To find success in the web design industry, you need a few key ingredients. First and foremost, a talent for design and/or code. Then there’s a willingness to learn the tools and techniques of the trade. However, those pieces will only get you part of the way there.
The other part of the equation comes down to marketing yourself. Whether you want to work as a solo freelancer or land a gig at an agency, it’s important to show the world who you are. The goal is to help potential clients or employers learn about your personality, talents and experience.
Standing out in a crowded marketplace requires effort that goes beyond just design and development. As disheartening as it sounds, doing great work is not always enough. You also have to present yourself as an expert in your field – someone who has a true understanding of your niche.
What does it take to get there? Here are some strategies you can use position yourself as a designer who knows what you’re talking about.
Build a Body of Written Work
The best way to let others know about your expertise is to publish your thoughts. Of course, being online makes the process of getting started quite easy.
Having a blogging presence is important. It provides a forum for sharing what you know and will continually grow over time.
For some, the idea of publishing (even on a small scale) can be intimidating. However, it doesn’t have to be a major source of stress. Just keep the following in mind:
Stick with What You Know
One of the biggest misconceptions about blogging is that you need to have an impeccable understanding of your subject. That’s really not the case. Therefore, don’t let it stop you from writing.
Instead, focus on the things that you know well. Think back to the different experiences you’ve had, including the mistakes and the triumphs. Sharing this type of wisdom can help you build a bond with your audience and demonstrate your abilities.
Focus on Quality
If you have a busy schedule, writing may seem like just another impossible thing on your to-do list. However, taking the right approach here could lessen your worries.
Keep in mind that building your reputation is a marathon, not a sprint. So, it isn’t necessary to be a prolific content creator. You’ll have better results by taking your time and working to ensure that whatever you create reflects your best effort.
And even then, the length of your writing doesn’t have to be a primary concern. There’s no sense in trying to hit a specific word count just for SEO purposes. Rather, the key is providing readers with something useful – regardless of how long it is.
Another effective means of getting your name out there is through a hands-on approach. This involves having a direct interaction with individuals or groups. This will establish you as more than just an individual designer. Rather, you’ll be seen as a valued member of a community.
Participation can come in a number of different forms, including:
Local Meetups and Associations
Look around online and you’re likely to find some potentially useful groups in your area. It could be something very niche, like a WordPress meetup. Or, it could be more general like a local chamber of commerce. Either way, it’s a good opportunity to get to know others and exchange knowledge on a regular basis.
If you dig a little deeper, you might also find some conferences that are of interest. Just attending one can help you learn valuable information that you can both use and pass on to others.
Online Communities and Support Sites
While in-person gatherings are great, online communities are often a better fit for a busy designer. Just like their real-world counterparts, a variety of topics and niches are covered. You could volunteer to write content or even answer technical support questions.
If you’re an especially talented designer, getting your work on sites such as Behance and Dribbble can also positively impact your street cred.
Again, the idea is to not only learn something, but also to show yourself as a knowledgeable person who is willing to participate. Do well here and you’ll become a respected member who others can rely upon.
No, you don’t have to become the next Twitter superstar. But you can use social media to promote yourself and connect with other professionals.
Whatever you add here doesn’t have to be profound. Still, if enough people find your content useful, you can gain a solid following. It’s a simple way to continue to build up that reputation.
Above All, Be Genuine
Perhaps the most important part of positioning yourself as an expert is being open and honest. Otherwise, you run the risk of trying to be something you’re not. That can be both off-putting to your audience and damaging to your personal brand.
Therefore, the best thing you can be is yourself! It’s okay to admit to the things you don’t know (and even your mistakes). That doesn’t make you a poor “expert”, it just makes you human. And that, in turn, leads others to see you as relatable.
Clients, employers or others in the industry aren’t looking for a superhero. What they really need is someone who knows their stuff. Work hard, take the right approach and that person just might be you.
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