This might be one of the most crucial posts I have ever written. I assume you meet the minimum requirements to be able to work as a freelance designer via the internet: you must know English, have a Paypal account, a quality online portfolio … What can we do to get a job or clients?
In the freelancing world the promotion of your services is the key to success. If you never promote yourself, people will never know what you do. You should not presume that just because you are awesome at doing things in your skills so they will automatically come attracted to you. Many entry level freelancers make this mistake of waiting for clients to approach them, but in fact, you need to reach them until your work quality become popular in the given market.
There are a number of strategies to reach potential clients in the initial phase of your career. Some of them are listed below.
1. Get the maximum possible for people to visit your website
Why? Silly question, is not it? It is clear that while more people visit our website, the bigger the chances to get clients. It is not correct. Let me give a little suspense … an example: A website, a few months ago, had 4000 visits per month, not long ago I got a link with much traffic, and now it has more than 25000, you would say; the number of Clients has grown? … Well, no, it is still the same. Nevertheless, the consumed bandwidth did grow; maybe soon, I will have to upgrade my hosting plan, which means investing more money. The idea is that until a certain point, the quality of the traffic is more important than quantity.
The question in your head might be, then why do we want them to visit our website? Simple, if it has more visits it will increase the number of people talking about you, more people will link to your site (as long as you offer quality content) and this way you will get a better position in search engines (Google, Yahoo, Msn).
For example, we do mascots design, imagine I’m a visitor, and when I see them, I like them. If you have a website, in the links section you would put something like this: ” mascot design “. If a lot of people do the same, Google will understand my website is about “mascot design”, and that is an excellent website for those search terms, this way Google will put my website in the first results while searching “mascot design”. This traffic is significant… depending on the search term, and there will be more or fewer competitors to appear in the first results.
How to get links?
- Get people to put links of your site offering free, original and funny content (tutorials, articles, games …)
- Putting yourself the links to your website (forums, blogs, directories, social networks …). Always with respect, eh? No SPAM.
- Ask your clients for links. It’s voluntary, if it accepts, great.
- Exchanging them with other webmasters. It’s heavy and barely affects.
- Buying massive links. As far as I know, it does not work well, and it can even be bad for your business.
What you should never do:
- Using Flash, if you do, use it just a little … no complete Flash websites.
- Forget about welcome pages or pop-ups. 50% of your visitors will leave before 30 seconds … so you have to go directly to the point.
- Try that your website is not to heavy in graphics, the more text, the better.
- Design your website below 1024x768px resolution.
- Never design just for one browser. It has to look good at least in Internet Explorer and Firefox.
2.- Have a good relationship with search engines
In English, it’s called SEO (search engine optimisation), mainly for Google. There are thousands of forums, manuals and blogs dedicated to this so we will explain only the basics.
Apart from making us famous thanks to links from other websites, we can also create Google understand better what’s our site about, with this, we increase chances of appearing in the first search results.
How can we accomplish this? Well, mainly with HTML code and our website structure (and also the links we were talking about in the previous point):
Page title: It’s about putting your keywords in the title; If you take a look at the source code of this page (in IExplorer: View> Source Code), you will see at the beginning something like this:
<Title> Work for freelance designers – YOUR WEBSITE TITLE</ title>
Meta Tags: the same for Meta Tags:
<Meta name = keywords content = “mascot design, logo design, illustration, web design, graphic design, freelance designer, comics, character design, logo, web”>
This tells the search engine what your site about is, so we have to put the keywords you want Google to search for your site. The more important ones are the ones that describe and keywords.
Titles “: the search engine recognises with these tags relevant phrases in the text of the website. We also have to put our keywords here.
Bold and Italics “” and “”: we have to repeat the keywords in the content of the site, putting them in bold and italics.
The density of the keywords in the text: we have to repeat our keywords in the content of our website.
Images: Google prefers to text, but we can also optimise images. Mainly putting the keywords in the tag “Alt” and the name of the file (example: my-keyword.jpg).
- From your website, Google will follow links to the rest of the pages inside the site, so it’s good to have a sitemap to make it easier … if Google does not find the page is like if it does not exist.
- Name your titles as the keywords (example: my-website.com/my-keyword.html)
- Name the folders of your site as the keywords (example: my-website.com/my-keyword/my-keyword.html)
- Do not put your pages in a thousand folders, maximum three levels.
- Use your keywords to link between the pages in your site.
