Standing out online is one of the best things you can do for your brand in the digital age — and that starts with understanding how visual signals resonate. Here’s the classic misconception: Your website, logo, photos, and even your systems are not your brand — your business cards are not your brand, and neither are your products or ideas. The reason clients hire you is that they trust that you’re the right person to solve their important business problem.
But, the challenge is that people are skeptical by nature — they look for patterns and seek confirmation of their intuition, proving that they are, in fact, good consumers who have good taste in things. They need social proof that you are who you say you are. That’s why past client referrals are so powerful — it’s someone’s personal reputation being used as collateral to vouch for you, virtually eliminating need to do the hard task of proving your positioning through vigorous emotional work.
But, how can we build that same caliber of trust without a glowing referral or a personal connection? If we agree that trust is the currency that’s most important in order to secure new, valuable clients, how are we meant to establish that?
Visual identity effectively builds trust.
The visuals that surround you (read: your brand) are what confirm trustworthiness, and pique curiosity in why you’re different from the competition.
You might be the most qualified, experienced expert in your field, with years of brilliant work and a portfolio that should “speak for itself” — but if your visual identity doesn’t align with that level of quality, and the outward-facing expression of your values is not concrete, new clients will not trust you, and therefore, will not hire you.
Inversely, you might feel like the biggest fraud that your industry’s ever seen, trying to compete with established companies with full marketing teams and a catalog of client references.
A proper visual identity can elevate the perception of your clients so that you’re just as viable a solution as the competition, and likely an even better fit because your brand is different, interesting, and novel. In other words, your visuals compel clients to see you as a specialist.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t other factors in how clients perceive you, such as: your marketing copy, the way you dress in meetings, the space you work from, or even your greeting in emails. Everything has a part to play.
But, I will argue that the most important part of developing your brand is discovering your visual identity — working from a place of confidence and strength as you interface with the other parts of your brand, and growing the vision that you desperately need to share with the world.
The Current State
More than likely, you’ve gotten by with the visuals that you whipped-up at the start of your business — your logo might have been designed by a family friend, and same with the website… and that’s nothing to be embarrassed or discouraged by! If anything, say a metaphorical “thank you” to those pieces of your brand, as they’ve helped you get to where you are today.
But, you’re no longer just starting out. You’ve made a name for yourself, and are progressing beyond what your initial visual identity can sustain…
Your visual identity vitally shapes the way your brand exists in the world, and magnifies the unique, meaningful difference that your brand is built on — be bold enough to let go of the visuals that got you “here” in order to manifest the brand that will get you “there”.
I implore you, don’t let feelings of insecurity trap your motivation! Your clients desperately need what you have, and it’s your job to ensure that they’re able to find, trust, and employ your brand.