One of the main perks of being a freelance graphic designer is the ability to be independent. You can be your own boss and set your own hours, working as much or as little as you like. But the truth is that just like at any other job, you have to depend on other people from time to time—not just your clients, but also fellow designers and experts with whom you can trade advice, techniques and industry news.
This is why it’s so important to build connections. It’s not just something optional you can maybe do in your spare time—it’s absolutely essential for the success of your business. To that end, here are 6 powerful tools you can use to help build your brand and form connections as a graphic designer.
A web-based portfolio is the meat and potatoes of any graphic designer’s marketing plan; you’re simply not going to get very far without one. Fortunately, there are plenty of websites (such as Behance) that make it easy to showcase your work. With any portfolio, it’s a good idea to focus on your strongest pieces. Depending on how large your body of work is, throwing in anything and everything you’ve done will just clutter your portfolio and draw attention away from your best stuff.
Even when you already have a portfolio of your designs available online, keeping a print version available isn’t a bad idea—particularly if you’re a print designer. Print is a more personal and intimate medium, so it’s useful to keep a presentation ring binder with samples of your designs available in case you have an opportunity to present them to a potential client or colleague. Presentation is everything, so avoid using a binder that’s plain and generic. Instead, think of your binder design as another chance to show off your design chops; try a creative, attention-grabbing cover.
Occasionally, the world of graphic design will lead you out of your home office and into conventions, conferences, and other special events where networking is key. At times like this, it’s vital to have plenty of business cards on hand, giving people a lasting reminder of who you are and how they can contact you. Just as with your physical portfolio, be sure not to skimp on creativity when designing your business card; after all, this is a design that will be fundamentally connected to your own personal brand.
Can’t find a graphic design conference or meetup in your area? Consider organizing one of your own. This is a lot of work, but it can go a long way towards showing prospective clients just how authoritative and engaged in the community you are. Additionally, this gives you a prime opportunity to network with other experts in your industry—not to mention potential clients.
Joining a group dedicated to the graphic design industry (such as AIGA) can help you stay abreast of the latest news in technology or techniques related to your field. Networking with fellow graphic designers may also prove fruitful; if a client isn’t a good fit with a particular designer’s expertise, they can refer them to someone who suits them better—and that someone might be you.
If you specialize in visual arts, writing books might not necessarily be your forte. But writing an e-book that demonstrates your graphic design knowledge can be an excellent way to demonstrate your authority and direct people towards your design services. Your book doesn’t even need to be especially long; many of the nonfiction e-books found on Amazon are just extremely comprehensive and detailed blog posts. If you can use your writing to show people the mistakes they didn’t realize they were making, or open their minds up to a design concept they had never considered before, they’ll be more likely to trust your expertise.
Many of us don’t like talking about ourselves, but when you run your own business, you have to use every tool available in your toolbox to promote it. Keep these 6 useful assets in mind as you formulate your graphic design marketing plan.
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