Sam Carvalho Gives 5 Tips on Branding your Practice | FP 74

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Why is brand consistency important to building trust in your clients? How can you add a personal spin to your branding? What are some of the best designer tips when it comes to your business brand?

In this podcast episode, Whitney Owens speaks with Sam Carvalho about 5 tips on branding your practice.

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Meet Sam Carvalho

Samantha Carvalho DesignSamantha Carvalho is a graphic designer with over six years of experience in both design and marketing. She loves working with a variety of clients on design-intensive tasks and is always up for a challenge!

Sam has been working with Practice of the Practice since 2016 and has helped over 100 therapist entrepreneurs take their practices to the next level by enhancing their visual branding.

Follow Sam on Instagram to see some of her work.

To work with Sam, head on over to

In This Podcast

  1. Avoid cliches
  2. Find ways to stand out
  3. Include something personal in your branding
  4. Hire a professional
  5. Have a brand style guide

1. Avoid cliches

Ever since I’ve started working with counselors, I’ve noticed that there are a lot of cliches out there, things like the lotus flower, hands raised etc. and when it comes to faith-based private practices things like praying hands and the fish symbol. These are fine if you really want to use them … but I would try to find a unique way of portraying them. (Sam Carvalho)

Find another icon or illustration that sets you apart in your logo design, or just use a recognizable font.

In design these days less is more, so you do not even need to include an illustration in your logo design, you can simply find a font that works for you and change it up a little bit to make it unique to you.

Designer tip: once you have your finished product, take away any leftover elements until there is nothing left to take away. Then you have your final product.

2. Find ways to stand out

This can come from anything, you can make yourself stand out by uploading an interesting headshot or having an interesting website.

  • Use a pop-color to break the calming, soothing color scheme, especially in your call-to-action. This will help people notice the call-to-action and guide them to click on them.
  • You can also use video on your website, a current trend. You can integrate your video into the website which will encourage user engagement with your content and therefore encourage engagement with your counseling practice.
  • Hire a counseling-practice-personal-photographer:

That way you’ll have some more authentic images on your website and not necessarily the run of the mill stock photos. (Sam Carvalho)

  • Follow brands that you love on social media and let their marketing tactics inspire you to follow their lead, although not copying their creative and intellectual property.

3. Include something personal in your branding

Potential clients are going to be more likely to trust you when they can see that you have placed something personal into your business from the beginning.

Over and above this, your marketing efforts will be easier and more flexible because they will be an extension of who you are and the interesting angle that your business takes from leaning on this unique perspective.

It gives a lot of power to your branding and marketing when you have a story behind your business, even if it is not inherently personal to your life outside of the business, having an anecdote that it is built from will give it an edge that other general businesses lack.

4. Hire a professional

Even though starting a practice burns a hole in the wallet, it is important to work with a professional from the beginning to get the fundamentals right, especially your logo.

For your fundamentals like your logo and your website you really want to hire a professional because you want your branding to last for years and you may end up spending more recourses having to redo it in a few years if you don’t do it properly the first time. (Sam Carvalho)

By working with a professional to help you fully market your business, you build your brand loyalty and brand recognition from the beginning.

This brand recognition and loyalty is invaluable when it comes to clients trusting you by seeing that you are consistent and dedicated to the brand that you have built.

5. Have a brand style guide

Hire someone to create your logo and brand style guide from the beginning because one of the most important aspects of successful design is consistency. This can become tricky to maintain if you are changing designers or your settings change with each revamp when you do not have a manual to follow: your brand style guide is your manual.

Your brand style guide includes practical and theoretical elements of your brand, such as font, color scheme, and logo to your mission, business vision, and core values.

Create a DropBox folder or a Google Drive with all of your brand assets there, ready and available to anyone in your business who needs a refresher on what you are about, which fonts to use, and what the business color scheme is.

Useful Links:

Meet Whitney Owens

Photo of Christian therapist Whitney Owens. Whitney helps other christian counselors grow faith based private practices!Whitney is a licensed professional counselor and owns a growing group practice in Savannah, Georgia. Along with a wealth of experience managing a practice, she also has an extensive history working in a variety of clinical and religious settings, allowing her to specialize in consulting for faith-based practices and those wanting to connect with religious organizations.

