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Fully Custom vs Semi-Custom vs DIY… What’s right for me?



So you’ve started your own business (way to go!) and you’ve been looking into branding your company to stand out from the crowd and draw your potential clients right to your digital doorstep. You do your research to find what works best for you but you quickly find out that branding can be quite an expensive investment! You keep being told that it's vital to show up professionally, that you need to be consistent, that you need to find ways to resonate with your audience but… where do you start?


You know you need to have a cohesive look but what’s the best way to put it all together? Having a strong visual identity like a logo, color palette, fonts - all that good stuff - comes with a price tag that seems to leave only one other option, doing it all yourself.


Before you try and dive into Canva or sift through Creative Market’s library of ready-made logos, let me ask you just one thing… Do you want to look like everyone else?


Branding, by definition, is about creating a look and personality for your business that ensures that you stand out instead of blending into the Sea of Same-ness that can drown even the most competent of small business owners. Don’t get me wrong… it can be tempting to play it safe and imitate the look and feel of your super successful neighbors but in reality it’ll only keep you in their shadow and that is the BIGGEST risk you can take for your business and your brand. Those success stories you keeping seeing are able to own their corner of the market because they created a style that is unique to them and your business deserves the same.



What’s Out There?


So… Let’s break down the three types of branding that you can pursue and find out what is going to work best for you. I know it can seem overwhelming at first but that’s why I’m here to help!


A Fully Custom brand identity is one that is 100% unique to your business. This typically starts with hiring a brand designer/strategist and involves a longer timeline from start to finish. During this process, you’ll dive deeper into your business, audience, and goals in order to build a thorough and impactful brand strategy. Then, the designer will use your brand strategy to create a purposeful visual identity (logos, colors, fonts, business cards, etc.).


A Semi-Custom brand is still unique to your business but is created from a curated set of fonts, colors, and design layouts. Rather than working alongside the designer, you get to choose the look that best fits your brand from a collection of predetermined aesthetics. Then the designer will insert your business name and color palette to make a logo that is one-of-a-kind. These semi-custom brands are designed with purpose but do not include the full brand strategy that fully-custom does.


Do-it-Yourself or DIY brands are created 100% by you. Typically businesses who DIY their brands do so using Creative Market, Canva, or Fiverr. These logos are selected from a menu where you can then insert your business name and choose a color palette all on your own. Typically, they only include one logo rather than the multiple logo variations that a professionally designed logo suite includes.


What Do I Get Out of It?


Each of the above options have their own value that they can bring to a business, the key is to figure out which type of branding suits your needs and to see which you can get the most from to help your business grow. A brand identity has a few key functions, including helping you stand out in your industry, allowing you to better connect with your audience, and visually communicate who you are, what you do, and why you’re the perfect fit for your customer.


Each comes with its own set of Pros and Cons regarding what they have to offer you, the price you’ll end up paying, and the amount of time they can take. Let’s break each of the branding options down even further and get a better look!


Fully Custom:


Value - A Fully Custom brand that is created with a brand strategy at its center is going to check all the boxes for your business because it is built with purpose and intention. The one-of-a-kind look will help you stand out while the strategy will equip you with the tools you need to connect and communicate with your intended audience. Having an expert craft your brand will ensure that it is value-packed inside and out so you can focus on the aspects of your business that you do best!


Built on a strategy that requires a deeper dive into your business, oftentimes businesses that are newer won’t have enough clarity in vision to fully utilize this option . In the first 6 months of business, new business owner’s learn a lot about themselves, their offerings, and their audience that are key ingredients to creating a powerful brand later on

Time - This option takes little to no time from you because the designer will be putting in the hours in your place! It takes dozens of hours and countless revisions behind the scenes to develop a stunning and strategic brand. Overall the time frame you can expect is 1-2 months.


Price - A Fully Custom brand helps you make BIG moves in your business by providing clarity, direction, and the tools you need to stand out, communicate well, and connect with your audience. You can expect to spend $4k - 10k for something of this caliber.




Semi-Custom:


Value - This option is the perfect fit for businesses that aren’t yet ready to commit to a Fully Custom branding and strategy but that still want to show up professionally and stand out online and off. While it doesn’t come with the same in-depth strategy as the above, it all allows you to differentiate yourself from your competition and gives you a leg up while your business continues to grow and develop until you’re ready to take the next steps.


Time - Semi-Custom brands are great if you’re in a time crunch! Similar to the previous option, all the heavy lifting is done by a professional designer so you can provide your time and expertise to the aspects of your business that you love. They take all the guesswork out of creating a professional visual experience for your customers and keep you from making the mistakes often made by DIYer’s. They are delivered to you just 1-2 weeks after purchase and include a how-to-use guide so you can get started right away.


Price - Semi-Custom brands are an amazing, affordable alternative to those that aren’t ready to invest in Fully Custom. Expect to pay roughly $650 - $1,000 for this intermediate level.



DIY:


Value - Do-it-yourself branding from Canva, Creative Market, or Fiverr templates are created with limited intention and lack a lot of the value you’ll find in Fully or Semi-Custom branding. Using a template that is sold an unlimited amount of times means that your brand will be dime a dozen, making it difficult to stand out and rise up in your industry. Without experience in design, color, and font psychology, your brand is going to appeal to you rather than your audience, misrepresent your business, and keep you from building trust and credibility in the eyes of your audience.


Time - These brands can take anywhere from minutes to hours to days. Take a look at your schedule and see what kind of time you have because this task will be on your plate and your plate alone, keeping you from the parts of your business that made you want to start it in the first place


Price - DIY brands come at little to no cost, at least when cost is counted in dollars. On average you can find them for $0-$25 but you may end up paying for them in other ways such as time, pitfalls, and customers lost to your competition.



So What Should I Do?


With all these options, the pros and cons must be weighed so you can make an informed decision for your business to plot the best path forward. Here’s a few notes to help make the decision a littler easier for you!


New or First Time Business Owners:


If you are in your first 6 months of business, skip the Fully Custom route, save those extra dollars, and take a look at Semi-Custom brand kits! They are a perfect alternative designed to fit your needs while keeping in mind your finances and your need to focus on building your business and attending to your current clients.


Seasoned Business Owners:


If you have been in business for at least 6 months and are hitting consistent 3-10k months, its time for something Fully Custom. This option brings solid brand strategy alongside the design that will take your business to the next level and keep you from plateauing. Payment plans make Fully Custom branding more manageable so you can start seeing your returns as soon as possible.


Not recommended:


Ever been told “You get what you pay for”? DIY can be a good fit if you have little to no budget, but can be hurtful to your business in the medium and long term. If you go this route, make sure you have a plan in place to upgrade to Semi-custom ASAP.


Choices, Choices, Choices


In the end, you always have to do what is best for your business and for your wallet. Building a business can have some unexpected costs, but this ensures your business has the strong foundation it needs to put you in front of your ideal client with your best foot forward and a consistent message that can win them over!


Thanks for reading! If you're considering a Semi-Custom Brand Kit, but are worried about not standing out, check out this blog post!


5 Brands that prove you can stand out and sell more with a Semi-Custom brand kit