15 Proven Ways to Gain Exposure for Your Design Portfolio

With so many web and graphic designers out there, getting the attention of potential clients and landing work can be a major challenge. The portfolio site is one of the most important assets for a designer, and an effective portfolio site will be an invaluable resource for keeping the business moving forward.

For many designers creating an attractive portfolio site is not the problem, getting people to see it is often much more of an issue. In order for the portfolio site to truly do it’s job it must be well-designed and it must attract the right types of visitors. In this post we’ll look at 15 things that you can do to increase the effectiveness of your portfolio site by getting more exposure for it.

1. Have a High-Quality Design for Your Portfolio Site

Not only is the quality of design of the items in your portfolio important, but the design of your portfolio site itself will also have a big impact on potential clients. Clients will expect a designer to have an attractive and usable site, otherwise they will question the work that the designer will be able to do for them.

When designing and coding your portfolio site be sure that it is getting all of the attention that it deserves. After all, it will be one of the most important aspects of your business, so it should not be rushed.

Impressive portfolio sites are great for encouraging visitors to contact you about their project, and they are also more likely to attract links and attention from other designers and bloggers.

Digital Labs

2. Get Published in Web Design/CSS Galleries

There are hundreds, possibly even thousands, of gallery sites out there that exist for the purpose of showcasing beautiful websites. Having your site featured in a few of the more popular galleries will help it to attract attention from other galleries and design blogs, which can result in a flood of new visitors and a significant number of inbound links.

Getting your site featured in design galleries isn’t easy, but if you’ve done your best work with your portfolio site you’ll probably want to submit it to some galleries. Submitting to galleries can be rather time consuming, so you may want to consider a service like Gallery Rush that submits your site to a bunch of galleries for a relatively small fee of $17.

Gallery Rush

In addition to general design and CSS galleries, there are several that focus on showcasing the best portfolio sites, including:

3. Start a Blog

Possibly the best way to attract visitors to your portfolio site is to start a blog on the same domain. As you maintain the blog and publish new content your site will benefit from blog subscribers and repeat visitors, more content that can attract search engine traffic, increased ability to attract links, and a platform for showcasing your skills and expertise.

There are a number of different approaches that you can take with your blog. You may simply want to publish blog posts and content that will appeal to designers in attempt to increase your profile, build links, and establish the quality of your domain. You may want to publish case studies about your client work that will appeal to other designers who want to learn, as well as to potential clients who may be interested in knowing more about how you work. In this way you are able to use the blog to put a spotlight on your work, and hopefully the quality will lead to new clients. Or you could write posts that might answer questions that potential clients would have, or that would be optimized to be found in search results for queries of potential clients.

One of the most important benefits of blogging was mentioned briefly, and that is link building. If your portfolio site includes only a few pages of content (for example, a home page, portfolio page, about page, contact info page), it will be pretty difficult to attract any kind of significant search engine traffic. However, with a blog you will be drastically increasing the amount of content on the site, and that content will be much more likely to draw links from other blogs and from social media sites. Having a blog that attracts links will give your site/blog a chance to rank well for long tail search phrases, and in time your site should receive exponentially more search traffic than it would without the blog.

David Airey

4. Pursue Freelance Blogging

In addition to publishing posts on your own blog, writing for other blogs also presents some great opportunities. Whether you are writing free guest posts or freelancing with larger design blogs that pay for contributions, you’ll usually receive an author bio at the end of the post that can include a link to your own site, and you’ll also be building up your name recognition.

Major design blogs like Smashing Magazine, Webdesigner Depot, and Six Revisions accept articles from designers and developers, and they pay for published articles. Aside from the larger blogs that pay contributors, writing free guest posts for smaller blogs can also be an excellent way to build links and gain exposure.

5. Build it to Be Search Engine Friendly

If you’re just starting your portfolio site it is unlikely that you’ll get more than a handful of search engine visitors for a while. But if you build the site to be friendly to search engines and if you work on publishing quality content on your blog and attracting links from other sites, you will be in a good position to see that search engine traffic rise over a period of time.

Having a search engine friendly website simply means that it is built to make it easy for search engine spiders to crawl the site and to determine what it is about, and to have a chance to rank well. It involves proper coding, use of page titles and headers, proper site structure, etc. (For a more detailed look at the subject see How to Create Search Engine Friendly Websites.)

6. Participate in Social Networking

Social media and social networking sites present opportunities to attract visitors to your portfolio site or blog, as well as to connect with other designers and build your professional network.

