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How To Build Your Reputation And Authority As A Designer


How To Build Your Reputation and Authority As A Designer

Whether you are just starting out in the design business, or you have been around awhile but few people have ever heard of you, there are potentially great benefits to growing your reputation and establishing yourself as an authority in your field. The global design community is an amazing network that is becoming increasingly accessible thanks to modern technology and social media. It behooves every designer, no matter what specific focus or skills they have, to plant both feet as firmly as possible in the midst of this community, for reasons that include learning and sharing among peers, client referrals, and more. In this post I will share some of the things I have done that have helped me to transition from an unknown freelance web and graphic designer to a relatively respected and known member of the design community in less than a year.

Before we start, here are the disclaimers:

  • I am no expert, nor am I claiming to have discovered any secrets, but my experience over the past year has changed my life for the better and I believe it can change yours. Your results, however, will definitely vary because each of us is a unique individual with a variety of strengths and weaknesses.
  • Establishing your reputation and authority does not make you a better designer. I will be the first to admit that there are plenty of designers with more talent, more authority and stronger reputations than mine. Still, growing my own reputation and authority has helped me improve as a designer while simultaneously expanding my business. I believe it can do the same for anyone.
  • It is important to remember that this is a process. It takes time, a bit of work and patience. It also may stretch you outside of your comfort zone. But if you make the investment and your results are anything like mine, you will be glad you did.

Webster’s defines an authority as “an individual cited or appealed to as an expert”. While there are an abundance of people claiming to be experts in various fields, one of the surefire ways you can drive other designers and potential clients away rather than toward you is to start calling yourself an expert. I once heard someone say, “If you have to walk around telling everyone you’re ‘the man’, you’re probably not ‘the man’!” I believe a far better approach to building your authority is to establish credibility and relationships among your peers and in your circle of influence, allowing their word of mouth to form the foundation and expansion of your reputation.

Begin With Blogging


If you don’t already have one, why not? Sure there is an overabundance of design blogs, but there is a reason: they are successful in many different ways, from advertising revenue to the purpose we’re discussing. A blog is an excellent way for others to get to know more about you, your skills, your interests, your experience and more, and it can provide much more of a vehicle for this than the status updates and brief interactions of social media channels.

I started my blog specifically because I enjoy writing as a creative expression, and I’ve found that it is an excellent way to share more about who I am, my professional and personal insights, and to strengthen my authority as a designer, writer and social media explorer.

The key to creating and filling a blog with content that will build your authority is to identify those topics that will demonstrate your unique strengths. What are your passions, skills and interests that you can share with others? Rather than creating another design blog and filling it with roundups of the latest fonts or top designers to follow on Twitter, find your own unique contribution and build your blog around it. In my case, my blog has evolved into a place where I talk about my experiences in social media, my thoughts on certain hot topics, my personal inquiries and examinations of design philosophies, and things of that nature. This has connected me with other designers and social media personalities that I quite possibly would have never otherwise communicated with. It has also provided another forum that I can share and learn from others as they comment and discuss these topics with me. The benefits have been immeasurable!

Cultivate With Comments


This is another easy way to get yourself, your brand, your personality and your input out there as much as possible. The more others see your name, face, icon, logo, etc. the more you will become a familiar and even expected part of the design community landscape. Take some time each day to go through design blogs and comment on those that speak to you, inspire you, challenge you, or spark some other type of response. This will allow others to hear and see your thoughts about various issues as well as potentially get them to check out your own blog or social media channels.

I’m not suggesting randomly commenting on every design post you can find. I’m just saying that you should contribute to discussions where your own experience, skills and insight could be valuable to others. The more you can do this, the more others will begin to recognize you and your strengths, building upon your reputation as an authority in your niche.

Saturate With Social Media


One of the primary resources you can and should use in your quest to build your authority is social media. Whatever your favorite tool or network(s), there is a design community on it. I started using Twitter and quickly found it to be a fantastic tool to connect with other designers. Even more interesting was how I learned to use it to establish my reputation as a resource for the latest news. This may not be your bag, and that’s okay. But use whatever social network(s) you’re comfortable with to begin getting your name, thoughts, ideas, latest work, blog posts, portfolio and whatever else you can think of out there. Be sure not to simply become a broadcast channel, the equivalent of standing in the middle of a mall with a sandwich board and a megaphone telling everyone to pay attention to what you have to say. Instead use social media to find and form relationships with other designers, share and discover resources, and make other valuable connections. One thing I’ve learned is to be open and accepting to any and all possibilities and people – you never know how that connection may benefit you in the future, or how you may be of assistance to them.

I highly recommend utilizing Facebook and Twitter, at the very least. Set up your accounts and get busy finding other designers to follow and friend. There are tools to make this easier, such as WeFollow.com and Mr. Tweet for Twitter, where directories of members of the design community are ready and waiting for you to sift through and befriend your peers. Visit your favorite design blogs and connect with their social network accounts – most will have links to theirs easily accessible on the front page specifically for this purpose. Don’t be afraid that you’re not worthy or that these better known designers will laugh when they receive your friend request. The truth is that most are extremely friendly, down to earth people just like you and I, and they would balk at the thought that they are anything ‘special’. Social media has somewhat leveled the playing field and made it much easier for the unknown to strike up a conversation with the most popular. The distance between the two is diminishing every day, which makes social media a primary tool for building and growing your reputation and authority.

Tend With Time


No matter what you do to build your authority and reputation as a designer, it will take time. There is no way around this, and the more time you invest, it stands to reason the less time will have to pass before you see results. Looking for shortcuts or quitting before waiting long enough will usually end up in lesser results than just doing what needs to be done in the time allotted. Start out knowing that you will have to be patient, and rather than anxiously looking for immediate results, enjoy the journey. The contacts, relationships, education and other benefits of the process may even become more valuable to you than the end result, so don’t make the mistake of missing out on them by looking too far ahead.

