Business Tips

How Much Does Branding Cost for Small Businesses in 2023?

As a small business owner how much should you budget for your brand in 2023? Let's dive in.
A brand is more than just a name. There’s the logo, brand colours, wordmark, brand imagery, fonts, iconography….and that’s only the beginning. To create a strong brand, it needs to exist everywhere while always remaining consistent.

You likely know all this, but the big question my clients often ask is “how much does branding cost for a small business?” Well, the simple answer to that question is it depends.

Do you offer products that need branded packaging? Is your business online only? How many employees do you have? Do they all need business cards? Email signatures? Branded t-shirts? These are all factors that impact how much you should pay for small business branding.

But to simplify things even further, this post will walk you through the logistics of small business branding and provide you with a branding price guide based on your needs, business size and future-growth opportunities.

This post covers:
  • Why You Should Invest in Branding This Year
  • What Does It Cost To Brand A Small Business in 2023
  • What Changes The Price of A Brand
  • What’s Included In A Small Business Branding Packaging With Little Ghost Creative
  • How To Set A Budget For Your Small Business Brand
  • How Does Little Ghost Prices Compare to Other Agencies

Why You Should Invest in Your Branding This Year

Simply put, you should invest in branding in 2023 because brand is everything.

Your logo is the first thing potential customers will see when they come across your business. It not only communicates your tone and brand story but is an indication of your brand’s values.

As you know, your brand is more than just a logo. So ensuring you have a cohesive brand feel across all touchpoints is what will set your small business apart from hundreds of other local (or global!) competitors.

Here’s a few other key reasons you should invest in a brand for your small business in 2023:
  • Builds brand awareness with your target audience a.k.a dream customers
  • Allows you to connect directly to your customers by developing a design strategy that speaks directly to them
  • Ensures you’re well positioned against competitors (you don’t want to get “out-branded”)
  • Helps you elevate your marketing strategy by having a cohesive visual identity across all touchpoints, like social, website, packaging, billboards, digital ads, emails, etc..
  • Adds to a future-proofs business strategy that lets you quickly scale and grow
  • Elevates the perceived status of your business so you can “raise the profile” of your brand within your industry

So if you’re still wondering, “is a brand something I really need to invest in?” The answer is yes. 100% yes.

What Does it Cost to Brand a Small Business in 2023

As I mentioned, the amount it costs to brand a small business in 2023 is different for each business. Here’s a check list of all the potential brand assets you may need for your brand, all of which will influence how much you may need to invest for small business branding.

  • Whether the brand needs to be renamed
  • If a brand strategy is in place
  • If key brand messaging is required
  • Logo and the amount of variations (primary, secondary, vertical, horizontal)
  • Free or premium suite of typefaces
  • Brand colour system
  • Icons, illustrations or pattern treatments
  • Brand photography
  • Brand roll-out items, such as stationery or website redesign

Branding is about more than just the visual identity. It can also include brand naming, brand strategy, key messaging and more!

The other key consideration that will help you understand how much you can expect to spend on branding is who you contract to do your branding.

Agency vs. Fluid Agency vs. Boutique Studio vs. Freelancer

These are the four main types of branding contractors you can hire to build your small business brand this year.

Option 1 is to work with an agency.

There’s many talented local and national agencies across North America that specialize in different facets of branding. Some focus on brand strategy and marketing, whereas others focus solely on design and have large in-house teams of graphic designers and illustrators. The choice is yours based on your business goals. But know, if you do choose to work with an agency it will likely be the most expensive choice for small business branding.

Option 2 is to work with a fluid agency, like Little Ghost Creative.

A fluid agency is similar to an agency but focused primarily on a close relationship with the client and are designed for maximum flexibility in timelines, output and budget due to their setup. Fluid agencies typically only have one employee, but will bring together a full service team of external contractors chosen specifically for the skills they bring to each project.

