We’ve written before about building recognition as a designer, and briefly mentioned giving stuff away for free as a possible strategy. Today I want to delve deeper into that by covering the whys and hows of what can be a very powerful marketing tool- including tips on how to make it work best for you.
While the design community isn’t a popularity contest, having a good reputation counts for a lot. The most successful online workers know that building a great personal brand means defending your reputation by using tools like reputation defender’s YouTube, and being very careful about what they post on social media.
Many startups today, including makers of “freemium” apps and services, are aware of the power of free. Forbes actually called giving away stuff for free the best marketing tool.
Free stuff, not free work
There’s a big difference between giving stuff away for free and doing free work. For the latter, my stand is usually: don’t do it. It rarely works out well for either you (because your time is worth more than zero) or the client (because they fear coming off whiny and demanding for something they haven’t paid for), and can actually devalue your work. Creating something to give away for free, on the other hand, can add value to your brand.
Why give stuff away?
Here are five very good reasons:
- For the traffic/followers. People love free stuff; this is a fact. If they really like your stuff, they’ll share it with their friends and fellow designers- and hey presto! More traffic to your blog, page, Twitter, or Instagram.
- For the joy of giving. It’s true: giving stuff away feels good. Just think: your vector of a monkey swinging from a vine might have been exactly what that broke designer needed to add oomph to his first logo.
- It puts your work “out there”. Give away something of quality that showcases your talents gives you instant expert points.
- It bulks up your portfolio (without having to “work for free”).
- It opens up new doors for different directions in your career.
What to give away
It’s always a good idea to choose what to give away based on your skills, but it’s even better to base it on your own enjoyment of the task. Is there something you want to create just for the joy of it? What do you like to do in your free time? Not only do you get to do something you love, you get to build your reputation, and it might be a good way to go a different direction in your design career.
Let’s say, for example, that you’re a a web developer grinding out website design every day, but you like to play around with font design on the side. Create a high-quality font to give away, and now you’re more than a web developer; you’re “that guy who made that awesome font”.
Where and how to give your stuff away
- DeviantArt. For artists- graphic designers, logo designers, illustrators- DeviantArt should be your first stop. They receive about 160,000 submissions daily.
- Dribbble. If you’re a member of Dribbble (or can finagle an invite from a friend or colleague), it’s a wonderful place to build your reputation with free stuff. Many designers on Dribble release work they’ve decided not to use for a project, and the community is known for only featuring high-quality work.
- Instagram/Twitter/Facebook. You can upload your file to your Dropbox or Google Drive account, then link directly to it through your Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook accounts. If you like, you can also require people to follow you or like your page in exchange for the “secret” download link (more on that later).
- Your Website. This works better if you have a blog with some readership, and would like to drum up more traffic to it. Using your website to host the file also allows you to require people to subscribe to your newsletter or feed in exchange for downloading.
- YouTube and/or LinkedIn. Using YouTube or LinkedIn to announce your free giveaway can build even more interest in it. For a free font, you can create a
- Other specialised sites. Want to give away stock photography? Check out Pixabay or FreeImages.com (formerly sxc.hu). Created some beautiful icons or vectors? Have a look at FreeVectors or 123freevectors.
Finally, have fun with it- don’t be shy about promoting your free stuff; remember that you want people to find it and share it.