Knowing the pains and difficulties surrounding building a private practice, she started this podcast to help clinicians start, grow, and scale a faith-based practice. She has learned how to start and grow a successful practice that adheres to her own faith and values. And as a private practice consultant, she has helped many clinicians do the same.

Thanks For Listening!

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Faith in Practice is part of the Practice of the Practice Podcast Network, a network of podcasts that are changing the world. To hear other podcasts like Empowered and Unapologetic, Bomb Mom, Imperfect Thriving, Marketing a Practice or Beta Male Revolution, go to

Podcast Transcription

[WHITNEY OWENS]: Is managing your practice stressing you out? Try Therapy Notes. It makes notes, billing, scheduling, and tele-health a whole lot easier. Check it out and you will quickly see why it’s the highest rated EHR on Trustpilot with over a thousand verified customer views and an average customer rating of 4.9 out of five stars. You’ll notice the difference from the first day you sign up for a trial. They offer live phone support seven days a week so when you have questions, you can quickly reach out to someone who can help. You are never wasting your time looking for answers. If you’re coming from another EHR, they make the transition really easy. Therapy Notes will import your clients’ demographic data free of charge during your trial so you can get going right away. Use the promo code [JOE] to get three free months of trying out Therapy Notes for free, no strings attached, including their very reliable tele-health platform. Make 2021 best year yet with Therapy Notes.
Welcome to the Faith in Practice podcast. I’m your host Whitney Owens recording live from Savannah, Georgia. I’m a licensed professional counselor, group practice owner, and private practice consultant. Each week through personal story or amazing interviews, I will help you learn how to start, grow and scale your practice from a faith-based perspective. I will show you how to have an awesome faith-based practice without being cheesy or fake. You too can have a successful practice, make lots of money, and be true to yourself.
Well, this morning, as I sat down thinking about this podcast and my intro today, I realized the importance of pivoting in your practice. And this is a word we use so often, but it’s so important. And even as I grow personally, and as a practice owner, I’m realizing that it’s not always going to be the way I think it’s going to be. And in fact, I think the bigger that we get, the more pivoting I have to do to meet the needs of my clinicians, to meet the needs of the community and other staff that I have. So, as I was thinking about what to kind of share with you today, before the interview, I just wanted to encourage you to be willing to be flexible. Like I know that during COVID, we’ve all had the ability to be flexible over and over again, but just continuing to change what needs to be changed to meet the needs of those around you.
Or like I’ve said in other podcast episodes, it might be that you feel like God’s calling you to do something different and so not being so fixated on what we think things need to look like that we miss out on, maybe what God’s trying to tell us, something needs to look like. And so that might be you slow down so that you could hear His voice better, or you slow down so you can listen to your staff more, or maybe you’re just having some quiet time and some idea comes to you. Like that’s not coincidence. Maybe that’s God showing you something to do in your practice. So I want to encourage you to be flexible and be willing to change and go with the flow and laugh about it. It’s all a journey that God’s put in front of us. So go and enjoy it.
[WHITNEY]: Today on the Faith in Practice podcast, I’m interviewing Sam Carvalho. She is a graphic designer with over six years experience in both design and marketing. She loves working with a variety of clients on design intensive tasks, and is always up for a challenge. She has been working with Practice of the Practice since 2016 and has helped over a hundred therapists entrepreneurs take their practice to the next level by enhancing their visual branding. Sam, thanks for coming on the show today.
[SAM]: High Whitney. Thanks so much for having me.
[WHITNEY]: Yes. So can you first kind of share with the audience a little bit, how you got into graphic design and I actually would like to hear the story kind of how you met Joe and started working for Practice of the Practice.
[SAM]: Sure. So I’ve always been creative and I’ve always enjoyed expressing myself creatively, mainly through painting and drawing kind of in my spare time. And I did take art in high school and kind of leading up to university I did have a last minute thoughts that I wanted to study graphic design, but because it was last minute, I hadn’t properly prepared and everything, so that didn’t really work out. But I also had an interest in journalism kind of on the side. So I kind of explored that route, going into varsity. Coming out of varsity, I actually ended up working for a startup where it was just me, a graphic designer and a CEO. And that kind of took the company from there and grew it over the next two and a half years. So that’s, although it wasn’t what I was entirely interested in, it’s taught me a lot because I basically started out in content and then worked my way up in the marketing department to content editor and project manager.
