Growing your client base is one of the biggest challenges that independent designers face. Social media – when used in a strategic way – is a great tool that can help freelance creatives boost their profile, expand their network, and attract new clients.
Within a few short years, French illustrator Cécile Dormeau went from a couple hundred followers on Instagram to recently surpassing the 50,000 mark. On Facebook, she has over 12,000 Likes. Dormeau, whose clients include The Sunday Times, Google, Neon Magazine, Havas London and ASOS, said that having more followers on social media led to her getting featured on more blogs and magazines, which in turn led to new clients.
Thanks to Instagram, a lifestyle brand reached out to collaborate with Dormeau to produce a T-shirt and a card. Last year, after The Huffington Post wrote an article about her charming illustrations depicting women and the way they perceive their bodies, she gained more than 10,000 followers on Instagram and was contacted by an illustrator agent.
Here, with the help of Dormeau, we outline five tips on how designers and illustrators can tap into the power of social media to find and connect with potential clients.
Don’t be everywhere, pick your platforms carefully
Dormeau is active on Instagram, Facebook and Tumblr because she thinks they’re the best platforms for showcasing visual work. “These channels are the most popular ones for illustrators and designers for sharing pictures,” she explained. “I could also use Snapchat, but Instagram is my favourite because I can share pictures with the community in the easiest and fastest way. And I feel people check their Instagram more frequently than their Tumblr, for example.”
To avoid creating more social media accounts than you can handle, it’s important to first figure out which channels are best suited for showcasing your work and reaching your target audience. Focus on a select few so you can consistently offer quality content and not spread yourself too thin.
Showcase your creative process through posts
Even if you’ve created social media profiles solely for professional purposes, your audience will want to see more than just posts promoting your work. Especially in the creative industries, people want to know more about your inspirations and the process behind it.
Every so often, Dormeau will share her professional work on social media, but she mostly uses the channels to give sneak peeks into her personal projects and creative process. “Although I often work digitally, I’ll share doodles from my sketchbook on social media to show different approaches and techniques that I use. Some clients really like seeing this other aspect, too,” she said.
Consider posting a video that’s a timelapse of the progress of a logo design, or a preliminary sketch for an illustration, or a sculpture that sparked a new product design. Tell a story with your captions. Offer a behind-the-scenes look of your workspace. Take your audience on a creative journey.
Create a posting schedule
In order to reap the benefits of social media, staying consistent and persistent when sharing posts is key. Dormeau said that posting regularly is a way to stay top of mind with clients and prospects. “I think trying to share several posts per week is the best,” she added. But bear in mind that quality over quantity also applies to posting on social media. If you need help managing and scheduling your posts, check out some handy tools such as Hootsuite, Later and Buffer.
Engage with your audience and the community
In order to grow a following on any form form of social media, engagement with your audience and the community is crucial. “Using some hashtags is always good,” explained Dormeau, “Even if it doesn’t necessarily bring you clients, it can bring you new followers who become interested in your work.”
Try using relevant and trending hashtags you want your work to be categorized under and associated with. But be wary of being too hashtag-heavy in posts, as that can also lead to people unfollowing you. Other ways to engage include following creatives you look up to, leaving comments on other users’ content, responding to people’s comments on your content and tagging other relevant accounts in your posts.
Use social media to get your creative juices flowing
The thing about social media is that it can be a slippery slope to spending too much time managing your online persona and not enough time doing the actual work. So be sure to monitor the amount of time you’re taking to manage your accounts. Perhaps you can flip the table and even use posting on social media as a motivation for creating more personal work.
As I got more followers who were interested in my drawings and realized these people were checking their Instagram everyday, it really pushed me to stay creative on a daily basis. Trying to post a new drawing everyday has really helped me stay lively in my art and ideas, and to always push further.” – Dormeau