Hi, my name is Luchia Bloomfield. You probably don’t know me but I have been living off of my design business for the last year… remotely. My clients are in other countries and in most cases, I haven’t actually met them yet. I built a profitable business while traveling through Asia, the UK and Europe.
Building a business is hard. So much of it is about connecting with your clients—you have to, to be able to make the sale. When you remove the thing that makes it easiest to connect with people, face-to-face contact, it makes building a business even harder.
So how I did manage it? I hope I can share with you a number of tips that will help you grow your business in the same way I have. A lot of it will be things you may already know, some things you may not know about, but all the tips I have are effective. They work. I’ve doubled my income in the last year and will not be returning to the workforce in the foreseeable future.
1. How to start marketing yourself
My first tip is to start marketing yourself. Many people, particularly small businesses, think you only need to market yourself today to see value tomorrow. I wish this were true as it would cut down on a lot of my weekly work, but it’s not—you really need to work to get people’s attention, and you need to do the work consistently so you can keep it.
It’s also a struggle to find time to run a business because you’re too busy working in it. This I understand completely being a sole-operator, but as a business owner it’s your job to ensure the business continues to run profitably, or else hire someone to do that. I’ll assume you’re owning, managing and working in your own business so this post is written with that in mind.
Once a week, without exception, I devote a day to growing my business. Some people do more and, of course, the more work you put in the greater results you will see, but I don’t have time for more than one day as I’m also the only designer doing the work. I’m happy with the amount of work I have and the type of clients I’m getting, but if that changes increasing my marketing will be the first thing I do.
These are the following ways I market my business online and they are only a few of the options. Don’t feel like you need to limit to only these ideas, but they are a good place to start.
2. Connect with clients via email (CRM)
Every client I’ve ever worked or had contact with is in my CRM. My list is the core of my business, even more so than the service I offer. Every couple of weeks, I pick two or three people to email and I check in with how they’re doing. Being a designer, I provide the service of making something look good, work better and achieve business goals. This is really easy to follow up on because the results are quantifiable.
If the website doesn’t look like how I designed it, I ask them if they would like me to go through it and update it so it aligns with their brand because I understand they are very busy. If, when I run it through tests, it’s loading slowly or performing poorly, I offer to help them improve it. This is all done as a complimentary service of working with me. I know it won’t take long to do these things, and it’s a nice touch.
As for the goals, this all depends on what our initial meetings were about and what the goals were for the company. If we aren’t meeting goals, I ask them how do they think we could improve it. They hired me originally to help them achieve their goals and if they’re not… well then I haven’t done my job.
Mostly I don’t get much extra work from this. But I do stay in the minds of my clients and I know that by continuing to keep contact with them I show them that I care about them and their business, which is far better than offering a one-off service and then being forgotten. Repeat clients bring the money in.
3. Email Newsletters are really easy with MailChimp
Every business website should be blogging consistently—not only is it a good way to bring in clients, it’s always nice to see a business that takes their industry serious enough to write about it. I hate when I see an empty blog on a professional website.
If you’re blogging, you should also be offering an email subscription service so that you don’t need to rely on people returning to your website without prompting. This also is another good KPI to track and one I use to work out what sort of content I should be providing to my readers. Once a week or every two weeks should be enough for a campaign.
4. Social Media: should you use it?
The most typical and also least successful variety of online marketing. In my experience, social media is great for connecting with other professionals within your industry but not so great at getting clients. But that doesn’t mean you won’t get work through it—it’s just a different type of client.
5. Facebook: Post to personal account or business page?
Prior to 2014, I was using a Facebook business page to share my content but Facebook’s new algorithms mean your fans see very little of your content, and this became redundant and a waste of time. You may have more success than me, and you probably will given that I had under 500 fans, but one of the biggest traffic drivers for me has been sharing content on my personal Facebook, not on a business page.
Some people might think this in poor taste, but the content I share is relevant to a lot of different people. I write about travel, photography, design and general thoughts that I have—how do you classify the target audience with such broad topics?
Facebook lets me reach lots of different people and if the topic I’m writing about interests them, then they can choose to view it. Otherwise, they keep scrolling.
Because I’ve been sharing all of my posts, I regularly get messages and emails asking questions about travel and places to go. This is fantastic because I love helping people and it means my experiences are inspiring others to do the same thing. Awareness creates interest and interest often leads to interesting opportunities.
6. Network with other professionals on Twitter
I’ve never gotten a client from using Twitter. But I have connected with a lot of professionals and been given some incredible opportunities just by talking to people.
I think asking for work experience, mentoring and feedback, even as you become a more developed designer, is so important. Without seeking personal growth, you cannot expect to grow as a business. Having an open mind and being willing to learn from others is important, no matter what your age.
7. Find a subreddit in your niche
Controversial maybe, but I’ve seen some good results from Reddit, mostly with metrics and a couple of project proposals that I turned down due to not being the best designer for the project. As I said with Facebook, awareness creates interest and without interest, you’re just another business that nobody has ever heard of.
The great thing about Reddit as well as its various sub-forums, called subreddits. It’s almost impossible to not find one that relates to your industry, participate and create a reputation in. There’s a subreddit for everyone.
8. Blogging also means commenting on others’ blogs
Besides doing your own blogging, you should also be commenting on other professionals’ blogs. Creating relationships with others and genuinely being interested in what other people do as a business is so important. There are not many people or business owners that care about what’s happening outside their own office.
How does it feel when you see your views go up on your website? What about when people start commenting on your posts? How does it feel to get emails asking questions about what you’re doing?
It feels good. It feels great, actually. So share the positive vibes, and you’ll probably get more in return than you’d ever imagined. For example, SEO backlinks and exposure to viewers from the other blogger’s website are just two benefits from commenting.
Be the difference. Be the nice guy/girl. Find ways of helping people that don’t necessarily return value to you directly. Being a good person often brings good things back to you, regardless of whether you believe in karma or not.
9. Sharing on forums
Another really good way of connecting with people is through forums. I’m part of a number of different forums involving traveling, photography and design. I like all of these things, enjoy reading what other people write about them and occasionally have something interesting to share.
This is all depends on the industry you’re in, so I won’t list specific forums but if you can participate in a forum by providing advice on anything, I would definitely suggest doing it.
I really hope that these tips have given you some help and ideas about where to go next with your marketing. Every input should have an output, and marketing is something that should be a high-priority concern for your business. These are the mediums that have helped me. If you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lucy is a designer, photographer and writer, but mostly just a doer of things. She started and grew her design business remotely while traveling the world. You can read more on her website http://www.luchia.com.au/.