One of my very favourite things is to get a sneak peek of something - whether it’s something new that’s coming out with my favourite online tools or communities, or getting to have a sneaky peek behind the scenes of someone else’s business.
There’s something magical about getting to see an insight into how other people are running their businesses, and what you can learn from other’s experiences.
So - I’m starting my own monthly reviews! This one’s running a few days late as I only decided to start doing these at the very end of January, but my plan is to publish a review of each month this year and beyond.
My hope is that I can share an honest insight into what it’s like to run an online business alongside disability and living with chronic illness, and all the highs and lows that come with it. The plan is to be very much like my email newsletter, In the Weeds - so if you like these reviews, you’d love my email musings as well.
Heads up - this month’s is a longer than planned review, with it being my first I wanted to add a bit of extra background 🤓
As always, I’d love to know what you think so if there is any feedback that you might have feel free to pop me a quick email.
January’s typically, for me, are quieter months. I usually spend my couple of week’s off over Christmas working on some form of creative project and then come back, easing into client work and my own projects like my courses and resources here at Beyond Ink.
This January though was far fuller than I’d realised - many client projects and ongoing support that was needed, and lots of little client projects were finishing up. In the end, I’d decided to take my Christmas completely off all project! Instead, I focused on resting up and giving myself a good week to start reflecting on the year that had passed. This is something I normally try to cram into a couple of days, and it felt really dreamy to give myself a good chunk of time to reflect on the past year and start thinking about what I wanted to do this year.
I also realised that I needed a better structure to my weeks. Due to ongoing back & neck issues that I’ve had for the last few years, my GP had placed me on some new meds that they hoped would help with my chronic pain levels. The downside to those meds is that they severely started to impact my fatigue levels. Over the last few months, my routine had gone to pot and I was struggling with the old ideal week routine I had set for myself.
Creating a new structure to what my “ideal week” looks like meant also carving out extra time for myself in the form of dedicated time for learning and taking action on the (cough many cough) courses I’ve purchased. I also started to add in extra time for creativity (whatever that looks like for me - at the moment, it’s physical abstract art painting).
This new routine really helped me ease into the year, though I realised one thing was missing: downtime and rest. I’d fallen (yet again) into the habit of trying to stuff time into every single spare moment of my week. I’ve since adjusted it to give myself a bit more breathing room, and I’m finally feeling like my routine is getting back on track.
While I fell in love with quarterly planning a few years ago - where you only focus on planning one quarter a time - one of the things that I realised last year is that due to my unpredictable health & chronic illnesses, I needed to have at least a loose idea of what I wanted to accomplish in a year.
Last year, I felt like I lost so many months to severe & genuinely debilitating pain and chronic illness symptoms, and I wanted to avoid that as much as possible this year. But the issue with quarterly planning is that in reality, it’s quite a short period of time - and I was finding myself flailing each quarter, unable to figure out what I had planned or when would be best to plan things.
I launched Beyond Ink towards the end of 2020, after a tumultuous year for everyone around the world. Last year, it felt like I was really creating the roots for this brand and business, and what I want it to become. In reality, I realised only recently when a friend mentioned it - I’m working through my own process that I’m here to teach! And it feels great to be putting into practice everything I believe in and want to help others with in their own brands and businesses.
As a result, I realised that this year I really want to make sure that the foundations of what I want to bring to life with Beyond Ink are created, launched, and out in the world. I’ve no doubt that this will feel like it’s before I’m ready in more ways than one! But my plan is to then be able to focus on the other things that will help make this business more sustainable - in both time & energy - in the second half of the year.
So this year, I’ve decided to have a loose plan for the year, and then my quarterly planning focuses on taking action towards bringing specific projects to life within those next three months - and then I’ll rinse and repeat that structure at least until Quarter 3 of this year.
I first bought Jamie’s course in the summer of 2020, but have never quite felt like I had the confidence to start. Seeing Jamie talk more on her Instagram about her upcoming book, and also just sinking into her recent posts... it reminded me that
This year, my word of the year is “magic” - I talked more about why on Instagram - and this year, I also want to cultivate a real feeling of self-trust that I feel I’ve struggled with in the last few years. I decided to pick up Jamie’s course again, and within the first module was reminded why I was so called to it in the first place.
I’m still in the early stages of working through the course, but can’t wait to see how my self-trust grows as I move through to the other side of it.
If you’ve known me for any length of time, you’ve probably heard me chatting at some point about Wandering Aimfully. I’ve followed Jason & Caroline (who are the founders & coaches behind WAIM, which is the nickname we’ve lovingly all given it) for years and when the chance came to join WAIM several years ago I jumped at it. I was one of the very first pre-orders for WAIM, which has now evolved into what you see today, which is a coaching program for intentional business owners.
