You may think that as a professional illustrator, your work speaks for itself – that you don’t need to think about branding or a fancy logo or anything more than simply creating fabulous pieces. Unfortunately, that’s not enough any more…
Contrary to conventional wisdom, branding isn’t all about you.
It’s about understanding your target audiences and what they’re looking for – and balancing the way you brand yourself with what your audiences – your people – will resonate with.
What Branding Is
Branding is about image and reputation – it’s how someone describes you or your work if your name is mentioned.
Consider this: If someone were to describe you as an illustrator, what would they say? That’s your personal brand.
Branding includes all of the following:
- Your work and illustration style
- Your name
- A logo or some sort of visual representation of you/your illustration business
- Your website
- Your voice – how you speak & write, the language you use, your accent
- The way you market yourself, including the channels you use – your Facebook page, your Twitter stream, your YouTube account, your Flickr photos.
How To Identify Your Personal Brand
The key to identifying an effective (read: one that’s worth having) brand is to answer a key question:
Why should people hire you instead of someone else?
Some people call this your USP – your unique sales proposition or, another way of looking at it, it is your unique solution to a problem: What do you offer which your prospects and clients can’t get elsewhere?
As an illustrator, this may mean:
- Your unique illustration style
- The medium in which you work
- The subjects you illustrate
- The fact that you offer specific elements as part of your service (e.g. a fast turn-around time, unlimited concepts, unlimited revisions etc. etc.).
It also means the way you describe yourself – your title and your elevator pitch. If someone asks what you do, how do you answer?
Simply saying, “I’m an illustrator” usually isn’t enough to get you hired.
You need to be able to communicate what you can do for someone and why you’re different from the millions of other illustrators and aspiring illustrators out there.
For example, you might say:
- “I’m a wildlife illustrator, specialising in polar bears” or
- “I’m a children’s book illustrator, specialising in a collage style” or
- “I make handmade pieces using old tires” or
- “I’m an illustrator who specialises in ducks” and the list goes on!
If you’re not yet sure what your USP is or you don’t actually have one, then this is the time to define it.
If you nail your personal brand and USP at this stage, it will make a massive difference to your long term success as an illustrator and how easily you attract new clients and commissions at the beginning and in the future.
How To Implement Your Brand
Once you’ve defined what makes you different, unique, remarkable (worthy of remark) and memorable, you need to ensure this is consistently visible and obvious in your interactions and marketing activities. Everywhere. Every day. This includes:
Your Visual Identity
Depending upon how far you want to take this, it can include what you wear, how you do your hair (yes, really!), to designing a logo or visual identifier for your business.
This visual identifier should then appear on all your marketing materials, including:
- Your business card
- Your website
- Your promotional mailers
- Your invoices and other business stationary
This visual identifier will obviously also be evident in your illustration and creative work – enabling people to instantly identify a piece of work as one of yours.
That’s the primary goal with branding – to enable people to instantly identify a piece of work as yours…which means they (a) have to know about you and (b) be able to see and identify a clear, strong style and brand.
Your Online Identity
You will also need to implement your visual identity and brand consistently across your online presence. This includes not only your website but also:
- Your online profiles such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube with your logo, your avatar and consistent colours.
- The “voice” you use to interact online including the copy on your website, the content of your tweets and your Facebook interactions.
The key to an effective online and integrated presence is to ensure consistency across all of the online platforms you use.
You don’t need to be on all of the social media platforms, but the ones you are on, you need to use consistently and strategically. You can read more about Social Media for Illustrators here.
Your voice is an important part of your brand…
Your voice is not just about what you say, it’s about how you say it, when you say it and where you say it.
You may be a vocal supporter of hand made art, known in Etsy-like circles and a strong promoter of handicrafts both in your online and offline circles.
You may be seen as an outspoken, controversial illustrator who always rocks the boat and asks the difficult questions or takes a contrary position, whatever the topic.
Whatever your stance, it’s important that you develop a voice and leverage the platforms you’re on to use that voice.
From a practical standpoint, this might mean being active on Twitter among the people you want to interact with, joining and supporting communities and community activities you’re interested in, supporting and vocalising your support for causes you’re passionate about.
Having a voice means being a person and people like to hire and buy from people they know, like and trust.
Your brand voice is your opportunity to enable people to get to know more about you…so use it wisely.
Your Branding 101 Checklist
- What sets you apart from competitors? Why should someone hire you versus another illustrator?
- What’s the name of your illustration business? Is it your name, a studio name or something else?
- Have you secured the .com URL for your website? The .com is vital these days, except in certain, very specific circumstances.
- Do you need a logo? Not everyone does but it can be a strong visual identifier if you have a good one.
- Do you have a standard avatar you use for your online profiles?
- Do you have a business card?
- Are your marketing materials consistent in the use of your brand colours and your logo?
- What’s your title? Your strapline? Your elevator pitch?
- Is your website design consistent with your brand colours, placement of logo and your copy writing “voice”?
Now you’ve defined and created your brand, if you haven’t yet got a website (and even if you have), check out our 101 guide to building your illustration portfolio website.