Use your blog to get design jobs

Are you a freelance designer? Are you interested in boosting your credibility, building your client base and increasing your number of paying projects? The answer is obvious, but knowing where and how to get started can be daunting, especially during the periods of low client work (you know what I’m talking about).

Having worked with a ton of design and development professionals in the field, I’ve seen that some of the most successful, most productive and busiest contractors have a blog attached to their main website or portfolio. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. By not having a blog, you could be missing out on some serious contract work.

A blog could be one of your most powerful assets in getting your name out there and securing new jobs. In fact, considering how simple it is to get started, the extremely low startup costs and the minimum of time required to create compelling content, I’m baffled as to why designers don’t consider it a priority when running their freelance business.

Here are the top three reasons why you, the budding (or even experienced) designer, need to start a blog (and sooner rather than later).

 

1. Marketing and promotion

Your blog could end up being the best darned thing since sliced bread for marketing your business and promoting your work. How hard would it be to take 5 to 10 minutes a day and share some of your work in a blog post? How hard would it be to post a screenshot with a blurb and to discuss your design philosophy?

Not very. A blog promotes both you and your work. It also enables you to leverage the power of social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, where people will share your work for you.

Your next client could be a tweet or Facebook update away. They are looking for the type of work that you’re passionate about and the style that you’re known for. A static portfolio won’t cut it.

Use your blog as a channel for promotion and marketing. Install a plug-in that enables you to share your content even more broadly, such as Jetpack for WordPress. Or use a WordPress theme (such as Standard Theme) that has a sweet sidebar for social sharing:

social-sharing

Here are a few tips to get started:

  • Set a goal
    Commit to blogging a few times a week. Three times is great. Every day is even better.
  • Start simple
    Choose sensible categories, and get started. The more relevant the categories to your blog, the better; they will also help you create content. A “Design” category is not specific enough. Go deeper: for example, “Fonts” and “Typography.”
  • Post images
    And do it every single time. People want to see your work, remember?
  • Publish
    At the end of the day, you have to click that dreaded “Publish” button. Go for it! No one’s looking (at least not yet).

With your blog launched, you can start passively (and strategically) marketing who you are. A blog tells people that you love what you do enough to share it with the world.

 

2. Search engines

A blog is usually more accessible and search-engine friendly than a static portfolio, especially if the portfolio is a Flash-based PHP script that you bought for $15 back in 2009. You need something better for people who are performing organic searches to find you.

A blog can do just that. By creating text, images and video related to the work that you do, you’ll get visitors who find you from organic search results. All else being equal, a blogger will get more traffic than someone with a static portfolio. And more traffic means more exposure with potential clients, and more exposure means more paying projects.

freelancedesigner-google-search
(Image: Google)

Simply by creating and maintaining the blog, you will achieve the following:

  • More pages indexed by Google and the other major search engines.
  • More fresh content that will be in front of people searching on Google.
  • A more keyword-rich website that targets the clients you want to work with.
  • A dynamic place to grow your SEO strategy (although the blog will do much of the work for you in the beginning).

By blogging, you exist to Google (and other search engines). And by existing to Google, you exist to future clients.

 

3. Direct income

This strategy is becoming more and more popular as experienced designers realize how potentially lucrative their blogs are. Your blog could be a significant source of direct income, aside from being a marketing channel for your work.

The most obvious strategy in this regard is advertising: using the sidebar space to sell advertisements. On blogs with great content and a healthy subscriber base, advertising space can sell for hundreds or thousands of dollars a month. Consider what you’d do with another few hundred bucks in your pocket, money that you’ve earned merely from spending a few moments every day talking about what you love?

see-want-buy-marketing
(Image: ceekay)

Another effective strategy is affiliate marketing, which basically means telling your audience about products and services that you already love and use. Let’s say you love Photoshop CS5 and the rest of Adobe’s products, and you constantly talk about them on your blog. If you share an affiliate link to CS5, and someone purchases the product through that link, you’ll get a nice little check in the mail! Do this often and you may find that the blog covers its own costs (and then some).

It’s no secret that affiliate marketing works, but do you recognize it as a simple way to leverage your blog for additional revenue?

Here is one simple way to get started:

  1. Sign up for Amazon’s affiliates program.
  2. Identify applications and products that you use and love.
  3. Blog about them in a few of your posts. Don’t just put up spammy links: talk about how you use them, why you love them and why your readers should try them, too.
  4. Rinse and repeat.

If anyone makes a purchase through your link, you’ll be compensated. This is just a simple example; you’ll want to do your own research and refine your execution, but it’s a start.

Some freelancers whose blogs have become popular enough have turned into full-time writers. Ever consider that your true love is writing about design? Who would have thought?

Good luck everyone and happy blogging!

 

What’s stopping you from starting a blog? What are your apprehensions? If you already have one, is it as good as it can be? How could you make it better? Do you need to post more regularly?

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  • http://John.do John Saddington

    thanks for the opportunity to share with the community here…!

