How to market your design, the integrated approach

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January 15, 2013
How to market your design, the integrated approach.

ThumbPicture this: you’re a freelance designer just starting out. You don’t have much of a reputation yet, but you know what direction you want to go in and who to design for. Your budget is low to non-existent, and you want to start reeling in some clients—big clients even.

What do you do? Where do you start?

Promotion of any kind costs money. So, how to get the most out of your dosh?

Here are some ideas and tips to answer all of the above.

Traditional marketing tools

Where to start?

Well, the beginning often works for me. The beginning of any business venture is branding. Potential customers need to know who you are, what you do and why you’re different. Your unique brand tells them this and helps to keep all of your communication consistent.

A brand is more than just a logo, although you will need one of those. A brand gives you a voice and tells the world that you’re not just another design company, but rather an outside-the-box design company extraordinaire; or that you’re Fred the designer, famous for designing that logo everyone is talking about; or that you’re an expert in innovative shape designs.

So, for a brand, you need a cool name, a fun catchphrase and a mission statement that clearly states why you’re different. And you need to be consistent. Don’t pitch that you’re a highly contemporary designer to one potential client, and that you’re a specialist in retro to another. This will come back to haunt you one day—most likely sooner rather than later—and your reputation could be jeopardized.

First contact

Until interested clients come looking for you, you need to go looking for them. This can be daunting, and the first contact with a potential client is crucial. You might not be physically present when they first come across your brand, because they could hear your name mentioned or see your logo somewhere.

Your logo is a crucial part of your branding, and it helps to sell your skills to clients. Don’t leave it as an afterthought. Design it well, and show off your expertise. This is vital not only for your branding, but because potential clients might want to hire you to design their logo. You have to show that you’re up for it.

Once your logo is sorted, it’s time to make your design portfolio easily accessible. Using online platforms is a good and free way to show off your work and expertise, but print is still a great medium in which to create a professional-looking portfolio.

Portfolio or photo book

It's natural to to focus all your energies on an online portfolio, but many potential clients still like to see something they can hold; the web is still a bit of a mystery to many people who started out in business 30 or 40 years ago and a great deal of trust is generated by being able to hold your work in their hands.

Putting together a portfolio, just like you did in art school, or printing your designs in a professionally made photo book with good-quality paper is a great way to show off your style.

Several online creative publishers out there have affordable prices for one-off prints. What’s even better is that it’s print on demand, so if you need more copies, simply buy as required, instead of choosing a set number of prints beforehand.

A photo book is an important marketing tool. You can use it at client pitches, networking events and industry fairs.


Every business, even a one-man band, needs to network. Keep an eye out for local networking events. You can set up a Google Alert and join design groups on LinkedIn to stay in the loop.

Be prepared for networking events by researching attendees and the main topic. Also, be sure to have business cards with your logo on hand, in case an opportunity to exchange details arises. But don’t show up just to force your details on people. Networking is about building relationships, so take the time to talk to people, and find out how they prefer to be pitched.

Large design companies will likely attend the same networking events as you. Don’t dismiss them or be rude. Build relationships with them. You never know when they will get overloaded with work and need to outsource to a freelance designer. You want to be on their list of outsourcing options.

Online presence

Creating an online presence takes time, but it is a crucial part of the marketing mix. You could opt for a free platform, too; you don’t have to go for a large custom website. A blog can also serve as a point of contact and a way to show off your designs. It’s a great platform for an online portfolio. Make sure to post on it regularly.

Then, use your online presence to communicate with the design world, and establish a reputation as an industry expert by sharing useful information and perhaps guest posting on other websites known for their authority.

Integrated approach

If you paid attention to the title of this article, you would have expected this bit. All of the marketing tips above are useful, but they get the job done better if used together. If you choose not to use all of these methods, then mixing some marketing techniques is still a good idea.

People want to interact with brands, and clients want to be able to match a face to a reputation. Integrated methods are the way forward, and if you play it smart, this approach doesn’t have to cost the world either.


If you think, as a freelance web designer, that you don’t need to follow any traditional marketing methods, you're quite wrong. You still have to pitch your skills to clients.

Believe it or not, you use traditional marketing methods in your job anyway. Logo design, mission statements, and matching color to overall brand are important aspects of website design and part of a traditional marketing skill set. The platform might change, but the core ideas are the same.

Integrated marketing is beneficial to freelance and in-house web designers. Providing an overall picture of your skills is what this type of marketing is all about. Some research into what tools are out there and how much they cost will ensure a frugal, successful marketing plan.

Do you view any one aspect of the marketing mix as more important, or are they all one symbiotic whole? Let us know in the comments.

Featured image/thumbnail, marketing image via Shutterstock.

Sarah Oxley

Sarah Oxley writes on behalf of Blurb, providers of photo books, and self-publishing services. Sarah is an alumni of Leeds University Business School in Marketing and Advertising.

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