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But naturally there is no joy in being your own boss should you not get any work! Our guide to finding work as a freelance graphic designer offers advice on promoting your services and getting more clients, with most of our suggestions costing nothing.

But before doing anything ask yourself the following:

  • Who are my prospective clients?
  • Where can I find them?
  • Where do they go?
  • How should I approach them?
  • How do I engage with potential new clients, so when they do need a graphic designer, they’ll instinctively think of me?

Knowing who your potential clients are means you are more likely to know where they are going to look for your services. Read our helpful hints and tips below to find those clients and build up that client database:

Word of mouth

Everyone will tell you that this is one of the best ways to ‘market’ yourself and it’s true, word of mouth is very powerful. However if you’re just starting up, chances are you won’t know that many people, but it is still worth making sure you tell everyone you know about what you are doing and perhaps offer discounts to encourage them to spread positive word of mouth.

Work for free

A horrible thought we know, but if you are just starting out, then it’s vital that you build up a credible portfolio as soon as possible. If that means working for free in return for being able to use samples of work for your marketing, then do it. The best option is to target small companies who would not be able to afford your services otherwise, or charities and societies in your local area. They will benefit from it and so will you, so it’s a win-win for everyone, plus they may also recommend you to future fee paying clients.

Design and marketing agencies

All agencies will at some point in time use freelancers, either when they are especially busy, or to cover holidays, illness and so on. What you need to do is to make as many agencies as possible aware of your existence, so that they will add you to their list of approved suppliers, will think of you and call you when they need extra resource.

The simplest and cheapest approach is via email and this is especially easy with agencies, as often they will publish the contact details of the person you need to speak to on their website. Then all you have to do is send an email (or even pick up the phone if you’re feeling brave!) and ask if they are looking for freelancers. Then tell them about you and give them your website details so they can see those examples of work. Some may ask for more PDF examples to be emailed, so make sure you have a selection at the ready.

Company marketing departments

This is of course another key customer audience but is often far harder to approach, as marketing departments will be bombarded with information from design agencies and freelancers all the time. This makes it very hard to ‘stand out from the crowd’ but you should at least give it a try. You are unlikely to get a relevant email address but there is a chance your email will end up in the ‘spam’ folder, so you may have to resort to the post, either with a mailing piece to ‘the marketing department’ or to a specific contact name if you can get one by calling reception.

The great thing about this approach is that you can really showcase your creativity. Design the right mailer and it will be spotted a mile off and ‘stand out’ immediately. Try to come up with a design they cannot miss, as they probably receive at least one standard brochure or mailer from an agency every day, remember though, you will need something creative but also appealing to their target audience, otherwise it will be discarded.

Create your own website

This is a really obvious one of course as before you start marketing your services, you must have a website to direct people to. However even the most technically minded can forget some of the most essential information that will make your site memorable:

  • A dedicated ‘About’ section – Talk about yourself, why you got into graphic design and your experience. This will help people to understand the ‘personality’ of you and your business.
  • Divide your portfolio into sections based on types of projects– For example corporate identity, website designs, brochures, adverts, leaflets, exhibition graphics and so on. Depending on the complexity of your website, it could also be a good idea for people to search for samples by industry sector as well as by project type, although this feature is not essential. Remember to alsoea include links to any work which appears externally on other websites. Make sure these links open in a separate window so that the visitor is not taken away from your site altogether.
  • Make it as user friendly as possible – We would recommend showing a ‘thumbnail’ image on the main page, which you can click on to open the entire sample as a PDF.

For more information on setting up a website please visit our page on Creating a website.

Forums and discussion groups

Despite the number of freelancers looking for work, it is often difficult for clients to find suitably qualified and experienced graphic designers. To address this market, there are now a few well regarded forums and websites that allow freelance designers to post a professional profile listing their skills, credentials and experience. We can’t guarantee you’ll find all of your work this way, but it can only help. Discussion groups are also a free way to showcase your knowledge in your area of expertise. Should a debate be going on regarding a particular topic, your input may spark the interest of others.

Social Networking

Once you have a website you can start to drive traffic to it, and one way to do this is to make people aware of your services via Social Networking. For more information on generating business via Social Networking read the following guides:

If you are self employed, you may feel that LinkedIn, being well known as a ‘business’ network site, is the most beneficial of all of the Social Networks. However, with the option for visitors to ‘follow you’ via Facebook and Twitter or read and comment on your Blog should you have one, these other Social Networking tools can also give ‘followers’ regular updates on what’s happening with you and your business. They are also a good forum in which to include special online offers for your business services.

Good luck, and remember to keep trying new things even when you have lots of work on- you always need to be thinking ahead! Don’t feel downhearted should you get turned down for a project, just keep building up your portfolio and making people aware of your existence.

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