Behance

For getting visitors to your blog there are a number of niche-specific sites that are excellent alternatives to major social news sites like Digg. If you’re looking to reach a targeted audience of designers and developers try sites like:

Aside from news/voting sites, there are excellent opportunities available to showcase work from your portfolio at networking sites like:

7. Be Active on Twitter

Twitter is extremely popular with designers, so if you are looking for a place to connect with others you really should be active on Twitter (find us at @VandelayDesign). In terms of getting visitors from Twitter, you can share tweets with links to your blog posts, or tweet links to recently completed projects, or even projects that are in process when you are looking for feedback. Like any other type of social networking, you must genuinely become a part of the community of users in order to have much impact for yourself. If it seems that you are only there for self promotion and not to interact, users will notice and the positive impacts will be minimal.

8. Distribute Freebies

Everyone love freebies. As a designer you can give away free templates, Photoshop brushes, PSD files, vectors, textures, icons, or just about any other type of resource that can be used for design. Giving items away can help to draw new visitors to your site, and maybe they’ll check out your portfolio while they are there. Freebies are also good for building links from other blogs and social media sites, and just as importantly, it gives you an opportunity to show your quality of work to the world. Just because you are giving it away for free doesn’t me that it can’t help to make you land clients or make money, so be sure that whatever you are giving away is up to your level of quality.

In addition to giving away freebies from your own site, you can also produce items to be given away at other sites and blogs, which may help to give some added exposure to your work. Many design blogs work with various designers to produce freebies to give to their readers. If you’re hoping to get your work noticed by a large audience, this may be a great opportunity.

9. Do Interviews

Designers are frequently asked to do interviews for blogs or for students. Although it will take some of your time to do the interview, they are great for getting exposure to new people and for allowing others to get to know more about you. Most people like to work with others that they know and like, so it can even sometimes lead to new clients. Even if it doesn’t lead to a new client, the interview is likely to include a link to your portfolio site and it may even include some screenshots of your work.

10. Join Flickr Groups for Showcasing Your Work

Flickr groups present an opportunity to showcase your work to others, and to receive feedback on your design. There are plenty of Flickr groups that focus on web and/or graphic design (this post is old but much of it is still relevant – 99 Flickr Groups for Design Inspiration). While these groups are unlikely to send a rush of traffic to your site, it is a supplementary way to showcase your work and draw a smaller number of visitors.

Flickr

11. Design for a High-Profile Client

Some designers have been able to get valuable exposure by designing a site for a high-profile client. In situations where the designer is not yet established, the project will often need to be done for a discounted rate or even for free, but the resulting exposure may more than make up for it.

It’s not rare for clients to ask for a free website in exchange for the “exposure” that you’ll get from it, and in 99% of cases it’s not worth it. However, there may be situations, such as designing a custom theme for a very popular blog, where real exposure could justify a discounted or free service. If you agree to this be sure that you know specifically what type of exposure you will be getting. Are they simply giving you a link in the footer or are they publishing a review of your design services on the blog?

12. Run a Pay-Per-Click Ad Campaign

PPC ads are a great option because they can work with just about any budget, they can be highly targeted, and they can be turned on and off at will. When you’re looking for some new projects you can set up a PPC campaign, and you can even target only local clients if you’d like. You set the maximum amount that you are willing to spend on a daily or monthly basis, and you’ll start reaching some potential clients that are looking for what you have to offer. When things pick up and you are not looking for work you can easily pause the campaign and then restart it when you need more work.

13. Have a Memorable Business Card

Although most of the methods that we have covered in this post involve online marketing or promotional efforts, it is still possible to draw visitors to your site from offline methods. Most designers have business cards that they give out to people that they meet here and there, and hopefully they lead to some business. Having a memorable and attractive business card will help you to stand out and give you a better chance of being the designer that is contacted by the potential client.

If you’re looking for some inspiration or business card resources please see:

14. Sell Templates/Themes

More and more designers are generating income by selling premium WordPress themes or HTML/CSS templates. Selling themes or templates doesn’t have to be your only source of income, they are also great for picking up work from customers who want to get some customizations done to the theme or template. Adding some quality themes or templates for sale from your portfolio site can help to generate interest in your services, in addition to making some money from the sales.

15. Leave Comments on Other Blogs

Another way to attract visitors to your site is by leaving comments on other blogs. Instead of leaving links to your site in the body of your comment, which can lead to your comment being marked as spam or deleted, leave a thoughtful, intelligent comment and provide your URL in the proper field when entering the comment (almost all blogs allow you to leave a URL). No one comment is likely to generate a huge amount of traffic to your site, but if you are leaving a lot of comments that provide useful information and are relevant to the posts/blogs where you are commenting, it can result in a decent number of targeted prospects entering your site.

What’s Your Experience?

If you have a portfolio site, what have you found to be especially effective for gaining exposure, visitors, and new clients?

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