Guide to Blogging for Freelance Designers

by Steven Snell

September 24, 2008 in Business/Freelance

Since I started designing for clients, by far the best type of promotion or marketing that I have done is the development of the blog at Vandelay Website Design. The blog was originally planned to just be an occasional article that would ideally draw some search traffic from potential clients, however, in just a few months it became much more than that when I started to understand the potential of blogging and how to produce results.

Although I never set out to use the blog in the way that I do now, it has helped to take the site’s traffic from almost non-existent to around 400,000 – 500,000 pageviews per month. The traffic is nice, but ultimately most designers are more interested in generating leads through their website. Fortunately, this is also likely to happen with a successful blog as you will gain more exposure and more visitors will find your posts in the search engines.

5 Reasons Why Designers Should Blog:

1 – Name Recognition

Building name recognition is rather difficult as a freelancer or a designer for a small firm, since there are so many designers around. One proven way to get your name out there is to show your knowledge and your abilities through your blog. One of the best current examples of this is Chris Spooner. While there are plenty of talented graphic designers out there, one of the reasons Chris stands out is because of his popular blog where he shares a lot of his knowledge with readers. As more people recognize your name, you’ll start to get more leads and referrals.

2 – Exposure

Many designers have incredible portfolios, but they just aren’t being seen by enough people to make a real difference. One of the best effects of having a blog is the traffic that can come as a result. Simple, small portfolio sites are difficult to market, but a blog that’s updated frequently will draw visitors and keep them coming back. Once the blog is getting the visitors to the site, if you want to convert those visitors into leads, you’ll need to get them to your portfolio to see your work, or to at least fill out a contact form.

3 – Search Traffic

As I said earlier, this was my original intent with blogging, and it has worked better than I ever imagined. A blog will help you attract search visitors for a few reasons. First, blogs are great for drawing inbound links, and inbound links will boost search rankings. Second, consistent blog posting will add a tremendous amount of content to the site over a period of time, and the more content you have, the more opportunities there are to be found.

4 – Build Credibility with Potential Clients

Potential clients have a lot of options when it comes to hiring a web designer. A small portfolio site will not give you the same opportunities to build rapport and credibility as a blog. When potential clients arrive at your site and they read through some of the content on your blog, hopefully they’ll have a bit more trust in you than they would in someone else. Blogging tends to be personal in nature, and those types of connections are common.

5 – You’ll Learn New Things

Maintaining an active blog will stretch you in ways that will improve your skills and make you a better designer. Coming up with new ideas for posts isn’t always easy, and maybe you’ll need to try some new things and teach yourself as you’re developing content. You’ll also learn a lot about networking and various ways that you can grow your business through collaboration with other bloggers.

9 Tips for Improving Your Business with Your Design Blog

1 – Provide Real Value – Don’t Hold Back

One of the temptations for new bloggers is to only give away so much information for free. In the competitive world of web design, you’ll be more successful if you allow yourself to stand out by providing the best information and content possible. Although you’re giving something away for free, you’ll wind up getting more business in return and indirectly benefiting from your willingness to share. Those designers that hold back and only provide so-so content won’t stand out enough in a crowded niche to make a real impact.

2 – Don’t Blatantly Sell Your Services on the Blog

Although the emphasis of this post is to help designers get more business through their blogs, the idea is not to focus on selling your services. It is perfectly acceptable to mention your services or your availability from time-to-time, but the vast majority of your posts should just be great content that others want to read. No one wants to subscribe to a blog that only publishes info about services that are for sale. If you do want to promote your services directly through the blog, limit the amount that you do this so that it will actually be effective when you need it.

3 – Work on Building Your Name

Get involved in the design blogging community and try to get your name out there. Once you’ve established your name as a respected designer, the business will start to come. Blogging is all about interacting with readers and with other bloggers, so building your name will be a natural progression if you’re active with your blog.

