I remember when I decided to first open up a website for my business & blog….
I couldn’t afford to hire a website designer, so I went to Creative Market & searched for days to find a theme that would work – without any real idea of what “work” even looked like. I finally bought one that quite literally didn’t work (it broke before I even got the first blog post up, so I had to buy a second one) & tried to figure it out all on my own.
Since then, my site has become a place to share ideas with my favourite people & offer advice for writers & business owners about sharing their voices online. It’s the central pillar in my marketing plan & it’s truly the most important piece of my entire business.
That first version of my online home was a far cry from the still-constantly-work-in-progress website I have now, but it was a huge step toward the business I have, & it was exciting at the time to pull that chute & make the leap toward building my online home.
It was also very overwhelming.
Like…hugely overwhelming. It was right up there with the current panic in my life: staring down the next five years with two teenage girls in my house & nothing but me & my cat to keep us all safe. We’re talking some overwhelm here: palm-sweating, lip-biting, hide under the covers kinda overwhelm. It ain’t pretty. *shivers*
So that’s why we look for experts to help, right?
Things have changed since my first foray into website design. I sought out the help of an amazing website designer
& photographer for my recent (& ongoing) redesign. I’m lucky, because my business-soulmate & creative-partner is an amazing designer. Amanda is the absolute first person on my list to recommend to anyone searching for that expert touch, because she’ll take all kinds of care of your creative vision & make it usable & effective while she’s at it.
Having that eye for design & understanding of user-experience & CSS on my team has made this process a lot less scary, my friends. Overwhelm is way down to chill-level now, & it feels fun again.
But! She told me that a lot of people arrive at her proverbial doorstep, missing something very important.
“When clients come to me, they know they want a website, but they often don’t know what their role in making that happen will be. They arrive thinking that I’ll just wave a magic wand and make their whole brand identity and message for them, but that’s not what a designer does.
They need to have a clearer idea of what their business stands for and how they communicate that whole message to their clients and customers before they have a designer create the visual version of it.”
The truth is that your website designer is here to do a very important job, but she’s not here to do the whole job (for the record, Amanda is one of those unicorns who can help you to build your brand identity, but she’s a rare breed, & even she isn’t a messaging or copy expert).
Designers create a visual representation of your message.
It’s amazing & complex & super powerful, because a good designer will make it possible for your visitors to interact with your message & explore it inside & out.
But a beautiful site is not going to do much for your business if your message & revenue streams aren’t as well crafted as the site you build to showcase them.
You need to be able to arrive at those initial meetings with your designer able to tell her what you are trying to say & how your people need to receive it…or you will end up with a lovely site, that has very little effect on your business success.
If you don’t have the message clear before you approach a web designer, the design won’t have a framework. It’s like…what do you even want on this site? What are you trying to say, & who are you even talking to? There’s no way for your designer to know your business for you, especially if you don’t know it yet, yourself.Even the best website designer isn't there to know your brand's message; that's your job.Click To Tweet
So the first step is to start exploring & defining your Brand Identity & Voice.
Getting comfortable with sharing your own Voice & the Voice of your business is a process. It has to start with understanding the world of your brand & the world of your ideal clients & customers. But it also has to start with the things that drive you as a citizen of the world.
I really believe that if you are going to put this much work into building your own business by your own rules, you better make the world a better place while you’re at it.
Partly because I know that the hope for our world is in those of us who break moulds & shake things up with our own lives…& partly because you are going to need some next-level motivation to get all of the things done your business is going to require of you.
I mean…accounting? C’mon! I need me some MOTIVATION to attack those spreadsheets every week.
When clients come to me we start by digging into their deep down Great Big reasons Why.
This is not just a simple, “Why do you love painting or designing or counselling or creating?”, but rather a, “Why does doing that thing for the people you serve matters to your entire self – and to the world around you.
Why your biz is the key to the way you make the world better for having had you in it – & the platform from which you can continue to do it.
Don’t tell me that you “only make pretty things” either, because that’s BS. The ability to add joy & beauty & serenity & excitement to another human’s life? That is peak human. It’s what separates us from so many other living things, & when bad things happen, it’s what brings us solace & love & hope. Don’t downplay that shit. Recognize it!
And then go deeper until you find the message you are sharing in the thing that you do – or the message you *should* be sharing, but haven’t started yet. That’s where your Brand Voice lives.
I could be simply teaching you to write, because it’s a valuable skill & I like to do it…or I could be standing firm in my Why & teach you to use your Voice & use your time & business to change the world in the way only you can…because that’s Why it matters to me, & it’s how I hope to impact my world for the better too.
That’s an easy choice for me…and an easy one for my people too.
Because you either got really excited by that statement, or you hated it (bye!). Either way, you chose a team; you felt a thing, & you’ll probably remember it.
And so will I – in everything I do & say. I’ll remember it when I have to finish my accounting (gah…that’s on my todo list for today), or rewrite my own sales copy AGAIN (always revising, baby). I’ll remember it when I wake up in the middle of the night, panicking because business isn’t easy, & I’ll remember it when a client has one of those breakthrough moments & we thank each other for existing.
It keeps me consistent & working toward my goal & it keeps me motivated even when I see a shiny new idea in the opposite direction.
And here is the point to this whole post: this stuff informs every design choice I make.
My message helped me to create a map for my clients to follow & it helped Amanda & I to choose design elements to support the paths I want to take my people on.
Every image, every sentence, every social media post, every design choice – they all should start with your message…so you better get clear on what that will be, before you shell out the big bucks to someone who is an expert at visually communicating this stuff.
So…where do you start, right?
Yeah. Brand identity & messaging is tough. It’s a big job that involves a lot of thought & reflection on your part & probably some objective advice too. It’s the cornerstone of my own web-copy services, but it should start even before you land on a call with someone like me.
It starts with understanding where your Voice is coming from (your Why) & where it’s going (your customers’ actual needs).
You have to understand the world your brand story creates first, & then build all of the characters in that world around the Why you support & the What that they search for.
Oh that’s all! *snark*
Like I said – it takes some reflection, but it’s totally possible & totally fun to do if you approach it the right way. In fact, you can get a head start on the process (for free) when you join the Your Brand Voice challenge. We’re going to spend one week, exploring the world our brand creates & all the players in it…so that you can find Your Brand Voice & start sharing it & making your mark on the world.
Sign up to be first to hear when the Challenge goes live! And leave a comment below if you have a feeling about what your Great Big Why might be.