Whether you are working as a freelance designer, in a design firm, or otherwise, it’s important to be able to help your design business grow on a regular basis. But let’s face it, marketing your design business frequently becomes the “project you’ll get to when you have time”. Since no one is directly paying you for the time you spend building your business, it often gets pushed aside.
This article covers 11 simple tips that can build your design business in less than an hour. If you can’t find an hour this week to try out one of these tactics, perhaps you should hire a secretary.
Give a free presentation or speech
When I was working at a small advertising agency, we began to be in need of some new clients. One of the best things we did was to give a free presentation for a local group of business owners. The presentation explained our purpose, displayed some of our best work, and concluded with a call to action. Many local businesses approached us after the presentation and asked for more information.
Experiment with new online media
People connect with others online in a million different ways. If you are partial to twitter (which most GDB readers tend to be), give facebook, delicious, foursquare, stumbleupon or some other social media a hearty try. It takes less than an hour to sign up for any of these services.
Market your specialty
Specialization is key to a designer’s success. Are you the best logo designer in your community? Maybe you’re the best at building web sites using a CMS like wordpress. Perhaps you’re just the quickest and most reliable designer in town. Whatever your specialty is, take time to market it heavily.
I have recently found a new pool of clients simply because I noticed that most web designers in town were offering static XHTML web pages. Clients were getting frustrated because they could never get a hold of the designer to change the content. Enter me: I started pitching to small businesses in the area and offering to build them a custom site powered by wordpress. All it took was 5 minutes to show them how easy it is to use, and they were sold.
Write a book
I know what you are thinking. “Write a book in less than an hour? That’s impossible”. While this task might be difficult, I would hardly say it’s impossible. Imagine if you wrote a book titled “10 mistakes your business is making on the web” or something (perhaps a little more catchy). The book could contain 1500 words of advice for small businesses in your area about having a better business web site. Then you could give these books away to small companies in your area with your contact information on the back cover.
As clients read the book, they realize they are committing some simple mistakes and when they need to hire a new designer to fix their web design problems, who do you think they will turn to? The brains behind the operation. The person who helped them discover the mistakes they were committing. You.
Perfect your sales pitch
When was the last time you actually worked on your elevator pitch? If you only had thirty seconds to explain to someone what your company does, would you be well prepared? Practice what you should say, how to best explain your company, and how to invite them to act on what you say. Then next time you are in the grocery store line, in an elevator, at the print shop, or anywhere else, you will be prepared to land a new client.
Connect with old acquaintances or former clients
It’s odd how we tend to be the best of friends with our clients during the design process but once we have completed a project, we lose contact. Sometimes clients for whom you have done good work are your best allies. Be sure to stay in touch with old acquaintances, former clients, and others. You never know when someone will need a new logo, web site, etc.
Update your online portfolio
This one’s a no-brainer. If you want to land new clients, you must put your best foot forward. In order to put your best foot forward, you should showcase your best, most recent work. I know updating a print portfolio is extremely time-consuming, but updating an online portfolio can happen in a matter of minutes. I suggest creating some automated system where you can frequently and quickly add new projects to your online design portfolio.
Offer a seminar or free consultation
In addition to a presentation that explains the your design company’s abilities, offering free seminars or consultations is a great way to bolster goodwill. Even if you don’t land new clients right away, these opportunities give you a chance to show people what you know which makes them more likely to call on you in the future or refer you to a friend.
Engage in conversation
There are a million sites out there where people ask questions about a number of different topics in hope that someone knows the answer and will respond. Although, this tactic may be a long shot, joining in on conversations regarding topics such as small business marketing, advertising, or graphic and web design could be the key to finding your next design client. As they see that you know what you’re talking about (there’s the catch–you actually have to know what you are talking about) they will begin to trust you and when/if they need a designer in the future, hopefully the seeds you planted will be ready to reap.
Learn a new marketable skill
As the competition gets more and more saturated, it is important that you can deliver services that other designer may not be able to deliver. Learning new techniques can be something that sets you apart from your competition. Take time to learn wordpress, HTML5, CSS3, Social Media, Internet Marketing, etc. Make sure to choose something that will set you apart from all the rest. (For more on this, read “How to stand out and get noticed as a designer“.)
Brainstorm new ideas (& then share them)
Sometimes you need to focus on building your business. As designers, we often get so into our design work, we forget that our design business needs attention as well. Sit down for forty-five minutes or so and brainstorm some new ways you can build your design business. Write down anything and everything and then narrow down your ideas to the top 10 ideas. Make goals and plans to carry out those top ten tactics within the next few months.
After brainstorming your ideas, we’d love to hear them here at GDB. Add any ideas or tips you might have to this list by kindly leaving a comment.