For the last couple of years, every month there has been a monthly coaching session and for January they switched it up a bit and we got to all project plan together 🤓 I absolutely LOVE this stage of a project, where there’s the fresh energy and excitement for bringing a project to life, so I was in my ELEMENT.
I don’t make time for many community calls, but I always make time for the monthly WAIM call because it’s one of my favourite places in the world. (PS - Spring 2022 enrolment for WAIM is just around the corner, but if you want to sneak in at any point [let me know](mailto:email@example.com?Subject=WAIM!) because I have a secret checkout link that can be used at any time!)
This should proooobably be in February’s review, but since it officially started on Jan 31 - and this review is over a week late 😂 - I’m going to include it here! I’m a person that has taken maaany, many courses over the years - and I’ve also been the creator of a few too! But one of my bugbears about online courses is that SO many courses lack a lot of substance. Instead of impactful courses that give you a real transformation, so many online courses instead leave you lacking or no better off, not learning anything new.
Vix Meldrew has been chatting a lot about this online and I’ve been nodding vigorously along, so when she announced she was going to run a 5-day long workshop series I knew that I was IN. Over 5 days, I felt everything from validated and encouraged to excited and challenged. It was incredibly reassuring to see that my care and attention in the ways that I structure my courses mattered, but it also gave me so many new ideas and improvements that I can continue to add in.
I really care about my courses being impactful, honest, helpful, and to do that takes a lot of care - you can’t just throw a course together and hope for the best. The whole week of workshops gave me so much food for thought and showed me the ways I can improve what I have, and I’m so bloomin’ excited to start implementing! This workshop series was by far one of the best things I’ve ever invested in, and I’m so grateful I was able to learn so much from Vix that I can put into action myself.
This wouldn’t be a monthly review if I couldn’t shout about the tech & tools that I use on a daily basis to bring it all to life! I’m planning on writing a series of articles this year all about my absolute faves, but here’s what I use to run my business on a day-to-day basis:
I use Notion as a project planner, task manager, content calendar, and for SO many other things. If it isn’t in Notion, it doesn’t get done!
I LOVE FLODESK. I love the flexibility that comes with Flodesk and how well-branded I can make the emails. (PS If you use my affiliate link to sign up, I get a small commission and you get 50% off your plan for your first year!)
I’ve loved & used Teachery as long as I’ve been a WAIM member, and I adore it. I use it for everything from courses to making my client experiences better!
I use Square over everything else for all of my client services. They’ve also recently introduced contracts and bookable packages, meaning I can use it for all sorts of client services stuff! (PS - If you sign up to Square through my affiliate link, we both get £1000 free of processing fees!)
I adore a good user experience, and the folks at LemonSqueezy are incredible. EU VAT and all taxes are covered for you, and they make it ridiculously easy (as lemon squeezy! 🍋😂) to set up your online products & sell them online.
I’m launching my client & customer group over on Circle in February, and plan to use it as the community platform for all of my courses and - sneak peek alert! - something new that’s coming later on this year.
Privacy as both a consumer and business owner is really important to me, so I use Fathom as my analytics of choice across all my websites. (PS If you use my link, you get $10 off your first payment!)
I have been a long-time user of 1Password and I think online security is so blummin’ important. I use this to store all my business passwords, and ensure that they are secure and can be easily reset. I can’t shout enough good things about this, and their newest versions of the apps are just sublime 😍
I use Loom for SO many video-related things in my business! I use them to send quick videos to clients, I use it to record all of my course videos, and I also use it to host existing videos recorded elsewhere. The videos are easily branded on their Pro plan, with captions included by default on all videos. They also recently brought in the ability to edit the captions on the videos & to export a transcript of the video content as well!
I use Zapier for so much in my biz! It’s what I use to connect all the little tech bits & bobs together, like connecting my LemonSqueezy purchases to Flodesk and Circle.
This is what powers my emails & I use it for file storage via google drive, google docs & sheets as well.
I’m a recent convert to Voxer, a fab little messaging app that I use to catch up with business friends!
I’ve only recently started diving into the world of Figma, but it’s fast become my go-to. I’m exploring how to use it with designing branding as well - very excited for this!
Despite other one-off apps being available, I love my Adobe Creative Cloud - it works brilliantly for a lot of the work I do, and I plain prefer it over other alternatives for things like my PDF guide designs! Plus, I love Lightroom for all my photo editing.
