February 28, 2022

10 Free Ways to Promote Your Work as a Designer

Illustration design

This article will discuss ten free ways to promote your design portfolio and work to as many people as possible.

As a designer, you know how important it is to get your work in front of as many people as possible.  This is especially true if you are in the creatives, UI, social media, and illustration design fields.  The more people who see your work, the more likely you will land new clients and projects.  

Illustration design

Luckily, there are many ways to promote your work for free. This article will discuss ten free ways to promote your design portfolio and work. These methods are easy to implement and can help you reach a larger audience.

Let's get started!

1. Build your Own Website or Join a Portfolio Website

Sign up and display your projects on portfolio websites. Usually, portfolio websites are linked to designers' social media profiles so that potential clients can easily access their work. The advantage of being listed on portfolio sites is the established traffic you can get, but having your portfolio website is full control over the creativity in your website design. If you find it difficult to choose which route to take, think about how much time and effort you want to put into creating or maintaining your portfolio website.

5 best free portfolio websites to show off your designs

1. Behance - It is a website used by creative professionals all over the world to showcase their work. This can include fashion, design, illustration,  advertising, photography, fine arts, and much more. You can upload illustration design projects and display your custom illustration work.

2. Dribbble -  A community of designers sharing graphic designs, photos, and other creations. It's the go-to place for designers to share what they're working on and get feedback from the community

3. Carbonmade -  It is a simple, easy-to-use portfolio website builder. You can use it to showcase projects, videos, and more

4. PortfolioBox -  This lets you quickly create an online portfolio with your work. It's free to use and gives you total control over your content

5. Squarespace -  It offers beautiful templates and an easy-to-use interface for creating a portfolio website. You can use it to showcase a variety of your projects, videos, and more.

2. Curate your Instagram

Illustration design

Nothing beats a well-curated Instagram account.  With the platform being free, there's no reason for you not to post samples of your work on Instagram. Create an account and make sure to set your profile to the public.  This allows the platform to read the hashtags you use and be picked up for users constantly on the discover section of the application.

That being said, take the time to do hashtag research and find the best hashtags that resonate with your posts.  Don't be afraid to use a lot of them (up to 30 per post). The more people who see your design work, the better.

Some great design hashtags to get you started are : #illustrationdesign, #graphicdesign, #art, #creative #drawing.

Make sure also to add location tags so that potential clients can find you easily. For example, if you're based in London, tag your posts with "#London" and "London_only". This will help those who are looking for designers in your area. You can also use this tactic if you're willing to travel for projects.

3. Leverage on the Power of Video Through TikTok and Youtube

While Youtube is more popular, TikTok is gaining momentum, and both of them offer equally important free promotions. TikTok is already one of the most popular apps on the planet.  It's a great platform for promoting your work, as it allows you to share short videos with your followers.

Video content has become very popular recently because people spend more time at home due to the pandemic. Videos are also an effective way of communicating information. People love them. So use this opportunity to promote yourself with short videos on TikTok or Youtube.

Youtube videos can be your long format platform where you can share anywhere between a minute to 30 minutes if you need that much time, while TikTok is where you share only 7 to 30-second clips of your work.

Make sure that your videos are creative and interesting because you want to grab people's attention and keep them watching. You can also use TikTok and Youtube to drive traffic back to your website or portfolio.

4. Participate in design competitions

Competitions are a great way to get exposure for your work and improve your skills. There are many competitions out there that are open to designers of all experience levels.

Just make sure that the competition has a good reputation. You don't want to waste your time or money on a contest that won't help you achieve your goals.

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Here are a few websites that constantly run competitions:

1. DesignCrowd 

You can find design competitions on this website and contests for other types of designs.

2. DesignContest 

This website has a list of design contests currently open for submissions.

3.  99designs 

On this website, you can compete in logo design, web design, and other types of creative contests.

5. Write Creative Blogs

Drive traffic to your work by writing creative blogs that showcase your work.  Not only will this help you get exposure, but it can also help you improve your writing skills.  

Blog writing shows critical thinking skills and showcases more depths of your design capability.  Being able to convey your thought process to an audience through writing also means that potential clients will have little to no difficulty expressing their requests and understanding it. 

While you can add a blog to your portfolio website, you may also want to consider guest blogging for design-related websites. This will help you get your name out there and increase your chances of getting hired by potential clients.

6. Collaborate with high-affinity influencers

If you can find influencers within your target industry with a pretty decent following. You may want to try and reach out and offer collaborations.  

Illustration design


An influencer is someone who has a lot of followers on social media and is usually associated with expertise or association to a certain topic. By collaborating with them, you can get your work out there to their audience and potentially open up opportunities for future clients in that industry.  Collaborating might take some time, but the payoff is tremendous. 

