Most traditional biz advice says you need to be able to describe yourself in one sentence. You need that snap crackle sizzler of a one-liner that will make people instantly understand you and curious to hear more of what you have to offer them.
And I think that’s bullshit.
You don’t need a one-liner. You just need to tell a better story, one that’s rooted in what’s true for you. What you do is only a small part what defines your value. To tell a compelling story, you’ll need a few things to help maintain consistency.
Ooh. Did I just hit a nerve there dropping the c-word?
I get it. You are more than a coach (artist, writer, insert job title here). You are not, have never been, and will never be just one thing. Naturally, you don’t want your brand to fence you in.
And truthfully, as a creative entrepreneur, your brand has to be flexible enough to adapt with you (because adapt you shall) but distinctive enough that your evolution is unmistakable. The only problem is, how the hell do you accomplish that?
How do you maintain consistency without getting bored?
First of all, I’d like to offer an insight I learned the hard way. For a long time, I was frustrated when I saw people who had resources and intelligence… who completely failed to use them for anything even remotely productive. I thought, if only I had what they have, I’d do so much more with it.
Little did I know that by working with less resources, I was building up a muscle – a skill I couldn’t acquire in any other way – that was making me scrappy, adaptable, and able to make do. And pretty soon, I learned how to make it happen.
Limits enhance creativity. When you’re working within constraints, you learn to do much more with much less. We’re talking resilience 101 – creativity for and by the masses.
So when you think of your brand and its visual aesthetic and the tone of its language and the offerings you’ve got, think of these things as a starting place – initial limits to help you gain focus so you can expand into more possibilities later.
Much sexier, right? And hey, bonus! Your right people will actually understand your brand and what you’re getting at.
Let’s get started.
When I start an engagement with a client, one of the first things I develop is a rock solid brand style sheet. This sheet encompasses all of the most important visual and written concepts that need to be communicated across your brand. Many clients I work with have bits and pieces of this information scattered around their Google Drive, but by consolidating it all into one place, you’ll be doing yourself a massive favor.
From your outreach and PR strategy to staying on track with your business goals, a brand style sheet will help you maintain focus across your marketing channels.
How to Develop a Brand Style Sheet
After working with dozens of clients, I’ve discovered there are 10 essential pieces to a good brand style sheet.
- Color palette
- A one-liner
- A 100-word pitch
- Founder or CEO 100-word bio (usually)
- Social links
With these 10 elements in place, you can ensure your brand is consistently represented across platforms – even if you turn a project over to a complete stranger. Sounds pretty good, right?
To make sure you understand all of the parts of creating your brand style sheet, we’ll go through each section and briefly learn about what each looks like in more detail using another brand of mine, Tiny Owl Creative.
***If you’d like to work on your brand along side the examples, click here to download your Brand Style Sheet.***
If you have a logo, great! Link it in this section. If not, don’t despair. Unless you really want one, your logo doesn’t have to be a specific icon you use. Especially if you’re a creative or a public figure, you may very well be the face of your brand, and if that’s the case, stamp your face all over everything. (Well, within reason.)
We will discuss more about fonts and colors in the next section, but an image of you + the perfect font may end up being a better solution for you than having an image professionally designed.
Tip: If you do get a logo designed, make sure you get it copyrighted. For more information, check out my friend Rachel Rodger’s product Small Business Bodyguard.
This is the tinyowlcreative logo. tinyowlcreative is a lifestyle brand focused on a helping women create sustainable self-care routines to help them handcraft lives they love. When Nina (my co-founder and partner-in-crime) created this logo, we wanted to make sure it had the lightness we want associated with the brand. We take our work seriously, but we believe in adding the kind of whimsy that makes things feel as real as possible, even in a digital space.
2. Color palette
When you choose the colors for your brand, it’s much more than picking something that just looks nice. The colors you choose now will set the tone for your brand later. For inspiration, you can take a look at Design Seeds, and that will give you an idea of how colors can set the mood.
How to make a color palette:
- Visit Canva.
- Create a custom size box (1000×200)
- Click Grids. Choose one with 5 side by side boxes.
- Fill your boxes with your palette colors. Overlay text boxes with hex codes.
This is the tinyowlcreative color palette, as well as the results of the Canva instructions above. (The white on the end may be hard to discern, but it’s there nonetheless.) These colors are earthy with an aspirational tone, the merging of my personal brand with my best friend’s brand. It’s a coming together that showcases the best of both of us while creating something distinct.
Tip: If you’re an Instagram user (and you should be), make sure you pick a filter or two as well. Continuity of your filter will help create further brand cohesion.
Pairing fonts is both art and science. Without going into crazy detail, I’d recommend going through a few of Canva’s basic design tutorials. The font pairing lesson is invaluable to the total beginner.
tinyowlcreative’s fonts include: Libre Baskerville, Source Sans Pro, and Unique. Pairing these three fonts gives us a serif, a san serif, and a beautiful script font to mix and match as we create new assets. By operating within these (still fairly loose) boundaries, we create a brand that is one-of-a-kind and recognizable.
4. Voice and tone
The tone of your brand is everything. This is your voice. It’s how you connect with anyone who finds themselves in your corner of the web. Your voice and tone has already been shaped by the colors and fonts you’ve chosen, but the words you choose to use are in the end whatever you make of them. And I want you to make them magic.
