The Ultimate Graphic Design Business Marketing Guide

The Ultimate Graphic Design Business Marketing Guide

Whether you’re preparing to start your own graphic design firm or want to know how to increase your graphic design business sales, you need a strategic marketing plan to succeed. The graphic design industry is worth $13 billion in annual revenue, which means there are plenty of opportunities to grow your business. It also means there is plenty of competition. In fact, there are more than 126,000 businesses in the graphic design field, and nearly 90 percent of them are freelancers or companies without paid employees. Our graphic design business marketing guide includes everything you need to differentiate yourself from the competition, earn more sales, and position your business for success.

Ready to turn your business into a thriving enterprise with a strategic graphic design marketing plan? Let’s get started!

1Graphic design business: startup information

As a graphic designer today means viewing yourself as a partner in helping your clients brand themselves, visually communicate that brand, and market their businesses. Many graphic design businesses specialize in specific areas, which makes it easier to focus your own marketing on winning the right types of clients.

Graphic design businesses ideas
  • Web design and development
  • Brand design
  • Print media design
  • Graphic and commercial art services
  • Visual communication design services
  • Corporate identification (i.e. logo) design services
  • Graphic art and services
  • Creating illustrations
  • Medical illustration services
  • Photo editing
  • Architecture and engineering drafting
  • Video and film editing
  • Product design
  • Animation
  • Package design
How much does it cost to start a graphic design business?

Entrepreneur states graphic design business startup costs range from $2,000 to $50,000, but your investment will largely depend on what type of design work you will be doing, where you will be located, and how you will market your services.

A home-based freelance designer, for example, could start with little more than a business card, a brochure, and Adobe Creative Cloud ($50 per month for the entire suite) – altogether less than $1,000.

On the other hand, a graphic design firm with a downtown studio and employees would cost significantly more to start – as much as $50,000 or more.

To determine your startup costs, you’ll need to create a business plan. Your business plan will help you identify what type of graphic design firm you want to start, how and where you will operate, and project expenses and revenues.

You can find free graphic design business plan templates and advice from the following resources:
How much do graphic design business owners make?

How much you make depends on a variety of factors, including whether you’ll be a lone operator or hire designers to work for you. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for graphic designers is $22.90 per hour or $47,640 annually, with the lowest 10 percent making less than $27,950 and the highest 10 percent making more than $82,020. Graphic design business owners can expect to make around $100,000 per year.

How much do graphic designers make?
  • Median pay (employee or freelancer) $47,640

  • Top 10% $82,000+

  • Graphic design business owner$100,000+

Of course, you won’t make anything as a graphic designer business owner without a strategic marketing plan.

2 Graphic design business branding and design

As a graphic designer, your job is to help your clients visually communicate with their targeted audience - and of course, you need to practice what you preach. A powerful brand image is paramount, especially since it will serve as an example of what you can do for your clients.

As a graphic designer, you understand the importance of branding. Here’s one process for identifying and communicating your design brand.

Importance of a branded image
Define your niche

What is your niche in the graphic design industry? Do you do logos and corporate ID packages? Do you prefer web-based work? Do you like illustration work? Focusing on a niche is important, especially with so much competition.

Describe your benefits

How do you benefit your customers? How are you different from your competitors? What do you do better than your competition?

Know your customers

Create a perfect customer profile from your best clients. What are their values, likes, and dislikes? Study them, understand their problems and desires, then develop solutions that will help them achieve their goals.

State your mission

Who do you serve, and why? What is your philosophy? Where does your company stand today, and where do you want it to be in two years, five years, and 10 years? Your mission should encompass who you are and where you're going.

Sum it all up

Your brand is an expression of all these things. Use the answers to these questions to develop a tagline that sums up your design business and makes a powerful statement that attracts clients.

Branding through design

You’re a graphic designer, so you already know design is critical to branding. Your logo, brand colors, fonts, style guide, and other assets are visual symbols of your brand, and should be recognizable at a glance.

3 Graphic design business branding and design

As a graphic designer, your job is to help your clients visually communicate with their targeted audience - and of course, you need to practice what you preach. A powerful brand image is paramount, especially since it will serve as an example of what you can do for your clients.

Business cards

Business cards are staple marketing tools. Print business cards that list your services and lead prospects to your online portfolio. Hand them out to everyone you meet, place them in direct-mailers, and leave stacks where your audience is likely to see them. For greater visual impact, consider printing ultra business cards – they feature a band of edge color on triple-thick paper stock.

Posters

With the right message and graphic elements, well-placed posters can attract attention and motivate tons of response.

Flyers

Flyers are perfect marketing tools for placement on bulletin boards, windshields, direct mail, storefront windows, reception areas, and more.

Graphic design booklets/guides

Booklets are a unique and profitable way to give your prospects value. Print a booklet to showcase your work by presenting potential marketing campaign ideas to your customers; or, print your portfolio to hand out during sales meetings.

Postcards

Postcard printing is one of the most cost-effective ways to market a graphic design business. Send postcards to a targeted mailing list comprised of business owners, nonprofit organizations, and others who need graphic design services. Command attention with edge-colored ultra postcard printing.

