7 Practical Ways to Gain Exposure as a Designer

New freelancers and students who are just coming out of school are often faced with the challenge of gaining exposure for their work. The exposure is often needed for securing new client projects, but it can also be needed to help with landing a job or just building name recognition within the industry.

With so many talented designers out there already it can seem like a daunting task to grab any exposure for yourself. In this article we’ll look at some practical ways that any designer can improve their exposure. Implement a few of these ideas and you will be well on your way to reaching your goals of landing new clients and building name recognition. Several of the suggestions involve social media and/or blogging, so if you don’t already participate in those activities now is the time to start.

1. Design Galleries

One of the best ways to gain exposure and to build a name for yourself is to let your work do the speaking. Your portfolio site is not only a place to show off your work from client projects, the design of your portfolio site itself can lead to loads of exposure. Web design galleries like CSS Mania, Best Web Gallery, and hundreds of others showcase top quality work of designers from all over the world. Being showcased on a few of the leading galleries can provide exposure to thousands of people.

Likewise, design blogs like our own often publish posts for inspiration that showcase brilliant design examples. Being showcased on a few popular blogs can bring an equal amount of exposure, if not more. Many times blogs find sites to showcase by browsing web design galleries, so having your portfolio site approved to the major design galleries can lead to even more exposure through blogs.

In addition, gallery/portfolio sites like Behance, deviantART, and Carbonmade allow you to set up a portfolio and display all kinds of work, not just web designs.

2. Guest Post at Major Design Blogs

In the web and graphic design niche there are countless blogs that accept guest post submissions. In some cases authors are paid, and other times the exposure and a link may be the incentive for the writer. Whether it is paid or not, having guest posts published on leading design blogs is one of the best ways to quickly gain exposure in the industry. This provides the opportunity to display your abilities and your expertise while teaching or discussing a particular topic.

With leading blogs that reach hundreds of thousands, and sometimes millions, of visitors per month, there is plenty of opportunity here. You may think that you would only reach other designers by writing for design blogs, but that is not always the case. One of the longest term clients that we’ve ever had found us through a post published at Smashing Magazine. Those guest posts that you have published will continue to provide exposure into the future as they show up in search results.

3. Release Freebies

By creating and distributing a high-quality freebie you can pick up a lot of links to your site (where it is available for download), leading to visitors and exposure. Freebies aren’t great for directly leading to a lot of client work, but they are effective for building name recognition and for strengthening the quality of your domain through increased links to your site.

The possibilities for freebies are huge. Some popular items include PSD files, WordPress themes, icon sets, vectors, Photoshop brushes, and textures. Readers love to be able to get free items that they can put to good use, and many website owners and bloggers are happy to link to free resources. They also tend to be shared via social media.

If you’re dedicating the time to create something useful for others, you may also need to help get the ball rolling for promotion. If you have a blog with a decent following or social media profiles (like Twitter, Facebook, or Google+) with a large following you may be able to simply publish it on your blog and share it via social media. With a large enough following it should take off from there. But if you are looking for more exposure, chances are you don’t already have a large following. So here are a few things you can do to gain some momentum for your freebie:

  • Contact bloggers and send them a link to your free resource
  • Contact influential social media users and send them a link to your freebie
  • Build a network of friends who will help each other with social media promotion
  • Write a guest post for a leading blog and link to your freebie in the author bio
  • Write a guest post for a leading blog with a link to your freebie in the post content
  • Have the freebie distributed from a popular blog in addition to, or instead of, being distributed from your site

4. Write for Magazines, Newspapers, or Other Publications

While blogs and online publications can be great sources of exposure, offline publications should not be ignored. There are several magazines for designers that accept article submissions. Having an article published in a respected magazine would not only provide exposure for yourself, but it would also help to build your credibility when mentioned in a bio or on your portfolio site.

