Promoting Yourself & Your Work
This guide could be an entire book just by itself. How do you stand out in a sea of designers yelling “look at me!” while waving their hands around like they are on fire? It’s tough, but with this guide, I’ll go step by step through the different aspects of promoting yourself and your work.
First Thing’s First
It’s important to take the reins and whoa those horses just a second. The first thing you need to do is organize your work, and assemble every professional, semi-professional, or professional looking design project you’ve had your hands on, or a hand in.
This is an important step, because in order to promote yourself and your skills, you have to have something to promote. Anyone can shout on the street corner that they are a designer. All businesses, from new business owners, to small, medium and large businesses will want to see your work.
It’s not how loud you can scream, but how much your work can scream for you. A well presented project that is mediocre will stand out better than a well designed piece that is poorly presented. In other words, presentation is everything!
Categorize your work
Divide your work into different categories and groups. If you’ve done a lot of logos, group those together. If you’ve done a lot of corporate identity projects, group those together.
You’ll want to do this for print projects and web design projects. The more organized you are when starting this process, the smoother it will be overall.
You have to have a website!
I don’t care what anyone else says. You have to have a website to promote your work. If you don’t, you’re only shooting yourself in the foot. My website is the #1 way that I promote my work and find new clients. I set up a new website, called Web Design Fanatic earlier this year that was only up a week and landed me a new $4000 web design client, and a $1500 smaller client.
Creative Beacon is where most of my success has come from. The thing is, you can have the same success! It’s true, and you don’t have to be an expert web designer to build a website. I’ll show you every step of the way how it’s done.
The next guide coming out is how to set up a professional website using WordPress and inexpensive we hosting. Be on the lookout for that one! I’ll even have exclusive coupon codes for Premium Beacon Members to hosting and WordPress theme clubs.
Your website will be your main source of potential client interaction and business growth. In the next guide I’ll show you how to set everything up within a day or two, whether you’re an expert or a beginner. However, let’s discuss the things that your website can do for you.
You have a digital place on the web for people to find you. People don’t use the phone book or pay attention to direct mail anymore. They end up finding your work online somewhere.
A Contact Source
You’ll have a working contact form on your website, so after potential clients see your work, they’ll get in contact with you.
An Online Gallery
Your work will be on display 24/7, helping to promote you and your business.
Something For Others To Share
Having your work online means that others can come and pin your work on Pinterest, share your work on Facebook, or even directly link to your website. It’s easy for your work and links to your website to be emailed to people. We’re living in the digital age, so take advantage of it.
In fact, if you use WordPress and you want to make it easy to pin, tweet and share your work on social media, install SumoMe’s free plugin suite. It has so many free tools that increase share and social interaction rates.
One plugin is called Image Sharer, which places a Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest icon over every image on your site. This makes every image on your site, especially your portfolio gallery images, easily sharable. Since I installed the plugin on my site, image shares went from 0 to 4-5 per day!
Whether you use the plugin I suggested or not, you can always pin your own projects to Pinterest. This is great, because when you pin an image, Pinterest links back to the source. Other Pinterest users can repin it and add it to their boards, giving your work more reach.
You can follow other Pinterest boards related to design, which will make it likelier for your work to be repined.
Twitter now allows you to post photos with your tweets called Twitpics. You can upload a Twitpic and promote your work on Twitter easily. Using hashtags, you can have your work show up in relevant topics and search results. For example, if you created a beautiful flyer, you might use the hashtags #flyer, #flyerdesign, #graphicdesign and anything else related to your work. Don’t overdo it, though. Limit your post to 1-2 hashtags at the most.
Facebook has been a great source of work for me, too. Creating your own Facebook business page takes all of about 5 minutes. It’s a great platform for conversations and spreading the word about your work. Hashtags work here, just like in Twitter, which is helpful. What’s great is when you get enough Facebook likes, you can change the typical numerical url that trails after the backslash with a vanity url. For example, Web Design Fanatic’s Facebook page is http://facebook.com/webdesignfanatic which is easier for everyone to remember than 2304274028490203, at least it is to me, anyway.
Another great part about Facebook is Facebook Ads. This is where Facebook really shines in terms of promoting your work. If you were like me, you didn’t have hundreds to invest in advertising. With Facebook, you don’t need it. You have total control over how much you spend and what you spend it on.
You can also refine where your ad shows up. You can narrow it down to a specific city if you’d like, which is great for spreading the word about your business locally. You can run an ad, setting a daily limit or a total budget for the entire ad campaign. For example, you could set it up so that the ad runs continuously, until the maximum budget runs out. Once you reach the end of the budget, the ad stops running. It you set the maximum to $50, when your ad receives $50 worth of clicks, the campaign stops running. This cuts down on unexpected charges.
This is a biggie. LinkedIn is one of my biggest networks. I have 6400+ professional connections on LinkedIn. People email me asking advice, needing help with a project, and more. You can get job leads from LinkedIn, depending on the groups you are a part of.
You’ll want to make sure every inch of this is completely and thoroughly filled out. It’s basically an online resume, where people can see your skills, work history, and more. Designers can even link up their Behance portfolio, showing off their work.
As you help others and answer industry questions, connections may endorse you for your work. Sharing your expertise can go a long way here to build your credibility. It’s important to visit regularly and comment. Being active gave get your profile a lot of views, and may lead to job offer. I get about 15 profile views per day.
