Up until now, your new design business has been like a well-kept secret. Your friends and family know that you’ve put your talents on the market, but not many other people do (like clients). Here is how to pique the public’s interest in a way that doesn’t lump you in a noisy self-promoting mess.
Promoting Your Name Online
Online marketing is a never-ending revolving door, with something new flying out at every turn. To stay relevant as a designer, especially an independent one, you can’t afford to let yourself get buried under all the other content coming at your audience from across the Internet. When you understand your business goals and your target demographic, you can start making yourself a fixture in your future clients’ lives. Some ways to achieve this include:
- Blogging regularly, at least once a week, with a unique take on relevant topics. Occasional fun posts are okay too — describing the awesome trip you just took with your family or sharing your thoughts on the latest big-screen adaptation of your favorite book.
- Linking to other design industry blogs, especially well-read ones, in your own posts. Connections with reputable sites not only builds relationships with those sites, but it also improves your online visibility.
- Being an active member of online forums and the member communities of design websites, strengthening your community connection with your presence and authoritative insights.
- Sharing your latest projects on visual-friendly social sites like Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook. (Facebook and Twitter are also good for promoting your blog updates.)
- Once you’ve established yourself as a voice in your field, asking other established sites if you can contribute to their website (articles, infographics, etc.). (Note that it helps if your content has received a lot of engagement, showing them they’ll receive similar results with an original contribution.)
In every promotional outreach, your brand image is key. If you look the same everywhere, thanks to your consistent profile pictures, business name, and writing style, the design community will begin to recognize you — which establishes your name among a well-sought after audience.
Engaging Potential Customers Offline
Never underestimate the power of good old print marketing to keep your top-of-mind awareness in your local community. Consumers feel a stronger connection to something they can hold in their hand than to anything that flashes by on a screen, evidenced by the fact that direct mail leads them to spend more. Print pieces such as locally posted flyers and oversized postcards put your work, your name, your logo, and hopefully your face in front of potential clients as they go about their daily activities.
These items should showcase not only your own skill but what others say about you, so throw in some good reviews you’ve received. If you don’t have many reviews to pick from yet, ask for recommendations from those who have praised your work in the past. Don’t be afraid to name-drop some of your well-known clients (with their permission, of course). After enough exposures, those who view your materials might just look you up online.
Offline marketing doesn’t have to be restricted to pieces of paper in various shapes, either. Here’s a list of ideas you can use to get people noticing your business as you go about your everyday life:
- Let clients know you’re thinking of them by sending them holiday cards that you design specifically for them. The personalization will stick out, allowing your service to become top-of-mind.
- Have a superb business card to hand out while networking. Good design on such a small medium is one of the most powerful ways you can demonstrate your skill to future clients.
- Hold a contest of your choice among local businesses, with the winner getting a free design service from you. This alerts potential clients to your existence and talents.
- Stick a branded car decal or magnet on your vehicle, for promotion that is both affordable and garners a high view rate.
- Consider running an ad or two in local print media, to reach a demographic that may not get online much, but enjoys unwinding with a magazine or newspaper. Anything you can do to expand your audience (without exceeding your ad budget) will help your visibility.
Most importantly, let people get to know you. Talk to them at business gatherings, at town events, in line at the coffee shop at lunch, wherever! If the conversation leads to what you do for a living, that’s a great opportunity; but if it doesn’t, don’t force it. Just establishing a pleasant connection between your face and your personal interactions may lead business later on.
Optimizing Both Strategies for Maximum Visibility
As always, your on- and offline efforts should work together. Being present and interacting in both fields is necessary for success. Design your promotional strategy around your intended clients. Prove that their business is worth your time and they’ll start to see you as being worth their time.
The optimum balance of print and digital marketing is different for every independent designer. Factors like the location, preferred media, and the level of market saturation will all have an impact on your marketing strategy. It may take you a few trial-and-error attempts to achieve the best return for your promotions, but even your small baby steps will help to make you more noticeable than you were before.