10 Tips for Working With a Graphic Designer to Brand Yourself Online

Here at The Niche Movement, we can’t stress the importance of personal branding enough. (See: 5 Ways to Use Writing to Amplify Your Brand and Owning Your Name: The Importance of an Online Presence for starters.)

A few months back, I decided to rebrand my site, GenTwenty. Our current brand felt stale and disorganized, and I wanted to breathe fresh life into it. GenTwenty has changed a lot in the past two and a half years, and our branding needed to reflect the growth and maturity changes we’ve experienced.

Cohesive branding is crucial to being recognizable across platforms and making sure you are promoting the message you intend to share with the world. Needless to say, If you’re on the fence about hiring a designer to step your brand up, I highly encourage you to do it.

And I don’t mean just paying for a $5 logo on Fiverr. I mean working with someone who has studied branding and has extensive experience on the subject. Someone who cares about a happy customer and loves design just as much as you love your blog or business. Passion shows.

Branding can seem overwhelming -- I get it. Really, I do. It can also be expensive and time intensive to get every element just right. To save you a bit of heartache, here are 10 serious tips for working with a graphic designer to brand yourself online:

1. Before even looking for a designer, sit yourself down for initial brainstorming session.
This is your time to pick 3-5 keywords that define your brand. What feeling do you want readers or potential clients to have when they come to your site? Do you want them to feel excited or pensive? Is your brand outdoorsy? Is it healthy? Is it sleek and modern or is it subtle and feminine or is it bold and bright? Having an understanding of the feelings you want to evoke from the start will immediately help shape your design. Consider your audience as well -- what do they want/need/expect to see from you?

2. Make yourself a vision board.
This was a step I originally opted to skip, but sincerely wish I hadn’t. A question that helped me find my vision when it was lacking was: “If your brand was a room, what would it look like?” Go over to Google or Pinterest and browse around for room photos until you find a few that you feel represent your brand.

Make sure you pay attention to colors too! Color psychology plays a huge role in branding, right down to the shade you choose. Have your designer explain their color choices to you.

3. Look at their portfolio and previous work to get a feel for their style.
My suggestion is to pick a handful of designers whose style you are drawn to. Make sure you are drawn to it for your brand and not simply because you think it’s pretty or inviting.

Hand rendered fonts may be something you like, but may not work for your brand. When looking at a designers, make sure you take what works for your brand into account.

4. Don’t necessarily go for the first designer you like.
Most designers will offer a free consultation to see if the two of you will be a good fit. Take advantage of this, and chat with a few designers. Afterwards, you’ll have a better idea of who you really want to design your brand.

During the Designing Process

5. Consider what you really need or don’t need from your designer.
Oftentimes designers offer a variety of different packages and even a la carte services for branding. These packages vary in cost based on your individual needs.

Do you need the whole shebang, including a brand new theme for your blog? Do you need business cards or can you skip those? Do you need social media images and a Twitter profile cover? All of these can affect the cost of your design, so if you’re on a budget, take this into consideration.

6. Be able to convey what you do and don’t like about a design.
This is probably the most important advice I can give you. The key to achieving the right design for your brand is knowing exactly what you do and don’t like about design elements. If it’s too bright, say so! Not enough color? Let them know!

Whatever you do, don’t wait until the final design is delivered to make true critiques. Most designers only include 2-3 sets of revisions to your design before charging an additional fee.

7. Read the contract thoroughly before you sign it.
Make sure you know when payment is due and what specifically the designer will be delivering to you with your final files. Make any necessary adjustments before you sign and return the contracts.

8. Don’t expect your designer to do all the work.
But wait… what am I paying them for?! Well friend, your designer won’t be able to bring your brand to life if you can’t convey your brand to them. Just like when you meet someone at a networking event and need to explain your work, you need to explain your brand to your designer. Designers are artists, not mind readers. No one knows your brand as well as you do, so it’s really up to you to bring that to the table.

9. Have a timeline, but don’t rush the process.
Good design doesn’t come overnight, at least in my opinion. Don’t rush to get back to your designer with a decision before you’re ready. If you need to, sit with the designs for a few days to understand what you like or don’t like about them. If you need more time, don’t be afraid to ask for it. Your designer should be accommodating.

10. Remember: It’s worth every penny.
Graphic designers are very skilled at what they do. The price may seem steep at first, but as you go through the design process, you’ll realize that it is worth every penny (and probably more).

Your branding transcends even the words you write and the mission you stand for, which is why it’s so important you brand yourself with intention. Working with the right designer will truly make or break your brand experience. It’s worth investing in, worth taking your time, and if you do, you'll be so happy with the outcome.

Written by: Nicole Booz