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. On social media, expand your reach (and open yourself up to new clients) by uploading your work and experimenting with trending hashtags. 
Find your next design inspiration by catching up on design news. Or watch to see if your fellow designers are following a trend. Staying relevant is one of the most effective ways to get noticed by your clients.
Have an open mind and give new things a try! Trends are a great way to challenge your techniques. 

2. Celebrate with clients

Spark your clients' imagination by taking advantage of seasonal events and holidays. Get in the festive mood with themed designs or pull in extra work with a fun flash sale. 
Holidays are always a great time to catch up with past clients—not only to wish your clients well and reinforce your relationship, but also to check in on whether they have any seasonal design needs.

Create a cool temporary profile

Make the most of your social media profiles by celebrating seasonal events with a themed design—in your niche style, of course. 
Seasonal design keeps your content fresh and sends a strong and inspiring 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.

Hold a seasonal flash sale

If you're looking to boost your workload, flash sales are a great way to get clients to commit to you fast.
You should already know what your typical rate is (take a look at our tips for setting your fees). For flash sales, simply reduce your normal prices for a limited amount of time. Offer 15% off cards for the New Year or create a fun "holiday" version of your client's logo for a set price. What you offer is up to your imagination!

Reach out to past clients with your proposal, or promote your sale more broadly across social media, your 99designs profile and on your personal website. Just be sure to link directly to your profile or create a custom Service, so clients can easily start a 1-to-1 Project with you.

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 build your brand.
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. Be sure to make it 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, you'll need to have a clear call-to-action (CTA).
Try adding a "Work with me" button that links to your 1-to-1 Project invitation page:[your profile name]/invites. 
Here are a few ideas for displaying a clear and effective CTA message:
  • 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.
  • Personal Business Card: Position a "Work with me" message close to your portfolio URL.
  • Dribbble: Include a link to your 99designs profile in your bio.
  • Behance: Add your 99designs profile under Web References.
  • Instagram: Include your 99designs profile link to your bio.
  • PDF Portfolio: 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

Social media

These days social media is one of the most powerful marketing tools out there and a great way to build legitimacy for your business. 

Here's a few ways to get started:

  • Ask your clients to tag you when they reveal their new design—and then tag them in return.

  • Has your client posted an awesome photo of your design in real life? Ask them if you can repost it and tag them. 
  • Do your research into hashtags and learn how to make your posts more discoverable using them. 

  • Find a fun Instagram creative challenge to take part in to build your skills and get noticed

Remember to behave the same way you would on social media as you would professionally in real life. Always respect your client's wishes if they don't want to tag you or be tagged. Be strategic with your hashtags, posts and comments so you don't come off as spammy. 


Help people search for your work by taking care of your metadata (aka the title, tags and description text that like Google use to catalog web pages). 
On 99designs, we allow you to customize these descriptors when you add a design to your portfolio. Not only will the tags help you become more searchable on our site, but the title and description can help surface your work on search engines.
Consider what someone might type into a search engine to find your design and use those words to describe it. The more accurate you are with your metadata, the more easily you can find clients looking for a designer like you.   
Read more tips on how to craft titles, tags and descriptions in our guide to your 99designs profile

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 design portfolio

Looking for an easy way to share your design portfolio outside of 99designs? Use this template to pitch yourself to potential clients.

The template includes:

  • 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.
  • Portfolio pages: Highlight your best work with short descriptions and high-res images for each project.
Consider tailoring your designs to match each clients needs, so they can better understand why you’re a great match for them. Accent each page by matching the text color with a color in your image. Feel free to rearrange the template to better represent your personal style.  
Once you've finished editing the template, don't forget to export it as a single PDF file before sending to a client.

99designs icons

Looking for a slick way to link to your 99designs portfolio from your personal website? Treat these icons like any other social media badge by placing them in your navigation or footer.

Link the icon to your 99designs portfolio, or consider linking to[your profile name]/invites to let clients instantly invite you to their next project!

Download here→

99designs fact sheet

Is your client new to 99designs? Give them a copy of our 99designs fact sheet to help explain who we are and how to work easily with you using 1-to-1 Project.
Send it to them via PDF or print out a copy for them the next time you meet face-to-face. 

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