Whether you’re a freelance writer, an artist selling handmade crafts, or a language tutor, you might not have created a brand for the work you do. Many people have a side hustle without ever actually branding themselves and their work, but a great brand helps you establish yourself in your industry, draw customers, and expand your business.
In this post, I’ll explain the ten steps you can implement to transform your side job into a brand of its own.
What is a brand?
When we picture a brand, we’re quick to think of company logos and slogans—but a brand is so much more.
A brand is the way your audience perceives your business. As brand expert Marty Neumeier explains in his book The Brand Gap, “A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or organization.” Logos and taglines are certainly part of that, but equally as important are your brand’s personality, look, and tone.
Every aspect of the work you do for your company shapes your brand, from the way you answer the phone to your website design and social media pages.
Why do I need a brand?
It’s a common misconception that brands are only important for big, successful companies, or that they require a lot of money to create.
The truth, though, is that branding is an inescapable part of any business—however big or small.
On top of that, creating a brand is feasible for all types of businesses, and doesn’t require large expenditures of resources.
There are a few reasons your side hustle needs a brand, including:
- Spreading recognition of your business and your work
- Distinguishing your business from the rest
- Marketing and advertising your product or service
- Establishing yourself as a credible industry player
- Building emotional bonds with loyal customers
- Drawing new customers to you
You want your customers to have a positive impression of your business, right? Well, you can shape that impression by creating a great brand.
How to create a brand for your side hustle
- Research your competitors
Get to know the other players in your industry. Begin by Googling your industry and analyzing the direct competitors that come up. You can also check the social media accounts of your competitors.
Take note not only of the products or services these businesses provide, but also of the way they speak to their customers, the look of their website and logo, and their values and mission statements.
Instead of imitating these other business, make yourself stand out. Try to figure out what these companies are doing well and what they aren’t. Get inspiration from the things they do well, and find ways to improve upon their weaknesses. Offering something other companies don’t is an important part of giving your brand a distinct identity.
- Get to know your target audience
Next, research your target market. Since branding is rooted in audience perception, you’ll want to find out how to appeal to your audience to give them a positive impression of your side hustle.
There are several ways you can become more familiar with your target audience. First, talk to people you know who are part of your target market. Ask them about their positive and negative experiences with the products or services they use and the businesses they buy from. Use these experiences to inform your own business model.
You can also do online research. Check out the social media accounts your target audience follows to find out what interests them and why. Read online threads about relevant product recommendations and reviews to find out what customers are saying about your industry. Play the role of an interested customer yourself, and imitate their browsing and shopping experiences, to figure out where the process goes smoothly and where it gets frustrating.
Obtaining a deeper understanding of your target audience will help you shape a brand based on their desires, interests, and needs.
- Pick a focus
Researching your competitors and your audience will help you determine your brand’s focus. If you try to appeal to everyone and offer everything, your brand will be so broad that it will lose definition and appeal to no one.
Maybe you want your brand to emphasize a specific theme, like traveling or environmentalism. Or, maybe you want it to appeal to a specific age group, like college students or middle-aged women.
By choosing where to focus your brand, you’ll be able to occupy a particular niche in your industry and better cater to your audience. Use this focus as a guideline as you develop your brand’s personality and design.
- Find the distinguishing characteristics
Taking what you’ve learned about your audience and intended focus, make a list of the characteristics that make your side hustle stand out. Are you solving a problem that your competitors haven’t? Are you engaging with your audience in a new and more effective way? Does your company have a social purpose, or values that your audience cares about?
Think about what your company offers that others don’t. Answering this question—and reflecting your answers in your business’s personality and look—is the basis of your brand.
- Create a brand personality
A brand, like a person, needs a personality. The personality of your brand is reflected in just about everything—from the colors and images on your website to the voice you use in your blog.
You can begin thinking about your brand’s personality based on the five brand personality types developed by Stanford business professor Jennifer Aaker:
- Sincerity – Is your brand honest, genuine, and cheerful?
- Excitement – Is your brand modern, spirited, imaginative, and daring?
- Competence – Is your brand dependable, responsible, and efficient?
- Sophistication – Is your brand glamorous, romantic, or high-end?
- Ruggedness – Is your brand tough, strong, or outdoorsy?
