Thoughts on branding, design, writing and life by Kevin Potts. Established 2003.

Promoting Yourself For Free (Part 1)

Getting your name out there takes time and effort, but does not require a lot of money. The first installment of this article discusses keeping active within the design community and achieving small publicity to the general public.

Recently, flipping through the new HOW magazine, I was surprised and pleased to see the editors not only giving appropriate credit to an editorial illustrator, but listing the artist’s URL right next to the name. While this small addition would mean almost nothing to 99% of the readership, it means everything to the minority who could use that information—potential clients can head straight to the source, avoiding a trip to Google and possible search frustration.

The key to self-promotion is attaching your name to everything. You can throw an empty hook into the ocean and hope something will bite, but it’s far more effective to tempt clients with some bait—in this case, your name and URL.

The longer I run my own freelance empire, the more I realize that free promotion is often far more effective than paid advertising. Getting my name out in the public is like deep sea fishing. The more lines I throw in as many directions as possible, the better chance I have of catching some new work.

Getting your name out there requires multiple levels of promotion: active industry positioning, networking beyond the community, residual credit and asset marketing.

Active Industry Positioning

I just invented that clever buzzword-laden phrase to encapsulate a simple concept: keeping visible in the design community. By actively participating in conversations with other designers, you position yourself as a topical expert that cares about what is going on inside the industry.

A lot of designers maintain design-related blogs, and that is a fantastic place to start. Others write articles or submit content to design publications and communities such as A List Apart,, Creative Latitude, Speak Up and more. Others—far more ambitious than your humble host—have written books.

Others contribute to the community through their non-writing skills: developing plug-ins for CMS systems, giving away free graphics such as icons or wallpapers, distributing scripts, designing Photoshop brushes or giving away a small, useful application.

I have often found clients surfing through design sites, looking for something they like, and often visiting designer’s blogs to better learn about the individual. (graphicPUSH has attracted many client inquiries, several of which have turned into great, long-term projects.) Also, if you become an expert in the community, your peers will look to you when they need help in your area of expertise. (I have also had several people ask for assistance on CSS development and Textpattern installations.)

So write, give something away, or just get your name out there in the forums and comment threads. You never know who’s reading, and you never know who’s going to click your name to visit your website.

Networking Beyond the Community

This where you will cast your broadest net, as you’re actively trying to capture the attention of clients not involved with the design industry. In other words, most of the planet. It’s a hard thing to provide guidance on, since almost anything goes, but there are ways to get your name out there without spending any money. A few tips that have served me in the past:

  • Always carry business cards. Always. Give them away like candy, even to people who could care less.
  • Do some pro bono work for a good organization, preferably something local. The organization will be indebted to you for your hard work, and will happily pass along your name to inquiring parties. Yes, this requires your time, but it’s a truly effective means of promotion.
  • Visit local business seminars. These are often sponsored by the local Chamber of Commerce, SCORE and others. They are small, intimate gatherings for small business owners and provide a fantastic opportunity to get your business card in other’s hands.
  • Write about design to a non-design audience. Many cities have local business magazines or websites; offer to write a simple, layman’s terms article about design, websites, etc.
  • Write press releases. Those same business magazines that will publish your articles are always looking for business news, so make sure you publicize your larger accomplishments with a brief press release.

This is just the tip of the iceberg for publicity, but provides some ideas for free promotion. If you asked 100 designers for their best promotional tactic for bringing in new business, you’d probably get 100 different answers. Comments are very much welcome for this section since I can only write about what has worked for me.

Tune In

The next installment will cover residual credit and asset marketing, two more effective ways of promoting yourself without spending anything.

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commentary + criticism


wrote the following on Tuesday March 7, 2006

Great article, I agree 100% with everything outlined. I always have business cards with me, and am actually going out today to promote a new project I’m working on, seeking out advertisers and what not

Carl Bryan McLendon

wrote the following on Friday March 17, 2006

I use the simple act of making relevant comments on subjects from other blogs with my tagline as a way to get exposure for my blog. It’s amazing the amount of traffic I get from people curious about my blog from my comments on other blogs.

Simple Gestures

Benjamin Castro

wrote the following on Saturday March 18, 2006

Oh my gosh, it has been 3 years in the making. Finally the fantasy novel,
Gollumeth – The Bloodline of Horredath is available!

Illustrated and Written by: B.D.Castro, it’s a story that will surprise most, for all that have read the prelude of the book usually respond with comments like, “Sounds like every other fantasy novel”, “Dragons, Demons and Magic, sounds cool, but then so does other books like this.”, and so many more.

Now is the chance to discover what the pages of this mysterious novel really entail. Boy is there a twist in this one. Most will be surprised! I kid you not!

Now available online at BarnesandNoble, Amazon and other online bookstores.
It will be available in retail stores soon.
It comes in paperback and hardcover, both 6×9 in size and full of illustrations.

If you have read the book, let me know what you think.

Leo Jacobs

wrote the following on Thursday August 10, 2006

Fantastic article…. thank you for sharing your thoughts on this…. its really helpful to me as i am launching my own website by this week so i do require some help in promoting it…. will surely try out your techniques


wrote the following on Sunday September 24, 2006

Your articles are excellent. I read your business article in and found it very helpful. Cheers and good luck.


wrote the following on Sunday January 17, 2010

I’m in the middle of a promotional stage and your page has helped. Thanks!