Freedom, Vanilla, Customers and Story: 4 things that changed my perspective on branding

Lidia D at her workshopOver the last few years, whilst being self-employed, I have struggled with building a client profile and in the process, I’ve become allergic to the word “niche”. I don’t know how many times I’ve wished it would go out of fashion. It’s not that I don’t understand the concepts. I totally get it. As a teacher, I specialised in my subjects with learners coming to me to gain the skills required to pass specific examinations. I just couldn’t apply this to what I wanted to do when thinking about it from a business perspective.

Since changing from a monthly salary as a teacher to the ups and downs of the freelance world, I’ve had a lot to learn. There’s been plenty of advice about choosing the ideal client and giving out a clear message.

While I’ve always understood on the surface what to do, it never really fell into place until the day I was sitting in Lidia’s Drzewiecka’s workshop listening to Lidia talk about branding. In one of those moments of inspiration, fuelled by Lidia’s knowledge and perspective, it all became clear.

Not only have I gained more clarity around what I want to do, but I also feel that I could set up another business, describe an ideal client and create a message, colour scheme and brand essence for that company.

Have I suddenly turned into a female entrepreneur overnight? I think not.

Here are the four of the things that helped me gain that clarity:

1. The freedom to see things differently

I realised that Lidia’s skill has freed me up to see things differently. I’ve become detached. My focus has shifted from internal to external.

One of the first things Lidia said in her workshop was

“Branding is not about you, it’s about your customer”

I can relate this to teaching and learning – it’s the same. Teaching and training is not about the teacher, it’s about the learners. I have applied this philosophy thousands of times to workshops and the classroom, but it had never occurred to me to apply it to my freelance career. I was too busy focusing on my own doubts and worries.

2. Your branding should never be ‘vanilla’

Lidia explained that branding should either attract or repel people. In other words, if people think your website is ‘okay’, you’ve got work to do! Your branding is the way you show up – the visual connection you make with your clients.  People buy the experience they get and branding helps you influence that experience. If your brand isn’t clearly defined, there’s nothing for people to connect with and therefore they are less likely to buy.

3. Turn your story into your brand

Lidia started off the day by telling us her story and journey and the mistakes she has made on the way. She cleverly combined her story into the rest of the day’s learning. When she wanted to highlight certain things she referred back to her ‘mistakes’ demonstrating how to improve.

Branding with Lidia at Visuals
Branding workbooks

It’s this honesty that warms you to Lidia and defines her own brand. She’s authentic and genuine. She’s made mistakes and is not afraid to share that. She was that ‘quirky’ photographer in the luxury wedding market, wondering why couples weren’t buying her services when her photos were fantastic quality. She admitted that she was looking for customers in the wrong place. At the time, she didn’t match what the luxury market client was looking for. She was fun and quirky, not luxury. This openness on Lidia’s part made me feel okay about my lack of branding. I relaxed and opened up to learning.

4. Your branding belongs to your customers

Until I started to write this article, I hadn’t realised what an enormous effect Lidia’s way of looking at branding has had on me. Take this, for example: I recently posted a photo on Instagram. A friend rightly pointed out that it looked like a holiday snap and gave me some tips on using filters, reminding me in the process that what I publish online represents my business. I was grateful for the advice. However, after reflecting on it, I began to think it’s actually the other way round. In other words, what we post online, needs to represent our customers, not ourselves. I now need to take a look at the message potential customers are picking up when I post. What do they want to see and hear? This will take some time, but I know it will be worth it long-term. Forgive me, if for some of you that’s old news, but without Lidia’s input, it may have taken me a while to work that out.

Lidia’s passion for helping people to get this right is clear. She’s professional, fun and brimming over with insights, knowledge and experience that make working with her a relaxed but productive experience

How I ended up on this workshop

For a while, I’ve known that my online presence needs a turn around and have approached a few website designers for advice.  Recently, I came across an advert for a workshop called ‘Defining your Brand’. Lidia Drzewiecka was looking for a blogger to participate in her workshop in exchange for a review. I contacted her and before I knew it, I was signed up for the workshop.

What we did on the workshop

Exploring brand identity
Exploring brand identity

The workshop was divided into three sessions of 90 minutes with a break for refreshments and another for lunch. Lidia worked us through our brand value, identity and positioning giving us examples and showing us  how to stand out.

Two things that stood out for me

Apart from Lidia’s knowledge in her subject area, there were two other things that clearly stood out for me.

1. Lidia’s research on her clients

Before attending the workshop, we had exchanged emails and had a chat on the phone. Lidia had already checked out my websites and I was impressed by this.

At the workshop it became clear that Lidia had researched all the attendees and knew something about everyone’s products and services. I loved this personal touch and know that it’s not common. It meant that Lidia not only had dedicated time prior to the workshop to us all, but was also able to make references to our businesses and provide specific insights to all of us throughout the day.

Lidia had researched all the attendees and knew something about everyone’s products and services.

#2. Lidia’s ability to visualise a brand

Lidia has an amazing capacity to visualise a brand. I felt that she was taking our websites off the page and helping us to see our brand identity as if it were 3D. The effect this has had on how I now see my business has been amazing.

