Starting a freelance business, there are a bunch of things a graphic designer has to learn: how to work with clients, how to manage the workload, how to promote one’s services, to name a few.
Unfortunately, there is no straight path to becoming a freelance graphic designer. It’s all about trial and error. Still, there are some strategies that have worked for many freelancers and can thus serve as a reliable guide.
In this article, we’ve put together 10 marketing tips that will help you figure out how to start a graphic design business and promote your services as a freelance designer.
Define Your Strengths
Take some time to understand what you’re doing better than other graphic designers in your niche. Knowing your strengths will allow you to focus on them when marketing your services. Most clients will choose you over competitors precisely for your core competency.
There are many ways you could differentiate yourself as a graphic designer. Some of these have nothing to do with your professional expertise, and more to do with your work ethic and soft skills.
How good are you at meeting deadlines? Do you take the time to understand the specific needs of each client? How easy are you to communicate with? All these factors have their bearing on a client’s choice of who to work with.
Find Your Niche
In what niche do your design skills and talents shine through? If you still don’t know the answer, try yourself in several niches and find the one you’d like to stick with. Here’s a list of 70 graphic design niches, some of which you might want to explore.
Without a specific niche, it will be hard for you to promote your freelance design services. Focusing on a narrow niche enables you to become more proficient in that particular sphere and with time, beat your competitors. It’s key to effectively positioning yourself in the graphic design market.
The logic is simple: the more skilled you are at something specific, the more chances you have of landing profitable deals in that niche. Clients are not looking for someone who can do any kind of job. They’re out to find the professional who perfectly does the one thing they need.
It’s important to determine your niche early on before you start to market your graphic design services. Your choice will determine the rest of your marketing strategy. Depending on who your clients are, you’d use different channels to spread awareness about your brand.
Build Your Brand
There are many aspects to building a brand, and it’s impossible to cover all of them in one subheading. However, some branding tips you should definitely consider as a freelance graphic designer. Among them is defining your brand identity.
What impression do you want to leave on potential clients on their first encounter with your brand? Do you want to appear innovative, creative, flexible? The answer will define the look and tone of your brand, including your signature colors, your logo, brand voice, and other branded elements.
Of course, a brand identity is not just about leaving an impression. It should be incorporated into your services in very tangible ways. Let’s say your brand elements communicate to potential clients that you have an innovative and futuristic designing style. But if you fail to deliver on that “message,” it will soon lose all its power.
Design a Logo
Don’t forget to create a logo for your brand. This step is simply indispensable if you want to raise brand recognition. To get started, check out our tips on designing a killer logo for your brand.
If you need some inspiration, use an online logo maker to generate ideas for your logo. You can then customize the chosen icon to fit your needs or further draw on your creativity and design something from scratch.
To get logo suggestions with this tool, all you need to do is provide your brand name and describe your business. The program will automatically generate several suitable icons that you can edit right in your browser. You can also go through logo categories for specific industries, and pick a customizable logo template.
Use Social Media
While social media presence can feel like a distraction from your main creative work, it’s still a huge aspect of marketing that cannot be ignored. With the right social media marketing strategy, you can ensure a steady stream of clients for your freelance design business.
Social platforms enable you to showcase your creations, build a network, attract customers, share testimonials, and get profitable deals.
Create a Website
A personal website is one of the best platforms to showcase your works and market your graphic design services. Of course, you can present your portfolio on different third-party platforms — as you still should — but having your own website gives you more authority in the eyes of clients.
Another benefit of a website is the freedom it grants you over the layout. It allows you to present your portfolio just as you had pictured it in mind. You’re now free to use a custom structure and style to accentuate what’s best about your works.
No less important is the effectiveness of a website in generating leads and converting them to customers. Of course, this benefit is not a given.
To win customers, a website should be optimized for several factors, have a carefully designed structure, and have an intuitive navigation menu. A well-structured website seamlessly guides the visitors through the sales funnel and prompts them to take action just when they’re ready to do so.
Source: Hom Sweet Hom
It also goes without saying that your website should look professional and work properly, as all this will affect your reputation as a freelance designer. Did you know that 92% of people find well-designed websites to be more trustworthy?
But how to build your own website? While your graphic design skills might help you with the design, there are lots of other skills required in this process.
Luckily, you can use an online website builder to create a website that meets all the listed requirements and more. Select a template that matches your desired layout and style, and start customizing it right away.
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Display Your Designs with Mockups
As a graphic designer, your projects need to be displayed in a visually attractive and professional way — be it on your website, social media, or design platforms. This can be easily done with the help of mockups.
Mockups are high-quality editable images that allow you to add your own designs to them and showcase your works in realistic settings.
The main advantage of mockups is they allow you to promote your design projects with polished, professional visuals. And they spare you the budget you’d otherwise spend on far costlier product photography.
To see how your designs will look on mockups, click the button below, pick a template, and upload your file to it. Check out this article for a more detailed tutorial.
Sign up to Design Platforms
Make sure to have your presence on design platforms like Behance, Dribbble, Deviant Art, and others, as well as freelancing platforms like Fiverr, Freelancer, and Upwork. This will give you more exposure to potential clients.
There’s no necessity to be on all of them. Just find the ones you’re more comfortable with and focus your efforts on promoting your freelance design services on those few platforms. And, of course, make sure to refine your portfolio beforehand.
Understand Clients’ Needs
The needs of each client are different, which means the same approach will not work for everyone. Before you start working on your client’s project, take time to understand their brand, their project budget, their target audience, and the purpose of the project you’re going to work on.
A personalized approach can become one of your main strengths as a graphic designer and keep satisfied clients coming back. After all, you’re already familiar with their brand and target customers, which takes one time-consuming step off their list.
New customers are much costlier to acquire than existing ones are to keep. Thus, having a significant percentage of returning clients is something to aim at as a freelancer. This will ensure a certain amount of work stability and save a good portion of your marketing budget.
Here are several tips on how to maintain long-lasting relationships with your clients.
- Understand which customers are worthy of nurturing, and which ones are not. If a client is troublesome, you definitely don’t want to keep them once the project at hand is finished.
- Respect deadlines and notify customers beforehand if you need more time. The importance of responsibility and trustworthiness cannot be overstated when it comes to freelance business.
- Give your clients high-quality results. Consistently.
- Be generous, but maintain your boundaries and don’t let customers overstep them. Be respectful of your time and value your skills.
- If possible, stay in touch with your clients through social media. Encourage them to follow you and follow them back.
- Offer discounts to returning clients.
Ask for Testimonials
Last but not least of our marketing tips for designers is to share testimonials. Testimonials are like magic pills that make you instantly more trustworthy in the eyes of potential clients. Thus, don’t forget to ask your customers to write a sentence or two on what they liked about your work, as well as your work ethic.
Share their testimonials on social media, your website, as well as when pitching your services by email. You can even ask them to share those reviews with their own audiences on social media.
Today’s technologies and online platforms have made it easier to go out on your own and become a freelance designer. However, it’s not nearly as easy to become successful in this venture.
Knowing how to brand yourself as a graphic designer and effectively market your own services can make all the difference. Hopefully, our tips have given you an idea of where to start.
But remember that to stay competitive, you need to constantly improve your skills both in graphic design and marketing. As for that, we wish you lots of luck and perseverance in both of these undertakings.