I use Fontbase to manage my font installs across multiple devices. It’s beautiful to look at & works really well!
I use Dropbox mainly to help my sync my Fontbase files across devices as I use Google Drive for all other file storage!
I get a looot of emails and Missive is the most beautiful email client I’ve found for Windows. I work between two Windows devices, and a whole suite of Apple equipment (iPhone, iPad and MacBook!) and it’s the only app that has the same beautiful experience across each device.
So if you’re anything like me, you love a good sneak peek 🤓 I love getting to see what’s coming up - so here’s a little sneak peek for you! For me, February is all about starting to take action on the goals and projects I have for this year. While January was setting the scene, planning out specific dates, project milestones, and goals... February is taking action and starting to bring them to life.
Also - a far ahead sneak peek coming, but 2022 is the year I celebrate TEN years in business for myself! There have been many moments that I wanted to give up, and I’m so proud to be so close to such a huge milestone. I’m planning something huge for September when this hits - so keep an eye out!
I started last December by doing something I never thought I'd do... I took a social media detox and took the whole month off Instagram! 😱 Social media has always been a bit of a battle for me. I love social media as a place to cultivate friendships - and it's helped me organically grow my business through the last decade.
And I can't even put into words how much I love the space and the community I've been cultivating over on my Instagram for the last few years! But as I watched the snow fall here in Manchester at the end of November, I realised how much stress Instagram - and social media in general - had been causing me.
I've had wild thoughts over the last year about quitting Instagram and social media altogether! Seeing how incredible online business owners like Michelle & Aimee of Secret Owl Society quit Instagram and Facebook as social channels has sparked ideas that I want to explore for myself.
Between all the health issues I've been navigating over the last year (see here & here for a bit of insight) plus all the side effects of new meds from my doctors - running a business alongside chronic illness has been tough. Adding to that, it felt like a constant slog to "have" to show up online, and I had unknowingly started to pile a lot of pressure on myself. There was also a constant undercurrent of noise and it started to feel like “too much”. Conflicting messages of "end the year strong - there’s only 6 weeks left!” or “end the year as slowly as you need to - there’s no rush!” and every other message in between... it all got a bit too loud, noisy, and too much for my highly sensitive self to deal with.
So I decided that I didn't have to do it anymore. And I took a social media detox and took (almost) all of December away from Instagram.
I made a couple of small exceptions. I had a couple of friends I wanted to check in on, particularly one who was going through a tough time with a hospital procedure. But other than that, I tried to take the time away from the platform and I didn’t post anything new on my feed or stories for the whole month.
When I first started thinking about quitting Instagram for the whole month, I didn’t really give it much thought - until a few days in. But in all honesty, those were wild thoughts that had no place in my brain. Over the last decade, I've worked hard to grow my business and now I'm in a very privileged position where I don’t rely on social media to generate income in my business.
Social media has never really been a selling platform for me - particularly so in the case of Instagram - and I have a steady stream of regular, ongoing clients that I support with design & tech services each month. So taking a month - or even longer! - off social media likely wasn’t going to affect my business income at all.
All these worries showed me that my relationship with social media was not in a healthy position at all. I felt like you had to constantly "show up" on the platform to be “remembered”.
As it was - I needn’t have worried about either of these things. I came back to several DMs from people simply reaching out with Qs or to check in. Even when the time came in January to come “back” into the fold, I gently, quietly worked my way in and only posted after a few quiet days. Now, it’s like I never left! But what has changed is the way I approach it - more on that in a little bit.
The one thing that struck me when I started my Instagram detox was how habitual it had become to open a new tab on my computer and immediately navigate to the instagram.com or facebook.com websites! It horrified me how easily and natural this felt, and so I started to research some tools that I could use to help me break the habit.
The brilliant tool freedom.to is an app that you can install on your computer (Mac, Windows and ChromeOS are supported) or your phone (both Android and iOS are supported). I installed it, set up a few lists to block specific apps and websites - namely news & social media, the two things that caused me a lot of anxiety - and set it going!
I couldn’t get it working perfectly on my phone, unfortunately. Enabling it on my main devices helped me to ease out of that habit as I was physically blocked from accessing the websites.
The Forest app is a stroke of genius from the developers! The idea is that you can set a time - usually 25 minutes, inspired no doubt by the Pomodoro technique, which I already love to work with - and in that time, a tree will grow in your virtual forest! If you’ve spent any amount of time on this site you’ll know that my brand messaging is inspired by my love of plants and nature, so I LOVED this app.
