Graphic Design: How to find work

Get your name known. If you get out there and do good work, people WILL tell other people about you. The best advertising you can do is doing good work. Your clients will speak to their contacts/colleagues and chances are someone will get in touch with you via an existing piece of work.

There are online resources for project work but it depends on your area of expertise. If you’re a designer working mainly in the financial sector for example, don’t bother putting your name down on the Arts Council e.mailing list and vice versa. Decide which market you’re interested in working in so you can target your approaches more efficiently. Each region of the country has a development agency who work closely with local business and recommend suppliers. You usually have to jump through quite a few hoops before becoming an ‘associate’ but you may find it’s worth it.

Some designers advocate working for free in the early days. I say it’s a tricky one that depends on your living situation. If you’re just starting out and still living at home, there’s no reason why not but if you have to pay the rent/mortgage, you may not feel that working for free is particularly appropriate. There’s no right or wrong approach in my opinion.

The most cost effective ways of advertising your services, in no particular order are:

- Word of mouth: easily the best and cheapest form of advertising in my humble opinion.

- Make sure you have a great web site. Any design manager/art director/client worth their salt will want to see an up to date, interesting, easy to navigate web site with some great work on it, be it real or made up. If it’s made up i.e. the project didn’t really exist, make sure you make it clear because you will be found out!

- Gimmicks: These can work wonders to get your name out there and to stand out from the crowd but they can backfire, especially if the people you’re trying to reach don’t share your sense of humour. A good example that I know about: a newly formed design agency made up blood bags with the company’s logo on with a covering flyer and specifically targeted a dozen or so potential clients saying that they could ‘save their lives’ or some such. If you make your approach fun, clever [but not too clever] and simple, chances are it will be effective. You don’t have to spend lots of money either. Mail slices of toast with a sticky label on to specifically targeted art director; make up a CD full of music tracks that you know a certain design manager will really like with an enclosed letter outlining why they should hire you; find out when the production manager’s birthday is, bake a cake with a copy of your CV hidden in it and take it into his/her office. The singer Billy Bragg was listening John Peel’s Radio 1 show one night when he heard Peel saying how much he could murder a veggie curry, so he went down to his local takeaway, bought a curry and went round to broadcasting house and delivered it to security. 10 minutes later John Peel was playing Billy Bragg’s as yet unreleased demo tape. Brilliant! There’s a marketing phrase for this – champagne ideas on beer money.

Nick Welsh – bespoke design for print and the internet

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