When I launched this website 3 years ago, I was just embarking on a new phase of my business. One that shared the business side of things, and not just about health and wellness for my existing customers. Talking about business, including email marketing, branding, websites, and social media, was WAY more interesting to me than writing another blog post about lemon water or kale. Over the past 3 years, I've:
- written 32 blog posts
- grown an email list to over 1,150 people almost entirely passively (learn how I did it here and here)
- launched an online course with over 125 students about branding and website design for holistic practitioners who are tech-shabby
- grown a network marketing team to over 4,100 customers in 8 countries worldwide with almost $300,000 in sales per month (click here to learn more about this); and
- gone from claiming a nil income on my annual income tax (you can see almost 10 years of my biz numbers over here) to bringing in over $140,000 in 2017 (about $80,000 net).
To say that my business has evolved over the past 3 years is an understatement.
About 6 months ago, I started feeling that my message had changed, because I had changed. When I was featured in our company's Leadership Magazine (click here to read the article), I wrote "I’m still the same person, but I’m not the same person".
So many lessons have come to me over the past 3 years, both difficult and easy, that the time has come to take a hard look at myself, my why, my messaging, my website and ultimately, what I want to leave behind as a legacy.
Time for a re-brand.
Now, if you don't already have a website, it's not time for you to re-brand, it's just plain time for you to brand! So what's branding? In a nutshell:
I've already have several articles about branding, what it is, and what it isn't (hint: it's NOT about your logo or your business card, so stop stressing). You can read all about the basics of branding here and here.
Your brand is about so much more than the logistics of a website, your colours, or your logo, but those are important parts of it. Those individual parts make up the feeling when you experience any part of a business.
Think about walking into Lululemon (no matter if you love or hate them). Every part of that experience is consistent with empowerment and going from good to great. From the manifesto on their environmentally friendly, re-usable shopping bags to the wood plank walls, it a virtual magnet for anyone who aspires for a better life ... while wearing $100 yoga pants.
The yoga pants and athletic wear is just the tool, but what you're buying is the feeling. Same thing with your business.
Whether you're an essential oil toting vegan or a homesteading, pasture-fed meat eating paleo diet advocate, those are just your tools that you use with your clients to get them better. You're actually selling them the feeling of getting better.
AT THE END OF THE DAY, YOU'RE SELLING HOPE, JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE.
Hope that they'll feel better, their life will be easier, and they'll be happier. Isn't that why anyone buys anything?
So your business isn't any different from anyone else's, from your fave online blogger who you drool over their food pics to your local big-box store that you loathe buying from because it destroys local economies with it's cut throat prices on cheap crap from China that no one needs.
Plus, by this time at the end of 2017, we can all agree that almost everything has been done. While that may sound like a pessimistic view of the world and a super lazy creative stance, look around at the number of holistic health practitioners who are online, with their beautiful websites and flawless Instagram feeds. No, Dorothy, we're not in 2010 anymore. It's not enough to have a pretty website. It's got to have meaning behind it, and that's your brand.
You might be doing the same thing that thousands of others do, but no one does it quite the same way that you do it. Your style, how you dress, how you say certain things, your viewpoints and thoughts? Those are all you, and yours alone. YOU are your brand.
So as you evolve, so will your business. Maybe it's something logistical, like you no longer want to offer a specific service that you have for the past 1 or 5 years. But maybe it's a feeling that your website, while everyone else still loves it, doesn't quite fit. Like a pair or your favourite leggings that are so old the elastic is wearing out. They're essentially still leggings, they (mostly) still stay on your body, but they don't feel like they fit you like a second skin anymore.
That's how you know it's time to re-brand.
Now re-branding isn't quite as clean as the first time you do it. If you have an existing website, or two in my case, with an established social media presence, chances are you can't just "turn it off" for months on end while you work behind the scenes.
There are bits and pieces of some pages that have to be changed, while others have to be deleted entirely or created from scratch. Major issues come up, like how do you shut down your website to create the new one when you have traffic coming to it everyday because of the last 3 years of consistent work? How do you delete an existing website that no longer serves you, but don't lose the traffic that's already going there?
These are the issues that I'm dealing with as I merge 2 existing websites and social media accounts into one. The next 2 months are going to get a little messy, so I wanted to document my journey through it.
Here are three things that I think you should know before you embark on your own branding/website journey, whether it's your 1st or 5th website:
1. It doesn't have to cost you thousands of dollars!
One of my first blog posts on this website was about how I deleted my $10,000 website in favour of one that I made myself. You can say I know all about the pitfalls of thinking that you have to have a multi-thousand dollar website to be taken seriously.
Interestingly enough, when starting the process for my current re-brand, I looked into having someone re-design my website for me instead of doing it myself. As a doTERRA Diamond leader, I look up to several other amazing women who preach about hiring everything out that costs less than what you make per hour. If you make $100 an hour, you should hire out all the jobs that will cost you less than that. You can't do everything yourself, so start hiring it out.
I started doing my research and contacted a few web designers/developers to get an idea of the cost. When it came down to it, with the volume of pages that I need on my newly designed website, I was looking at the $7,500 to $10,000 range. Ouch.
