Are you looking to get more clients for your web design services? How about establishing your name recognition and becoming a respected authority in the industry? Would you like to supplement your income and not rely completely on client work? Web design blogs can help you to accomplish all of these things and many others as well.
In this article we’ll take a detailed look at the topic of blogging for designers with the goal of helping you get more out of your own blogging efforts.
From my own personal experience, I can say that blogging has been a huge part of my career. When I launched the Vandelay Design Blog in 2007, I had small goals for using the blog to find a few new clients. But over the years, the blog grew and evolved, and it has opened up a lot of doors and created many amazing experiences. I’d like to share information here that will help you to have similar results with your own design blog.
Why Designers Should Blog
With so many design blogs already out there, you may be wondering why it would be worth your time. Here is a look at just some of the potential benefits for designers who blog.
1. Name Recognition
Blogging is one of the most effective ways for a designer to establish name recognition in a very crowded industry. As a blogger you’ll have a chance to get your work in front of a worldwide audience that may include other designers as well as potential clients.
Name recognition can be extremely valuable for your career, although it will take some time to establish. Once you’ve demonstrated your expertise and built a strong reputation, it can lead to more clients for your services, the ability to charge higher rates due to the demand, employment opportunities, speaking opportunities, sponsorships, and more.
2. Traffic Generation
Photo by joiseyshowaa
Blog posts can be highly effective for bringing new visitors to your site, as well as encouraging repeat visits. Each of your blog posts can target different keywords or phrases, which can lead to a huge increase in search traffic as you add more and more content. As you gain loyal readers and subscribers, you will be getting those visitors to keep coming back to your site to see the new content.
Blog posts are also great for attracting links from other sites, which can result in click through traffic and improved search engine rankings. Social media sites also have the potential to send plenty of traffic to your posts.
3. Lead Generation
Getting traffic is nice, but ultimately as a designer you are probably most interested in getting more leads for client work. If you’re a freelancer, you have probably found, especially when starting your business, that finding clients can often be the most challenging part of the job.
While there are countless different ways that you can promote your services, blogging is a little different than many of the other options. Unlike paid advertising, blogging won’t cost you a lot of money to try to acquire new clients. However, it will take time and effort. If you have more time than money, blogging may be a great choice.
Another benefit is that your blog posts may continue to bring new clients to you for months or years to come. With paid advertising, pay-per-click ads for example, it will stop bringing potential clients to you when you stop paying for the ad. A blog post that attracts on-going search engine traffic or visitors from links on other sites can lead to new clients for a long time to come.
4. Improves Communication Skills
One of the most important skills for a designer to develop is communication. Not only will you need to be able to communicate through your design, but you will also need to be able to communicate with clients throughout the process. This is especially true for freelancers and designers who are in a role that involves a lot of client interaction.
Blogging can help you to improve your writing and communication skills through repetition. If you want to get the best results with your posts, you will need to continually work to communicate better and more clearly to your readers, which can also have a positive impact on how you are able to communicate with clients.
5. Give Back
Many in the design and development community, myself included, have benefited greatly from the blogging community. Maybe you learned to design by reading and following along with tutorials from various design blogs. Maybe you were featured in a blog post somewhere that led to valuable exposure. Or maybe blogs help you to stay up-to-date in an industry that moves very quickly. Blogging makes it possible for you to give something back to the community.
As a blogger you can give back by writing tutorials that will help others, just like tutorials on other blogs have helped you. You could give back by featuring the work of other designers in your posts, giving them more exposure. You could also give back by creating freebies or products that can help other designers in some way.
6. Opens Up Other Opportunities
If you dedicate time and effort to blogging, you may be surprised at some of the opportunities that it can lead to. Perhaps you’ll be asked to contribute to an upcoming book, speak at conference or seminar, be interviewed for a blog or a podcast, receive a job offer, or get in touch with someone who winds up being a partner on a new business venture.
The exposure that you get from blogging is what can open up these types of opportunities. Without blogging you may be just as capable of doing all of these things, but the lack of exposure can cause you to miss out.