I’ve got to be honest. I could just talk about voice and tone for days because I think it’s so important (very shocking coming from a professional writer, I know). As a copywriter, it’s my job to help a client work through their aspirational language and the way they wish they sounded to help them unearth how they actually do sound, curating that truth into a signature tone unique to them.
That’s a big job. But it doesn’t have to be an intimidating one! I’ve created a special worksheet just for helping you discover your key vocab that you can download by clicking the image below.
For tinyowlcreative, we are very much a values-based business, and our top three are ease, elegance, and intuition. This feeling of and desire for ease permeates all of our copy. Our tone is conversational and relationship focused, the kind of language you’d use when you meet up with a dear friend to talk about life over hot tea. Our brand is a kind of “coming to the table” and when you hear from us, that’s what it will always feel like.
5. A one-liner
Oh, the dreaded one-liner.
For many an entrepreneur, this is the bane of their branding exercise, but really, I think the purpose of a one-liner is often misconstrued. Instead of trying to cram everything and all your whys and hows into one little nugget, what if you used this as an exercise to inspire others to ask more questions about what you do?
I’m not talking about being vague. I’m talking about starting a conversation, leaving room for others to explore more fully what it is you do. And that’s what you want, isn’t it? You really do want an opportunity to open up and talk about your business, but the way it’s often done feels contrite.
So since most guest posts and such come with some sort of byline, it’s prudent to consider how you’d start a conversation with someone if you only had one sentence to do it in. How would you begin that story?
So think about your primary service, who it’s for, and what the essence of your process is. For example:
tinyowlcreative is a lifestyle brand focused on a helping women create sustainable self-care routines to help them handcraft lives they love.
Here’s the breakdown:
tinyowlcreative (who we are) is a lifestyle brand (our function/service) focused on a helping (our goal) women (who we work with) create sustainable self-care routines to help them handcraft lives they love. (our process and value proposition).
This gives us a segway to discuss our opt-in, Tiny Challenges, our books and products, and more depending on who we’re talking to and what they are interested in.
See? A one-liner isn’t scary, and it’s the not the end. It’s really only the beginning of a story.
6. 100-word pitch
Creating a paragraph-long pitch will be easy after distilling your company down into a sentence. This section is meant to be used for speaking opportunities and other outlets where you’ll have a little more space to talk about what you do and how you do it.
At this level of detail, you can include a few more specifics that further target your right people. For the tinyowlcreative pitch, we also added our names because so much of our business comes from previously established relationships. Someone may not recognize the tinyowlcreative brand yet, but they will almost certainly recognize our names.
tinyowlcreative is the collective lifestyle brand of Nina Nelson and Dusti Arab. A haven for the slightly unconventional woman, tiny owl creative is about creating a life you love centered around your values one tiny step at a time. Around here, you’ll notice we value ease, elegance, and intuition – and we infuse those concepts into every project we touch. Sign up for Tiny Challenges, a free 30-day series of self-care-centric emails to help you get closer to the life you want.
Every blog should have a set of conventions. Conventions are the standard choices you make for formatting, spelling, and more. Do you use MLA, APA, or any format? Do you live and die by the Oxford comma? How often do you add headings to your work? How long is a piece on your blog?
This might sound like minutiae, but these are the tiny details that make your brand unmistakable.
- Stick to the AP Style Guide (for the most part)
- Use Oxford commas.
- Single space after a period.
- Break up text to be easily scanned – use headlines, short paragraphs, etc.
- Use first person, active voice.
- Story comes before proper grammar.
8. Founder or CEO bio (usually)
This is the only piece on the list with a real caveat, because not every brand has a CEO who is front and center. Many of the startups I work with opt to have a logo and strong digital presence and avoid having an about page altogether. That said, even if your bio isn’t on your main website, you should still create one in your brand’s style to use across your personal brand channels.
On tinyowlcreative, we have our personal bios with a Tiny Owl flourish because the brand stems so well from our personal sites.
Nina Nelson is one of the most well-known simple living writers online, with her popular blog Shalom Mama focusing on holistic natural wellness and homemaking. She is currently preparing to launch her wellness brand tiny apothecary and adores miniature horses, squishy babies, and making beautiful things.
Dusti Arab is the CEO and Creative Director of thinkCHARM, a boutique business management and marketing agency for coaches and creatives. She currently lives in Portland, OR and loves rainy days at cafes, blues dancing, and reading an exorbitant amount of food writing.
9. Social links
If you can increase your social capital, you should do it. That means anytime or anywhere you can drop a social link, you really ought to do it. From your bios to your byline to your contact page, get social (slight caveat: but only on networks you plan to be active on).
This should go without saying, but all of your brand’s social media should be similar. They don’t need to be identical, and adapting your profile to best suit each platform is necessary. That said, your profiles should all point to the same links, for instance if you’re offering an opt-in of some sort.
No need for an example on this one. Just make sure that next to all of your social links, you include consistent information to spread across your platforms.
Where have you been featured? List your top three or four mentions across the web, and use the social proof judiciously, especially if you’ve got a major one like O magazine, a major tech publication, or a huge blog.
Tip: Speaking of mention, a great way to keep up on your brand across the web is to use Mention, an alert service you can set up to monitor your brand.