And with the nature of startups, I was kind of involved in a lot of aspects of the company. So I learned a lot there, but I found myself kind of longing more and more just to be creative and to include creativity in my work. And I found myself sitting the website, at the designer’s desk, a lot of the times during the day kind of asking him questions and seeing what he was up to. And so I started freelancing on the side through a platform called Upwork while teaching myself design through online tutorials. And that’s actually how I met Joe. So Joe created a job on Upwork for social media posts that he wanted to design, and I did the job for him and he was really happy with it. And so he kind of just kept asking for more work after that. And eventually pretty much offered me the full-time position at Practice of the Practice, if I was willing to leave my current job. And so that’s what I did. And I’ve been with Practice of a Practice ever since.
[WHITNEY]: Oh, that’s so cool. I’ve heard several people tell me about good experience with Upwork and finding some really great people through that. So that’s great. So was that kind of scary, leaving your full-time gig? It actually makes me think of even clinicians and entrepreneurs like leaving what they’re doing to go do something else and how scary that is. Was that scary for you?
[SAM]: It was. And my husband always says I have the worst timing when it comes to this sort of thing, because it was actually on our honeymoon that I decided I was going to do it [crosstalk]. So yes, it was scary, but I also just, even though I’d learned a lot in the startup world and I don’t kind of regret having that experience, I was still just very unfulfilled in that time and never really loved my work. And the more that I was working on the freelance side of things, I just knew that this was what I was made to do. And I just loved the work and got really excited about it. So I just knew that that was the direction I had to go in. And luckily Joe made me ready good all through and also took a lot of the risk away in that respect. And yes, so I kind of just took a leap of faith and it’s thankfully worked out very well.
[WHITNEY]: It sure has. I feel like once I met Joe, it wasn’t very long after he was talking about Sam this and Sam that and seeing all the work that you’ve done. And then even coming on to Practice of the Practice myself, I don’t think I would survive if you weren’t there to help me through it, not only with the graphic design, but just the organization of it all. So, yes.
[SAM]: Yes. So I have a lot of that to thank from my experience in the startup world, because it was very much about turning chaos into organization.
[WHITNEY]: Oh, well, I like being around people that do that. And as you know, with my Enneagram enthusiasm that you are also a one, correct?
[SAM]: Yes. So I love having that in common with the people that I work with. Well, I know today we’re going to talk about tips for branding. I think you have five tips there to help entrepreneurs therapists in their branding. So that’s go ahead and get started.
[SAM]: Sure. So first and foremost, what I wanted to share today was to avoid clichés. So I know that I’ve shared this on my podcast as well, but I know that when you and I started working together I was really kind of impressed with your approach to faith-based marketing and how you wanted to do at most to avoid any of, kind of the faith caches out there, and to still present yourself as a contemporary private practice. And ever since I’ve started working with counselors, I have noticed that there are a lot of clichés out there. So things like the Lotus flower, hands raised, et cetera. And when it comes to faith-based private practices, things like praying hands and the fist symbol. So these are fine if you really want to use them, because obviously they do communicate private practice and counseling and things like that. But I would try to find a unique way of portraying them if you do want to incorporate them. Otherwise, I really want to encourage people to try and find another icon illustration that sets you apart within your logo design, or just use font. So these days less is more when it comes to design.
And so you don’t necessarily even need to include an illustration in your logo design. You can just find a font that works for you. Maybe change that a little bit and literally just use that for your logo. So first and foremost, try to avoid the clichés.
[WHITNEY]: That’s really good advice. I love what you just said about the font, because now I’m thinking back on some work I’ve seen you do and I’m like, “Yes, you did do that.” And it really looked good. Like, I guess when I looked at those logos, I never thought, “Oh, there’s no picture.” Like there didn’t need to be, it’s felt full just with a good font.
[SAM]: Yes, absolutely.
