Here’s How To Build Your Dream Brand, Even If You’re Broke

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Career Advice For How To Build A Brand On A Budget & Bootstrap A Business

After college we have a choice of employment. 

Some of us go the traditional route and get a job. But, for those of us creatives that get a job, we also have an equally compelling dream that tugs on us or an invention that wants to be birthed. However, for many of us we run into the issue of funding--as in, we don’t have enough. So, what do you do if you want to build a brand on a budget or bootstrap a new business?

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The average cost of a website is around--well, that’s the thing, the price is all over the place. You can spend five-hundred dollars or a few thousand dollars. The thing is that a website, like a car, needs management, upkeep, and branding.

So, when it comes time to spend money on a domain name, hosting, SEO, CRO, UX---all short term for get me f’n clients--small budgets can be effective if you know what you want.

But, many creatives just have a concept in mind and have no clue about the logistics. That then makes it easy to throw money away and difficult to set a marketing budget. 

Conversely, if the right team isn’t hired to set things up properly, then time will be wasted. I’ve been in a position where I thought I was hiring experts--especially because of the higher prices they charged--only to find out they were lying jerks.

As an aside, I wish I could lock up liars like this, who say things to the naive creative like “It’s just going to take time.” Listen, when you start off and have no money, it’s important to weigh long-term strategy against things that will make you money the right way. 

So, I’m going to give away a sequence of how to enter the digital market with whatever weird, beautiful, or nifty concept or product you have in mind. Also, nothing you do is new. Innovation is only an improvement on something that has already existed. So, don’t get all protective over you idea right away. 

First, you will need to define your brand. A brand is like a personality. It’s a story about the totality of the product and what industry it lives in as well as the population it benefits. A brand comes with a logo as an identifier of the product. However, people stress over colors, the logo, and font for way too long.

The main thing is to keep it consistent. Pick two fonts that will represent H1 and H3 headers--headers create a taxonomy of what content is important on a page and helps set apart content when pages are crawled by search engines. 

A brand comes with a promise; something it is known for.

A brand is responsible for controlling the narrative and even manipulating the perception of the product. Pepsi is associated with sports, fun, and refreshment. However, a lot of us know soda is bad for us. Every product or service has a down side. In this way business reflects aspects of life.

However, in business emotions are not often genuine. Rather, emotions are something to get a reaction that results in consumption. 

Every business has a bottom line. I’ve heard people try to spin that and call it a “top line”--as in sales with a moral purpose. Either way, a business cannot run without money. This brings me to the next step in the bootstrapping process. After the brand is defined and is able to be clearly articulated to the public, then it is going to need backing. 

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Backing a brand can begin one of three ways: 

  1. A massive dump of content on social channels that results in 10K and above followers. This is called “creating a platform”. 
  2. Getting influencers to endorse the brand and using established platforms to get exposure. 
  3. Entering the paid and targeted ad space on various ad spend platforms. Running effective ads. 

Of course there are adaptations and exceptions to these three avenues of having a brand backed. However, in every case it will either take time or money for a brand to be established and communicated to the consumers that will continue to buy the brand. 

So, let’s talk about content. 

If you don’t know how to talk the the consumer and let them know how the brand is of benefit to them, your competition will. Again, there are three primary avenues to convey the brand message: 

  1. Video
  2. Audio
  3. Script

A combination of the three is powerful. In other words, videos that have subtitles tend to have a greater reach. Each brand will need to have a massive amount of content. There are different ways to generate content with the number one being having guest bloggers on your site and being a guest blogger with companies who are in the same industry.

Make the most of any blog by sharing knowledge and insights that are powerful. And, this takes an exceptional amount of organization and scheduling to pull off. 

It should be noted that at every turn and advancement of one’s business there will be a technical element necessary to master or hire out for. And I suggest utilizing YouTube to learn about the tech element needed before ever hiring for it.

Again, I made the mistake of hiring for SEO before I understood that it is a dark art that costs a lot of money and takes a lot of time--especially when hiring a dishonest company. There are guru’s in every industry who give away free educational materials that will protect you from being duped by a marketer or some expensive snake-oil salesmen. 

