Inside: An overview of the many different branding options for solo business owners, including the pros and cons of each, and which one is your best bet.
When solopreneurs start looking into branding their business, often the first question they have is, “how much will I have to pay?”
The good news is, that’s a great question.
The bad news is, it depends. (Yep, I heard your groan.)
It depends on your needs, driven largely by the stage of business you’re in and the services and deliverables you expect to receive.
Look, there’s a variety of products and services in the market that, while they all ostensibly meet the same overarching need – namely branding – each is actually meant for a different type of client or customer, with different underlying needs.
So in this article, I’ll take a closer look at the available options, discuss their pros and cons, and identify which situation calls for which choice.
I’ll also tell you how much I charge and how it compares to the other alternatives.
Let’s hop to it!
How much should you pay for branding?
As is the case with almost everything these days, you can find free ways to satisfy your branding needs, pay upwards of $25K, and many other options in between.
We’re going to look at them in order from the least expensive to the most expensive, so you can get a better idea of what they entail, and where they’re similar or different.
When you’re just getting started in the solopreneur world and aren’t entirely sure what you’re going to offer, you’ll probably want to go with one of the first two options:
1. The ‘no budget’ option
Cost: $0 (Captain Obvious, I know)
Best choice for: new solopreneurs with zero budget.
You can create your new logo all by yourself in the free version of Canva or rope in your 13-year-old artistically inclined nephew.
(If your nephew gets bored partway through the project, all bets are off.)
But if you’re going it alone, try some of Canva’s many logo templates to help your design get started. And resist the urge to add a lot of stuff.
Keep it simple and readable.
How it looks
If you stick with simple, your logo can look quite nice. Below are some examples directly from Canva.
I really cannot overstate the importance of keeping your logo simple and readable.
You’re not Nike or Apple, and it’s unlikely that anyone will remember your logo anyway, so worry less about icons or symbols, and more about readability.
You want people to be able to read your name, or your business name if it’s different, and maybe even get some idea of what you do (your tagline).
What you get
Canva’s logo templates typically provide a single logo variation so if you need more than one, you’ll have to get creative.
Canva has a color palette generator, or you can pick colors directly from the images on your mood board while you have it open.
Benefits and downsides
Pro: You can get up and running without spending any money, plus you get to have fun playing with fonts and colors.
Con: You’ll spend time either working on this directly, or trying to manage your artsy nephew. And your logo might turn out less polished than you would like.
2. The low budget option
Cost: $3 to about $75
Best choice for: new solopreneurs with a small budget.
If you have even a tiny amount of money to spend on your branding, your options open up.
You can take a look at Etsy or Creative Market and search for “brand board” or “branding kit.” This will bring up a ton of products, so look for the one that’s closest to what you’re looking for.
If you’re confident with colors but not typography, choose one where you like the fonts used.
And vice versa, if your eye for color just isn’t there, look for a kit with a color palette that speaks to you the most.
In other words, play to your strengths and minimize your weak spot.
(Actually, that goes for anything in life, but especially business.)
How it looks
Usually nicely coordinated to exude a specific vibe. Some products offer only one kit, others are bundles of several brand kits, each with a different look and feel.
If you already know the vibe of your brand, finding a suitable kit should be relatively easy.
The big unknown is how the logos will look once you put your name in, so watch the length of the words in the logo template.
You’ll have an easier time adjusting the logo if your name is structured similarly to the template. For example, a short first name with a long last name.
Pay special attention to logo templates with names or words that are exactly the same length. They’re often designed to take advantage of that sameness, and you’ll have a rough time getting it to look good if your name is short/long or long/short.
What you get
On the low end of the range, you’ll get a brand board with a few logo variations, a simple color palette, and two font selections.
That’s enough to get you going, but if you’d rather have everything look cohesive, from your social media accounts to freebies and beyond, you can opt for a pre-designed bundle at the upper end of the range.
Benefits and downsides
Pro: You can get your business branding done and dusted relatively quickly and inexpensively.
Plus, you have options – take the easy way out and use the colors and fonts from the kit, or customize them to your heart’s content.
Con: Some fonts might have letter shapes that you don’t care for, and you might not find out until after you bought the kit.
If you then change the font, you may compromise the integrity of the design or alter the overall vibe.
