Marketing yourself is hard work but it is also a necessity. Why? Good designers are a dime a dozen these days. Having a strong skill set isn’t enough anymore. An advanced knowledge of the Adobe Suite is just the beginning (and it’s easy to get overloaded by the Photoshop tutorials and free typefaces lurking around every corner).
Competition in this economy is stiff and chances are that you’ll be going up against 10 other designers that are just as good as you. So, what can you do to stand apart from the rest? Market yourself.
Now is the time to start viewing yourself as more than just a designer. Think about it; you are your most valuable brand. Now is the time to solidify your brand and to figure out what it means. Think about the image that you want to project. Think of how your brand is a bigger extension, a bigger vision of who you are. A brand is essentially a stand-in version of you; it lets people know who you are when you’re not present.
Marketing yourself will require some key elements, both big and small. The great thing about marketing is that it is so open-ended; there are a number of ways to achieve the same goal and it is completely up to you to develop a plan that suits your style.
The Marketing Mix. As a designer, your marketing plan does not have to be complex, but it’s still important to dedicate some thought to the four elements contained within the “Marketing Mix.” They are product, price, place and promotion.
Product: What are you trying to sell? Is it what your customers want? How will you provide support and back up its claims? As a designer, are your services marketable? Do you work to complete a project until your client is fully satisfied? Do you back up their original files in case they ever need another copy?
Pricing: How do you set your pricing? What guidelines do you use? Do you charge hourly or per project? Is your pricing fair and in line with the rest of the market?
My general rule is to set a rate that I feel is fair and as I take on more jobs and demand increases, I raise it. If this continues, I repeat the process. If your jobs slow at a certain rate, you’ll know that you’ve gone too high or outstripped your market and can adjust accordingly.
Placement: How is your design work being sold? Do you have a strong online presence through a site and online portfolio to reach internet-based customers? Do you have a print portfolio on hand to reach more traditional customers who want to see your work in person? Who is your ideal customer? Have you reached out to them and made your services known?
Promotion: How are you promoting yourself as a designer? I use a blog, business cards, a downloadable PDF portfolio, print portfolio, media kit, stickers and postcards to reach potential clients. Branding your offerings in a cohesive manner will make them more enticing.
Logos. What’s the piece of the identity puzzle that needs to be the most simple yet the most recognizable? A logo. When designing a logo, it should be unique, timeless, legible, easy to read no matter the size and reversible (able to be used in black or white), all while standing for your vision.
Often, people make the mistake of thinking that their logo needs to have everything but the kitchen sink thrown in. They go crazy with drop shadows, multiple colors, reflections, transparencies and too many typefaces. Unless you’re a strictly web-based company, chances are that your logo will have to be produced on many different surfaces.
Stop and think for a moment about brands that have the most recognizable logos in the world. Companies that come to mind include McDonalds, Coca-Cola, Nike, Apple and Starbucks. And, they’re all deceptively simple. Why? They have to function equally well on shopping bags, signs, websites, advertisements, uniforms, and the sometimes on products themselves.
Need help with your logo? 93 useful logo resources as well as 10 logo design tips from the field have some great advice. Additionally, Wikipedia has a page of information dedicated to logos and the logo trends of 2009 is also really insightful.
Business Cards. Business cards ARE NOT dead. In the digital age where thank you cards and personal correspondence have been replaced by email, I love the old-fashioned exchange of a beautifully designed card. The weight of the card stock, the choice of typography and the finish all send signals about who you are (or, who you’re striving to be). When designing your card, make sure to get your email and website worked into the design.
What’s the secret to a good business card besides a fabulous design? Leave it to Paul Arden to provide some timeless advice on the subject in It’s Not How Good You Are, Its How Good You Want to Be:
What title do you use on your card? Is it attention-grabbing, important sounding or captivating? Does it convey your position in the best light possible?
Media Kits. A solid resumé and a portfolio are standard; what can you do to push the boundaries, to go that extra mile? In my case, I was doing media kits for companies fairly regularly and then had a light bulb moment; why not make one for myself?
Media kits usually contain information about a publication or business including advertising information and rates, specs, stats, frequently asked questions and more. Whether they’re in a PDF or print version, media kits nicely sum up what you (and your business) are about to prospective clients. I include a list of design services, some background information about who I am, who I’ve worked with and my contact information. View my full media kit here.
Postcards. Occasionally, it’s a nice gesture to drop contacts a simple postcard. A handwritten note goes a long way and they can hang it up if they like the design. Postcards are also an effective way to let agencies and potential clients know that you’ve updated your portfolio or website.
Emails are standard issue; don’t you love the occasional piece of snail mail? I just ordered mine from Overnight Prints, complete with rounded corners.
Blogging. The digital age’s version of crack? Perhaps. Even designers that once hid in the shadows are now realizing that the benefits of blogging far outweigh the potential costs. The gratification of immediately sharing your work with the world, the chance to have interaction with like-minded people, the ability to show potential clients what you can do for them and the opportunity to build a following and gain advertisers make blogging a logical move in your design career.
Ideally, if you can secure a domain name and launch your blog on your own server space, you will be much better off in the long run because you will have control over your content, advertising, stats, what you choose to post and how often.
Portfolio. There’s a reason why most design programs make students complete a portfolio before graduating. Portfolios (both print and digital) quickly sum up your career in a matter of minutes (which can be both exciting and terrifying!) to potential clients and employers. What does your portfolio say about you?
Having an updated portfolio on hand is essential! Even if you have a job right out of school and your portfolio sits on a dusty shelf in the back of your closet, you really never know when you’ll need it. I packed mine for my trip to New York and have already put it to good use; it’s a truly powerful tool. Learn more about creating a captivating print portfolio here.
The opportunities to market yourself are endless. It’s completely logical and acceptable to dedicate some of your time to the process. As a designer, share what you do with the world because you never know who’s watching. With a dash of marketing, you just might be on the verge of your next big break.
Designers: How do you market yourselves? What is your strategy? Is it working?