Creating a kick-a$$ brand development strategy is no easy feat—but if anyone has nailed it, it’s Sandra Chau.
Sandra is a creative director and stylist with a STUNNING minimalist design aesthetic (srsly, see for yourself). She develops custom visual branding strategies for luxury clients, including jewelry, loungewear, bedding, and beauty brands from all over the world. In fact, Sandra is so skilled at visual branding, that she also teaches entrepreneurs how to create their own brand development strategy, so they can attract the clients (and ca$h) they really want!
…but she wasn’t always so successful.
Like many of us, Sandra started her business as a side hustle. Her full-time time job was as a lawyer, but in her downtime, Sandra planned her wedding.
“I spent a lot of time going through wedding blogs, and I really fell in love with it,” she says. “I think it kind of reignited my passion for the arts.”
Sandra developed her own wedding blog as well as a rich community of vendors and connections in the industry. All the while, she felt more and more burnt out in her day job. So, one day, Sandra made the leap—and QUIT.
Unfortunately, Sandra’s transition from legalese to luxury wasn’t exactly a rapid rise to success.
Sandra continued building her wedding blog and connecting with different creatives in the biz, until one day she met up with a floral and events designer for coffee.
“She was looking for a stylist and saw something in me.” This was her BIG BREAK. Sandra accepted the job as a freelance stylist and braced herself for the inevitable growth ahead.
While working alongside the floral and events design company, Sandra started accepting extra gigs on the side. “I was charging next to nothing, but I was really trying to build up that portfolio,” she says. What Sandra didn’t realize was that this strategy was failing her. “I was getting the leads, but they were either not really the right clients or the right style, or they were kind of just sort of price haggling.”
The clients were trickling in, but her business wasn’t growing.
After three years, Sandra STILL wasn’t seeing the prices and clientele she desired.
So, she wondered, what was the problem?
Sandra always had an eye for visual design. The issue was that she looked like everyone else.
“It wasn’t that my work wasn’t good or the events that we did weren’t beautiful,” Sandra explains. “They were just kind of… pretty. I wasn’t creating with any foundation in mind or anything that was true to my aesthetic or my story.”
Sandra didn’t stand out. She followed trends instead of focusing on her own brand.
So… she stopped focusing on what was “pretty” and chose a new brand development strategy.
Instead of selecting content based on trends, Sandra became intentional about the visual impression she was putting out into the world.
“I did sort of an overhaul of my brand,” she explains. “I went back to the foundations [and] really thought about the kinds of clients I wanted to attract and [started to] create around that.”
At first, it was a shift in the types of images Sandra posted on Instagram. She focused less on what was just “pretty” and more on photos she felt would interest a fine art wedding client. Next, she moved on to her website, updating the banner image and so on. She even changed her client proposals!
Sandra thought through every single touchpoint, every moment a potential client would interact with her business, and one by one she changed those visuals and copy to reflect her unique brand…
AND IT WORKED.
When Sandra started showcasing a brand identity that resonated with the clients she wanted to attract, those high-end, luxury clients started to show up. This same strategy even allowed her to finally shift away from the wedding industry and pursue creative directing and brand styling work with ecommerce brands.
Little by little, Sandra continued to implement her visual branding strategy—across ALL platforms and ALL customer touchpoints. Then, she made another bold decision… Sandra increased her prices.
“I started to look at the value that I was providing for these brands and started pricing around that,” says Sandra. “What I found when I started doing that… was people didn’t really question my prices anymore.”
When clients look at Sandra’s business today, they can clearly see the value she provides. So if they can’t afford it, they don’t inquire OR (even better) they tell her they’ll come back in a few years when they can.
Eventually, what was once a $500 visual branding fee became a $5K to $10K service!
Sandra’s business has seen so much growth and success that she now teaches these same principles in her School of Visual Branding. In this week’s podcast, Sandra shares with listeners like you some of her top tips for FREE (listen here for the full episode)!
Sandra’s entire business is based on visual branding. She helps her clients develop a visual identity for their brand and project it to the world. However, her expertise and advice can enhance any brand development strategy, whether your work is focused on visuals or not.
Here’s what Sandra suggests…
STEP 1 → Refocus your brand identity
To create a truly effective (and lucrative!) brand development strategy, you have to start by thinking about your brand (DUH).
This goes far beyond visuals. In fact, don’t start with the visuals at all! Go deeper.
What is the foundation, the core, the identity of your brand? If it helps, think of your brand as a person with a personality. Who is this unique “individual”? What are they saying to the world?
“Look at your brand as a whole,” says Sandra. “Your visuals plus copy plus experience. Think of the message that you’re trying to communicate and then go backwards from there.”
STEP 2 → Begin changing your copy and imagery
Once you have a better grasp on your brand identity, start shifting your brand strategy.
Visuals play a part in your brand strategy, but your copy and messaging do as well (remember: your brand = visuals + copy + experience). However, to help you identify a starting point, Sandra recommends focusing on where your leads or coming from. For her business, that was Instagram, so Sandra started posting images and reels and stories that matched her brand.
As you edit, ask the following questions about every new visual/copy/experience…
“It’s essentially being very intentional with what you put out there and how that works as a whole with your brand,” she adds. “It’s that kind of consistency, that cohesion, that builds trust in your brand.”
STEP 3 → Increase your prices (gradually) to reflect the value you are offering
For some people, this tip may be the hardest of the bunch.
It’s easy to talk ourselves out of raising our prices or fees. What if we scare off a client? What if we scare off more than one client!? Are we being greedy? Heck, some of us may feel like we’re not worth the rates we’re charging right now!
But, here’s a tough question: if you don’t have confidence in your own product, service, business… why should you expect your clients to?
If this tip feels a little risky or scary to you, Sandra has one final piece of advice…
One of the top questions we get at Cubicle to CEO is from listeners who’ve been told time and time again that they should focus on their ideal client. The issue, they say, is that they don’t know who that ideal client is! They haven’t worked with enough people to know yet!
To these fellow entrepreneurs, Sandra has some more sage wisdom to share.
“Building a business, building a brand, is just one big experiment.”
In Sandra’s own words, it took three years before she started to see some “proper income.” The reason she finally started to attract the clients she really wanted and earn the rates really deserved is because she tried something different.
Even Sandra isn’t done experimenting in her own business. “I still have this little wish list of the kinds of clients that I want to work with, and during my downtime I always try to create for those potential clients.”
Remember: what you put out there is what you get back.
When Sandra started her business, she wasn’t putting out in the world the types of visuals that would draw in the clients and rates she wanted to get back. But as she implemented a new branding development strategy that catered to those luxury and lifestyle brands, she witnessed a shift. Now, it’s your turn.
Say goodbye to the side hustle. We’re ushering in a new era of succe$$.