What are some ways that you have built you reputation and authority as a designer? Have you had successes or failed attempts with some of the ideas presented here? Please be sure to share your comments, thoughts, questions and experiences. Most of all, for those of you who are just getting started or in the early stages, I wish you the best of luck. Please let me know if I can assist you in any way. And don’t forget to connect with me on Twitter, Facebook or anywhere else you can find me!

Image Source: ShuterStock

  • How To Build Your Reputation And Authority As A Designer
    [See the full post at: How To Build Your Reputation And Authority As A Designer]

  •  Mostaque Ahammed

    It’s a great article. I’ve one point to add with all of them.
    Networking. It’s such a way to Build Reputation And Authority. So, I will say, Always Be Networking.

  •  Val Woodhouse

    Thanks for the article. I do a lot of what you suggest already but still no-one’s taking the bait. This is such a fast-moving industry that I feel every day that passes without me landing my break is one day further from me achieving my potential. In the end there’s no alternative to some understanding client taking a chance on a newbie rather than going for someone with an established track record.

  •  wparena

    All are valid points but the thing is, who is following, he is a designer and rest of them are not 🙂 isn’t it strange… these are our rules otherwise designers exist in this world

  •  Brian McDaniel

    Thanks for the input, Mostaque. You are correct, and I think I’m saying the same thing about networking, but more about the online ways to network. 🙂

  •  Brian McDaniel

    It took me over 6 months of working at the elements I wrote about before I started seeing tangible results within my business. While I was doing that I was finding work and clients with other methods (Craigslist, classifieds, word of mouth, etc.) I think you’re right that many clients will prefer a “known” or reputable designer, but that’s part of why you would want to build your reputation WHILE you are building your track record.

    Hope that helps. Thanks for the comment.

  •  Victor De Anda

    Great tips, Brian!

    I find your concept of the leveled playing field very interesting. I know I’ve had success “friending” better known designers through social media.

    Now I’ve got to build on these relationships in order to grow my network.

    Keep up the good work!

  •  Josh Shindler

    It is a really good article, but I always question the need to build your reputation within the design community. I suppose if you were trying to get a job within the design community then it will definitely help, otherwise isn’t it just about ego.
    As designers we all have this need to be praised and feel good about our work. We need to be recognised. I’m not sure that is the case across other industries that don’t deal with such a visual medium.

  •  JC

    Nice article…I think that being seen as an expert can help gain jobs…but only if your work is good enough too…can’t have one without the other!

  •  Ingo de Jonge

    What do you guys think?For a designer/programmer freelancer, a facebook “fan page” or a “normal” facebook account?

  •  Judith Vermeij

    Look at me: “I’m Saturating With Social Media, already!!!”
    Hope it turns out well….

  •  Brian McDaniel

    Thanks for pointing that out, JC. I was writing under the assumption that the work being produced is obviously good enough to get hired, and the rest of this would go hand in hand with it. But it’s never a good idea to assume that everyone knows what I’m thinking. 😉

  •  Brian McDaniel

    I think that’s a good question, Josh. I was not specifically speaking about building your reputation ONLY within the design community, because then, of course, it would not have as much impact on getting hired. That said, there are benefits beyond feeding one’s ego. I have found that the more established I become within the community, the more I learn from others, connect and engage with other people, and discover more opportunities – not just for new clients but for things such as a chance to write on this blog. A year ago no one was interested in having me write for their blogs because they had no idea I existed. But now I have been asked to write for several design blogs, and other similar opportunities have presented themselves as well, all because I worked at establishing and growing my reputation. I’m comfortable enough with my life and my work to not have any need for feeding my ego, but feeding my family is always a priority, and for me, these methods have contributed to that.

  •  Jessica

    Great article and advice, thanks!

  •  Steph

    It would be nice if I had time for blogging, but it certainly lends itself to a personal goal: better speaking!

  •  Stacy

    Thanks so much for writing such a helpful and insightful article, Brian. When I first joined twitter back in 2007, I only did it to follow a co-worker who was tweeting updates from SXSW. After that, I did not pay much attention to my account. About 6 months ago, I decided to give twitter another try. I am so glad that I did. It is such a valuable resource for not only information, but for all of the other reasons you listed in your article. Building your reputation takes time, but I believe that it’s worth every minute of it. It’s definitely a work in progress for me, and I appreciate you sharing your insights with us.

  •  Boris Smirnov

    Great Post Brian. I have tried multiple times to maintain a blog, but sometimes I when I get home from work blogging is a last thing on my mind. I find that I often suffer from “Plummers sink always leaks” syndrome, though this is more of an excuse then a reason.

  •  Alexander Kahl

    Well, I started blogging a few times, unfortunatly I ended up stretching the dates between my articles. So, in the end I gave up after a few months.

    Nevertheless, I think this article might help me a bit to understand what I was missing: social media. I didn’t even know about Twitter at all 😀 Plus only a hand full of people read my articles now and then.

    Next time I try harder to make my special design blog more interesting 🙂 Thanks for sharing your experiences!

  •  aravind ajith

    Nice read! Really valuable points.
    What I really liked in this post are the titles.
    Well done.

  •  Jessica Taylor

    Very awesome article! Thank you for being so inspiring!

  •  Debt Consolidation

    interesting post @Brian McDaniel making reputation online is very difficult for every one either its a company or a person, to make their reputation they need  Be Prolific, be ubiquitous, be generous, be dependable and be credible. they you make your perfect reputation online or offline.


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