How to Promote Your Design Business on the Cheap

By / Jul 29, 2010 / Tips
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Ah … the life of a freelancer. It’s not enough that you’re creative and technically savvy. No, you have to be a clever businessperson as well. No matter how talented you are, when starting out you probably won’t get clients unless you pound the pavement for them. But you likely don’t have the time or money to engage in any sophisticated advertising campaign. Fortunately, these days there are plenty of ways to market your business for little to no cash.

Twitter

design business

Twitter definitely has its haters – not everyone wants to hear you describe your lunch in 140 characters or fewer. But it’s a highly searchable tool that is free and takes moments to manage. Once you set up your account, search for your favorite designers and studios as well as friends, businesses you frequent and companies you’d like to hire you. This alerts potential customers to your existence – they might in turn follow you and seek you out for future jobs. Tweet your blog, news about your business, a fun project you’re working on, artwork you find inspirational, a handy tutorial – keep your tweets short and informal. Twitter is not the place for heavy copywriting, though it IS a great place to offer exclusive deals.

Facebook

Unlike Friendster and MySpace, Facebook hasn’t shown signs that it’s going away anytime soon. Therefore, like Twitter, it’s another social-networking tool that is easy and free. Be sure you set up a business page and not a profile – Facebook can be strict with noncompliance and take down profiles that do too much promoting if they’re not billed as businesses. Include all your contact information as well as upload photos of your office space, your logo and select works. You can add tabs to the top of your page. For example, you might want to add one for your works in progress or portfolio pieces. With NetworkedBlogs you can link your blog to your Facebook page so that it automatically appears on your page and in your followers’ news feeds. Encourage comments by asking questions – as with Twitter, be conversational, not stiff.

Foursquare and Gowalla

design business

These are location-based social-networking games that allow players to “check in” with their phones at businesses, public places and homes. Check in enough places, and users earn “badges” and other items. So where does the marketing step in? Businesses can opt to offer incentives to players when they check in. For example, Chili’s offers free chips and salsa to people who check in on Foursquare, and Best Buy hosted a contest encouraging folks to check in on Gowalla to have a chance of getting a free Eye-Fi wireless memory card. With location-based social networking, you can participate on both sides – make yourself seen by checking in places as well as offer your own rewards.

Yelp

Yelp certainly has its detractors, but whatever your opinion of the site, it pays to at least monitor your business profile. Look yourself up regularly to be sure your contact info is correct and a link back to your site works. Most important, read the reviews posted about you. Tweet the good reviews and perhaps ask those people if they’d like to contribute a testimonial for your website. Respond to negative reviews to see if you can make things right. Remember that for a lot of people, Yelp is the new Yellow Pages, and your business profile might be the first impression a potential customer gets.

Postcards

design business

Sometimes it pays to get back to basics – not all promotions need to be web-based. A postcard was and still is a multiuse marketing tool. Design a postcard with one or a few of your best works on one side and your contact information on the other. A batch of hundreds can often be printed cheaply. Then ask to leave the postcards at businesses such as cafes, bars, clubs and gyms. Your eye-catching design should attract new customers, whether they contact you immediately or come across your postcard they’re now using as a bookmark. If anything, a postcard gets your name out there, and recognition is a key to advertising.

Conclusion

Let’s face it – for freelancers the trade-off for freedom from a 9-to-5 cubicle job is a sometimes unsteady paycheck. There just isn’t a lot of extra time or money for advertising. But with the Internet comes great opportunity – the chance to take a risk with different types of marketing. If one campaign doesn’t work, try another. You’re a creative pro, so why not exercise that creativity with unique promotions?

About the Author

Jennifer Moline writes about freelancing, small business and design for the PsPrint Blog. PsPrint is an online printing solutions company, which you can follow on Twitter and Facebook.

20 Comments

  1. William Hawke Bassignani
    July 29, 2010

    I keep my Tumblr active and post through my One-a-Day Campaign… I’m creating something new every day based on the number of days since I started. On Tumblr, it doesn’t get my much traffic, but the cross-posting to Twitter and Facebook definitely do!

