and How to Style Your Brand is the book it is today because of where I was in my life. It was the right time.

Selling my business and taking some time out finally gave me the time, perspective and confidence to write the book I’m immensely proud of. Determined that there was a need for my book, I boldly self published a very different sort of book: a business book that combined style with substance. A coffee-table book for entrepreneurs.

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Excited about creating something different and something I felt sure there was a need for, I took on board publisher’s rejections and dismissals of my woefully small ‘platform’ and instead focused my energies on making my project work.

I created a business plan, a marketing plan and a beautiful book. I employed a top editor, a brilliant photographer and an army of proof readers. I collaborated with some of the best designers in the business and featured a wide range of entrepreneurs across many genres.

How to Style Your Brand might have been self published (and I’ll share on Wednesday why I think that’s been one of it’s strengths) but I didn’t want it to look self published. Instead, I wanted to create a beautiful, creative and professional looking book that could hold it’s own amongst some of the most inspiring titles on our bookshelves and I moved heaven and earth to make that happen.

Fiona Humberstone is a brand styling guru. Her book How to Style Your Brand is authoritative, full of advice and exceptionally well set out and well structured.

From the outset, Fiona offers clarity. She’ll help you focus your ideas, explore your brand identity, she’ll help you think about your message, your strengths, your selling point, as well as discussing logos, colours, fonts, illustration and design.

How to Style Your Brand is almost like a brand styling consultation, in book form, and you can carry out the consultation at any time – preferably at the outset, though this book is also relevant for anyone re-branding or changing direction, too. You can dip in and out or follow the book from beginning to end.

I wish I had read this book when I first started out in my journey as a food writer and blogger, because I think I would have had more focus from the start and would have saved costly mistakes with designers. However, it’s never too late to take on board Fiona’s advice and even just a few tweaks here and there (perhaps with colours, font or your message) can make all the difference.

I am not surprised that How to Style Your Brand has become a best-seller and it is perhaps the strongest example of successful self-publishing in its genre and indeed, across many more.

Ren Behan, via Amazon.co.uk

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In short, I’d done everything I could to make the book a success. But even so, a year ago today, I was absolutely terrified.

Terrified because I’d just sunk a whole heap of our savings into a modest print run (of 2,000 copies) that I’d been advised I’d do well to sell within a couple of years.

Terrified because in the course of selecting submissions for the book I’d featured some of the most awe inspiring and talented designers in the world. Would they like what they saw? Would they like the design of the book? Would they like my process for styling a brand? Would they agree with my approach? Would they ask themselves: “Who does she think she is?“.

Most of all I guess I was terrified because I was doing something very, very different to anything that was out there.

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Dreams do happen

This year has been about believing in myself, growing in confidence and thinking bigger than I ever thought possible. It’s been about finding strength from rejection and sharpening my focus. Publishing How to Style Your Brand has opened doors to some truly wonderful things: new friends, new clients, new collaborations and new projects.

The book has been a success in more ways than I could have hoped.

This book is everything I hoped it would be and much much more. It balances practical advice with inspirational quotes, beautiful images and real world examples. It’s written in such a lovely tone that you feel like Fiona is standing next to you, guiding you through every step. And it really does cover every step of creating a brand identity from colours and photography, to logos and websites. I spent 12 years working in advertising and branding and I’ve learnt a lot from this book, and perhaps more importantly, been inspired and motivated. I wish it had been around when I was launching previous ventures – I will certainly have to hand for my next one.

Mrs K J Tregidden via Amazon.com

I’ve had amazing feedback – from both my fellow designers and the entrepreneurs I’d created the book for. I continue to be humbled (and excited) by your reviews, instagram shares and blog posts.

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Just a small selection of my favourite images on the #howtostyleyourbrand hashtag.

I’ve been a business owner for many years and read numerous books on branding a business. But this is the book that spoke to me! Fiona brings such a passion and knowledge to the design process and gives you so much to think about, with clear outlines and questions…and then helps you pull it all together to design and brand your unique business. It’s very much a workbook that gives you a process to get you to your design. I’ve bought 4 copies of her book and shared it with friends and they’ve all agreed…best book out there on branding your business!

Mint Condition Herb Farm via Amazon.com

In terms of book sales it’s worked out rather better than planned. My initial print run sold out within six weeks and since then I’ve gone on to reprint the book twice more – with a fourth run (of 10,000) about to be ordered imminently.

How to Style Your Brand has sat at the top of the bestseller lists in the UK pretty consistently for most of the past year and regularly a top 20 book in America (where I really haven’t been terribly proactive in my marketing). The book has been sold in dozens of countries around the world and as you read this, I’ll be on a plane on the way to Tallin where I’ll be doing a week of book signings and workshops with my Estonian distributor.

