It’s an exciting time to be a graphic designer. There are various careers you can pursue. However, without a clear set of graphic design marketing ideas, you will find it challenging to raise awareness of your business and convince them that your graphic design consultancy is the right one for them.
Just like any other business, starting and running a graphic design business requires more than creativity. You need to be strategic. Here are nine graphic design marketing ideas that will give your business the exposure that it needs to thrive and grow.
9 graphic design marketing ideas to grow your business
1. Define your target market
While it’s tempting to accept projects from just about anyone who can afford your rate, you’ll soon discover that you prefer a specific type of project. That makes sense. Most designers are better with certain niches than others.
For example, you can market yourself as someone who creates customized calling cards for clients. You can also specialize in print ads, online ads, motion graphics, logos and branding, product packaging, or web design. It all depends on what you’re most comfortable with.
Aside from defining what you can do, you also need to define who you prefer to work with. In other words, you have to determine your target market.
Are you more comfortable with small businesses, nonprofits, large organizations, or schools? Do you find yourself attracting clients from consumer industries like food, or do you work primarily with startups?
By choosing a niche, you can start creating workflows that are applicable to design clients in that industry. You can also focus on acquiring industry insights that can influence the way you represent your clients. That helps you avoid bad design clients.
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2. Start a blog focusing on graphic design news and ideas
Blogging is one of the most effective ways of promoting your freelance graphic design business. It allows you to share your thoughts with your audience. It may also generate new business, particularly from people interested in your ideas.
Many freelance designers and design agencies run their own blogs. For example, designer Tina Roth Eisenberg runs the blog Swiss Miss, where she shares her design inspirations:
What kind of content do you publish in your blog? You may feature technical stuff, such as articles about new graphic design software or tips for getting the most out of existing software tools.
You may also discuss different design trends, the work of graphic designers who inspire you, or tips for running a graphic design business.
Finally, you can share your creative process with the world. For example, you may post a work in progress. It might be an e-commerce website, a book, or an ad.
However, you have to watch out for your competitors catching on to your ideas and using them for their projects. While imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, you still need to protect your intellectual property — and that of your client.
You may post your WIP blog once the client has already accepted and used (or published) your work to prevent this scenario. Of course, you still have to comply with non-disclosure agreements or any other agreements you may have signed with the client.
You can’t expect an immediate bump in business after you start your blog, but as long as you post consistently, you’ll soon have a blog that attracts traffic. You can also offer products to sell online through the site.
3. Create an online portfolio
If you’re looking for a graphic designer for a project, you probably won’t care about where they studied graphic design. Instead, you measure their worth by looking at their body of work.
Building an online portfolio will allow your potential clients to look at your work wherever they are. Artist and designer Malika Favre take the art of the online portfolio to a whole new level.
Her portfolio, which is hosted in her domain, is arranged in a rectangular grid, with large clients occupying larger squares.
When you hover your mouse over each square, you can get more detail about the artwork:
An online portfolio is a must-have when you start a design business. By building one, you can attract new customers by giving them a glimpse of what you can do.
4. Give away freebies
While you may associate freebies with consumer goods and retail, you may also offer free items as a graphic designer. For example, you can give away bookmarks or custom business cards to a lucky blog subscriber.
In addition, you may create free resources to attract new clients — or repurpose your existing output. If you have any designs lying around, such as logos or templates, you can make them available as free downloads.
To ensure that you don’t have any issues with copyrights or usage rights, just offer designs that your clients have previously rejected or not signed off on.
While you can make your free designs available for download on your website, you may also use other free image-sharing services. Websites like Pexels and Unsplash are high-traffic photo- and image-sharing platforms. At the same time, Logodust is popular among startups and small businesses looking to create or shake up their brand identity.
To maximize your exposure, you can offer two versions of the file: a PNG version that the user can use right away and a PSD file that they can alter according to their specifications. You may also use these free downloads as lead magnets for your email list.
5. Redesign or create concepts for your favorite products and brands
If your graphic design business is still young, you probably won’t have many big-name clients that you can include in your portfolio. However, you can still pretend that you already have well-known clients.
You can take their products or designs and give them a makeover. You’ll have a slim chance of converting these businesses into your clients, but your imagination can win you a few fans along the way.
For example, German designer Ira Arturawna must have felt that the current branding for e-juice brand ZAZO was too static, so she decided to make it a bit more playful:
Ira Arturawna changed the current logo on the left, with its minimalist lines and use of orange as an accent color, into a logo that featured orange more prominently. She also used a solid, bold typeface but added a twist to the “O”.
The result is a more cheerful logo that the brand can use on its website and merchandise.
While ZAZO still uses their current same logo and branding, Ira’s imaginary brand makeover gave her wide online exposure. She got attention in articles on design websites and social media engagement.
This proves that people appreciate good design, even if your clients don’t agree with your concepts.
6. Join design contests
Many designers are divided on the subject of contests. Some are afraid of joining because they can’t bear to lose. Others feel that contests are a waste of time since they don’t generate income, especially if they’re just starting a graphic design business and can’t afford to do any unpaid work.
However, you can choose to look at design contests as opportunities to prove yourself and learn new tricks. At the very least, you can add your non-winning submission to your portfolio. If you win, though, you will get the prize and the prestige it brings to your graphic design business.
You don’t have to look very far to find a designer who was thrust into the spotlight due to winning a contest. Architect Asao Tokolo, is an example. He specializes in creating patterns inspired by ancient Japanese designs.
Asao submitted an entry to the Tokyo Olympic logo competition. He didn’t win, initially.
