When to D.I.Y. your branding and when you need to work with a pro

Plus busting a branding myth for start-ups 



This is the final part in a four piece series that quickly gets you in the zone to nail your branding. If you're up to date with the other parts, you'd know that fantastic branding;

To round it all off, today I’m gonna tell you whether you should be saving your cash and having a crack at branding on your own


If you need to suck it up and pay a professional to take the pain away.

Naturally, this will include a brief segue that refers to the men in my life. Here we go.

I live with two fun-loving and capable men whom I both adore. One of them has his heart set on a motorbike when he eventually turns 5 and he interrupts my work day by trying to convince me he’s “a superman”. The other can grow what seems like an entire week’s worth of facial hair in a morning and interrupts my work day by trying to convince me he’s “a marketer”.

The big one (the hairy one) isn’t a marketer - not a paid one anyway - but he does read marketing blogs, and marketing books and enrols in marketing courses, and thus, has the occasional savvy marketing tip that's worth hearing.

Today we'll look at what marketers like to call an ‘exposure’. 

According to my husband, [and a variety of hopefully reputable sources on the front page of google], your customers will need a certain number of exposures to you and your products before they are willing to buy something. It's a trust + familiarity building process that is fairly well accepted in internet age sales cycles. The ‘certain number’ seems to be a thing of debate though; I’ve heard it takes 13 exposures, I’ve heard 7, I’m sure if you trawled the internet for a source suggesting you need 25, you’d find it. But the main thing is, exposures leads to sales (eventually).

Section 1: What is an exposure?

An exposure is when you ‘demonstrate’ or ‘talk about’ or ‘in some way represent’ your business - and your ‘pre-customers’ see it.

For example, if I were to just come right out and tell you that my Brand Ultimate package includes a set of distinct, on-brand social media graphics that fosters clear communication and immediate brand recognition – that would be an (explicit) exposure to one of my services.

Similarly, if you saw this sequence of themed, harmonious social media templates (below), you'd realise that if you wanted to communicate your key messages in style - that's a service you can purchase from me. Naturally, this is an exposure too. (BTW, If you just saw them, that would be an implicit exposure, but I'm pretty openly just talking about it so... yeah. Fairly explicit I'd say. I digress.)

Hey, Sarah makes cohesive social media packs to make my social media easier and awesome-er. I should consider buying that one day...

Hey, Sarah makes cohesive social media packs to make my social media easier and awesome-er. I should consider buying that one day...

Your branding - when it is done properly - is gonna account for many of those 13 exposures (or 29  or however many you choose to believe you need). As I recommended in part 2, when all of your social media, branded collateral and every other thing looks distinctly like you – if you’re pre-customers see all that stuff, it is an exposure to your brand. For example, 'pre-customer no. 1' is driving down the highway, sees your billboard...exposure! Later he's scrolling through Insta, sees your latest post...exposure! Waiting for his root-canal, he spots your ad in a magazine...exposure! pre-customer 1 is getting more and familiar with you. The research says this familiarity and exposure helps develop trust and ultimately leads to sales. Hooray, Sales! On the flip side, if you don’t get your branding right, that is, if it doesn’t look the same, it doesn’t appeal to your target market, or it is not of a particularly good quality, you can kiss those exposures goodbye.

Exposures to quality, recognisable, targeted branding  creates Sales!

Mediocre, inconsistent branding creates                                                                       (<---- see how I put nothing there)

Now I am not saying if you muck up your branding that your product won’t sell at all. I’m just saying you’ll need to have another method of demonstrating quality and developing trust - because dodgy branding certainly won’t be steering any customers towards you. Which leads us to:

Section 2: Who should pay to establish a professional brand. And who shouldn’t.

(Plus busting one common myth)

Since we've now established that your branding is going to help you in the exposure department, it's easy to see that getting it right can be a savvy business investment that converts to sales in the long run.

With this in mind, it would be easy to suggest that everyone should get professional branding, but that’s not quite true.

Here’s a list of reasons why you should NOT get professional branding:

  • You are experimenting with what your product is

  • You are experimenting with who your target niche is

  • You think you have a product but have no idea who your customers are

  • You don’t have enough time/energy/ability to follow through on all the hard work that it takes to establish a business

  • (optional) You want to stay as a hobby and never develop into a ‘charge a premium price’ type of business.

The theme here is: you either can’t be sure what you are doing or you can’t be sure if you can pull it off. If this is you, you should definitely either wait until you have a clear direction, or in the case of the “can’t pull it off” situation, save your money. The time might come when you can carve out enough time to get the ball rolling, and when you know you’re all in – brand away. As for all the hobby folk, you might get some joy out of a pro brand, and the premium aesthetic it brings, but if you’re just doing what you’re doing for the love of it, it’s hardly a necessity.

[Did you notice I didn’t say “If you’re just getting started”? I’ll get onto start-ups soon.]

On the other hand, if these statements sound like you, You might need to budget in a professional designer:

Here’s a list of reasons why you SHOULD get professional branding:

  • You understand your market

  • You are focused on a niche (or you’re ready to re-focus on a new niche)

  • You are commited to what you’re doing

  • You are willing to invest in your business – even though it is a risk

  • You will find a way to make your business work – even if it kills you

  • You are ready to bump up your price

  • You are capable of working with a pro; that is, you can create some time to give input about what you are trying to achieve, to consider options and to make decisions.

The key here is, you know what you are doing, and you can actually follow through on that. As for the start-ups, let’s address that now.

Busting the ‘just getting started’ myth:

It is a bit simplistic to assume that just because you are getting started, you don’t need a professional brand. For some start-ups, this is completely true, sage advice. For others, it will end up being the single biggest reason your business fails or stalls in it’s growth. 

If you’re just getting started and you don’t really know what you’re final product offering will be, or if anyone will buy it, maybe you can DIY/find a cheap option – the risk here is that you might waste your money because things can change.


If you’re just getting started and you know exactly what you are selling and who you are marketing to and you know this is a pretty viable business plan, I suggest you better go pro. (My friend did this when she launched her ‘home made salads’ business. No one would have taken her seriously without a legitimate brand and premium logo. Now she's killing it).

Also, re-branding is the same cost as it would have cost you in the first place, but at least twice the time, since you'll need to redo all the website, social and business collateral you've already created. If you're serious about your business and it has serious potential, proceed in the DIY space with caution. It might turn out to be a real pain in 12-24 months time.

Bonus Section: For the visual learners (and because T-bone).

I'm sure you've heard this one before: you can choose two out of High Quality, Timely and Low Cost. Here's the branding version.

Mmmm... Steak diagram.

Mmmm... Steak diagram.


If you need Quality and Timely: You’ll be paying a pro to get your brand. Make sure you choose one you trust.

If you'd prefer Quality and Low Cost: You’ll be going and doing all the branding research and then teaching yourself the technical skills to get it done - which might suit you just fine if you've got plenty of time to burn. (The other way to do Quality and Low Cost is waiting for your design savvy friends to help you out with favours and freebies... good luck.)

If you insist on Fast and Cheap: Well, that means the quality is probably missing. It may also be an indication that you are reading the wrong blog... but I'll leave that for you to decide.

Regardless of which Venn section you want to be in, if you're considering getting professional design, the most importantly thing is to figure out if the investment is a smart move for where your business is at, and where you are headed.

If you bear that in mind, I'm sure the decision will be easy.


I'm Sarah. I'm a Designer.

I like making dreadlocks, making kumbucha and making your business look legit by working with you to create some decent branding. Click me and my macbook to find out more