For many designers, the thought of bragging about themselves is repugnant. They don’t want to seem arrogant or self-centered, they want their work to speak for itself. Unfortunately, with the rise of the Internet and social media, often times you have to speak on behalf of your work. Recently, we sat down with Danielle Evans on the Obsessed With Design podcast and she gave some of her best advice on how to promote yourself online as a designer without seeming sleazy.
Danielle’s studio, Marmalade Bleue, is nothing like any design studio you’ve ever seen. Her design vehicle of choice isn’t Illustrator or Photoshop. It’s food. As a designer and illustrator, she found her passion for creating typographic art with everything from candy corn to coffee cake. You can follow her on Twitter here.
Here’s Danielle Evans’ advice on self-promotion for designers.
The first and most important lesson to learn about self-promotion is that it doesn’t come naturally to everyone, and that’s okay. In Danielle’s experience, it’s extremely common that the best designers are the worst at promoting themselves.
“You’re either a creator, editor, or marketer. Most people excel at one of those things, are passable at a second, and are dismissive of the third,” Danielle told us.
Instead of trying to be something you’re not, it’s important to focus on your strengths. For Danielle, she realized that she was great at creating, okay at marketing herself, and found editing her own work to be counter-productive. Instead of trying to be something she’s not, she leaned into the type of creative that she is at her core.
This extends beyond self-promotion, into the type of work that you do. For Danielle’s career, the best decision she ever made was focusing on the medium of food. If she went a “safer” or “more conventional” route, she would have missed out on giant opportunities that came to her more naturally.
“I realized I was fighting to be a vector letterer, and that just wasn’t my skill,” she said.
After you’ve identified what type of creative worker you are, it’s time to promote your work. Despite what you may think, this doesn’t have to be sleazy. It is entirely possible to promote yourself over social media without your friends and family rolling their eyes.
“If you treat all of your audiences like they’re special, you’re going to really pursue being understood,” Danielle told us. While this may sound intuitive, it’s extremely common for designer to use the same messaging across all platforms, which is what causes people to get turned off by self-promotion. If you talk to people the same way on Facebook as you do on a platform designed for designers like Dribbble or Behance, it’s likely that both audiences will walk away dissatisfied.
Instead, know your audience and communicate with them in language that makes sense to them. If you’re posting on Dribbble where other designers will view and critique your work, talk about your design process. If you’re posting on Instagram or Facebook, where your friends and family are the majority of your audience, talk about how much fun you had working on a project.
“On Pinterest, people don’t need me to say a ton about what I’ve done, but on Instagram, people are split,” Danielle said. “They either want a little blip or they want a journal entry.” Regardless of what platforms you’re using, communicate the way that audience wants to be communicated with.
Finally, it’s extremely important to give yourself permission to be authentic and enjoy the journey of finding your artistic voice. Early on, Danielle suffered from anxiety when posting her work online.
“I’m comparing myself to extremely well-known people and their skills,” she said. “Once I relaxed into the fact that I wasn’t going to be as good as them, that freed me up.”
Now, Danielle is able to remain much more balanced and focused because she’s not anxious about how people will view her work. She’s not comparing herself to designers with decades more experience. Instead, she’s just focusing on being the best iteration of herself that she can be. This has allowed her to grow and expand her style over time.
“It’s okay to be me. It’s okay to make the mistakes that I like making, because it gives me a style,” she said. “A style is a series of calculated errors.”
You can listen to this episode and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.