    Worth a try – people like consistency.

    Reply
  2. Bret Juliano
    July 29, 2010

    Great article. I love the tips. I’m definitely going to start looking into implementing the postcard concept.

    Reply
  3. Aaron
    July 29, 2010

    Here’s one that got me going (this is really for those people just starting out): find a business that needs graphic design or web design help and make something for them, without them knowing. Then, approach them, show them what you’ve done and see what their thoughts are. (1) They’ll probably give you some type of kick-back for your work, and (2) The process is so out of the ordinary that they’ll take your business cards to friends and say, “Check out this person. Guess what they did for me…”

    Reply
  4. Mark Armstrong
    July 29, 2010

    You’ve definitely got me rethinking a few things– many thanks for your very helpful post!

    Cheers, Mark

    Reply
  5. Jessie Matanky
    July 30, 2010

    Craigslist can also be great for free advertising. You can input HTML and also read about jobs available. You don’t always get the most high- profile clients, but if you are low on jobs, it’s a great place to start. Available iPhone apps can help you stay up on new listings.

    Reply
  6. Michael Holt
    July 30, 2010

    Great ideas, thanks for the tips.

    Reply
  7. Amber Weinberg
    July 30, 2010

    Twitter has definitely been one of the non-marketing ways I’ve been able to get clients.

    Reply
  8. nikoslianeris
    July 31, 2010

    Great tips!I found new ways to promote my works!!Thank you very much for sharing! :)

    Reply
  9. Theo
    August 1, 2010

    Helpful article with good tips.Thanks for sharing !

    Reply
  10. webston.net
    August 1, 2010

    In my view quality article writing is the best way to promote a web now a days regarding back links, product info, services or any thing special that you are going to offer to world. Articles provide you exact target traffic which is actually back bone of your success. http://www.webston.net is plate form which provides you free articles submitting along with 300×250 Free ads banner space for your web. Submit your articles and get the right targeted traffic to your web and enjoy free advertisements offer.

    Reply
  11. Nathan
    August 2, 2010

    Good article, I think out of all of them Twitter has made a massive difference to how I network and more importantly, who I network with. However, I was surprised to see that Youtube wasn’t in there. With the world becoming more impatient for answers, watching a video saves me loads of time and its great marketing material!

    Reply
  12. Nauman Akhtar
    August 2, 2010

    Thank you for sharing such great ideas

    Reply
  13. webston.net
    August 2, 2010

    In my view quality article writing is the best way to promote a web now a days regarding back links, product info, services or any thing special that you are going to offer to world. Articles provide you exact target traffic which is actually back bone of your success. http://www.webston.net is plate form which provides you free articles submitting along with 300×250 Free ads banner space for your web. Submit your articles and get the right targeted traffic to your web and enjoy free advertisements offer.

    Reply
  14. Jemima
    August 4, 2010

    Thanks for the article! I especially love the postcard idea – what a creative way to get noticed.

    Reply
  15. inspirationfeed
    August 16, 2010

    I really like the post card idea! You can also do the same with business cards, just make sure to stand out of the rest. Sometime you have to use bright colors to get the most attention.

    Reply
  16. Craig
    August 26, 2010

    ‘No matter how talented you are, when starting out you probably won’t get clients unless you pound the pavement for them’ this is definitely one of the realities of business, great article and tips thanks for the share.

    Reply
  17. Lisa Thomason
    September 14, 2010

    Really appreciate the ideas in this article to help help promote our design business, Thank you! LT

    Reply
  18. jack designer
    September 14, 2010

    This is nice of you. You have the best designs which I have seen and you look to recognize your own stuff.

    Reply
  19. Scott
    October 12, 2010

    Nothing beats a printed buisness card, just makes you seem more legit.

    Reply
  20. Jim
    October 26, 2010

    I’m just starting out freelancing so I’m going to try these ideas.

    Reply

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