Whatever sort of online business you run, it’s no doubt that at some point you’re going to need to market yourself. But the online world is full of so many shoulds - run a challenge, host a webinar, create a video series.
But what do you do when none of those options feel quite right? And how do you create a marketing plan that works for you, rather than trying to fit into the mould of what others tell you that you ‘should’ be doing?
First, let’s take a step back - I want to explain the difference between authentic marketing and typical online marketing.
Typical online marketing normally follows a recipe. You’re given step by step instructions and formulas to complete, resulting in cookie cutter marketing strategies for everybody. Following these recipes may help you achieve your goals, but you might not feel good about the work you’re doing - I know when I’ve done them, it’s felt ‘icky’ and not just uncomfortable, but downright awkward.
Alternatively, authentic marketing is all about creating and following marketing strategies that feel good, and that you can feel yourself lighting up doing. It might well be that some of those strategies crossover with some typical online marketing strategies - but the key here is to not force yourself to fit into someone else’s ideas, and do what YOU enjoy.
For example - it might be that you love doing live video, such as Instagram or Facebook Live. If that’s the case, then you can integrate those into your marketing strategies regularly. But if the idea of live video makes your skin crawl, then there is no reason to include that as a part of your marketing. It will only come across as inauthentic, awkward, and your audience won’t connect with you on that deeper level that you know they deserve.
I also want to take a moment to acknowledge and encourage YOU. Yes, you, reading this right now! Let me tell you something...you’ve got what it takes. And you don’t need to subscribe to the way everyone else tells you that you “should” do things if it doesn’t feel right to you.
For many years, I listened to the ways of the online world. I followed marketing strategies that made me feel small instead of expansive. I priced my offerings based on other people’s advice, instead of looking at where my audience and ideal customers were at the time. I started exploring different marketing strategies that were plain wrong for me.
And in doing all of that, my business slowed to a point that I was worried it would never recover from.
The lesson I learned is this: nobody knows your business as well as you do. And when you look outside more than you look inside, you’ll never end up with a business you truly love.
So by now, we know the reasons why we want to create an authentic marketing plan. But how do we go about doing that?
First of all, you need to get comfortable with two things:
Let’s break those down a little further.
Getting comfortable with your intuition and gut feelings means one thing, and one thing only: not ignoring that internal feeling that tells you whether you’re on the right track or not.
Have you ever got a ‘vibe’ off somebody, that turned out to be right? Or had a feeling - that you couldn’t describe - about a situation and it turned out exactly as you thought? Have you ever gone against your intuition and been proven right, and realised that you shouldn’t have ignored that internal voice telling you to do the opposite of what you ended up doing?
That’s your intuition - and it’s a skill you need to learn to hone to be able to make decisions from a place of alignment, rather than external thoughts. It’s about making places from an internal position, rather than listening to external forces or voices instead.
Sometimes, your intuition (your heart, your soul, your yearning) might be telling you to do, be, create or follow something...but everything external (your mind, your loved ones, the media) is telling you not to do it. But it’s making that brave, courageous decision to follow your intuition that often leads us down the most surprising + rewarding + aligned paths that we could take.
When it comes to your marketing, you need to be able to tell the difference between that feeling of when you’re pushing yourself out of your comfort zone - and you maybe feel a little scared, a little fearful, and a little out of your depth - and feeling out of control - where you feel completely out of your depth, uncomfortable with what you’re doing, and as if every single fibre of your being is telling you not to go ahead with whatever it is that you’re doing.
Now this might sound rather dramatic...but it isn’t meant to be. It’s simply about being able to recognise that feeling of when you are in alignment with what you’re doing, and to go after that feeling like nothing else matters.
Because when you’re in alignment with what you’re doing, your audience are going to feel it too. They’re going to recognise the light in you. They’re going to feel the happiness and joy and true authenticity radiating from you. They’re going to - consciously or sub-consciously - FEEL what you feel. If you feel awkward, out of place, and truly aren’t enjoying the marketing or work that you’re doing or creating, they’ll feel that. And in the same way, they’ll feel the joy when you’re doing something out of pure and total alignment.
