The painter’s house…

My granny used to joke that you can always spot the painter’s house – it’s usually the only unpainted one in the village. My brand was that house.

I think it’s something most professionals can relate to. Whether your skillset is painting, electrics, photography, web development or design – we often put ourselves to the bottom of the to-do list. Looking after everyone else first.

And that was certainly the case with me.

For years I’d been helping brands develop names, taglines and clear identities – yet never got around to developing my own. Instead, I’d been quietly operating away as a consultant under my own name. Although thankfully, I had been kept flat out with work from word of mouth, kind referrals, and collaborations with a few key agencies.

But in 2020, things changed. And not because of Covid.

Because of something, entirely happier. I welcomed the arrival of my child, Brendan. And for the first time in seven years, I took some time away from my screen to focus on the most important and rewarding job I’ve taken on yet.

Me taking on a very different type of job – motherhood.
A fresh new perspective

I’d love to say that over my six-month maternity leave, I spent lots of time strategising and thinking about how to reposition my brand when I returned to work. But I didn’t give it a second thought. Instead, I totally switched off and was completely immersed in the beautiful, happy (and sleep-deprived) bubble of new parenthood.

It was literally, in the week before I returned, that I got this now or never wave of focus. I knew that before I got bogged down in projects and deadlines – I had this incredible opportunity to rethink how I was going to do things.

And, as fate would have it, the project I’d lined up to work on when I got back, got pushed out with lockdowns. So there it was – a perfect window to focus on myself.

So I cleaned the house.

Just kidding. Well sort-of.

I did clean the house. Then I reorganised all my cupboards. And eventually, when I could no longer distract myself, I sat down and started the branding process. Finally, treating myself like I would any other client.

“Procrastination (n) – the action of delaying or postponing something. See also, Cath Quinlan, Cats Quinlan or Catherine Quinlan.”

Three things I found worth prioritising

The final result was the new Set the Tone brand, complete with a new brand identity and the launch of this website. There were many, many steps and things to consider along the way. And for anyone about to embark on the process themselves, I thought I’d share some links and insights that could help you on your journey.

  1. Protect your new brand: After my initial brainstorming around names for my brand, I went through my shortlist to check if an Irish domain name would be available and if they were available to register as a trading name with the Company Registration Office. I purchased and secured both registrations for Set the Tone, before proceeding any further.
  2. Enlist expertise: If you’re a small operator or a sole trader like I was, there is a temptation to try and do everything yourself. Or do it on the cheap. Find the budget and pay for the expertise you need. It is so worth it. I couldn’t have been luckier to come across Nina of Design Bird, who took my brief and developed the most perfect identity for me. I love my logo, colour palette and typography! And all the supporting collateral she produced for me. I also worked with an amazing local photographer and videographer, Joleen Cronin, to create this video to introduce Set the Tone and me as its founder.
  3. Research available supports: There are so many supports out there to encourage Irish entrepreneurs and businesses – from training and mentoring, to financial. My first point of contact was to my Local Enterprise Office. I was able to apply for their Trading Online Voucher scheme to refresh my brand online and create a new e-commerce offering for Set the Tone. It’s what allowed me to work with the incredible team at iSeek who exceeded all my expectations in how they designed and built this website for me.
The painter’s house is finally painted!
Look to the skies

Creating or redesigning your brand is an amazing opportunity. But try and think bigger.

While I started the process thinking I needed a name and a better brand identity, I came out of the process with a whole new focus. And that’s how it should be.

I questioned every aspect of what I offer – what do I love doing? What am I best at? What do clients really want and need? I have always worked with larger organisations, facilitating brand workshops and projects. I really wanted to start helping smaller companies too.

And through the new booking system on the website, I was finally able to do that. I was able to diversify and start working 1-to-1 with individual business owners. Plus reach new audiences far outside my geographic region of Cork.

And I’m hoping this is just the start. I’ve lots more ideas in the pipeline for future developments. Watch this space:)

And the Oscar moment!

I am so grateful to all of you who’ve helped make this post, on this new website, showcasing my new brand possible. I’ve so many of you to thank.

From all the clients and agencies who I’ve worked with to date, who’ve made being self-employed at all, a reality. And those who’ve kindly let me feature their stories or shared testimonials.

To the talented suppliers who co-created this brand – Nina, Joleen and the team at iSeek. And LEO whose grant helped make this eCommerce website possible.

But most of all, thanks to my family and partner Ian, who have patiently put up with my absences and encouraged me every step of the way.

If you’re in the process of refreshing or creating your brand and you need advice or help with naming, taglines, or any aspect of your tone of voice and messaging – just get in touch? I’d love to chat.

More Character Notes