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An increasing number of web and graphic designers are turning to free resources in effort to promote their services and products. In an industry that can be highly competitive any means of standing out and gaining exposure can go a long way. The method of gaining exposure from freebies is being used by designers for promoting their services for clients, as well as for promoting their own products, such as WordPress themes and PSD files. A few months ago we looked at some real world examples in Designers Using Freebies to Grow Their Business, and today we’ll explore the topic further by providing some tips for those who would like to try this method for themselves.

The freebie promotional method includes a great deal of flexibility, so it can be used by designers and developers in a number of different ways. As was already mentioned, freebies can be used to gain exposure in attempt to land more client work or to sell more files and resources. In addition, freebies can be distributed from your existing website or blog, from a website or blog owned by someone else, or you can set up a site specifically for distributing freebies. We’ve all seen freebies being distributed from blogs, but an example of a site whose primary function is distributing freebies is Allur. They also sell WordPress themes, which the freebies help to promote.

We have some experience of our own using freebies on this blog as well as on many other design blogs, mostly to promote our design resource membership site, Vandelay Premier. The post is written based on our own experience, observing what other designers are doing, and from talking to other designers about their experiences with freebies.

Have a Plan

Giving away resources like PSD files, Photoshop brushes, vectors, icons, and textures is a great way to gain some exposure and subtly promote your other products and services, but in order to make it work you’ll need a plan. Do you want to use freebies in effort to land client work, or do you want to use freebies to promote premium resources that other designers can purchase?

You’ll also want to consider whether you want to release the freebies on you own existing website or blog, on sites or blogs own by others, or if you want to establish a site specifically for distributing the freebies. Creating a dedicated site will require the most time and effort and is probably only a good idea if you plan to spend considerable time on freebies going forward or to build up a large collection of free resources.

Whether your ultimate purpose is to find client work or sell premium resources to designers you should consider what freebies to release and how they relate to your products and services. For example, at Premium Pixels designer Orman Clark has given away free PSD files for website layouts. Those resources can be downloaded for free and coded versions are available as WordPress themes at ThemeForest. So the freebie is great at attracting interest and anyone who wants to use it on WordPress can get the theme and save themselves the time and effort of coding it.

Not all freebies will promote your premium products this well, but it’s a good idea to release freebies that will appeal to the same specific audience as your products or services, and if you can form a natural flow from the free resources to your products or services it will have a better chance of being a successful promotional method.

Focus on Quality Over Quantity

Although freebies aren’t going to directly earn money for you, it’s still in your best interest to invest the time and effort to makes sure the quality is high. Those who download the resources will likely judge the quality of your products and services based on the quality of your freebies. If the free resources prove to be useful to them and you have other premium products available they will be more likely to consider making a purchase. If you’re a service provider, high-quality freebies will show potential clients the type of work that you are capable of producing for them.

Consider Using Freebies to Build a List

If you’re giving away resources to designers you may want to consider building a list while you’re at it. The list could be either a separate mailing list that you ask people to subscribe to in return for getting the free resources, or the list could be a subscription for updating people when new free and/or premium resources are available. Either way, the list will allow you to gain more exposure and reach more people on a repeat basis.

For example, Allur uses a modal popup to encourage visitors to subscribe to be notified when new resources are released.

Allur popup

Another example is from this blog. At the bottom of each post we have a promotion that offers a bundle of free vectors and icons for anyone who subscribes to our mailing list. It has proven to be a helpful method for promoting our mailing list and communicating with subscribers on a regular basis.

Popular Blogs Provide A Great Platform

There are hundreds of thousands of people out there who regularly read and subscribe to design blogs. The leading web and graphic design blogs have a huge reach, and some of them release freebies for their readers. If you have a high-quality resource that could be of use to readers it would provide a tremendous opportunity for exposure. In most cases you’ll get a link back to your own site and you may even get a brief author bio.

While it’s not an easy path to success, the exposure that comes from top design blogs can certainly send some visitors to your site and possibly result in new clients or product sales.

But Don’t Ignore Smaller Sites

Although the leading design blogs do present tremendous opportunities, smaller blogs shouldn’t be ignored. It will be easier to get your resources released at smaller blogs because they won’t have so many offers from other designers, and they still could have a significant and highly-targeted audience. Some smaller blogs have even developed very loyal and active followers, which may result in more downloads or more attention being paid to your freebies.

Brand Your Preview Images

If you’re releasing freebies on other websites and blogs it is a good practice to brand your preview images by using your own logo whenever possible. Most blog readers simply scan content and they may not notice the text that credits you with the freebie, but they’re likely to notice your logo on the image preview. Additionally, many blogs have their content scraped by other sites and if you include the branding on the preview image you will be getting exposure wherever that it is being scraped.

For example, Qbrushes created some brush sets for Smashing Magazine and they used their own logo, as well as Smashing Magazine’s logo, in the image previews. These brush sets have been linked to by a lot of other blogs, and in many cases the preview image is used. So Qbrushes has gained a lot of exposure by using their logo here.


Brand Your File and Folder Names

In addition to branding your preview images it’s a good idea to brand your file and/or folder names. Most designers download a lot of freebies, and while those freebies may stay on their hard drive for a long time they might eventually forget who created them or where they were downloaded. If you include your name or your website’s name in the folder or file names it can serve as a reminder when they use the files.

What’s Your Experience?

If you have any tips from your own experience of using freebies for promotion, please share your thoughts in the comments.

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4 comments on “Tips for Using Design Freebies to Promote Yourself

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