Not long ago we looked at how you can win better clients by expanding on your services as a web designer. And one of the options we touched on was delving into marketing – something you could offer to clients as part of a more comprehensive package of services.
Today’s topic is slightly different in the sense that we’re asking whether you’re marketing yourself properly as a web designer. But the reason I mention the previous post is because there’s no better way to learn the art of marketing than starting with yourself and using that experience to win those bigger clients we were talking about last time around.
What makes you different from all the other designers out there?
The first step to marketing yourself as a web designer (or anything else for that matter) is defining what makes you different from your competition. This will be the basis of everything you do as a self-made marketer and if you don’t know what sets you apart you need to figure something out.
Of course, it’s a good idea to focus on what you’re good at, but it’s even better to spot an opportunity in the market. After all, what you’re good at needs to be attractive enough for you to win those clients. And don’t be afraid to pick a selling point you haven’t quite mastered yet – always be prepared to learn new skills if it gives you an advantage in the marketplace.
Consider specialising in a niche
A good way to reinforce your unique selling point (USP) or even create a new one is to specialise in a niche industry. There are countless web designers out there, but you have far less competition in designers who specialise in creating sites for start-ups, tech firms, non-profit organisations or any other industry type.
Specialising in a niche will also help you market yourself digitally in many ways – from defining your voice to targeting new clients and ultimately winning projects.
Build your online presence
Once you know your selling point and who you intend to target, it’s time to build your online presence. This starts with having your own incredible website (the best business card a web designer can have), complete with portfolio and that all-important blog.
This blog will be the focal point of your online presence – the place you define your voice, promote your USP and turn traffic into potential clients. You don’t just want to fill up that blog page of yours with any old words, though. Use every post to position yourself as an expert in your industry, a specialist in your niche and make your USP impossible to resist.
Don’t worry if you’re not generating all that much traffic to begin with, just focus on creating that initial body of content that reinforces everything about you as a designer. Here are some general blogging tips to get you started:
- Highlight the pain points your target clients have to deal with and show you can provide the solution.
- Use visual content wherever you can to create a more engaging blog page.
- Create a variety of different posts – eg: image lists, review articles, industry news, etc.
- Vary your word lengths while you’re at it. You’ll find different types of blog posts require different word counts, so let the content choose the length for you.
Reach out and expand your blogging efforts
Your life as a new-found blogger doesn’t end with your website. Once you have a few pages of top-quality content filling up your blog it’s time to reach out to third-party sites and get yourself published there. Don’t mistake this for the spammy type of guest blogging Google ruled out years ago; this is clean, healthy outreach that steadily builds your online presence.
Pick a number of industry websites to target and become a regular contributor. It might be an idea to start with sites that accept contributions, but the aim is to build your way up to the leading publications in your industry. There’s no rush, though, focus on becoming a regular contributor on a couple of sites and make your presence known to their audiences.
Create content that has something new to say and gets people talking. Any traffic you can generate or social shares you can manage by peaking people’s interest at this stage is a handy bonus. With time, you’ll be able to approach higher profile sites, with a stronger chance of getting published, and tapping into their wide audiences.
Show off and build contacts on social
Social media marketing for designers essentially comes down to two things: showing off and building contacts. Okay, that might sound like every bog-standard user, but you’re going to show off the best of your work and build contacts that lead to business – a key difference.
Professionally speaking, LinkedIn is the obvious place to start when it comes to building contacts. This is also a great place to publish articles and get involved in discussions. Aim to answer questions from the kind of business owners you want to work for (ie: your niche) and be genuinely helpful. Join groups and consider reinforcing your LinkedIn efforts by signing up to Quora and answering similar questions on there.
Next up you have some decisions to make. Do you focus on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or any other combination of the ever-growing collection of social networks? Personally, I suggest starting with Facebook and Instagram, for many reasons – one of which we’ll come to shortly.
Build that email marketing list
Once you have a steady stream of traffic coming to your website you’ll want to start building that email list of yours. Offer up content, freebies and other incentives to get people handing over their email addresses and even if they’re not in the market for your services right now, you can target them until they are.
Even your existing clients will need work doing to their site in the next few years and why would you give them the chance of going elsewhere when you can remind them you’re the best choice?
Don’t go overboard on the promotional stuff, though. You’ll need to come up with a damn good reason for people to stay subscribed and that means your content needs to kick ass all the way.
Dive into local SEO
If you’re based at a single location (sorry digital nomads) then you’ll want to cover the local SEO essentials. Get yourself set up with a Google business page and do what you can to get reviews from your clients. The aim is to have you come up when people search for web designers in your area.
You’ll also want to get yourself listed in the big directory listing sites to increase your chances of getting on page one for local searches.
Consider paid advertising
A great addition to local SEO is some location targeted AdWords campaigns. You’re not limited to local audiences with AdWords of course and you can use Google’s advertising platform to target business owners in your niche, regardless of where they are.
You’re not limited to AdWords when it comes to paid advertising either. I recommend Facebook and Instagram (in addition to LinkedIn) as your social networks earlier. And that’s not only because the two networks are perfectly synced, but also because Facebook is the other giant in all things online advertising (and it also happens to own Instagram).
Paid advertising on Facebook will break you out of the zero organic reach trap, but it also comes with some of the most extensive targeting options on the web to help you hone in on your target audience.
Become a conversion optimisation expert
By this stage you should have a number of different conversions taking place on your website. Enquiries from your contact forms, email signups and content downloads are just a number of any conversions that can lead to signing up a new client.
Which is great, but what about the traffic you generate that doesn’t convert? Rather than let them walk away, use this opportunity to become a conversion optimisation expert. This not only means less business slips through your fingers, but you’ll be learning an incredibly valuable skill you can take to your clients (expanding those services, remember?).
For more detail on how to become a conversion optimisation expert, check out this post from our very own Rudolph on A/B testing.
Combine your online and offline marketing efforts
Everything we’ve covered so far shows how to market yourself digitally as a web designer. But to market yourself properly, you’ll want to get out there in the real world and market yourself offline as well.
Find events in your area, the major cities in your country and key cities around the world where you can hook up with the leading names in your industry and potential clients. Don’t limit yourself to web design or other techie events – go where the business owners in your niche are and reach out to them in their own setting.
Events are still one of the best places to meet the kind of clients who can give you a major boost up the professional ladder. So get yourself some new business cards and shake hands with that next big client at major industry events.
So that’s a bit about marketing yourself properly as a web designer. And, best of all, you can take this model to the vast majority of your clients and tweak it to their industry/individual needs. So, not only can you market yourself to win the best clients possible, you can use this formula to add marketing to your skillset and target clients on an entirely different level!