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Archive for August, 2009

Getting Connected to the Design World

Posted by Heather Feimster on August 19, 2009

*View original post published on Web Designers’ Edge on Aug. 12, 2009

Starting out as a freelancer is never easy. In web design, it’s even tougher because we mainly work by ourselves from home. If you are like me, you first experienced designing for print; now, however, you’ll need to tweak those skills for use with an online medium – too bad since I always loved the smell of a good print shop.

When I decided to pursue web design full time a few months ago, I decided that to be the best, I needed to learn from the best. The hard part was – where are “the best”? How do I find them? And how can I learn from them?

Through trial and error I’ve come up with an effective strategy for making a name for myself among other designers in the “community.” These are what have worked for me – you’ll want to experiment and try different things out to determine what works for you.

Not a big writer? Maybe a blog isn’t up your alley. Like to teach others? Try creating some tutorials. The key is to put yourself out there.

So here are my recommendations for getting connected with other designers.

1. Get involved on Twitter.

Okay, so what’s the big deal with Twitter? I had no idea three months ago – I heard it all over the news but hadn’t experienced it. Good thing for us designers is that most other designers, like us, are sitting at their computers all day. So Twitter works really well as a means to get connected. Here’s what I did to launch myself into the Twittersphere.

Follow other noted designers on Twitter.

I read their profiles and visit their sites. Follow those that practice in the area you do. You can find many different lists of designers to follow out there, so start with one and go from there.

Don’t set your account to “auto-follow.”

This is just my personal preference, but I only want quality content to come through my feed. So I screen people who follow me before I follow them. This strategy is also used by some of the most popular people on Twitter. It helps me better follow the conversations and dialogue that I want to engage in on Twitter – instead of just generating an RSS feed of resources (although that is a great bonus!).

Learn other tips from the experts.

Since I won’t pretend to know the best Twitter techniques, I suggest you read this post by Grace Smith on Using Twitter for Inspiration.

2. Do your research.

To effectively engage with other designers, you need to know how to design. Knowledge about the medium, the tools and the jargon of the trade all enhance your ability to really get the most out of interactions with other designers.

  • Keep track of good resources and references. I prefer Delicious so that I can access my links from anywhere, but other bookmarking services would work just the same.
  • Share good content with others so they can benefit as well. I do this most often via Twitter (see the circle beginning to form?).
  • Take the time to find and complete tutorials that are outside your comfort zone. Many times just reading through a tutorial can give you tips that will make your next design pop. I recommend two different sites on development tutorials and design tutorials, but there are many others out there.

3. Put yourself out there.

So you’ve been slowly getting into the Twitter world and have done a bit of research and feel like you’re getting your feet under you. Now it’s time start building your reputation among other designers.

  • If you feel up to it or need a place to release your wisdom with more than 140 characters, start your own site/blog. Not only is this necessary to gain clients, but it also creates link for folks to associate with you – this is the start of your “brand.”
  • Engage other designers in relevant dialogue. Ask for advice on client questions, seek collaboration on projects and provide your own feedback to others’ inquiries.
  • If possible, attend conferences or other face-to-face meetings with designers in your area. As great as technology is, it can’t replace a good ol’ cup of coffee and creative personal discussion. Danny Outlaw has a great list of conferences on his Outlaw Design blog, and MeetUp is a great resource to connect with other local professionals.

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