Architecture Career Guide: How to Market Yourself as a Freelance Architect
By: Emma Walshaw, First In Architecture
Retrieved from: Architecture Career Guide: How to Market Yourself as a Freelance Architect
It is important to have a strong online presence, and it’s up to you which platforms you choose to get involved with. It is important that people can learn about you, what you do, and see examples of your work, so a LinkedIn profile and an online portfolio is a good starter.
Next, it is important to consider where your potential clients might be. Are you looking to work with other architects providing architectural support? Or wanting to design for clients directly? This will determine where you might spend your time promoting your services.
Let’s take a bit of time looking at some of the different ways you can create your online presence.
As an architect or technologist, we all know how important the portfolio is. Giving potential clients the opportunity to see your work, and understand how you might fit their requirements is key if you are to win work.
There are a number of options to consider with an online portfolio. Firstly, the platform itself: where will the portfolio live? How will it be hosted, and viewed? Where will it get the most exposure, to the right people?
While some opt for a portfolio on their own website, others choose to use existing platforms to showcase their work. Whichever you go for, make sure the viewing experience is easy, and works well. If a potential client experiences any barriers to viewing your work, you can consider them a client lost.
Some online portfolio sites include:
Behance is considered one of the best places to showcase your portfolio, it is often used by other creatives for inspiration, and to share ideas. You can upload your projects and create links that you can share on your social media or anywhere else on the web. URLs are not custom so your portfolio web address will always be associated with Behance – there is however a paid Pro option where you can select your own domain.
Adobe offer a free portfolio service with templates you can use to get started. It has integration with Behance and the portfolios are optimised for use on any device. You can also have a custom domain name for your portfolio.
Issuu is a platform where you can share content usually in a flippable book format. This allows you to create a portfolio in a pdf format, and the user can then flip through it on Issuu. There are lots of great examples of architecture portfolios on the site already, and you are not restricted by size or orientation of the document. You can also embed the portfolio on your own website.
Coroflot is another online portfolio service. While the layout is not very flexible, it still seems to be a popular option.
Creating your own website is another good way to show your potential clients who you are, what you do and showcase your work all in one place. While it might be more labour intensive to create your own site, it is in your control and you can update and amend it as your business grows.
Key information to include in your website (this will vary according to your target client):
- Name and contact details
- Information about the services your provide – don’t be vague
- Include your main skills
- Share your interests
- Include a call to action – tell visitors to the site what they need to do next (this could be ‘send me an email’, ‘connect on linkedIn’, ‘give me a call to discuss your project’ that kind of thing.
Web design tips
As a new freelancer it is likely you are on a shoestring budget and will be designing the website yourself. Here are a few key things to consider:
- Show your brand — logo/profile picture and tagline should be clearly visible
- Keep your visual elements consistent — colours, fonts, sizes and so on
- Show your personality — you are providing a personal service as a freelancer; let that show through on your website
- Your website should be mobile friendly and easy to navigate
- Include a contact page so that potential clients can easily reach you
- Social media icons are an important way to build a connection with potential clients
- Make sure all links and buttons work correctly
- Ensure that all images are your own or have creative commons license
LinkedIn is a powerful business to business networking tool gives you the opportunity to communicate your expertise and value to prospective clients. To make the most of the platform, you should carefully consider how you set up/update your LinkedIn profile.
Remember to include a profile picture, and ideally it should be consistent with any profile pictures you may have on your website or portfolio. Make sure you look professional but approachable. Keep the background simple, to ensure you stand out — it is viewed as a tiny thumbnail on your desktop or mobile, so you should ideally take up about 50% of the overall image.
Don’t overlook the background photo. This is often left blank but it’s a good opportunity to communicate more about yourself or your services. You could use the background image to promote your brand, show your certifications, show some of your work, or a picture of yourself at work.
The headline on your profile is one of the hardest parts to write. It is pretty limited on characters but this is the first thing connections will see, so it needs to be punchy! Share something more than just your job title, explain what you do, or how you can help. What makes you different?
Another important part of the LinkedIn profile is your ‘About’ summary. This is your chance to communicate to your potential client what you do and how you can help them. Include who your ideal clients are, how you can help and why your work is important.
Once you have everything set up you can make connections, share interesting content and engage in groups and discussions. This all takes time but it’s a great way to connect with people and find potential new business.
If you feel your target client will be on other social channels besides LinkedIn, it could be worth creating a profile on other social media sites. Make sure you are committed to engaging in the sites you have a profile on, so consider keeping the different channels to a minimum.
Writing a blog can be a powerful tool for online visibility. Write about your projects, experience and useful information for your potential clients. Always have in mind the reason for your writing. Having a blog allows you to share your content on social media, keep your clients up to date with news and boost your personal brand.
It isn’t necessary to create a logo as a freelancer but you can if you wish. For LinkedIn it is better to use a headshot as your profile image rather than a logo. However if you have created a website it could be good to have a logo and some sort of cohesive design/branding across your site.
Keep In Touch / Nurture Leads
Marketing is a long game. You can’t put out a few posts on social media, make a few connections on LinkedIn and expect the work to come flooding in. It just doesn’t work like that.
Keeping in touch with your connections is an important part of your marketing plan. This can be done by picking up the phone every now and again to check in with previous clients, or indeed potential clients. Being fresh in people’s minds means that if they need a freelancer, the first person they think of will be you.
You could also send out a series of emails to your connections, updating them on your news, providing valuable content and reminding them of your services. In time, this could become automated, but initially it might be a manual process.
Set yourself a schedule or note in the calendar to catch up with your existing connections on a regular basis.
Be An Expert
If you specialise in a particular area, make it clear to your potential clients. If you are an expert in your field you could consider being a guest author on other blogs or websites. Contributing to the community will help you build new connections and gain authority in your field.
LinkedIn has an option to write articles directly on the platform. This could be a good way to get your content/writing shared and get more exposure.
Get Reviews and Testimonials
Ask existing and previous clients if they will provide you with a review or testimonial. You can either ask for a written review to post on your own website, or ask that they provide a google review or trust pilot. Whichever you choose, be consistent so you can build up a number of testimonials in one place. Good reviews give potential clients the confidence to work with you.
Ask for Referrals
Ask your existing clients if they know anyone else you might be able to help. Word of mouth is essentially free advertising. If you are providing a great service to your existing clients, they will be happy to tell their friends or colleagues how great you are. Usually word of mouth recommendations are triggered by a great customer experience when something goes beyond what they expected. Are you exceeding your customer expectations and delivering great value to your clients? If so, they will be keen to tell others.
Marketing yourself as a freelance architect is not easy, especially as you are just getting started. In time though, as you build connections and start to get a few regular clients it does get easier. It is important to consider the marketing side of your business as a key task, rather than an afterthought. You don’t need to do all of the tasks we have listed here, but make sure you select a few that are relevant to you and commit to working on them regularly.
Emma Walshaw is the founder of First In Architecture and Detail Library, and has written a number of books aiming to facilitate a better understanding of construction and detailing. First In Architecture is a website providing resources and guides for architects and students.