You’ve got the design thing down. But the truth is, being successful in the world of graphic design is about more than being an awesome designer. If you want to break through the clutter and build a business, you need to do a lot more than create a portfolio—you need to brand yourself as a designer.

Branding is just as important for designers as it is for any other types of business. But while many designers feel confident about their ability to create killer designs, when it comes to branding themselves, they can be a little less confident.

We’ve got five essential ways you can brand yourself as a designer so you build the kind of brand that will draw in your ideal clients and take your business to the next level.

Shall we dive in?

1. Define who you are

If you don’t know who you are as a designer, how can you build a brand? Spoiler alert: you can’t. That’s why it’s super important to define who you are, what you do and who you’re targeting.

Designer alebelka uses her branding to showcase her illustration specialty.

Think of it as developing your brand identity. When you’re clear on who you are, you can make decisions that are in line with that identity, and it’ll make your overall branding more cohesive.

Lock down these  before you start doing any actual branding or design work:

  • Your mission and values. What’s your “why”?
  • Your brand personality. If your brand was a person, who would it be?
  • Your specialization. For example, are you a logo designer or a custom illustrator?
  • Your ideal customer. Who are you designing for?

If you’re just starting out, you might not know exactly who you are as a designer. That’s totally fine! Time to start soul searching.

When defining your brand, ask yourself:

  • Why did you start designing?
  • What kinds of design projects are you excited about?
  • Who are your dream clients?
  • What kind of vibe do you want people to get from your brand?
  • How would you describe yourself in three words?
  • How would your clients describe you in three words?
  • What are your biggest strengths as a designer? Your challenges?

2. Establish your POD

Your POD (short for point of difference) is like your “special sauce;” it’s sets you apart from the competition and makes a client choose to work with you over any other designer on the market. It’s what you do better than anyone else.

Designer Romantka specializes in modern logos, icons and t-shirt designs.

Have you been cranking out high-profile logos for a specific industry since your Mario Paint days? Do you turn around work so quickly that your clients strictly refer to you as Speedy Gonzales? Do you have the most detailed and thorough onboarding process in the biz, ensuring every one of your designs is exactly what your clients are looking for?

It’s important to figure out what sets you apart because that will convince potential clients that you’re the right designer for them. Make sure it’s front and center in all of your branding.

3. Get niche with it

“I design things” isn’t enough to really make an impact with potential clients. If you want to really connect with them, your branding needs to speak their specific language.

Or in other words, you’ve got to get niche with it.

Branding that yells “I’m a graphic designer” can appeal to a wide audience, but because it’s so general it’s not really going to excite anyone. “I’m a graphic designer who designs logos for real estate businesses” may not appeal to as wide of an audience, but you can be darn sure it’ll catch the attention of your ideal clients—real estate businesses in need of a logo.

SimpleIsGood logo designs
If you want to attract your ideal clients, you need to go niche with your portfolio, like this designer, who clearly specializes in vintage-style logos. Logo designs by SimpleIsGood

Narrow down your branding as much as you can. The more niche you are, the more you’ll connect with your ideal client—and the more business you’ll get as a result.

Pro tip: niching yourself down is good. Niching yourself down too much? Not so much. Don’t get so specific that you niche yourself out of a client pool.

4. Design your key branding elements

Alright, now that you’ve done all your homework, it’s time to start actually building your brand. And good news—this is the part you’re probably going to be the most comfortable with. Because it involves—you know—design.

Designer Inov specializes in line-art logos and illustrations.

To get your brand off the ground, you’re going to need to choose and design a few key branding elements, including:

  • Typography
  • Brand color palette
  • Logo
  • Website

You’re a designer, so we’re not going to school you on how to choose typography or design a logo, but just keep in mind these are all elements you’ll need to get your brand off the ground.

5. Put yourself in your client’s shoes

Thinking like your client can help you make the best decisions about how to position your brand. Is your ideal client looking to buck the status quo and make waves in their industry? They’re probably looking for a designer that’s a little on the edgy side and isn’t afraid to take risks.

Is your ideal client a little clueless about the design process? They’ll want to work with a designer who’s accessible and makes the entire process—from creative brief to final delivery— easy to manage and understand.

Is your ideal client looking for a way to connect with millennials? Then they’ll want a designer who’s brand reflects that they know what’s up with current trends.

When you put yourself in your client’s shoes, you can reverse engineer the things they’re most looking for in a designer’s brand—and make sure your brand covers all those bases.

If you build it, clients will come.

Get a handle on these five self-branding essentials, and you’ll have everything you need to thrive as a graphic designer. So get building!

(Pssst! Are you signed up as a designer on 99designs? If not, get on that! We’ve got a great platform to build your brand, expand your portfolio and find awesome new clients—if we do say so ourselves.)

Wanna fire up your freelance career?
Sign up as a designer on 99designs!