In short, this year has been nuts.

You’ve totally got this

What I hope my story shows is that if you really, really believe in yourself; if you know from experience that there’s a need and a desire for what you’re doing, then you can make anything happen.

Over the course of this week I’d like to share my experiences and reflect on what’s happened this year, so I’m going to share a different snippet with you each day of my journey from trembling self publisher to sell-out sensation!

I’d also like to share as many of your stories as possible, so if you’ve used How to Style Your Brand to brand or rebrand your business then please do share with me on Facebook, Instagram or email book at fionahumberstone dot com – I’ll be sharing my favourites on the blog over the next few weeks.

How to Style Your Brand, Resources & How To's

The importance of *really* understanding your customer

May 12, 2016
MARUXI-3

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about the sorts of things you might find helpful for your business. I’m looking forward to sharing more on the business of brand styling as well as the process. And something that’s relevant to all of us is the importance of really understanding the motivation behind why your customers choose to do business with you.

I originally sent this out to my email subscribers, but it had such a fantastic response that I wanted to share it with you guys on the blog too. Enjoy!

understanding-your-customer

What motivates your customers to do business with you?

If there’s one thing you can do to transform the power of your brand, it’s to understand more about your customer.

Their motivations, their deepest desires and their biggest fears.

Understand what they value about what you do, why they choose to do business with you rather than a competitor and you’ll find writing copy, creating your website, styling photos and creating a knockout brand identity so much easier.

More to the point, when you get this stuff right, you’ll sell more, because what you’re communicating will resonate with your customers.

Understand your customer, sell more stuff!

Many of us define our customer in terms of their demographics. We tend to describe the details in terms of age, class, gender, profession etc. The problem with this is that it really doesn’t do much to help you create powerful marketing.

So a traditional customer profile might look something like this: Male, middle class, 30-50, professional, no children, likes football.

Really, what does that tell you? What insight does that give you? How inspiring do you find that?

For me it’s not ever going to be the catalyst for creativity. OK, if you’re working to a corporate business plan sort of template then it ticks a box, but it’s really not the sort of muse I can get excited about.

Understand why

Some years ago I started to change my thinking from traditional demographics to thinking more about psychographics. I started thinking about what motivates people to buy and everything changed. Understanding why someone was motivated to (in many cases pay a premium) for a product or service was essential in getting more people to do the same.

Once you understand why people do what they do, it’s easy to talk to them in a way that’ll resonate. Have you ever tried doing that for your customers? It’s magic! I promise.

Try taking your traditional definitions for customers a few steps further and ask yourself whyWhy do people buy from us? What’s motivating them?

What are their aims for life or business? And how do you fit into the picture? Think about their deepest desires and their greatest fears, how do you fit into the picture?

An example from one of my clients

Let me give you an example. I’ve recently been working with a lifestyle brand to help them develop a strong creative direction and voice.

Their products – high quality Danish designed homewares- were disparate and colours lacking in a cohesive aesthetic. They had some great photography but I knew it would benefit from some focus and emotion that could transform the brand.

One of the main product lines was organic children’s blankets. Beautiful products and the business owner had defined her target audience as design savvy parents who value quality.

All of the communication on the website was focused around the rigorous quality checks that were in place, the quality of the products, the manufacturing processes. Important – but background information – something customers will take for granted rather than the reason for buying.

So why do those parents value quality? Who will pay a premium price for a beautifully designed blanket manufactured in Europe? And why?

After much deliberation and discussion we identified that our target customer were middle to upper class professionals: parents, godparents, aunties etc who wanted the very best for their children.

These parents felt guilty about the lack of time they spent with their children and wanted to be sure that the little time they do have, really counted. Celebrating the everyday momentscreating memories.

Those beautiful blankets were the things childhood memories could be made of.

Dens, capes for superheroes or simply snuggling up on the couch in front of a movie. And as the child grew older, the blanket would become a treasured and cherished item. Of course quality matters, but it’s much easier to sell on the basis of emotion than it is fact.

Most of us buy with our hearts not our heads. Your job as a business owner is to tap into that.

Selling isn’t about forcing someone to buy something they don’t want or need. It’s about creating a desire for what you do.

It’s about showing your current and prospective customers that you have the answer to their problems or desires. It’s about creating a tribe. Owning a set of values. Showing a lifestyle that your clients can buy in to.

And doing that effectively starts with understanding your clients. Take an hour or two to ask yourself this question: What’s motivating our customers to buy from us? And how effectively are you communicating to those people right now?

I look forward to hearing how you get on!

