[HOW TO] Get More Clients: Market Or Sharpen Your Skills?
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I don’t have any clear evidence that the global economical crisis has passed or it is still a present state but overall it has some positive effects. One of the positive fact related to the crisis is the fact that people noticed that it isn’t enough to strive for efficiency, we really must be more efficient. It’s a real sin to waste time and money just because of poor organization, therefore anyway and anytime a better approach to the available resources is welcomed. Not very long time ago, freelancing was in pioneer phase while nowadays it became interesting. Much more, there are agencies that instead of paying a huge rent for a decent office decided to let the employers work from home. Many specialists still consider that people that work for a bigger project should stay in the same office in order to get very good results. Nevertheless, the online communication substitutes very well the face-to-face dialogue between individuals, and most important, the money for rent, for transportation and for other additional costs are totally cut.
These transformations influenced even the web design community and the approach of web design services. In this “jungle” only the best web design agencies and the most competitive freelancers manage to survive. The good news is that anyone that does real quality works has enough clients on his plateau. The actual climate highly influenced the entire society, but there are enough influences even at the “micro-level”, at the individual stage. It became obvious that any designer should be different, he should stay apart from others in order to be distinguished. Briefly, the idea is simple: it is not enough to be an expert, you should be the best!
Well, I think that everyone agrees with this idea but how can one practically be a very good designer and how can one be famous in order to attract clients? How to create buzz around your projects and of course, how to be respected by the community? In my humble opinion, I consider that there are two main solution:
- Permanently sharpen your skills.
- Permanently market your skills.
The www evolves faster and faster and the designers should keep the same rhythm; the term “permanently” is purposely added to reflect the perpetual changing state of the Internet. Which one is more important…? There is a hot debate: some people say that a good designer doesn’t need any advertising or a marketing strategy while others believe that marketing is in fact a design skill and are exalting it. Paradoxically, the crisis gives us a hint: sharpening and marketing your skills are not in opposite relationship, these are complementary. Yep, it’s not enough to create amazing infographics and keep these on your hard drive to be catalogued an excellent infographics designer. The works must be uploaded on various galleries and promoted. The launch of a portfolio is another fact that helps in marketing a designer’s skills. Unfortunately, just marketing your poor creations and making a lot of buzz around them is not a solution…it’s an embarrassing situation. The in between solution is the best choice: a designer should stay updated to the latest news and techniques and, at the same time, he must let people enjoy his latest creations.
1. Permanently sharpen your skills
Should you really permanently sharpen your skills? The beauty of design is unique, the rules of good design are unchangeable, so why should a web designer sharpen his skills?
It’s true, the beauty of design is unique and a good design is timeless but as I said previously the Internet is evolving and users are constantly asking for better results and more useful features. In our days, it is enough to ignore any news in the design field for only a few months, and you will turn into an outdated web designer. The gadgets (tablets, smartphones, smart TV sets) are the ones that complicated the modalities of making the websites but who knows what will be the future items that will give birth to a new web design revolution? I think the real matter is not why one should permanently self-prepare, it is how to sharpen one’s skills?
a) The “old” method: take some design courses
There are web designers that graduated design schools but another part of web designers simply learn by themselves how to create wonderful creations. No matter which category you belong to, a design course is always recommended…surely you will learn something new or it will represent a good refreshing of the basis.
b) The online method
The Internet is the best teacher and every designer should benefit from it. Personally, I believe that reading the posts of some web design related blogs is mandatory if you indeed care about the future. In addition to the novelties, many posts explain various techniques that every designer may follow…i.e. the Photoshop tutorials are a very good method of learning new and useful techniques.
I think that there is nothing new and outstanding for you… practice is more difficult, isn’t it?
