Computer ArtsFeature

30 self-promotion tips

We ask the professionals how they've raised their design profiles and brought in the big bucks, so that you can do it as well.

The difference between a good designer and a successful designer is self promotion. Churning out innovative, high-quality work is important, but making sure the right people take notice of it and remember who it's by is even more crucial.

Self-promotion doesn't mean selling out, though. Clever mailers, a well-stocked blog, quirky gifts and memorable business cards all help shape Brand You. Here we bring you advice from the top on how you can take some simple steps to ensure your name is the first that springs to mind when art directors and commissioning editors reach for their contacts books.

01 Get your name in lights
Nick Defty
Director, YCN

www.ycnonline.com
"Register your name as your domain name, rather than the name of an agency or other identity," advises Nick Defty of YCN. For a start you'll never lose business to the question, 'What did he say his website was called?' It's almost like a psychological boost to know you have a personal presence online, one that speaks clearly with your voice. There's nothing stopping you from registering another domain too, maybe with a clever name, but owning your moniker has to be position of strength.

02 Keep them coming back
Johanna Basford
Illustrator

www.johannabasford.co.uk
It almost goes without saying that a website is an essential first point of contact these days. However, it's no good just sticking a few pictures up and forgetting about it. Your website needs to look good but it also needs to be dynamic, says Johanna Basford: "I've got six images which flash up on my homepage. I try to change those every couple of weeks." People want to feel your presence behind that storefront, always busy, keeping them enthralled.

03 Top advice: Speak 1,000 words
Sarah Trounce
Project manager, YCN

www.ycnonline.com
"Use words as well as images when presenting your work," advises YCN's Sarah Trounce. "People enjoy reading interesting editorial content and it helps to demonstrate your abilities as a good communicator." It is essential that you are able to communicate effectively through some medium other than the visual. Whether emailing clients, writing a blog or explaining your work as part of your portfolio, thoughtful, stimulating and grammatically correct writing really shines through.

04 If you must blog, do it well
Graham Sykes
Co-founder of Teacake and designer at Cherry, London

www.teacakedesign.com
Despite appearances to the contrary, blogging is not about telling everyone what you had for breakfast. "It should inspire an interaction, just as any other piece of work should," says Graham Sykes of design studio Teacake. Boring people is worse than having no effect at all. Inspiration is fine but don't make a rod for your own back by showing everyone how many better designers there are than you out there. Be funny, charming, entertaining and informative at all times.

05 Do good work
Peter Jarvis
Creative partner, Young

www.weareyoung.co.uk
Give your time, skills and work free for charitable causes. As well as the obvious benefits for the cause, this, notes Peter Jarvis, is "especially useful for meeting new and influential people." These types of projects often enable you to have more creative freedom, and won't harm your reputation or your conscience. Do a good job here and, not only will it warm your cockles, it might bring you to the attention of financially liquid parties in need of some design advice. It's a classic win-win situation.

06 Top advice: Engage with others
Adam Morris
London-based graphic designer

www.adammorrisdesign.com
Sign up to design blogs and comment on other people's work. There are lots of design forums out there, and plenty of ways to get involved with the design community. Not only will this keep you up to date with what's going on, it will help to create an awareness of your opinion. "The more your name and web link is out there," says designer Adam Morris, "the more likely people are to see it and visit it."

07 Go on the social
Gavin Strange
Senior online designer, Aardman Animations

www.jam-factory.com
Blogging is just one short step from the world of social networking. Designer Gavin Strange is a fan. "Social networking is the most important yet easy-to-use tool in the whole game of self-promotion," he says. Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, Behance - they all give you a platform to show off your work to like-minded people in an instant. And some, such as Twitter, still offer a direct route to commissioning editors and other potential clients.

08 Blog for self-motivation
Johanna Basford
Illustrator

www.johannabasford.co.uk
If you have a lively blog with interesting content, it can be a real winner in more ways than one. "I think opening up your studio and letting people see the projects you've been working on and the different ways you're working is a great idea," says Johanna Basford. Use this show-and-tell process as a catalyst for new work and experimentation. This, hopefully, will create a virtuous circle as people keep coming back for more.

09 Top advice: Be seen
Magomed Dovjenko
Graphic designer and Illustrator

www.iammago.com
All that sitting around indoors while pondering your digital presence can easily bring on a bout of solipsism. There's a simple way to fix that: go out and find some like-minded people to talk to. "Never hesitate to attend exhibition launches, award shows or festivals," recommends tirelessly effervescent young designer Magomed Dovjenko. In the days before Facebook, events like those served as networking hubs, and that role still persists. They are overrun with creative types, many of whom you could work with or for.

