On the GDB facebook page, I recently asked what sorts of articles you would like to read during the next few months here at the blog. While I plan to write articles for nearly all the responses, one particular response offered by Nina Randone, really caught my attention. Her suggestion? Creative and low budget self-promotion pieces. Thus, this article was born. Today I would like to explore creative ways to promote your design business with little or no budget. Thanks, Nina.
I think what I’ll do is offer up a variety of suggestions I have and a few tricks that have worked for me. Then I’ll just open up the discussion to you guys. You bring so many great experiences to the table, I’d love to hear what suggestions you have on creative ways to promote your design business with little or no budget. Here’s my two cents:
Try some Guerilla Marketing
One idea I have always toyed around with is using some non-traditional or guerilla marketing tactics. Obviously, guerilla marketing works perfectly for a low-budget scenario because the idea of guerilla marketing is not to rely on huge marketing budgets, but creativity, spontaneity, and the element of surprise.
I have often thought, as I have walked in and out of local shops, how terrible the flyers, banners, and even junkie slips of paper look in the store window. What if you printed up just a few really nice-looking 8×10 ads for your design business and said something like “Stand out from the crowd” on them. In contrast to the black and white flyers printed on yellowing white paper with little tabs ripped off the bottom, yours could be a high-gloss matted piece of 100lb weight paper that doesn’t fade in the sun.
When potential clients see the difference between what other amateur designers and marketers and doing versus what you can produce, you’re bound to turn a few heads. The great thing about this particular approach is you only have to spend money on the nice prints (which are usually fairly cheap) and the other “junk” surrounding your ad is already provided by those who have come to place their flyers before you. What do you think?
Give something of value away for free
Don’t forget, here at GDB, we have already discussed the fact that discounts could devalue your design. We have also explored three reasons to think twice before offering free design services. I am not suggesting here that you give away your design services for free, but that you giveaway other things for free.
If you are on an extremely tight or non-existent budget, for example, try giving away a free e-book to local business owners that explains the basics of good web or graphic design. I did this by emailing an ebook titled “10 elements of a successful business web site” to a few potential clients in my city. When they read about web site essentials and realized their sites didn’t have all the necessary elements, guess who they called up to ask for help.
If your budget allows for a little more spending, you can similarly print a book like the one mentioned above, go around to local businesses, meet them in person, and give them the free book.
You could also giveaway free seminars or consultations. But be careful not to make these too much of a sales pitch. If you go to a free consultation with a potential client, try not to be too much of a salesman. Be kind, considerate, and really focus on what the person needs from you. More than likely, they will result in a new client.
While it can be daunting getting into the world of blogging about design, I have to admit, one of the most common ways I have found clients during the last 6-9 months is due the my blog’s visibility. One of my clients put it this way (I’m paraphrasing), “We found your blog and were impressed by the fact that you help other designers understand the importance of good client relationships. We figured, you probably practice what you preach, and we were right. Thanks for the good experience and excellent designs.”
You can have the same impact on a potential client. Perhaps you specialize in wordpress design, blog about it. Maybe you’re all about logo design, start a logo design blog. A lot of people out there complain that there are too many design blogs and you shouldn’t start your own. I say, GO FOR IT! A design blog isn’t always about making money from banner ads or eBooks. It could simply be a great way to reach out to your clients without spending a huge amount of money.
If you’re serious being a successful design-blogger, try reading a few of my favorite GDB articles on blogging about design:
- The Beginner’s Guide to Blogging about Design
- How to get people talking about your design blog
- Top Designers discuss why they blog
- Finding your voice in the Design Community
- Is your design blog hurting your design business?
- How to write blog posts that designers actually want to read
Hit the Streets
Or pick up the phone, or write an email. However you choose to cold-call your potential clients, just get up and get active. Although this method has not proven as successful for me as some tactics mentioned above, getting out and knocking on business-owner’s doors, calling potential clients, or emailing company owners, is a great way to start out (especially if your budget is low or non-existent).
Doing something is better than not doing anything, so if you find your design business slowing or not picking up the speed you would like, get up and do something about it. Even if knocking business doors all day only lands you one new client, that’s one more than you had before.
Take time to brainstorm (then share)
While foot-power can be a great tool and getting up and doing something is a good way to move your design business forward, it always pays off to take a little time to brainstorm some good, solid, effective ideas for promoting your design business. Sit down with a pen and paper and jot down all the ideas you can think of, even if they sound ridiculous.
I’d also love to hear some of the ideas you come up with during your brainstorming session. Please take a second and share them with us by leaving a comment on this post. Your ideas will help us all better promote our design businesses with little or no budgets.