That isn’t to say that the marketing strategies you create and follow should or will be easy - there’s a difference between pushing yourself out of your comfort zone to grow and learn, compared to pushing yourself out of your comfort zone for the sake of it and doing things you downright hate doing.
But you should be able to challenge yourself, to grow, and to learn without having to sacrifice your soul or what you truly love doing.
What I want to show you know is a list of marketing strategies that you may deem ‘typical’ - but what you can do if these don’t feel good to you, or an alternative. Each strategy is accompanied by THREE people I feel are real examples of following a marketing strategy that feels incredibly authentic to THEM and who they ARE.
If the idea of doing weekly videos sends your nerves skyrocketing, why not launch a podcast? There’s less of a barrier to entry, as all you need is an entry-level microphone and an audio editing program to get started. This is great if you value connection but crave helping people more in what feels like a 1:1 setting.
If you hate the idea of live video, why not start small with something like Instagram Stories? You can record them at your own pace and you can always redo them if you feel like you can’t get your message across. This is great if you value connection - but on your own terms.
Maybe one of your biggest values is community, but you feel like you’re speaking into a silo running a podcast. I’d encourage you to then look at video and see if that helps you to create more of that 1:many community feel.
If running a challenge feels like too much work - or maybe you feel like everyone is running a challenge - then why not create more community, connection and emotional depth with your clients and ask questions from the heart on the regular.
Many online strategies for launching digital products like courses include launching with webinars where you give a lot of value, and then pitch your offering at the end. Some people do this incredibly artfully - but a lot of the time, the pitch feels forced and inauthentic. If the idea of doing that turns you off, why not host a free (or even paid!) masterclass? You can give huge amounts of value, and any time I’ve done this it’s built huge amounts of trust between myself and my audience.
If you sign up to receive emails from anyone online, it’s likely that you’ve given your email in exchange for a free gift of some sort - a discount to an online shop, a checklist - you know the sort of thing. But many people are now choosing to stop giving away the gifts, at least in exchange for getting on their email list, as you tend to get lower-quality leads. Instead, they’re focusing on giving huge value in their email newsletters.
If you’re struggling with the idea of running your own podcast - and alllll that comes with it - why not try being a podcast guest? You’ll get to share your knowledge bombs with the world, and also build your audience and connection. There are so many podcasts nowadays that accept guests - but #protip just be sure to make sure that the podcast you pitch to accepts guests before reaching out!
Many people say that you’ve “made it” once you’ve spoken on stage, whatever that means. But if the idea of getting on stage in front of any amount of people (I’ve spoken to audiences of 40 - 1200! Eek!) scares you beyond belief, why not look at running a masterclass? This way, you could help maaaany more people with your topic, but it’s without the pressure of an actual stage and actual people. Quick note on this one though - even though I’ve now given 12+ talks on stage, I get incredibly nervous before every talk, and the best of us do! It’s natural to feel that way - but if it doesn’t feel right, as with everything, don’t put the pressure on yourself to do it!
So there you have it - why authentic marketing matters, and hopefully more than enough examples to show you the ways that you can switch up what you’re told you “should” do, to what you could do instead. The next time somebody tells you that you should be doing something to build your business - stop, feel into that intuition and ask yourself if it feels like something you ‘could’ do, and if it feels good. You’ll thank yourself later for it!
One of the questions I'm asked the most, is "Can we use this particular pattern or texture within my brand?", Or "How about we go for this kind of style for the logo?".
When I get asked this question, particularly before we've done any of the groundwork and foundation-building for your brand, I tend to sit down with my clients and ask them a question in return: "WHY do you want to use this pattern, or create this style of logo?"
You see, most of the time these sorts of styles tend to be something that you're seeing elsewhere or online at the moment. For example, one of the biggest trends of the moment is an abstract-style painted texture. It's not to say that these sorts of textures aren't beautiful – because most of them are! But if the reason that you're choosing these is because you’re seeing the design style around and you like it? I'm sorry to say that your brand visuals and design will not last for the long term.