- External links: link from your texts to pages with similar content to yours (not competitors, of course)
3.- Trafic oriented to possible clients
Initially, till you have traffic from an online search engine or you are not effectively understood, this will be your mail resources source. It’s simply about the promo in those websites where there are possible customers.
In forums there are two things to keep in mind: firstly being seen in job offers subforums, usually those are low budget jobs but they can help you build a good portfolio; On the other hand, you also need to be seen in the rest of the boards, where you might meet the best clients, help people and you will get useful contacts.
Webhostingtalk.com: it’s a forum dedicated to the hosting business (and other things), there are people with a lot of money and thousands of domains … which means they need lots of designs. It’s free and in English. If you are starting, this is an excellent place to make a good portfolio, with some time you can get to clients with a higher level in this same forum.
Sitepoint.com: basically the same as the previous one.
Paid websites for freelance designers:
Getafreelancer.com: it’s the typical website where people post projects and you as a designer bid to get the job, everything’s in there, decent jobs and garbage. The site is in English, and it’s pretty ugly, and it goes for a% of the income.
Scriptlance.com: It’s more focused on programmers, but there are also jobs for designers. It works like the previous one,% of the sales, but the website has a much better design, it’s in English.
Upwork: Design jobs, usually, do not have a big budget, but there is a lot of work, if you are quick you can make a lot of money. They have a complicated system though, it’s in English and very expensive, so it’s more like an investment … if you are starting maybe you won’t be able to afford this.
It’s the riskiest way to search for a job, and it’s where ‘bad’ people come searching for young ones to use them. Remember to ask for a payment in advance … ALWAYS !!. The best thing is that you can find partners, and also inspiration and have a good time.
Deviantart: it’s the art community with Capital Letters. The jobs board is not very serious, but the rest of the site is fantastic, it has a lot of great content and a good design … If you want to be seen in the rest of the world, you must register in this Website.
GFX artist: there are two kinds of job offers, the low budget clients and “projects” in the wicked sense of the word, and job offers for businesses that require reclamation in the country of the offer. This is a bit more elite community, and you need to host images on your server or pay for a subscription. We could say it’s for more expert people.
4. Reusing clients: newsletter
Newsletters or subscriptions are an excellent marketing instrument, although it’s also a double-edged weapon. We are able to remind an old customer we are still available to do any job he wants, but you have to be careful, or it can be classified as SPAM. I guess there’s no need to say that to be hired again you have to do good work, as a freelance designer, reputation is critical
5. Local publicity
It’s always useful to invest some money in printed material like posters, flyers, business cards … and leave them in stores related to computers. I do not think I need to say to put the URL of your portfolio in everything you print.
The inconvenient is that you might have to invest much more time in meetings with your clients. The advantage is that you do not have the brutal competition that exists on the internet, particularly Asian companies.
6.- Getting a good representative
Another option to be seen is hiring a representative, and it will do all the promotion work for you in exchange for a% of the sales. Agents that are worth it are very requested, so if you do not have a good portfolio they won’t work with you … maybe even if you have it.
Folioart.co.uk: they have artists with renown as Gez Fry or Jason Brooks, but others are mediocre.
Centralillustration.com: hey, search for a bit more alternative artists.
Mendolaart.com: the artists of all styles, some of them are good, and some others are not.
Glasshousegraphics.com: representative mostly for comic artists. Their lots of people, so they do not pay you much attention, but you can try.
7. Contacting the companies directly
These websites have job offers to work in a company, sometimes they also ask for freelance designers, but it’s rare. Requirements are demanding, and you will have to go to live at the place the company is located. You will need a Curriculum and a presentation letter.
Coroflot.com: lots of job offers, particularly in the United States. They have improved the site lately; now it looks like an artists social network.
Malakye.com: job offers exclusively for sports trademarks: Billabong, Rip Curl, Adio … Who does not want to work for brands like this? They have an exciting newsletter where they give a lot of advice at the time to prepare your Curriculum.
Big companies offers
The most direct road between two points in the straight line. Many companies offer jobs on their own website … it’s just a matter of searching in the corporative sections and is very good doing what you do.
Corporate.disney.go.com: I’m sure these ones seem familiar.
Pixar.com/companyinfo/jobs: if you have the lever to get in here, what are you doing reading this?
Marvel.com/company: for comic artists.
These kind of posts are ‘heavy’, and not many people read them … I’m conscious it’s been made only for a few people, the ones who really want to live off the design and are ready to work hard.