4 – Network with Other Designers and Bloggers

One of the most beneficial aspects of blogging is the contacts and relationships that you will make. When I started blogging I had never really given this a thought, but looking back over the past year or so, the networking aspect has probably been the most valuable aspect of blogging for me long term. You’ll be able to make connections with other designers that you can bounce ideas off of, and you’ll have a chance to meet other service providers where there may be opportunities for collaboration. Networking takes some effort and a willingness to be proactive, but the benefits can be significant and long-lasting.

5 – Write Guest Posts

If you have the time to write guest posts for other design blogs, I highly recommend doing so. When I first started blogging one of my primary methods of marketing was doing guest posts. After a while of writing for other blogs you will have gotten your work in front of a very large and diverse audience, and you will have a solid network of contacts with other design bloggers. Getting to know the other bloggers that you’re writing for and building a connection is one of the best parts of guest posting, and the inbound links to your own site/blog are nice too.

6 – Focus On What You Do Best

There’s obviously no shortage of content in the design community, although there is always room for more if it is unique and high quality. Try to take your own approach rather than just following the crowd. In order to get the best results you’ll need to focus on what you do best. You may be good at writing articles, discussing design theories and trends, writing tutorials, or just about any other type of content. Don’t feel the need to be like other popular blogs, share what you have to offer and the results will come.

7 – Link Freely

One of the great things about the design community is the willingness to help others and the interest in everyone’s success. A great number of design bloggers are very active with linking to other quality blogs, and very often what goes around comes around. Link out to others and they’ll likely notice and maybe you’ll start getting some links too. Many new bloggers make the common mistake of primarily linking to the biggest and most popular blogs. While there’s nothing wrong with these links, if you’re hoping they’ll notice your site and link back to you, you’re probably wasting your time. Instead, focus on other growing blogs that are in the same situation as you and they’ll be much more likely to notice and appreciate the link. Popular blogs just get too many inbound links to really pay much attention to them.

8 – Be Consistent

If you’re going to use the blog as one of your main methods for promoting your portfolio site, be sure to post consistently. You don’t have to post everyday, but avoid long stretches where there is no new content. Subscribers want to read something from you and new posts will also bring in more new readers.

9 – Keep the Blog at the Same Domain as Your Portfolio

Almost everything that’s been written in this article assumes the basic fact that your blog is actually part of your portfolio site, not one Blogspot or WordPress.com. Transferring readers from the blog to your portfolio and developing the search engine benefits of blogging require you to have the blog as part of the portfolio site. Avoid the temptation to quickly get a blog up and running by using one of the free services that will not be at your domain.

Powered by Shutterstock

About Steven Snell

Stephen Snell is the owner and editor of Vandelay Design.Connect with Stephen on google+

  • Sonali Agrawal

    Sep 24th

    This is surely the best post I have read today. To the point, accurate and inspiring. Just the right post at the right time. Thank you guys!!

  • Jan

    Sep 24th

    Very good article, thank you!

    Helpful coincidence that FreelanceSwitch now has an article on that topic as well.

    (It is .co.uk for Spooner, not .com ;))

  • Steven Snell

    Sep 24th

    Jan,
    Yeah, I just saw that post on FSw. Guess I should have published mine yesterday. Oh well.

    Thanks for pointing out the link issue, it’s fixed.

  • Vladimir

    Sep 25th

    Very good inspiring post! Thanks!

  • Rob Barrett

    Sep 25th

    Some great tips here. I was just about to go to bed, but I thought, “I’ll just read one more post tonight…” I’m glad it was this one I came across! I’m giving my site a makeover at the moment, with a view to making my blog one of the primary functions, so these are all very relevant to me right now.
    Cheers, Steven!

  • Steven Snell

    Sep 25th

    Rob,
    I’m glad the post can help you right now.

