Every freelancer understands the need to dedicate time to market themselves, however with deadlines to meet it can easily be pushed back. Set aside some time each week to work through our self-promotion guide to attract more clients, gain a following and establish yourself in the Graphic Design industry.
1) Reveal your design process
A portfolio of your finished masterpieces is great but people love a story. By showing the design process from brainstorming to completion, fellow designers and clients can appreciate the work and the thought you put into it. Austin Kleon writes in his book Show Your Work!; ‘by letting go of our egos and sharing our process, we allow for the possibility of people having an ongoing connection with us and our work, which helps us move even more of our product.’
2) Dedicate time to social media
Designers are lucky in that unlike some businesses, they actually have something interesting and creative to share! People like visuals, hence why Pinterest and Instagram have grown so rapidly. Upload images of your own work, blogs or even just articles you find relevant and interesting to position yourself as a voice of authority in the graphic design industry.
The key to increasing your social following is to post regularly and consistently. Twitter is congested, and not everyone can be online at once; to keep being noticed you have to tweet frequently.
3) Use portfolio sites
Sites such as Behance are bursting with amazing designers waiting to be found, so get involved with the best social platform for creatives there is. Unlike media forms such as Twitter, you must be selective about what you post - use it as you would a portfolio on your own website. Still upload the steps of your design process, but refine your posts to showcase your proudest achievements.
It’s vital to use image tags to get this work discovered, so tag appropriately and research what’s popular. Don’t be wary about writing either – your work will come to life if you provide annotations and descriptions. Make sure your personal email address is visible (potential clients will prefer to talk to you directly) and upload your CV to give prospective clients more information about your capabilities.
4) Start a Newsletter
Those in the freelancing industry like to know what’s going on in the community. Sharing samples of your latest designs, blog posts or advice to other freelancers will build your profile and can gain you a dedicated following. Make it easy for people to sign up, and don’t spam; weekly, fortnightly or even monthly newsletters if you’re pushed for time can keep your audience engaged. Adding past clients to this list can keep you in the forefront of their mind, so they may recommend you or use you again once the opportunity arises.
5) Guest Blog
Another great way to position yourself as a voice of expertise is to write guest blogs for widely read publications. Content is always welcomed by online magazines and blogs, and this will gain you exposure to their audience. You can write about anything; from pressing issues in the design world to tips for approaching a project. Writing guides on your specialist area for less experienced designers and students is another way to promote yourself and your knowledge.
6) Input to conversations
There are plenty of Freelance communities such as designerstalk.com which are geared towards graphic design and are a hotspot for discussions, advertising and job opportunities. Comment on people’s posts with an interesting opinion and reply in conversations to build rapport.
7) Talk to people
The nature of freelancing epitomises working alone, yet ‘Lone Genius’ is an artistic myth. Networking is a huge part of self-promotion and talking face to face is a brilliant way to find clients. It’s also not enough to go to events where fellow designers hang out. If you’re a book cover designer, head to publishing events, or if you specialise in corporate design there are plenty of business marketing expos you can attend to showcase yourself.
8) Define your personal brand
As touched upon above – people love a story. Neil Patel from Kissmetrics notes how “more and more brands are comprehending the power of stories to transform their presence and identity.” Brands and stories are now inextricably aligned, so think about your specialities, your personality and the type of client’s you want to attract. Then build your brand around this! Let this brand leak into your website design, your business cards and your social posts to reinforce it and have an identity which distinguishes you against the competition.
Danielle Tunstall infamously crafted her brand around horror and gore, which although doesn’t cater to everyone’s tastes, when someone wants apocalyptic design with shock value they know EXACTLY who to go to! You don’t have to take branding to this extreme but she highlights how a refined brand boosts self-promotional efforts.
9) Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals
Word of mouth is regarded as the best form of promotion and one of the highest recommendations a designer can receive. Once you’ve wrapped up a project, there’s no harm in politely sending a message to your client asking them to let you know of anyone who might need your services. If your client was pleased with your work, they would be more than happy to pass anyone your way if they hear of any opportunities.
The most common mistake for freelancers is casting too wide a net in fear of turning client’s down. A client will likely pay more for a specialist, even if your skill set is wider. Whether its book cover design, typography or a corporate logo – clients are looking for specific skills and it will be easier for them to find you if you are an expert.