How to Create an Authentic Online Identity

One of the biggest challenges that new and existing entrepreneurs face is building a web site that feels authentic to who you are and clearly shows your services.

In this video, I’m thrilled to have designer Natasha Lakos share her views about online identity and give you tips you can use right now to create a more authentic web site and brand.

You can listen to the audio, watch the video or read the transcript below.

Sherold:   Hello everyone! I’m Sherold Barr and I’m an entrepreneur and mentor to women entrepreneurs who are struggling with finding their ideal clients and make money. So, I help them do both.

I have a very special guest today, an incredible designer, and creative person, Natasha Lakos.

Sherold: Natasha is a creative director, graphic designer, and a visual philosopher. Natasha’s work is fueled by her obsession with striking images and evocative details.

I’m so proud to say that Natasha has designed my new web site and the one prior to this.

Natasha believes that art exists for a single purpose, and that’s to elevate the experience of being alive. And, a perfectly crafted visual identity, from the logo to the masthead to the website composition, and complimentary collateral is all a work of art.

Natasha designs for an eclectic array of clients, from fashion photographers, best-selling authors, to business coaches and wellness creatives…wellness crusaders. She runs a virtual atelier where she crafts couture identities for exceptional clients, helping them make un unforgettable impression, both online and off.

Natasha believes impeccable work is love made visible.  Beauty appeals to our highest spiritual qualities and mastery should always include a hint of mystery.

So, I’m thrilled to have you, Natasha. Welcome.

Natasha:  Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Sherold:  Today, I wanted to have you talk about online identity and design. I’d like you to talk to us, especially for people who are new online, about getting their business website up and tips on design.

So, we’ll talk about some of the important things such as what is a brand? What is a visual identity?

Natasha:  Branding is a word that gets tossed around a lot. I’d like to talk about branding and visual identity as two separate things.

Branding, itself, the concept, has evolved a lot over the past several years. I heard something recently, and I think it was on Forbes, that really sounded like, kind of, the most up to date, modern definition of branding, and that was that branding is really what your prospect thinks of when he or she hears your brand name.

Branding is really what your prospect thinks of when he or she hears your brand name.

So, if you think about popular brands, it’s everything the public thinks it knows about your name brand offering. Those are both factual things and emotional things.

I think the example Forbes used was Tiffany. So, factual, we think about how it comes in a robin’s egg, blue box, and emotional would be that it’s romantic.

So, your brand name exists objectively. People can see it. It’s something that’s fixed. But, your brand exists only in someone’s mind.

I mean, I think that’s so true about branding, right? There are those two elements to it.

And then, when we think about visual identity, that is really a graphic system of logos and typography and illustration and photography that identifies a brand or an organization or you if you’re an online entrepreneur. So, this includes your website, your social media platforms, your business cards, your brochures, your media kit, the branding of the materials that you would use at a workshop or a live event. It’s really anything visual that people come into contact with.

Sherold:  As you were mentioning the different brands and the experience, you know, it’s the experience that we almost are buying, many times. Think about Virgin Airlines. That whole experience of that brand.

Natasha:  Yes, exactly. It’s something that people can connect to.

Sherold:   So, how does someone stand out in a crowded marketplace? I mean, this seems to be the million dollar question.

Natasha:  The short answer—it’s not an easy answer, but the short answer is by being themselves. You stand out by being yourself, but by translating who you are and what your unique gift is, because the truth is, there’s no one else on the planet like you or like me or like the person who is watching this.

There may be people who offer the same service or the same product, but no one can offer it like you can. No one has your unique viewpoint or creative expression. The only way to stand out is to harness that and to express it.

So, I mean, it sounds simple, and in a way, it is simple, but it’s scary, and I think that’s why people are confused about how we stand out and there’s so much competition. It’s like, there is so much competition and at the same time, there’s no competition, because no one is truly competing with you. The aspect that makes it difficult is that it’s scary, but the people who everyone admires, the people that clients will come to me saying, oh, I love this person or this person, they’re the people who, I think, have really been courageous enough to do that, to, kind of, put their stake in the ground and say what they stand for and express that.

The more specific you can be and the more you can really stand for what your unique viewpoint truly is, the more magnetic your brand will be.

Sherold:    And the more those people will find you. I love that Seth Godin always writes about worldview, and that’s what it is.

Natasha:  Right.

Sherold:  And, those people with that worldview can find you.

