16 Ways to Market Your Freelance Graphic Design Business
January 7, 2011
•IADT Las Vegas, IADT General, Graphic Design
• 1 Comments
What could be scarier than leaving behind the safety net of a full-time job to start your own freelance graphic design business? A 2005 Bureau of Labor Statistics study* found that only about two-thirds of startup business survived their first two years, and less than half made it past four. If you want to see your new freelance design business survive and thrive, you can't ignore opportunities to market yourself in the industry. The following are 16 simple things you can start doing today to build a strong client base:
- Form partnerships with other freelancers
If you're a designer, consider sending work to a copywriter or a programmer you can trust. This way, you can offer more complete services to your clients, and your new partners will most likely start sending work your way.
- Offer rewards for referrals
Referrals are some of the best leads you'll get. Encourage referrals by offering discounts or other perks for customers who send new business to you.
- Join graphic design organizations
Design organizations like AIGA or the Design Management Institute offer opportunities for you to meet other professionals and stay on the cutting edge of your profession.
- Network through friends and family
Family and friends can be your most enthusiastic supporters. Help them channel that enthusiasm by encouraging them to get the word out about your business.
- Offer freebies
While a well-designed business card is a crucial part of marketing, why not consider giving away freebies like calendars, mugs and office equipment that will keep your contact information in front of potential clients all the time?
- Start cold calling
Cold calling is probably the least glamorous way to market your business. However, if you make a strong enough commitment to calling local businesses and work at it long enough, you will be able to find new customers through cold calls.
- Do pro-bono work for charities or churches
If you help non-profit organizations at no charge, you can not only earn business from individuals involved with the charity or congregation, but you can also find the satisfaction that comes from helping a cause you believe in.
- Present yourself as an expert on radio, newsletters or magazines
Local media outlets are always looking for story ideas or interviews. By pitching ideas, writing columns or making yourself available for interviews, you can present yourself as the graphic design expert local businesses are seeking.
Utilize the Web
- Start your own blog
Creating a blog with unique, informative content will accomplish a few things. First, it can establish you as a design expert. Second, it can earn you links from other blogs and websites that will boost your site's traffic. If you decide to start a blog, be prepared to update it regularly with quality content.
- Post something truly unique
If you can post a truly unique picture, video, challenge or idea on the Web, there is a chance that it could go viral and thousands of visitors will come to your site overnight. Because it is almost impossible to predict when something will go viral on the Web, however, it is not wise to spend much of your resources on creating content you hope will eventually go viral.
- Become active in online discussions
By offering substantial feedback on other articles and participating in forums, you can become an authority on certain subjects. You can also find valuable partners that may eventually refer clients to you. At the very least, you'll be creating more links for your website.
- Optimize your site for search engines
Because most people will find your website through a search engine, it is important to build your site with search engines in mind. Build content around several strategic keywords, making use of Meta tags, headers, links and unique content.
Offer Relevant Services
- Go above and beyond customer expectations
Exceeding your clients' expectations is a great way to keep existing customers and earn new referrals. By providing exceptional customer service, finishing projects ahead of schedule and delivering extra content, you can develop a base of happy customers.
- Customize your portfolio to meet the needs of individual customers
Before meeting potential clients, take the time to learn about their needs. Then, when you actually meet them, bring a portfolio that illustrates how you can meet those specific needs. This may require a little bit more effort and money than simply bringing the same portfolio of your best work with you everywhere you go, but it will produce far greater results.
- Create a website that shows off who you are
Most people will visit your website long before they decide to call you. Make the most of this first impression by using all of your design skills to create an impressive design. The look and feel of your site will be just as important to many people as your actual online portfolio.
- Be unique
Soon after starting your graphic design business, you'll find that there are dozens of other companies in your city that do exactly what you do at a similar price. To find a reliable client base, you need to find your niche. Find something that not many people are doing well and make yourself a specialist in that area.
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