The app also blocks you from leaving your Forest app, or your tree will die! It's great motivation for someone like me to finish things when the process feels fun. If you need to use your phone for work (like I usually do in some form due to business Voxer & WhatsApp messages) you can turn this setting off. I’ve found that even though I’ve switched off that setting, I still don’t use my phone outside of work tasks when my Forest app is running as it feels too much like cheating!
As a bonus, the Forest app has partnered with a real tree-planting organisation called “Trees for the Future”. That means that when you spend any of your virtual coins that you earn on growing your virtual forest, they donate to their partnered charity and create planting orders!
If you want to try out Forest, get 500 virtual coins by using my referral code: MXH5SWSG
A feature available on iOS, I turned off screen time a while ago because it used to make me feel more guilty for using my phone, which - when chronically ill & disabled, particularly during a word that starts with “pand” and ends with “emic” - is often one of the only outlets I have into the outside world.
But during my break from Instagram, I decided to introduce screen time back in. I think so often we can very easily slip back into bad habits without even meaning to. I’m using screen time not to make myself feel guilty - sometimes, I am doing productive things on my phone for my business, such as photo editing, designing (yep, even on my phone!) and other creative tasks! I like that I can be reminded of the time limits I’ve set, which reminds me of how I want to spend my time.
I think that has been one of the biggest lessons for me in this whole experiment - it’s taught me how much more intentional I want to be with my time. As someone that lives with daily chronic fatigue (both due to chronic illness and medications to help me with said illnesses) I have very real limits on my time. Not only that, but I also have limits on how much time I can spend on very specific things too. Restricting my app limits for social media and games means that I can make sure the time I do want to spend on doing those things is purposely shorter and harder to fall into bad habits with.
Yes, I did! 🥳 For a good couple of weeks, I still had that habit of picking up my phone and opening Instagram first. I also hopped on a couple of times to see if there was anything I’d truly missed... But using the combination of Forest & Freedom really helped me to see the things I was missing outside of social media and helped me to re-prioritise on the goals and habits that truly matter to me.
I’ve got to be honest with you here, and at one point I did end up replacing one bad habit with another - but because of the limits I’d placed on myself, I was able to notice and take steps to combat it straight away. Instead of defaulting to social media, I started playing more games on my phone. 🙃 I love video games and they truly are a way I like to switch off from the business of life at the end of my workdays - my current favourite is Elder Scrolls Online! But by replacing social media with my phone-based games, I realised is that it wasn’t just social media that I wanted to take a break from - it was my PHONE, the little mini computer I could hold in my hand.
Once I realised this, it made it even easier to implement changes to ensure I have a proper break from the mindless scrolling (or tapping, in the case of the games) of doom.
My experiment with taking a whole month off social media showed me that it wasn’t just social media that I had an issue with. Instead, it was more about how much time I was spending on social media mindlessly, when I could spend that time much more intentionally.
Putting new routines into place, I’ve found that I’m still continuing to spend less time on social media even as I’ve eased back into it in the last few weeks.
I’ve noticed that there are specific things that bring me a lot of anxiety when it comes to social media, and my next task is to explore what it could look like to make social media even less of a focus in my business. (perhaps by quitting a couple of platforms, instead of quitting altogether?)
What this time has given me is the opportunity to create more daily rituals that support me and help both my mental and physical health. I’ve created morning and evening routines that I’m actually sticking to, where I’ve focused on bringing in healthier habits like reading (both fiction and non-fiction), slow movement (for the days I can’t physically cope with a full workout), and meditation.
I have no idea what the future really holds for me and my business with social media. What I do know is how grateful I am that I took the month-long break when I did. And in such a technology-obsessed world that we live in now, I’m grateful that I’ve found a way to start taking steps to make it work more for me.
I’d love to know - is social media something you find difficult in your business, or that you have a love-hate relationship with? Pop me a message on Instagram (I know, how meta!) - I’d love to chat more about this with people who “get it”!
Whatever sort of online business you run, it’s no doubt that at some point you’re going to need to market yourself. But the online world is full of so many "shoulds" - run a challenge, host a webinar, create a video series! But what do you do when none of those options feel quite right? And how do you create an authentic marketing plan that works for you, rather than trying to fit into the mould of what others tell you that you ‘should’ be doing?
First, let’s take a step back - I want to explain the difference between authentic marketing and typical online marketing.
Typical online marketing normally follows a recipe. You’re given step-by-step instructions and formulas to complete, resulting in cookie cutter marketing strategies for everybody. Following these recipes may help you achieve your goals, sure, but you might not feel good about the work you’re doing. I know when I’ve done them, it’s felt ‘icky’ and not just uncomfortable, but downright awkward.
