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.

Alicia in the land of ceramics

At 5.00 pm the white hilltop town of Ubrique is just beginning to start all over again. During the mid-afternoon heat the locals shut shop and go indoors for lunch. Now, the town is getting ready for the evening. The shops open their doors again and the bars and cafes start to fill with people drinking coffee.

A tree-lined avenue provides shade and a home for the chattering birds. It takes you through the more modern part of town before winding up the hill into the old town. The hustle and bustle of Ubrique is a completely different atmosphere from the tranquillity of the white villages. I drive around trying to find a parking space. I’ve arranged to have coffee with Alicia, the local ceramist.

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I first met Alicia some years ago, in Grazalema at a craft exhibition. She was giving demonstrations on her potter’s wheel. I had always had a desire to learn to throw clay and readily rolled up my sleeves to have a go. Alicia’s patience and never ending cheerfulness were amazing as I clumsily tried to hold my piece of clay in the centre of the wheel. Alicia sat next to me, propping up my lump of clay and rescuing it every time it fell, with her expert hands. It became evident that I would need much more practice when Benjamin sat down for his turn. Within a couple of minutes Alicia had let go of the clay and left him to it, commenting that he was a natural.

I finally park and meet Alicia. We sit down in the busy pedestrianised street. The streets are lined with tables and it takes us a minute to find a spare one.

After ordering our coffee, Alicia tells me her story. I strain to hear over the noise of clinking coffee cups, singing birds, children playing and people talking. It’s hot for the time of year. The heat rises from the pavement which is still warm from the day’s sunshine.

Alicia working on aplate
Alicia at work

In the year 2000 at the age of 33, Alicia started her ceramic course in Cadiz. She’d decided to embark on a new life after a relationship broke up. She had always loved pottery and decided to pursue her passion. Alicia regards her potter’s wheel as active meditation. A connection with herself. She finds it therapeutic.

“I spend hours and hours in the workshop. Time goes by. It could be Saturday or Sunday, but I love it in there.”

Alicia now teaches her skill to others. Her pupils, she tells me, leave her classes feeling relaxed and having enjoyed themselves.

When we have finished our coffee, I accompany Alicia to her studio. She has a three-storey town house. The bottom floor serves as her workshop and display area for clients. She lives on the middle floor and has another apartment with a terrace leading out to a view of the mountains on the top floor. It’s great for anyone who wants to take a course in pottery and needs accommodation.

selection of pots

Miranda, an Australian lady, recently stayed in this apartment. Miranda combined a visit to Spain to learn about the language and the culture with a pottery course. A perfect way to learn the language without having to attend formal language classes. I met Miranda, when I popped in earlier in the week to pick up some bespoke gifts Alicia had designed for the writing retreat. Miranda was having a fantastic time and I was reminded how much fun learning a language is through another activity.

When we arrive at the studio, two of the students are waiting outside. We go inside and they settle down. Even though it’s an adult class, Alicia tries to contact the two that haven’t turned up yet. Her concern for her learners is evident. One of her pupils thinks that one of the ladies has a mother who isn’t well and won’t be coming today. There is clearly a feeling of companionship in this special space. These ladies care about each other. They chat, they share news and offload their problems. They worry about each other, they empathise and they make each other laugh.
group 3 edad

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When I ask why they come to the class, a lady called Inma tells me it’s “Because I love arts and crafts”.
She backs this up with a huge smile before starting work on the tile that she is decorating.

“Which colours would you like?” asks Alicia showing her a tile with a selection of colours.
Inma decides on her colours and sets to work painting the tile she has designed.

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Hand painted celebration plate and personalised thimbles
weding day plate
Bespoke gifts

While Alicia is showing Marta how to make the handle on her mug, the door opens and Teresa bursts in. She chats to everyone as if they were long lost friends, including me. She comes to “get away from the stress in her life” as she finds the classes distract her from the daily tasks of looking after family members. The ladies talk to each other and ask me questions. It’s clear that these classes are a social event as well as a learning opportunity.

I make my way out of the door amongst cries of “come back soon.”

I smile to myself as I walk down the road. I haven’t even picked up a piece of clay and the feeling of wellbeing has been contagious. I make a mental note to do one of Alicia’s courses one day. I just hope she has enough patience.

In case you are wondering, for the handmade gifts on the writing retreat I ordered a bookmark.
bookmarks Alicia
I collect them wrapped up individually in small paper bags ready to go and I generally leave them with the welcome pack for my guests to open when they arrive. For this year’s gift, I have another idea, but that’s a surprise waiting to be revealed.

To see more of what Alicia does, click here:

Alicia’s pottery

pots

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