Other Small Business Tips

Promote yourself – 50 self-promotional tips for Graphic Designers & Freelancers

50_FREELANCE_BUSINESS_TIPS(1) Discount Coupon Business Cards
Place a discount coupon for your services on the back of your business card

(2) The Business Card Exchange!
For effective networking you need to give your business card out as much as possible! A clever way of ensuring that they take your business card is by asking for theirs! Once you ask for their card, you have a perfect excuse to give them yours!!! (Sneaky but effective.)

(3) Wear Your Business

Put a cool design, your logo, and web address on a t-shirt and turn yourself into a walking advert for your company (give them out free to all your friends and relations so that they too become walking advertisements for you!)

(4) Friends and Family
Ask your friends and family (who are hopefully wearing your company t-shirts) to spread the word about your business. Try to convince them to send out an email to other friends and family members. This can be difficult but it gets the word spread quickly about your business.

(5) Pitch Articles to Design Magazines and Websites
•    Pitch articles to graphic design and industry related magazines
•    Submit Photoshop, Illustrator or other design program based tutorials to these magazines
•    Submit tutorials to tutorial directories such as PSD Tuts (if possible, make a screencast version that you can also submit to You Tube)

You have to be at the top-of-your-game to get published in magazines such as Advanced Photoshop and How but you will get tons of links, traffic, promotion, and work from it if you’re able to get a link to your site through one of these channels. Plus, you will be seen as an expert in that field.

(6)Write a Blog
Create a blogsite or better still, add a blog feature to your existing site. Write interesting, madcap, funny, or “bizarre” tumblr style blogs and you might start getting thousands of visitors to your site! (Fully utilize SEO tactics like title tags, meta info, and H1 tags) Other good blog ideas include list articles (like this one). Make sure you include the following share tools:

•    RSS feed
•    Digg, Facebook, Stumbleupon, Twitter buttons (displayed prominently)

When writing original articles for your web site or blog, also create summarized versions of these articles for distributing to ezines and article marketing sites.

(7) Link to Relevant Blogs
Link out from your blog to receive trackbacks, pingbacks, and incoming links.

(8)Guest blog
If you’re a good writer and can write interesting content then contact relevant site administrators and guest blog – make sure you get links back to your own web pages from the article.

(9) Comment in Blogs and forums

Add thoughtful comments on other relevant blogs to create a path back to your own blog.

(10) Be a “Nice Guy/Girl” Online!
Create positive profiles and commentary on other designer or business web sites that are directly related to your work and company aims. You might get a reciprocal link from your complimentary comments (you won’t get one if you tell them that they suck!)

(11) Get Articles Published in e-zines
Try to get your articles/tutorials/interesting blog posts published to article marketing sites, such as, Ezine Articles, Articles Base, and Squidoo.

(12) Viral Video
Incorporate video on your site and make some videos that people might want to share! (It’s definitely a crapshoot, but you never know, you may be the next viral video star and get a truckload of links.) Submit all your videos to You Tube, and Vimeo.

Offer your customers a referral fee, discount or a gift certificate for referring customers to you.

(14) Directory Listings
List your company in as many free directories as possible (and as many relevant paid for directories as you can afford.)

(15) Give Free Design Consultations

When a client meets with you, you are getting their full attention – which is ultra-important. And anyway, you’re not a lawyer or a doctor ! You should design consult for free. It’s worth the time and effort (even if you don’t get their business – they may refer you or hire you for a different project!)

(16) Sponsor a Charity

Sponsor a charitable event and you’ll probably get a bunch of free PR! You might also try and find out if a local sports club would like to have their uniforms sponsored by your business! In my experience, local sports teams and organizations struggle to pay for things like sports uniforms and often appreciate it when local businesses can front the cost and replacement/addition of new sports kits – you get your logo emblazoned on the team shirts and loyal team parents giving you business out of the deal.