The problem with design trends is just that: they are a trend. Trends come and go over time, and if you create a brand brand design style that is purposely fitting in with a particular trend then as soon as that trend is over and no longer fashionable, then your brand will soon look outdated and unfashionable itself.
The other reason that trends are bad when it comes to designing your brand is that you are often basing the visual style for your brand on your own personal preferences. Instead, you should be creating brand visuals and styles that help you to connect with your ideal audience, reflect your values and personality, and make clever use of design theory to craft brand foundation and style with real intention and purpose behind it.
Using design trends as inspiration can be useful. You can get a feel for where the market is heading in terms of visual style and what works with real audiences. After all, trends are a trend for a reason.
However, using design trends as your main source of inspiration for your brand visuals and styles can also be harmful to your business in another way. The more businesses that create brands that blindly follow trends, the more these businesses blend together. You can no longer stand out from the crowd because your visual style (and therefore your brand and your business) looks just like everybody else's does. I bet you don't have to look far to find a gold (or some other 'precious metal') texture used in someone's brand, or an editorial style serif typeface.
And where does that leave you? Well for one thing, it makes it incredibly hard for you to differentiate yourself. Let's also link back to your values. Let's say that one of your values is ‘being unique’, because you create incredibly intricate and unique cake designs for your customers. If your brand is looking like everybody else's, you're not living your values out through your brand – because your brand looks like everybody else's.
This is why brand strategy and brand foundations matter. There's no point in diving straight into the visual part of your design, without first taking the time to establish your goals, figure out your vision and mission, and work out a way to weave all of this together with your brand visuals.
I also want to encourage you here. Creating a brand is hard work. Imagine having to do that every couple of years, which is what would happen if you followed design trend blindly when creating the visual style for your brand.
One of the most important pillars of any brand – from your foundations through to your visuals – is consistency. Consistency breeds familiarity. If you want to redesign your brand every couple of years, your audience would only become confused.
By taking the time to properly consider what your brand should be on all levels, you're going to create a more consistent feel, style, and tone to your brand. And this ripples out into your business at large as well. Because by choosing to focus less on what is popular in the world right now, and being a little bit more introspective and figuring out the real nitty-gritty of your brand, you can craft a brand that is built to last.
Now don't worry, I'm not gonna leave you high and dry. Here are a few tips of things you can do instead of following design trends in your business and brand. These are things that you can either do yourself, or you can work with your designer on to weave into your brand.
First of all, you need to figure out what your core values are. These can be both values for yourself or for your brand. As an online business owner, it's more than likely that you are your brand. Your customers or audience by into who you are as a person, and how you present yourself in your business. By figuring out your core values you can make sure that these are weaved into every single aspect of your brand, from the brand foundations all the way up to your brand visuals, and the content that you put out into the world.
You also want to review your vision and mission. These are two of the core aspects of your brand foundation that will help you to create a more sustainable business in the long run, because you're always going to have this vision and mission that shape what you do and the decisions that you make.
Finally, you can use design theory to help you shape the visual brand that you want to create. For example, learn more about colour theory and how the colours you choose will impact the way the audience interacting with your brand will feel. For example, it might be that one of your values is calmness, in which case it is unlikely that you will use colours that are more energetic in feel and nature.
By using these three tips, you can shape how your brand appears visually, as well as how your audience will feel when they interact with it. From that point, you can make decisions on your visual brand that unless design trend led and are instead based on the feelings, values, and theory that is most relative to your own journey.
Connecting with your audience online can sometimes feel like a momentous task. And how do you know how much of your story to share? I know that over the years, particularly when I’ve come to share more vulnerable parts of my story, I’ve asked myself questions like…
But the answer I always come back to is this: your story matters. And people need to hear your story.
Creating your core brand message is one of the most foundational aspects of your brand. The way I love to do this for myself, and with my branding clients, is by using your story to help shape your message.
