Branding your creative business from the inside out: an interview with Sarah Hart
I had the pleasure of having a lovely Q&A sesh with visual branding expert Sarah Hart (who I just adore...she's all kinds of awesome!)
In all that we discussed, my favorite part was realizing how much of an inner journey branding is -- it's far from the superficial Kardashian-esque kind we come across so often these days.
Read on to discover the genuine, true-to-yourself kind of branding that can skyrocket your creative biz (and yourself)...
Q: If someone doesn't know where to start with branding, what do you suggest they do first?
A: It's super self-serving but they should check out my brand legend quiz where they'll get a link to their brand book with fonts, colors. The reason I recommend this is because it so easy to get over whelmed with things like Pinterest when you're trying to brand yourself. So the quiz gets your focus on what is authentically representing who you are vs. what's trending.
Q: What do you think is the most important action for a creative person to take, in order to communicate who they are?
A: Create emotional connection. To do this you need to be vulnerable in some way and put yourself out there without being afraid. This can be really scary and vulnerable but to create that emotional connection you do really need to feel vulnerable and challenge yourself even though you feel fear.
Q: What's the greatest difference in branding that you find between service based businesses and product based businesses?
A: Product based businesses kind of have it easier because you don't have to represent who you are in the branding where you need to more in a service based business because you are part of the service. Representing who you are in your visuals can be really tough and emotional. It can be a lot harder--not to say that's a bad thing.
What I love about personality and service based brands is that you can put your whole self out there and become a lifestyle brand by showing up completely authentically as you are. And people will be attracted to and want to buy from you because they like your personality.
Q: On the other hand, a lot of people approach their creative endeavors only with the intention of it being a hobby... they might think they don't need branding if they aren't prioritizing selling.
How do you think brand clarity can be beneficial when someone isn't trying to sell something?
A: Brand clarity can be helpful if you want to grow your community or you want to meet people through what you do. With branding you're really figuring out what makes you unique and amplifying what your values are. That is going to help you grow as a person and attract the right people in your life. I think branding is a great tool for personal development.
Q: There’s a lot of talk about how millennials, especially, brand themselves as a source of self identity -- they are their own walking, talking brands. What do you think of that?
A: I kind of think this is good. Like I said: I think branding is an exercise in self awareness and knowing what makes you unique and different is always a good thing. I understand how it could be harmful in the sense that we create these imaginary personas of ourselves that we can't live up to.
But what I've found in successful brands, and what we're craving for as we grow as a society, is that they are real, they're honest, they're vulnerable and they're not afraid to tell the truth. I think it's amazing because it's teaching people to accept themselves and accept their flaws and be totally open about who they are without worrying what people think. And I think that's an amazing thing.
Q: And what's the best way to present yourself through branding so it feels authentic?
A: Turn off any fear based decision making. What I'll see a lot of is that people will go get really excited about their branding and they're all "oh, I want to do this and this" and then they go look at other peoples websites and they'll be "oh, they don't have that so I don't want my site to be any different. I want it to be just like this other person's."
I think noticing when you're making a fear based decision is really, really important because, again, you want to be authentic, focus inward and not focus on what other people are doing. Keep your eyes on your own paper.
Q: What are your thoughts on how branding can lead into merchandise?
I see a lot of this with celebrities (One Direction for example!) but also find it occurring a lot within online business, like Danielle LaPorte and some authors.
A: That's so much fun. I think that happens when you have such a successful brand that it turns into a lifestyle and you begin to create physical products that represent and fit into your branding. I really would love to do that-- that's the next step for me to have physical products that go along with my brand and it's values.
Q: How does choosing either DIY branding or working with a professional expert change things?
A: There's definitely a big difference depending where you are in your business. For example, if you're just starting out, learning to DIY (do it yourself) is going to help you immensely to learn technology, certain design elements and you're going to grow and understand your business more.
If you're just starting out and you hire a designer right off the bat, I guarantee that your business is going to change so much in one year that the work that you hired the designer to do is going to be totally different - the offerings on your website, your messaging...it's going to be different. So it doesn't make sense to invest when a year later you're going to redo it anyway.
And then, if you're a bit further along in your business it can hurt you to DIY for too long because maybe you're ready for the next step, maybe you're ready to go totally pro, but you don't want to spend the money. Personally for myself, I've found as my business grows I've spent more money. Investing in yourself, valuing your time and letting go of things you used to DIY is a really powerful experience.
At that time when your business is farther along it makes total sense to hire a designer. Also, you'll have the experience of having a website for so long that you'll know exactly what's going to go on the website and what your customers are going to click.
Q: Your website is amazing! How did you make some of the creative decisions to bring it to life?
A: Thank you! I'm glad that you like it. It was really important to me that my website represent who I am and created an instant emotional connection with my audience.
What's great is that people go to my website and say "I don't know why but I love your website, I love you and I want to work with you!" And that's the reaction you want: that people don't know why but they love you. That's what happens when you have emotion based design and branding because it represents who you are.
For me, the number one thing I did was put on those horse blinders, gave myself space, I used my intuition and designed from a place of pure authentic self vs. seeing what the trends are. I was designing from "okay, this is really my style, this is really who I am and these are photos that reflect me."
Sarah Hart, founder of Sarahhart.ca, is a web designer turned branding expert who helps lifestyle brands become absolute legends online. When she’s not design’n up a storm, Sarah loves getting lost in the woods with her camera or relaxing with a cup of tea and a book on mythology.
Are you designing your website and have no clue where to start? Take the brand legend quiz and get your brand book with personalized fonts, colours and images for your brand! >>> www.sarahhart.ca/quiz