5 Branding Mistakes to Avoid

As a personal brand mentor and designer, I get -a lot- of emails with business babes asking me for advice. Recently, I’ve received a couple dozen along the lines of: 

“Dear Zie, 

Please help. I’ve been working so hard on building my brand. I’m constantly hustling but I’m not seeing any growth. I don’t have any new followers, and I feel like no one is reading my stuff. Which means I’m not making the sales I need to in order to leave my day-job, etc.” 

And I feel their struggle. I’ve been there. We all have. So of course, I pop over to check out their social media, their blogs, their websites. And pretty consistently, I see a few problems. 

1. Private accounts!! 

This one is HUGE. I’d say almost half of these babes had private accounts. They’d been posting beautiful, helpful content regularly, but no one was able to see it or access it. 

I personally, have never followed a private account (unless it was someone I knew) on any platform. I like to know exactly what I’m going to get when I follow someone, and when you’re private, it feels like a weirdly huge risk. 

Now, if you’re using your Instagram or your Twitter to connect with family only, and you’re not trying to build a brand, that’s totally fine. However, if you’re reading this post, I’m going to assume you’re interested in building a brand and my advice is to switch to public immediately.

“Switch to public? But what if I don’t want people to see my children or see me in my bikini?”

Don’t post it. If you’re trying to build a brand, focus on that. Save those snaps of you looking absolutely fab in that hot pink number for text messages or create a separate private account. 

Unless of course that has something to do with your brand, which brings me to my next point… 

2. Completely unrelated content. 

Unless you in a hot pink bikini, sipping on a drink with an umbrella is actually relevant to your brand (which, it totally might be!) I say skip that post. I’m 1000000% pro-selfie and encourage my branded babes to share snaps of themselves. As long as they are relevant and on-brand. 

When you’re building a brand, you’re telling a story. And how weird would it be if you were watching Cinderella and in the middle of the Prince popping down on one knee, you had a clip from Star Wars pop up? Totally weird, right? 

Same thing applies to your brand. If you’re a wedding photographer who’s story is delicate moments between couples, you’re probably not going to post a photo, etc. from that Nikki Minaj concert you went to last night. (Even though it was totally rad and she’s a babe!) That just doesn’t fit with your story. 

3. Premade logos.

I have slightly mixed feelings about sharing this tip, however, I feel it must be done. If you have a premade or template logo or if you even make a living from making these, I totally understand. I’m not condemning you and I still love you with my whole heart. 

But when there are 5 babes in business and 3 of them have the same (or very similar) logos, it gets confusing. 

I totally understand trends and I completely empathize with not having the budget to pay a designer to create you a one-of-a-kind-gem. 

But I want you to succeed and to have this dazzling brand that no one else can replicate because YOU are so stinking awesome! 

4. Start how you intend to go on. 

“But Zie, I’m just starting out. I’ll just use this premade logo for a few months but then when I have a bigger budget, I’ll hire someone.” 


“But Zie, I’m just starting out. I’ll figure what my brand story is later!” 

Take it from me, that doesn’t work. Way back when I started out, I was just a dumb design student who thought that I would start a blog about who-knew-what and maybe figure out how to make some money off of it. I didn’t really even understand what a brand was back then, and if I did, I didn’t really care. I didn’t have a plan and I certainly didn’t have my shiz together. 

I’ll let you in on a secret: this has made my life so difficult. Because I never set guidelines and rules for myself and because I never defined who I was, what I was doing and who I was doing it for, I had -years- of chaos. 

If you look deep into the archives of Zie Darling (please don’t), you’ll see a time where I was a pretend-fashion blogger with a lazy attempt at an Etsy shop selling whatever I wanted. There definitely wasn’t a logo and I’m pretty sure my business name was something horrid and moody like “A Bruise Pear”. *cringe* 

My point in this little flashback is to say that if your end goals is to create a lifestyle for yourself where you are the boss babe who is an expert in your field…. you gotta start how you mean to go on. 

So take this as permission to skip over Blogger and start on Wordpress or Squarespace. Or to hire a designer or do it yourself. Or to invest in a nicer camera. Whatever. If this is your dream, invest in it. 

5. Envious-energy is a hideous shade of green. 

Repeat after me: “Her success. Is NOT my failure.”  

You may be like “Zie this has nothing to do with branding” and I’ll argue that it’s the most important part. 

In fields like ours, it’s really easy to feel envious or even bitter towards others. Especially when we see how successful they are becoming. 

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m guilty of this (even still!) from time to time. This new brand designer shows up in my feed and she’s really rad. She’s -killing- it with her Instagram, her designs are fabulous and she’s such a wonderful person. Her biggest flaw in my eyes? She’s got more clients then I do. #wut

That’s a pretty spiteful thing to think, if we are being honest. And when we break it down and really analyze what we are feeling & why we are feeling it, it boils down to fear. 

Fear that there’s yet another person in the market doing a similar thing to what you’re doing. Fear that they might be better than you. Fear that they’ll have all the clients / readers / followers and that you won’t have any. 

But let’s pause for a moment. There are literally billions of people in the world. Which means there’s like zero chance that the “market” will completely dry up. Someone will always need a logo, or a photo, or a new fashion expert, etc. in their lives. There is more than enough for all of us and the best thing we can do is promote and lift each other up. 

And here’s where I feel that this is such a HUGE part of branding mistakes to avoid: if you allow yourself to wallow in that envious-energy and become bitter, you’ll fail. It’s that simple. 

If you are constantly focused on what everyone else is doing and how horrible it is that yet another person popped up in your market or niche, then you’re not focusing on that new reader, follower, client, customer that you could have. 

So refocus that envious-energy into something far more productive like hustling smarter or joining my Personal Branding for Creatives class ;) 

I have a million percent faith in each of you, sweetlings and I cannot wait to see what all you create! 

Have another branding mistake you’ve seen or even a branding pet-peeve? I would love to chat with you either in the comments or over at Twitter or Instagram

I just want to briefly thank Caitlin for hosting me today! It’s been rad & I’ve absolutely loved popping in. 

Until next time, darlings. 



My name is Zie Darling! I'm your fairy godmother, here to motivate and inspire you, teach and guide you. 

I fully believe that every brand has a story and I'm here as your own personal storyteller. I am all about women who want to live their own glamorous lives, who are excited by lifting other babes-in-business up and who are actively choosing to live happier, more glitter-filled lives. 

I also happen to live in Nashville, eat a staggering amount of hot wings and have a cat named Napoleon Fitzwilliam Bonaparte.