But don't just pick any influencer with the 10k or 100k following. Do some background research and find out if your influencer gets responses and engagement from your target markets. 

This can be done by looking at their audience's past comments, reactions, and shares.  Some influencers have a large following, but the engagement is poor, which means that the followers are not relevant for you to target.

Find your potential influencers through manual research on platforms such as Instagram or Pinterest through hashtag checking.  Another way to find them is by using Google search or by using tools like BuzzSumo.

Once you've found your ideal collaborator, reach out and see if they're interested in working together. You may have a bit of getting to know or negotiation that might take place. So make sure you can find a compromise where you can offer your work for free and get maximum exposure.

7. Create Profiles on Freelancing Platforms

Freelancing platforms like Upwork or Fiverr are good places to get work online. They provide you with an opportunity to show your portfolio and connect directly with potential clients who might need design services in future projects they're working on now.  If you don't want long-term commitment, freelancing sites can be a great place where one-time illustration projects could land in your lap without much effort other than signing up and creating a profile.

Illustration design

Aside from Upwork and Fiverr, here are other freelancing sites you can promote your work on:

1. Freelancer - One of the earliest and most commonly known freelancing websites out there in the market.

2. Outsourcely - As their name suggests, Outsourcely is a freelance site where people can look to outsource certain tasks or requirements.

3. Guru - This website is for finding freelancers for a wide range of professions.

4. PeoplePerHour 

A UK-based freelance site that offers services across multiple industries including software, creatives, and writing.

8. Pin your portfolio on Pinterest

Pinterest is a visual search engine that helps people discover interesting images and ideas from around the world.

It is another great social media platform that you can maximize for free promotions. By pinning your design work on Pinterest, you can get some decent traffic to your website and portfolio. You can create multiple illustration-related boards that group all of your design pieces by category and in one place for easy access.

A few tips to make your Pinterest Pin stand out:

  • Use high-quality images 

Make sure your work looks great when pinned on Pinterest. Re-size and adapt your images according to Pinterest standard Pin Sizes

  • Write interesting descriptions

Pinners love to know more about the artwork they're pinning, so make sure to write interesting and engaging descriptions for your illustrations.

  • Add relevant keywords

When adding keywords to your pins, make sure to use relevant ones that people would use when searching for illustrations.

 If you want even more exposure for your pins, using rich pins will do the trick. Rich Pins are pins that have extra information such as prices, ratings, and author bios attached to them.

9. Submit Your Work to Online Galleries

Online galleries are a great way to get your work in front of a larger audience. Many online galleries accept submissions from designers, and most of them are free to use. Make sure that you submit your best work - you want to make a good impression on the gallery's visitors.

Some of the best Free Online galleries are:

1. Awwwards - This website has a gallery section featuring some of the best creatives in different design categories.

2. Creative Boom - This online magazine focuses on art, creativity, and culture. They have a gallery section that features creatives from different artists and designers.

3. Society of Illustrators - Established in 1901, this organization is one of the oldest and most respected illustration societies in the world. They have a great online gallery showcasing some of the best work from their members.

10. Get Networking

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This means getting out there and into the circles where your work could be valuable.  Attend events and other gatherings related to art or creatives, and network with other professionals in the industry. This can either be through online events or local events near you. Take a proactive step towards getting yourself out there.You are your best marketing tool.

  • Attend illustration-related events - Usually, there are art exhibitions, book launches, meetups, and more that you can attend to get yourself out there.
  • Host a Webinar -  If you're an experienced illustrator, consider hosting a webinar on a topic related to illustration design or making custom illustrations. This is a great way to share your knowledge and expertise with others in the illustration community.
  • Participate in online forums and communities - There are a lot of online communities (Facebook groups, Google+ circles, LinkedIn groups) where you can find design-related discussions. Join them and become active community members by sharing your work, asking for feedback on projects, or helping others out with their illustration questions.
  • Volunteer to speak at a local event - If there are no events that interest you in your area, consider creating one yourself!  It's easier than ever today thanks to social media sites like Meetup where other people might be interested, too, but just hadn't gotten around getting started yet (this happens often). Just make sure it's something related to art or designing so everyone can talk about what they love doing most.

Takeaway

Promoting design work doesn't have to cost you a fortune. There are so many ways to do this for free, using social media, blogging, and networking. These tips may take some time, but they will lead towards success in the long run if done consistently over several months or years. Share your portfolio with others through these channels and see where they go from there and what opportunities come out of it all. Remember: anything could happen.

If you are looking for helpful tools in making AMAZING illustration designs. In that case, we invite you to check out DesignStripe, a simple to use online platform that allows you to customize beautiful hand-drawn illustrations to convey your story no matter the scenario. You'll have a blast creating your designs, so give it a try.