There’s huge power in the story that brought you from where you were, to where you are now. There’s a reason behind what you do and that reason is one of the things that powers you to move forward and take action.
But your story is also a unique way of connecting more deeply with your audience and building a stronger brand. Nobody has had the unique set of circumstances and events that have led you to this place - nobody. So by figuring out what your story is, you have a unique advantage over those that don’t.
When I talk about ‘your story’, I am also talking about your brand messaging. I believe that you can’t craft a brand message that will help you to stand out from your competitors in your line of work without your story. You simply can’t have one thing without the other.
That said, here’s a description of both to help you:
Your brand message is everything that connects your audience to your brand. It’s weaved through from the content on your website, how you speak + write on social media, through to the emotions and feelings that your brand visuals evoke
At its core, your brand message will connect everything you create for your brand.
Your story is the meaning behind your brand message. It’s the narrative that is the foundation of your brand message, and also your brand mission and vision.
At its core, your story is what helps connect the dots behind the ‘why’ of what you do.
My story begins when I was a kid: I was at college (in the UK our equivalent to US College is University - this was in the two years before that) about to turn 17, and I had had enough. I was doing terribly by all statistical standards - failing to get good grades in the majority of my classes and exams.
I remember during one particular exam that I sat there and cried for almost all of the 90 minutes. I wrote my name on the paper, tried my best to answer some of the questions, and felt like a total and utter failure.
I ended up dropping out of that college after my first year - and found myself being accepted onto a vocational course, a HND (the equivalent of the first two years of a degree here in the UK) all about interactive media and design. I was accepted a year early as it was an adults-only course, and I was 17, by exception of the exam board that the course was marked under.
It was at this point that I realised there was somewhere for me in the world - somewhere that my creativity and weirdness and uniqueness mattered.
It wasn’t until years and years later - in fact only recently - that I felt like I had found a place that I truly fit in. And to be quite honest, most of the time I’ve had to create that feeling and place of acceptance within myself first and foremost, and then create or join communities that reflect that after.
But the journey to that place wasn’t easy.
I started my own business when I was 22 - at the time of writing, I’ve just turned 29 and my 7-year biz anniversary is coming up in September, just a few short months away.
But around 18 months before I started working for myself, I was diagnosed with a condition called Hypermobility Syndrome, often known at the time as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Type III. There’s been a whole lot of hoo-haa recently about reclassification of the condition itself, but in a nutshell: I suffer with a connective tissue disorder that causes me intense chronic pain, every single moment of every day - it’s rare that I have a moment without some sort of pain, in some part of my body. The condition affects everybody differently, but I also suffer from chronic fatigue due to the slack my muscles take up that my connective tissue should be doing. I also have many subluxations today - and in fact, it was only working with my most recent physio that has helped me realise just how many I suffer with on a daily basis.
I’m not saying this for sympathy: but it is a part of my story. It’s one of the reasons I now work for myself - not only because it’s easier on my body, but also because it’s incredibly hard to work for people when they don’t understand, care or respect disability and disabled people. It’s also a part of my daily life, so it’s not something I now feel that I should - or want - to hide.
But the main point of me telling you all of this is: several years ago, heck - maybe even a year ago - I would never had posted all of this, let alone popped it into a blog post.
Because it was a part of my story that brought me shame, and that made me feel ‘less than’.
But it is my story - and mine to choose to share, if I want to. I have been shamed, scolded and told that I shouldn’t share about my condition and disability in my business because “people won’t want to work with you” or “people will think you’re unreliable” - and my answer to that is: those are not my people...and I don’t want to work with anyone that is not my people.
But my chronic illness led me to the work that I am doing today - specifically with branding. I was so ashamed about my chronic illness that for many years of running my business I did hide it from the world. Only my closest friends and family knew the daily impact, while many people knew of my condition but not the daily struggles.
But living that double life was intense, and hard, and exhausting. It was only going through my own journey of uncovering why I held onto this shame, and why I allowed other people to keep me small and not share my truth, that I discovered that many, many others feel this way too. And many others struggle with how to embrace what makes them truly special (spoiler alrt: it’s you, as you are, right now) and show up as the incredible person they already are in their brand and business.
