Freelance Designer: How To Find Real Jobs

Cubicle JailSo you made the jump from a safe, warm, and cozy job to the freedom of freelancing. You’ve dreamt about it for so long, wondering how the sun feels during the day while you were locked away behind a fluorescent lit cubicle isles and rows from the nearest window. Well you’ve arrived; so now what? How are you going to pay your bills, grow your skills, and market your skills on a shoe-string budget? Keep reading…

One of the more important characteristics of a successful is maintaining a steady flow of work. That work may come from agencies, current, or new clients. To me, each creative will find their own way to attain their own work but below are a few tips to try:

Online Agencies: These are good because most of the risk is on them so long as you hold up your end of the bargain. If you’re great at creating logos, but really don’t like to get into haggling and negotiating prices, these places are for you. You can create a profile, list your skills, and post your rate per hour or project. Then wait for the emails to come in. You’ll want to do some market research though so that you’re not too high or too low that you price yourself out of work or respect.

Network Locally: This one may be a step out of your comfort zone. Yes we have social media now a days and we can hide behind our keyboards, smart phones, and laptops but live networking still is held in high regard. Find out when and where other business professionals are hanging out after hours; then be there with them. Bring your business cards, but don’t pass them out like free tickets. Instead try making conversation first. Ask individuals what they do and repeat it back to them along with points of view while including their name here and there to show that you are paying attention to them. Before you know it, they’ll ask you for your card and then you can tell them about how awesome you are at design and how much fun you have helping people grow their business and brand.

Sponsor a Community Event: Pro-bono may be a great way to start out especially if you’re skittish about how people may appreciate your work. It’s also great experience in dealing with customers. You’ll run into all kinds, and before long you’ll have favorites and you’ll have some you wish you never met. As a self-starter, your reputation is everything so doing a free design or website for a local church could win you a lot of “oooohhhs” and “ahhhhs” from the members who all work in the community. A few thank yous and nice words from some non-profit organizations that rub shoulders with city officials could propel you to great levels. So even though the money may not have been there, you’ll still have new material for your portfolio, highly visible clientele, and letters of recognition you can tout around like trophies.

Embrace Social Media: This one comes with a grain of salt. There are many outlets out there to use. Find two or three that you can really wrap your mind around and feel comfortable using – and use them! Post daily, post often, but keep in mind you’re looking to engage first. The selling of your skills will be evident enough in your bio. Use it to showcase new designs you created. Get people to rate or comment on your work or even offer opinions and feedback. Learn how to strike up good conversations that may provide some great insight to someone’s problem or project and that could land you a job right then and there or not long down the road since you sound like you know what you’re talking about.

Your Portfolio: Well after showing off and practicing your elevator speech, you must have a place for all these people to view your work and vet your skills.  Even if you don’t want to set up a full-out 50 page website that has all types of forms, sub pages, and FAQ’s with endless breadcrumbs, you should still have an online presence. I’ve seen some really nice designer websites that were nothing more than full-width graphics stacked, scrolling, or animated with just a contact page with a phone number and 3 line form. Be versatile though with your displays so that businesses of most industries can envision you doing their work and not think you’re just a niche designer. Unless however you want to be tied to a specific industry. Nothing wrong with that. Let me also mention blogging. A great way to provide great tips on your trade that not only shows insight, but proves you are the authority on that subject matter.

Well for those of you who’ve been doing this for some time, why not offer some tips to others in the comments below.


Promote Your Peer Blogs More! (instead of celebrities)

BlogWhen you think of some famous blogs that you frequent during the day, I’m sure many names come to mind. Some of those blog authors have followers and readers in the thousands if not more. We all follow them, waiting to hear some tidbit about the next big thing, or some advice on how to do something you already heard elsewhere. They’ve been around for some time and so we trust their judgements and opinions. All of that is fine and dandy, but what about some peers you may have met recently at a local networking or social event? I’d like to challenge you to read on to see a different perspective on this topic.

With all the mediums for sharing content and social media, I’m sure you have many connections to people you’ve met or network with. In person these people can tell you a great deal about their products, services, insights, and tactics to what they do best. Of course not too much data, but still some really informative stuff. Check to see which of them has a blog or some type of frequent distribution of content. Read a few posts and see if what they’re talking about makes sense. See if it sound relevant to your current business needs or hold some great tib-bits you can use in the future.  If you’re not already signed up, I suggest you do so now.

