Treat yourself as a brand
One mistake designers often make is assuming that because they aren't a freelancer or a business owner that they don't need to market themselves. A career isn’t much different than a brand. We even use recommendations and references to build our reputation.
Many designers (but not all, surprisingly) know they need an online portfolio. Great work is crucial, but it doesn't need to stop here. Spend time explaining your design decisions, results and discussing real life problems that relate to your craft. Get yourself out there and don't use job searching as your only goal. See the bigger picture.
Attracting an Audience
As many in business would tell you, attracting customers starts a better relationship than reaching out to them first. I'm not saying you shouldn't talk to anyone. Quite the contrary! Reach out and help people. Create value without asking for anything in return. Set yourself up as an expert. When they (or an acquaintance) need someone with your skills, they will think of you.
Get your work in front of others. Be consistent. Do things like making a branded Facebook Page so you can post your thoughts and work without spamming your family. Invite colleagues and your network to follow you on there, knowing you are addressing needs they have. Talk about issues in workplace culture. Processes that could be changed. Leadership ideas. Be professional, but honest.
Post on Twitter, but use it to share other’s ideas and learn. Your followers will grow authenticity as you share related topics– measure the quality of your followers by authenticity and loyalty, not by numbers.
Don't rely on one social network. If you post design work on Instagram consistently, that is awesome. Your followers will be loyal because they know what they can expect - the reason they followed you in the first place. However, don't discount a place where your followers could learn more about you and keep supporting you in other ways. Who knows - you may have an opportunity to help them in other ways if they can reach out to you. I recommend having a website that can house all if your content, work, and contact info. And, that can be linked to from anything else - even your business card.
Business cards may be considered old school, but I can't tell you how glad I am to have these small, tangible reminders of the people I meet at conferences that I’d like to continue building professional relationships with. And, I'm usually greeted with a smile when I hand out my little cards, too. They don't need to have much on them these days, but your name, url and maybe even an avatar.
Mentor & Advise
Chances are, you have more to share that could help someone else than you think. Even a junior designer has a few lessons to share. Reach out to local design networks such as AIGA or meetup groups to share your expertise. Volunteer to speak about what you've encountered that could help others in their career or design process. Even something as simple as sharing how certain apps help your workflow can be valuable.
Many conferences have short time slot rounds. Submit to speak for a lightning round. This experience will not only provide a space for you to share your voice and design ideas, but the practice will help you build confidence when you’re starting out. Plus, most will pay for you to attend the event if you are chosen to speak!
This is a big one, in my opinion. While it does take up the most time out of all of my recommendations, the rewards for writing your own content are large. You can not only help others, but learn to articulate your thoughts and decisions, which will enhance your design process. If you write regularly, you can reach a wider audience. You can use your networks to share your writing, and even build an email newsletter list. The list is actually easy to set up and if you’re already writing regularly, it’s just another publishing step. This list can be a great resource for getting to know what topics hit home for your audience when preparing new material, or when considering other related leadership opportunities.
Meetups and live events
Anywhere you live, there are likely already design meetups within commute or driving distance. If not, there are virtual opportunities for networking, like Google Hangouts, that you can join or even start yourself. Sometimes they are as casual as getting together for coffee and sketching. Andnd other times you may have the opportunity to meet design personalities, or be the speaker for the evening.
Don't forget to harness the power of social media with your live event. Include hashtags to follow the conversation. Schedule tweets that can be easily retweet by the audience. And, remember to provide an easy URL for follow-up information, conversation, and additional resources after the event.
While you focus on getting yourself out there, it can be easy to lose focus of the big picture (not sure what you mean by this). You need to be confident, but humble. Don't be a know-it-all. Listen to others. Ask about and address the needs of your audience.
While working on paid projects or reading about inspiring ideas, many creatives keep ideas in our minds or on lists that never see the light of day. Spend time prioritizing time in your schedule to make strides on side projects that explore new perspectives and share them on your website. Remember that all work you do is making you better, not just paid gigs. These can often show your passion even more than a job can when you tell a story with them. They can also make you better in your paid work, thus are worth the investment.
Opportunities come in many forms
Jobs and paid gigs aren't the only ways your marketing efforts can pay off. Many times other opportunities pop up that you didn't even know existed. And, sometimes, they even turn into those more obvious things later. The more in-demand you are, the more control you have over the type of work you take on and how you incorporate it into your lifestyle. But, it takes an investment to get there. For example, being asked to speak. Or, to help out with promoting or producing an event for an organization. I'm not saying you should do all of these things as volunteer, but sometimes volunteer work can be great for your experience and exposure. This is not the same as spec work.
Implementing just a few of these techniques can grow your career opportunities exponentially. If you have any questions or ideas, I would love to hear from you http://danellebailey.com/contact!