It was only through doing the work myself to uncover what truly mattered about me that I was able to see how much others need my work. How much they need to embrace every single part of themselves - from the parts they don’t like, the parts that others have told them they don’t like, to the parts they love - to become a whole person with a business that’s built on the foundation of their values, their incredible personality, and their STORY.
Because your story matters - more than you might think. Your story, your experiences, and the combination of all of this is what makes YOU unique. It’s what makes what you have to offer to the world unique. And it’s what will help you to distinguish yourself from others that do what you do - and the world needs you and your work so, so badly.
If this article resonated with you, I want you to grab a pen and piece of paper (or a simple note taking app on your phone or computer will do), and map out the following:
Once you’ve answered those questions, start to review your answers. Look for any patterns you can see, and see if you can start to weave together a timeline of your journey from where it began, to where you are now.
Look for the moments that were catalysts - the moments that signalled the beginning or end of something. Maybe you had an illness or period of burnout that helped you switch everything around (I landed myself in hospital due to burnout twice in 2 years - but that’s a story for another day!), or maybe simply having children motivated you to make your business a success.
Even if you’re in the messy middle, and don’t feel like you’ve got it all figured yet...that’s okay. So many of us are right there with you - or we have been before.
The thing you need to remember is: your story MATTERS. And the reason it matters is because someone out there needs to hear you and what you’ve got to say. Remember - you might want to impact hundreds, thousands, maybe even millions of people! - but your story matters to one person.
And one person at a time, your story can help change the world.
The most unusual part of my branding process is something that often stumps my clients - until they see it in practice. I'm always asked: how can you take something as abstract as brand values and turn that into a complete brand design and system? How can I create brand visuals that feel authentic to me? Here’s how.
Whenever I review a client questionnaire, the first thing I do is start looking for patterns. I’m obsessed with patterns - from visual patterns through to number patterns, date patterns, angel numbers. You name it - if it’s a pattern, I’m bound to notice it or seek it out.
But when you’re looking for patterns in your core values and brand questionnaires, the key thing to look for is feelings and emotions.
Visuals are highly emotive - they can make or break a brand, let alone a blog post. Use the wrong image to reflect a specific part of your work and you can create a whole different feel to what it is you’re trying to say. That old saying of ‘a picture speaks a 1000 words’ is absolutely correct - and I want to prove it to you.
Hop over to Unsplash and search for the word ‘emotion’.
So let's look at the results. At the time of writing in the first three results alone there’s: a young child looking a little cheeky; a bright wall and person with a whole host of happy looking balloons; and a double-exposure style photo of a woman appearing lost in her thoughts. Each of these photos are direct results of the word ‘emotion’ - but each photo illustrates a different emotion.
Every brand visual should be working in harmony to build a visual picture of your brand that reflects the feelings and emotions of your brand, and what you want your brand to say.
If one of your core values and emotions is positivity, don’t go for gloomy, blue and dark style photographs. And if one of your core values is reflection, having incredibly bright, positive photos doesn’t match that feeling either.
Now I’m a walking contradiction (and happy to be one!) so sometimes I like to mix and match. Plus, adding a fun element of surprise to your work and visuals can also be fun. But make sure you’re not going too far ‘out there’ and create visuals that work together, rather than driving your brand apart.
This is one of the most important questions you can ask yourself. On a practical note, one of my favourite ways to do this is to crack out a good old mind map.
Mind maps are one of my favourite techniques because (and this is one of my favourite terms I use EVER) - you can fart it all out. Just brain fart (or brain ‘dump’ - but fart sounds way more fun, let’s be honest) all of the ideas out. Don’t filter yourself, but put your core value in the middle and dump ALL THE THINGS onto the page around it. Again, don’t filter yourself here - you can always tidy up the mind map later on. What you want to do here is start building out other words you associate with the value itself. You can even add visual styles that you think might work well with your brand.
