Jul 22

Confessions of a graphic designer

Are you a plumber with a leaky tap?

As a graphic designer by trade and a brand strategist by profession, you would think that I’d have my act together when it comes to my own personal branding.

But the truth is that I don’t.

For more than a year now, I’ve had it on my action list to start building and developing my personal brand – I’m a plumber with a leaking tap.

In 2003 I started my branding studio White River Design (which at the time I simply referred to as a graphic design business). I never intended to actually have a business as such. My reason for starting it was far from visionary and inspiring. Instead, it was a result of a change in ownership of the company that I was working for, who told me that they wouldn’t be offering me maternity leave – you see, I was 5 months pregnant.

I was upset.

But once I got over my anger, I made a plan. I would start my own business.

I put a number of actions into motion, tried ideas that failed and tried others that successed. I rolled with the punches and before long realised that I had a ‘proper’ business, without really intending to have one.

But here is where things start to take a turn. In about 2008 I began to focus more on branding a business rather than just producing a logo, business card or website. I had studied philosophy at university and had found the teachings of Carl Jung particularly interesting. His personality archetype model was something that kept niggling at the back of my mind and I realised that if I could create brands with personality, I’d be onto something special. I developed a word association system that I named Brand Personalities, and started implementing this in my business. When we rebranded White River Design (WRD) at our 10 Years New celebration, we focused on The Magician brand personality. It was a hit and subconsciously people began to connect with the brand on a far more engaging level.

Businesses started to come to us as they could see the difference in the brands that we were producing opposed to our competitors. Their understanding of their brand and the way that were able to communicate it to their clients and their team, became more and more valuable. I was now being asked to write on the topic and present to business groups who wanted to find out more. In 2016 I was approached to be the branding expert on a 12 part series called Build My Brand. Realising that this was gaining momentum I knew that I had to look at building my own brand, but I found it overwhelming.

Will people like me? Accept me? Believe me? Engage with me? Understand what I was trying to say? I started to feel like an imposter. Who do I think I am to consider myself an expert in branding? Am I good enough?

Damn it! I’m a brand strategist. I build business and personal brands day in and day out. I coach my clients through this mind-chatter, and yet I couldn’t get my own doubts to stop bubbling to the surface.

I knew that I had to do something, so I added it to our team quarterly planning actions. I thought that this would make me accountable. It didn’t. I simply pushed it to the side with mumbled excuses. I just couldn’t get myself to focus on it – it was too personal. So I did what I would recommend every business owner does in a time of paralysing procrastination – outsource. I handed the design of the brand over to one of my team. I gave her a brief and let her create some magic for me. I was getting one step closer.

I decided to leverage off the Build My Brand series and created a Brand Magic Masterclass. This program is close to my heart as I honestly and truly get a kick out of watching business owners achieve and exceed their goals. I also understand that as a small business, not everyone can afford my consulting services. So, I created the program that takes people step by step through the process on how to create a brand strategy for their business and all the aspects that I would look at when working with a client. All of this for less than a fifth of what I would consult on! Now I would be able to help far more people at a more affordable rate and I’m excited again! Yet still I had no personal branding website launched.

I have just been on a business womens retreat where I have learnt, challenged and been brutally honest with myself. It’s been enlightening, encouraging and also a bit emotional.

Brand Magic Masterclass, online business and personal branding program

So here I am confessing.

I don’t yet have my personal brand fully designed or developed. I am struggling the way I see many of my clients struggle when they are trying to articulate and develop their own brands. I understand your pain, fear and confusion. Taking timeout to really think about your business and where you want to go it so valuable, as it’s so easy to get carried away working in your business rather than on it.

But after this insight, I am making a commitment to myself that by 30 June 2017, that there will be a website for all to see.

I will outsource what I need to, to get this done.

I will step up into the spotlight and not shy away from owning my brand.

Watch this space as DebbieO Brands will be coming to a screen near you.

Written by branding specialist Debbie O’Connor
Consultant, Strategist, Keynote Speaker

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