Personal Branding for Web Designers

By / Mar 25, 2010 / Tips
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“It doesn’t matter how good you are. What matters is how good you are at showing it!” This statement represents the ABCs of personal branding, self marketing or whatever you prefer to name it. As a designer, you are so fortunate that your work is pure creativity. As a result, your self- branding strategies should be equally creative. Let’s discuss some of them.

Your Name Says it All…

Most of, if not all, renowned graphic designers use their own name to shine and create a lasting personal brand. Rather than having a website named “CeativeDesignServices”, how about giving it the most important name in your life: your own! Soon enough, your name will be equally important to your niche market after you deliver quality work.

Why AUTHENTIC Branding is the Way to Go…

Out of all the marketing jargon I came across, “authentic branding” struck me the most. When I say authentic, I mean that you need to honor the essence of how you really are and embrace it. As a result, your artwork will reflect your personality, character, values, ambitions, vision, you name it. While in some fields people could get away with false pretends, that’s impossible to achieve in graphic design in particular. You simply can NOT ”fake” creativity or tailor it to become something else. It’s a clever idea to focus your branding on at most 3 values based on your core personality definitions. You might ask me: what if my authentic branding is not appealing to my niche market? I would say: you chose he wrong niche. Change it!

Too much too soon versus slowly but surely…

Quite often some designers, especially beginners, fall into the trap of taking on too many projects, hoping to create a rich and versatile profile as quickly as possible. That’s a HUGE mistakes because you will be scattering your energy and out of the pressure of meeting endless near-future deadlines, you’ll end-up producing “so and so” work. One of the obvious shortcomings of such approach is that your existing clients will be unhappy and yes you will build a big “so and so” portfolio in 2 months! How effective is that?! What if, instead, you FOCUSED on two projects and did an outstanding job on them? Yes, you will take longer to build a portfolio, but you will be creating it slowly but surely and it’ll standout eventually. Even better, your satisfied customers will not only use your service again but will gladly do some marketing on your behalf and refer others to you. Sweet!

CONSISTENCY is a keyword…

In order to stand on the front lines of the fierce web design war, you must establish yourself as a passionate designer who consistently delivers quality work. In other words, you must continually produce great work that’s linked to your name. Don’t ever compromise quality under any circumstances. If your work value starts dropping, so will your name alongside your brand! Moreover, you need to be consistent in establishing your personal brand. For example, I always use the same avatar and main website picture so that the public will connect that picture of myself to my brand. I might change my logo zillion times along the way but my picture will never change. (Unless I get hit by a truck and 6 surgeons have extensively remodeled my face)

When it comes to visibility, work smart not hard!

Here are some intelligent ideas to get your name out there and create massive visibility easily and effortlessly:

  • Start guest posting on high-traffic blogs about web design
  • Establish yourself as an expert in your field by blog-commenting on relevant posts. (CSS3, jQuery, Photoshop or even MS Paint)
  • Introduce yourself to other people in your niche. Get yourself out there and get to know the big players around. It wouldn’t hurt to make a few phone calls would it?
  • Learn how to become recognizable and increase your added value by taking advantage of popular social websites in order to spread the word about your brand and expand your network
  • Build your personal equity while offering meaningful contribution to your community. For example, you could volunteer to give free tutorials or give some design work for free to an organization that you support. Even better, do the same for an organization that your niche is likely to support
  • How about some offline presence as well? Face-to-face communication is very powerful. Make it a habit to attend relevant media events and try out some public speaking. Public speaking is very effective in creating the “expert” image

What do you think? I can’t wait to read your comments. Good luck!

About the Author

Davy KestensDavy Kestens is a motivated young lunatic from Belgium with a highly entrepreneurial vision on his life. Currently working as a freelance creative director and continuously starting up online projects when he’s not out trying to take over the world. His latest published tool for world domination is RunAddicts.net – A professional blog about running. Want to keep up with him? Go ahead and visit his website. You can also follow him on twitter.

29 Comments

  1. Ray
    March 25, 2010

    Thanks for that… cool

    Reply
  2. Jon Bergan
    March 25, 2010

    I loved the opening quote: “It doesn’t matter how good you are. What matters is how good you are at showing it!” – way to start a post!

    I definitely think that two of the major killers to a web designers personal brand is their need to come out hard and fast and their lack of consistency. Just like in business, consistency is key. Many people want the easy route to success but when it comes to building any type of brand, it takes time and a lot of consistent effort.

    Some really solid advice here. Thanks for the post, Davy.

    JB

    Reply
    • Davy Kestens
      March 25, 2010

      Thanks Jon!
      I think it’s extremely important for any designer to have a consistent degree of quality in their work. Also it should slowly increase over a period of time.

      Reply
  3. Beth McLain
    March 25, 2010

    This article is spot on. Beautifully executed.
    Appreciate your efforts in putting this together.

    Reply
  4. Clayton Correia
    March 25, 2010

    Great article.

    I really liked the part about being authentic. Designers and agencies who don’t sit down and hammer out what their values are early on are going to have problems down the road.

    The part about using only quality portfolio items is great too. So important! I hate seeing portfolio sites with dozens of pieces that aren’t up to snuff. Pick a few good ones that show your skill and diversity of work and leave the rest out.

    Thanks for this!

    Reply
    • Davy Kestens
      March 25, 2010

      Thanks Clayton, you’re hitting the nail on the head! Clients who are looking for a designer, especially online, don’t take the time to look at every single piece in your portfolio. Offer your top ones and leave the rest out.

