As a graphic designer constantly in need of new clients, a good chunk of your day will always be devoted to marketing and building your client base. Finding creative methods to promote your freelance graphic design business can prove time-consuming and frustrating, especially if you’re naturally introverted and don’t enjoy “pitching” your business or treating your design talent as a sales opportunity.
Luckily, there are plenty of actionable steps you can take to promote your graphic design business without calling up local businesses or attending marketing events. The following 10 marketing tips aren’t isolated: you can follow them in order to craft a strong online marketing presence for your design business, or implement the strategies that your business is currently neglecting.
1. Find your niche and build your website around it
Examine your strongest suits as a designer and answer this question honestly: What can you offer that your competitors can’t? Once you’ve identified this quality or service (often referred to as your USP, or your unique selling point), build your website specifically to showcase it.
Designers’ unique selling points can vary widely: Maybe you’re a logo expert, or your typography is unparalleled; maybe there’s a niche type of business that always finds success when using your work. Carve out your niche and build an ideal client profile so you know what businesses to target. Make sure that your design portfolio properly highlights your USP.
2. Publish articles on other websites
We’ll cover content marketing efforts in a few of these tips, as writing expert articles and generating content is going to prove crucial for building out your client base. Of course, even if you have a flashy professional website, how will you get people there? Start funneling traffic to your website by casting as wide a net as possible. For designers trying to market themselves, this means publishing articles on websites (or in publications) that your ideal client reads.
Keep in mind that you shouldn’t be posting on competitors’ websites, i.e. don’t expect traffic when you author a guest post on another designer’s website, especially if you work in the same type of design. Instead, start writing a design blog on a website dedicated to local business. Find sites with intersecting reader bases and start reaching out. Of course, it helps to have killer content to offer – write articles that will actually benefit the reader and get online publishers coming back for more.
3. Maintain a blog
I’m sure you’ve heard this dozens of times – a designer without a regularly updated blog is hardly a designer at all, as far as search engines are concerned. As we just mentioned, the trick here is writing content that’s useful and actionable. While it won’t hurt to occasionally post updates about your own projects, you should focus on writing list-based articles or niche-filling tutorials that impart some knowledge to your visitors.
Of course, the main question: How do you alert people to the brilliance of your new blog? You should always link back to your own website and posts whenever you write those aforementioned posts on other websites, or when you post on social media. Always be funneling back to your website so business owners can see what you have to offer. If your tricks and tips are helpful to the layperson, they’ll begin to trust your expertise and will be more willing to hire you in the future.
4. Optimize your website
The most beautiful, professional websites are still failures if they’re not functional. First things first: You must design a website that’s mobile-friendly. Take the time to optimize and test your website for mobile devices so clients can connect with your brand from anywhere. You may hear the mantra that mobile now accounts for more than 50% of traffic, but this figure can be misleading. As Smart Insights points out, while mobile is more popular for social media, messaging, and some news services, more detailed business-related visits and purchases originate from desktop browsers.
The ideal union of mobile and desktop is to implement an adaptive web design so your website is responsive across platforms. You also need to to incorporate some location-specific tags to your website, depending on your market strategy, so the clients in your area that you want to attract will find your site. To target local traffic, include your city and state in your meta description tags, <h1> header tags, and <Title> tags.
5. Create helpful video content
Investing in video content is a powerful way to promote your freelance graphic design business. These videos don’t have to be fancy, big-budget productions. Just brainstorm something helpful, informative, and specific that you can create to help your target audience or client. You might film a two-minute video on how logos reflect a brand, or produce a series that highlights the meaning of colors.
Embed these videos on your site, and also upload them to your YouTube or Vimeo accounts if you have them. You can also share them periodically across social media. The main goal is to create something your clients will want to watch, which will open the door to plenty of jobs in the future. Avoid promoting yourself too directly – your videos shouldn’t seem like an advertisement or a sales pitch.
6. Offer free resources
The more your website offers, the more it will be shared and the more credible you become. What kind of resources should you give away? It depends what your strengths are. Many designers include free fonts on their website to drive traffic, a tactic that works very well.
In addition to generating traffic, free resources also imprint your brand in the visitor’s mind. This influence can prove very effective when you promote your freelance graphic design business. If you become the go-to website for unique Photoshop brushes, you’ll inevitably attract some clients who want more. When choosing a strategy, don’t overthink – just rely on your strong suits, and only upload new resources as you can. Don’t spend all of your time designing a new free font every week.
7. Share your work far and wide
Where should you house your portfolio? Yes, on your website, but the correct answer is “everywhere.” You never know what corners of the internet your next big client may be exploring, so cover your bases and showcase your portfolio on as many channels as you can handle. Most of the platforms online where you can showcase your work are free to use – some just require an invitation, like Dribbble.
Be creative and think carefully about where you can gain exposure with your portfolio. Behance is a always a great option for creatives, but the more general social platforms, like Facebook or Instagram, can open up new possibilities as well. Remember that no matter how great your portfolio is, it can only generate so many clients on one site. Cast a wide net to land more jobs consistently.
8. Master social media
Have you noticed a pattern? For the chronic introvert or the socially anxious, marketing is much more than pitching yourself or networking face-to-face. We’re eight tips in and so far, each one is just a matter of dedication and time spent online. So don’t sweat this one: For many creatives social media is not optional. Make the most of social media by doing more than just posting your work – optimize each channel to promote your freelance graphic design business.
Although social media changes on a dime, there are several networks you should currently invest in. Check out our article on social media for designers for the tricks to each social media channel. The main takeaway – learn what’s considered standard for each channel, so you can deliver the norm and defy expectations in equal measure. Another big takeaway – always, always tag your work!
9. Reach clients with MailChimp
Admittedly, there are many online tools that you can use to expand your marketing efforts to promote your freelance graphic design business. You should take advantage of all there is to offer to streamline your marketing strategy and make the process as easy as possible. For now, let’s focus on one of the heavy hitters: MailChimp. Email marketing is experiencing a resurgence because it’s proven to be consistently effective, and MailChimp is simply one of the most intuitive email marketing tools available.
Once you get MailChimp up and running, assess where you are professionally and decide how you can best keep clients and visitors up-to-date. Obviously, don’t send an email every week, but a quarterly newsletter featuring your latest projects can only generate interest. Don’t just email your existing clients – add an email signup form on your site near your video content or on your blog so you can convert new visitors.
10. Take risks in your marketing
On paper, it seems like a predictable marketing tip. “Don’t play it safe!” “Risk big to win big!” But in freelance marketing most designers avoid rocking the boat and end up looking like everyone else. We’re not recommending you fill your site with profanities or alienate an entire group of people with a marketing slogan, but have confidence in your brand and take the more dangerous route when marketing yourself to stick out.
A little controversy isn’t a bad thing – it means people are talking about you and your brand. We’re not encouraging you to make inappropriate or downright bad logos or designs – but spice up your website with some irreverent copy or engage in some guerilla marketing to start a conversation among local businesses. Always be brainstorming how you can set yourself apart so your client list never dries up.