Breaking into the design world is no simple task. It requires years of practice along with arduous struggles, overcoming obstacles, and of course meeting great people. But this whole process can be eased slightly by creating a recognizable brand around your name.
Freelance design is a competitive marketplace and you’ll want to stand out to be recognized as a key player. There are many ways to do this but it’s best to just be who you are. Show people that you’re a real person who’s interesting, insightful, and well informed. The following tips should help all designers build a name for themselves from the print world to the digital superhighway.
Assemble Case Studies
The idea behind a case study is to show people a behind-the-scenes glimpse at your creative process. Potential clients love to see your process because it demonstrates how you’d normally tackle a project from start to finish.
Case studies are just write-ups that include photos and screenshots throughout a project’s creative process. You might include sketches, prototypes, icons/logos, original designs, and of course the finished piece. Also be sure to write details that visitors may find interesting. Talk about the challenges you faced and try explaining some ideas which were tossed out.
Related post: Case Study on Building for Mobile First
Very few freelance designers take the time to write in-depth case studies about their work. If you take the time to do so it will help you stand out from the masses of other creative professionals. You’ll also be seen as a more competent designer who has a tighter grasp of explaining how the design process unfolds from start to finish.
Try to put together case studies from actual project work when applicable. Sometimes clients will request an NDA saying that you cannot share certain bits of information. In these cases it may be best to instead share your experience developing a personal project.
Social Portfolio Sites
While it’s highly recommended that you have your own personal online portfolio, there is a lot to glean from also using social media. I do not mean websites like Twitter or Facebook(although they’re useful as well).
Along with your own personal website it’s a good idea to create social profiles on portfolio websites. Consider resources like Behance or Dribbble which both focus on the design community. Professionals can share their work online and include other details like clientel, sketches, and extra shots.
In fact these networks are great for minor case studies. It’s a good idea to keep your own portfolio up-to-date and relevant with your current skillset. But these social profile communities behave more like an archive of your work over months and even years.
Behance is completely free to signup and start posting your work, however Dribbble is an invite-only network. You’ll need to find someone who has an invitation to let you into the site. Otherwise you can sign up as a prospective user who can be drafted by others in time.
Generally speaking these are both fantastic resources for modern designers. When people Google search your name these profiles will typically appear on the first page. This gives your name much more credibility and reassures potential clients that you are skilled at what you do.
Share Design Freebies
There’s no doubt that everyone loves free stuff. Open source code is a popular avenue for developers to get their name out and start meeting people. The design world is very similar and talent will naturally rise to the top.
If you have the time there’s nothing better than creating a series of free PSD files for Photoshop users. These could be made for other designers, creative directors, or even just people who want to start learning about Photoshop. 365PSD is a heavily trafficked gallery which can be perfect for your first couple of freebie releases.
You should also consider releasing freebies related to design projects. Adobe Illustrator is another popular program which can be used for vector shapes and custom icons. If you have the skills why not release a free vector iconset? Lots of designers release their stuff online and it’s a great way to draw attention to yourself.
Other resources may includes brushes, font faces, or even full website mockups. Interface design is a skill which requires a panoply of artistic talents. By releasing fully-fledged mockup PSDs you can prove your skillset while also helping the design community.
Periodic Guest Writing
Lots of online design blogs have request forms offering to bring on guest writers. Some websites even pay writers for their work, but writing for free can be worthwhile if it’s on a popular blog or magazine.
It never hurts to send out an email and see who may be interested in your work. Writing about design can get your name out there and showcase your knowledge at the same time. It helps to build connections with other webmasters and designers in the same field.
Unfortunately this doesn’t work well for designers who are not natural writers. In this scenario you might instead try launching your own custom blog. Medium is a free blogging platform where many creatives write to share their thoughts on various subjects. It’s a great way to practice your writing skills and try to share what you know with others.
One huge benefit to writing online is the author biography section. Most blog articles will include a small “about the author” section which details the author’s name, experience, and links to their website(s). If you write a great piece then people should continue reading it for years to come. That author bio will act as a passive marketing tool for yourself and your design work.
While design is often seen as a vast landscape, the world of freelance design is much smaller than you might imagine. These tips are meant for building your name online but don’t think you can stop there. Try to attend conferences or meetups with other designers. Offer to do work for small agencies or companies so you can build referrals from top tier employers.
Name recognition is only partially tied to skillset. Of course you need to actually be good at design to turn some heads but that isn’t the only thing people care about. You should also be somebody fun that people love to work with. Demonstrate your skill and your personality by building a reputation for yourself both online and in the real world.
Author: Jake Rocheleau
Jake is a creative designer, illustrator, and web developer. He frequently writes articles involving new-age design concepts and freelance management skills. You can find him in Google or follow his tweets @jakerocheleau