7. Supplemental Income
Last but not least, blogging can also be a source of income. With so many designers out there competing for clients, it can be difficult to earn a full-time income on client work, especially if you are just getting started. Blogging can serve as a nice supplement to your client income that may be able to get you to the income level that you want or need.
There are a lot of different ways to monetize your blog, and as a designer you’ll have some options. You could use your blog mostly as a means to promote your services and find new clients, sell advertising space, sell products to other designers, or make money through affiliate programs.
Options for Blogging
Now that we have looked at some of the ways designers can benefit from blogging, let’s take a look at the basic options that you have in terms of where you will blog.
1. Blog on Your Portfolio Site
Chances are you already have a portfolio site that showcases your design work. If you have the portfolio on your own domain name, you have the option to add a blog right to your portfolio site. WordPress is a popular CMS for both blogs and portfolio sites, and there are plenty of high-quality WordPress themes that integrate both of these elements (I recommend the themes from Theme Trust, although there are plenty of other options as well).
Having the blog on your portfolio site is ideal if your main priority with the blog is to use it to find more clients. Visitors will arrive at your blog posts, and if they are looking for a designer, hopefully they will also check out your portfolio while they are on your site.
The blog can improve the overall strength of your domain in the eyes of Google, which can lead to more traffic and more exposure.
One of the potential negatives of having a blog at your portfolio site is that you will need to keep it up-to-date or else it can have a negative impact on how visitors perceive your business. If you were a visitor on a portfolio site of a freelance designer and you noticed that the most recent blog post was from a year ago, what would you assume? I would probably assume that the designer is no longer in business. So if you start a blog, make sure that you will be able to at least periodically add new content, or it can hurt how people perceive your business.
2. Set Up a Separate Blog
Another option is to create a totally new site for your blog and keep it separate from your portfolio site. This might be the approach you want to take if getting new clients for your design services is not your main priority for blogging. If you want to monetize the blog with ads or publish content that might not be beneficial for landing new clients, starting a separate site may be the right choice.
Starting a new site will come with a little more work and expense. You’ll need to buy the domain and hosting, although you may be able to host it on the same account as your portfolio site, depending on your host. You’ll also need a template or theme for your new blog. You could use a free theme, but you may want to buy a premium theme (almost always less than $100), or create a custom theme of your own. Creating a custom theme may not cost you any money, but it will require a lot of your time.
Having a separate blog can also be a good idea if you want to make blogging a major part of your income and career going forward and if you would like to add other authors/contributors (either paid or unpaid) aside from yourself.
3. Freelance/Guest Blogging
The last option is to write for other blogs. There are countless blogs in the design industry, and many of them are looking for contributors. In some cases you will be paid. In other cases you may be able to get your post published, but you won’t be paid. Paid blogging is usually referred to as “freelance blogging”, while unpaid gigs are typically referred to as “guest blogging”.
If your purpose for blogging is to supplement your income from design work, you will probably want to focus on paid freelance blogging opportunities. Many of the leading design blogs will have a link to a page titled “write for us” or something similar. Some of these blogs may list what they pay for posts, but in many cases you will need to get in touch with them for details.
Unpaid guest posts can also provide good opportunities if you are mostly looking to gain exposure and get some links back to your own site or blog. Even if you are focusing on freelancing and guest blogging, it is still a good idea to have your own blog so you can easily provide samples of your writing. Most of your posts will also include a brief author bio, and if you have your own site or blog, you may be able to link back to it from your bio.
Types of Blog Posts
There are several different types of blogs posts that you can write. This list is not intended to be all-inclusive, but it does cover the basics and will hopefully get some ideas flowing.
In the world of design blogging, tutorials are one of the most popular types of content. It could be a Photoshop or Illustrator tutorial that walks readers through the process of creating a specific design, or it could be a coding tutorial. Tutorials are loved by readers because they can be so useful and helpful. It’s possible to learn just about anything you can imagine in design and development simply by following along with tutorials. An example is Jake Rocheleau’s How to Wireframe iOS App Interfaces Using Photoshop.
