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Utilizing your website to promote your freelance design services

by Shaun Crowley

PART 1:
How to Write Your Website
View Part 2

Your website is quite obviously your online portfolio. But the copy and structure of your website can also help you to drum up new business. When a potential client types your URL into their browser, they are not just looking to take a gallery tour of your past work, they want to know what you can offer them.

In this article I reveal 5 tips to make your website work a little harder for you. Take this advice and you should find more hits to your site resulting in new graphic design assignments.

1. Make it easy to find relevant samples of work
Think about who you are targeting and then think about how you can categorize your portfolio for maximum accessibility. The greater the variety of different clients you target, the more general your categories should be. For example, if you’re targeting different sectors, you may want to segment your portfolio into a menu like this:

- Marketing and advertising
- Products and packaging
- Publishing
- Engineering

If you are targeting just one specific sector (such as marketing departments), you may want a menu like this:

- Advertisements
- Brochures, leaflets and flyers
- Websites
- Point of Sale design

Set up multiple website pages and break up your portfolio into these categories. Then link each category heading to the relevant page of your portfolio, so browsers can find what they want by clicking through. Remember, people are online to save time, so respect it.

2. Be specific about additional services you offer
As you have seen, the type of services you offer should dictate the structure of your website and how you present your portfolio.

But you may not be able to sample everything in your repertoire. Maybe you offer additional services that cannot easily be demonstrated in a portfolio. Maybe there are areas of design you are competent in but don’t have anything to show (in which case it’s a good idea to work on a mock-brief for the sake of expanding your portfolio).

This kind of information is too important to leave out, so make sure you include it in your homepage copy. Remember that busy people won’t necessarily ‘read’ your website, they are more likely to scan it for useful information. So don’t embed your additional services in lines of prose, elevate them to the top and set them into a list, like this

Other services I offer …
- Design concept development
- Design consultation
- Archiving

List everything you are prepared to offer to new clients. If you have other contacts who specialize in different areas of the artwork business, it’s a good idea to list their services too, like this.

Ask me about …
- Illustration
- 3D design
- Animated websites and presentations
- Photography
- Copywriting

This not only helps you establish yourself as a core contact for your clients, it will also encourage your friends to list you as one of their contacts, helping you to find more work.

If your list of services is looking thin on the ground, you may want to consider adding a few more strings to your bow. Here’s just a few more services you can offer without needing to find expert training:

Offer a proofreading service.
Clients often fear seeing mistakes when it’s too late to rectify them, especially in printed publicity. For $250 you can enroll yourself in a decent one-day proofreading course, or just print out the common proof-reading symbols and tutorials from the web. Then you can offer a service that will come as a relief to many clients.

Set up a good FTP site.
Clients in international companies often need to share design files with colleagues all over the world, where sending disks takes valuable time. Even big Fortune 500 companies may have archaic IT departments, where files stored on internal FTP sites may only have a limited retention time before they are automatically deleted to save space. If you can provide an easy way of transferring and sharing files, clients will want to know about it.

Set up an archive for your clients.
Store everything you receive and do for your clients. Then they can count on you for images and past files at any time, instead of going to expensive repro agencies. This boosts your chances of getting hired over someone less organized.

Archive all the royalty free images you use.
Over time, you’ll have a bank of royalty free photos that you can use in your graphic design assignments. Save your clients money on images, and you’ll be their designer of choice.

Offer a photography service.
Your design assignments may call for specific photos you can take yourself without the help of a freelance photographer. In most cases, you don’t need expensive equipment, just need a decent digital camera and a few good lights. Read up on your photography, buy the bare minimum, and offer ‘photography’ as one of your additional services.

Offer a copywriting service.
Copywriting is a necessary skill to have in order to promote your freelance services, so it makes sense that you spend some time brushing up on the craft.

It’s also the perfect service to integrate into your design offer, especially if you design for the marketing sector. In the promotions arena, design and copywriting go hand-in-hand. Offering copywriting not only saves your clients time and money, it also promises better results because one person is handling both the “look” and the “voice” of the publicity.

Most designers are put off from copywriting, but unlike other forms of writing, it’s easy to learn. My free tutorial [www.copywriting-designers.com/free_tutorial.html] takes you through the first steps (and shows you how to write good self-promotion copy in the process).

3. Give a brief summary of each item in your portfolio.
Browsers will be more interested in seeing your work than reading about it. But it’s often helpful for clients to know what the original brief was, who the design was targeted at, and what the results were. This gives them a sense of how well you can respond to a brief. So with each sample of work, add a caption that summarizes:

- Who it’s for – How does the look of the design respond to the taste/needs of the target audience? What age are the target audience? Male or female? Nationality? Social demographic? What do they want to know?

- What the design needed to achieve – What was the purpose of the design? To sell? To inform? To instruct? Were there any special requirements in the brief that informed how this should be achieved?

- The result – Did your design help your client to achieve his/her goals? If so, can you add any specific or statistical information as to how it did this? Can you add any good testimonials from your client?

4. Personalize your introduction copy.
Your website will need some introduction copy to head-up your homepage. Too many designers waste this opportunity by writing inappropriate copy about themselves. ‘Me, Me, Me’ copy isn’t very attention-grabbing—your potential clients want to know what you can do for them.

To do this, you need to build a picture of your potential clients. What kind of work are they in? What can you do to help them do their job better? What are they looking for in a designer? You need to know what will appeal to them in order to whet their appetites for your work, so do your research.

When you come to write your introduction copy, be sure to use the word ‘you’ as much as possible. This helps to establish a friendly tone of voice that speaks to the individual not the audience.

5. Think about your offer.
As mentioned above, prospective clients want to know what you can do for them. To address this, you need to know what their needs are, then say how your service responds to those needs.

Start by drawing up a features/benefits table for yourself (exemplified below), then use this information to inform your homepage copy.

Example of ‘features’ and ‘benefits’:

Feature
I specialize in print, web, 3D, and Flash design.
Benefit
I work across media, so you get one consistent look for your whole campaign, with everything in on time.

Feature
I use state of the art computing equipment.
Benefit
I have the best equipment, so you can be sure your project will run smoothly right up to finished piece.

Feature
I have international customers.
Benefit
My design has global appeal, so you get more effective promotions in your overseas markets.

Feature
I include proof-reading as part of my service.

Benefit
My free proof reading service saves you time and money, and gives you the confidence that your finished publicity will be free from costly mistakes.