      Reply
  5. Dan Schawbel
    March 25, 2010

    Davy, excellent post on personal branding for web designers. Designers need a signature, and high quality work if they want to build a reputation online (and even offline).

    Reply
  6. lava360blog
    March 25, 2010

    When it comes to visibility, work smart not hard!.. very right. very useful tips. Thanks Davy Kestens

    Reply
  7. Carlos Perez
    March 25, 2010

    Agreed! Good article and solid points about the importance of establishing a brand that reflects your values and creativity.

    I wrote an article a little while back on branding yourself that you can check out on my blog if you’re interested:

    http://www.keysthatclick.com/business/brand-yourself/

    Reply
  8. Kersland Creative
    March 25, 2010

    Very informative article, hope there’s more of this here. Thanks for sharing this and keep up the Good Work!

    Reply
  9. Justin Carroll
    March 25, 2010

    Good stuff. This can be the difference between a good designer and a great designer. You could be a freak of nature, the best designer on Earth; however, if no one knows who you are …

    I see mediocre designers who are rock-stars because they know how to work the game.

    See Gary Vaynerchuk’s book called Crush It too. Game-changing read.

    Reply
  10. Lee Peterson
    March 26, 2010

    AWESOME point about unique naming and authentic branding. If you look around this industry, you’ll notice some of the most renowned companies have incredibly original names, personalities and company voices.

    One of the first questions I’m asked from a potential prospect or new client is “Why RustyDog?” When coming up with a name for my business, I chose something that was unique, not offensive, but brought a curious look and smile to faces –- RustyDog Creative.

    It’s a conversation starter and the reason I’m able to get the leads I do.

    If you’re wondering, I named it after my beagle/basset hound who inspires me by how quirky and original he can be.

    Reply
  11. Jordan Walker
    March 26, 2010

    Branding is also very important for web developers as well. You are known for your work and your name.

    Reply
    • Davy Kestens
      March 27, 2010

      Indeed. Actually, the items I summed up in the article are relevant to a lot of occupations out there

      Reply
  12. Michael Sears
    March 26, 2010

    Davy, This is a great article and is a great start for me. I am currently a student about to graduate with a Computer Information Technology degree, but I have 4 more classes to finish my Web Technologies degree and this has informed me of what I need to do to get my name out. I look forward to reading more from you and getting out into the freelance world. Thank you!

    Reply
  13. Web Design
    March 26, 2010

    Thank you for the great info. Most the items are very good

    Reply
  14. Chris
    March 27, 2010

    Excellent article. I agree that new designers shouldn’t take too many projects. Thanks for the tips

    Reply
  15. Thomas
    March 27, 2010

    “Start guest posting on high-traffic blogs about web design”… Good idea! I start with this one:

    Don’t ignore your personal life. If you are unhappy, so will be your creative work.

    Reply
  16. Marta Pietraszewska
    March 28, 2010

    I’m sorry for my poor english ;)

    Very attractive article. Recently I started to think about branding “me”. I’m “starting” in design from about 2 years ago, and still only starting…
    I read a lot of article in Internet, make a lot of a little projects, inform my folks, that I “want to be designer”…. but still have no good quality work, no attractive portfolio – No ’cause I’m not capable – but ’cause I have no good strategy and “know how”, how good bring into play my motivation.
    ..or maybe I know, but this is not so easy?

    …and personal branding. Until recently I thinked that, my own name ist not attractive – to long, sounds bizarre, to “polisch”, but what do you think – that’s have a importance? or all of family names are good for own branding?

    and ok – if I decided to buy a domain http://www.martapietraszewska.pl, and to make my own portfolio – it’s really better to take there one very good work, than 4 average? But all of them show my another skill.
    So – It’s better to put this one or two very good works, and start to branding, in this way showing personaly evolution, or better is build a full portfolio for year, and then stun all of people with experience? …but for branding the Time is important too.

    I know they are not an easy answer to these questions, but what are you-all think about it?

    Reply
    • Davy Kestens
      March 29, 2010

      Hello Marta

      If it were up to me, I would rather publish 1 great item in my portfolio than publish 4 average works in there.
      Also, consider what type of work you really enjoy doing. If you love to design logos, make sure your portfolio contains a lot of great logos.

      About the difficult name:
      If you are good, people will find out your name. Ever heard of “Michelangelo Buonarroti”?

      Reply
  17. cbusquets
    March 30, 2010

    Thank you for this information, branding is very important! I ended my personal brand a few weeks ago and I found this post very useful.
    (sorry for my poor english, i’m spanish!).

    Reply
  18. Lit development
    April 9, 2010

    Thanks for the advice. This will surely be useful in the future

    Reply
  19. inspirationfeed
    April 9, 2010

    An eye opening article, thank you for the amazing info.

    Reply
  20. Rachel
    April 13, 2010

    Really good post here – it offers some great tips and tricks for making your personal brand that much better. Thanks :)

    Reply
  21. Ben Linford
    May 5, 2010

    Perfect. The only problem I’m going to have now, is working out who I am and what I stand for… easy…

    Reply
  22. burty
    June 23, 2010

    I’m reading this post from my I-Phone and it looks great! I like your writing style and you make some excellent points about tips.

    Reply
  23. Dallas Web Designer
    August 4, 2010

    Good stuff. Thanks for the tips.

    Reply
  24. René Vella
    November 22, 2011

    Great article!

    I highly agree one the “Too much too soon versus slowly but surely…” part.
    Im also happy to see that i followed these tips, even long before i read this article.

    Reply
  25. digibluez
    May 1, 2012

    Im just starting up, thanks for the advice, even its quit long time post, its still valid. cave me some ideas as well.

    Reply

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