[WHITNEY]: I like that. Yes, it is so true about the clichés. And I honestly sometimes laugh about it when I see it because it’s, so it takes away from the uniqueness of your practice, honestly. And so having something different can really make you stand out.
[SAM]: Yes, it does. I mean, if you think of, I don’t know, there’s like thousands of other concepts out there in the world, and by using the caches, you are just going to kind of fade into the sea or the pool of everybody else. So you really want to do what you can stand out. And another kind of rule of thumb we have in design is to once you’ve designed something, take away any elements until there’s nothing left to take away. And that’s way, like just having a font can often make the most impact. You don’t always need to have an icon or an illustration with it.
[WHITNEY]: Yes, that’s great. I do talk to a lot of faith-based practice owners who want to make faith a part of what they do, but like not everything they do. And so it is a little bit more covert in their logo. And I use the example of my practice. We have a scallop shell and that’s our logo. And so most people would just think, “Oh, water’s edge. That’s sitting at the water and the shells and this practice is near the beach, yada, yada,” but the scallop shell is actually the symbol of the Camino de Santiago, which is a spiritual journey of Saint James. And so there’s a meaning. There’s a lot more to it than that, but that’s the meaning for me. So it’s got that spiritual meaning yet it doesn’t really like speak Jesus, I guess, to everybody who comes to the practice.
[SAM]: I guess it also depends on your ideal client. I mean, obviously if you are interested in just attracting believers, then you would maybe make it more faith-based from the get-go. But if you are interested in attracting anybody, then yes, you might not want to be too forthcoming with that.
[WHITNEY]: Definitely, definitely. So number two there?
[SAM]: So, number two is kind of along the same lines and it’s to find ways to stand out. So this goes over and above just your logo. So again, a lot of counseling practices have similar branding. Everyone goes for the calming color scheme, the smiling typical stock photos, and often a kind of stiff headshot. So I usually try and encourage people to consider introducing a pop color, especially for your call-to-actions. So again, I’m not completely against common color scheme just because it does match the industry that you’re in, but maybe having one color that kind of pops out of that color scheme that contrasts with the rest that gets people to notice the call to actions and want to actually click on them.
You can also make use of video on your website. So this is something that is pretty current at the moment where people are including videos on their websites. So much those like integrating it into the design of the website, which looks really, really nice, and also just gets the user’s attention that much more and gets them to engage that much more. And you could take professional headshots that showcase more of your personality because if you think about it, you’re trying to get people to come and be vulnerable with you. And so if they can kind of get from the beginning, your personality and who you are behind, you know, not necessarily having the stiff head shot, but a headshot that is appears friendly, then they may be more likely to book with you.
And also think of hiring your own photographer to take your own photos of people for your website. So that way you’ll have some more authentic images on your website and not necessarily the run of the most stock photos. But if you are still kind of in the beginning phase and that doesn’t really make sense for you, then I would make use of or So they’ve got some great authentic stock imagery that you can use for free. And then another tip that I have when it comes to finding ways to stand out is to try to follow brands that you love on social media and see what they’re doing that draws you to them. And then obviously don’t copy outright, but make use of similar tactics in your practice.
[WHITNEY]: Yes, I do that exact thing that you just said, like I have a marketing director, so if I see something cool on Instagram, I’m like, “Oh yes, we need to do that.” So I’d take a picture and send it to her and say, “Do this.”
[SAM]: Yes, absolutely. There’s no reason why you as a counseling practice can’t make use of the cool marketing techniques that are out there.
[WHITNEY]: Yes. And I think we can’t emphasize enough the importance of a good headshot. I am always amazed. People will call and I’ll say, “Well,” I’ll ask about this usually later, “What drew you to our practice? Why’d you call?” And they’ll say, “Oh, I just saw so-and-so’s picture on Psychology Today on your website and I was drawn to her.” I’m like, “All right. So basically she’s good looking and has a good picture and that drew them in.” And so it’s so important to have a really good picture. And I do see sometimes therapists’ pictures, and I’m like, “I wouldn’t want to go see that person. They’re not smiling or they don’t look normal. Like they look not put together.” Be more relaxed and enjoy getting your pictures taken.
[SAM]: Absolutely. It’s such a personal thing that yes, as you set your headshot, the first impression that that gives is going to be really important.
