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How to brand yourself without spending money

How to brand yourself without spending money | Spruce Rd. #branding #DIY #logo

How to brand yourself without spending money | Spruce Rd. #branding #DIY #logo

If you have a business, or blog, most likely you understand the significance that branding plays in establishing yourself in your field. When done effectively, branding positions yourself as a professional in your industry, conveys your point of view, and attracts potential clients/customers. Beyond that, your brand identity simply puts the icing on the cake of your solid business foundation. I like to think of it as the fun part of setting up shop!

But what can you do if you don’t have the funds to allocate to branding from the get go? There seems to be a hole in the internet surrounding this dilemma. Most designers encourage you to pay the hefty branding cost up front, however I empathize with you and recognize that might not be the best fit, and here’s why.

Avoid costly mistakes

I’ve received several inquiries from clients that are fed-up with their existing branding, and are ready to invest and hire a professional to establish their branding. The story is the same for each of them — they hired a “cheap” designer to create a logo for them, and ended up dissatisfied with the results. This is a problem because they have already established their branding, though ineffectively so, and are now ready to hire someone else to clean it up.

Hear me now: you will end up paying MORE if you hire a cheap designer. The math is simple: cheap design + professional branding > professional branding alone. Avoid costly mistakes and headaches such as this, and hire a professional branding designer.

As a brand identity designer, I would MUCH rather have no branding to work with, rather than an unfitting brand that needs to be cleaned up. The latter is much more difficult, as you want the business to remain consistent in their brand and somewhat cohesive with the existing brand, even though you are rebranding. This poses a problem, as most likely your initial design does not properly reflect your brand in its best light.

Take Action: Don’t hire a cheap logo/branding designer. Instead, wait it out a bit and save up money to properly invest in branding that reflects your vision.

Don’t cut corners

As an entrepreneur, I totally understand keeping your budget in check. Though, I am fully aware of the vision + core values behind Spruce Rd., and I want everything that I publish to breathe my brand. Because of this, I don’t cut corners to meet my short term needs. This is why you shouldn’t purchase a cheap logo. Though it might meet your checklist of purchasing a logo, it is just cutting corners.

Avoid the DIY logo approach

It seems like so many things these days are focused around a do-it-yourself mindset. I love that the internet has empowered each of us to accomplish tasks on our own, without needing to hire out help each time (think Squarespace, WordPress templates, Mailchimp, etc.). With that said, I don’t believe that a logo is necessarily the best for the DIY approach. Though you are creative, you have that artistic eye, and you own Photoshop, you are most likely not trained in the depths of branding. Stick to what you do best instead.

Take Action: Instead of trying to create a logo yourself (I promise it’s not as easy as it seems!), simply pick a clean typeface and type out your business/blog name. This may seem boring to you, but I guarantee you will appear much more professional than others out there who DIY their logo. Once you are ready to invest, your designer will thank you for handing over a clean + simple brand, rather than a mess they have to clean up. Not to mention the uncomfortable conversation that, er… the logo YOU designed yourself is not working. Let’s avoid that confrontation, please!



The branding quick-start checklist

Utilize a website template

Now that you have a simple + typeset “logo”, the next step is to create a website. If you are just getting started, or are testing the waters for your new business/blog, I recommend purchasing a clean + responsive website template. Squarespace offers great templates that are fairly easy to customize. WordPress Genesis themes are also clean, responsive and fairly intuitive.

Stick to the template, and don’t try to incorporate too many artistic effects for the images. Keep it clean + simple. Once again, this may seem boring such as the typeset logo, however this is your best option if you aren’t ready to invest in branding + web design. Through keeping it clean, you not only avoid the headache over designing the images, selecting fonts, or the layout, you also avoid distractions for your audience. Though what you think is a stellar gradient + drop shadow combo on your image, it can actually make you appear unprofessional to your viewer.

Take Action: To avoid this mistake, simply stick to the template and keep it as refined + simple as possible.

