Getting Noticed: 10 Tips from Creatives on Finding an Audience for Your Work
Today there are countless channels for networking, portfolio distribution, and job searching, and the audience for a creative’s designs is endless. While this is a huge advantage in so many ways, it also creates the need for a more focused approach in how you share your work and get noticed.
We’ve spoken with several creatives from all different areas of design — from photography to UX to product design. We asked them how they find their audience and their favorite ways to share their work with others. From their own experiences, here is a list of things you can do to expand your audience, build community, and find work you’re excited about.
1. Know the Audience You Want
Before your work can reach people, you need to know what people you are trying to reach. Narrowing your focus to the audience you want is one of the most difficult challenges creatives face. But in order to have a successful, actionable strategy, it’s vital. Photographer Garrett Byrum says, “Understanding exactly who you want as your audience is the first step. Get past ‘my audience is everyone!’ and instead, identify who you want to see your work.”
Nacho Lavernia of multidisciplinary design studio Lavernia & Cienfuegos recommends creatives start by creating an audience profile. “When I started working, I didn’t have a clear idea of who my audience could be. Now, I use my audience criteria to see if I am aligning how I share with the people I need to reach.” Some aspects of your audience profile may be:
- Geographic location — Is your audience local, national, or international?
- Age — Is there a specific age group or generation (Millennials, Gen Z, Baby Boomers etc.) you are trying to attract?
- Interests — Does your audience enjoy a specific hobby or activity?
UX designer Yael Levy places great emphasis on working with customers who share similar values. After working with some companies where her design just didn’t fit, she set limits and says no when that type of client comes along. “Work with people who love the beauty and the power of design and you’ll have the feeling of fulfillment I have everyday,” she says.
2. Engage With a Community
Once you know what audience you’re aiming towards, engage with them. Mike Chu of Ramotion says, “To be a successful designer or agency means to have strong networking skills and connections, taking part in constructive discussions with other designers.”
Online sharing is convenient, free, and can reach millions of people. Plus, many social channels — like Twitter, Facebook, Slack, and Dribble — are perfect for building relationships and engaging in design discussions. Try out several different social channels and see which work best for meeting your goals.
“Follow and read about only the people that make you inspired,” Mike Chu says. “Don’t trust in follow-to-follow strategy. You could follow 10k untalented designers and get nothing, or follow 100 key design persons and be noticed by one of the industry influencers.”
Garrett Byrum suggests being deliberate with social media tags and hashtags: “See if the people you follow are using a specific community hashtag that lines up with what you do. As a photographer, I always tag the models and even the crew on my photos. You then have the chance of the model, makeup artist, or even assistant reposting the photo which can bring more eyes back to your page.”
“Share your portfolio online and keep it updated,” Yael Levy says, “i can’t emphasize enough how important it is for a collection of your best work to be easily accessible online.” Using a portfolio site like Behance gives you a chance to engage with people who are in the same line of work as you, as well as people who are doing complementary work that can be great resources for jobs and collaboration. Learn how to create a free portfolio on Behance here.
Engaging with a community isn’t limited to the online sphere. It also applies to your real-life community. Garrett Byrum’s best advice for getting noticed is “Share, share, share.” Expanding your influence beyond the internet can be a powerful tool for meeting and connecting with other people.
When applicable, enter local art festivals, show at local galleries, organize your own design-focused event and bring together vendors and creatives. Never forget the importance of the personal, in-person relationship.
3. Harness the Power of Presentation
How you present your work is just as important as the work itself, especially when pitching to clients who don’t have the same kind of visual understanding that designers and creatives do. Nacho Lavernia is a huge proponent of taking the time to create a presentation that reflects the time you’ve put into your work. “Presentation is immensely important: images, texts, animations, or films. The form is as — or even more — important as the content. Like it or not, this is the sign of the times. Moreover, it is one of the pillars of our profession: to communicate, to visually captivate.”
Whether you’re creating photographs, designing GIFs, or simply posting something on instagram, presentation is key. It doesn’t have to be complicated to be impactful or get attention. Using tools like Adobe Spark to add bold text or graphics to a social engagement post can be the extra level of presentation that sets you apart.
4. Create Stock Work
It’s easy to turn your nose up at stock, because every creative loves to make something uniquely tailored to someone they know has a high appreciation of their work. But creating stock work is a great way to practice, test out new ideas, and see what people are responding to. And the type of stock available online is unlimited — from photos, to fonts, to 3D object designs, textures, and textiles, even website templates and resume layouts.
Stock Photographer Jacob Lund uses Adobe Stock as a way to help receive feedback for his work. “When making your work available on stock sites, you get the most honest feedback,” Jacob says. “If people like your work, they’ll buy it. If not, you won’t make a dime. I still tend to get surprised on what sells and what doesn’t.”
Lund recommends seeing how you can approach a common theme in a new way. “I believe a classic mistake for newcomers to stock is to shoot copies of what’s already popular. But you will most likely never get noticed this way since the images that are already popular will always have a strong advantage over new images that look alike.”
Garrett Byrum agrees. “Instead of copying what everyone else is doing, build on whatever trend it is that interests you and make it unique to you,” he says.
5. Develop Case Studies
To make your work even more intriguing, don’t just showcase the final product. Share the process behind them. Creating case studies is the perfect way to do this. Yael Levy finds this to be one of her most valuable tools. “Don’t just upload visuals of your works. Design a page describing your workflow, what challenges you faced, and the solution you found to resolve them,” she says, “For example: Adding text to explain the different steps of the creation of a logo helps the viewer understand the thought process you went through and appreciate the final result for its real value.”
Mike Chu says, “The most important thing for our clients is to see the value of our design and development service – something tangible behind the beautiful pixels. The reality of nowadays is freelancers and design agencies generate an enormous amount of content, so clients are beginning to seek a mindful approach and find designers that can solve real problems.” You can see examples of his case studies with Ramotion here.
6. Embrace Small Projects
Trying to find projects where you can really flex your creative muscles can be difficult. Nacho Lavernia says, “The first piece of advice I would give is not to overlook small projects. Any project is an opportunity to make an innovative, striking piece of work. In fact, it is usually easier to develop groundbreaking solutions with small customers than with large companies, which are highly conditioned by mass sales and by production and price limitations. Quite a few of the jobs that have given our agency notoriety are projects that we made for small businesses.”
Although the goal may be to work with large firms or big names, small projects can give you a lot of creative flexibility and personal growth in a way those larger jobs cannot. Embrace the smaller projects as time to do something original and groundbreaking.
7. Prioritize Quality Over Quantity
No matter how many ways you incorporate strategies to expand your audience, what will get you noticed is great work. By constantly improving and expanding your skills, your work will speak for itself. Never sacrifice quality for quantity of posts or items in your portfolio.
“Quality wins,” Mike Chu says. “At the end of the day, that’s the only thing that matters. Keep improving your skills, keep doing mind blowing stuff, and your work will stand out.”