Behind the “brand”

You are your own brand. That’s become a modern-day mantra, and it seems most creative professionals I know have a suite of features to back that up. But I hadn’t given too much thought to my personal branding until this summer, when several factors converged.

Days before my book released, I spoke at See Jane Write’s inaugural Bloganista conference. Keynote speaker Megan LaRussa Chenoweth of Southern Femme encouraged everyone in attendance to have a logo. Graphic designer Aly Hathcock quickly tweeted she would offer a discount to any conference attendees, and I took her up on it, even without knowing exactly what I’d do with a logo.

The end game wasn’t clear, but I was already in the process of organizing an LLC, Ink-Stained Life. I’ve worked as a freelance writer and editor for more than a decade under my own name, but selling copies of my book at non-bookstore events changed the game a bit. I opted to adopt my blog’s name as my business name, and Aly’s offer kept those wheels spinning. A logo might spur a slight website rebranding, I thought, and who knows how else it’ll come in handy?

As I’ve attended book signings and speaking engagements, numerous people have requested my business card. I’ve got Birmingham magazine cards, of course, and folks can always reach me there. But I try to limit my work correspondence to work, just as I try to keep said correspondence outside of my personal email. Quickly, I realized it would be worth my money to invest in personal business cards.

In a Facebook group I’m part of, some women recommended incorporating your headshot into business cards to amp up the mental association. It’s an idea that makes sense, but didn’t feel comfortable to me (only in part because I update my headshots more frequently than I run out of business cards!). A friend suggested I use the illustration on my stationery, and so I reached out to Sara Beth Cobb of Nimblee Design to discuss options. Sara Beth created the stationery for me years ago as a birthday present, and it always makes an impression. I was thrilled when she agreed to incorporate both the illustration and my logo into a business card–and even more excited by the results. Both Sara Beth and Aly took my ideas and created designs that capture my personality.

The most hands-on part of this branding process for me, though, was my website’s new header photo. I’m not a strong photographer, and I was unsure whether I’d be able to create an image I’d be happy with. But I had a vision in mind, and my 1920s Underwood typewriter was at the heart of it. (I told Cheryl Joy Miner of Cheryl Joy Miner Photography, who also took my headshot and yoga photos, that I seriously contemplated if I could carry the typewriter on my flight to Florida, where she’s based.)

Because that wasn’t practical, Cheryl instead coached me via text message as my bedroom became the site of a DIY photo shoot. She gave me advice on composing the items and ultimately encouraged me to carry the entire setup outside. Not only did that achieve the lighting and quirky interest I was after, it also ties back to the photos she took of me in her backyard.

The end result is a suite of branded materials that feel true to me and my work, made all the more special because of relationships with the wonderful, creative women with whom I collaborated.

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