[WHITNEY]: Yes. All right. So what’s the next tip there?
[SAM]: So number three is to include something personal in your branding. So I’ve interviewed some owners of successful counseling practices on my podcast, who part of why they’re successful is because of their unique branding. And the two examples are Little Red Telescope. So the owner of Little Red Telescope actually had a little red telescope when he was younger, which he loved, and he’s now incorporated this into his practice and giving it a broader meaning. So when people come into his practice and question why the red telescope, he shares the story that it was something he had as a boy, but that also when you look through a telescope, you’re obviously looking at something from a different perspective and it can seem a lot bigger through the telescope, but then when you obviously look away from the telescope, it’s a lot smaller. And so you kind of uses that to illustrate the issues in that person’s life as well.
And the other one was Blue Boat Counseling. So he also grabbed with the blue sails boat that he loved, and they actually hired an illustrator to illustrate an exact replica of the blue boat, which they now use across all of their branding. And so I really just loved those stories and I loved how they had included sending personal in their brand name, because as I said, I just think that private practice is so personal and counseling and therapy is a personal that, including a bit of your story in your branding also just helps you stand out and make more of an impact. And people are going to be more likely to trust you and open up to you if you’ve already revealed something about yourself from the beginning. And over and above all of that, your marketing efforts will also be easier because they’ll simply be an extension of who you are.
[WHITNEY]: Thank you. Those examples were really great. As you were talking, I was thinking about Blue Boat, and so I love that you mentioned them.
[SAM]: Yes, so, and I even think just what you said earlier about the shell that you use in your branding and the story behind that. And we know nowadays that when it comes to marketing, stories are so powerful. And so I think anything that’s in your branding, whether it’s personal or not, as long as it kind of has a story to it I think that’s going to make a lot more impact.
[WHITNEY]: Most definitely. So that was the third one? We are at number four?
[SAM]: Yes, so number four is to hire a professional without blowing my own horn too much. But I understand when starting a practice that budgets might be tight, but I really always encourage people to not skimp on the branding and to hire someone to work with in setting up the fundamentals, especially your logo. So once you have that sorted, which usually includes your color scheme, fonts, et cetera, then you can try your hand at marketing materials and social posts and things like that. I usually recommend using Canva, So, is a free online tool that you can use. It’s got a bunch of predesigned templates for all sorts of marketing materials, but I would say for the fundamentals, like your logo and your website, you really want to hire a professional because you want your branding to last for years, and you may end up spending more resources having to redo it in a few years, if you don’t do it properly the first time. And you also want to build brand recognition and brand loyalty from the beginning. So if you have your logo done properly from the beginning, then you can start building that brand loyalty from then and there, as opposed to having to redo your logo in a few years, and then kind of losing that brand recognition that you’ve built up.
[WHITNEY]: Yes. I want to echo that importance of paying somebody to do it for you. I do see sometimes people do it on their own and it’s okay. But yes, this is on drawing in that ideal client or you’re having to redo it in a year and then when I start working with a therapist I have to redo their branding, that’s really challenging for them. But yes, that was what we invested our money on at the very beginning at Water’s Edge Counseling. Let’s get, make it look good and get it right. And I have used the same logo and font scheme and colors since the beginning. And I’m really glad I’m not having to go back and redo it because that would be a lot of time and energy and then trying to reshare that with people. Like people already know in my community what it is.
[SAM]: Yes, absolutely. I think it just makes a lot of sense to kind of start strong from the very beginning.
[WHITNEY]: Yes. And what’s the last tip there?
[SAM]: So the last one is to have a brand style guide and this kind of links with the fourth one, so hiring a professional to do your logo. So I always pin brand style guides on my podcast because I do believe that it’s linked to your logo. So I would really highly recommend hiring someone to create your logo and your brand style guide in the very beginning. So the most important elements of branding is consistency. And this can become hard if you’re changing designers or you don’t have set brand fonts or set color scheme. And so that’s where your brand style guide comes in. So your brand style guide includes theoretical and practical elements of your brand.
