It’s not enough just to be a good designer these days. It’s a sad truth to acknowledge, but the market is saturated with good graphic designers. The internet has broken down the walls and made it easier to find and hire them too. How do you get your voice heard above the throng?
The secret is to learn how to market yourself.
Think of your favourite designers who are working in the industry right now. What do they all have? Yes, they’re super talented at what they do, but they also know how to market themselves. They’ve found a unique selling point (USP) upon which they can sell themselves and their services, that sets them apart from the crowd. Next, they’re visible on all platforms and networks; Instagram, Twitter, Dribbble, Behance, Tumblr … But, more importantly, it’s not just about their work. It’s about them as people and their personal brand.
What’s your USP?
What makes you unique as a designer? What are your strengths? What skill that you can twist to make your own? If you can figure this out you’ll discover your USP. Your interests and tastes pay a massive part in forming your own creative style. Try experimenting to see how you can incorporate your own quirks into your personal brand.
Take the designer Lucy Halcomb. She’s carved out her own niche by creating quirky, hand-painted envelopes that she then mails out to her ‘pen pals’ under the moniker Lucy Mail. Ain’t no one else that’s doing that.
Similarly, the illustrator Gemma Correll could be partly held responsible for the explosion in pug merchandise over the last few years. She’s a pug enthusiast and her offbeat designs are full of cute doggy doodles.
Often, what you like doing the most shines through as your best work, and this is the work that will get you noticed.
Build your personal brand
Your personal brand can help you stand out from the crowd. Remember, branding is more than just your logo and website. It’s everything from your online personality down to your choice of outfit.
When it comes to marketing yourself, honesty is always the best policy. Don’t pretend to be into something when you’re not. If you plaster your Tumblr with pictures of hand lettered chalkboards, but you’re not really a letterer, sooner or later someone’s going to find you out. Don’t go with the flow just because you feel like you should follow the ‘in’ crowd. Do what you like and do what you’re good at. Don’t just pluck something out of the air to be your ‘thing’. You need to have a genuine interest in it, otherwise you’ll soon grow tired of it.
Don’t fake personality traits either. With all the bragging and boasting that goes on on social media, it’s tempting to paint yourself as a fun-loving extrovert. But, if you’re not naturally this sort of person, it’ll become very hard to keep up the act. Being yourself is the best way to create an engaging online personality.
Curate your life
Your social media accounts might be the first impression that a client gets of you, so make sure it’s a good one. Make sure you’re only projecting the side of yourself that you want others to see (i.e; potential clients). Drunken photos or sweary rants aren’t something that you want other people to see, so leave them out.
Don’t make it too personal either. Close friends or family members might not appreciate having their private business plastered in front of an audience of thousands.
Don’t force it
Only share aspects of your life that you feel comfortable with. Lots of designers are naturally observant people, who enjoy sharing photos and insights from their everyday lives with their followers, and this is fine.
However, If you’re not a compulsive over sharer, don’t force it. It’ll come across as fake. If you mainly spend time in your studio making stuff, then share that with your audience. Your fans and followers will be interested in your process and will love getting that first sneak peek at work in progress.
Start a side project
Embarking on a side project will give you a chance to work on something unique that you really enjoy. It’ll hopefully get you noticed in your field of specialism too. Take for example the talented designer and letterer Jessica Hische. She’s cited her side project Daily Drop Cap as helping to jump-start her lettering career. It’s still being discussed on blogs like this even years later.
Write a blog
Flex your industry insider knowledge by setting up a blog and publishing articles once or twice a week. It’ll maximise your online presence, build your reputation and help you to become a voice within your industry. Clients will see you as someone with an in-depth knowledge of your field, which will help build trust.
Get an email marketing strategy
Make use of any client email addresses you have by creating an email marketing list. Keep them updated with a newsletter filled with your latest news and projects. MailChimp is a great tool for creating email lists.
Harvest client testimonials
If you’ve had a great client experience lately, get them to shout about it! They’ll have a whole new audience of potential clients that you could be exposed to. Even a simple tweet will do.
Don’t forget to market yourself offline
You can sometimes get so bogged down in your online life that you forget about your offline one too. Remember there are some excellent marketing opportunities going on right under your nose, so leave time in your schedule. Meet ups, networking, conferences, industry events – they’re all great opportunities for you to meet with other professionals and get your name out there.