For the longest time, I operated solely on social media, with no website, and although that was much simpler times, in terms of evolving as a designer, I can look back now and say it was a hindrance to my progress.
The impression that I was leaving potential clients was that I was more of a hobbyist and not a professional. And with that, the clients I was attracting were not good fits, nor did they accumulate reasonably paid projects.
I was not using the advantages of owning a website to communicate what I do as a designer, what makes me unique and why the services I offer are second to none.
Today, I’ll be sharing some of the top benefits (in my opinion) of owning a website as a designer to showcase your talent.
1) Increasing your discoverability
Coupled with a strong social media presence, owning a website can massively improve your online visibility and discoverability.
Search engines are one of the main ways you can drive organic traffic toward your website. The aim is to land first-page results through search engines like Google, using relevant keywords in your content relating to your specialism and the audience you’re trying to attract.
Now, this might sound like complete gobbledygook. If you’re new to this sort of thing, I can’t blame you – it took me some time to understand the basics.
A few pointers that should help you:
- Picture the perfect client. What do you think they’d be searching to find an ideal designer to hire? Write out keywords or phrases you think they’d search, search them, and see what pops up.
- If the results you’re getting are of designers like you, specialists in your area, analyse what they’re doing. Take the first five results from every search and take a few notes of what they do well.
- Disregard the first two results as these will be paid ads and will always appear at the top.
- Make sure you’re adding localisation to your search. Something along the lines of “Graphic Design Services [Insert your city/town]” then, the results will be from your area specifically.
After doing some research, have a go at creating your website title and description. SEO is something that you need to consider for every bit of content you produce, but practicing how to write out a good website title and description is a good start.
2) Choosing the right platform
You’re probably thinking right now, well, I don’t have any experience coding, so what hope do I have at building my website? We’re not in the stone age anymore so, snap out of it, man. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the almighty CMS (content management system).
CMS are platforms that allow you to put together a website without the need to learn how to code. In 2021 there are so many different types of CMS out there, and what I’d always recommend people to do is their research, aiming to find a platform that suits them and their needs.
Squarespace: allows you to put together a simple design with mobile optimisation being an automatic process that’s done behind the scenes, as and when you update your pages. Its features mainly consist of drag and drop modules, making it a preferred choice for beginners. Fun fact: I designed my first website on Squarespace!
Wix: Another very straightforward CMS to use, the main difference being that Squarespace’s drag and drop feature automatically snap modules in columns and rows, whereas Wix gives you the freedom of dropping modules anywhere on the page, which comes with its own set of pros and cons depending on your preference.
WordPress: A more advanced CMS, initially coming with a basic system to create pages. There is a learning curve, but you have endless freedom when it comes to building a website. WordPress allows you to browse through a marketplace of over 50,000 plugins that can be downloaded and installed instantly. These plugins used to simplify elements of your website like SEO optimisation, speed, and usability. If you don’t like the system that WordPress comes with as standard, you can replace this with a plugin, like Elementor, or Gutenberg page builder, for example.
Shopify: An eCommerce platform with a simple CMS, if you’re a designer that seeks to sell an abundance of products, this one’s for you. Shopify is one of the best options out there when it comes to creating an online store. Like WordPress, Shopify has a marketplace with thousands of apps to choose from, allowing you to add functionality where it’s lacking and modify your site as you wish.
All of these examples come with their own set of free and premium themes. Giving you a basis to work off of, so you do not have to create a website from scratch. You can pick a template and add your touch of flair to make it your own.
These are recommendations based on my experience using each platform.
The only real way you’ll know whether a platform suits your needs/goals is by trying before you buy. Open up a few trial accounts, most of which will give you 30 days to test out their features, giving you plenty of time to decide what will work.
The worst thing you could do is buy your domain name and hosting, pick your CMS, start using it, and realise that it doesn’t have the functionality you need. Now you’re stuck in a payment plan with a website you hate.
3) Never out of reach
Imagine a potential client that’s seen your work online and loves what you do but can’t find a way to contact you. How frustrating would that be? You can’t always rely on your social media profiles because, more often than not, that’s not how businesses will approach you.
From personal experience, my best projects have come directly from my website. My contact information is easy to get and in plain view for all to see.
Clients aren’t restricted when it comes to contacting me either. They can schedule a call with me, submit a form from my website, contact me directly via email, or, if they prefer, contact me via my socials. See how simple it is to reach me?
All of this is something you can implement within your website as well, so there’s no excuse – all you need is a simple contact page, and away you go. I guarantee if you take a moment to go back and research your competitors, they’ll have a contact section with various ways to reach them.
Take it that step further as well. If you work from a space that allows clients to visit you in person, why not include a map on your contact page? If someone is in the area, can see how easy it is to get to you and avoid the frustration of manually finding your building (and inevitably getting lost), that’s only going to benefit you.
4) Developing Presentation Skills
Remember when I spoke about how not having a website hindered my progress as a designer? It all boiled down to my (lack of) presentation skills, which having a website and seeing what great designers in the space are doing forced me to develop.
Just posting to social media, you rarely get the opportunity to create a fully-fledged case study. You are limited to the characters you can use, the amount of imagery, and for the most part, makes it impossible to give context behind your designs and process.
Having a website gives you the creative freedom to geek out when showcasing your designs. You can be as detailed as you like and show all the fine details that would often go unshown. Clients love this and rely on being able to see the ins and outs of your projects. How can they make a conscious decision without knowing how you work and seeing your creative solutions in action?
If you need some inspiration, feel free to check out my portfolio. Hopefully, that’ll give you some ideas on what you can do with your work!
5) Context behind who you’re and why you do what you do
Like your favourite superheroes (or villains), we all have an origin story. What attracted us to pursue a career in design, what we felt was missing from the marketplace that we could tap into and spread our proverbial wings.
Having a website gives you the perfect platform to talk about exactly who you’re as a designer and what sets you apart in a world full of thousands of creatives and, in the eyes of your ideal clients, other potential options to consider when hiring.
Clients want to know who they’ll be working with, what their personalities are, and whether they share an attitude that syncs with their business or not. Not a robot.
I’ve used my About Me page to explain how I started my career, why it is I love what I do and the passion I have for design, and, most importantly, what sets me apart from the competition.
If you want to convince someone that you’re the right fit for their project/s, you need to start by being an open book and speaking to that ideal client directly – letting them know exactly how passionate you are about what you do.
Writing about yourself is never an easy task. I get it, it sounds like you are giving yourself the ultimate pat on your back, filled with ego, and it seems very unnatural. Get over this feeling.
You’re unique, the services you provide are, and you need to confidently shout that from the rooftops to attract the right audience. There’s nothing egotistical about recognising your strengths, particularly when it comes to a craft you’ve worked so hard to master.
Do yourself a favour and create a dedicated section on your website, where you can speak about yourself, not your design skills, but the WHY behind what you do and the passion you try to bring with every project you take on.
- Use SEO to your advantage, be a local legend!
- Research CMS platforms, try and test, see what works for you
- Give your clients the option to choose how they contact you
- Polish your presentation skills, show your best work in the best light
- Get used to talking about yourself – you’re awesome