When to invest in branding

By now, you might be thinking — Great! Now I know how to DIY my branding, and I never need to hire a designer. If so, you are missing out on a HUGE opportunity in your branding. This is only a temporary solution to branding, and should not be your long-term solution. Your brand identity is often the first impression your business/blog makes on a potential customer/client. It is well worth the investment, to make your branding properly reflect your business vision. Good branding builds trust. I’ve mentioned this before, but when you are searching for a product/service online, don’t you subconsciously rule out the companies that have horrendous branding? The reason you don’t even bother considering those businesses, is that they appear unprofessional and not established in their field. Branding sets you apart from your competition, and shows consumers why they should pursue business with you rather than a competitor.

So when do you make the switch from your typeset logo + template “branding”? The answer to this is different for everyone. I would recommend once you are fully confident in your services + offerings, and have a good grasp on your vision, then you are ready to pursue an investment in branding. Besides technology (computer, phones, printers, etc.), branding is often one of the first investments businesses make. This is because you want to start on the right foot for branding, once you are confident in the direction you want to go.

Invest when you are confident in your vision

I mention confidence in your vision, because so many entrepreneurs shift focus or transition their initial business into something different. I would hate for you to spend a huge chunk of money, and then later regret that investment because you weren’t ready at the time to commit to a particular trajectory. Make sure you understand your business first, and then pursue a branding investment. If you need help clarifying that vision, you can subscribe to my newsletter below to receive a FREE brand vision workbook that walks you through a series of defining questions. A lot of the same questions are in my branding questionnaire for clients, so it is a great first step in defining your business!

Action Steps:

To sum it up, here is what you should do if you aren’t ready to invest in branding:

  1. Type your business name in a clean font (this is your temporary logo)

  2. Build your website utilizing a clean + responsive website template (Squarespace or WordPress Genesis themes)

  3. Clarify the vision behind your brand (download the brand vision workbook in the newsletter below)

  4. Invest in branding once you are confident in your brand vision + business

What do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts on this dilemma of branding without spending money in the comments below.


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  1. Sara Siddique

    Well explained. It’s so important to take time versus diving into something that lacks quality and professionalism. I critique myself on this constantly, since I’ve had an ongoing project for quite some time now that has yet to be launched because the branding is not up to par in my eyes. I really want to master logo design on my own, so outsourcing is an option in the meantime, but I’m leaning towards clean type for now ..or else it’ll be another 5 years before my blog launches.
    Do you have any suggestions for courses or resources that are specifically great for beginner/intermediate logo designing? I’ve found some, but I’m looking for something with an approach that can really stick and help me for my projects, as well as my freelance projects in progress & in the future. If you have any suggestions, I’d love to get your insight.

    All in all, an article worth reading. 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

    1. Jamie

      Hey Sara! So glad you agree, and see the value in professionalism and a clean logo :). I DO have a course to recommend for you, which is my Share-worthy Design course! I am adding a module on branding + logo design, which will partner well with the other lessons on typography, color, illustration, and pattern design. Registration opens early next year, so keep an eye out! In the mean time, there is a free 3-part training for my course on the sign up page. I also recommend the “How to style your brand” book, it is one I really love as well!

  2. Tamara

    This is great advice. A lot of people get stuck because they don’t know what to do if they cannot afford expensive options. You offer some great tips!

  3. Christine

    Thank you so much, Jamie, for the professional insight. I found myself groaning a time or two, realizing I’ve committed a couple of big mistakes, though hopefully not unrecoverable. I’m past due for a makeover and I’ll definitely contemplate all of your excellent advice. Off to brainstorm!

  4. Holly

    I feel you here! I’m in the early stages of setting up my own business and from what I’d read, branding seemed to be one of the first things you had to sort out. But now I think differently. I’m going to get my business fully set up and then invest in branding when I know exactly what’s going on what I’m offering and when I’m ready. In the meantime I’m getting a personalised template created by a designer to make my own blog look more professional. I don’t believe in the DIY aspect of this bit unless you REALLY know what you’re doing. The mistakes can be far worse than expected! This is a great post that will really open up peoples’ eyes.

    1. Jamie

      So glad this post caught you at the right time! I completely empathize with having SO many things on my to-do list when starting a business. It’s nice to realize that you can hold off on the branding investment until you have the ball rolling a bit. An affordable customized template is a great first step in your branding! Thanks, as always, for your insight Holly!

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