If you are targeting local clients and looking for exposure to business owners in the area, writing for your newspaper is a great option. Many papers are open to publishing articles in the business section that would provide tips or suggestions for business websites. This can be a great way to get your name out there to potential clients and it helps to build credibility as you will be seen as an expert on the subject.

5. Provide Training (In Person or Webinars)

Teaching others is one of the best ways to brand yourself as an expert and to pick up new clients. In a way, this is what you are doing when publishing guest posts at other blogs and writing for printed publications. Another way of doing that is through live training, either in person or online through webinars. The possible topics are endless. You could either offer training that will help other designers to improve their craft, or you could provide training to people who would fall into your target market for clients.

Offering training for designers can obviously help to improve exposure with the industry and to build your name recognition, although it likely won’t produce as many clients as offering a training session to people who would fall into your target market.

The training could be offered in person at a seminar, conference, or chamber of commerce event. Webinars are relatively easy to setup with services like GoToWebinar and AnyMeeting. If you are using training as a way to gain clients you’ll want to offer valuable information for free during the training, but have some type of extended offer or personalized services that can be purchased for those who want to go beyond the free training. The quality of the free training is then your sales tool to convince attendees that your services will truly be worth the price.

6. Write a Book

Another outstanding way to position yourself as an expert on a subject is to publish a book. Being a published author tends to give you as much or more credibility than just about anything else you can do. While published books are great for this, e-books are also excellent for gaining exposure. Anyone can produce and distribute an e-book, so it might not give you the same type of credibility as having your book picked up by a publisher. But in terms of getting people to your website, an e-book can be extremely valuable.

Free e-books are often linked to on blogs, websites, and social media. Those that are truly valuable often get recommendations and priceless exposure for the author. And the costs associated with producing and distributing an e-book are very small, with the exception of the cost of your time to write it.

7. Dribbble and Forrst

In recent years designers have flocked to new social networking sites like Dribbble and Forrst. These sites are not only great for getting inspiration from the work of other designers, but they also provide opportunities to get exposure for your own work. You’ll need to get an invite to join either of these sites. You can submit a request for an invite, or if you are lucky you may be able to get one from someone you know or from a contest somewhere.

What’s Your Experience?

What methods have you used to gain exposure? If you have advice for our readers please feel free to share it in the comments.


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7 Responses

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  • Jason Ansley, May 11, 2012

    I think this applies to a lot of areas of life and business. Not just design. Anytime you can write a book, speak, get yourself in front of an audience (even if it is just one person) regardless of what it is that you do, you will gain not only exposure, but experience, and you may even “level up”!

  • Andy @ FirstFound, May 11, 2012

    On the Freebies point – a free WordPress template is always a great idea.

  • Steven Snell, May 11, 2012

    I agree. In fact, we’ve got some free themes in the works to release here.

  • Gerwin van der Feijst, May 13, 2012

    Our advise is to get in touch with charitive organisations. Most of the time they have small budgets but are in need for a good site or logo. By helping them at a lower price you can design, get more experienced and they can become an ambassador for your company when they are happy with your work. Projects like this are more likely to be written about in local news so the exposure works also in free PR.

  • jhon@serpholic, May 15, 2012

    I think Forum is another important tool that we can leverage to present ourselves to the world. These forums consists both the buyers and service providers and if these forums are leveraged wisely they can reap great benefits in pcoming days.

  • Krystal, February 13, 2013

    This article was very helpful I am a recent graduate for graphic design and here it is a year later and I am still struggling building projects and gaining exposure. I will start putting these steps into play. One thing I am learning from my research is that there is nothing wrong with sharing (freebies) Sharing is caring and obviously a way to gain exposure. (free) is not always bad.. lol :)

  • Tom van Nunen, March 14, 2013

    Hi Krystal,

    Maybe it is a good thing to look into sites that request students or ex-students for help with logos and other webdesign and graphic design. There are a lot of these kind of websites, so I am sure submitting many offer really helps.