We all know that marketing is vital to any freelancer’s career. Freelancing is a business, and if you’re not spending time growing your business, you’re going to eventually be out of business altogether. However, if you’re a good designer, your work takes up a lot of your time. At the end of the day, you can’t possibly think about spending even more time trying to get your name out there.
(Image source: Brittney Bush Bollay)
We’re going to look at why you need to maintain a tight hold on the balance between marketing and your design work, as well as some practical ways to do it.
Recommended Reading: 35 Cheatsheets & Infographics For Social Media Marketers
Who has time for marketing?
You should, if you want to grow your design business and get more and better clients. I hear designers say all the time that they’re "too busy" for marketing and self-promotion, which is complete baloney. As the saying goes, if you don’t have time to market yourself, soon you won’t need to – because you won’t have any clients.
Marketing is not a one-time activity. It’s a constant effort that you must adopt in your everyday routine in order to see any results. What you do to market yourself builds on itself day after day, so it’s important to be smart about where and how you do it.
Too Much Marketing?
You can build a business that is based solely on how well you can market yourself. That business will likely be superficial and bland, since you’re spending a disproportionate amount of time marketing and not nearly enough time designing. In other words, there is such a thing as marketing yourself too much.
If you haven’t updated your portfolio in 6 months with any new work, and are still going around showing off the same work you did years ago, it may be time to cut back on the marketing a bit and do some side projects. After all, if all that marketing was working, you’d be swimming in clients, wouldn’t you?
The Perfect Balance
What’s the perfect balance between marketing and design? I think a 70-30 split is ideal, with the greater part of your day spent designing and the lesser part spent marketing. You can also apply the Pareto principle here, if you wish. Usually, the 20% of things you’re doing to market your work are bringing in 80% of the results. It’s important to figure out exactly what’s working and what isn’t.
Analyze, Analyze, Analyze
You absolutely must analyze your marketing efforts. Each and every one of them, as thoroughly as possible. This will help you make sure you’re on the right track and putting up a front that is as effective as possible. Marketing without analytics is like driving without looking at the road. It’s possible in theory, but you likely won’t achieve anything but disaster.
Remember, you only have so much time to devote to marketing, so it’s vital to make sure you’re spending your time wisely.
What’s that? Outsource your marketing? Why yes, of course. In fact, outsourcing your marketing efforts is the most sophisticated and effective way to do it. I’m not talking about hiring a PR agent or marketing company, although those are certainly options for prominent freelancers with a ton of clients.
What I mean is that there is a very simple technique that can explode your freelancing reputation, much faster and more efficiently than you alone could do. And that is: getting other people to advertise on your behalf. Having raving fans boosts your credibility, since you now have someone else singing your praises besides just yourself. For you see…
The Very Best Marketing…
Is no marketing at all. Or rather, it’s the most invisible kind: word of mouth. In designer terms this means your happy clients telling everyone about how awesome a designer you are. If you’re not out there making yourself memorable to the people you work with, they won’t be mentioning your name when chatting with their colleagues and well-connected associates about design services.
Marketing Your Value
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s all about the relationships you build with your clients that determines how far you get in your career. Remember, clients talk to each other, and a poor impression on your part can remove opportunities from your table that you never even knew could have been offered to you.
Being scrupulous about customer service and providing the utmost value to your clients is, luckily, a huge chunk of your marketing that will take care of itself.