Once you’re done, start cross-checking your mind-map list with the feelings and emotions you want to evoke through your brand. Do any of these words match up with that? Do they feel like a good fit?
If they do, then start to make a list of the words.
Here are some examples below.
If you want your brand to inspire and be a positive beacon for people, you might consider having:
If you want your brand to have a calming, soothing feel, you might consider having:
And if you want your brand to reflect your active attitude and sporty nature, you might consider having:
Do you see how you can start to weave these elements in to your visual brand and style?
The key here isn’t to necessarily be ACTUALLY designing your brand at this point - you’re instead getting crystal clear on the exact things you NEED from your brand and visual brand style.
You can then use this yourself if you’re confident enough in branding your business, or you can hand it off to a designer - but you can have clarity on exactly what you brand NEEDS to evoke and look like visually, not just based off your own visual style and preferences.
And that’s what makes a difference between any old brand design, and a brand design with purpose. Because you’re designing and building the brand foundations that will help you to help achieve your goals and grow your business to a whole new level - all with clarity, confidence, and a whole lotta intention.
When you think about branding, what do you think of first? A logo design? A colour scheme? A tagline? Any, all, or none of the above? Well all of these are great and are, of course, integral to your brand. But branding is so much more than that. And I believe that the most important thing to start with is to establish your mission and vision.
I want to preface this by saying that what I have here is what _I_ believe your vision and mission are, in terms of branding your business. First of all, I believe that one builds on top of the other. For example, you can’t have a larger vision for your work without knowing the mission.
The reason for that is because your mission is like the nuts + bolts of what helps you to build up to your vision - which is like the final, larger, big-picture image of what you hope to achieve.
Your mission is often described as a ‘mission statement’ in the more Corporate world. It sets out what your business aims to do, and how you aim to do it.
But your vision goes one step further than that. Your vision is about the WHY behind what you do.
Because your vision is such a large, big-picture thinking style of statement, it makes sense that you can use your mission almost as a visioning tool, to help you figure out what that larger vision should be.
To empower every creative entrepreneur to brand their business authentically, aligned to their core values, mission + vision, through my unique tools and methodologies.
To encourage + empower business owners to realise their unique superpowers and create more impact through their work.
Let’s break them down a little bit.
Part of my mission on this earth is to help empower other creative entrepreneur folks like myself to brand their business more authentically. And I want them to do that by aligning their business + brand with their core values, their mission, and their vision.
But my vision goes one step further than that. My vision is that I want to empower every single business owner to realise that their unique blend of superpowers and skills are what set them apart - and for them to realise they’re good enough to do what they want to do, no matter what. And I want more people to be positively impacted in the world, which I believe can happen when we believe in ourselves.
Do you see how they build on each other? Your mission feeds directly into your vision. And your mission has the power to help you dream up that larger vision that’s at play for how you create, what you create, and ALL that you create in the future.
When it comes to creating your mission, there are a few questions I like to ask myself:
And then I review those answers, and look a little deeper inside...look for any patterns. Notice any words that give you that fuzzy feeling, or that intuitive kick or gut feeling that make you feel good, and that feel right.
Then, try to fit them into the following recipe:
My mission is TO _________________
Let me give you a few examples.
Maybe you’re a financial planner - your mission might look something like this:
My mission is TO create more wealth among women BY empowering them to manage their own financial growth.
Or maybe you’re passionate about helping older generations learn new skills, in which case your mission might be:
My mission is TO empower older generations to learn new skills BY making learning accessible to everyone no matter their age.
Okay, so we’ve got our mission. But how do we then figure out what our vision is for our work?
Well, first of all - I want to ask you to close your eyes. Obviously have a read of this next paragraph first - but then, close those eyes of yours. Turn on some music that inspires you. That motivates you. That clears your mind. Get into the zone, and take a few deep breaths.
You see, I’m a believer that you need to be in this relaxed, calm, clear mental headspace to be able to start to DREAM about your work.
Because whereas our mission is more of a practical exercise to work through, that we can develop over time, our vision is not only supported by our mission...but it’s the WHOLE reason behind what we do.
