If the contacts and connections aren’t there, doing business for yourself as a freelance graphic designer won’t be easy. You’ll have the talent, the tools, and the drive. But getting yourself out there is another story. It doesn’t happen overnight. You’ll need to build up your network and connect with others.
A tip? Probably the most efficient way to do so is to use popular social networking sites online. While, you may think that social networking sites are a huge waste of time, but from a practical point of view, the right ones could actually save you time.
The best ones will be able to do a number of things for you in one shot. They’ll be able to showcase your work, connect you to the right people, and keep you updated with the latest trends.
To help get you started, here are 16 social networks where you’ll want to be if you’re looking to get involved in the industry.
General Community, Forums & Chat
This online community is for the serious digital artist complete with member galleries, tutorials, and forums. GFX Artist also keeps you updated with the latest news, links, and resources to help stay connected with the industry. For those looking to make their name online, GFX Artist is a great starting point to test the waters as the community highlights and features the best and most well respected and designers within the community.
Once you’re a member of this community, you can network and chat with other like-minded artists and graphic designers. Shadowness is a great place to get your work out there. If you’re unsure of a particular project, you can get it showcased and critiqued from a large community of users who are dedicated to digital design and give you the feedback you need.
Every graphic designer wants to cash in on making a variety of long lasting contacts and projects that will make you a versatile worker. Are you one of them? Then check out Artician. In addition to community forums, Artician also has member-created tutorial resources, individual blogs, and galleries in different areas where you can get inspiration and ideas that’ll keep your own portfolio looking fresh.
With Colourlovers.com, you can get some feedback, resources, and samplings of what colours work best together. So if you need some tips on getting the colour palette for a certain project just right, check out the forums and groups this community has to offer. Colourlovers.com is built up of experienced designers and artists from different industries who can point you in the right direction.
Employment Listing & Directory Social Networks
You can get your brand out on the web for free when you sign up for designerID. This site gives you the chance to create a profile and portfolio, check out the job market, and get in touch with other designers and new clients. The best part of this network is that the community also includes major design schools, design firms, and suppliers.
With its dedicated employer directory, this site is dedicated to putting you in the right place at the right time. By submitting your portfolio to Coroflot.com, you stand a good chance of catching a client’s eye. Corflot’s job boards and directories can give you a handful of employment leads that are perfect for your work ethic and graphic style.
Portfolio Submission Sites
Clients are more than likely to hire someone who knows what works, what doesn’t, or what will work. Behance.net is the platform where you can show off exactly how you demonstrate that. Besides the galleries, there are a ton of features on this site. With job boards, tip exchanges, and regular design competitions, Behance.net will help to get your feet wet in the industry.
8. Design 21
Ever wanted to make a significant impact with your work? Adding greater purpose to your work can only enhance it. If you’re looking to make a different through graphic design, check out Design 21. This network has a goal—to use design as a way of creating social change.
With more than 10,000 members, AmateurIllustrator can boast a wide database of artwork and portfolios. On this site, you can find inspiration from a number of different design styles. Contribute your own or find new designers to follow. To explore the work being submitted, AmateurIllustrator has made it easy by letting you browse by style, technique, or popularity.
A free account on DeviantART can get you a lot of exposure. You can easily create galleries and portfolios exhibiting your best stuff in a wide range of categories. To top it off, DeviantART is a social networking platform that lets you chat, message, blog, or browse around for great images you can then rate and critique.
This Delicious-like network for graphic designers is centered on sharing and bookmarking images. Submit your own images for some exposure or get inspired and save what you like.
Voting Social Networks
This Digg-like social network lets you vote for your favourite graphic design related content. Users in this community have a keen eye for top notch graphic design content on the web. Create an account and you can start voting on great resources on the design topics you’re interested in. Even better, why not try to share your favourite articles by submitting them?
Being able to stay on top of the graphic design trend is one way in which Designfloat can help you. It’s a social networking voting site dedicated to bringing the latest web design tips and news to the community. Categories include graphic design, identity and branding, programming, promos, photography, tutorials and web design.
15. Graphic Design Links
On Graphic Design Links, you can upvote and downvote a wider variety of design-based resources and content. This voting site widens its category ranges to include content on 3D, typography, programming, flash design, motion graphics, CSS, and web hosting.
16. Pixel Groovy
The main focus of Pixel Groovy is sifting and putting a spotlight on the top learning resources and tutorials. So if you’re looking for the best tutorials on software tools like Photoshop and Flash, Pixel Groovy’s community can point you in the right direction.
Of course, how much time you, as a freelance graphic designer, decide to invest in each of these communities is entirely up to you. But, rest assured, for the sake of your art and talent, it’s time well spent.