Best Practice, The Business of Brand Styling

The business of brand styling: How to deal with a client who just wants you to copy something

April 27, 2016
Fiona-Humberstone-1337-365

We’ve all been there haven’t we? The client who emails through an image of a brand identity and says “I just love this, can you do something like this?”. And goodness, let’s not limit ourselves to brand styling, surely most of us who are in the design industry have had a client that just wants us to copy something a colleague has created? I’ve even had several clients who have asked me to copy my own work!

So what to do? Copying anyones’ work isn’t good for business. It’s not good for your creativity, your confidence or your bottom line. Copying something you’ve seen leaves a nasty feeling in your stomach and it feeds that grinch on your shoulder telling you you’re not good enough. It also has you constantly looking over your shoulder in case you’re ‘found out’.

What can you do? Creating something ‘similar’ isn’t always the answer. You know me, I’m a girl who loves a process, and for me, there’s a process that you can use to handle this sort of situation.

how to handle a client asking you to copy someone elses work

Understand why

First of all, let’s understand why. Why is your client asking you to copy something they’ve seen? If it’s your own work, it could be a good sign. They love your style and there’s probably going to be a good fit between you and them. That could be great news – as long as you handle the briefing well.

But how about the client that sends you an image of someone else’s work and asks you to recreate what you see? For me, this demonstrates a serious lack of respect for your creativity. It’s a sign that they don’t feel you can come up with your own ideas. That sounds a bit damning I know, but is it fair?

See this as an opportunity to make what you do better. If a prospective client can’t see your creative process and your ability to generate brilliant creative ideas then either they haven’t bothered to look, or you haven’t shown them.

Look for the opportunity

If we’re talking about the former, think about where your enquiries come from.

Are you winning business from people who value great design and who love your portfolio, your creative process and the work you’ve done for your clients? Or are they friends of friends who have been strong armed into talking to you thanks to your connections at a high pressure breakfast networking club?

Do you get the feeling they’ve been following you for a while on social media and understand your creative style? Or did they just happen upon you from a google search and are going for the cheapest, easiest option?

You really want clients who are trembling with excitement at the prospect of working with you. Clients who can’t wait to see what you’re going to come up with. And to do that, you need to show them what you’re capable of, what you’ve done for others and why.

Demonstrate your creativity

Build value in your creative process, both in terms of what you show your clients (I have another post on that coming up very soon) and also what you show on your social channels. Don’t just show the end result, show the process you go through and most importantly, why you’ve made the decisions that you have.

Take a step back and ask your client why they love what they’re showing you. What are they hoping to achieve? Ask all the good questions you’d ask in a normal briefing process and you’ll build their trust. You do, of course, need to be able to intelligently interpret those questions and deliver great design, but at this stage, it’s all about finding out why.

Why does your client want what they want? And see a better way of doing things?

Show your client why what they want you to copy isn’t the right solution and talk to them about what you’d like to do. I don’t suggest you design anything in front of them – ever! But you can explain the sort of mood you want to convey, the style that you feel might work better.

Show them other examples of work in a similar vein and explain why each one works for each individual business and why. Show them the sorts of subtleties you think about when you’re creating a design. They’ll start to see the level of thought you put into your work and they’ll be fully on board with doing things your way.

If they’re not? Perhaps it’s time to walk away. What do you think?

 

About The Brand Stylist, Workshops

Hatching big dreams and grand plans and I’d love your thoughts!

April 22, 2016
palm

Ever since I returned from New York I’ve been totally and utterly inspired.

I LOVE that city. I love the energy, the inspiration and the can do vibe and no matter how many times I go back, New York captures my heart, every single time.

I always return full of big ideas and dreams and this trip has been no different. Put it down to the lovely light filled space, the brilliant team or the incredible students – ever since I’ve been back home I’ve been feeling totally and utterly unstoppable.

I haven’t managed to get anything more down for the next book but I have a ton of ideas and the clarity is growing by the day, which is a great thing. It means that when I do manage to carve myself some time out to write (and I’m starting to wonder myself when that might be) I’ll be super efficient! I can’t wait.

In the meantime, I’ve been busy working on plans for my workshops, and that’s where you come in.

palm-workshops

I’ve been talking for a while about taking my Colour for Creatives workshop online and I’d love to do that.

I love the idea of bringing such a powerful tool to a much wider audience. So I’ve taken the decision that the June workshop in London is going to be my last live Colour Psychology workshop for the foreseeable future. We are currently 70% booked, so if you’d like to join us, please do book sooner rather than later.

love running the big workshops. I love planning the content, the styling, the food and the handouts. I love creating things like the little books or the postcard packs we do for the Flowerona workshops. I love the way that students create such strong connections with each other and that the room literally buzzes with creativity. And I don’t see any of that changing.

But for a while I’ve been thinking about the potential of running smaller workshops where I can spend more time one to one with each student. And not only that, I love the idea of running workshops over 2-3 days so that we can really cover more ground more intensively.

