No, that wasn’t the budget I was working to.
And I definitely wouldn’t consider that small. Now that would be a misleading article title!
That extortionate amount is the potential cost for developing a brand when using an agency to take care of the strategy and design work.
Granted it could be cheaper – there’s a huge range in their really depending on requirements and level of branding skill.
But usually, the less you pay for an expert, the less of an expert you’ll get.
Branding is different to design. Design focuses on the look of things. Branding focuses on the WHY behind the look. Branding includes design, but is also more about psychology than anything else.
I didn’t have that sort of cash.
99% of startups and small businesses don’t have that sort of cash. And to be honest, you don’t need it!
No-one needs to spend $100,000 on creating their brand. Unless you’re a mega corporation and you have so many moving parts, stakeholders and revenue streams.
But then you wouldn’t be here. Reading this. Mildly amused and somewhat intrigued.
No. For startups and small business owners, it’s entirely possible to create an absolutely epic brand for your business for a few pennies and crayons…ok, maybe not that cheap, but almost!
I’m gonna take you through the exact tools and costs I’ve had developing the BRANDSNACK brand (and other businesses I’ve helped) to give you more of an insight into how developing an impactful, focused and powerful brand doesn’t need to cost the Earth!
So let’s begin, shall we? I’m gonna list them from most to least expensive so you can instantly see what’s going to take the most of your budget from the off.
I’ve also split out by one-off payment and ongoing costs, because I like you.
Yup. The logo takes it. And to be honest, it needs it.
Unless you’re a designer by profession, DON’T design your own logo.
You’ll be shooting yourself in the foot more than building a brand!
There’s a hell of a lot that goes into the reasoning, design and psychology behind a logo. It’s also usually the part of your brand design that’s most seen by people.
Don’t waste that exposure with a sub-par logo that you whipped up in MS Paint.
A logo is the one place where I recommend getting a professional in to do the work.
So you’re probably thinking, why are you PAYING for fonts? There are so many free ones available!
This is true.
But if you want to build a top quality brand based around unique design, then you’ll need to buy a professionally designed font – both desktop and webfont licence.
A lot of the free fonts out there are quite frankly rubbish. There are also a lot of Google free fonts around, but they have been used to death. For everything. That they’ve lost their appeal – the good ones anyway! They’ve been used so much that by using them also, you’ll fall into that generic abyss.
You also won’t get the EXACT right font for your business if you don’t pay. You’ll have to settle.
And fonts are important!
The psychology behind fonts and the weight they lend to the meaning and emotion of words is massive!
Video content is the number 1 method of building trust, authority and a higher perceived quality for your brand, products and services.
If you’re not using it, start using it!
Once you do, you’re gonna need simple, powerful software to do some basic editing of your videos. Nothing complex, just a bit of recording, cutting, reordering, adding text, images and sound elements and exporting to file formats of your choice.
Time to get into some hardware!
If you’re gonna be creating branded videos that display your lovely face, then you’re gonna need some good lighting to catch it at its best and make the videos look professional.
There are all manner of kits out there, and usually a 3-point lighting system is best. But when you’re just starting out, an LED panel should be fine.
You’re gonna need a good microphone!
Promo videos, podcasts, webinars, client calls – anything where you’re speaking, you need the sound to be top quality.
Us humans can put up with bad quality video, our eyes compensate for it, but when it comes to bad quality sound, our ears aren’t quite up to the same task. It’ll cause a huge disconnect and annoyance to your audience.
No need for that if you can help it!
It’s also a great idea to get a pop filter. This is a simple material guard that goes around the microphone to lessen unwanted noises from your mouth as you speak, giving a much more professional finish to the sound. Make doesn’t really matter here. They’re all pretty much the same – the cheapest from Amazon should do just fine.
Nothing makes video content more professional, trustworthy and out right sexy than a great logo animation at the beginning (and possibly end).
If done right, it’ll continue to reinforce your brand, maintain visual consistency and scream quality.
Remember though, they don’t need to be long, all guns-blazing affairs (unless that’s what you’re all about). They should be short, unique, simple and impactful – a brief slap to wake people up and take notice before you get into the good stuff!
I know I just said that us humans can put up with bad video quality – but surely you don’t want your audience to ‘put up’ with you? You want your audience to be inspired by you!
If you’re creating any kind of video content, either as part of your product/service, for client communications such as video calls/conferencing, or for sales and marketing purposes, you’re gonna want a good camera.
Now that doesn’t mean expensive.
A great webcam will only set you back $60 and will have everything you need to start up. You can move on to bigger and better later if you really need to, but for 90% of startups and small businesses, a simple webcam will suffice.
Don’t worry about 4k just yet – it’s overkill – a good 1080p HD cam will do wonders for your on-screen smile!
The final piece of all video and audio content – music.
In our brains, we have a very basic, core section of it that filters everything we experience (the amygdala – to get nice and sciency about it all). It asks two questions – is it dangerous and is it interesting? If it finds something to be safe or worth our time, then it gets passed on to our higher brain functions to find out more, to develop a connection with it.
Music has been found to be the only thing that can bypass this primitive core section of our brains – so is a VERY powerful tool!
By selecting the right music that ties in perfectly with your brand and influences a particular response from your audience, you’ll have a much better chance of engaging them earlier and faster.
Music stirs emotions, emotions build connections, and connections lead to trust.
There are millions of amazing, low-cost licence-fee tunes out there. There are also millions of absolutely terrible ones that sound like a 4 year old smashing a Casio keyboard with their face.
