Bootstrap Your Branding Without Going into Debt

Bootstrap Your Branding Without Going Into DebtI talk to photographers all the time who ask me questions like:

– Where do I even start with my website design?
– Should I hire someone to brand my business?
– How do I design a logo?

Here’s the thing—hiring a professional to create a complete cohesive brand with all of the branding elements for your business is a great idea IF you can afford it. But if you can’t afford to spend thousands of dollars on hiring a professional, you need the tools to bootstrap your brand so you can create a gorgeous, cohesive look and feel for your company without putting yourself into debt.

In the seven years that I’ve been in business, I’ve spent a total of about $200 on my core branding design elements. That includes my website design, logo, color palette, fonts and a few other little elements that make my brand my own.

How did I do it? Let’s take a look at the resources I’ve used.

Understanding My Ideal Client

First, I created a secret Pinterest board to dive in and get to know my ideal client. I gave her a name, age, job and hobbies, then I spend time pinning all of the things that she would love. Keep in mind that this is not an exercise in pinning things that you want to be a part of your brand. Don’t start pinning logo and packaging ideas just yet. You simply want to find the products, places and things that your ideal client would be drawn to.

Once you’ve done this, you’ll start to have a better feel for who she is and how to appeal to her.

Next, let’s take a look at specific design elements:

Brand Color Palette

I ended up finding my brand color palette in the most unexpected place—through a Facebook ad for paper flowers. When I saw the colors, I knew that they fit perfectly with my ideal client and my own tastes, so I bought the flowers to sit on my desk and to use as my core branding color palette.

Bootstrap Your Branding Without Going Into Debt

If you’re stuck on colors, remember this one rule: your best bet is to pick one main color to be your “brand color,” and all other accent colors can be used sparingly. You can even check out Colour Lovers for color palettes that are done for you.

Logo Design

Molly has covered logo tips extensively in The Photographer’s Guide to Logo Design. Personally, I bought my logo template from Creative Market.

Bootstrap Your Branding Without Going Into Debt

As you look at different fonts for your logo, think about where else those fonts could be used in your company. For example, I buy my clients personalized gifts that say their names in the same font as my logo, which ties everything together nicely.

Website Design

This is the big one. I’m married to a web designer and developer, and I originally figured that I’d have him design me a great big beautiful website from the ground up. As we talked about what I wanted, we realized that we could save a lot of time by looking for an existing website template.

Get that? I’m married to a web designer, and I still bought a website template.

Bootstrap Your Branding Without Going Into Debt

Here’s a few places to look:

Creative Market

ShowIt and Squarespace are great if you want to avoid the technical side of creating and hosting a website. If you buy a WordPress theme, you may need a little support to get you up and running. Here’s what I recommend:

Website Technical Support

– Barter with a local designer and swap photos in exchange for help getting your template up and running

Bootstrap Your Branding Without Going Into Debt


You don’t have to spend a fortune to create beautiful packaging. When I started out, I bought simple Kraft boxes from HB Photo Packaging and a stamp with my logo from Simon Stamps to stamp on the front in black ink. Another great resource for packaging ideas is Design Aglow.

Bootstrap Your Branding Without Going Into Debt

What You Wear Matters

I’m not saying that you have to wear your brand colors to every meeting or shoot with a client or plaster your logo on a shirt everywhere you go, but keep in mind that you are a huge part of your business and brand, so if you create an amazing brand online, you’ll want to carry that through into how you interact with your clients offline.

You don’t have to design everything from the ground up on your own, but with resources like Creative Market, Etsy, Fiverr, Design Aglow and others, you can create a gorgeous custom brand for your business without spending a fortune.

Note to Molly: I have a “Bootstrap Your Brand Resource Guide” that lists out all of my favorite resources for bootstrapping your brand, including specific logo sets on Creative Market and a few more details on website setup and other things. Let me know if I can include info on this as well 🙂

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Bootstrap Your Branding Without Going Into Debt

Allie Siarto is the founder of Allie & Co. Photography, a wedding and portrait photography business based out of East Lansing, Michigan. Allie also guides other photographers and shares stories and interviews with photographers who are making things happen in their businesses over at Photo Field Notes, a podcast and education resource. You can even get a free guide to bootstrapping your brand delivered to your inbox by clicking here.

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