Calculating the Return On Investment (ROI) on Marketing Your Design Skills
By Thursday Bram If you want to make a living as a web designer, there's no option but to market your services. As much as you might hope clients will drop out of the sky, you have to take the steps necessary to make sure that those prospective clients know that you can help them and can easily find you. But the options for marketing web design skills seem endless: you can network, blog, advertise, cold call and promote yourself until you're blue in the face. You can spend hours trying to line up clients and be unable to tell if your efforts are having any effect at all. Are the majority of your clients finding you through a specific ad? Or maybe through an article you contributed to a magazine? [fblike] If you know what marketing methods are actually helping you to land design clients, you can often focus your efforts on those marketing projects that are the most effective. If something time-intensive, like a blog, isn't actually bringing in new clients, wouldn't it be nice to stop investing time in it? All of that boils down to the fact that, if you're marketing yourself as a web designer, you need to be calculating the ROI of the time you're spending on your promotional efforts. ROI — or the return on investment — is a matter of determining if the work you're bringing in is enough to cover the cost of the time you're spending on marketing, at least for web designers. For certain organizations, it can get a lot more complicated, but for a small web design shop or a freelancer, that's really the question that determines if your marketing is worth your while.
Your Business WebsiteFor many web designers, your own website is central to your marketing plan. It may be a beautiful design that walks clients through every step of the process and showcases your portfolio, but you have to get traffic to your website in the first place. You can't just take a 'build it and they will come' approach. Considering that many web designers rely heavily on online marketing techniques, such as newsletters or social media, it is significantly easier to measure the effect your efforts are having online than off. It can be a matter of installing Google Analytics or another analytics package on your website and actually diving into the reports.
SEO and TrafficThe odds of optimizing your site for terms like 'web designer' and ending up on the first page of the search results are not good. But it's certainly possible to rank well for more specific terms like 'web designer' and your town. Measuring the results of your SEO projects is just a matter of looking at those analytics reports and seeing which search terms are actually sending traffic to your site. More complicated to track are in-bound links. In-bound links can provide targeted traffic that can include prospective clients actually interested in hiring you to design a website. Of course, it helps if you have links in the right place. When you're looking through your analytics reports, take a look at what other websites are sending you traffic. If you're using an analytics package that lets you do so, see if you can track conversions on your site (most likely contacting you to discuss a new project) and see if particular sites are sending you traffic that converts better than others. There are a couple of categories the links sending traffic to your site can fall into, including the following:
- Past clients. You may be surprised how well a link in the footer of a client site can promote you as a web designer. But the fact of the matter is that someone who clicks that link is probably already impressed by your skills as a web designer.
- Giveaways and articles. Whether you offer up a free icon set or submit a guest post to a blog, you can establish your expertise as a web designer by promoting your work on other sites. However, it's important to consider what kind of traffic these links send you. Depending on where you're establishing your expertise, it may come more from other designers than from prospective clients.
- Professional links. It's entirely possible that someone will mention you in a blog post that refers to you as a person, while linking to you as a designer. While that link might get some clicks, it's generally not nearly as valuable as a link that refers to you as a professional.