When a plagiarism controversy forced the organizers to look for a new logo, they took a second look at Tokolo’s entry. They liked what they saw, and named it the official logo of the 2020 Olympic games.
As a result, his work was also featured at the podium for the same games. He also took on overseas projects, including an iconic crosswalk outside the Japan House in London.
People trust recommendations from people they know more than branded content. Whenever they look for graphic design services, they don’t just look at the cost or portfolio. They also look at the reviews. They want to work with someone who has a reputation of being reasonable, accommodating, and professional.
Social proof is one of the most effective freelance graphic design marketing ideas around, but not everyone has the confidence to feature testimonials prominently.
Adding social proof to your website will help you build the professional image you’ve been aiming for. Social proof takes many forms: they could be reviews in Google My Business or Yelp, testimonials on freelancer websites, or a list of client logos on your homepage.
Positive feedback in these channels goes a long way in boosting your brand. You may also feature client testimonials on your website. Check out this testimonial from the Forge and Smith website:
You shouldn’t hesitate to ask for testimonials from your clients, particularly if you feel you did a great job on their projects. A satisfied client will be more than happy to write a few sentences and recommend your services to other clients looking for a graphic designer.
8. Create case studies based on your projects
If you wish to give potential clients an inside look of your work, consider creating case studies based on your completed projects. Unlike a portfolio, which highlights your completed work, a case study lets you narrate the entire design process, from the client’s needs to the results of your completed campaign.
Most graphic design case studies follow this format:
- The Buildup: This is where you introduce the client, their products, and their market.
- The Challenge: This is where you discuss what led to the client’s decision to engage your services. The reasons could be the need for rebranding, boosting sales, or engaging more effectively with customers.
- The Action: This is where you tell the reader what you did to solve the challenge. For example, you might have noticed that the client wasn’t consistent in their branding, used low-quality images, or relied mainly on memes to boost engagement.
- The Payoff: This is where you show the results of your completed project.
Canadian graphic designer Shawn Johnston takes his case studies very seriously. He has a page devoted to case studies, each one representing a different industry.
In his case study for JJ Bean, he started with an introduction to the client, the challenge the client was facing, the graphic design approach he took to solve the problem, and the results of his campaign. He even added a set of numbers to quantify his success.
Case studies boost your credibility, show potential clients how effective your creative process can be, and place the reader in the middle of the action. By publishing them on your website, you increase your chances of attracting larger clients.
9. Engage with graphic design influencers
If you’re new to the graphic design industry, you’re probably taking inspiration from established names in the field. You can use your blog or social media account to share your work and your insights about it.
This approach can help generate buzz around your brand, especially if the influencers notice your work and promote them to their audiences.
You may also collaborate with other graphic artists and designers. It could be as massive as a public art project to as small-scale as an online doodling class.
For example, graphic designer Alice Lee frequently collaborates with other artists in her “Doodle Therapy” live video series. Below, she asked fellow artist Christina Young to teach aspiring designers how to maximize the use of Adobe Illustrator’s 3D tools:
As a graphic designer, engaging in influencer marketing can be the best decision you’ll ever make. It will help you expand your reach, enhance your reputation, and equip you with new skills.
Why you should pick 3 graphic design marketing ideas to try now
If you feel that doing the graphic design ideas we’ve listed above is a tall order, it is a real challenge. If you’ve just started running a design business, you probably won’t have the time, energy, or resources you need to do all nine ideas.
If you feel you’re not yet ready to go full-blast on your graphic design marketing, you can pick two or three of the ideas above instead. This will allow you to focus your energy and resources on doing a few things right rather than doing a half-hearted job on nine different tasks.
Some of these ideas are also the essential building-blocks of graphic design marketing. For instance, you can’t create an online portfolio until you’ve defined your market and finished a few projects. In turn, you need to have a portfolio before you can create case studies.
How do you choose the graphic design marketing ideas to implement in your business? Read on to find out more.
Determining which graphic design marketing ideas will work best for you and your business
Choosing graphic design marketing ideas to run is a lot like making other types of business decisions. These decisions will depend on three key factors:
- Market: Marketing ideas vary in their effectiveness across different market segments. For instance, freebies work better with small companies and startups looking to get things done quickly and at zero cost. On the other hand, case studies are more effective with larger clients who have more time to analyze and digest your approach to design.
- Budget: Some marketing methods cost more than others. If you are new to the industry, joining design contests will benefit you in terms of exposure (and the prize money isn’t bad either). On the other hand, engaging with graphic design influencers, especially those with millions of followers, can be more costly.
- Timeline: While graphic design marketing is a continuous process, some of the methods listed here are more effective when done at a certain pace. For instance, creating concepts for your favorite brand can bring a sudden surge of traffic to your website. In comparison, blogging is more of a slow burn — you need to publish content consistently to generate traffic.
The guidelines for choosing the graphic design marketing ideas you’ll implement are not hard and fast rules. There are also certain times when you can mix and match these ideas, depending on the resources you have on hand.
Ready to get to work?
Whether you are just starting in the graphic design industry or already have years of experience under your belt, you constantly need to find new ways of finding new clients, promoting your business and reaching new audiences.
The nine graphic design marketing ideas I’ve listed above are all tried and tested to boost awareness of your business and increase your conversions.
If you feel overwhelmed by the choices I’ve presented in this article, remember that you can choose to do just two or three of them simultaneously. By considering your market, budget, and timeline, you can make a choice that will help you attract new customers and expand your creative horizons further.
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