Brochures

Outline your service offering by printing brochures for your graphic design business. Showcase your work and include a link to view the rest of your portfolio online.

Calendars

Showcase your designs by printing calendars that feature your best work each month.

Greeting cards

Thank clients for their business with custom greeting card printing. Include a personalized note to foster long-term relationships with customers.

Stickers

Sticker marketing lets you shatter boundaries because they can be used just about anywhere: ceilings, floors, magazines, notebooks, windows, cars - anywhere your target audience is likely to find them.

Newsletters

A well-written and informative newsletter that adds value helps you stay connected to your customers year-round. Create a marketing newsletter packed with marketing tips and ideas for your client base, and sprinkle your copy with pitches for your own services.

Vinyl banners

Print banners and place them in high-traffic areas to promote your graphic design business. Keep your message simple, but wow passers-by with an amazing design to show off your capabilities.

Corporate identity kit

If you want to attract large corporate clients, be prepared with a formal corporate identity kit that includes sales sheets, flyers, business cards, a brochure, stickers, notepads, and your portfolio, all delivered in an attractive professional pocket folder.

Digital marketing

You should have a website and engage in social media and email marketing. Place your portfolio on your website as well as design portfolio sites such as Behance and Coroflot. Post your best work on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and other social sites. Send an email newsletter to stay in front of your audience.

4 Graphic design business marketing: copywriting

Your design skills will draw prospects in, and it should work with your copy to deliver a powerful message that motivates them to take the next step in the purchasing process.

Four steps for writing winning copy
STEP1
Craft an attention-getting headline

No matter what marketing medium you’re using, your headline is what draws readers in to read the rest of your copy. Make a bold statement that solves problems, alleviates fears, or fulfills desires. When possible, include your offer as part of your headline.

STEP2
Highlight your benefits

Amateurs write about features; professionals highlight benefits. If you offer all-in-one web development (feature), you have to tell your audience that this means they'll never have to worry about security, hidden costs, support, etc. (benefit).

STEP3
Develop an incredible offer

Great offers make money. Consider your services from your customers' point-of-view. What would it take for you to act? Your offer should increase value for your customers. Make your offer time-limited to get the greatest response in the shortest amount of time.

STEP4
Motivate with a call to action

Tell your audience in no uncertain terms what they must do next. Provide multiple response channels (website, phone call, visit office) so you can cater to everyone.

5 Graphic design business marketing: distribution

If you want to reach your full graphic design business potential, you need to get the right message in front of the right audience, at the right time. Here are some tips for marketing distribution:

Direct mail

Direct-mail marketing is a great way to reach a well-targeted audience – which is critical to success. In fact, the 40/40/20 rules of direct-marketing states that 40 percent of your success is based on the quality of your mailing list.

The 40/40/20 rules of direct-marketing
  • 40
    Quality of
    mailing list
  • 40
    Perceived value
    of offer
  • 20
    Everything else
    (design, copy, timing, etc.)

You can use the mailing list builder at PsPrint to create a mailing list comprised of people who share your best customer demographics.

You might need more than one list; for example, one for corporate clients and another for small business owners.

How to advertise graphic design services

You can place posters, flyers, and banners in areas your audience is most likely to see them, as well as in high-traffic areas to brand your graphic design business en masse.

You can also consider advertising in online and offline business directories, take out ads on radio, television, and in business publications and websites. LinkedIn, Google, and Facebook advertising might be good options, and you can join business networking groups and organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce.

Follow up

Long-term success means taking an analytic approach to marketing. The Three T’s represents one strategy.

The Three T’s of Marketing (Big “T” words)

In this manner, you’ll be able to craft marketing campaigns that yield predictably positive results and continually grow your business over time.

6 Graphic design business marketing: ideas and resources

Creative marketing generates buzz, delivers value to your customers, and increases profits for you. Boost your marketing efforts for your business with the following graphic design promotion ideas:

Creative ideas

Host an event

Host a print and web marketing seminar that demonstrates how the two mediums can work together to deliver great results. Ask your customers to interact with you by critiquing their websites and collateral on the spot. Host a charitable event and auction off a free design package or select marketing tool such as a set of business cards. Market your event with postcards, posters, flyers, banners, and brochures.

Partner with others

Non-competing, complementary businesses can generate revenue and bolster your mailing list. Web developers, copywriters, social media marketers, and ad placement firms are just some of the businesses that would be a good fit for a graphic designer.

Promote unique angles

Instead of just saying you design websites, try giving your services unique and memorable names such as "Wickedly Wonderful Web Design."

Mail it in

Create a portfolio booklet or brochure and mail it along with a letter of introduction (printed on company letterhead, of course) to potential customers. Follow up with a postcard that delivers an exclusive offer. Send greeting cards to personalize your marketing efforts.

Resources

Here are a few links to graphic design business marketing resources you can use to bolster business:

Full-service printing, direct mailing and mailing list generation.

Information on direct marketing.

Helpful guides, forms and sample marketing plans for small business. The SBA also supports Small Business Development Centers throughout the United States.

The Service Corps of Retired Executives provides free advice in the form of online information and business counseling. Simply contact one of SCORE's volunteer members for business mentorship.

The professional association for graphic design