How to Start & Grow Your Graphic Design Business I 8 Marketing Steps

Starting and growing your design business isn’t a walk in the park. You need to know about marketing, how to manage and run a business, how to deal with clients and you have to have patience, willing to learn from your mistakes and carry on!

But it is also true that many designers have been able to establish a successful graphic design business and in this article I will talk about 8 key marketing steps that will help you achieve that.

Now before we get into these key marketing steps, we have to know who are we marketing to? It is not enough to say “let’s market all businesses” as it is a marketing fundamental that if you talk to everyone, you talk to no one.

For the purpose of this article, let us say you will work with authors. 

Step 1

You would start by looking through blogs and Google to see what type of marketing problems authors have. Design is part of the marketing cycle of any business as it is their way to attract people in a visual way. So looking through blogs for authors, we can see that they need to constantly attract new book readers. You want to take note of this in a simple word document so you can refer back to this.


Step 2

After you have gotten a sense for the challenges these authors face, you want to ensure your own website speaks clearly to them right from the start. It could say something like “Create a book design that constantly attracts new book readers” or “Helping you to attract new book readers through my designs”. It is important to not just say “Hello I am Jo Designer and I am great.” Marketing yourself is all about making your ideal client realize they need you to survive in their business.


Step 3

The next step is to ensure you have enough design samples that showcase your skills that are relatable and applicable to their industry. If you have great messaging saying how you can help them attract new book readers and then you have bad designs, you can attract all the clients in the world, but you will never close them. So it is vital to create projects that showcase your skills if you have never worked in this field before. And while you can communicate that these are practice projects, it is important that you make up a scenario to show what the pretend client’s problem was and your thought process of why you designed the book that way.


Step 4

You then want to put content on your website that is applicable to your industry. So talking about the importance of book cover design in a blog. Samples of good and bad ones, what colors work per genre of books, what works best for eBook sales and what works best for bookstore sales. Populate your blog with great content. At best it will help your website rank on google searches, and get discovered that way. And at least it will help your visitors and potential clients to gain more trust on YOU as they see you understand their problems and industry.  

Step 5

Then you can take that content and put it into bite size pieces to put on your social media platform. Figure out which social platform your ideal clients are most on and use that as your channel. Don’t do Instagram just because that is what other designers are doing. Find the one that your ideal clients actually use. 

Step 6

Find other businesses who service authors and connect with them. Have meetings with them and tell them what you do and find out if you can help them do their job better. So for example, this man is a teacher for authors, so you can lend your services to his own clients to help them create better book designs. When you talk to these complementary businesses as I call them, you have to always angle it as helping them, not about how amazing you are. You should also learn from them, read their articles and immerse yourself in what they teach so you can get good ideas for your own content and put your own unique design spin on it. You can also offer to feature them on a resources page on your own website so that you are also helping them get in front of anyone who comes to your own website.

Step 7

You should then find online communities, in-person events and shows and meetups where a ton of your ideal clients will be. For books, since I worked in a publishing company for many years, I know there are tons of book conventions. And the authors are there at the booths. Go to these, interact, get to know them and yes this is what is often called “networking” and what a lot of people hate to do because it can be awkward if it is done incorrectly and we as designers just want to hide behind our computers, but if you don’t let people know how you can help them, how will they ever find you? In the online communities, you can post helpful tips and information that you find and answer questions related to what you do. And then for the in-person events and conventions, print up business cards, and just go up to people and ask how they are doing in their marketing of their books. Find out if they are having any difficulties and listen to them. Then explain how you help authors attract new book readers through your designs. Remember to keep it all about them and how your services help them.


Step 8

And while you are doing these actions, it is important to not overlook simple direct outreach with e-mails and messages. These take more volume and I created about how to do direct outreach using e-mails here. But they are a great way to do focused outreach at least an hour per day before you get a big inflow of clients from these other sources.

If you leave any of these points out, you will be failing to build the robust business that you are absolutely capable of having. It takes time and dedication and courage, but that is what life is about, right? Proving to ourselves that we can do things that we never dreamed to be possible.

Looking for more design clients?

This free guide can help you with tactics to get design clients. 


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