(17) Press Release
If you have anything interesting to say about your business, i.e., you created some brilliant design work for a local charity, send a press release about it – press releases get widely distributed and may even get picked up by a news organization.  (A paid for press release is WAY more effective but there are free press release organizations out there, such as, Free Press Release)

(18) List Yourself in the Yellow Pages
Get yourself a yellow pages listing. Although I have heard that it isn’t such a great deal anymore since so many people use the Internet.

(19)Trade Associations Listings
Get your business listed in online and offline trade directories.

(20) Let Everyone Know about Your New Business

I realize that this sounds obvious but there’s no point in being timid about it  – being timid doesn’t get you work. Be excited about your new design business – you should shout it from the rooftops! Let everyone know; friends, relatives, ex-colleagues, acquaintances, the guy you sometimes talk to at the coffee shop! Tell them that you’ve just started a design business and to pass on the information to anyone they know – give them a few business cards for their wallets.

Repeat this same “tell everyone” strategy in an email that you send out to everyone you know!

(21) Referrals from local Stores
Contact your local stationery, art store, or other design related businesses to see if they will consider referring business to you in exchange for a fee.

(22) Holiday Promotions.
Send holiday cards and gifts to customers in appreciation of their business and to remind them that you still exist. Try to be original with your gifts see previous article for some great holiday ideas

(23) Research your market- where to sell yourself

There are so many online and print resources; it is not possible to name them all.  Sites such as Krop, gofreelance.com, and publications such as the Artists and Graphic Designers Market can be an invaluable resource for contract jobs and sales of your work.

(24) Follow Up emails

Thank customers who hire you, referring friends, vendors, and people who have helped your business. If you can spare the time, write a hand-written note rather than an email.

(25) Keep in touch

Keep a Rolodex or file of your contacts; past employers, vendors, associates, etc. Let them know every once-in-a-while that you’re available for projects.

(26) Email promotion
An online newsletter, or e promotion is a free and effective way to promote your business. It’s also a great way of getting contact information from potential customers. Ensure that you create a subscription button with your promotions.

(27) Get Social

Social gatherings are a great place to network and get seen and heard (you’re not going to get customers sat at home watching the TV) Schools, Churches, Bookstores, Coffee Shops, etc, are great places to meet and greet people. You don’t have to pester anyone – natural conversations will turn to, “what you do for a living!”

(28)Be seen, Be Active

•    Attend meetings for local professionals groups, i.e., The Chambers of Commerce. Inform them of your business and services
•    Go to business trade shows where your customers might be (if you’re a designer, then this means just about every industry)

•    Give out your custom freebie gifts with your print promotions at these events – free magnets, bookmarks, pens, water bottles, etc.

(29) Post Free Ads on BackPage.com

(30) Google AdWords
Create an ad campaign on Adwords. It will cost you (usually about 5 cents per clickthrough) per site-referral, but it’s almost an essential means, nowadays, to get your web presence seen.

(31) Start an Affiliate Program
Why not start an affiliate program where you pay a certain set fee for every referral? It’s an almost free way to advertise (unless they get a referral) Follow this link to learn about starting your own affiliate program

(32) Find Poorly Designed Print Materials or Web Sites and Offer Your Design Services
When you notice bad print promotions or you come across web sites that are poorly designed, contact the business owner and offer your design services. This may work if you manage not to upset them too much (be tactful)

(33) Create a presence on Graphic Design chats and Forums

In quieter office moments, log onto graphic design forums and offer your opinion and advice about design subject matter.  Presenting yourself as an expert is good for business – include your website and/or links in each comment or answer.

(34) Ask the Customer for Work Credits
Wherever possible, ask for your credits to be listed on web or print materials.

