As a freelance designer, leading a successful branding project for a client can be a huge boost to your career. But how exactly does good branding work? Not only is understanding branding crucial for helping you produce work that keeps your clients coming back for more, but it can also help you market yourself and your own brand even more effectively. If this all sounds overwhelming, don’t worry: there are six simple steps you can follow right now to go from being a freelance graphic designer to an impressive, self-made branding expert. Read on to learn all about the six keys to successful branding.

1. Understand Your Brand

This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many brands don’t bother to fully define who they are and what they stand for before they start trying to break into the market. Do you want to take a stand for the environment, like Patagonia does, or are you a brand that prides

itself on providing fresh, healthy groceries, like Whole Foods? Understanding your brand and what it stands for is crucial for helping you devise a clear and effective marketing strategy.

Additionally, you don’t have to be afraid to get personal. If your brand is driven by something that happened to you, or you have a great story about why you founded your company, be honest about it. Most consumers’ decisions are based on emotions, and making an emotional connection with your audience is a great way to turn a potential customer into a loyal fan.

2. Understand Your Audience

When you understand exactly who your ideal client is, it becomes far easier to tailor your branding strategy to appeal to them. Really think about who your audience is in as much detail as possible: how old are they? Where do they live? What do they like to do, and what do they dislike doing? Clarifying the identity of your target audience will help you design a marketing approach that appeals to them and allows you to speak to them as directly as possible.

Better understanding your audience can also help you determine what your clients feel emotionally and what pain points they have that you can help resolve. Regardless of what your brand’s ideal audience is, the only way to create a loyal customer base is to really ensure that you understand who they are and what they want.

3. Scope Out The Competition

It may sound counter-intuitive to spend time worrying about what other brands are doing, but checking out the competition is an important part of developing a successful brand. See if you can determine what your competitors are offering to their consumers and how they’re doing so. Can you observe any similarities between the products or services that you’re offering, or are there products or services that you offer but others don’t? Strong branding can reflect the ways in which your brand is unique and what you have that others don’t. By scoping out the competition, you’ll be able to figure out how you can present yourself in such a way that customers will know that you’re the total package.

4. Write A Great Tagline

Writing a great tagline isn’t easy, but it can be invaluable for helping you better develop your brand. A good tagline has a strong tone that’s specific to your business, whether that’s casual and playful or business-like and formal, and nailing the perfect tagline with the perfect tone can help set you up for success when you start designing your brand’s visual identity. Look up some examples of taglines you’ve admired in the past: what makes them stand out? How do they communicate their brand identity and make you want to engage with them? It might take a few brainstorming sessions, but writing a strong tagline that lets your customers know who you are can go a long way in making them like, trust, and want to do business with you.

5. Embrace Consistency

One of the most important aspects of creating a strong brand identity is ensuring that your brand is consistent. Using consistent branding allows your customers to build familiarity with your brand no matter where they come across it. This extends to social media — as your brand’s social media presence should look and sound the same whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram — as well as in real life. Extend your visual brand identity to your letterheads, invoices and business cards. It may seem time-consuming, but establishing a consistent brand identity ensures that your customers know exactly who you are and what your message is, which will allow you to build loyalty and trust with them.

6. Design A Great Visual Brand Identity

As a designer, this is your time to shine! Designing a visual brand identity is all about communicating who you are and what you stand for in a variety of media. This includes picking the perfect font that expresses whether your brand is whimsical and fun or buttoned-up and businesslike, as well as selecting a color palette to reinforce your identity. If you’re not sure how color correlates to your brand identity, think about how a sunny yellow color palette contrasts with a sleek black one. Then, whip up a logo that uses different lines and shapes to continue to express who you are.

Although it may be tempting to start with this step first — after all, the design is the fun part — think about how much better your visual brand identity will be once you have clearly established who you are and who your target audience is. By taking the time to determine what you want your brand to be, you can come up with an impressive visual branding scheme that will make your marketing strategy that much more impressive.

Key Takeaway

If you’re a designer hoping to wow your client with a new branding strategy, don’t rush right into sketching. Instead, consider the brand and its audience, determine what your brand offers that no one else does, and generate a great tagline and plan for consistency before wowing your client with a new visual brand identity. Another tool that can help even the most seasoned freelance graphic designer is a freelance platform which can help freelancers send out contracts, proposals, forms and invoices. Using a freelance platform can help you spend less time doing administrative tasks and more time coming up with stunning new art.

Whether you’re a freelance pro or a new designer, better understanding the principles of branding can help you bring your career to the next level.