10 Think like a brand
Adam Morris
London-based graphic designer

www.adammorrisdesign.com
If your promotional efforts are going to pay off, they have to be leading to a consistent point - that is, your brand. "Colour schemes, typography, logo and tone are a few examples that can be used to bring consistency to how people perceive you," notes Adam Morris. You have to know what you're selling. Once you have that clear in your head, it will be much easier to devise clever promotional campaigns.

11 Be in the competition
Graham Sykes
Co-founder of Teacake and designer at Cherry, London

www.teacakedesign.com
Granted, you might put in a lot of effort and get nothing in return, but that's the nature of competitions. But, as Teacake's Graham Sykes points out, "You never know who might see the work and which drunk creative director you can talk into looking over your portfolio as he staggers around the after-show party!" Plus, there is a school of thought that believes there's something to be had from the taking part. If that's too much of a stretch, you can always rant about the unfairness on your blog.

12 Top advice: Get up close and personal
Jonathan Kenyon
Creative director, Vault49

www.vault49.com
"You can't just expect others to notice your inherent brilliance." Vault49's Jonathan Kenyon makes a good point - no amount of social networking can replicate the power of human contact. "Meet people face to face wherever possible and explain what makes you different," adds Kenyon. It's impossible to convey your passion through the written world alone, so get yourself along to your favourite studios, press some flesh and put your face about.

13 Win hearts and minds
Daniel Ibbotson
Founding partner and designer, Graphical House

www.graphicalhouse.com
Always be prepared to stand up for what you believe in, but make sure you're the kind of person people enjoy hanging out with. Don't just pick fights for the sake of it. "If you are a pleasure to work with then your clients will enjoy the experience and they will recommend you," says Daniel Ibbotson of Graphical House. It's as simple as that. Recommendation is a great way to get work, and if you stick to your guns clients will also respect and trust you, too. As long as you're right, that is.

14 Learn to submit
Adam Morris
London-based graphic designer

www.adammorrisdesign.com
Publishers sometimes invite open submissions for their titles, so submitting work to these books and magazines is a great way of getting your work into people's hands. This item then becomes a useful promotional tool in itself. And if, as Adam Morris notes, you're the kind of restless creative mind who produces all sorts of self-initiated work, it's not even going to demand a great deal of extra graft.

15 Go postal
Gethin Vaughan
Creative partner, Young

www.weareyoung.co.uk
If you can't get there yourself, why not send a little something to keep your work fresh in people's minds? First, think about who you're trying to reach and what they might enjoy receiving, as the expense of producing and sending an item will be wasted if it's inappropriate or feels like junk mail. With that proviso, people love getting stuff in the post. Plus, adds Young's Gethin Vaughan, "Sending out physical mailers is a good excuse to ring the person." Maybe to set up that face-to-face...

16 Top advice: Put your name on your work
Graham Sykes
Co-founder of Teacake and designer at Cherry, London

www.teacakedesign.com
Think about it: what's one of the first things people look for once they've clocked a masterpiece? The signature. "Be discreet with it but try to do it whenever possible," says Teacake's Graham Sykes. "I have got many a new client by them having picked up a catalogue or poster with Teacake on it." By tying your name and your work together, people will begin to get a better picture of what you do and, therefore, when they should call you for help.

17 Don't be a stalker
Alex Ostrowski
Illustrator

www.alexostrowski.com
Meeting people in the flesh is undeniably worthwhile, but sometimes you just have to accept that people are busy. Knowing when to back off is as important as being persistent. "It's important not to take it personally," observes Alex Ostrowski, referring to those occasions when contacts don't get back to you. However, while you have to know when to back off, if you want to get into a place or arrange a meeting there's nothing wrong with making sure your contact knows that. Face-toface communication cannot be beaten.

18 Make the news
Ben Davies
Managing director, The Neighbourhood

www.the-neighbourhood.com
People rarely keep an eye on every website they've ever found interesting, so occasionally they need a prod to get them surfing. A regular e-newsletter will do that for you. People always check their emails, so if you actually are doing something interesting they'll come around sharpish. However, The Neighbourhood's Ben Davies has a word of caution: "Keep the content concise and interesting, and not just all about you but the wider context of your work and your studio."

19 Collaborate
Jonathan Kenyon
Creative director, Vault49

www.vault49.com
"Work with the best," says Jonathan Kenyon, "and benefit by mutual association." Creative people spark when they're brought together. The results can be amazing, particularly since first-contact collaboration often involves non-commercial pieces intended to explore some common theme. Not only will the work produced speak volumes for both parties, there's no need to feel self-conscious about singing the praises of your fellow creative.

