Today’s Biz Ladies post comes from Andrea Baxter, owner of Bratface Marketing and co-founder of Smart Cookies, which was created in early 2007 after an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Bratface Marketing is a boutique marketing firm with a focus on franchise organizations, start-ups and mid-sized companies in all industries. The Smart Cookies have gone on to publish two best selling books (Random House), hosted their own TV show and more.
Andrea offers some experienced guidance and knowledge on how to brand your business on a budget. She shows us how to build a logo and a website, acquire a legal team, and grow your business . . . all on a shoestring budget! Thanks Andrea for this extremely helpful post! — Stephanie
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If there is one thing I’ve learned over the past four years as an entrepreneur it’s that you can start a business with very little money, no matter what people tell you. Obviously, it’s smart to have some money saved up, but when it comes to the money you have to spend in order to get your business up and running, the costs can be fairly minimal!
I have always loved branding, so when it came to branding my own business, I was excited and eager to get my hands dirty. I had a very specific idea in mind for my company name (Bratface Marketing) and I knew that I wanted to position my company as being a little bigger than it actually was without coming across as too corporate looking, so I was willing to make a small investment.
It is important to understand what branding really means, as often there is a misconception of its true definition. In short, branding is the specific identity of a product, service or business. This goes far beyond just creating a great logo and choosing Pantone colors. Business branding encapsulates everything the business stands for: how you market your products or services, how your staff treats customers and handles customer service issues, how your website looks and reflects the brand and how you communicate to the masses. It’s one of the most important things in which you can invest for your business, and I can show you how to do it on a shoestring budget. (Psssst . . . and it isn’t that hard!)
Logo & Identity Package
Let your creative juices flow! This is where you can have the strongest influence on your brand’s identity. And depending on whom you’re working with, it’s very important to be vocal, firm and clear about your brand’s core values, vision and goals. How do you want to represent your brand visually? What colors resonate with you and best represent the service or product you are selling? For Bratface Marketing, I wanted something cheeky, but not too cheeky because I wanted people to take me and my business seriously. I also wanted a color that I loved and one that represented the Bratface name, so red and black it was. Working with my designers was crucial to achieving the final product. Be hands-on and involved in how things are laid out on various applications (collateral, stationery, etc). When it comes to money, you don’t have to spend a fortune as many people do. I spent $400 on my entire branded package, which included my logo design, letterhead, business card design, envelopes and complete brand package (all file formats like JPEGs, Vector, Photoshop and Illustrator files) and finally, the Pantone and HTML color codes for my website. I used a small, start-up design company that I had used before and knew had reasonable prices. Plus, I like to support small businesses.
Another alternative, which I use for a lot of my clients who are rebranding, are companies like CrowdSpring or 99Designs. They are both online creative services agencies that offer logo and website design, company name development, product design and writing services. These companies are lifesavers, because the intention behind their creation was to allow smaller business to tap into a global pool of creatives and designers. Logo design can start off as cheap as $200, $300 for logo and stationery design and up to $600 for a small website design. Brilliant!
Spending a fortune on websites is another misconception within the business community. I often hear of people who receive bids from companies to create their websites for $15,000 and up (and that’s on the cheap side!) and wonder how the heck they will come up with this money. Well, you don’t have to. The web itself has created great opportunities for people to find alternative and more affordable ways to build websites. I’m not gonna lie — you should know something about websites and how to post articles and images and change content through the back-end, but it’s not as hard as you think.
Websites like WordPress and Intuit have dominated the website creation category. As the most popular option, WordPress is free and allows you to easily choose a theme or format you like. You just post and upload the info on your site and you decide how simple or complicated you want to get. Or, if you are more experienced in coding and design, you can basically redesign their platforms to look like an expensive website. Intuit costs money, but it’s still rather inexpensive, priced as low as $4.99/month! One third and final option is a cool company in Vancouver, BC, called CityMax. Not only is this company great at what they do, but they thrive at customer service and have a wickedly fun culture so everyone is happy and it shows (I should know, I’ve been to their offices). Plus, their services go beyond web design. For just $19.95/month you get a website domain (your website address), web hosting and web design, as well as features like online payments, editing capabilities and so much more! Whichever route you choose, these companies provide you with a fully functional site with tons of features you can take advantage of for very little money.
As my business has grown, there are many things I have needed help with but could not afford to pay someone for. Interns are a great way to have someone help you out on various projects for a short period of time or, if you want someone for the long haul. I found my intern through a friend who referred her to me. But I also took to the social media masses to let everyone and anyone know that I was looking. I posted an ad on my website with the full job description. Word can get out much faster and allows you to get the job done much quicker! Also, look into some of your local community colleges and technical schools. Often, students must complete an internship to earn their diploma/degree. These are unpaid internships that can last up to four months, depending on their program requirements. Plus, you can apply for an intern with very specific skills (marketing, communications, public relations, etc.). The only work you have to do is training them and providing them with feedback on their performance to their instructors.
People can spend a lot of money on traditional stationery. Luckily with everything now available online and electronically, this means you don’t have to spend a fortune on printing costs. Once I had my brand established, I was really careful as to the stationery I chose to print. Business cards were by far the most important, and this is where I spent the money, only because you need them to connect and network with people. Plus, they will always get used and you won’t waste your money having them collect dust on your bookshelf. One way to save money is to make your letterhead electronic. Have a standard shell created that you can use in a Word document with your logo and contact info on it, and just print it out on a blank piece of paper. This way you aren’t spending money on getting letterhead actually printed — it will save you a ton of money over the long term. Also, because I operate a small business, I email all of my invoices to clients, so there’s no need for printed envelopes. That is something you can revisit once the need arises and as your business grows substantially. Plus, it’s better for the environment.
In total, I spent under $200 to have 500 business cards printed. Keep in mind that when it comes to printing, the greater the quantity printed, the lower the unit costs. Often, it can be more costly to print smaller quantities.
Last but not least (but definitely the least fun), is the legal and accounting side of your business. Unfortunately, getting all of your legal work done is hard to do on the cheap as there are set fees for incorporation, trade marketing and registering. However, you can keep the costs down by being very frank and honest about your budget. Don’t be afraid to question any invoices you receive, as well. Make sure your lawyers are not spending a lot of time working on things that are not important for your business at the time. Make a list of the immediate “must haves” and read your invoices thoroughly to ensure there aren’t any miscalculated costs.
Accounting is another area where you have to spend money, but that doesn’t mean you have to go out and hire the best that money can buy. I have been able to use my bookkeeper as my accountant. She does my personal taxes every year and can also manage my business taxes. Their costs are much cheaper, and until you are an incorporated business with more complicated taxes, you can get away with using a bookkeeper in the interim.
I am always interested in hearing how other entrepreneurs have started and operated their businesses affordably, so please share your stories with me! You can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can find me on Twitter at @andreabaxter or @bratfacemrktg.