2. Permanently market your skills
The most challenging fact isn’t how to sharpen the skills, the biggest issue is how to effectively stand apart from other designers. During our studies, we learn Newton laws, but in our lives, we are ruled by the laws of Murphy. The consequence of these unfair rules is the fact that, in the majority of cases, not the best designers receive the best projects. Usually, the most “marketed” designer receives the best projects. On the other hand, don’t go the extremity and just spend all your resources to market yourself…you must have something to market, or else it is just a work in vain. Next phase: how to market?
Marketing is a deprecated term, the Internet flows with tons of experts that guarantee the success in just few steps. Well, even if it sounds extremely interesting don’t pay attention to these proposals. The success in everything on this world is proportional to the work and energy invested, therefore a good marketing requires amazing personal sacrifices and tons of sleepless nights. Nevertheless, some pillars assure the fundaments of a good marketing:
a) A different portfolio and approach
The identity card of a designer is his portfolio, if you don’t want to exist, then don’t build one. If you don’t care about your career, then ignore your portfolio. Much more, there are no perfectly similar identity cards, therefore nor should the portfolios look the same. In order to wisely market the services offered it is highly recommended to create a portfolio exhibiting the best project in an original and pleasant manner. Personally, I think that a quality portfolio has three main features: first, the portfolio itself should be a wonderful online presence. Second, it should have an original approach, the visitors must be convinced that the designer is special and isn’t “another drop from the ocean of available designers”. Last but not least, the portfolio must exhibit your real skills. You can’t state that you are a very good WordPress expert as long as you don’t have a serious background in the domain.
b) Offering giveaways
People are madly in love with discounts and giveaways and a good marketer knows it. Offering giveaways, apparently an unprofitable affair, is in fact a very smart idea. There are some advantages that are determinant in attracting new clients:
- Offering a free item, i.e. a WordPress theme, a snippet or a psd file to interested people, lets them make a better about the services provided.
- A quality giveaway instantly attracts other people and you never know when they will ask for your services.
- Across time, by offering giveaways, a positive halo is created around the designer and that in the end helps in creating a personal brand.
Much more, the more people benefit from your giveaway, the more chances of being contacted/hired are. The best modality of letting more people enjoy your offer is to use the power of blogs and social networks. I guarantee that if you have something indeed qualitative to offer, the bloggers will happily publish a post about your proposal. You may contact some blog owners and ask for presenting your fresh release or you may use market places like SponsoredGiveaways.com. Be sure, by offering more, you will receive even more!
c) Pro bono works
A designer working for a client project is restricted by some limitations due to the client requirements and most important, due to the specificity of the project. A pro bono project has the biggest advantage that has fewer restrictions and the designer may express his personal conception (but clearly, there are still some restrictions, each project should be created by respecting some elementary rules). Anyway, the idea is that being implicated in some pro bono projects is very important. There the designers get more freedom and in addition, people interested in their services you will appreciate this approach. It’s a common conception: the designers that practice pro bono activities are considered real specialists, and not just some designers that simply want the client’s money.
I visited amazing portfolios that exhibit lovely projects and surely the designers behind are quite talented. In spite of that, they were missing a very important aspect: the testimonials from previous clients. Many designers consider that these may be missing and prefer to add more accomplished projects…well, this is wrong! The great majority of clients aren’t very interested in the state of web design and they need just a wonderful website and nothing more. There is no surprise, but many times, the clients wrongly judge some projects. Paradoxically, sometimes, a client relies more on the opinion of the previous clients than on his own point of view, so why not let them know how satisfied the past customers were? Much more, the more important is a previous client, the more reliable is his opinion.
As you see, marketing your skills and services isn’t an easy task but the overall work invested is many times recompensed. What do you think, will you sharpen more your skills and try to become more commercial? Or will you try a mixture of both? Please use the comment form and share your interesting perspective with us!
IMAGE CREDIT: FEEDOUGH / 123RF STOCK PHOTO
This article is written by Daniel. He is one of the freelance designers at DesignArticleWriters. He works on different design projects like SponsoredGiveaways.com – Marketplace to host or sponsor giveaways. Its for Bloggers who wants to earn money and Advertisers who wants to build buzz.
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