20 Top advice: Freelance on-site
Gavin Strange
Senior online designer, Aardman Animations

www.jam-factory.com
If you're struggling to get yourself a placement, you may be surprised when Gavin Strange points out that "creative companies have a hard time finding creative people." The upshot is that when they find someone who's both talented and friendly, they're likely to want to hold onto them. And, more importantly, to recommend them. So, take the opportunity to do freelance work from your employer's studio, contracts allowing. Make friends and they'll soon be pimping your CV for you.

21 Spark some controversy
Jonathan Kenyon
Creative director, Vault49

www.vault49.com
Jonathan Kenyon isn't content with just getting you out there, he wants you to stir things up a bit: "Voice your opinion and seek public debate and critique of your ideas, not just your designs." Of course, this is dependent on you having ideas in the first place. If you don't, the best policy is to say nothing and let people read you as a deep thinker. If you do, try not to be too bombastic - you've been wrong before.

22 Initiate your own projects
Peter Jarvis
Creative partner, Young

www.weareyoung.co.uk
Don't just complain about being unable to do the type of work you want to be doing - do something about it. You don't need permission. "This is an opportunity to broaden your skills and improve your portfolio," says Peter Jarvis of Young. "Having only opened our doors for two months, we needed to build brand awareness so we set up learnsomethingeveryday.co.uk. The site now gets around 10,000 hits daily."

23 Be a good host
Gavin Strange
Senior online designer, Aardman Animations

www.jam-factory.com
So you've got as far as the front door and realised there are no events happening. Well, why not put one on yourself? "Having the initiative to get involved in curating your own event speaks volumes about you and how organised and self-motivated you are," says Gavin Strange. Meeting like-minded folk, talking shop, having fun - you don't have to see it as networking; treat it as an end in itself and other people will likely get on board.

24 Top advice: Target your audience
Johanna Basford
Illustrator

www.johannabasford.co.uk
It's no good getting a database of random design firms and sending them all an email. Or even sending them all a personalised pen or notepad. People need to feel special, and that requires some research on your part. Johanna Basford tailors her approach to the individual or studio. "Look at what they're working on and see where you can add value," she says.

25 Top advice: Stay in touch
Johanna Lundberg
Graphic designer and illustrator

www.johannalundberg.com
Even a fresh graduate will most likely have a long list of contacts; people they've studied with, friends from other courses, tutors, random people met along the way. Johanna Lundberg points out that, "sooner or later some of those people might run a successful design blog, work for an advertising company or get a great project on board that they need help with." It might be you. Exchanging favours is what makes the world go round.

26 Data is your friend
Johanna Basford
Illustrator

www.johannabasford.co.uk
Your online activities - or, more specifically, the visitors to your sites - can also provide you with valuable information. Add Google analytics to your pages and keep an eye on your stats, as these will give you a ready source of information on what people are enjoying and what leaves them cold. When the stats peak, make sure you follow that lead. "You can even set up Google alerts to let you know what's going down well," adds illustrator Johanna Basford.

27 Talk to (real) people
Graham Sykes
Co-founder of Teacake and designer at Cherry, London

www.teacakedesign.com
Don't just talk to designers. Graham Sykes is all in favour of this. "Talk to everyone and anyone," he suggests. "Talk about what you are capable of doing and how you might be able to help them out." As ever, tread the fine line between friendly persistence and actual stalking. Other designers are all very well but they are rarely the end consumer of your work, so don't confine yourself to communicating with the relatively small world of design.

28 Don't forget to work!
Daniel Ibbotson
Founding partner and designer, Graphical House

www.graphicalhouse.com
Daniel Ibbotson makes a fundamental point: "Nothing will promote you better than your work." Try to make every project as good as it can be. Having a reputation for producing quality work will bring you the kind of attention and projects you want. This is not as easy as it sounds, of course, and means that even the projects you aren't enthralled by take longer. In the long run, however, you are what you do.

29 Be enthusiastic
Gavin Strange
Senior online designer, Aardman Animations

www.jam-factory.com
"A really underestimated tool is the power of enthusiasm." So says Gavin Strange. Being genuinely excited about a project will not only get you remembered by the client and fellow creatives, but also helps inspire everyone else involved to give it their all. If you really believe in something, let it show. That commitment will be contagious, very often acting as a kind of hypnotic suggestion. Don't fake it or over-egg it, though.

30 Do something different
Graham Sykes
Co-founder of Teacake and designer at Cherry, London

www.teacakedesign.com
Dream up some caper that isn't on this list and put it into action with characteristic flair. The established lines of communication are all well and good, but originality is what really gets you noticed. While you need to execute your work well, original thinking is in short supply so, if you have the knack, get out there and flaunt it.

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