You know as a designer you’ve got to market yourself in order to find new business.
But if you’re only selling your services using “marketing” techniques, you’re missing a vital piece of the puzzle: networking.
You may think your client pool exists outside of the design realm, but as Preston points out in this post, your best clients might also be your competition! That’s right, design agencies, in-house marketing/graphics departments, fellow freelancers, and production houses all can make excellent clients (read why here).
That’s why it’s so important to get connected. Make friends and acquaintances within the design field, and when someone needs your specialty, they’ll already know who to call. You won’t be just another name on a business card or another pretty portfolio.
Use Social Media.
With social media, it’s never been easier to get connected and to do so globally. LinkedIn, Twitter, ReferralKey, etc. allow you to connect with other design professionals, view their profiles, and share information.
Of course, you have to take the time to not only fill out your profile, but do it well. You want your peers to be impressed by what they read!
I rely on LinkedIn as my primary source of networking, and it’s been a huge success for me. I belong to many design groups and I regularly comment on discussions, sharing tips, ideas, opinions, and information.
This has led me to receive “connect” requests from professionals from all over the world – Greece, Cincinnati, Toronto, Seattle, Kentucky, England, etc., and I’ve received several clients/jobs from LinkedIn as well.
I average about 10 profile views per week (see my LinkedIn profile), and I’m always looking to improve that number.
Another great way to get your name out there is to write posts (or comment) on design blogs. Become a familiar name on your favorite sites; someone who others look forward to reading.
I, of course, now write here.
At first, I was just a GDB reader.
For a few months I didn’t comment on anything…I just absorbed, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Finally, I decided to comment, and as GDB became a favorite with a bookmark on my browser window, I felt like a regular.
Some time later I realized I thought I had a legitimate post to contribute…something Preston hadn’t written about yet. So I asked, and he obliged, and then he asked me to post regularly (and yes, we do have a contract – remember goal #9).
Leave your Desk.
Eeep! I know, that’s scary…going out into the real world.
Find a local design club or professional group in your area and actually go to the social events. Agree to have lunch or coffee with other freelancers or design professionals in your area. Enroll in a continuing education class.
I’m not a member of any professional group – I am very choosy about subscription-style business spending – but I do still have face-to-face meetings with other designers.
Last year I took 2 continuing education classes and looked forward to each class not only for the information and design improvement, but also just to talk to other designers like me.
I also was invited to a brainstorming session for a local non-profit’s month-long marketing campaign, which was tremendously fun (and productive). Out of 23 professionals in various design/marketing fields, I was chosen to create the logo!
Occasionally I have lunch/coffee (in my case, chai) with design professionals in my area. I don’t promote spending business money on food as a regular habit, but especially to get to know one another and start to feel comfortable and confident in the business relationship, I find that there’s no substitute for a casual meeting.
Never Burn Bridges.
I always say, “never say never,” but in this case I make an exception.
Never burn bridges.
You never know where your next client might come from, and who they know.
Networking doesn’t guarantee that a single new client will come knocking on your door, but neither does an ad in the local paper. Done right, however, networking plants the seed in someone else’s mind that you are competent, professional, and trustworthy for an introduction, a referral, or their own project.
Most of my business has come as a result of professional networking. There’s a lot of truth in the the saying “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Plenty of designers have great portfolios and talent but no connections. So get out there and get connected!
Network with me and Preston!
Go ahead, practice on us.
Leave a comment and connect with me and Preston and the other designers who read GDB! If you’re already a pro, share a comment and tell us how you make new connections and sustain professional friendships.