Natasha:  Exactly.

Sherold:   It’s like a little beacon that you’re saying, I believe in this. This is who I am. And, they’ll come and find you.

Natasha:  Yeah, like a lighthouse.

Sherold:  Yeah, the lighthouse. You know, as new entrepreneurs, there’s a lot to do in the beginning, so there’s not a lot of cash usually because you’re trying to make it work.

So, for someone who is new, and they’re just starting online, and maybe they can’t even afford to do or hire someone to do a website. What are some of the things they can do such as how can they create a magnetic brand with what they have? Any tips?

Natasha:  I mean, this might be interesting coming from a designer, but I would actually say in the beginning, if you can’t afford to hire a designer or work with a web designer, I would say invest in photography and copyrighting above design. I don’t mean invest as in hire someone. I mean pay attention to these things, these elements, spend time on these.

The first thing I would recommend is to get great photos. If you can’t hire a photographer, I would say to just use natural light. Have photos on your website of you looking into the camera, looking at the audience, at the viewer, and making that connection. I feel like when you’re trying to do the most with the least, it’s really important to do that.

I see a lot of people using these, kind of, abstract, vague—they might be very artistic and beautiful images, but they’re just not very strong in making that connection with the viewer.

I would say the second thing is to have a killer bio, a killer about page. So, the about page is the second most viewed page on your site, so you really want to take this opportunity to explain who you are and why you’re passionate about what you’re doing. Start with why, I think it is. Talk about that, how you can help people. I think it’s really important to invest your time and effort in that area.

And then, for the design, I would just say, you know, keep it simple and sophisticated. Don’t try and do too much. Don’t let the design distract or detract from your message. Let it take a backseat to photography and copy. Let it support your message and your work. Beautiful design can be accomplished with a black and white pallet or with one type face.

So, it’s not so much about the design elements and being snazzy with the visuals in the beginning. I think making sure that your message is clear and that that comes across and people get a real picture for who you are is the most important.

Sherold:   Yes I agree with you. The photos are so important so that you look warm and approachable, whatever that is to you, because we don’t know you, so we want to know, like, and trust you.

Natasha:  Yes.

Sherold:  So, the more your photos can portray, the better. What are the building blocks of this online visual identity?

Natasha:  I mean, to sum it up, the nitty gritty of it is the design elements, which are things like your color, a scheme, your type family, the graphic treatment of your site, so is it bold, is it soft, is it modern, is it retro, and then photography and copy, which we’ve already touched on.

I would say before all that comes, you know, knowing your why, knowing what you’re passionate about, because then you can let that shine through with the copy and the photography and the design elements.

Another thing I think is really important for your identity is, you know, what is your role? So, when you think about what you do, in whatever field you’re in—and this will really help separate you. What is your role? Are you a change agent? Are you a provocateur? Are you a teacher? Are you a sage? Are you an artist?

I really think determining that specific angle and what you stand for, your viewpoint—once you have that, all the other stuff, the design elements, the color, the type family, they kind of all fall into place because they’re all looking up towards that, kind of, top of the triangle, you know? They’re looking at that and that kind of answers all the questions for you or for a designer.

The building blocks can be the design elements, but I think they all take their cue from your viewpoint. So, I would say that’s the most important thing.

And then, later, you’ll find the design decisions—you can make them so much easier. You won’t be going in those circles, not quite being able to put your finger on what’s not right about the design.

Sherold:  Yes, and I think this is what you’re talking about today. I can just remember struggling with this the most. Who am I? What do I stand for? When I was brand new—and even now, it’s shifted, and I really want to be clear about what really feels authentic to me, because I think it’s layers. I just remember in the beginning, I was afraid to be online, you know, when I first went out there, because I’m a person behind the scenes, backseat, PR person.

Natasha:  Right.

Sherold:  I see a lot of that, where everyone is really nervous about showing up, fully, and being online. So, I think it’s a process, but the faster you answer these questions Natasha is talking about, when you’re ready to create a website, the better we will understand who it is and what you stand for with your work.

Natasha: Yes, and you touched on something really important. I think that knowing that it will change, it completely makes sense. So, don’t get so stuck up on it and start future tripping. Just embrace where you are now. Think about where you’re going and work from there and know that it will change. It’s inevitable.

Sherold:  Totally. This is my fourth website I’ve had, I think, since I’ve become a coach. I had websites before that for my other business. So, it will change and evolve as you evolve.