At Little Ghost for example, I (Robyn) will listen to your business goals and vision then onboard a strategist, writer, designer or other specialist to achieve your vision. That’s another advantage of a fluid agency, you get to work collaboratively with a branding expert without having to invest as much of your budget as you would with an agency. You also have the advantage of having a choice of creative collaborators from other cities / countries, and the choice of aesthetic style that you wouldn't have with a traditional agency or studio. These types of agencies typically don't adhere to a certain style, instead design for a strategic vision.

Option 3 is to work with a boutique studio.

A boutique studio is a smaller version of an agency, usually with a team of two to ten employees. They are a cost-effective and hands-on way to rebrand your business, and often specialize in a distinctive visual style but can lack expertise in a variety of skillsets or aesthetic styles other than their own due to their small team. Boutique studios usually start out as individual freelancers and grow to offer beautifully aesthetic solutions, but watch out for trendy aesthetics or visuals styles that are replicated brand after brand without a custom strategy. They can also be booked months in advance due to capacity issues, so plan to connect early!

Option 4 is to work with a freelancer.

You can find local freelancers online through a quick Google search or on Instagram. There’s thousands of incredibly talented graphic designers who work for themselves and could be the right fit for your brand. Working with a freelancer will likely be the most cost-effective choice for small business branding. This is because they are a single individual with very little overhead costs. But there are several risks that come with working with a freelancer for your small business brand too. Some freelancers might not provide comprehensive strategies, complimentary writing or photography services, a strategic approach to branding, which could affect your ability to scale in the future. They may also treat freelancing as a side hustle, meaning you won’t get their full attention or may only be available nights and weekends. You’ll also need to do thorough research to ensure the freelancer you’re considering has a good reputation and can work within your aesthetic vision. So while working with a freelancer on your small business brand may save you some money, there are certainly more considerations that come with it.

To break it down even further, here’s an estimate of what you can expect to spend with each type of branding vendor:
  • Freelancer Branding Price: $500 - $5,000+
  • Fluid Agency / Boutique Studio Branding Price: $5,000 - $20,000+
  • Large Agency Branding Price: $20,000 - $150,000+

What Changes the Price of a Brand Design?

The cost of a small business brand can change drastically based on these three key things:

Size Of Your Business

Small businesses are classified as a business with anywhere from 1 to 50 people. That’s a huge range!

If your business is just you or one to two other team members, then the branding costs for items like stationary, email signature designs and uniforms will be reasonable. But if your small business is on the larger size, it can really hike up the price of your brand identity.

Marketing Objectives

Your marketing strategy will also have a direct impact on how much you’ll need to invest in branding. If you have a digital-based strategy, including tactics like social media and/or Google ads, then you’ll want to consider developing design assets for those channels as well.

On the other hand, if your marketing strategy is to gradually roll-out your brand over a number of years, you might be able to get away with initially just investing in basic brand assets, like a logo, typography, colour set and pattern treatment.

Consider your brand roll-out plan when considering how much you want to spend on branding your small business.

Future Plans

The last key thing that will determine how much you should spend on branding is your growth strategy for the next 5 to 10 years. Whether your business plan involves launching more products or developing an app, you’ll eventually need branding for these types of things. And if your initial brand strategy considers future growth from the start, you’ll be in a better place to quickly get to market with new offerings when the time is right.

What’s Included in a Small Business Branding Package With Little Ghost Creative?

Though no two branding projects are alike, I like to streamline my clients into three different categories. This may help you better understand where your small business falls!

Category 1 = Small Brands

Small brands typically need a basic brand identity as well as a few assets for launching. You could expect a brand standards guide with your logos, primary colours and type face as well as mock-ups of your branded social channels and maybe a few business card design options.

Little Ghost Examples:

  • A Personal Brand — Take the work I did for CEO, Liz Choi for example. Liz needed a primary logo, a set of primary brand colours and a few illustrative elements.
  • A Small Brand/Start-Up — Check-out my work with Longhouse Cannabis who needed a primary logo, brand colours, packaging mock-ups and a wordmark.