Tutorials are also extremely effective for attracting links from other blogs and sites, as well as for leading to a lot of sharing on social media sites. Because tutorials are so useful, a lot of people want to share them with others.
The downside to writing tutorials is that they can require a lot of time. Not only will you have to write the post, but first you’ll have to create the item that you want to teach in the tutorial. Plus you’ll need to capture plenty of screenshots and document all of the steps in great detail. The end result is that the typical tutorial requires several hours of your time. One way to shorten this is to write tutorials based on designs that you have already created.
2. Industry Trends and News
The world of web design changes rapidly, and that provides opportunities for bloggers to cover news and trends. There are a few different ways that you can go about this.
First, you could write about some type of breaking news or interesting development that others will want or need to know about.
Second, you could write about a particular trend and show real-world examples. This post about responsive navigation menus covers a topic that is relevant for today’s designers, and shows examples of how others are implementing responsive menus.
Third, you could publish a weekly or monthly round up that links out to items of interest. For example, Specky Boy publishes a weekly news roundup post.
One of the best ways to provide unique and interesting content is to share your own opinion. It could be on a controversial topic, which could lead to a lot of social media shares and a productive conversation, or it could be your own thoughts on anything relevant to the topics that you cover at your blog. Here is an example, Google Should Penalize Multi-Page Articles: Here’s Why.
Roundups and list posts can also be very effective for generating traffic to your blog. In the design industry, your roundups will often be visual, like Design Inspiration: Text Art Showcase. Another type of list post would be something like 68 Easy Ways to Promote Your Design Services for a Steady Flow of New Clients.
Roundups and list posts can take a lot of time to create, even if you are just gathering examples from other websites. However, most blog readers appreciate a good collection or roundup, and as a result they tend to be shared a lot through social media.
One of the keys with roundups is to try to create something unique. With so many design blogs out there and many of them publishing roundups, there are a lot of similar posts. Go the extra mile to find great examples or provide a list that will be truly helpful to readers.
Another option is to interview designers and publish the interview at your blog. Most designers are open to interview requests because it helps them to get more exposure. Interviews can also be appreciated by readers because they’ll get to learn something new about designers that they may already follow, and they will hopefully be able to pick up some tips that they can use for themselves.
Another option is the group interview. Rather than asking several questions to one designer, you could ask one question or a few questions to a number of different designers. An example of this is 5 Successful Freelancers Share the Secrets to Their Success.
6. Case Studies
Case Studies are a little bit less common, but can be very effective. With a case study, you would give the specific details of a particular project, showing the steps involved and the results. An example is How We Built MSN UK’s Responsive Olympics Site.
As a designer who is regularly working on new projects, you will have plenty of possibilities for writing your own case studies. Of course, if you are considering using a client project for a case study, you should get the client’s approval for sharing the case study and any details involved.
7. Tips and Guides
Another type of post would be similar to a tutorial, but it may be more of a collection of tips or a general guide rather than a step-by-step tutorial for a specific project. Ultimate Guide to Responsive Web Design is an excellent example of a comprehensive guide.
Blogging Tips for Designers
In the last section of this article, I want to provide some tips that can help you to get more out of your own blogging efforts.
1. Know Your Purpose
At the beginning of this article, we looked at some of the different reasons that you might want to blog. The reality is that not all designers have the same purpose for blogging, and it’s important that you know your own purpose. The reason why you are blogging and your priorities should influence other decisions that you make, such as if you should put your blog on your portfolio site or if you should start it on its own domain.
Are you blogging for the purpose of getting more clients? Are you looking to supplement your income? Are you mostly just interested in establishing your name recognition and reputation?
If your priority is to use blogging as a way to supplement your income from client work, you will have the best short-term results by using most of your time to pursue freelance blogging opportunities. Yes, you can make money from your own blog in a number of different ways, but getting a new blog off the ground and making money with it can take a lot of time (several months to a few years in most cases). With freelance blogging, you can start making some decent money right away.
If your purpose is primarily to establish your name recognition, you will probably want to dedicate most of your time to your own blog, and mix in some freelance and guest posts at popular blogs that will allow you to get your writing and your name in front of a large audience.