Alternatively, authentic marketing is all about creating and following marketing strategies that feel good, and that you can feel yourself lighting up doing. It might well be that some of those strategies crossover with some typical online marketing strategies! But the key here is to not force yourself to fit into someone else’s ideas, and do what YOU enjoy.
Side note: I have a whole workshop coming soon on creating a more aligned, authentic marketing plan for yourself - but I also touch upon it in a part of my Get Rooted course!
For example - it might be that you love doing live video, such as Instagram or Facebook Live. If that’s the case, then you can integrate those into your marketing strategies regularly. But if the idea of live video makes your skin crawl, then there is no reason to include that as a part of your marketing. It will only come across as inauthentic, awkward, and your audience won’t connect with you on that deeper level that you know they deserve.
I also want to take a moment to acknowledge and encourage YOU. Yes, you, reading this right now! Let me tell you something... despite what you might hear online, you don’t need to subscribe to the way everyone else tells you that you “should” do things if it doesn’t feel right to you.
For many years, I listened to the ways of the online world. I followed marketing strategies that made me feel small instead of expansive. Then I priced my offerings based on other people’s thoughts, instead of looking at where my audience and ideal customers were at the time. And I started exploring different marketing strategies that were plain wrong for me.
And in doing all of that, my business slowed to a point that I was worried it would never recover from. The lesson I learned is this: nobody knows your business as well as you do. And when you look outside more than you look inside, you’ll never end up with a business you truly love. And when you abandon the "shoulds" that people are telling you are must-haves, you open yourself up to the possibilities of the "coulds" - and you'll find the right path for YOU.
So by now, we know the reasons why we want to create an authentic marketing plan. But how do we go about doing that?
First of all, you need to get comfortable with two things:
Let’s break those down a little further.
Getting comfortable with your intuition and gut feelings means not ignoring that internal feeling that tells you whether you’re on the right track or not.
Have you ever got a ‘vibe’ off somebody, that turned out to be right? Or had a feeling - that you couldn’t describe - about a situation and it turned out exactly as you thought? Have you ever gone against your intuition and been proven right? And then realised that you shouldn’t have ignored that internal voice telling you to do the opposite of what you ended up doing?
That’s your intuition! And it’s a skill you need to learn to hone to be able to make decisions from a place of alignment, rather than external thoughts and opinions. It’s about making places from an internal position, rather than listening to external forces or voices instead.
Sometimes, your intuition (your heart, your soul, your yearning) might be telling you to do, be, create or follow something... But everything external (your mind, your loved ones, the media) is telling you not to do it. But it’s in making that brave, courageous decision to follow your intuition that often leads us down the most surprising + rewarding + aligned paths that we could take.
When it comes to your marketing, you need to be able to tell the difference between that feeling of when you’re pushing yourself out of your comfort zone (and you maybe feel a little scared, a little fearful, and a little out of your depth) and feeling out of control (where you feel completely out of your depth, uncomfortable with what you’re doing, and as if every single fibre of your being is telling you not to go ahead with whatever it is that you’re doing).
Now this might sound rather dramatic...but it isn’t meant to be. It’s simply about being able to recognise that feeling of when you are in alignment with what you’re doing.
Because when you’re in alignment with what you’re doing, your audience are going to feel it too. They’re going to recognise the light in you. And they’re going to feel the happiness and joy and true authenticity radiating from you. They’re going to - consciously or sub-consciously - FEEL what you feel. If you feel awkward, out of place, and truly aren’t enjoying the marketing that you’re doing, they’ll feel that. And in the same way, they’ll feel the joy when you’re doing something out of pure and total alignment.
That isn’t to say that the marketing strategies you create and follow should or will be easy - there’s a difference between pushing yourself out of your comfort zone to grow and learn, compared to pushing yourself out of your comfort zone for the sake of it and doing things you downright hate doing.
But you should be able to challenge yourself, to grow, and to learn without having to sacrifice your soul or what you truly love doing.
I've put together a big list below of marketing strategies you may think are "typical" and give you alternatives. Each strategy is accompanied by THREE people I feel are real examples of following a marketing strategy that feels incredibly authentic to THEM and who they ARE.
If the idea of doing weekly videos sends your nerves skyrocketing, why not launch a podcast? There’s less of a barrier to entry, as all you need is an entry-level microphone and an audio editing program to get started. This is great if you value connection but crave helping people more in what feels like a 1:1 setting.