Category 2 = Medium Brands

Medium-sized brands typically need a more detailed brand identity with assets like patterns, iconography and photography. If your business falls into this category, you’ll also likely need more items for a brand roll-out. Or perhaps you plan to launch a robust website that will require additional branding. So if you have a medium-sized brand, you can expect a detailed brand standards guide with logo variations, a few brand roll-out items (like stationary, email signatures and posters) and any other customizable add-on based on your products/services.

Little Ghost Example:

  • A Local Business —  My client Beeproject Apiaries is a well established business in Manitoba that required a comprehensive brand with custom typefaces, colours, brand packaging design, website and store-front signage.

Category 3 = Large Brands

Large brands typically need robust brand identities that are flexible for various applications. I always encourage clients with larger brands to also consider their marketing strategy and future growth plans when starting a branding project. Large brands can have dozens to hundreds of brand touchpoints that all need to cohesively complement one another. So a large business branding package can include everything from logo variations for print and digital to website layer designs and an app interface, to branded merch and employee swag items.

  • A Corporate Brand Refresh — Check out my work with German tiny home brand, Home One. I worked with a team to develop a powerful brand system, including logo variations, a full suite of brand colours, a custom icon and illustration set, licensed typefaces and much more.

How to Set a Budget for Branding Your Small Business in 2023

Brand is an investment. And I encourage you to look at it that way. Though it will require an upfront cost, you’ll see a return on your investment as you build brand awareness with your customers.

I like to encourage my clients to look at their branding budget in this way;

First, consider what your projected revenue target is for the next year? What about the next five years? Write these numbers down.

Next, write down what you were initially expecting to spend on branding. Say you want to invest $10,000 in your small business brand and your projected revenue for year 1 is $80,000. At those numbers, you’re only investing approx. 10% of your revenue into your brand, which will be used far after your first year of business is completed. So the ROI on your brand will far exceed that first projected year of revenue.

Now consider the other competitors in your category? Is there a lot of competition from a brand perspective? If so, you’ll need to be sure your brand has a strong competitive edge. Brand elements like patterns, iconography and colour suites can all elevate your brand identity. So, you may want to consider investing a little bit more than you initially projected into brand if you’re entering a competitive market.

Finally, imagine how much growth your business might expect if your branding were better than every competitor out there. With that approach, I’m confident you’d be able to exceed your sales goals for the next 10 years.

With branding, it’s always better to invest in the quality and longevity of the work rather than splashy, cheap or trendy designs. Design trends come and go. The last thing you want is to launch a brand that quickly loses its shelf life. Or a brand that doesn’t have the ability to scale as your business grows.

How Does Little Ghost Creative Compare to Other Agencies?

Little Ghost Creative is classified as a small agency or design studio. So my price points typically fall right in the middle of the pack, depending on what your small business requires.

Larger local or national agencies will most likely request a higher budget from you than I will at Little Ghost, but you may find some of my branding packings in line with what freelancers are offering.

Though we’re a small agency, I always take my clients’ budgets into consideration. If your brand purpose aligns with my values, I’m always keen to find a way we’ll both be happy working together!

I typically propose three brand price options for you to choose from.

  1. Basic Logo Suite
  2. Identity System
  3. Extensive Identity System

After our initial first meeting (virtual or in-person!), I’ll ask questions to better understand your business and the vision for your brand.

Next, we’ll then sit down to review a proposal with 3 brand pricing options customized exactly to your needs and timelines. If you’re working with a quicker turnaround, it might require more budget. Or, if your brand has specific needs, say like a branded illustration system, it will be reflected in the price as well. But we’ll discuss all this in detail as we review the 3 proposed price options.

At the end of the day, the choice is yours. Any of my three brand packages will get you a beautiful, strategic and future-proof brand. Promise!

So there you have it! Consider that your complete brand pricing guide for 2023.

We’ve covered why investing in a brand is strategic, how much small business branding costs, who to work with to build your brand and what brand identity work with Little Ghost Creative looks like.

Six weeks is all it takes for us to launch your purposeful and strategic brand that makes a big statement with little environmental impact.

So what are you waiting for? If you have a creative idea worth sharing, let me know! Together we can create a brand that does good.