Once you’ve taken the time to get into that mental headspace, start to slowly dream about ideas for your work. What would you do if you had no limits? On money, time, your energy? If you could achieve anything with your work, what would that look like? Who would you help? What would you be doing? How + WHY would you be doing it?
Let these questions almost merge and float around in your head until you feel some dreams forming. THESE are what will start to inform your vision.
Once these dreams have started to come to life, see what you can do to put them together into a statement that shares this dream and vision for your work.
Going back to our earlier examples, the vision for the financial planner might be:
To create a world where more women are financially independent and able to manage their finances, helping them to live an independent, courageous life.
And the vision for the next might be:
To create accessible tools + methodologies that support and empower the older generation to realise and develop their own learning skills, even if they feel they’re ‘past it’.
Do you see how both of these vision statements build on their missions?
Not only does the financial planner want to help her clients create more wealth, her vision is for a world where women have more financial independence and can in turn live a more independent and courageous life as a result of that work.
And the educator that wants to help older generations doesn’t want to do it simply to teach them skills, but to also show them that they are capable even when they feel like they’re not.
Going back to my own mission and vision:
To empower every creative entrepreneur to brand their business authentically, aligned to their core values, mission + vision, through my unique tools and methodologies.
To encourage + empower business owners to realise their unique superpowers and create more impact through their work.
Can you see how my own vision builds upon my mission?
Whereas my mission statement is about practical empowerment, to help every business owner brand their business in an authentic way…
...my VISION is about that empowerment transforming the way that my people see themselves after realising their own unique superpowers.
My vision goes one step further than my mission, and is more about the inner transformations that I know my work can create and almost instigate in my clients and my audience.
In the same way, your vision should be a reflection of your mission - yet amplified.
The reason I believe your mission and vision matter is for one reason, and one reason only: they help inform every single thing you do in the future.
They can aid you as a decision making tool (just like your core values). They can help give you direction on what to work on next. They can help you to say no to more things, if they don’t align with the larger vision that you have for your work.
They help you to live out your life + business in a way that creates more impact, because everything you do helps focus on what will truly make a difference and help you to achieve the mission + vision you have for your work.
So when it comes to developing your mission + vision, just remember this: your mission comes first, and your vision comes second. Take half an hour over the next week to develop your mission statement and dream of the vision for your work - I promise, it won’t ever be time wasted.
Look anywhere online, and you’ll find that you’re given ALL the advice on branding your business the "right" way - but how do you know what to believe? Well I’m gonna tell you that the one + only person you need to trust is YOURSELF. And the reason why comes down to one thing: your brand values.
We are so often told the way we should do something in our online business: have a funnel; don’t have a funnel. Do video - no, do a podcast! Create an online course - oh, but first, have a sell-out service. Do you get the gist? It’s tiring - and quite frankly, following the advice of others instead of listening to your own intuition doesn't work. Doing that led to the worst period in my business in terms of sales + growth than I'd had for a long time.
Your values can become an incredibly useful decision making tool in your business. Along with your intuition, your values are there to help guide you along the path that feels most right and aligned TO YOU - and nobody else.
Values matter because they are a reflection of who we are, but also who we strive to be. They impact the choices we make, the things we create, and link deeply into our purpose - our reason for doing what we do.
But values also matter because they can become a guiding light that helps our audience connect with us. Make choices and decisions based around aligning your actions with what you value. When you do that, you’re instantly going to attract the people that resonate with those values the most.
When it comes to the nitty gritty of actually figuring out your brand values, I like to ask myself a few questions:
These questions - but most importantly, your answers - are what will help to discover what your values are. Review your answers, and look for any patterns that stand out. Also make note of any powerful words or phrases that make you feel good. That feel aligned to the person you are, the business you want to create, and how you want your audience to feel.
You might have to ask yourself the questions multiple times to get to the heart of what you’re creating. And that’s okay - that’s a part of the process!