FYI: if you're designing your first website, and not bringing together 2 large websites, you can find great designers in the $2,000 to $5,000 range. Still ouch for many of you, but a little less likely to cause a heart attack.
Do I have $10,000 just lying around? No. At the same time, at the business and income level I'm at now, I could easily use credit that I paid off last year to finance it, while paying it off over the next 6 months to a year. Not a frivolous plan, either, considering I should probably try and write off as much as I can in the next month to reduce the taxes I have to pay to the government.
But something in my gut was telling me that hiring out my website, while it would save me some time, wasn't the right thing to do.
When I was considering the whole "hire it out" mindset that I should and have been shifting to, I missed one major caveat: hire lots of stuff out unless it's in your zone of genius and you love doing it.
I LOVE branding and designing websites. I don't want to do it for other people (even when they ask me or offer lots of money), but for myself? I love creating something from scratch. I realized that I was happy to hire it out because I was afraid to do it myself. I don't have any formal graphic or web design training. I'm sure I don't use Photoshop the way it should be. I add custom code to my current website that I'm sure any other coder would look at and wonder why I did it the way that I did.
This project? It's huge and big and hard and scary, and I was afraid of going through that journey. Which is precisely why I have to do it.
I'm going to learn some major lessons over the next 2 months, and I'm excited to share them with you in more blog posts, but also when I update my Brand, Build, Blog course! I'm doing some next level techniques that have to be shared with my students, but only after I've done it myself, tested it, and can give them honest feedback.
Even if you're making some good cashflow in your business, or you're willing to max out your credit card or line of credit to show the world that you're taking your business seriously, you don't have to. Make the decision that feels good to you, and not just because everyone else is telling you that you should do something.
2. Hire the best photographer you can afford
Whether you design your next website by yourself or with the help of a professional, you'll probably be using a pre-made template. You'll start by looking at thousands of beautiful ones available everywhere from Etsy to Creative Market, and go "oohhh" and "ahhhhh", and "that one is SOOO pretty!".
But you know what makes it pretty 99.9% of the time? The pictures!
No one ever looks at a website and thinks to themselves "oh, that colour changing button/paragraph of text/side bar is the reason I want my website to look like that one". Hells no, you've probably picked a website template based on the pictures alone (we've all done it!), then look at the finished product with your own pictures in it and wonder why it doesn't give you the same feeling.
There's a reason why photography can cost a lot: it can make or break your website or brand.
While I'm not spending $10,000 on a website designer, I AM spending multiple thousands of dollars on the photographer of my dreams. I worked with her on my last major biz photoshoot, and after looking at several different options, budgets, and photographers, I know that she's the one to bring my vision to life.
You don't even have to spend thousands, either! I've seen amazing photos of my doTERRA team and biz colleagues that they had done for hundreds (or even bartered for free!).
I'm pairing my soon-to-be incredible photos that will cost me major money with a $150 SquareSpace template that I'm going to customize the shit out of, and I know it's going to be magical. Stay tuned.
If you're ready to invest in photography, make sure to click here and check out my article on organizing for the big day and free "Prep for your Professional Photoshoot" guidebook.
3. Learn how to write effective copy (or hire it out)
The only other thing I considered hiring out on my new website is the copy (i.e. all the words!). You could have the prettiest looking website on earth, but if it's got no substance to back it up with the writing and copy, you're not going to convert traffic to email subscribers, followers, and ultimately paying clients and customers.
There's a reason that copywriting is a skill that people pay a LOT of money to hire out. If it's done right, you don't even realize you're being sold something. If it's done wrong, you'll leave a website faster than the time you ran to your bathroom for your carrier oil because you got peppermint essential oil in your eye.
Learning how to write effective copy is one of the things I would highly recommend you take a course in, because you use it every single day in your business. You use it on social media, blog posts, your website, online courses, sales pages, and even business cards.
I'm choosing to write my own copy on my new website because:
1. I invested in a course several years ago that I've implemented to great results; and
2. I'm specifically trying to keep this website within a specific budget, and I've already spent most of it on photography.
Your copy, just like photography, can make or break the time and money investment you make into your website, so make sure it's as effective as possible.
Phew, now that I've shared the why behind my re-branding, and what I'll be investing in, let me share my progress so far! For me, this is the best part. What can I say, I'm a sucker for pretty picture, gorgeous colours, and fantastic fonts.
You need a little background info before we get started. Currently, I have 2 websites: one for my biz tips (this one, which I coded AS in my files) and one for my health tips (anextraordinarylife.co, which I coded EOL). I started the health website (EOL) about a year and a half ago because it was getting too confusing for me in my messaging to my current followers. I was blogging about business stuff for a few years, and then start talking more about essential oils. I thought it would be too confusing, so I separated it out.
Turns out, it's more confusing to me to run two separate brands. They started bleeding into each other, and I realized that, at the end of the day, it's ME who's representing them both. Why am I dividing my energy between the two when it's all about the same thing anyways: living a better life.
