One of the biggest challenges for new designers and freelancers (and even for those who aren’t new) is simply getting their work seen. You may be able to produce an excellent level of quality, but if no one sees it you’ll probably be wishing you had more work. Here is a list from my experience of a few things that can help to increase exposure to your portfolio.
UPDATE: We recently launched a gallery dedicated to showcasing the best portfolio sites – Folio Focus.
1. Get Your Site Featured in Design/CSS Galleries
There are literally hundreds of design galleries out there, and they provide an outstanding opportunity to get some exposure to your portfolio site. If you scroll through the sites featured at most design galleries you’ll see that a decent percentage of them are portfolio sites from designers. Those who are able to get featured in some of the larger, popular galleries will have their portfolio site seen by thousands of people. The only problem with these galleries is that a large percentage of their visitors are other diesgners, so your work may not be seen by as many people who are looking for a designer.
2. Start a Blog at the Same Domain
Blogging can also be an incredibly effective tool for bringing visitors to your portfolio site and to keep them coming back. A blog that publishes valuable content will attract subscribers, links, search engine traffic, social media traffic, and personal recommendations. While building a successful blog will take time and effort, it can have a huge impact on how many people see your portfolio and how well you’re able to build your name in the industry.
Graphic designer David Airey is an excellent example of someone that has been able to gain tons of exposure to his portfolio through his blogging efforts. David is one of the first people that comes to mind when I think about graphic designers and logo designers, but I probably wouldn’t know much of anything about him without his blog.
3. Design for a Well-Known Client
One way to get your work seen is to piggyback on the success of your clients. Designing for the right high-profile client may give you the exposure that you need. Of course, landing work with these clients is not always easy and you may need to give a discount or free work in order to get their attention.
Unique Blog Design benefited greatly in its early days of existence by doing re-designs for both John Chow and Shoemoney. Doing work for clients with that type of audience got their name out very quickly.
As a designer, there are any number of different things you can create and giveaway, such as WordPress themes, HTML/CSS templates, icons, wallpapers, Photoshop brushes, etc. The purpose of giveaways is obviously not to make money directly, but rather to attract inbound links and referrals that will ultimately wind up in more people seeing your work, and hopefully more business.
Function has helped to build its reputation and exposure quickly in part by using a few giveaways. The free Outdoorsy Theme has gotten a good bit of attention, their set of 33 grunge brushes for Photoshop has also given them some exposure, and they also gave away a great icon set.
5. Be Interviewed
Being interviewed by another website, blog, or magazine can provide an excellent opportunity to get your name in front of others and to help them learn more about you as an individual. Most interviews will include a link to your portfolio site, so it can result in interested visitors who want to check out your work.
6. Network Profiles
There are a lot of different networking sites (see 17 websites to Boost Your Designer Profile) that allow designers to post a profile, and some will give you an opportunity to share some work from your portfolio. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to be active or to have a presence at all of them, but you can pick a few and use them to network with other designers and display your portfolio. Some of the more popular options include Behance, deviantART, Carbonmade, and Virb.
Rob Morris of Digital Mash is an excellent example of what can be done with one of these sites. He’s got a customized Virb page that I’ve seen mentioned in a few different places as an innovative and creative Virb page, and of course it gives great exposure to his work.
7. Flickr Groups
For designers, Flickr can be much more than a place to host your personal photos. Many designers use Flickr to get some exposure for their work, and there are hundreds or thousands of Flickr groups that have been created for designers to share their work with others (see 99 Flickr Groups for Design Inspiration).
An example of a Flickr group that can provide exposure for graphic designers is the PSDTUTS group. The group has nearly 3,000 members that share their best Photoshop creations, and PSDTUTS even displays recent submissions in their sidebar.
8. PPC Ads
I’ve mentioned Pay-Per-Click ads a few times in recent posts. I’m really not a salesman for Google or anything (and in fact I currently don’t have any active PPC campaigns as of the time this article is published), but there are very few other advertising methods that are so flexible. You can run PPC ads leading to a landing page on your portfolio site with any-sized budget and pause them when you don’t need any new clients. When you do need new clients, you can easily turn them back on.
9. Freelance Blogging
In addition to having your own blog at your portfolio site, you can reach large, diverse new audiences by writing for other blogs and publications. I’d had the privilege of writing for a number of different blogs over the past year and I have to say that it’s been one of the best things I have done to grow my business.
A recent example that comes to mind is Jeffrey Way of Detached Designs. I remember clicking through to see Jeffrey’s site after reading an article that he wrote for Freelance Switch. Since then I’ve also read his posts at Freelance Folder and NETTUTS.
What’s Worked for You?
From your experience, what have been the best methods to get people to see your portfolio?