And if your purpose is to get more client work, you will want to write posts that target your potential clients rather than other designers. If people who are looking for a designer come across your posts, they may wind up contacting you about your services.
2. Be Realistic About Time Commitments
There’s no way around it–blogging takes time.
If you want to start blogging, it is best to be realistic about how much time you have available and how much time you will need to dedicate to blogging efforts. Make sure that you will be able to dedicate at least a few hours each week, or else you are probably better off using your time in other ways.
3. Set a Schedule
I recommend blocking off time in your schedule specifically for blogging. That way you have dedicated time that you know should be used to write posts for your own blog or for other blogs. When things get busy, it is easy to put blogging on the back burner, but if you’re not consistent with your efforts, you are unlikely to see the results that you are after.
4. Promote Your Posts
Simply writing and publishing posts at your blog is unlikely to lead to much traffic, and without visitors you probably won’t be able to get the results you want.
You’ll also need to save some time for promoting your posts, especially at first. Once you have an established audience, you may be able to cut back on your promotional efforts, but until that time you will need to work to get the word out.
There are a lot of different ways you can promote your posts. Of course, you probably already have profiles at sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google Plus. You can share links to your posts through these social profiles, and if you have a decent following, it can lead to some traffic. You can also submit your posts to sites like Design Newz, Design Float, The Web Blend, and DZone. These sites have a targeted audience that can provide high-quality visitors if you are looking to reach other designers.
Another way to promote your posts is to find social media users who have shared other similar posts and contact them to let them know about your post. A similar approach is to find other sites and pages that are linking to a particular piece of content, create your own content that is better, and reach out to those people to request a link to your post. You can see a much more detailed explanation of this approach here.
Another simple way to increase traffic to your blog is to link out to other bloggers and influential social media users within your posts. Then after publishing the post, email them to let them know that they have been featured, and ask them to consider sharing the post with their social media followers. Many bloggers are happy to share links to posts that mention them. If you get a few influential people to share your posts it can lead to more exposure.
5. Focus on Networking
One of the biggest factors in determining blogging success is your professional network. If you are well connected to other bloggers in the industry, you will have a great chance of being successful. If you have no connections, it will be pretty difficult to achieve success with your blog.
There are a lot of benefits to having a strong network including: more links to your posts, more social media shares, more comments on your posts, better affiliate opportunities, guest posting opportunities, interview opportunities, and general advice when you need it.
Make it a priority to get well connected with other bloggers in your niche. You can network through commenting at other blogs, conversations through social media, reaching out by email, or any number of other techniques. I highly recommend this post by Brian Dean to anyone who wants to build a stronger network – Blogger Outreach: How to Get Influencers to Promote Your Content for Free.
6. Quality Over Quantity
When it comes to blogging, you will see a lot of different advice about how frequently you should be publishing new posts. It’s key to keep in mind that you will need to focus on quality over quantity. Don’t feel pressure to publish a new post every day. Cranking out a lot of low quality blog posts is unlikely to really do much for you. Instead, use your time to write truly useful and unique blog posts, even if that means that you are not posting as frequently. You’ll get much more out of your time if you publish the highest quality of content.
7. Keep a Notebook or List of Post Ideas
You never know when an idea for a blog post will pop into your head. In most cases it won’t be while you are sitting at the computer staring at a blank screen and starting to write a new post. You’ll probably get ideas at random places and times, and if you want to remember those ideas, it is a good idea to always have a notebook or a piece of paper handy so you can write down the ideas as they come to you. With a list of post ideas, you’ll never have to wonder what you can write about.
List of great sites for more tips & tricks on starting web design blogs:
- From Up North
- Feel Desain
- Spoon Graphics
- We and the Color
- CSS Tricks
- Naldz Graphics
- CSS Author
So Get Started!
Blogging presents plenty of great opportunities for designers. Take some time to think about what you would like to get out of blogging, and then take action to make it happen. If you need help getting started, please see this tutorial on how to install WordPress.