I hired a business coach to help me navigate this merging of my two current brands, because there's a way to do it well ... and a way to merge them that could totally confuse customers and followers on both sides of my business. I want to do it well, so I hired someone who's a pro in this area (marketing, online business, messaging) to help me through it.
My current branding for this website was done 3 years ago, and my health side a year and a half ago. You can tell from my brand boards below that my style has evolved over the past 3 years, while maintaining consistent elements like the bold black and white, saturated colours, and there always has to be a bright pink of some sort!
P.S. I'm using my own branding course to come up with my new mood boards, brand boards, and style elements!
In any branding exercises, I start with your brand feelings. What do you want people to feel when they see anything visual to do with your business? That could be your website, social media, or business cards.
My brand feelings for my current ashleysrokosz.com are:
Fresh | Fun | Bold | Irreverent | Approachable
My brand feelings for my current EOL website are:
Inspired | Empowered | Beautiful | Balanced | Present
Frankly, the EOL site never landed because I tried to create a persona that wasn't entirely based on me. It was really hard for me to separate ME from the brand, so my writing was muddy, uninspired (the opposite of what I wanted people to feel!) and just plan blah, even if the mood board and website are "pretty".
My new brand feelings, which are completely in line with what I want to feel in my life right now, are:
Bold | Joy | Freedom | Creative | Light
My new website and brand is Ashley 2.0, the more mature version of this website that was created 3 years ago. I just turned 35, and while I still feel like I'm in my 20's (inside my head), chances are that the next time I re-brand I'll be close to 40, and I wanted a more mature feel while still maintaining my fun and lightness.
I'm also much more experienced in using colour, so instead of the standard 4-6 brand colours, I have 5 dark colours and a lighter version of each, so 10 total brand colours. This seems like a lot, but with the visuals that I'm planning, it's going to involve a lot of layering colours and fonts on top of each other, so they'll be used regularly but will still feel consistent because they're the same tones and hues and the parent colours.
I'm not 100% sure of what this next website will really mean. I have visions of more of a lifestyle brand, with free printable and blog posts on not just health and business, but home design and style. I'm still growing in my confidence to share that side of me, but whenever I'm on video training calls, people always comment (and have for years) on my decor, paint colours, and feel of our house. I want to share more of this, and I'm still navigating what that will look like. Things won't change quickly in that direction, but theres' definitely going to be more of an editorial vibe on my new website that I'm SO excited for.
You can definitely see the evolution of my style towards a more editorial feel in the serif font choices for the new website (the Playfair Display primary font). 3 years ago, I was alllll about the modern, clean, sans serif font choices like Brandon Grotesque.
When I branded EOL, you can see my bringing in some serif fonts, but the main primary font was still a rounded, modern, sans serif font like Varela. Those fonts feel somewhat juvenile to me, and not in a bad way. They were just so cute and playful, including my choice of accent fonts. They're more geared towards my "irreverent" feeling I wanted to create, like don't take me too seriously. They're very script driven, but super feminine, girly scripts.
My new choices are much more timeless, and my accent font has a bolder, more handwritten feel. Much more like my regular, everyday writing. I feel like they scream what I want to feel as a woman in the second half of my thirties: much more secure in my style, more mature, less trendy, and not needing to prove anything to anybody. That feels so light for me even to type!
See how much fonts can influence the feel of something? I bet you'll never look at another website the same way ;)
Oh, logos. They seem like they're the be all, end all, but in reality, you rarely even look at a logo other than at the top of a website and on a business card ... and how often to you keep business cards around anymore?
Yes, a beautiful logo is important, but it's not the only part of your brand. To me, the colours and fonts speak louder than a logo. That beings said, I'm a sucker for a beautiful, hand written, feminine script logo or a simple design that speaks volumes.
Logos is where I've felt the most inadequate in my design work, so I might hire it out at some point, but for now, I'm super happy with the feel of my new logo. It's similar enough to my current logo that it doesn't feel completely different, it's still bold, but with the softer colours it's much more in line with my lighter feeling.
I also love my new watermark way more than my old one. I can't wait to splash that one all over my pins and Instagram posts!
There's a LOT that goes into the final version of a logo. Here's all the version I tried before landing on the final one above. My husband hated, and I mean hated, the triangle one. He said since I'm in network marketing, it felt like I would make people think of a pyramid scheme, LOL. I never even considered that, and yes, it's something to think about! That being said, I look at it now and am happy I didn't go with it.
I would have loved to bring in more of the serif font, but it just wasn't looking right. I'm 99% sure my website copy will be mostly in the Playfair display font (serif), so the logo will be balanced out on the website and social media graphics with other type elements.
Brand Board/Style Guide
Isn't it funny how calling a Brand Board a Style Guide instead makes it sound so much more formal and fancy? Oh, just me? 😜
This feels just the way that I hoped it would in my head. The creative process is so interesting to me, I had no idea what I would actually end up with, but I knew the feeling. It's hard to describe, but I'm so excited to see what the final version of my website looks like!
Stay tuned for the next instalment of this series where I'm going to be introducing you to pre-done SquareSpace templates that do all the heavy design lifting for you.