Maybe I’ll run them somewhere hot (I’m dreaming of Ibiza or Miami!). Maybe they’ll be in London or New York. Perhaps they’ll be retreat style events where we get to spend more downtime reflecting and relaxing as well as the serious game changing stuff. I love the idea of running workshops that cover the business of brand styling as well as the workshops for entrepreneurs. Who knows? I’d really like to know what you want.

I’m ready to listen and if I can, I’ll make it happen.

So please, tell me, what workshops would you like to see?

I’ve created a survey here and I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’m hoping it won’t take more than a couple of minutes to complete and I can’t wait to hear what you have to say.

I’m toying with the idea of a few workshops at the moment – I’ve expanded a little more in the survey and once I have your thoughts I’ll certainly share more. Thanks so much!

 

Resources & How To's

How to write powerful copy

April 20, 2016
3-How-to-Style-Your-Brand-Fiona-Humberstone-Photography-Matt-Pereira-2

If there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to slow down a website build for most entrepreneurs, it’s writing copy (i.e. the words).

There’s something about trying to talk eloquently about yourself, build a pace, create desire and engage your audience that seems to freak out so many of us.

And understandably so. We weren’t really taught to write to sell at school – and for those of us that did partake in persuasive writing lessons, let’s be honest, it was probably a few years ago now.

Writing in an engaging, natural style that’s unique to your business is an essential skill for every business owner these days.

Even if you plan on engaging a copywriter for your ‘important’ marketing collateral like your website, you’ll probably still want to write email newsletters, keep up a blog and write effective proposals. So where to start? How to make it happen? And how to create something that works without having a nervous breakdown?

Writing copy doesn’t need to be terrifying. It’s totally within the reach of all of us as long as you follow a few simple guidelines.

how to write powerful copy

Understand who you’re talking to. None of us find writing to an ‘audience’ easy. Instead, think of someone very specific – even if you’re writing something that’s going to be read by thousands of people, like a website. Before you even sit down at your keyboard and start trying to type (hello, writer’s block) start making notes.

Establish why your ideal client needs what you’re selling. Why should they pick you? And what’s going to make them want what you have to sell? Think about their greatest desires and their deepest fears. How does your business help them? Why do they need you? Why will they want you?

Imagine you’re face to face with your dream client having a chat. What do you want to tell them? Think about the sort of conversation you might have. The reasons they might give you for not picking you or going ahead. What would you tell them? What do you think they need to hear to pick you? I’m not suggesting you type all of this out on your homepage, but this sort of process gives you clues as to the sort of things you’ll need to include somewhere.

Relax! It’s just writing. There’s no need to go all formal and stiff upper lip simply because you’re writing. For most of us, formal language just isn’t relevant to us or our clients these days. Relax and write in an easy, conversational style. I’m not suggesting you slip into #txtspk but write in a way that’s appropriate to your dream customer, not your Great Aunt Mabel.

Edit, edit, edit. Keep things short and sweet. Ramp up the page. And create excitement. Use a mix of short and long sentences to add pace. And don’t be afraid to start a sentence with and or but: the grammar police might not like it but it keeps things pacy and fresh.

Make it about them not you. You’ll capture the attention of your prospective customer if you think of things from their perspective rather than yours. That doesn’t mean you need to tell them how they should be feeling (that just looks plain ugly) but you will want to think about why they need or want you and talk to them in a way that they can empathise with.

Be yourself. When you find writing difficult or you’re feeling under confident in your business it’s easy to ‘model’ yourself on someone in your industry that you admire. Don’t do it! Be yourself, have confidence in your business, your offering and your own voice. Write as you’d speak, it’s much more engaging and it’ll be totally unique because no one will ever speak quite like you.

One of the best examples I’ve seen of this is on the Braizen website. Goodness, these guys swear on their website and in their proposal and do you know what? It works! Because that’s part of being Braizen and Badass and they totally own it. What’s your brand voice and how should you speak?

Write from the heart. When you’ve taken the trouble to understand what’s so special about your business and why your clients should be leaping at the chance to work with you then it’s not difficult to write emotively. I love the way Emma Case does this on her Welcome Home blog

We want you to come because you feel like you have to.  Because you feel like a ‘homie’ already… because you can’t quite put your finger on what you want out of it but you just know you need to be a part of it.

It’s this sort of emotive copy that tugs at the heartstrings and galvanises action. And you don’t get that by following a formula from a website or from swapping out a few words that you’ve seen on someone else’s website. You get it by taking the time and the trouble to sit down and understand what makes your business wonderful.

Most of all. Enjoy it. This is your opportunity to tell the world about your business, to let your brilliance shine! Take a deep breath and enjoy. You’ve totally got this.