(35) Use Web Shopfronts to sell your designs
Etsy, Threadless, and how about orange can be great places to sell t-shirts, posters, and other kinds of craft products and designs. Do something cool, clever, or funny and you might get get a ton of StumbleUpon traffic (note: Threadless is a really hard nut to crack – but they pay generously for t-shirt designs)

(36) Design Submissions!
You will get a lot of traffic if you get your work listed on popular design and design resource sites such as abduzeedo.com and webcreme.com. You may also want to think about creating some freebie design backgrounds, vectors, brushes, or web templates (drupal, wordpress, etc) to draw attention to your work and website. Bittbox, Deviant Art, Vecteezy, etc, are examples of massively popular sites that can get you a truckload of traffic by providing free resources for their sites (make sure you get your links displayed prominently with your free resource submissions).

(37) Make Friends with Other Graphic Designers
Make friends with other designers online in networking sites, and other online design communities and make design friends in the real world at expo’s and conferences. It’s one of the easiest ways to get collaborative work, referrals, or hired!

(38) Cross-Promotion
You could convince a contact or business associate to cross promote in their on or offline promotions, ie, a print designer could promote themselves via a web designer, photographer, or copywriter, etc.

(39) Exchange Links
Exchanging links use to be a big deal on the Internet. It still is important to have links from other sites to yours, however, link exchanges have some how lost their credibility. There are too many web sites owners who have abused the concept and have 100s of non-related links listed on their site. However, I believe that the link exchange could still be utilized in a positive way if you only partner with related web sites. You should also break up your links into useful categories. If you don’t break your categories of links, you haven’t created a useful resource for your users.

(40) Watch the Major Freelancing and job listing sites
Create a profile for yourself and keep on top of all the freelance job postings at sites such as Guru, Odesk, and Elance as well as Craigslist (Craigslist might not be very pretty to look at but it is great for design work and short-term contracts. It is also a great place to network.)

(41)Submit your web site and/or blog to directories, relevant web directories and search engines

(42) Get a List of New Businesses in Your Area and Contact Them

Do web research and/or find out from friends about new start-up businesses in your area. Contact them about your services – new businesses need designed materials.

(43) Study New Domain Names.
New web design businesses should look at sites that list new domain names. Contact the webmasters of these newly purchased domains and offer your web design services.

(44) Link Backs From Social Networking Sites
link to your home page as well as your other social networking profiles – create a “web of links” for the search engine “spiders.”

(45)Get your business reviewed by online review sites such as, Reviewme.com

(46) Print a Calendar for Your Customers
A calendar is displayed where everyone can see it in homes and offices and is looked at on a daily basis. You will be at the forefront of that customers mind when they need your services.

(47) Marketing Bookmarks.
Bookmarks can be just as effective (maybe even more so) than business cards for getting your name out there! Create a cool or funny bookmark and distribute it in Book Stores and Coffee Shops.

(48) Always Put your Business Card in the Restaurant Card Bowl
(it’s worth a shot)

(49) Public Speaking
Contact colleges and organizations about classes or seminars that you can speak or teach at – great word-of-mouth exposure for your business!

(50) Send Your Work to Agencies
Make a CD, postcard sampler, or mini portfolio and send it to ad and design agencies, or other relevant businesses

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  • Fantastic advice!

  • This post really inspired me! Thank you 🙂

  • These are some of the best promo tip’s I’ve seen in a long time! Thank you for the fresh idea’s and reminding me of some old-but-goodies!

  • Great to get so many tips in one article – Very informative. Thanks!

  • Good advice, also for artists. We just has a bookmark and a poster printed. Take a look at our website!

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  • I am a jeweler and found many great tips! Many that I’ve never found in jewelry marketing books. One great idea regarding charities is for silent auctions through schools or churches, where many people get to see a sample of your work, it goes towards a worthy cause and it’s a tax deduction!

  • A very intriguing write up! The thing these days is tough has it become to spot the right business directory.

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  • Speaking of “wearing your business”. This gives me an idea to put my website logo as my facebook profile page. As for link exchanges. That is certainly a good idea for new businesses such as mine. But over time, I would rather people link to my site because they actually like it.