Groups are industry hubs on LinkedIn, where as many as 20,000-50,000 people may be a part of. There are dozens of groups for graphic designers, web designers, freelancers, and any other category or sub category. You can be a member of up to 50 groups. Join all of the big ones and be active!
Discussions are where group members can ask questions, post problems, etc. Other members of the group can answer, offering their expertise. This is a great place to gain insight and learn a lot from designers at every level.
Most groups will allow you to start your own discussions. This can be great, because you can ask questions, post a problem you have, and receive help that you may need. Something else that is handy is to be able to share your work. The important thing is to remember to do it the right way. If you have a blog on your site, and you have written a truly helpful article, or you’ve created a useful free design file, you can share it in LinkedIn Groups, driving a lot of traffic to your site.
You will need to know, understand, and follow the group rules, too. This is important, because moderators will block you if you abuse this method. However, if you’re active in the group, provide useful information, and don’t overdo it, your reach can grow quickly.
If you have an Adobe Subscription you can get a pro account to behance. Otherwise, you can have a free account, too. If you already pay for an Adobe subscription, you should take advantage of Behance. Businesses search Behance all the time. You never know when one of your projects can end up landing you new work. You can set up and design a Pro Site, which I’ll cover in a separate guide.
Dribbble is an invite only site for designers, where you can share what you’re working on. I love it, because I get a few work inquiries each month for building websites and logo design. You can share your projects, receive feedback from other designers, and further extend your reach. I’ll create a Dribbble guide, soon to come.
I want to take a few minutes and talk about your work. Everything you do needs to be polished. Almost every new project I get comes from the fact that I have produced something beautiful, sophisticated, and professional. This is the most common phrase I see from a work inquiry: “I saw your project on [some website somewhere] and I liked your work. We have a need for something similar and would like to discuss our project with you.”
When you consistently produce quality work, it shows, and potential customers are convinced by this factor more than anything.
More Ways to Promote Your Work
Service directories are a great place to find work. You can provide general graphic design services, or you can provide highly specified services. This means you can work on what you want to, and set your own price.
Elance is a site where you can provide graphic design, and web design services. You can bid on projects, or people can find you via search. It’s tough to get started, but after you get a few projects under your belt you can find success. It’s competitive though. There are a lot of people here offering services for $15-$20 per hour.
Similar to Elance, you can provide specific services for clients via the web. You can set your own rates, giving you the type of income you desire. It’s tough and time consuming to get started here, too. Also, it’s very competitive, and you have to bid on projects. I would create a profile here, upload a few f your best projects and see if you get a bite.
Envato Studio is a great place to get your work in front of the clients who’re looking for it. It’s easier to get started here, uploading 3 relevant projects per service category. You can charge per service and per project, providing specific services to clients. These include WordPress customization, creating custom website headers, logo design, etc.
A newer site on the web, AwesomeWeb is similar to Envato Studio, in the fact that you can list your services. This is a great site for web designers and developers. You set an hourly rate and businesses contact you with inquiries. They show up right in your email inbox.
People Per Hour is a little iffy, but can be a god place to find small to medium projects, while promoting your own specific services. Let’s say you post your “hourlie” which is what they call a service that you provide for logo design. You decide the rate, and you can promote your hourlie on their site, finding you the specific type of work you’re looking for.
Stay off of Fiverr. It’s cheap and cheapens your work. Anything from there is cookie-cutter and is usually recycled from other places. Besides, your work is worth more than $5.
Promoting Yourself Locally
The web is great in the fact that it’s wide open for opportunities. A lot of designers wonder, though how to promote their work locally. I’ll cover how to make connections and promote your business in your local tow or city.
There are all sorts of business seminars out there. Some of them include new business seminars, marketing seminars, and anything else business related. You’ll meet other business owners that need your services. Bring a lot of business cards, flyers, etc.
Expos get a lot of traffic, no matter what they are related to. Showing up for an expo, and even having a booth can bring you a lot of business. You may make connections with other businesses at the expo, which is always good.
This really depends on your city, but there are bound to be business directories where you can get listed. One suggestion would be Thumbtack which is a business directory, which will send you leads. You can pay a small fee (like $3-5) to bid on projects.
Join Your Chamber of Commerce
This is beneficial, because any time you join a business group, they’ll want your information. If you can become part of the group, they’ll refer to you for those services.
New Business Seminars and Gatherings
New businesses are just the right clients that need your services. They may not have a huge budget, but they may end up being long term clients that grow as you grow. Those types of business relationships can last for decades.
Host Your Own Seminar or Gathering
You can always host your own seminar or local gathering. You could offer helpful tips and guidance for local business owners. Small business owners are always looking for ways to improve their business and increase sales. Where they pick up tips for free, they can also see the value in your services. This is a great method for building and promoting your business that is time tested.
Send Inexpensive Takeaways to Local Businesses
You could do a massive print run of some useful promotional materials. One good example would be a desktop calendar or scheduler. A business owner will use something like that every day. Awesome swag examples you can giveaway are:
- Wall Calendars
- Desktop Calendars
- Business Card Racks
- Letter Openers
- Coffee Mugs
- Anything inexpensive but useful
Add Your Business to Google+ Local
Getting listed on local search engine directories can go a long way. Your business will show up in search directories, and you’ll be surprised at what you can get ranked for with fairly little effort.