Lexie Lu is a freelance designer and blogger. Her work is fueled by her love for the industry (and a lot of coffee). She writes weekly on Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.
You’ve been working hard and finding success with your design freelancing. The products you’ve been creating are resonating with clients and their audiences. It feels like you’ve hit your stride and are really, truly making a go of this consultant gig.
But in the back of your mind, you’re always a little on edge. You know you’re doing well, but you can’t help but wonder when it’s going to come crashing down. It’s that whole impostor syndrome kicking in. Don’t let fear get the better of you — let it motivate you to keep pursuing success.
Here are five ways to stay innovative and market yourself so you can stay on top:
Tap Your Satisfied Clients for Referrals
It can be a humbling experience to ask a client for a referral, but it sure can pay off. Approach people you have worked with in the past and inquire about other people or companies they know who might be a good fit for partnerships or projects.
Perhaps the former client can go one step further and connect you with their contacts. It’s just like when a friend you trust recommends a restaurant or a new band. You’re more likely to take their word for it and actually try it out.
What better way to continue to get your name and work out there, than from someone who knows what you’re capable of?
When you do get a referral, make sure you publicize it across social media platforms and your website. You’ve earned the trust of your clients, and you should proudly let the world know about your job well done.
Don’t just be active online and on social media when you have a project in the works or one’s being launched. It’s important to continue to participate in the design community regardless of where you’re at in your work cycle.
This illustrates and demonstrates your commitment and true interest in the community as a whole. You are a participant and contributor, but you’re also a cheerleader and commentator on the goings-on in the design industry.
You can do this by retweeting, replying on Twitter, liking or commenting on Facebook and continuing the conversation on other social media platforms. The operative word is “social” — so make sure you stay on top of the ongoing dialogue. You can be a consistent voice.
Make sure not to fall silent on your blog, website or social media accounts. You need to be present. If you’re going to be away on vacation, make good use of scheduling apps for social media like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite for Twitter or the internal scheduler on various websites and, of course, Facebook.
All of this shows that you’re genuinely invested in the industry and that it isn’t just about you and getting attention for your projects. You can become more than just your individual contracts and projects.
A technique or style that works today won’t have the same impact a year from now. It’s vital that you continue to innovate in your work and how your market yourself.
If you fall into a rut, it can be the kiss of death, as innovation is an implicit part of design. Infographics are one such innovation that has gained traction over recent years. Designers can create very engaging and informative content with the images.
Promoting your work also needs to remain current. For example, the four-year-old mobile app Snapchat is growing the fastest of any social network amongst millennials. That means Facebook isn’t necessarily the one place to get your message and your work out into the world.
Being well-connected digitally isn’t the be-all and end-all. There is something to be said for actually meeting someone in person, out from behind the computer screen.
It’s vital that you’re able and willing to network in-person. This will allow you to link up with fellow designers to share ideas and innovations, as well as potentially collaborate on a contract.
In addition, attending “meet-ups” or conferences are great ways to create tangible connections with like-minded people. Make sure you reach out to your new contacts online. This will solidify the connection via your social media platforms. Follow them on Twitter, Instagram and/or Snapchat to continue the conversation.
Conferences are also a great way to meet potential clients. Make sure you push away from your desk and put down your phone long enough to see eye-to-eye with businesses and agencies interested in getting a designer involved in their brand and marketing.
You don’t need to cold call companies and would-be clients to keep your success going. Heading out into the industry wilderness and just stabbing at whatever you can find isn’t going to bring you returns on your time or energy. Instead, focus on the connections you’ve created. Nurture them, spend time focusing on them and stay connected.
One study found that 70% of companies find it cheaper to retain a client than it is to acquire a brand new one. It’s easier to harvest a project with an existing client than with a complete stranger. It’s important to care about the people you work with, human to human — not just look for the next contract to take down.
You can nurture this relationship through various means. You can utilize your digital assets to do this, as well as person-to-person contact.
Congratulations on building your portfolio and brand as a designer! It’s fantastic you’ve found success in your chosen field, but don’t let it go to your head. You have to continue to hustle and work hard to keep your momentum going. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself being overlooked for other designers who are putting in the time and effort. Try applying these five ways of marketing yourself to stay on top, and you’ll be able to build on your success.
Sure, you should celebrate each success along the way — you deserve it! But be sure to refocus and continue to apply yourself to innovation and creativity.
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