Natasha, you have an amazing clientele. You’re working with a lot of authors, a lot of speakers, and these are on the national circuit. Some of them are Oprah’s thought leaders of the next generation.

They have different websites, different platforms, is what we call it. But, the word platform is really your online presence. So, tell us, when you’ve got social media and you’ve got Tumblr and Pinterest and Instagram and Twitter and Facebook and what else? There’s probably more. That’s a lot of platforms. So, how do you bring all of these aspects together for one cohesive brand identity?

Natasha:  Well, you really want to keep the look and feel of your brand consistent. So, that means, you know, with your colors and your type faces and your graphic treatments, keep them looking the same all across the board.

So, let’s just say, for example, your color scheme is blue and green, and you are using Times New Roman as a type face, and lots of white space, you want to incorporate all those elements in every platform you’re on. You really want it to look like the same hand has touched everything.

Sherold:  Oh, great. That’s a great way to say it.

Natasha: Yes, you really want to put your stamp on it. So, most platforms, you can manipulate enough to do that if you’re looking at things like YouTube and Twitter. I was just customizing a Tumblr feed for a client the other day. It’s like, you really have to get in there and see what you can and cannot change. What will allow you to upload custom graphics, and things like that, just so that your stamp is everywhere. It’s on everything and it stays consistent across the board.

You never know where someone is finding you, what portal they’re coming through, so you might think, well, yeah, my website looks like this, but this over here can look like that, but I would say that you really want to keep a thread that runs through all of them that remains consistent.

Sherold: Can you tell us what’s coming up? I know you’re working on some special things. For people who want more information, how can they do it? How can they take some of these concepts that you’ve talked about and do it for themselves? So, tell us what’s coming up.

Natasha: As you know, my business has grown to the point where I can’t work with as many people as I would love to, so what I’m doing is creating a step-by-step guide. It’s kind of a fill-in-the-blanks playbook that will serve as a tool that you can use to take yourself through the identity process, as if you’re working with me side by side, kind of, a one-on-one situation that I do with my clients.

So, this is something you’ll be able to use whether you’re building a website on your own or you’re thinking about hiring a designer or already working with one.

It really breaks my heart when I see entrepreneurs, who have so much to give, struggling to express themselves online.

I can go through, kind of, what that will include, because I think that might be helpful to do both.

Sherold:  Yes, share a little bit more about it, and then we’ll tell them how they can get on your list to be one of the first to know when it’s coming out in the spring.

Natasha:  Right.  I think what I hear from a lot of people is that whether, you know, someone is new, just starting out, or they’re someone who has some success and looking to rebrand themselves, they don’t know where to start. A lot of that is just, kind of, stepping out of that overwhelm and confusion and figuring that out. I can help with that for sure.

And then, the building blocks, the process of crafting your visual identity, how to infuse your personality into your website, how to create a focused visual look, that consistency that we were talking about across all your platforms. DIY design tips, things like how to pick your typefaces, your fonts, how to pick a color scheme. I really want to go into logo design and talk about how to determine if you actually need a logo. Really, how to get clarity so that you can take action and move forward. I see so many people who are just really stuck and not knowing which way to go, and a lot of that, I think, has to do with perfectionism that we get caught up in about launching a website.

So, how to trust yourself and your ideas and really move forward.

Sherold: I think you’re right. I see a lot of stuckness around what is my niche, I don’t have a website, or I need to get my website up. All of this is fear. It’s fear.

Natasha:  Right.

Sherold:  It’s procrastination, overwhelm, perfectionism—all the things you mentioned, that’s kind of a flavor of fear, but it’s really great that you’re going to do this so that people will be able to take these ideas and these concepts for this beautiful identity, and that’s the name of the project, isn’t it?

Natasha:  Yes, the name of it is Identity.

Sherold: So, if you’re interested in getting on her list, go to You can get on her list and be one of the first to know when it’s available.

I’m so thrilled to have you here today because you really are an artist, working with people to have this incredible online identity. I know I count myself as one of the lucky ones to work with you, and I just so appreciate it.

Related Posts:

What’s Your Difference?  Interview with Bernadette Jiwa

Websites that Bring in Revenue: Interview with Paul Jarvis

Embrace Your Weird: Interview with Seth Godin

If you liked this interview, audio or transcript, sign up to receive free weekly actionable tips and trainings.  Please share this with your friends who would benefit too.