Marketing yourself off-platform

To launch your career, you’ll need to tell the world exactly who you are and what you do. Here’s how to refine your marketing and focus on what matters.

1. Get trendy

Yes, you're all about originality - and you should be! But keep your eyes open for the latest design trends to make sure you're not falling behind. Staying relevant is one of the most effective ways to get noticed by your clients.
Find your next design inspiration by catching up on design news. Or watch to see if your fellow designers are following a trend. Have an open mind and give new things a try! Trends are a great way to challenge your techniques.

2. Celebrate with clients

Staying on the pulse of current trends is just as important as keeping up with seasonal events and holidays around the world. Show your customers you're the right designer for them through special profile pages and flash sales.

Create a cool temporary profile

Make the most of your social media profiles by uploading a design that celebrates seasonal events. Tap into your specialty to find your niche market. If you’re a mascot designer, create a Santa mascot in time for Christmas. If you’re an illustrator, upload a Lunar New Year pattern to entice your China-based clients. This sends a strong message that you’re well prepared to create quality holiday designs.

Support your social media profile well by applying the same theme to your 99designs profile cover and adding a clear call-to-action (CTA) message that invites customers to work with you on a 1-to-1 Project to create that holiday project. This sets you up for your flash sale.

Hold a seasonal flash sale

As a designer, you should know how much to charge your customers (take a look at our tips for setting your fees). For flash sales, reduce your normal fees for your products. If you're a mascot designer, offer discounted prices for holiday mascots. Illustrators might reduce the prices of greeting cards. Promote your sale clearly in your CTA and messages to 1-to-1 Project customers.

3. Be innovative

Planning is crucial in brand marketing, but life can throw you some surprises. That's why it's important to adapt and be flexible.

Present yourself better

You're ready to attract new clients, and your portfolio is decked out with beautiful designs. The problem is, no one is paying attention.
Maybe customers need assurance that you're experienced, so try posting how your design looks in real life and tagging it #IRL ("in real life") for legitimacy. Or perhaps customers need more information about your designs. Make sure you're including vital information such as prices (if you're selling), materials used and clients' names (if applicable).

Show off all your skills

Picture this: you're an illustrator and you've meticulously planned ahead by scheduling social media posts of your beautiful illustrations. However, as the weeks progress, you start getting better at manipulating stock images for book cover designs. So, why not post a few of them too? Who knows, you may attract a new client who wants to involve you in their next best-seller!

4. Highlight your best work

Think of your social media profile as more than a bragging tool. Post your latest design work, and take note of the likes and comments you get. This is one of the simplest ways to gauge to see what resonates with the wider audience, as well as one of the easiest ways to discover your own style and niche market.
Put these favorites front and center when promoting your design business. Use them as your 99designs profile cover image. Or occasionally "resurface them" on your social media to remind people just why you're special.

5. Be clear and concise

One of the biggest turn-offs for clients is not knowing what to do after they've landed on your website or grabbed your business card. Remember design should speak for itself, but it should be clear how clients can work with you.
We've already made it easy with an "Invite to work" button on your 99designs profile, but if you're expecting clients to land on places other than your 99designs profile, it's imperative to have a clear call-to-action (CTA) like "Work with me" that links to your 1-to-1 Project invitation page:[your profile name]/invites.
Here are ideas for displaying a clear and effective CTA message:
  • On your personal website: Add "Work with me" link at the top navigation bar and footer. Make sure the message doesn't clash with your website title and folio content.
  • On Dribbble: Include a link to your 99designs profile in your bio.
  • On Behance: Add your 99designs profile under Web References.
  • On Instagram: Include your 99designs profile link to your bio.
  • On your business card: Position a "Work with me" message close to your portfolio URL.
  • On your PDF folio: Include "Work with me" under your name in your bio. If your folio is several pages long, consider adding a second "Work with me" on the last page, too. Use our PDF folio template to get started.

6. Optimize your discoverability


Help people find you on the internet by taking care of your design metadata, the title, tags, and description text that search engines like Google use to catalog your profile and design pages.
Your title should be simple and include the major aspect of your design work. For example, if you're uploading an illustration of a beach scenery at sunset, a simple name such as "A beautiful beach at sunset" will make it more discoverable. When tagging your design (on 99designs or social media), start with the search terms that customers might use to find it. Your description should include your design's backstory or inspiration, which can help make it more memorable for customers.
Read more about using the right metadata to improve your discoverability.

Social media tagging

Your social media profile is a powerful self-marketing tool. Use it to your advantage by tagging your clients on your designs or vice versa. This shows your legitimacy (look at all the cool clients I've worked with!), and it's a subtle way to get on your customers' radar.

7. Be authentic and consistent

You've worked hard to build your unique brand online, but don't forget about the real world, too!
Take advantage of your offline branding to attract your customers. If you're showing at a design event, decorate your booth with posters or banners that showcase your distinct style and display branded business cards and merchandise (if applicable). Treat your offline presentation as an extension of your overall brand.

8. Use the right tools

Sometimes you'll need to take a more proactive approach to get your next client. We've made it simple with these resources to showcase your profile.

PDF folio

Use this template to pitch yourself to potential clients:
  • Profile page: Include your professional photo, a list of your design skills, and 1-2 sentences about yourself. Don't forget to add links to your 99designs profile so customers can invite you to work.
  • Folio pages: Highlight your best work with short descriptions and high-res images for each project.

Things to remember

  • We've provided the template in PDF and INDD formats. Download the appropriate files for your program of choice.
  • Use the placeholder area to introduce yourself and describe your design style.
  • Choose only your best work. Use themes and colors as ways to arrange your work creatively.
  • Consider showcasing a specific category. For example, if you want to pitch yourself to a client who needs logo design, present your best logo work.
  • Once you've finished editing, don't forget to export it as PDF file before sending to a client.

99designs icons

Use one of these 99designs icons on your personal website or online folio and don't forget to link it back to your 99designs profile. Clients will be able to instantly invite you on their next project!

Things to remember

  • Treat this icon like a social media badge.
  • Choose a badge color that will suit the rest of your personal website.
  • Embed this badge in your navigation or footer to improve your chance for follow-up work.

 Download here→

99designs fact sheet

Is your customer new to 99designs? Give them a copy of this fact sheet that explains who we are and how to work easily with you using 1-to-1 Project.

Things to remember

  • Download this fact sheet before sending to your client. 
  • Print out a copy to give when you meet face-to-face with your customer.

Download here→

Now that you're bringing more clients in, learn how to manage your freelance business