Why branding shouldn’t stop you in your tracks

Last updated Jul 20, 2020

In February 2015, I hit my lowest point as an entrepreneur and as a mother.

I was diagnosed with a painful nerve condition in my face which was invisible, but crippling. On the days when it was at it’s cruelest, I would be unable to eat, speak or drive. My children were ferried back and forth to and from school by friends, and in the evenings, when my husband was away with work, they would go to sleep at night without a bedtime story, bemused by their newly silenced mother.

Deprived of sleep and on a heavy dosage of anti-epilepsy medication to try to curb the nerve activity, most of those months passed in a fog. I managed to stay on top of my workload, but only just…

Ironically, it was at a time when my business was at it’s most successful. I had recently enrolled in a mentorship program, and with a waiting list of project work, I couldn’t have been busier. The result was that I was working exceptionally long hours, and in the back of my mind, I wondered whether stress was the cause of this condition.

How I was turning things around

A few months prior to being in the grip of this illness, I had started to change the way I was working.

I had recognised that my workload was unpredictable at best, and I had little or no control over my clients’ timelines. As a recovering people pleaser, I seemed unable to put firm enough boundaries around project schedules, and this meant that my phone was ringing off the hook, my inbox was overflowing, and I was working through the night to turn around projects at an unrealistic pace.

I was quite genuinely a slave to the business which was meant to be delivering me time and freedom.

Something had to change.

I had been building websites for small business owners since 2003, and no matter how much I loved it, the truth was that I was struggling to control my workload.

So, on the advice of my mentor, I took a couple of weeks out to contact previous clients and ask if they would be interested in participating in a pilot 4-week program where I would teach them how to effectively market their businesses using email.

The idea was to give me more control over the delivery of my work within the framework of a program.

The response was phenomenal, and before I had even created the program, I had several people asking to sign up.

It was a pivotal moment

I delivered the program via video using the crudest system imaginable.

I would email each participant a link to a video each Monday morning, and arrange to connect with them one-to-one later that week.

The best part about this was the connection with my clients. I loved that one-on-one contact and being able to tutor them in something that was truly valuable to them, and create an actual outcome for them.

And so it began, that I started thinking about what else I could teach. So I created an SEO program too, with a similar mechanism of delivery.

And then I created a website creation program.

It was called the WordPress Success Bootcamp, and it blew me away by how much I loved delivering it and the transformational results my clients were seeing from working through it. It’s a 12-week program which is now my sole focus.

wedding planner homemade website

Honestly, in my wildest dreams, I couldn’t have imagined that my clients would be able to pull together creations which are so beautiful. You’ll be able to see a full portfolio of examples when my new website goes live, but in the meantime, this one on the right was built by Alana in just 6 weeks on the program whilst working a full time job.

This idea of teaching wasn’t new to me.

Back in 2004, in the early days of my journey into entrepreneurship, I had taught website design to adult learners in a workshop environment. Outside of the classroom, they were able to access resources through a password protected area on my website, which at the time seemed kind of cutting edge, but as my web design work had started to gain a lot of traction, my teaching fell by the wayside.

I had forgotten how much I loved it until I recreated that environment a few years ago, but with 12 years of web and online marketing experience behind me, I was able to deliver so much more value to my clients.

So for about 3 years now, I have been quietly working on these teaching projects under the title of WP Happy.  Under that umbrella, I’ve been delivering training to coaches and therapists to help them create their own profitable website.

It’s been an incredible journey, and what started off as something of an experiment has turned into something of a movement, to empower small business owners to take more control of their online marketing.

But I’ve never really launched it as a business or a brand.

Why?

Because I wasn’t really sure how to.

Kind of a terrible admission to make, considering that marketing is really what I do.

Sometimes we’re just too close to the situation for it be logical.

What seemed so complicated back then, seems so straightforward now – I can’t believe that I couldn’t see a way forwards.

Why am I telling you all of this?

Because I see so many entrepreneurs struggling with their messaging, the technology, their social media presences, and they are absolutely overwhelmed.

I want you to know that this is not a struggle that is unique to you.

And that struggle you have with keeping your message on brand, or with your branding generally, is also not unusual.

As I transition from marketing agency to coach, I have tussled with my company’s identity.

And when I look back at some of the early iterations of my branding and website, I’m embarrassed to unveil them, but it demonstrates a journey.

Even 15 years down the line, I’m still going through that process of branding.

This is a journey of my business, and through some of these excruciating visual admissions, I’m hoping that you will see that you can move forwards with imperfection!

Here’s my timeline.

My brand journey

Early 2003 – launched Azure Marketing with a horribly naff homemade logo, cringe-worthy content and a very basic website.

Early 2004 – I published a bi-lingual version, as I was based in Germany at the time, which included my all-singing, all-dancing password protected resource area for my web design students!

2009-ish – I think it was about 2009, when Cass from Cap & Anchor created my logo. I fell in love with the hummingbird, as it represented the beginnings of Azure Marketing when I was based in California (that’s another story, which you can read about here), but if I look at the Wayback Machine (which archives screenshots of websites since the beginning of time…), I can’t see the hummingbird in use at all in it’s original colours, so I think it may not have been logging my screenshots.

Azure Marketing logo

At some point, I changed my website, and I think that this logo was on there, but I can’t bring it up in the archives.

2014 – I changed my colour scheme.

2015 – I began playing with the idea of creating a training offshoot of Azure Marketing.

2016 – I started using the name WP Happy and late in 2016, I created the WordPress Happy Community Facebook group, which sat dormant for months, while I figured out what I wanted to do with it (that’s another story…). It’s now a thriving community of coaches and therapists who want a safe space to ask marketing and tech questions about their website, in a friendly environment which really isn’t at all techy…

2017 – I knew I had to give WP Happy a proper identity, but I didn’t want to lose the hummingbird, so this is the adapted version.

I loved it, but it felt too flippant, and WP Happy, wasn’t sitting well for me. I love the idea of bringing some happiness into the world of WordPress for my students, and that has been an unexpected side effect of the program. I can’t count how many people have finished the program saying ‘I honestly never realised that it was going to be so much fun’.

But the WordPress Success Bootcamp is so much more than a website creation program.

So I wanted my logo to have flow, to the portray ease, elegance and empowerment that my students felt when they had worked through the program. So this was the starting point for that.

Which evolved into this.

I like this, but I don’t love it enough and although it’s beautiful, gold doesn’t really work for me.

The programs that I run aren’t just about WordPress. They’re about marketing, about collaborative support and a learning experience that goes far beyond websites. It’s a journey of flow and mentorship, and then it clicked.

I’m not a WordPress Happiness Specialist. I’m a Website Mentor.

So in quick succession, my logo continues to evolve.

And this brings me to where I am now.

This is absolutely the look and feel that I was after, but the message behind it is still confused, and WP Happy may soon be retired (before it ever really saw the light of day). The next iteration is in full swing, and I hope by next week, I will be able to show you the final version, along with a website at thewebsitementor.com.

Watch this space!

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Vicky Etherington

Vicky Etherington has been running her own online marketing agency since 2003, and in 2014 transitioned to working with coaches and therapists to teach them how to create their own client-attracting websites. 

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Posted in: Website tips
Tagged as: branding, logo

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