How to Build a Brand That Stands the Test of TimeMar 24, 2023
I’m sure we’ve all had role models or seen big names suddenly shut down their businesses and go on indefinite sabbaticals. In the online branding and marketing space, it’s happened more than a few times recently. Now, this blog is not about those people, but I think there’s something incredibly important to talk about in relation to their stories – there’s a big message in each of their experiences.
And actually, I’ve been there too.
About three years ago now, I was so unhappy in my business that I, too, debated shutting it all down (or at least, debated all the different options I had for moving forward). The hardest part was that there wasn’t just one thing that was wrong, or wasn't working.
For the prior decade, my life, identity and purpose had been centered on my business. Truthfully, I didn’t know who I was without it. All my eggs were in one basket. But, I was constantly stressed and anxious (like, all the time), worried about client satisfaction (even with no indications that anything was wrong), doing a lot of project management between clients and my design team, and felt like I could never take a break or get ahead. I was just doing what I had to do to stay afloat in each moment.
I felt stuck, and didn’t know what I could do to change the situation or turn it into something that would be more sustainable moving forward. And it felt impossible to quit (not to mention, mind-bogglingly terrifying) – there was so much tangled up in my business, and there would be so many complicated threads to cut to shut it all down, to shut down everything that I’d worked so hard to build for such a long time.
For me, quitting just didn’t feel right. So, I knew I had to change the way I was doing things. I knew I had to get out of the endless overwhelm. I tried doing the design work myself, but my perfectionism didn’t like that route, and I found myself still unhappy with my own work and constantly stressed and worried about what my clients would think.
So, what made the most sense for me? I cut out all private client work – which was also completely terrifying since that’s where the majority of my income was coming from. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved the women I worked with, and I did enjoy some aspects of the work, like creating something so meaningful, bringing a brand to life, and helping women make their impact in a bigger way. But ultimately, I had been spending way too much time being the middleperson and worrying about other people being happy – so much so that I wasn’t even thinking about whether or not I was happy.
But I need to note, I can’t tell this story without acknowledging my luck and privilege in being in a position where I could step back and scale down my income in order to rebuild a business I actually enjoyed. Without that ability, I would have felt trapped. I am incredibly grateful that I was able to take this step in my business.
One of my priorities is honesty and transparency in how I talk about business and entrepreneurship. There are SO. MANY. messages out there in the online world that make us feel like we aren’t enough, that make us feel like we have to have certain goals and build our brands in a certain way or follow a certain model, make a certain amount of money, present ourselves in a certain way, etc. And that’s not what I’m here to perpetuate. Let’s stop that stuff in its tracks, shall we!?
Even through all of that on social media, I find so much inspiration in seeing the big businesses that other women build. But, even these women who look like they have it all perfectly polished on the outside, may not feel happy, or feel that they are living their version of success. Even if you have “everything” that people tell you to want, that doesn’t mean you’re happy. Hence, the recent sabbatical announcements.
The most important lesson I’ve learned so far as an entrepreneur, is that unless you're personally happy and have space to think and be, then what you're building is not sustainable, and honestly probably not worth it.
I don’t want to argue that shutting your business down is always the wrong move – as we know, there is never a true “one size fits all” approach, especially in business. It takes a lot of courage to do what these big names have recently done. However, if you want to build a brand that's sustainable in the long-term and doesn't burn you out, there are a few things that need to happen – and that’s what I’m going to outline in this blog!
Have an Inspiring WHY
WHY do you do what you do? You know... beyond making money
What inspires you to get out of bed in the morning? To sit down at your desk and get lost in your work?
When you have something that inspires you so deeply, you have a reason to show up when times get tough, you have a mission that you’re working towards, there is a light at the end of the tunnel that you can see all the way through – and no, your endless to-do list does not count as a why.
Choose a Business Model you Enjoy Showing up in Every Day
There are so many different business models you could follow, and there are so many people online telling you that their way is the only way… but it’s so important that you understand all of the options you have so you can build a business that actually aligns with the life you want to live.
Using myself as an example… I had a mentor early on who coached me through setting up a done-for-you, high-ticket, private client business (which I ran for years). Once I realized that wasn’t sustainable anymore for the life I wanted to live, I actually took a moment to look around at all the options for business models there are.