Honestly, there is no one formula that fits any business or brand. Again, remember each brand is a personality and each personality needs to be nurtured in different ways. 

This brings me to the intimate aspect of brand development--networking. Every social media channel is like a conference room filled with all types of people. The brand won’t benefit everyone in the room.

So, it’s important to differentiate who will utilize the brand, who has a friend who can use it, and who has no use for it at all. When bootstrapping, it’s good to apply a ratio to how much time will be devoted to networking online vs offline. A brand cannot flourish unless both types of networking are done. 

When it comes to networking offline the best place to start is at your local chamber of commerce events or search for networking groups on Then attend the events consistently for a year and build relationships. 

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When it comes to networking online I recommend using twitter and paying the $15/month for buffer to automate the current content for posts. However, regardless of the platform, a brand needs human interaction or B2B interaction to grow. 

There’s a lot more to say about bootstrapping a brand. But, before we go into more elements, let’s review. 

  1. Every idea we have will go to market in one of two ways: As a product or a service. One is tangible and one is abstract. 
  2. No matter how complex or simple the product or service, it will need to have a brand story that includes a logo, consistency across all platforms, and will be able to control the public’s perception of the benefit of the brand. 
  3. Each brand will need video, audio, and text content that sends a coherent message. 
  4. Brands are stronger with strategic partnerships. 
  5. It’s important to take time to educate the team members on the technical and backend requirements. 
  6. There is no one formula that will make a brand successful. However, there are best practices for every industry. 
  7. No one person can build a successful brand alone--it takes a team every time. 

Nothing about building a successful business is simple.

However, it can be simplified by utilizing a sequence of tasks that then build on each other and exist within the bounds of an organized strategy. Tips and tricks from industry leaders may accelerate progress, but those industry leaders were not exempt from “testing” and doing research and development to see what worked and what didn’t. So, if you adopt another company’s process, it will have to be tested and one should not expect instant success. 

This brings me to the final note on bootstrapping a business. When one begins a venture, it is often underfunded, the person or people launching it have limited knowledge of the long and pain-staking path ahead, and with a market flooded full of smoke and mirrors, hiring teammates has to be the most crucial part of growing a business. 

Every member of the team should have a stream of income that covers their cost of living. I can’t emphasize this enough. If you have to live at home with “mom”, work for minimum wage, and drive a beater car, but can eat every day, shower every day, get to where you need to go, and have the time to work on building the company--you are doing great.

However, if you are buried in debt, are worried about paying rent, and desperate, the wrong choices will be made out of desperation. While ideas can be born out of duress, a company cannot functionally operate out of random acts of marketing. 

So, bring at least one other person onto your team that you trust and get everything in writing. Create a timeline that lists the goals for company growth. Make sure you are meeting your targets and watching your metrics. 

Bootstrapping is a noble act. It’s impossible to avoid failure as your business grows. However, it’s not that failure matters, it how quickly one can bounce back that does. 

Prepare for the worst and expect the best. 

Okay, now I have to get real with you. The brand, the company, and it’s operators need a creative director, a project manager, and someone who understands the intricacies of bringing that brand to market. We are all idiots at what we don’t know. However, some of us are willfully blind to what we don’t know and we think we can “do everything.” Nope. 

However, no one is going to have the passion you have for your business and brand. And if what you do doesn’t light you up, quit doing it!

I could give advice about the logistics of business and the emotional aspects that go with it all day long. In fact, that is exactly what I do. I have worked in 5 different industries and have been an educator and advocate for well-being in all of them.

So, when it comes time to create and curate your brand story, select the design that targets the correct buyer, implement the technical elements to get the brand to the masses, and sift through the emotional barriers that go with running a business as well as to scale the business. I help with all of that. 

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Rebekah Freedom is the founder of Freedom Media, where she helps clients in their lives, relationships, and careers. For more of her career content, please follow her on Instagram