Look anywhere online, and you’ll find that you’re given ALL the advice on branding your business the "right" way - but how do you know what to believe? Well I’m gonna tell you that the one + only person you need to trust is YOURSELF. And the reason why comes down to one thing: your brand values.
We are so often told the way we should do something in our online business: have a funnel; don’t have a funnel. Do video - no, do a podcast! Create an online course - oh, but first, have a sell-out service. Do you get the gist? It’s tiring - and quite frankly, following the advice of others instead of listening to your own intuition doesn't work. Doing that led to the worst period in my business in terms of sales + growth than I'd had for a long time.
Your values can become an incredibly useful decision making tool in your business. Along with your intuition, your values are there to help guide you along the path that feels most right and aligned TO YOU - and nobody else.
Values matter because they are a reflection of who we are, but also who we strive to be. They impact the choices we make, the things we create, and link deeply into our purpose - our reason for doing what we do.
But values also matter because they can become a guiding light that helps our audience connect with us. Make choices and decisions based around aligning your actions with what you value. When you do that, you’re instantly going to attract the people that resonate with those values the most.
When it comes to the nitty gritty of actually figuring out your brand values, I like to ask myself a few questions:
These questions - but most importantly, your answers - are what will help to discover what your values are. Review your answers, and look for any patterns that stand out. Also make note of any powerful words or phrases that make you feel good. That feel aligned to the person you are, the business you want to create, and how you want your audience to feel.
You might have to ask yourself the questions multiple times to get to the heart of what you’re creating. And that’s okay - that’s a part of the process!
I hesitate to include a list of values here as it's easy to try fitting your values into what someone else says they should be. Discovering your values is a process that is incredibly unique to you, who you are and who you want to be. It shouldn't be something that you are inspired by someone else to create.
The meaning of our values can also differ from person to person, even with the same ‘value’. Values are words, at the end of the day. It’s what we do with them, and the meanings we attach to them, that make them our own.
One of my own values is to ‘be the light’, and another is ‘share your pain’. At first glance, these might seem completely contradictory. However, when I explain the meanings that _I_ have attached to them, they become much clearer.
‘Share your pain’ means to share all that comes my way in life, both good and bad. It also means to not hide behind a mask, or share only my highlight reel in life. The reason for that is because of the years I spent hiding my chronic illness from the world, particularly in my business. This was due to the fear that I had of showing my real self in case of criticism. But ‘be the light’ means to also be a positive voice for change, and to show an example of what a person with chronic illness can achieve, and do, and be.
The reason I have both of these values is to give me a constant reminder to be my most authentic self, no matter what. To remind myself to make sure that everything I do aligns with these values, and doesn’t stamp out my voice, and to show up as my most authentic self.
Controversial opinion time: YES, they absolutely can.
Many people will tell you that your values are a static thing and that they can’t change. I don’t think that line of thinking could be more wrong.
Have you changed or grown as a person over the years? Have you evolved, formed new opinions, created new friendships, lost others? Have you grown up, or relaxed more?
Yes, you have. And yes, you will continue to do so.
The same can be said for your values. My values have felt pretty solid and constant for the past year - but it took me several years to get to that point. Just like with your brand visuals and style, as YOU grow and evolve, so can your values.
So don’t let thinking that your values have to be this set-in-stone thing stop you from creating values now, and thinking that it has to be perfect. Simply create a set of values, and sit with them for a while. And if they need to change over time, then let them! You can pivot at any time that you need to.
Okay - so you have your set of brand values. Now, what do you do with them?
I like to think of my brand values as a decision making tool in both my business and my life. But how do I do this?
Well the answer is pretty easy. I simply filter every request, decision, or choice that I have to make through my values.
A request comes in to speak at an event. The theme looks great but they want me to speak on a topic I’m not fully comfortable with. They also don’t have a great track record on diversity and vulnerability.
This instantly becomes a no for me - because I’m not able to show up as my most authentic self, and I don’t feel like it’s helping me show up and truly share my pain and be a positive light. It also matters to me to build real community and connection wherever I go. Because of this event's track record of lack of diversity, it doesn't feel right or aligned to support an organisation like that.
A new client request comes in. The client is after a style that feels a little out of my comfort zone, but has similar values to me and I can tell they value creativity and the experience I can bring to the table.
This feels like a hell yes for me - despite the uncomfortable-ness of being pushed out of my comfort zone, this is an opportunity that aligns with my own beliefs and values.
So as you can see, it’s not quite as black and white as your values dictating exactly what you do. It involves you feeling into each opportunity and request that comes your way - and figuring out if these opportunities answer these three questions:
When I answer those questions, most of the time I have my answer.
And the times that I have ignored that answer, and gone against what my intuition is trying to tell me? Those are the times I’ve regretted it most in my business.
Remember: you have a responsibility to use your superpowers for good in this world. The world NEEDS your work, that much I know if you are reading this - so make sure that you create a set of values to help shape your brand and business into a powerhouse of goodness, and go out there and make a difference.
PS I'm going to be launching a very special digital product soon that I've been working on for the past few months. Sign up to my email list to be the first to know when it launches, and to receive email updates in the meantime!
Rachilli is a creative studio dedicated to empowering every independent creative, business owner + small business to brand their business authentically, aligned to their core values, mission + vision.
We also want to empower other's with chronic illnesses to carve their own path and create a life + business that works for them, and to lead the way by creating a platform for, and being a voice alongside, those with chronic illness in business.
Rachel, the founder, is an award-winning designer + photographer, published logo designer + author, and is mama to two - slightly crazy - dogs, Storm + Jasper.