If you hate the idea of live video, why not start small with something like Instagram Stories? You can record them at your own pace and you can always redo them if you feel like you can’t get your message across. This is great if you value connection - but on your own terms.
Maybe one of your biggest values is community, but you feel like you’re speaking into a silo running a podcast. I’d encourage you to then look at video and see if that helps you to create more of that 1:many community feel.
If running a challenge feels like too much work - or maybe you feel like everyone is doing it - then why not ask questions from the heart? It will help you create more community, connection and emotional depth with your clients.
Many online strategies for launching digital products like courses include launching with webinars where you give a lot of value, and then pitch your offering at the end. Some people do this incredibly artfully - but a lot of the time, the pitch feels forced and inauthentic. If the idea of doing that turns you off, why not host a free (or even paid!) masterclass? You can give huge amounts of value, and it's a great way to build trust between yourself and your audience.
If you sign up to receive emails online, you're likely to have given your email in exchange for a free gift. Something like a discount to an online shop, a checklist - you know the sort of thing. But many people are now choosing to stop giving away the gifts, as you tend to get lower-quality leads. Instead, they’re focusing on giving huge value in their email newsletters. Or they give the gifts away for free, with no email needed!
If you’re struggling with the idea of running your own podcast, why not try being a podcast guest? You’ll get to share your knowledge bombs with the world, and also build your audience and connection. There are so many podcasts nowadays that accept guests! But #protip just be sure to make sure that the podcast you pitch to accepts guests before reaching out!
Many people say that you’ve “made it” once you’ve spoken on stage, whatever that means. But if the idea of getting on stage in front of any amount of people (I’ve spoken to audiences of 40 - 1200! Eek!) scares you beyond belief, why not look at running a masterclass? This way, you could help maaaany more people with your topic, but it’s without the pressure of an actual stage and actual people. Quick note on this one though - even though I’ve now given 12+ talks on stage, I get incredibly nervous before every talk, and the best of us do! It’s natural to feel that way - but if it doesn’t feel right, as with everything, don’t put the pressure on yourself to do it!
So there you have it - why authentic marketing atters, and hopefully more than enough examples to show you the ways that you can switch up what you’re told you “should” do, to what you could do instead. The next time somebody tells you that you should be doing something to build your business - stop, feel into that intuition and ask yourself if it feels like something you ‘could’ do, and if it feels good. You’ll thank yourself later for it!
When it comes to connecting with your audience in your small creative business it can feel like a HUGE task. I've no doubt that at one time or another, you've struggled to get noticed and trying to get attention on your work in the crowded online world feels almost impossible. But your brand story is one of the most useful ways to help yourself stand out in the crowded online business space.
I know that over the years, particularly when I've come to share more vulnerable parts of my story, I've asked myself questions like...
And while the answer sometimes is - heck yes, it's too much to share right now! Most of the time, I come back to this one answer: your story matters - and people need to hear your story.
Let's take a step back for a moment. I believe that what makes us all truly special is our story. It’s our unique reasons behind why we do what we do, and what brought us to this place of running our own business. And it’s also in sharing parts of your story that you’ll be able to find true and meaningful connection with your audience, and build your brand on a foundation of truth, vulnerability and authenticity.
Your brand story also helps to inform your brand messaging, which is a key part of your brand strategy and identity. Although there's a huge amount of strategy that goes into your brand messaging, the way that I love to do this for myself, and with my branding clients, is by using your story to help shape your message.
There’s huge power in the story that brought you from where you were, to where you are now. There’s a reason behind what you do and that reason is one of the things that powers you to move forward and to take aligned action.
But your story is also a unique way of connecting more deeply with your audience and building a stronger brand. Nobody - and I mean nobody, even if you're a twin! - has had the unique set of experiences, circumstances, and events that have led you to this place. So by figuring out the intricacies of what your brand story is, you have a unique advantage over those that don’t.
I don't buy into your brand messaging mattering more than your [brand] story, or vice versa - they both help inform different parts of your overarching brand strategy and matter equally if you want to create a brand that has deep roots and can grow stronger because of it.
But, for the sake of argument, here when we are talking about your story, or your brand story, we're also talking about your brand messaging and how the two interconnect. I personally believe that your brand messaging will only be stronger if it's informed by your story, as it's your unique perspective and experiences that will bring something forward that only you can bring.
All of that said, here’s a description of both to help you:
Your brand message is everything that connects your audience to your brand. It’s weaved through from the content on your website, how you speak + write on social media, through to the emotions and feelings that your brand visuals evoke. At its core, your brand message is the overarching message that you want to share through your brand.
