Self-Branding Tips for Graphic Designers

When taking the first steps in building your personal brand, there’s just one word you need to remember…

YAHOO! (You Already Have One, Okay?)

Whether you’re just coming into the industry or you’re a veteran going out on your own, each graphic designer has their own personal brand ready and made up inside – you’ve just got to access it. We’re going to help you do just that with some self-branding tips that will help you tap into your potential and get more work online.

Step 1: Find your USP (unique selling point)

Good is great, but different is better!

Whether or not you’re a fan, you definitely know who Oprah is, what she does, and that she’s very good at it, right? That’s because she has a strong personal brand. Jennifer McClure, founder and CEO of Unbridled Talent and DisruptHR suggests that Oprah’s brand, cultivated over many years in the industry, is the strongest personal brand that she’s seen. And, it’s all based around Oprah’s innate personality – which is the key to personal branding. Jennifer says: 

“You absolutely already have a personal brand, whether you’ve done anything to develop it or not …  your personal brand is how other people perceive you as compared to people in similar positions.”

To understand what people think of you, Jennifer suggests asking your friends to give you three words that come to mind when they hear your name. Take them all – even the duplicates – and input them into a word cloud to see which words come up most frequently.

Your word cloud might be filled with positive words, like:

Intelligent, caring, and determined 

Now, that’s awesome, but a tad generic. What you’re looking for here is that little something that separates you from the crowd. What is it in your life that is ‘unique’ to you? Once you’ve identified it, start sharing that information – across all platforms. Prospective clients will Google you before they meet you, and first impressions count, right? What is that you want them to see? Control the narrative. 

Step 2: LinkedIn basics: where to begin

With more than 300 million users and growing still, LinkedIn is the tool professionals use to communicate and manage their reputations. Even if you already have one, if you really want to get noticed and get more work, it’s worth double checking you are covering the basic steps you need to take full advantage of the platform.

You’re going to want to check the following things off your list:

  1. Your profile picture: Research shows that profiles with pictures are 14 times more likely to be viewed than profiles without. Don’t sweat if you can’t stretch to a pro’ photoshoot just yet, it just has to be of your face & look like you (don’t snigger, we’re serious). Make sure your face fills at least 60% of that little square and wear clothes you wear to work. Lastly,  say cheese – big smile! 
  2. Your LinkedIn headline: With the help of your friends in step one, you have built your word cloud, and defined your USP. The trick here, and keep this in mind throughout your LinkedIn profile, is speak directly to those you want to hire you. 
  3. Your summary: This is where you get to tell your story. We suggest that you really go to town here, allow your big, bold personality to shine through. A lot of what you describe should be about your professional experience. But, don’t be afraid to reveal more personal elements that make you stand out. It’s about being compelling; being captivating. 

Step 3: Get the best out of LinkedIn

We can’t think of a better way to demonstrate the power of LinkedIn other than allocating it a second section in our hot list of self-branding tips. 

With the ‘experience’ section on your LinkedIn Profile you get to create a bigger, better (and handily interactive) version of your CV. It’s where you get to shout about all the great things you’ve done, and how brilliantly you’ve done them.

Don’t forget to integrate your work via multimedia capabilities of LinkedIn, and pool testimonials (these could help tip the balance in your favour if you were up for the graphic design role of your dreams). It’s also worth adding around 10 skills that best reflect your brand. Remember: you’re a graphic designer building an empire, whatever you did before may not necessarily be (quite) on-brand.

Step 4: Get yourself connected 

Nobody is more aware than you on just how competitive the graphic design industry is, and you may be wondering – especially if you’re just starting out – how to build your client base.

Networking is the way to do this: the more people who know you, the better. It’s the key to finding new projects, new clients, learning tips from other designers & promoting not just your business but yourself. And, it’s not all drinking Chardonnay and eating canapes. There’s definitely some overlap between in-person and online networking, but there are oh-so-subtle differences. 

  • Acknowledge the gatekeeper – they hold the keys. 
    • The best route to the person that you want on board isn’t always a direct one. Resist that temptation to reach out directly via social media or email. The influencers have a gatekeeper for a reason – because they’re influencers – so follow the protocols.
  • Once you’ve got that ‘in’, remember the early bird
    • Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, famously starts his day at 3.45am. It’s a trait of a lot of successful people (apparently). We’re not suggesting you start emailing those people you want to speak to any time before 8am! But in doing so, you may just bypass that gatekeeper, and it leaves a really good first impression with that influencer (they don’t need to know you were in your pyjamas). 
  • Short is sweet; perfunctory is perfect.
    • Whatever you write, keep it simple. Use short words. Short sentences. No more than five lines. Otherwise you’ll be in a tl;dr situation. Makes sense, right?

Step 5: Share your work far and wide

It really doesn’t matter how brilliant your portfolio is if only you (and your Mum) have seen it. You need to ensure that you are receiving maximum – and that means global – exposure. We’ve scoured the web for the best tools to showcase your work.

  • Behance – An online platform to showcase your work, as well as to update and broadcast your portfolio in one place to a wide, engaged audience, syncing with ProSite and Adobe’s Creative Cloud.
  • Krop – Enables you to build a professional portfolio for the world to see. 
  • Coroflot – A platform that brings exposure to your design work and can connect you with opportunities.
  • Well, us (Artwork Bazaar) – The channel between buyers and artists is also open, with buyers able to contact artists directly if they can’t find what they’re looking for. (Think Behance meets Istock.) 
    • All your uploaded images will have your name and photo displayed
    • On your artwork pages there is a link to your profile
    • Your profile page includes the option to add a short bio

Step 6: Tell the world you’re a brand!

Pinterest, Facebook and LinkedIn groups all offer great opportunities to build up your social media following; from there, you can target a niche audience. Join groups that are relevant to you, become part of the conversation, and part of the community. Think of it as online networking.

Make sure you keep your portfolio updated with constant and regular updates, while you get down to (what you’re good at) being creative. 

Remember you can also share your portfolio physically as well as digitally. Head into any coworking, or collaborative space and you’re guaranteed to find designers, just like you. Make sure your portfolio URL is on your business card and ask other designers to check it out. There’s no guarantee they will – unless you ask for critique & offer to return the favour. Everybody loves feedback & there’s definitely nothing to lose by having a critique session. 

Why not share ideas and bounce off your peers? 

Now, go forth and prosper

We hope that we have guided you through the minefield that self-branding can (at least at first appear to) be. Follow our steps and it will all seem a lot more manageable and attainable. That’s just one of the benefits of joining the community at Artwork Bazaar, we try to help your life run smoothly, professionally that is… the rest is up to you. 

If you enjoyed this you might also want to check out our interview with graphic designer and branding consultant Josh Riley.

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