A word about ‘custom’
The next step up the budget ladder often uses the term custom. And as we’re moving toward that territory, now is a good time to address it.
Custom might mean ‘tailored’ – like an off-the-rack dress from Nordstrom that the alteration specialist hems an inch shorter for you before you pick it up.
Or it might mean ‘made exclusively for you’ – like a dress for which you pick the fabric and the seamstress creates a pattern to beautifully show off your favorite features. A one-off creation, specific to you and the fabric you chose.
What’s with the sewing analogies, Alex?
Well, sewing has been my favorite hobby since I was a kid 😄
And it works well to illustrate the different levels of ‘custom’ because you’re likely at least somewhat familiar with the landscape.
Now, let’s take a look at how all this translates to branding.
3. The ‘tailored’ option
Cost: $75 to about $2,500+
Best choice for: new solopreneurs who prefer done-for-you graphic services and have a larger budget.
Yes, spending more money can get you out of the Canva vortex and let you outsource the creation of your logo and other brand visuals.
Here’s where it gets tricky: it’s hard to know exactly what to order, how to ensure you’ll actually get what you want, and how to avoid all the pitfalls.
You’re hiring a graphic designer to bring your (possibly foggy) vision into reality so there’s plenty of room for things to go wrong – from stylistic differences to language barriers and more.
You may want to read How to find the right brand designer before making the hiring decision.
Your choices in this category are many.
You might hire the excited beginner in Kansas who’s happy to offer “unlimited revisions” but whose skills may not be what you were hoping for.
Or you could go with the struggling designer in Bangladesh who offers beautiful “custom illustrations” and be prepared to show her your inspiration Pinterest board.
You might even pick the established Canadian designer with a limited-edition product who will customize the logos for you and promise not to sell the same design to more than four other people.
Or anyone in between, really.
How it looks
Usually beautiful (eye-of-the-beholder disclaimer applies) and very close to what you said you wanted.
This can be a double-edged sword because in this category, an awful lot rides on the communication between you and the designer you hire.
Typically, the more established the designer, the higher your chance of getting exactly what you want because the processes she has in place were developed to that end over time.
But that doesn’t mean you should discount the newbies.
No matter who you decide to hire, at least look at their portfolio and chat with them, if possible, to ensure you’re on the same page.
What you get
The deliverables will depend on the package you choose, but at a minimum, you usually get a logo suite with a color palette and typography choices, plus a brand board to document them all.
A larger package might include social media templates and stickers, and even a basic website.
Be prepared to fill out the designer’s questionnaire thoughtfully as your answers will provide guidance for the design work.
One important thing to note is that a lot of designers in this category use assets from Creative Market or other marketplaces in their designs.
That means you might see the same icon in other people’s logos.
This is generally not a problem, unless you’re looking to trademark the design, in which case, you’ll need to disclaim the asset(s) that weren’t made from scratch specifically for you.
Benefits and downsides
Pro: It’s all done for you so you can move on with your business quickly. And it’s exciting when you get the finished deliverables.
Plus, if you’re a new solopreneur, this is likely the first time you’re outsourcing anything in your business – it can teach you a valuable lesson.
Watch how you feel about being asked certain questions, or a lot of questions.
And take note of how you feel when you’re looking at the work in progress – are you joyful or nitpicking everything to within an inch of its life?
What can you take away from it for future collaborations?
Note: Entrepreneurship is first and foremost a huge exercise in personal development and self-awareness. If you didn’t know that, now you do. You’re welcome.
Con: Sometimes it just doesn’t work out. The final design isn’t quite right, or the project drags on with one revision after another, all of them unsatisfying.
It happens. That’s why you need to act like a savvy shopper and do your due diligence before hiring a designer.
Also, you might see the same icon or symbol in other people’s logos.
So as part of your due diligence, ask the designers on your shortlist if they use ready-made assets (paid or free) in their designs.
And if they do, and it’s important to you that they shouldn’t, ask if that’s going to cost extra. It might. Or it might not be possible at all, depending on the designer.
One big pitfall that gets a lot of newbie solopreneurs is the “logo” that’s really an illustration.
You’ll recognize it when you zoom out to make the logo about an inch big, and it becomes unreadable, with blurry details.
4. The ‘made exclusively for you’ option
This section coming soon. Stay tuned.