Your story is the meaning behind your brand message. It’s the narrative that is the foundation of your brand message, and also your brand mission and vision. It’s the unique set of reasons, experiences & lessons that have shaped your journey.
At its core, your story is what helps connect the dots behind the ‘why’ of what you do.
To give you a more concrete example of this, I want to dive a little bit into my own story. My brand story began when I was a teenager, believe it or not! I was at college (in the UK our college is for ages 16-18) and about to turn 17, and I had had enough. I was doing terribly by all statistical standards - failing to get good grades in the majority of my classes and exams. This started a spiral of emotions around struggling to feel "good enough" at what I did for years, in and out of both college, studying for a HND in Interactive Media (the equivalent of the first two years of a University degree here in the UK), and in work.
It was only when I started studying for my HND that I realised there was somewhere for me in the world - somewhere that my creativity and weirdness and uniqueness mattered. I had never even realised that a "designer" was a real thing, a real job, and something that I could do in the "real world".
My story continued and included everything from: working for design agencies and corporate-land for almost 3 years; being diagnosed with a chronic illness and disability at age 21; setting up my own business at age 22; landing in hospital with a suspected heart attack at age 25; burning out again at age 27; having new symptoms from age 28 through to 31, fighting for a new diagnosis while having my best year ever in business; leading us to now - late 2021, over 1.5 years into a worldwide P-word that rocked the world in so many ways.
And this is a LOT. There are many parts of this that might not seem relevant to my brand messaging at first, but when you look at the deeper meanings it can often signal a turning point or catalyst. For me, that was landing in hospital at age 25 - I realised how much I had
But EVERYBODY has a story. Yes, mine may seem dramatic at points – and maybe yours is more dramatic or less dramatic. It doesn't really matter! Because it is YOUR journey, and YOUR story - and that matters.
Every time I've considered sharing parts of my story, I've come back to the moments where I've had people thank me for sharing the parts that helped them, that encouraged them, that helped them stop and think. Those are the people that I want to help, and those are who I keep top of mind whenever I start to think of adding new parts to my brand story and share those experiences.
One thing I haven't really touched upon yet is how to figure out what parts of your story are the most relevant, and that feel safest for you to share.
In doing this work, you can unearth old triggers, traumatic memories, and it can feel uncomfortable. Personally, I find it easier to share vulnerable moments than I do teaching design, but that can often mean I start to overshare. And so I have worked hard to find the parts of my story that are not ongoing, that are not experiences I am still in the very middle of. I wait until I have had chance to heal, reflect, and
That's not to say that I don't ever share whenever I'm in the middle of something I find difficult - like a debilitating chronic illness flare-up - but when I do, I make sure I do so in a way that doesn't add to my plate, and only in a way that feels comfortable enough for me to share.
Because, at the end of the day, what I tell you here doesn't have to become YOUR story, if it doesn't feel right. You don't need permission for this, but I hope that you know that your brand story can include whatever you want it to - and exclude whatever else you want it to, as well. Don't ever feel like you HAVE to include specific details or moments just because you think it "needs" to be in there, or other people tell you that it "should" be. Only YOU get to decide what feels safe enough for you to share, and whatever that is, is perfectly okay.
If this article resonated with you, I want you to grab a pen and piece of paper (or a simple note taking app on your phone or computer will do), and map out the following:
Once you’ve answered those questions, start to review your answers. Look for any patterns you can see, and see if you can start to weave together a timeline of your journey from where it began, to where you are now.
Look for the moments that were catalysts - the moments that signalled the beginning or end of something. Maybe you had an illness or period of burnout that helped you switch everything around (I landed myself in hospital due to burnout twice in 2 years - but that’s a story for another day!), or maybe simply having children motivated you to make your business a success.
Even if you’re in the messy middle, and don’t feel like you’ve got it all figured yet...that’s okay. So many of us are right there with you - or we have been before.
The thing you need to remember is: your story MATTERS. And the reason it matters is because someone out there needs to hear you and what you’ve got to say. Whether you want to impact a few, hundreds, thousands, or maybe even millions of people... your story matters to one person, at one point in time.
When you think about branding, what do you think of first? Maybe it's a logo design, or a colour scheme? A tagline? Any, all, or none of the above? 😅 These are all integral parts of your brand, but branding is also so much more than just your visual brand identity. It's everything else that informs it before that stage even starts, including things like brand values, your mission and vision, the brand story and personality... and so much more! Today we're going to focus on your mission and vision - what they are (and the difference between the two!) and how you can create impactful mission & vision statements for your own creative small business.