  • http://twitter.com/mailette Mailette

    Having an active and relevant blog on your website also backs up your credibility with other agencies who might be scouting for outsourcing opportunities. Potential clients may not *totally* understand “what the heck’s a jquery?” but the constant movement and interaction will help build trust with them.

    • http://John.do John Saddington

      this is true! staying active is very important!

  • http://marcuswilliamson.com Marcus Williamson

    I don’t do much with direct income but…I love to learn :) 

    Which basically means, I may be trying this one out soon enough

    Thanks as always John

  • Designerist

    Thanks a lot for this kick – I play around with this idea since some time ;-).
    Now it is the moment to start – I feel very motivated!!!

  • http://twitter.com/GanimeCreative Anthony Ganime

    Good read! This is the blueprint to follow for sure…and as soon as my freelance projects slow down a bit I plan to follow suit.

  • http://twitter.com/vivalaviolette Viva la Violette

    I’ve noticed that most of my referral traffic comes from my blog- it really is a great place for me to share my work and projects… Great article!

    • http://John.do John Saddington

      that’s great. converting that traffic into paying jobs is a great strategy!

  • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

    A blog could just be the start of your promotional strategy. Your blog could begin to build your notoriety and could grow into things like podcasts, videos, seminars, public speaking, or writing for formal magazines. It’s really the start of a promotional strategy that could bring you increasingly bigger and bigger gigs.

  • http://www.animhut.com Sri Ganesh.M

    John your post are amazing and your blog too ! thanks for sharing another Quality content ! 

  • Niklas Ström

    I can’t say I know much about the subject but I just wanted to give a heads up when using affiliate programs. In sweden where I’m from there has been a lot of issues with major bloggers writing about products after getting free stuff / money for it – because some argued that it should count as a commercial and therefor, be properly displayed as such. 

    There is also the fact that many of them don’t register gifts and such as taxable income – as you should,  at  least, in Sweden. I have no idea how the cases actually played out, or if it is a totally moot point in other countries – but there it is. 

    • http://John.do John Saddington

      thanks niklas for this warning. it’s definitely different per country!

    • http://John.do John Saddington

      thanks niklas for this warning. it’s definitely different per country!

    • http://John.do John Saddington

      thanks niklas for this warning. it’s definitely different per country!

    • http://John.do John Saddington

      thanks niklas for this warning. it’s definitely different per country!

  • http://twitter.com/DaquanWright Daquan Wright

    I enjoy this article and I agree, blogging is essential. Not just to designers, writers, or programmers, but also anyone wanting to construct a community or a business of any kind. I feel that writing is a great way to express your knowledge and experience, and perhaps because words can connect with an audience on a more personal level than a portfolio, is many times more powerful. Or rather, each tool serves its purpose.

    Blogging and testimonials/referrals are easily the best forms of advertisement. Portfolios show what you’ve built and they too are strong tools, but the human factor can’t come from a portfolio. Relating your experiences with other people shows your growth and testimonials show you’ve worked with other people before. :)

    I’m designing a site and once it’s up, I’ll be writing. I noticed you say 3 times a week is good. I was thinking I’d start off doing once a week, but maybe I should bump up the number? Also, how long should a blog posts be if you’re posting 3 times or more a week?

  • http://twitter.com/DaquanWright Daquan Wright

    I enjoy this article and I agree, blogging is essential. Not just to designers, writers, or programmers, but also anyone wanting to construct a community or a business of any kind. I feel that writing is a great way to express your knowledge and experience, and perhaps because words can connect with an audience on a more personal level than a portfolio, is many times more powerful. Or rather, each tool serves its purpose.

    Blogging and testimonials/referrals are easily the best forms of advertisement. Portfolios show what you’ve built and they too are strong tools, but the human factor can’t come from a portfolio. Relating your experiences with other people shows your growth and testimonials show you’ve worked with other people before. :)

    I’m designing a site and once it’s up, I’ll be writing. I noticed you say 3 times a week is good. I was thinking I’d start off doing once a week, but maybe I should bump up the number? Also, how long should a blog posts be if you’re posting 3 times or more a week?

  • http://twitter.com/DaquanWright Daquan Wright

    I enjoy this article and I agree, blogging is essential. Not just to designers, writers, or programmers, but also anyone wanting to construct a community or a business of any kind. I feel that writing is a great way to express your knowledge and experience, and perhaps because words can connect with an audience on a more personal level than a portfolio, is many times more powerful. Or rather, each tool serves its purpose.

    Blogging and testimonials/referrals are easily the best forms of advertisement. Portfolios show what you’ve built and they too are strong tools, but the human factor can’t come from a portfolio. Relating your experiences with other people shows your growth and testimonials show you’ve worked with other people before. :)

    I’m designing a site and once it’s up, I’ll be writing. I noticed you say 3 times a week is good. I was thinking I’d start off doing once a week, but maybe I should bump up the number? Also, how long should a blog posts be if you’re posting 3 times or more a week?

  • http://twitter.com/whatevz_nstuff whatevz

    I too greatly enjoyed the article, loads of valuable tips! I had no idea about the availability of affiliate programs, definitely sounds like something worth looking into, once the ol’ blog is seeing a few more visitors. 