I hesitate to include a list of values here as it's easy to try fitting your values into what someone else says they should be. Discovering your values is a process that is incredibly unique to you, who you are and who you want to be. It shouldn't be something that you are inspired by someone else to create.
The meaning of our values can also differ from person to person, even with the same ‘value’. Values are words, at the end of the day. It’s what we do with them, and the meanings we attach to them, that make them our own.
One of my own values is to ‘be the light’, and another is ‘share your pain’. At first glance, these might seem completely contradictory. However, when I explain the meanings that _I_ have attached to them, they become much clearer.
‘Share your pain’ means to share all that comes my way in life, both good and bad. It also means to not hide behind a mask, or share only my highlight reel in life. The reason for that is because of the years I spent hiding my chronic illness from the world, particularly in my business. This was due to the fear that I had of showing my real self in case of criticism. But ‘be the light’ means to also be a positive voice for change, and to show an example of what a person with chronic illness can achieve, and do, and be.
The reason I have both of these values is to give me a constant reminder to be my most authentic self, no matter what. To remind myself to make sure that everything I do aligns with these values, and doesn’t stamp out my voice, and to show up as my most authentic self.
Controversial opinion time: YES, they absolutely can.
Many people will tell you that your values are a static thing and that they can’t change. I don’t think that line of thinking could be more wrong.
Have you changed or grown as a person over the years? Have you evolved, formed new opinions, created new friendships, lost others? Have you grown up, or relaxed more?
Yes, you have. And yes, you will continue to do so.
The same can be said for your values. My values have felt pretty solid and constant for the past year - but it took me several years to get to that point. Just like with your brand visuals and style, as YOU grow and evolve, so can your values.
So don’t let thinking that your values have to be this set-in-stone thing stop you from creating values now, and thinking that it has to be perfect. Simply create a set of values, and sit with them for a while. And if they need to change over time, then let them! You can pivot at any time that you need to.
Okay - so you have your set of brand values. Now, what do you do with them?
I like to think of my brand values as a decision making tool in both my business and my life. But how do I do this?
Well the answer is pretty easy. I simply filter every request, decision, or choice that I have to make through my values.
A request comes in to speak at an event. The theme looks great but they want me to speak on a topic I’m not fully comfortable with. They also don’t have a great track record on diversity and vulnerability.
This instantly becomes a no for me - because I’m not able to show up as my most authentic self, and I don’t feel like it’s helping me show up and truly share my pain and be a positive light. It also matters to me to build real community and connection wherever I go. Because of this event's track record of lack of diversity, it doesn't feel right or aligned to support an organisation like that.
A new client request comes in. The client is after a style that feels a little out of my comfort zone, but has similar values to me and I can tell they value creativity and the experience I can bring to the table.
This feels like a hell yes for me - despite the uncomfortable-ness of being pushed out of my comfort zone, this is an opportunity that aligns with my own beliefs and values.
So as you can see, it’s not quite as black and white as your values dictating exactly what you do. It involves you feeling into each opportunity and request that comes your way - and figuring out if these opportunities answer these three questions:
When I answer those questions, most of the time I have my answer.
And the times that I have ignored that answer, and gone against what my intuition is trying to tell me? Those are the times I’ve regretted it most in my business.
Remember: you have a responsibility to use your superpowers for good in this world. The world NEEDS your work, that much I know if you are reading this - so make sure that you create a set of values to help shape your brand and business into a powerhouse of goodness, and go out there and make a difference.
PS I'm going to be launching a very special digital product soon that I've been working on for the past few months. Sign up to my email list to be the first to know when it launches, and to receive email updates in the meantime!
Rachilli is a creative studio dedicating to helping create more authentic brands for creative brands & businesses ready to grow deeper roots with their audience & build their business in a more aligned way.
Rachilli is also committed to helping empower other's with chronic illness to carve their own path and create a life & business that works for them and to lead the way by creating a platform for, and being a voice alongside, those with chronic illness in business.
Rachel, the founder, is an award-winning designer and photographer, published logo designer and author, and is dog mama to two - slightly crazy - pups, Storm & Jasper.
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