This post has been contributed by James Richman.
Graphic designers have to confront an unfortunate aspect of the design industry: designers can’t succeed on quality work alone. They also have to figure out how to get clients to look at their designs and recognize their value.
As of 2014, there are an estimated 197,540 graphic designers in the US alone, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, and that figure doesn’t include self-employed designers. With so many graphic designers already working, it’s not easy to get people to pay attention to designs that don’t already have a degree of public recognition.
The only way to draw attention to your own work amidst so much competition is to take charge yourself and make people notice you by giving them the means to do so. To that end, here are four proactive ways to get your graphic designs exposure and bring your work to a larger market:
1. Connect with Design Community on Social Media
Social networking now makes up nearly 30% of all time online, so go to where the action is. Post your designs on Instagram. Share them on Facebook. Pin them on Pinterest. Tweet them on Twitter. Whatever platform you use, share your graphic designs with your friends and followers. All exposure is good exposure.
However, you don’t want your account to seem like a sales channel (even if that’s what you think would be helpful). Instead, engage with other designers through social networking. Share other designer’s graphic designs that you like more than you post your work.
The more you post content that isn’t yours, the more you will appear to be an authority on graphic design to other people. Message other designers you like and tell them you’re impressed by their work and have been sharing some of their designs. Maybe they’ll return the favor, and share some of your designs with their network.
2. Make Your Own Website or Blog
Having your own website or blog is a great way to showcase your work because your designs are all in one place, meaning your work can be shared with a single link. If you have the coding knowledge to build a website yourself, show off that skill and build your own website..
This isn’t easy, per se, but it’s quite impressive and serves as bonus points to potential employers. Coding a site yourself also gives you more control over its layout, allowing you to flex your creative muscles. However, if you don’t know how to code, it’s no big deal. Many great graphic designers don’t code, and there’s a simple solution to creating a website without coding yourself: use a website builder.
When considering what content to put on your site, you should keep in mind that you want a clean presentation, and a visitor to your site should always be able to navigate through your content with ease. In order to make your site simple to use, organize your content into simple categories with a navigation menu on every page.
As far as content to include, your site should include your contact information, your resume, and your portfolio. If you want to make your website stand out, don’t just post images of your past designs, but talk about them. How did you make them, and what tools did you use? What redesigns did a specific graphic go through? Turn your designs into helpful tutorials or even stories, and more people will be engaged with your work.
3. Use Online portfolio Sites
A great way to showcase your work is to join designer communities built around sharing projects, and there are numerous sites out there that you could join. Perhaps most popular is Dribbble, a “show and tell for designers” in which designers share their work and can like and comment on one another’s work.
Not only is this a great way to become connected with the design community, but talent scouts regularly look through Dribbble’s content looking for designers to hire. Dribbble is invite-only however, so you’ll need to make a few connections before you can get on this particular site.
You could also try Behance or Carbonmade, other popular online portfolio sites. Unlike Dribbble, Behance and Carbonmade are free to sign up for and don’t require anything other than the standard personal information. While not as well-visited by clients as Dribbble, both sites are great ways to meet other designers and to start sharing your work on a larger scale.
There are also other sites directly connected to hiring you could look into. Consider making an account on Upwork, a large talent marketplace. It’s free to sign up and is an easy step to getting more exposure to potential clients.
If you’re more ambitious and have talent to back it up, apply to Toptal and join the ranks of the top 3% of freelance graphic designers (as a design professional myself, can’t recommend these guys enough). Toptal will custom match you with clients, giving you access to amazing opportunities you wouldn’t otherwise find. Plus, saying you’re in the top 3% of graphic designers looks pretty good on a resume.
4. Offer Freebies
I know, I know. No one wants to hear that they should give away their work for free, but it can be an effective way to encourage people to look at your work.
If necessary, offer to design something for free to prove your talent to a potential employer, but there are other ways to do giveaways as well. As mentioned above, consider sharing your insights and offer tutorials to help aspiring designers understand your methods.
Another method is offering to write guest posts for other blogs to get your name out to a new readership. You could try to write a post for a design blog, but also consider writing a design-related article for a business blog.
After all, that’s where your employers are reading. Show employers that you understand the intersection of design and business in a blog post, and they’ll be more likely to hire you.
Showcasing your work won’t be rewarding at first, but that’s okay. It will take time before your efforts reveal any successes and people start to take greater interest in your work. Keep at it, and you’ll build a following and hopefully find an employer or two along the way.
Image Credit: Shutterstock, Nadia Hyder, Getty Images, Icon Finder.