Why can’t new clients just magically find us?

Isn’t there some kind of summoning charm we can cast?

If only…

Braving the snow and the polar vortex, us fearless creatives sat down and brainstormed ways to do outreach that feels authentic and decidedly not slimy.

Your blog writer and note taker, Anna, was struggling with some massive jet lag so a preemptive apology that this recap may not be as thorough as normal. Sean was on point, as always, with the photos.

OMFG this blog post is too long

Know your audience

Old school - snail mail

New school - social media

Super new school - videos and more

Email is cool too

Collaborate and listen

Soooo authentic

But also be consistent


Know your audience

Who are you targeting? Who do you want to work with?

Marketing is scary as a freelancer or entrepreneur because the big question always lingers: WHAT IF NO ONE WANTS ME.

But you know what every kid's movie always says: “You’ll never know until you try.”

As creatives we are consistently going to come up against projects that are just a little bit outside of our expertise, and you better believe that the potential client knows it.

Think of marketing as your chance to prove that you have the ability to close that talent gap. Marketing is you opportunity to put stakes down on the table and control just a little bit of your image.

Now why is this whole paragraph in the ‘know your audience’ section? Because if you put table stakes down without knowing who is on the other side of it, how do you know how much to bet?

Take a moment to really understand who you need to reach out to first and start cultivating those relationships.

Ah, relationships. I’m surprised it took me this long to get that word on this recap.

Yeah, this whole blog is about relationships. Ya ready to get a Dating 101 lesson?


Old school - snail mail

When was the last time you got a letter in the mail and who was it from?
You can probably remember it almost immediately (and if it’s been awhile, hit me - Anna - up on Slack and I’ll write you a letter. It’s my favorite past time).

When was the last time you got an email and who was it from?

That’s harder to answer because we get those all. The. Time.

Snail mail is a great way to stand out from the email crowd.

Sending beautiful postcards that the contact might want to hang up on their desk or physical customized kits showcasing your work is a great way for someone to not only see what your designs would look like on their packaging but to show it off to others in the office.

For example, Yao sent mockups of her work on packaging to show how it would look and feel and that ended up being a great way to get her foot solidly in the door.

The thing about snail mail is that, well, it’s slow.

Not only does it take a bit to get to the person it’s also a slow return. That contact might have your gorgeous postcard on their desk for two years, but when they need something you're the first person they think of.

The lesson: Don’t make the other person work hard to figure out who you can fit into their business.

New school - social media

The short of it:

Social media is overwhelming but can be highly effective.

The long of it:

Before we dive into this topic yet again (read more about social media here), go back up to the first section and make sure you know your audience.

Some Rise & Designers get most of their projects from social, others get none. The important thing is to know why you are on a platform.

The hardest thing with social media is content development. It takes time and effort and a constant whirling of “is this good enough should I publish this will people like it what hashtags do I use but should I even use hashtags no I won’t publish it oh hell why not.”

A great suggestion was to break up your production into multiple posts. Instead of just posting the final product show off your process, your sketches and revisions and color testing.

That way one project can turn into a heck of a lot of content for you to publish and it shows your ability to close any talent gaps.



Super new school - videos and more

Videos are totally 2019. And 2018, and maybe a bit of 2017.

Anyway, it’s time to start recording videos. They are easy to digest content where people can see your face, watch your process, and understand how you work.

Videos make you relatable and a known entity when someone decides they want to hire you. That first introduction of “Who are you” is already half-way done.

Syd was successful at live streaming her projects on Twitch.TV, gaining a healthy audience and even income from it. What started as sharing turned into a marketing strategy.

Not only does video give you incredible content, but it also gives you tons of fodder to break it up into multiple pieces for even more content!

But wait!

Please be aware that video takes A LOT of time post-production to package it up for publishing.

Another great suggestion is to make gifs to showcase your work. They load easily within emails and can do multiple things.

  1. Show different sides and uses of a design or a time lapse of your process

  2. Show your ability to do video if that’s needed for the job

  3. Show that you’ve got talent in more areas than just your main skill set

Gyazo is a sweet gif maker tool.

Email is cool too

You’ve already sent postcards, posted on social media, and created some sweet videos.

But nothing is happening still.

Please don’t forget emails (begs an email copywriter).

Think about past clients that you’ve loved working with. Reach back out to them to see if they have any more work or pitch them a new great idea! Let’s be real, most people don’t really know what they need from a creative until we tell them.

If that feels scary, you can always write and ask for feedback. That’s a softer way to get back to the top of their inbox and remind them of your great work.

Cold emails are also pretty stellar marketing tools. But please don’t just copy and paste a template for every contact you pitch to.

Show off what you can do and what you think they need. Don’t just link them to your website, put some sweet gifs in there, testimonials, and a very very clear call to action.

Yes, have a call to action in your emails.

The worst thing would be for you to write this totally awesome cold email and then they have no idea what to do next.

Side note on email management:

Respond as quickly as possible to new queries coming in.

Use a vacation responder in clever ways to keep conversations going. You can get a new email address that’s just for incoming queries and have all messages immediately get a response with “Thanks! I usually take X days/hours to respond to emails, but in the meantime here’s a rundown of my process and work.”


Collaborate and listen

We tend to look outward too much, trying to get new clients and new contacts.

But I’m betting we all have at least 4-5 projects hidden away somewhere in our current contact list.

Relationships are really the heart and soul of online marketing as a freelancer or entrepreneur.

How can you deepen the relationships you already have?

Do real social media by taking people out for coffee, going to events, or picking up the phone and calling (shock and awe!). Find places where you’ll probably be the only one in the room who does what you do. Be helpful and be professional and be yourself.

Collaborate with fellow creatives to reach a wider audience. If you’re working on a side project think about who you can pull in to it and collaborate with!

Share that stage! You not only get to deepen a relationship with someone totally awesome, but you also have a partner that can help you out when you’re feeling exhausted. You have accountability. Who knows? Maybe you’ll end up on a bunch of podcasts like Jeremy did...

Soooo authentic

In all of your outreach efforts, be authentic.

Ugh, what an annoying buzzword. Let’s use a different one, shall we?

Be bona fide (yessssss good word!!!!).

The dangerous thing about being a creative is that it’s all too easy to wrap your self-worth up in your work and Instagram likes.

Using your bona fide self as your marketing image can be dangerous. People feel like they own your time and emotions and can expect vulnerability at every turn. What if you don’t want to give it to them?

Now some people completely thrive on marrying their work to their life. We all know them and we all probably want to be them.

But please please please make sure that’s what you want.

Understand what you’re good at and do that.

  • If going to networking events makes you break out in hives, don’t go.

  • If picking up the phone to call someone makes you twitch nervously, don’t.

  • If hand-writing letters cause your hands to sweat, don’t write them.

Find your strength and be the best at that.

I’m really good at networking events.

Rachel is brilliant at bringing people together.

Ben is incredible at social media.

Jeremy is awesome at making side projects bring in more business.


But also be consistent

Once you’ve decided on your niche marketing tool, be consistent. Talent and success takes consistency and new clients won’t come rolling in overnight. It doesn’t work that way.

Stick with a tactic for at least 3 months to see if you have any success. Go in 100% so if it doesn’t work you know it doesn’t work, not “well, if I had done this…”

But through it all, be bona fide, be consistent, and stick to your values.


Gyazo - a gif maker