I ended up shifting to a lower ticket membership (the Impact Tribe) with more members at one time than private clients. While I’m still in creation mode with this new model, it feels SO GOOD to have made this change. I love the creativity and group work, and I especially do not miss spending so much time in my email inbox, stressing about client satisfaction, and having sales calls… aka, doing all the things that really drained me.
Often, mentors and coaches will teach you their own business model – just like I had a coach who was guiding me through my previous business model. And there’s nothing wrong with that! But ultimately, you need to build a business that is right for YOU, that you enjoy showing up in every day, that you can sustain over time.
Set Your Goals Based on What You Truly Want
Everyone has opinions on what you “should” want – family, friends, social media, even the entrepreneurial culture as a whole. The ONLY thing that matters in goal setting is whether or not you truly want to achieve that goal.
Look at the goals you’ve set for yourself – your income, number of clients, number of followers, etc. Take an honest look. Ask yourself, do you really want that? Do you really want everything that comes along with achieving that?
In terms of money, do you need a seven figure business and all that comes with it? Or do you really just want to live more simply? Maybe working with a small handful of clients you absolutely love, focusing on your work and then getting to just go live your life outside of business? And remember, there’s no right answer here! If you really do want to build a seven-figure business, power to you! But if you want to stay a solopreneur and get on with your life, then I’m here to tell you there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that… no matter what anyone else tries to tell you.
The moral of the story is to stop looking at what other people tell you to want. Look at what you actually want out of your own life. Then go after that!
Make Your Visuals and Voice Your Own - Resist the Temptation to Copy Your Role Models
A few years ago, I had a discovery call with a potential client. On this call, she was showing me the website she created and absolutely loved. As we were looking at the site… I noticed that it was literally identical to my mentor’s website. Like, I could pull up the two side-by-side and not know which was which. I brought this to the potential client’s attention, and she straight up just ended the call. Awkward.
It’s so easy to feel tempted to copy people you respect, who have created something that inspires you. I get it, we all feel inspired by our role models and want to create something just as beautiful and impactful as they did! But, copying is never a good idea. Not only is it completely unethical, but it also does both parties a major disservice and makes you completely unrecognizable (or even worse, recognized only as a copycat).
Your visual brand needs to look unique to you, so you become known for that brand. I won’t go into the details of the importance of personal branding here, but if you’re interested in taking this topic deeper, check out this blog post.
Prioritize Your Wellness
If you want to build a brand that stands the test of time, you have to make sure you don’t burn out in the process – especially if you are the face of that brand.
We NEED to have priorities and interests outside of our business, we need to create the space and time to just be.
I’ve always struggled with overworking myself in the name of productivity. While it’s always been a challenge in my life, there are definitely points that have been worse (or better) than others – but this is a lesson I’ve consistently had to learn. I don’t know about you, but being burnt out and anxious is NOT why I went into business for myself.
The thing is, as an entrepreneur, there will ALWAYS be one more thing we could cross off our list. But if we really want to be more productive ... if we really want to build a business that feeds our souls and stands the test of time ... if we really want to impact more lives and make more money ... then we MUST put our own health, happiness, and wellness first.
If you’ve been feeling this way too, then I encourage you to take a moment of reflection right here and check in with yourself – is the life you’re currently living in alignment with the person you want to be, the business owner you want to be? If not, it’s up to you to figure out how you’re going to make a change.
Create Space for Reflection
When we create this big business machine, we’re so busy constantly hustling while keeping so many plates spinning all at the same time – it’s a lot. For the most part, we find ourselves working so hard and so much that we don’t even have the time to take a step back and think about whether or not the thing we’re building is working, if it’s aligned with the life we want, if it’s even worth pursuing.
Continuing to move without taking the time to reflect just lets everything get out of control. One day you may wake up, take a look at your business and wonder what you’re even doing, how you even got there, why you created something you never even wanted.
Through being, and not doing, is where all of the thoughts in your mind get a chance to settle, all those thoughts can calm down, feel less overwhelming, and allow things the chance to come to the surface.
Entrepreneurial culture teaches us to keep hustling, pushing, working… but I’m here to tell you that’s just not sustainable. To build a business that stands the test of time and doesn’t burn you out, you need to create time and space for reflection.
If you’re ready to build or rebuild a business that fits your lifestyle… I invite you to join us in the Impact Tribe! Just the fact that you read this whole blog post tells me you’d be a great fit for our community, and I just know you’d fit right in with our members. To learn more and join us today, visit this link. I look forward to talking with you soon!