So, make sure you choose wisely!
Now these are my little secret. Not that everyone doesn’t know about them, but they’ve saved me a shit load of time and money while getting some amazing results.
Photoshop actions are ‘one-click’ automated processes that can turn any image into pretty much whatever you like. Want to make everything on fire? No problem. Want to transform into a perfect oil painting, charcoal sketch, graffiti masterpiece? Sure. Want to turn a city into a desolate, post-apocalyptic wasteland? I kid you not.
And they’re so cheap!
So beware, you might find yourself buying loads just for the sake of it – I did! And then realised I didn’t need 90% of them for my brand, but they looked cool anyway.
But the one I do use works really well, and at only $6 – it beats getting a designer on board, hands down!
Ok. not strictly part of branding, but a vital platform to communicate with your audience and get your brand out there!
You’ll need something where you can build emails quickly and easily, put them into scheduled sequences and most importantly of all, segment your list!
The more you can segment your audience by their actions – what links they click, what content they read, what guides they download etc., the more you can tailor your messaging towards them.
After all, that’s what branding’s all about – making it personal to the person that you’re speaking to. Directly talking to them to influence their thoughts, desires and behaviour.
Your window to the world!
And the world’s window to you!
Your website is hugely important to the success of your business – whether you trade online or not! It’s the main hub of your brand and is where you welcome your audience and prospective customers into the experience that is you!
It needs to be customisable, it needs to be fast and responsive, it needs to be intuitive. And finally, it needs to be reliable. You need to be 100% sure that your site will be live, no matter what!
As soon as it goes down, your business goes down.
It needs to be flexible enough to work for your business. Do you need a way to display your portfolios? Do you need online booking facilities? Online shopping cart and product catalogue? Or just blog content and downloads?
Make it beautiful. Make it inspiring. Make it work.
Not just a brand tool, but an overall business tool. You’re gonna need a way to write all of your content, keep track of your budgets and create beautiful, outstanding presentations etc.
It needs to be cloud-based. You’re gonna need to have access to all of your files and information no matter where you are, or what device you’re using. It’s also great for backup purposes – their servers are much less likely to die than your laptop.
You’re also gonna need enough online storage for your brand assets. Image and video files can get BIG! So make sure you have a plan that caters for this. Any 1TB option should have you covered for a long time.
Make sure you’ve got a business email address covered (i.e. firstname.lastname@example.org) – much more professional than a gmail or outlook address!
And finally, check the integrations. Does it work with everything you need? Are you relying a lot on Zapier to automate processes for you for example? Make sure it all works together.
So you know how you want your brand to look. Now you just need the tools to make it look that way!
Your brand imagery is your most important visual asset. You need to treat it with respect, and that means using a powerful editor to achieve the unique, quality results you’re after.
If it’s free, there’s most likely a reason.
Don’t get shafted by limited functionality, generic templates and shoddy output.
You don’t need to be an expert digital designer with intricate knowledge of the best design tools, but you do need to have a level of power within the tool to match your creative needs.
Great brands aren’t built in MS Paint.
There’ll be a learning curve, but trust me, once you know the basics, your ability to create amazing looking visuals will soon explode!
So this one’s a little more complicated. I have a .co and a .com address for BRANDSNACK. I would’ve had just the .com, but it was taken when I first set the company up, so I went for the .co. A little down the line however, the .com became available, so I bought it too, but was already using the .co. The .com is now just a redirect.
Therefore I pay a little more than I could be, but it’s good to have both as they’re the two most popular top level domain types.
They’re paid on a yearly basis (and can usually be found with 99c first year intro rates), but usually they come out at about $4/month all told.
There’s a whole strategy on getting the right domain name for your business – and I’ll save that for another time, but they’re a necessity.
Without one, you can’t have a proper business website or email address that’s unique to your brand.
I wasn’t sure whether to include this one or not.
To register a business here in the UK, it costs £12/year. It’s the first (and most boring) step of starting a business, but is also nonetheless a branding cost (just…).
So there it is.
It will most likely differ from this country to the next, but worth keeping in mind.
And the rest? What about your photography – images, filters? What about icons and backgrounds, shapes and textures etc? Additional fonts? Social media scheduling?
No need to pay for them! There are so many incredible free resources out there – use them!
I also stole my laptop, office desk and chair off the back of a lorry – so no need to worry about those…
And a final honourable mention in this section to BuzzSumo. An insane research tool that lets you see the hottest content in your industry and who’s producing it. Pricing usually starts at $99, but when starting out with your brand, you can sign up for a free 14 day trial to get most of the info you’ll need.
Once you’re in a position to afford it however, I highly recommend you do – very useful as you move forward and create tons of great content for your brand.
If you’re anything like me, you would’ve gotten to the end of this post and thought,
“Oh right, so I’ve gotta go right back to the top and add all of those up, do I?”
I’ve read a lot of posts like that before – incredibly infuriating!
I won’t do that to you…
So how’s that compared to $100,000? Somewhat more manageable?
As a startup or small business, that $100,000 is the top, top end, but you’d still be looking at around $20,000 for an agency to kick off a small, basic brand for you, easily!
And you wouldn’t get any of the hardware or platform subscriptions in that!
That’s literally just the design assets!
A BIG brand is entirely possible with a small budget!
“It’s not how big it is, it’s how you use it that counts.”
Wise words from my wife.
How do those costs stack up against what you thought?
Anything in there that’s come as a surprise?
Any other great tools and resources you currently use or know about and would recommend?
Let us know in the comments below!