Let's get the biggest Q I'm asked about mission & vision out of the way first - what the heck is the difference between the two?!
In brand strategy your mission & vision are often forgotten by small businesses, thinking that they're only for the larger corporations with hundreds or thousands of employees. But the reason I love your mission & vision is because it gives you confidence in what you're aiming to achieve with your work.
My mentors at Wandering Aimfully, Jason and Caroline Zook, often talk about "enough". They talk about how in a world where we're constantly striving for more, more, more - more money, more time, more customers - we can also be happy with "enough", whatever that looks like for us.
For me, having my mission & vision statements to constantly refer back to and root myself and my work into makes sure that I'm always on track with what I create, and I'm not just doing things for the sake of it. It helps me keep track of my purpose and helps me align what I want to do and create with the impact I want my work to have and to achieve.
Now, on to the actual difference between the two. I like to describe it in terms of what each statement will help you do -
Both build off each other, as well, which means that it doesn't really matter what order you go about things! I personally start with the vision, because as a big-picture-thinker and dreamer, dreaming up visions for my work and the impact I want it to have comes a lot easier. But also, as a big-picture-thinker, ideas person, and big thinker... coming up with the exact details for how I want to bring it to life feels a lot harder!
When it comes to creating your mission, there are a few questions I like to ask myself:
And then I review those answers, and look a little deeper inside...look for any patterns. Notice any words that give you that fuzzy feeling, or that intuitive kick or gut feeling that make you feel good, and that feel right.
Then, try to fit them into the following recipe:
My mission is TO _________________ BY _________________
Let me give you a few examples.
For a financial planner, a mission statement might look like...
My mission is TO create more wealth among women BY empowering them to manage their own financial growth.
Or maybe you’re passionate about helping older generations learn new skills, in which case your mission might be:
My mission is TO empower older generations to learn new skills BY making learning accessible to everyone no matter their age.
It might take a few tries until you land on a mission statement that feels like you can really start to bring to life, that encourages you but also stretches you enough.
Okay, so we’ve got our mission. But how do we then figure out what our vision is for our work?
Similar to working out our mission statement, I like to start working on my vision statements by asking myself a few questions:
But before you start to answer those questions - take a step back. I want you to pick out some music that inspires you or motivates you, hit play, and close your eyes (obviously have a quick read of this first - then get closing those eyes!).
Try clearing your mind, take a deep breath, and relax into the space you're creating to do this work.
I'm a big believer that if you're in a more relaxed, calm, mentally clear headspace when you do this work you'll allow yourself to DREAM that little bit more.
Because whereas our mission is more of a practical exercise to work through, that we can also develop and hone over time, our vision is almost like the thing that drives us to do what we do, that acts as a motor for our mission and pulls us and roots us in to our purpose. And I think we need to be in the right sort of headspace when doing that work so that we can really allow ourselves to dream into what that vision looks like for us.
Going back to our earlier examples, the vision for the financial planner might be:
To create a world where more women are financially independent and able to manage their finances, helping them to live an independent, courageous life.
And the vision for the online educator may be:
To create accessible tools + methodologies that support and empower the older generation to realise and develop their own learning skills, even if they feel they’re ‘past it’.
Do you see how both of these vision statements build on their missions?
Not only does the financial planner want to help her clients create more wealth - her vision is for a world where women have more financial independence and can in turn live a more independent and courageous life as a result of that work.
And the educator that wants to help older generations doesn’t want to do it simply to teach them skills, but to also show them that they are capable even when they feel like they’re not.
One of the reasons I love your mission & vision so darn much is because they help inform every single thing you do or create in the future! They can aid you as a decision making tool (just like your brand values) and they can help give you direction on what to work on next. They can help you to say no to more things, if they don’t align with the larger vision that you have for your work.
They help you to live out your life + business in a way that creates more impact in the way that matters most to YOU - because when you run your business decisions through the filter of "does this align with my business mission or vision?" you will automatically be
I hope you've found this helpful and feel a little clearer now on what both your brand mission & vision are, and how they can help you. Take half an hour over the next week to develop your mission statement and vision statements for your work - I promise, it won’t ever be time wasted!
If you loved this article, you'll love my course "Get Rooted". I walk you through my 4-step method to creating a brand with impact - without sacrificing your values or personality. I share my 9+ years in the making brand research questionnaire with you and show you how to use that to create brand values that help you to grow more intentionally. I also walk you through - in even more detail! - how to craft your brand mission & vision statements, and show you how your brand personality & story become a part of your brand roots. Want to find out more? Go check out the course!