“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” -Steve Jobs
As we have the habit of pointing out from time to time, freelancing is a great line of work, but it also has a very unique set of challenges that most people aren’t expecting when they first get into this line of work. While we do our best to let people know that there’s a lot to do and that there are some unexpected downsides to freelancing, that doesn’t change the fact that freelance work is some of the most rewarding you can do.
One of the issues most freelancers deal with is a lack of visibility and/or promotion. That’s why it’s so important to know how to promote yourself and your design business, whether it’s one that’s focused on making vector packs or one that does branding and whole identities.
Of course, this is not something designers only have to worry about. Marketing one’s own business properly is a big issue for any entrepreneur, especially at the beginning. The difference is that when going freelance as a designer, be it on your own or in association with others, it’ll be pretty hard to get things moving without a few start-up clients and a few referrals. That’s why all your business contacts must be great, why your online profile should be flawless and why your social presence should be awesome.
Below we’ve compiled a list of five tips and tricks in order to help you understand what you need to be doing in order to succeed at promoting your business.
1. Really Use Your Business Cards
At this point, we’d like to take a moment to address an underlying issue. Some of you don’t use business cards. That’s extremely bad behavior. You need business cards and all sorts of other stationery. While you have them, you might want to really get to use them.
First of all, business cards are some of the most important publicity items you have access to. They let people know how they can get a hold of you and are much harder to lose track of than an email signature.
Make sure your business card has all your information on there. Name, mailing address, phone number (both land-line and cell), email, website. These are all details you need to get on there.
Second, make sure your card is clean and easy to read. It should look good, let people know what you do (by text and by design) and not be confusing. Don’t print your text in reverse on it – some people will give up on deciphering it and just hire someone else. But hey, you’re a designer – you know how to design a business card properly. And if you don’t – you can always get some design inspiration from the countless articles on the topic there are floating online.
Third, print plenty of cards and don’t be stingy with them. Give each prospective client several cards (they may want to pass one of them further on to other collaborators of his). Give all of your own clients an ample amount of cards, so they can further recommend you. Toss in a couple business cards with every printed paper leaving your office – invoices, contracts etc.
2. Create a Compelling Visual Identity for Yourself
As a designer, this is what you do. You create compelling visuals. If you do branding and identity construction, it’s exactly what you do. That’s why it’s important for your own identity to be stunning.
Should your own identity be anything short of beautiful, this will hurt your business. That’s a simple fact. People won’t want to hire the designer who has the terrible identity. Would you? Make sure you build yourself a complex, compelling and expansive identity.
This means you shouldn’t just stick to a logo and a few other things. Really go all out. Design stationery, design various images for your social profiles. Take lots of care when creating the color scheme. Build your website on the same principles as the social profiles and your online portfolio. Make sure your identity is coherent and cohesive. Hey, again, this is what you do for a living – you know how to do it.
3. Build Your Online Presence
Once you’ve created your brand and your identity – stick to it. Don’t change it up – it’s important to have continuity and elements that people recognize when they see you somewhere.
First of all, start creating social media profiles. Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Digg, Reddit, Youtube, Delicio.us, Design Bump and so on. Use these to your advantage. Be active, post a lot, post compelling content.
Update frequently. Your social media page is only as relevant as the number of people who see it. The more you post, the more people see what you post,the more relevant you are. Don’t take that as an encouragement to spam. By all means, do not spam. Furthermore, just write compelling, interesting content. Even more importantly (and we can’t stress this enough) do not be condescending. Don’t take your fanbase for granted.
Include links to your social media profiles in your email signatures and make sure that they all link to one another.
4. Create An Online Portfolio
Having your own website is great and will help you out a lot. First of all, it’ll be a place to showcase your portfolio. It’s highly essential to do that. Furthermore, a website is where you can really talk yourself up with some good copy.
But, beside your own website, make sure you have other portfolios floating online. Build a Behance profile and upload some of your best work there. Let people know who you are. Yes, yet again, the point boils down to “get as many people as possible to notice you.”
Include links to your portfolio in your signature, just like you did for your social media profiles.
5. Work With Others As Often As You Can
Other designers and developers are looking for work just as hard as you are. They need to get their name noticed as much as you do. By collaborating with these people, both your names get noticed more – your own by their contacts and followers and theirs by your contacts and followers.
Not to mention that you may just find someone you work with really well and someone who thinks in the same ways as you do. Leaving aside the fact that you could make great friends by collaborating with others as frequently as possible, the more collaborations you do, the more people in the field you’re connected to. The more people in the field you’re connected to, the more jobs will come in. That’s just the way things work. That’s the way networking works.
This concludes our list of tips & tricks to promote your design business. Have anything you would like to add to the conversation? Be sure to leave us a message in the comment section below!