    I’m also really excited about the personal development aspect too. It’s not really a huge ask to write a blog post each day as you said, and trying to explain concepts in writing really helps consolidate knowledge. So often when I go to describe something to another I find a few issues with my plans or theories I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed.

    I see you recommend posting about three times a week, with once a day being ideal! Sounds like a bit of a challenge, but you’ve pointed out some great reasons why even the budding designer should  invest time in a blog. How many words would you (or others) suggest placing in each daily blog post? I imagine it varies with the content subject, but perhaps there’s a ballpark figure to shoot for?

  • http://twitter.com/whatevz_nstuff whatevz

    I too greatly enjoyed the article, loads of valuable tips! I had no idea about the availability of affiliate programs, definitely sounds like something worth looking into, once the ol’ blog is seeing a few more visitors. 

    I’m also really excited about the personal development aspect too. It’s not really a huge ask to write a blog post each day as you said, and trying to explain concepts in writing really helps consolidate knowledge. So often when I go to describe something to another I find a few issues with my plans or theories I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed.

    I see you recommend posting about three times a week, with once a day being ideal! Sounds like a bit of a challenge, but you’ve pointed out some great reasons why even the budding designer should  invest time in a blog. How many words would you (or others) suggest placing in each daily blog post? I imagine it varies with the content subject, but perhaps there’s a ballpark figure to shoot for?

  • http://twitter.com/whatevz_nstuff whatevz

    I too greatly enjoyed the article, loads of valuable tips! I had no idea about the availability of affiliate programs, definitely sounds like something worth looking into, once the ol’ blog is seeing a few more visitors. 

    I’m also really excited about the personal development aspect too. It’s not really a huge ask to write a blog post each day as you said, and trying to explain concepts in writing really helps consolidate knowledge. So often when I go to describe something to another I find a few issues with my plans or theories I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed.

    I see you recommend posting about three times a week, with once a day being ideal! Sounds like a bit of a challenge, but you’ve pointed out some great reasons why even the budding designer should  invest time in a blog. How many words would you (or others) suggest placing in each daily blog post? I imagine it varies with the content subject, but perhaps there’s a ballpark figure to shoot for?

  • http://twitter.com/whatevz_nstuff whatevz

    I too greatly enjoyed the article, loads of valuable tips! I had no idea about the availability of affiliate programs, definitely sounds like something worth looking into, once the ol’ blog is seeing a few more visitors. 

    I’m also really excited about the personal development aspect too. It’s not really a huge ask to write a blog post each day as you said, and trying to explain concepts in writing really helps consolidate knowledge. So often when I go to describe something to another I find a few issues with my plans or theories I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed.

    I see you recommend posting about three times a week, with once a day being ideal! Sounds like a bit of a challenge, but you’ve pointed out some great reasons why even the budding designer should  invest time in a blog. How many words would you (or others) suggest placing in each daily blog post? I imagine it varies with the content subject, but perhaps there’s a ballpark figure to shoot for?

  • http://twitter.com/whatevz_nstuff whatevz

    I too greatly enjoyed the article, loads of valuable tips! I had no idea about the availability of affiliate programs, definitely sounds like something worth looking into, once the ol’ blog is seeing a few more visitors. 

    I’m also really excited about the personal development aspect too. It’s not really a huge ask to write a blog post each day as you said, and trying to explain concepts in writing really helps consolidate knowledge. So often when I go to describe something to another I find a few issues with my plans or theories I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed.

    I see you recommend posting about three times a week, with once a day being ideal! Sounds like a bit of a challenge, but you’ve pointed out some great reasons why even the budding designer should  invest time in a blog. How many words would you (or others) suggest placing in each daily blog post? I imagine it varies with the content subject, but perhaps there’s a ballpark figure to shoot for?

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    Nice post. I learn something more challenging on different
    blogs everyday. It will always be stimulating to read content from other
    writers and practice a little something from their store. I’d prefer to use
    some with the content on my blog whether you don’t mind. Natually I’ll give you
    a link on your web blog. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.printingray.com/sticker-printing.html vinyl stickers

     

    Nice post. I learn something more challenging on different
    blogs everyday. It will always be stimulating to read content from other
    writers and practice a little something from their store. I’d prefer to use
    some with the content on my blog whether you don’t mind. Natually I’ll give you
    a link on your web blog. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://veodesign.com Tina Mailhot-Roberge

    Nice article. Amazon’s Affiliate Program is a great idea and I can imagine how easy it must be for someone who speaks a lot about technology and gadgets in their blog to use this tool. Thanks for sharing!

  • Henry Johnston

    Informative article, but there is a big WATCHOUT!  Freelancers should be very careful about agency/client confidentiality rules and laws.  For example, they should NOT post any work-in-progress, conceptual stage, or unapproved client work on their portfolio sites and/or blogs.  I’ve seen many a freelancer be unceremoniously dismissed, and in some cases even sued, for posting a concept on their site only to have a client see it and take action.