Your brand’s personality should be some combination of these five characteristics, depending on what’s most relevant to your industry niche and what best speaks to your audience.
- Define your values
Your brand’s values define what your side hustle stands for and are the guidelines for the way you’ll interact with your audience. Think about your own and your customers’ values, and which values you want to be reflected in the work you do. For example, maybe you want to emphasize social responsibility, family togetherness, or female strength.
Your brand’s values can also go hand-in-hand with your brand’s personality and voice, whether you’re cutting edge and daring, cheerful and helpful, or reliable and secure.
Try using these exercises to help you identify and define your brand’s values:
- Write down all the values that are important to you. If you’re not sure, write your own eulogy–what you’d want people to say about you at your funeral—to find out which values you care about most.
- Circle the values you feel are most important. You can’t incorporate all your values into your brand (that would only diminish the impact of each value), so choose your top five.
- Write down the
brands you love and a one-word description of why. If your favorite brands are
creative, inspiring, dependable, or friendly, that can help point you to the
values you’d like to reflect in your own brand.
- Check with third parties—members of your target audience, or trusted colleagues and business partners—to get their opinion on your brand’s values.
Giving a brand a set of values is important not only in shaping your brand’s personality, but also in attracting a base of loyal customers whose values align with those of your business.
- Choose a name
A brand name can make your side hustle appear more serious, established, and legitimate in the eyes of your customers. And, a brand name can speak to your target audience by saying something about your brand’s personality or values as discussed above.
To choose your brand name, begin by thinking about which tone you want to adopt. Some names are modern and intriguing (think of made-up words like Xerox), while others, like Warner Bros., are classic and traditional. Names like Life is Good and Lululemon are playful and lighthearted, while others, like Century Theatres and PayPal, are pragmatic or informative. Still, other brand names are emotional, using words like “peace,” “love,” “green,” or “family” to produce emotional responses in their audience.
As you choose your name, think about the values you want to reflect, the personality of your brand, and the tone that most appeals to your target audience.
- Choose a tagline
Once you choose the name of your brand, you should think about accompanying that name with a tagline. Your tagline should reflect your business’s mission and promise, all while appealing to your target audience.
A tagline focuses less on explaining what a product or service is, and more on emphasizing the benefits that product or service brings. McDonald’s slogan doesn’t mention a word about hamburgers, because “I’m lovin’ it” is an even more effective way to emphasize their product’s results and speak to their audience. Nike’s tagline “Just do it” makes no mention of its being a sportswear company, but, rather, effectively motivates its audience to push themselves physically (and buy sportswear as a result).
Think of the formula for a great tagline as mission + benefits + spice. Write a phrase that emphasizes your company’s mission and the benefits of your products or services, and then spice it up with catchy and original adjectives and verbs that reflect your brand’s tone and personality.
- Define Your Brand Identity
Designing your brand’s look (identity) encompasses a huge range of different factors, from your website design and logo to your color palette and typography. You can shape the look of your brand by creating a brand style guide.
A brand style guide includes eight core elements: Your brand’s mission, story, and purpose (so that you’re sure to make your style accurately reflect your brand), your logo, your color palette, font and typography guidelines, image guidelines, and voice and tone.
When considering your logo, be sure to think about what you want the image to connote—whether it’s reliability, playfulness, romance, or strength. You can also think about your brand’s story, and if there are any images you can associate with that story that can be included in your logo.
When developing your color palette, use color psychology. Bright red is loud and youthful, while light blue is tranquil and soothing. The field of color psychology is vast, and has a huge impact on the way your audience perceives your brand.
Designing all the elements of your brand identity takes time, but there are tools that can help, but, remember, that whatever look you go for it should reflect your brand’s mission and should be presented in a way that is consistent with your voice and tone.
- Apply consistency across your business
Without consistency, you won’t have a brand. Instead, all you’ll have is a side hustle with a jumble of different personalities, values, messages, and colors.
That’s why, once you develop your brand’s tone, personality, focus, values, and more, it’s important to stick with it. Unless you’re doing a complete rebranding, avoid making changes here and there.
A single, unified, cohesive personality and look is what will push your audience to identify you not just as a side hustle but—even more importantly—as a brand.