  • Time Tracker

    Sep 29th

    Nice post Steven! I’m particularly glad you pointed out the ‘just how much info am I going to give away for free’ point, as it’s often a delicate balancing act. I’ve found time and time again that the more you put out there the more you get in return. By offering free tips and knowledge, you’re often opening the doors to valid and meaningful discussions with a wide variety of people that are obviously interested in the same topic. By putting an article out there for the world via a blog, you’re also likely to learn a few things you didn’t already know either via comments or emails that come in. Your point #4 doesn’t address this directly, but hints at it, in so much as becoming the voice of authority on a topic you show great passion for. By putting your knowledge out there, potential clients and other designers alike will come to see your blog as the go-to source for knowledge. Eventually, some of these will convert to clients.

  • Doug C.

    Sep 30th

    Nice article. I was wondering if you could elaborate on those “design blogging communities”? Are these forums you’re talking about? I couldn’t find anything like it anywhere.

  • Steven Snell

    Sep 30th

    Hi Doug,
    When I refer to getting involved in the design blogging community I’m referring to leaving comments at other design blogs, getting to know other design bloggers, participating at niche social media sites for designers, using other community related sites (deviantART for example) and even being active at community news sections of blogs (like the one here at DesignM.ag). Forums are another example, although I personally prefer to be involved at blogs, so I rarely visit forums.

  • Doug C.

    Oct 1st

    Ah, ok, now I understand. Thanks for clearing that up. I already do that so I’m all set with that one. I try to steer clear of DemonArt. That place gives me the creeps. I’m also hooked up with the social sites, too.

  • Soh

    Oct 3rd

    Awesome advice. New blogger here. :-)

  • kitster79

    Oct 6th

    I’m about to release my newly revamped portfolio website. After reading this, I am thinking that what I really need is a blog. I guess my quesiton is, should I forget about my regular portfolio website and just style my blog after it? It seems pretty redundant to have a regular website and a blog also. Why have both if I can showcase my work in my blog site?

  • Steven Snell

    Oct 6th

    Kitster79,
    I definitely recommend that you keep everything at one URL. If your blog is building links and drawing search traffic that won’t benefit your portfolio if it’s at a separate URL. A good example is http://davidairey.com.

  • Doug C.

    Oct 7th

    Soh, I had my portfolio site online long before I began my blog. When I designed my blog I followed the same layout scheme for continuity’s sake and just added a “blog” link on the folio site. I think it is important to keep them separate so people don’t get confused – the folio site is for business (showcasing my work and services), and the blog is a personal place where I can share my love of the craft and write tutorials and articles on design.

  • Mokokoma Mokhonoana

    Oct 19th

    I think one shouldn’t forget the overall purpose of their website is to sell their expertise AND then their thoughts(blogging)… not the other way around!

    Great tips…

  • Alena

    Dec 10th

    I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first

    comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this

    blog very often.

    Alena

    http://www.freegrantguru.com

  • RyJek

    Mar 15th

    Brilliant. Very usefull I must admit. Although as boring and continually coming back question that may be – why do you leave out twitter out of it? Can be a great asset for the blog and generating traffic etc.

    Anyway, enough of beeing a wise-ass. Once again – v. good post.

  • James Lord Bard

    Mar 22nd

    Fantastic article. I’m a design student at the moment, and I find posts like this so useful in orienting myself to the industry and to blogging about design that it blows my mind. Thank you!

  • Traffic

    Apr 1st

    I just wanted to say that I love this site

  • naveed ahmad

    Dec 21st

    very very informative :) thanks for sharing your ideas and creative ways :)

  • TordDesign

    Dec 22nd

    Excellent article!

    This is really useful for a new freelance designer as me. Thanks a lot!

  • Bo Alexander

    Feb 21st

    I really like when people are expressing their opinion and thought. So I like the way you are writing

  • Ken Reynolds

    Jun 8th

    Nice advice, thanks.
    The hardest part of it all is consistency. Which you pointed out. Keeping the quality of the posts high and often is a big challenge.

    I love the interaction with readers and hearing reactions to my own thoughts.

  • Leave a Comment

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *