Hey Creative Ladies we are back and so excited to share our interview with Fiona Humberstone, The Brand Stylist, and best selling author of How to Style your Brand and Brand Brilliance.
Fiona’s spent almost twenty years working in this industry and along the way has seen firsthand the impact that branding can have. She has made it her mission to empower entrepreneurs to create incredible brands and businesses that work for them. In this interview we discuss her decision to self publish, the inspiration behind her second book, and unlocking the potential within your brand, enjoy!
Tell us about your path to becoming the Brand Stylist.
This is my second business and I'd become wiser to what worked for me and what didn't. I knew those elements of my work that I loved (working with clients, creating a powerful vision, creative direction) and those which drained me (managing a team, overheads, managing deadlines and kids summer holidays). When I launched The Brand Stylist, I was determined to create a business that really worked for me. I didn't want to compromise on things like being around for the kids in their (many) school holidays so I designed my work so that I could be off every 6 weeks.
I'm a bit of a seasoned pro in this industry. I started out in print in 2000, launched my own design agency in 2005 and have worked with hundreds, if not thousands, of entrepreneurs on their brand identity. I've learned so much over the years, about branding for sure, but also about the fact that business owners need to know more about how the process works so that they can make smarter, more effective, efficient and long-lasting choices for their brands. And that's my mission.
The Brand Stylist empowers entrepreneurs to create incredible brands. I like to think that I'm making the job of designers easier, because business owners who've worked through my books, online courses or worked with me at a workshop, day or consultancy are so much more focused and clear about what they want that it makes designing for them a joy.
You are well known for your best selling book How to Style your Brand, which you self published! What inspired you to share your vision and work in the form of a book?
I'm a complete book worm! I'd been collecting hundreds of beautifully designed cookbooks, interiors books and floristry books for years and had never understood why no one had created a beautiful business book. In the studio, we had design books which featured inspirational work (a Pinterest forerunner!) but they were aimed at designers and didn't educate on why they worked, only showed what was there. All the books I'd read on branding had been black and white, text heavy books and I couldn't see why, with a subject as visual as branding, you wouldn't create something beautiful.
It was a long term dream and I'd tried to write the book a couple of times when I was running my agency but there was just no way I had the time to pull it together, Thank goodness! It would've been a very different book!
The catalyst finally came once I'd sold my agency and I was on sabbatical. I had the time to create something worthy and I knew that there was such a need for a book that gave entrepreneurs the insights into how branding worked so they could make smarter choices.
Self-publishing is a tremendous feat. How was that process and what advice would you share with someone looking to do the same?
It really is! It's not for the faint hearted and honestly, it's one of the very few stress points in my business. I don't love the managing of stock levels, liaising with distributors or the pressure that comes with managing the print runs. Saying that, when you're writing, styling, creative directing and designing a book, there's really nothing like it! I've shared a lot on self publishing on the blog - if you really want to do it, make sure there's a real need for what you're doing and go for it!
You just released your second book, Brand Brilliance. Can you share a bit about how this publication expands on the content in your first book?
Thank you for asking! They are completely complementary. Brand Brilliance was meant to be the follow up to HTSYB - I wanted to focus on creating a great website. The more I wrote, and listened to the questions I was hearing, the more I realised that it needed to be about more than that. So this book is all about elevating your brand - creating a business that sets you apart from your competition, avoiding the hustle and just doing your thing. The first part of the book is focused around helping you find your space, and the second, about enchanting your audience. We cover websites, copywriting, design, photography and styling... All those things you need to master to create a brand that attracts the right clients.
Our community is made up of creative women who work for themselves. In stepping out on one's own like this a brand is being created. If you could give one piece of advice to freelance creatives just starting on their own brand journey, what would it be? Would this piece of advice differ for creatives who are perhaps 5-10 years in?
I think the advice I'd give every creative is to find that thing that you do better than everyone else and build your business around that. Don't try and be all things to all people. Create a destination brand. Be known for a particular style of design and make yourself the go-to person. We so often focus on trying to show a bit of everything - especially as freelancers, but actually, that doesn't set you apart, it confuses your clients, undermines your creativity and sets you up for a rocky ride with clients.
Show your clients what you're capable of, embrace your creative style and curate your portfolio down to only what you want to do more of and you'll find you attract clients who adore your work and are prepared to invest (and wait) for you to do your best work.
You balance many different offerings for the Brand Stylist, do you have any tips for being your most productive?
Stay inspired and give yourself headspace. Don't let others set your priorities. Remember the value you add and protect your creative confidence.
What has been your greatest struggle as a creative business owner so far?
Honestly in this iteration of my business, I don't think anything has been a struggle. When I was running my agency, it was without question, the challenge of running a team!
You recently revamped your website; it is beautiful and really well thought out, congratulations! What advice would you give to someone looking to breathe new life into their online presence?
Thank you! I think the most important thing is to not over-research, actually. I did a little research right at the beginning, but the new website showcases my love of typography and is actually really quite simple. It feels like me and that's the most important thing. Don't try and replicate something you've seen on someone else's just do your own thing.
Do you have any tips for dealing with the nitty-gritty business details?
I use Xero, which I find absolutely life-changing for managing everything. I used to have a book keeper in my agency, but I really don't think that's necessary when it's just me. I do need to rethink my approach to accountancy though - I think Xero is revolutionising the way I do my accounts. I feel more empowered and I need an accountant that can support me in that. At the moment it's all feeling a bit disjointed and that stresses me!
Are there any projects on which you're ruminating that you'd like to make time for someday?
I'm always ruminating on a project ;) Right now I have something really big and exciting bubbling away which I'll be scoping out over the next few weeks and hoping to bring to life in the autumn. Watch this space!