Fiona Humberstone is an author, speaker and creative brand communications consultant who founded, grew and sold one of the UK’s most successful brand styling companies. Fiona now works as a creative director with both design agencies and creative businesses on their communications projects as well as running workshops both in the UK and further afield. Oh, and she’s also just about to publish her second book, How to Style your Brand.
Here’s Fiona’s story.
The journey into branding and beyond
I’ve always been fascinated by design and love working with entrepreneurs. I started working for a print company when I graduated, but before long found myself drawn into the design of their brand identities rather than their printed literature. In 2005 I struck out on my own and the business fast gained a reputation for creating distinctive designs. By 2012 with a team of six, sizeable overheads and a third child on the way I knew that it was time to redefine things, so I sold the business, took an 18-month sabbatical and thought long and hard about what I wanted to do next.
Helping my clients define what they want to be known for
When I started working again I had a good idea about where I could add the most value and also the types of projects I wanted to work on. I usually act as a creative director on rebrand projects: helping my clients define what it is they want to be known for, how they want to communicate and what that might look and feel like. I’ll produce a mood board, help source the right designer and be there as a support throughout the process to ensure everything is on track. I also plan the website, write the copy and create wireframes. I also consult for design agencies who are looking to sell more creative work or improve their creative process.
A strong reputation from my previous business
When it came to taking my service offerings to the market I was lucky because I had a strong reputation from my previous company. I found that using my blog and social media channels meant I could put the word out that I was open for business pretty quickly. I started out being fairly flexible around the services I could offer, and over the past year I’ve refined that to focus on the areas where I can add the most value.
I help clients see beyond what they think is possible
There aren’t many people that do what I do, and at the outset I wondered whether there would really be a market for someone like me who essentially helps businesses get their branding right first time. But having worked in the industry for 15 years I’m continually meeting people who want an experienced hand on their side – there’s definitely a need for what I’m doing! In fact, happily I have a waiting list.
Often my clients don’t know how to find an agency, whether the one they’ve found is right for them or how to brief them to create something that’s right for their business. I help them see beyond what they think is possible and work with an agency that’ll really help them take their business forward.
It’s all about content, creating relationships and adding value
Marketing is no longer about direct mail or inserts into the local Chamber of Commerce magazine. Now it’s about building a tribe, sharing content and creating relationships. I love that sort of marketing because I think it reflects how we behave as human beings. My blog is central to my marketing strategy, as is my newsletter list. I don’t post often, a couple of times a month maybe, but I make sure that what I do post really adds value.
I don’t have a huge client base because my consulting work is pretty specialist and I only take on a select number of clients, so in that sense it’s about looking after them well, doing a good job and maintaining a personal relationship. I do have a ‘list’ that I’m building and growing which is essential for my book and also my workshops. That’s all about content – creating valuable content and memorable experiences at the workshops.
Brands should be focusing on reflecting their unique business
It’s important to stay on top of current design trends, but creating a truly powerful brand is much more about putting something together that really reflects your unique business than it is about following the latest fad. To create something with longevity you need to go deeper than just trendspotting – and that’s where a robust creative process really matters.
Recognise success but remember what counts
When it comes to thinking about my greatest success, definitely seeing my book How to Style Your Brand: Everything You Need to Know to Create a Distinctive Brand Identity in print has been massive. I worked so hard on it.
Launching my workshops to such acclaim has also been a real highlight, as well as teaching alongside bestselling author and blogger Holly Becker and floral industry supremo Rona Wheeldon.
It’s great to enjoy success, but it doesn’t come without its challenges. Many business owners will simply find that there is never enough time. My youngest is now two and I want to make the most of my time with her before she goes to school as well as be there for my older two, who are now six and 11. Balancing that with work will, I’m sure, be my biggest challenge.
Know your own worth
When it comes to starting your own business, I would say, ‘do it!’ Understand where you add the most value, how you help and what impact that has on your client’s businesses. Be brave with what you charge and value your own time: if you don’t, no one else will.
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