So things on your mission and vision, a mood board, which kind of just illustrates your general look and feel that you’re going for when you’re branding, the description of your ideal client, brand personality and core values, logo variations, and users, and then your brand elements. So like your fonts and your color scheme. And it basically provides the basis of old branding and marketing moving forward so that if you do change designers in the coming years, you can just forward your brand style guide and make sure that your branding remains consistent because obviously every designer has their own touch and that’s fine, but you want the core elements like your fonts and your color scheme to remain the same. So I would really recommend working with a professional to put one together, and I would even take it one step further and then create a Dropbox folder or Google Drive with all of your brand assets.
So there you’d have your brand style guide, your logo files, your font files, your color scheme, any brand imagery. So anything to do with branding, put it in that folder and you can then make sure that your whole team has access to that, or any designers that you work with in future you can just share that folder list. And then it’s just really important to be consistent. So make sure that you include your logo or your logo mark or icon on everything, and through the same kind of scheme, fonts, and style in all your marketing materials. And again, this is where your brand style guide helps because you can consistently refer back to that to make sure that you’re using the same style. And if you decide on all of this from the beginning, that’s how you’re going to make the most impact.
And so will us example of my social media. So on my Instagram, I have kind of a [inaudible 00:22:20] template for my posts, and I make use of the same color scheme and kind of the same illustration style and things like that. And I’ve had a few people tell me that when they’re scrolling through their feed now, and they see one of my posts, they don’t even need to look at the name. They notice straight away that it’s me. And that’s the importance of brand consistency and making sure that you maintain that same look and feel.
[WHITNEY]: Yes. So I have loved following you on Instagram, not only for your designs, but also to see what’s going on, but it’s always, I really enjoy kind of your classic calm look, but also it’s different and provides a spin on it. And so I really appreciate that. So if you all are listening and you’re thinking, “Okay, I need to get a designer, please reach out to Sam. Obviously I personally work with her and she’s done tons of work on the many different things that we offer through Practice of the Practice, like logo design for our membership communities. And I’m always super happy and impressed. Sometimes it’ll pop up and I’ll be like, “Wow, Sam did it again. She’s amazing.” And so I want to encourage you guys to reach out to her. Sam, what’s the best way for them to kind of see your stuff and get in touch with you.
[SAM]: So they can email me or they can head on over to And if you want to see some examples of my work, you can follow me on Instagram at Samantha Carvalho Design.
[WHITNEY]: Awesome. Well, I want to ask you what I ask everyone that comes on the show. What do you believe that every Christian counselor needs to know?
[SAM]: I think be confident in who you are because kind of being confident in who you are and why you’re doing what you’re doing will filter through into your branding. And as I said, don’t be afraid to include some of your personality and who you are in your branding, because ultimately you’re unique and that’s what’s going to make your brand unique.
[WHITNEY]: That is so important. Well, I appreciate you bringing these tips. I think these are super helpful for people, especially not only in the beginning phases, but just as they grow and change and even start into a group practice and look at their branding. So I would encourage you all to get in touch with Sam. And I appreciate you taking the time to come on the show today.
[SAM]: Thanks for having me.
[WHITNEY]: Once again, thank you so much to Therapy Notes for sponsoring the show. It makes notes, billing, scheduling, and tele-health a whole lot easier. And if you’re coming from another EHR, they make the transition really easy. Therapy Notes will import your client’s demographic data free of charge during your trials so that you can get going right away. Use promo code [JOE] to get two months to try out Therapy Notes for free.
Thank you for listening to the Faith in Practice podcast. If you love this podcast, please rate and review on iTunes or your favorite podcast player. If you liked this episode and want to know more, check out the Practice of the Practice website. Also there, you can learn more about me, options for working together, such as individual and in group consulting, or just shoot me an email, We’d love to hear from you.
This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. This is given with the understanding that neither the host, Practice of the Practice, or the guests are providing legal, mental health, or other professional information. If you need a professional, you should find one.