 So, what has changed? notebook Lidia D

I’ve realised that while I haven’t yet consciously set out to apply my learning, my subconscious has been working on it ever since I attended the workshop. I’ve started to become more aware of how businesses are sending messages out to their clients, rather than just focusing on what they are sending. I’ve been more conscious about my audience when I write, who I want to work with and what I can help with.  (Oh! Is that my niche?  🙂 )

In short, Lidia’s workshop has changed the way I think about my work, my clients and what, as well as how, to share with them. I have the freedom to look at it from a different perspective and can clearly see where my online presence needs improving.

I’m still reeling from the effect this workshop has had on me and I now realise that it’s part of Lidia’s skill. Somehow I feel like I have gained far more than the exchange rate.

I gained clarity, a sense of freedom with regards to perspective and the ability to clearly define an ideal client.

Find out more

If you are looking for help defining your brand identity in order to attract more clients, Lidia’s workshop might be a great starting point for you.

You can find out more about Lidia’s workshops and how to work with her and her amazing team here: Visuable

Disclaimer: I was invited to Lidia’s workshop in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

My big hairy avocado goal: setting goals and blogging

This week I spent a lovely morning at Bakesmiths in Bristol with business coach Linda Davies-Carr at her workshop on goals; Review Refresh Revive

When Linda first advertised this workshop as ‘a half way through the year review session’, I realised with a surprise that the year was almost half way through and I still hadn’t achieved many of my goals as a writer. It’s easy to go off track and get caught up in the other things going on life. So, I signed up for the workshop realising that this was an opportunity to recover my motivation.

One of the first things Linda asked us to do was complete a form with questions about our business. The first question asked if we have a business plan. As a retreat organiser, I have a business plan. However, as a writer I don’t have one. An ‘Aha moment’ came as I realised that I have not been paying attention to my writing goals. Actually, I wasn’t even sure what those goals were. So, it’s no wonder I don’t write as many blog posts as I’d like to; I am not taking myself seriously. I teach others to set goals using the wheel of life as part of wellbeing courses, but I clearly am not walking my talk in this area of my life.

So, why are goals important anyway?

Procrastination seems to be a popular word nowadays and ‘finding time to write’ is a common complaint among writers and business owners who write a blog. One of the great advantages of having a coach to help you set goals, is that you have someone you are accountable to. You set a goal with your coach, decide how best to achieve it, let your coach know what action you will take and then report back with your results. Not only do you not want to let your coach down, but you also feel motivated, so you get on and do it. Besides, it’s embarrassing telling your coach that you didn’t do it because the dog ate your notes, or whatever excuse we use. Setting goals helps to keep you going in the right direction. It gives you clarity. Your goals motivate you when you get stuck or can’t remember what you were supposed to be doing. They help you deal with overwhelm and create a strategy in your work.

The big hairy avocado goal

Linda talked about having a big hairy audacious goal (which I later misread as a big hairy avocado goal in my notes) and having smaller goals that you can tick off.

She suggested that we set thirty day, sixty day and ninety day goals as well as twelve month goals and five year goals. If you are thinking ‘I don’t have time for that’, Linda also pointed out that for every minute we spend planning, we later save ten minutes in execution.

The big hairy goal is usually the one you are working towards long-term. Whether that’s to own a boat and navigate the world, to write a book, to own a beautiful home, to set up a charity or to earn a five-figure income from your blog. It’s the dream-big one.

Take action

Linda repeated the importance of acting immediately. So, after the workshop I set about writing my goals as a writer. I’ve committed myself to writing two blog posts a week for my own blog, a guest post once a month for other blogs and to write two articles a month that I can sell. Each goal has a deadline, a list of things I can do to achieve it and three things that I can do to move me towards that goal. It was exciting to see my goals taking shape as I planned how to achieve them. I have also set myself a financial goal. And, of course a goal to write a business plan for my freelance writing career. Now I have posted this online, I also have to be accountable to you, lovely reader or, alternatively, find a blog-eating dog and attempt to deny all knowledge of any goals. In other words, it will now be hard to let you down. Not only do I feel motivated, but I’ve also made a commitment.

Make goal setting fun

Make it creative. Sit somewhere inspiring, get yourself a drink and plenty of water to keep hydrated, put on some music, create a vision board, use different colour pens, buy yourself a special notebook, use coloured paper, whatever makes it enjoyable for you. Find someone to help you gain clarity whether that’s a brainstorming session with a friend or a coaching session. Writing your goals down provides a visual reminder of what you need to do. Many experts believe that writing goals down has a powerful effect. Check out Brian Tracy to find out more. Make sure you can see your goals every day. Linda’s advice is “do something towards your goals every day to keep up your momentum”.

Now I’m accountable to you, dear reader

So, will goal setting as a travel and personal development blogger help me to take myself seriously? In other words, will I write more blog posts? I’m hoping you will be able to see for yourself by watching my blog grow week by week. I don’t want to let you or myself down, so I have set dates on my calendar for each goal that I have set myself. I also don’t want to let my personal coach down – she has worked hard with me to help me gain clarity and create a vision of where I want to be with my writing career. I have my goals written down in a pretty notebook – there’s one on each page and today I brainstormed where I want to be in five year’s time. I feel motivated and in the last few days I have been far more productive as I look at my goals and get to work on them. And guess what? It feels good.

I hope this article has been useful and would love to hear your comments in the box below.