There are many sites out there that provide venues for graphic designers to obtain freelance projects. However, due to fierce competition, many graphic designers lack the opportunities to get new projects consistently. If you are one of these unfortunate designers, what is your best possible move to land more work?
One of the best methods I’ve found is to utilize a blog. By writing about the subject area you are most passionate about, you are much more likely to be noticed by potential clients.
Start A Blog
Don’t get hung up on the word “blog”. A blog is a website which is easy to add content to.
Many companies provide hosting services for blogs, and some of the more well-known providers are WordPress.com, TypePad and BlogSpot among others. However, as a professional, you should definitely be using a self-hosted WordPress.org blog.
I would also advise you to use WordPress to power your whole site including your portfolio. If you’re not convinced, you can just tack WordPress (in a directory called “blog”) onto your main site and then, once you see the traffic flood into the blog, you can easily convert the whole site over to WordPress later.
Design Your Blog
Since you are a graphic designer, you should have the ability to make your blog look great. If you are familiar with HTML and CSS, you can customize the overall look of your blog. If you don’t have the time or knowledge, you can also search for themes online for free or buy some of the many excellent (and fairly cheap) premium themes. With some of these themes, you can easily change the layout and incorporate your own designs without any programming knowledge.
Write Articles or Blog Posts Related to Graphic Design
When you want to attract new clients, you should create content that is interesting and helpful to people in the industry. For example, you can write about your perception of what good design is. Also, other interesting topics include corporate branding and its importance, the use of logos and their significance and great designing tools for designers. You should be generous enough to share some of your tricks with the community.
So, if you’re writing blog posts that the design community will be interested in, how on earth does that get clients contacting you? The answer lies in the type of post you write.
You need to be as specific as possible when writing your posts. Sure you can write about graphic design in general, but you should concentrate on what you specifically love doing and are good at – whether it’s storyboards, choosing fonts, converting PDFs to iPad – get specific as possible. This is because, especially when you’re starting out, you’ll never be able to beat the big boys on the big search terms.
Don’t Forget the Long Tail
However, I’m going to surprise you now, most of Google traffic isn’t from the big search terms. 70% of Google searches have no exact matches (or haven’t had in the last 6 months) – this means 70% of the billions of phrases typed on Google don’t have any exact representation on the web at all.
So the bulk of all Google traffic is in areas no one talks about! This is the so-called “long tail”. This is where you can find speedy success in blogging.
The articles you write about your specialties will attract clients looking for specific skills.
Two quick examples: I gained one client, a Fortune 100 company that has given me tens of thousands of dollars worth of business over 5 years, through writing one article about InDesign and PDFs. Another client who’s given me a similar amount of business and is a fairly large global brand contacted me after having searched for “freelance designer rates”.
Other Blogging Strategies – SEO
When you start to read about the blogging minutiae of Search Engine Optimization it can be very daunting.
But, don’t be daunted. It’s very simple. The best SEO is writing great content.
Of course, there are some essential SEO actions for WordPress that you must carry out. Quickly, here are a few:
- Put the %%postname%% in your permalinks instead of a question mark and some numbers
- Add keywords (for example, “web designer, web design, web designers, graphics, ” etc.) in the titles of your posts – where it’s natural to do so
- Break your posts up with subheadings that also contain keywords – again, where it’s natural to do so
- Always put images in your posts, give them a proper file name and always enter an alt text for them
- Create an XML sitemap and register it at Google Webmaster Tools
- Redirect your non-www site URLs to the www version or vice versa with by entering code in your .htaccess file
- Install an SEO plugin to ensure that the post headings are the first or only thing in your page titles. SEO plugins can also help you with a number of other SEO tweaks – like ensuring different titles and meta descriptions for all your pages and to noindex the tag and category archive pages.
But, it’s important not to stress too much about SEO. The most important thing is to create the best content you possibly can.
Market Yourself through Social Media
Social media, despite being the buzzword of the last few years, is not the be all and end all and can be responsible for a lot of wasted time on the internet.
Don’t spend hours wondering aimlessly through social sites promoting yourself. The truth is that well placed social media buttons on your blog will be more effective than hours of self-promotion.
You may well find that you can learn from sites like Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn. And, if that’s the case, stay with them and contribute to the conversation by helping people and posting other’s links if they’re relevant as well as your own.
Be sure to only promote your own content less than 25% of the time on social media.
Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are good venues to market yourself and your services. Start a Facebook Page and get people to like your page. Add social media plugins on your website to add accessibility. Get people to follow you on Twitter and also pin your designs on Pinterest. Always explore new ways to harness the power of social media but don’t spend too much time on it.
What You Can Do
Whether you are a web designer who understands HTML, CSS and PHP or a print designer who doesn’t, there is no excuse not to start blogging.
The tech-savvy will have no difficulty dealing with WordPress and the not-so-tech-savvy can use existing WordPress themes until they are able to create their own.
Your knowledge and expertise is your livelihood and, if you don’t blog, there is no online record of it.