Branding starts with the logo. It’s the cornerstone for everything your branding campaign begins with to then fully flesh out into a comprehensive representation of how you are as a business.

Building a brand has many different avenues ranging from those cheap-o sites that charge $5 to those contest sites that give you dozens and dozens of ideas for a few hundred dollars.

The right way, however, is to get your mind right and bite the bullet by hiring professionals — a seasoned design firm.

Having a realistic budget is your starting point. It doesn’t have to be like taking out a second mortgage but practically speaking, it should be between a third and full price of what you might pay for a wedding ring — if that is… you want to do it the right away. Sure you can go the less expensive route but that usually yields sub-par experienced designers, college students or designers overseas and ultimately less professional design work. While you can get lucky every once in a blue moon going this route, the gamble isn’t worth it from a time, communication, sanity and money perspective.

The right step is hiring a design firm, a real design firm — whether it’s a boutique shop like Effusion or a larger entity downtown. Going this route will prove to be crucial for successful brand development. Hiring the right firm big or small comes down to a few things, comfort level, customer service, their body of portfolio work and online reviews and then price — in that order. Price, while important, shouldn’t be the driving factor when selecting your design firm.

With the hiring out of the way, the magic then begins that helps to unfold the branding process. Branding may start with the logo but it then translates into every marketing piece you put out to the public. From brochures, to stationary systems to the web, vehicles, coffee mugs and shirts. Your brand should not only be professional but also cohesive across every medium from a business cards up to a billboard.

At the end of the day, your brand should scream professionalism — and not like it was done by a first year college design student or your receptionist. It should should say who you are at a glance. It should be simple and memorable AND it needs to evoke a feeling of trust and reliability. Everything that you stand for should be within that brand.

If you vouch for someone you’re giving your word that they can be trusted — your brand should do the same — it’s everything.