How to market yourself as a freelance designer: 7 top tips

In the busy freelance world, how do you make yourself stand out from the pack and attract those clients you've always dreamed of having on your books?

Whatever design discipline you're in – be it web design, graphic design, digital art, illustration, 3D art, VFX or other creative fields – there are some tricks that can help your freelance business to take off. Here we've outlined a few of the basics to help you get started...

01. Find a USP

Illustrator and art director Justin Maller has a distinct design aesthetic

Illustrator and art director Justin Maller has a distinct design aesthetic

Before you get yourself out there and flaunt your design skills, first and foremost it's important that you understand exactly what you have to offer. Finding a trait that makes you different to others in the industry can help make you stand out in what is often a saturated market.

Once you've nailed that, tailor your design portfolio accordingly. Also consider creating or commissioning a distinctive logo design for yourself and splashing it across all your branded social media pages.

Read our 30 pro tips to create the perfect design portfolio to help you.

02. Be a big fish in a small pond

Market yourself

Maria De La Guardia makes it clear the kinds of clients she wants

Knowing which type of client or specific industry you'd like to attract will also help you create a much more targeted marketing strategy, as it will affect how you pitch yourself online and where to look for new business. 

Do your unique skills lend themselves to a certain sector, for instance, or have you designed work for a number of similar clients that you can use to target their competitors? Finding a niche can also help you build up your name quickly and, hopefully, lead to more work.

03. Start blogging

Market yourself

Designer and illustrator Keenan Cummings posts about works in progress

Setting up a blog and updating it regularly with snippets about your projects, industry views and some personal stuff will all help you to maximise your online presence and give you a voice within the industry. 

Check out our tips on how to create a design blog and take inspiration from this selection of great Tumblr blogs.

04. Network online

Contacts are perhaps your biggest asset as a lone freelancer, regardless of whether you're looking to market yourself online or offline. Open networks such as Twitter provide the perfect platform for you to engage in conversations with the wider design world and build relationships with your peers and potential clients.

Social networks also serve as a platform for you to show off your expertise and gain some recognition. By sharing interesting and useful content with others, you can become an important voice in your industry and a designer in demand. 

Read our tips on How to make social media work for you to learn more.

05. Use online marketing tools

Market yourself

Use MailChimp to send mailshots to prospective clients

There are so many free marketing tools out there, ready and waiting for you to take advantage of. As well as social networks and blogging, there's also a huge opportunity to grab some attention with the use of a good email marketing strategy.

With a database of email addresses from existing clients and a prominent link on your blog to attract new website visitors, you can send out a monthly or quarterly newsletter to keep people up-to-date with your latest projects. MailChimp is just one great and easy tool to help get you get started with your email marketing – check out our guide to the 10 best email newsletter tools here.

06. Seek out client referrals

If you've had an amazing experience with one of your clients, get them to shout about it. Don't be shy to ask your most satisfied clients for a few words on their experience working with you and the process overall, and make sure you publicise it across all your digital channels. You never know, your last satisfied client might lead to your next project win.

07. Network in person

Don't stay hidden behind your Mac

Don't stay hidden behind your Mac

Offline networking at industry events, conferences or even social meet-ups with other designers or agencies can also help get your name out there and provide opportunities to put your business card in the hands of potential clients. Make sure you connect with your new contacts online afterwards so that you can continue the conversation you started in person.

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Natalie Steers is a writer and social media expert, and is currently digital content marketer.