In recent years I've used a number of different website to help grow my freelance design business and promote my work to a growing audience. I thought it may be useful to share a list of my top 5 sites with you, my loyal reader, in the hope that they will inspire you to grow your own online presence and reach more people, for only a few pounds per month.
(Please note, this isn't an advert for any of the companies listed below and is purely based on my own experience. It's the kind of list I wish someone would have shared with me when I was just starting out.)
You will have used Squarespace, even without realising it. In fact, you are using it right now. My own website uses the Squarespace online platform, which is an excellent tool for creating and maintaining stylish and professional looking websites. You don't need any web programming knowledge to use the site as Squarespace is really simple and easy to use. Ready made templates are available to use, edit and personalise and the list of options to include within your site is huge. There is a small monthly cost, but if you are a small to medium business looking to create your own site, Squarespace is an excellent option that lets you retain control of your own site without the need to rely on others to create and maintain it.
Maybe this is an obvious choice, but I know so many designers and small businesses that completely ignore the power and potential of twitter and refuse to give it the respect it deserves. From a personal point of view, there is no way my work would have reached around the world and back in such a short space of time. Yes, it can be used to share photos of cats or to give pointless updates on what you've had for breakfast, but with a little bit of thought and a clean plan of action, twitter can be a powerful tool to promote yourself and your business.
You may already have a paypal account, but if not, you certainly need one. It can be useful to buy things online securely, but its also a great alternative when taking payment from clients, especially those that work from a different country than your own. Paypal also works with a wide range of online stores, letting you take payments for work you are selling without the need to exchange bank details. It is quick, easy and secure, so it's the perfect tool for any small business.
4. Big Cartel
If you plan on selling your work online, an online store is essential. Anyone can grab paypal buttons and add them to their blog (a technique I used to do often) but that doesnt always convey a trustworthy and professional appearance. Big Cartel is an excellent online store option that is simple to use and maintain. Once you have set up your own store, you can personalise your shop, link your sales to your paypal account and keep on top of orders with ease. Like Squarespace, there is a small monthly fee involved, but from my own experience it's worth every penny
So if you have any kind of online presence, there's a good chance you have developed your own audience, (whether you realize it or not). By communicating reguarly and effectively with this audience you can ensure that you not only retain your existing contacts/fans/customers but that you grow that pool of people even further. Mailchimp is an excellent, free, tool that enables you to send emails to your contacts which look visually great (a vast improvement on the usual hotmail/gmail).
But the most useful feature of Mailchimp is their built in analytics system, providing you with a whole host of data, including how many people open your emails, if they click on any links included in your message, the most effective time to email, as well a whole host of additional information, that if interpreted correctly, can be extremely useful when building your brand or company.
So that's my top 5. If you have any recommendations, feel free to leave them in the comments section below.