Why Your Comments Are Important: With the various types of publications, there are also many ways for a reader to comment on his or her thoughts. This is a great option because it allows for a conversation. This gives you a voice to either compliment or challenge the content given. Nothing stirs up multiple reply comments on blogs more than when different people have different views on a topic and continue to weigh in to try and prove their points.

Share and Promote: If you found the post thought-provoking, share it with your peers and associates. This is where social media is at its best. Use the Tweet or Facebook buttons to share the post.  Coming from you, it will seem like a good and relevant read to your associates. Get them to weigh in or validate the discussion.  Think of it as community building. We all know word of mouth is the best form of advertising, so the same benefits apply here.

How Much Time It Really Takes: You may think it’s a painstaking process of hours when really it isn’t. You’ll be able to tell within the first paragraph whether or not the rest of a piece will be worth your read. Once read, take 5 minutes to write a comment. It can be a short as a few words to a paragraph if you feel led to write more. Most blog sites have their comments section ready to go without the need for you to sign up with some service before you’re able to post. Sharing on the internet is takes about 30 seconds with the help of pre-installed social media buttons.

What’s In It For You: Think of the “Golden Rule” here. If you’re already blogging for your business, wouldn’t it be great to hear from people within your community whenever you publish a post? I’m not going to set a false expectation that for every comment you place, or post you share you’ll in turn receive the same for your own.  However it does make for good recognition when you are at networking events where these other bloggers are attending also. It’s a great ice-breaker for striking up a conversation. Aside from being a part of the conversation and that warm fuzzy feeling, you have a few things to look forward to. You’ll also get a track-back to your own website or blog if you entered it into the fields when submitting your comment.

No time like the present, so start now by commenting below. Our blog even has this cool feature where it will mention your latest blog post if you check the “Comment Luv” box. And of course if you have something of value to add to the conversation, we’d love to hear it!

Local Businesses using Social Media Right

When it comes to businesses, social media is a means of brand awareness and advertising.  To further permeate areas where people dwell with their ads, coupons, services, and so on.  I personally feel some big named brands are a bit late with coming to the party, but many aren’t even entertained by the notion.

Consumers are using the Internet and social media every day.  At work, at home, and even on their phones.  The traditional means of advertising are now being filtered out, so these new mediums are where to find your audience. Case and point is Webster Bank.  A local bank here in Connecticut that’s been in business for over 75 years. I’m not going to get into their banking success or their great reputation with engaging the community too much – I’ll let them continue to do that. However I will comment on their use of social media.

Recently I received an email from Twitter informing me that Webster Bank @WebsterBank was now following me.  At first glance I thought it was a fake Twitter handle, or at best a Webster employee looking to find new clients.  To my surprise it was actually an official account from the bank.  Had a couple hundred tweets.  Engaging other users that I knew or were familiar to my Twitter stream, and even had a good bio.

Webster Twitter Stream

This was ok, but I figured I should kick it up a n0tch and @ reply them. They actually responded, and not computer type of response but like from a real person.

Just about everyone within Connecticut has probably heard of Webster Bank, and though not everyone may bank with them, they’ve seen the branches in their neighborhoods.  Now here’s where Webster can start to take advantage of their market where some other banks may not particularly care about social media.

  • Feedback: They can better understand customer comments and complaints, that they may normally have never heard within their branches or telephone customer support
  • Engage: They can engage both existing clients and potential new ones in a medium that can be familiar and friendly without the need to “sell”
  • Awareness: They can continue to build company and product awareness. This could also lead to the perception of having authority on their regional/local market
  • Promotions: They can host contests or specials
  • Growth: They can further grow their community of loyal customers, and those customers will easily tell their friends about their bank in a way that is free advertising to the bank (word of mouth)

Just to make it clear, I’m not being paid by Webster to write this in any way. Really I’m using them as a live case study to prove a point in how marketing is adapting more from tradition means to social media.  There are plenty of businesses big and small that don’t think this is a worthy investment in time and resources.  And there are businesses like this one, who are taking the risk, maybe even on a small scale to at least have a social presence to engage an audience where they’re most comfortable and prevalent.

As always I’d like to get your thoughts on this, so please feel free to agree or disagree in the comments below.