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Growing your social audience as a designer

Hi, I’m Al Power and I’m an Irish Product Designer based in Dublin. I specialize in Visual and Brand Identity design and have over 15 years experience in the industry. I currently work full-time as a Senior Product Designer for Qstream.

I remember starting out in the industry and having absolutely no idea what I was doing. I knew I wanted to be a designer but I had no idea where to start. I was never really one for studying or watching tutorial after tutorial. I wanted to find the ‘quick way to become a designer’. It was only over time I realised that there is no such thing. The only way to really understand the industry is to experience it. And the more you grow within the industry, the more your audience will grow.

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Why grow your audience?

Why do you want to grow an audience? It shouldn’t be for the fame or notoriety. Growing your audience will help you ease your imposter syndrome and get your name out there. I set myself a goal to reach 100 Dribbble followers, then 1,000, then 10,000 etc. It started out as a mental challenge, but as my audience grew, I started getting more and more job offers. I began to pick and choose what projects I worked on and it gave me control of my career. I could also charge what my work was worth. Without the audience, I couldn’t have the freedom I have now.

Here’s how I progressed:

  • The more I practiced, the more I honed my skills.
  • The more I honed my skills, the better my portfolio looked.
  • The better my portfolio looked, the more work I got.
Golden Gate Bridge - San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge - San Francisco

by Al Power

A small memento for a someone who left their heart in San Francisco....

View on Dribbble

Tips to grow your audience

While there may not be an exact formula you can follow, here are a few things that I think are important:

Be passionate

This applies to anything in life. To succeed you need determination and passion. Don’t be afraid to post work that you feel may be a little bit out of your comfort zone. It’s healthy to be uncomfortable when designing. Putting yourself out there is how you grow and develop.

Find your style

I got this advice very early on in my career as an illustrator and I had no idea what it meant. At first, all I did was ‘copy’ other designers I admired online. As I got better over time, I realised that I was developing my own style. By working on various illustrated series, I slowly started to develop a unique style. I say unique very loosely as I know there are a million designers out there with a similar style. I suppose it’s not really about finding a unique style, but more about becoming comfortable with a style and making it yours, even if it’s not unique.

Set goals

This is another statement that applies to anything in life. Set goals. Without clear goals, you’ll struggle to feel any great achievement.

Learn about social platforms

Do your best to learn about the social platforms you’re using. Figure out when it is best to post and what is best to post. There are probably some tips you already know, like weekend posts don’t get as many views at weekday posts, posting every day will get you more traction, and always attach an image. It’s all about maximizing your reach.

Share your work

Share your work everywhere—Dribbble, Behance, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, DesignerNews, everywhere you can. I’ve also found that writing articles about your work and process really helps you grow in confidence, but also gets your name out there.

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Plan for sharing your work

Over time I’ve built up a portfolio full of end-to-end branding projects which includes logo design, a general style-guide, a new illustration style, and creating a marketing site.

Here’s an outline of my sharing process after finishing a project:

Post a shot

I post a shot on Dribbble of the overall concept. Dribbble is the perfect place to share your work and grow a solid follower base but it also acts as a second portfolio site. I use it to post my best work.

Create a style guide for the project

This is something I do for myself, even if the client doesn’t directly ask for it. I create a case study with an overview of the general style-guide. This can be used for both my portfolio as well as sharing on Dribbble and Behance, outlining the high-level style of the project. It includes the logo and brand rules, an example of the illustration style, and the colour palette and typography options. This is something that can also be shared on LinkedIn, Twitter, and DesignerNews.

Write an article about the project and process

This is something that I’ve only recently started doing but I’ve realised it’s key to growing your audience. When writing the article, I focus on the process, what worked and what didn’t, and how I got to the final product. I repost this article on Medium. It gives you another chance to share your work while allowing you to explain your design decisions.

Nuvo Illustration Guides

Nuvo Illustration Guides

by Al Power

A set of illustrations and guides for a project I did with @Daniel Heeley and the Nuvo team. You can see the Behance project here: https://www.behance.net/gallery/60036577/Your-Free-Digital-Broker

View on Dribbble

At the end of the process, you’ll have shown the work, highlighted the rules around the project styles, and you’ll have written about what you’ve learned from the project all by maximising your reach as much as possible. Your client will also be delighted with the extra promotion—just make sure you have permission to share.

Again, there’s no exact formula for growing your audience—but this is what worked for me. Hopefully, some of my advice will work for you and you’ll figure out a strategy that works best for you.

Want to know more about Al’s process? Find him on Dribbble, Behance, Portfolio site, Medium, and on Twitter

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