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Promoting a graphic design business?

With a strong portfolio, a website and a small group of clients I would like to expand my graphic design business into something more full time. Without spending a fortune on online advertising, or networking my current clients (they are all real estate agents and I really want to start working with a larger variety of clients) how can I promote my existing business?

I’m looking for off-the-wall suggestions that would stand out from what everyone in my area seems to do (i.e. Craigslist, online ads). This is a small business, me and a friend who helps when I get busy, and I really want to move this into a full-time venture.

Any other business suggestions would be greatly appreciated (eh, I’m an artist not a businesswoman)!

Go to your local community center or school and find sports teams. Offer to sponsor them, and include some design work for T shirts…take pictures with the team members and give them each a copy of the photo.

Introduce yourself to restaurant owners in your area and tell them you are available for menus/sign design. Do a sample in advance and leave it with them.

Offer to teach a free class at the library – What to Look for in a Graphic Designer, for instance, or using Photoshop or another program you’re familiar with. Give your business card out to everyone who attends. Be sure to submit the class listing to any events section of your local newspaper (free).

Design a magnetic sign for your car and put it on there, then even when you’re just driving around you’re advertising!

Make a flyer with your information on it, and a small sample of your design work. Put that flyer in every piece of mail you send out for bills, etc. Even if the bill you pay is across the country, you never know who is on the lookout for design work.

Promote your website (if you have one) by adopting a section of highway. List the website name for the sign they post. This is free and can be good advertising.

Hook up with a printing company, offering one-stop shopping. Promote this at businesses…keep a few business cards in your car, along with a flyer you’ve made. People can be so busy and it’s nice to offer everything from design to printing, without the client needing to find separate vendors.

Anytime you do anything remotely newsworthy (give that talk or sponsor the teams) write a press release and send it to your local newspapers. They may come out and do a feature article about you.

Good luck!

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