But before we can worry about how we’re going to tackle this disconnect, we have to figure out how to shape the foundation from which we anchor all of our actions.
Namely, how we can create a strong foundation for a brand vision that empowers growth in a meaningful and measurable way.
When it’s a lone-wolf charge, it can be challenging to gain the needed perspective to navigate the branding process effectively. We’re often too close and too attached to desired outcomes to gain the necessary space.
I’ve experienced this firsthand with every solo creative project or business I’ve launched in the last seven years.
For me, creating a strong foundation was a process of trial and error.
When I started to pursue a side gig as a freelance copywriter many years ago, I spent nearly five months fumbling through a bloated planning process, tweaking and polishing ideal services and processes on paper. By the time I launched the business, I had built up so much tension and expectation that the pressure of delivering on all of these ideas nearly killed it.
Flash forward to today and the process looks very different. I work lean with a minimal framework of processes and systems to create intentional limitations and keep me locked in. This helps ensure that I deliver value, but provides enough wiggle room to meet every client’s unique needs so that I don’t deliver cookie-cutter solutions.
In this particular case, I spent just a few weeks on the branding process. I let go of worrying about the perfect presentation or polish and instead focused on getting aligned with the core of how I serve my clients.
The brand vision for any solo creative is about intimately knowing who you serve, why you serve them, and how you serve them. And by intimate, I mean truly digging deep—beyond surface-level market research or generic branding exercises—to what it really takes to build the foundation for a business that people can connect with.
For me, this is the alignment of meaning, value, and action.
It is the anchor that has served as a beacon throughout my growth process—a critical linchpin where everything tangible that I create flows from.
Your vision is purely subjective. You get to shape it, but you also decide whether you stay aligned with it based on your decisions.
Meaning is a bit nebulous to grasp through the lens of a prototypical branding process, so I approach this first question by reflecting on what drives me to get out of bed every morning and get to the desk, especially on days when I don’t feel like it.
For me, this is the opportunity to contribute and to shape the work I do each day in a way that aligns with my values and dictates how I want to appear in the world.
One of the biggest mistakes is assuming that we just have to get in front of people to attract their loyalty and business. This is where the value piece of this alignment will help you build a road map for both brand vision and the path to long-term growth.
Value is all about the “how” that exists at the intersection of market need, your expertise, and what you do to meet the identified need.
Everything you do as a solo business is then filtered through the lens of, “How does this help my people achieve their goals or solve a defined challenge?”
Action at this stage is not about defining your daily tasks, but outlining the macro view of the repeatable actions and processes that will align daily priorities with the first two.
What are your pillars of growth? Is it inbound, affiliate, relationships and referrals? Will you create products, or focus on consulting services? How will you create content that connects need with solution and builds relationships?
The point isn’t to define exactly what you’re doing when you’re doing it (tactics), but to define the overall picture of how you’re going to deliver the value you defined.
Start with an audit of your website, social media, analytics, and existing processes. If you’re just beginning, focus on auditing a few similar businesses in your niche. The goal is to focus on identifying common patterns in how you (or they) communicate with customers so that you can surface any gaps or disconnect between the three components of your vision.
Once you’ve identified a few opportunities for improvement, analyze the underlying context of these patterns. What kind of conversations do you naturally gravitate to and really show up in? What common questions are people asking and how might you tailor your content/products and services to answer them?
Digging deeper here should help you begin to really identify how to best serve people based on the direction you established in the branding process.
This should be the foundation of your core growth strategy going forward—specifically, a career growth strategy that is built on a strong vision that dictates what you prioritize in content creation, product development, social media, etc.
This also ensures that everything you create—every idea, strategy, product, piece of content—contributes to evolving that vision from concept to a living, breathing brand and a sustainable solo business.
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