Should Freelance Designers Run Design Blogs?

To blog or not to blog – that is the question. For freelancers, especially designers, it can be a particularly difficult question. Blogs have popped up as one of the most recommended methods for a freelancer to market himself, if only because the cost can be minimal. But the benefits have some dramatic matching costs, like the amount of time it takes to build up a blog that will actually bring in clients.

A Blog is a Big Commitment

The biggest problem with using a blog to land freelance work is that it takes a lot of effort – and a good freelancer hopefully has enough work on her plate that she can’t spare tons of time to invest in a blog. A good blog takes a lot of effort. The set up work, such as designing the site, may be trivial, but once you’ve got things up and running, the work is only just starting.

You have to write on a regular basis for your blog. While many experts will tell you that exactly how often doesn’t matter, you do need to set a schedule and stick to it. Even if how often doesn’t seem to matter, there is a need to blog at least every month if you want to consider your blog fairly regularly updated. You also need to promote the posts you write – they won’t bring you any clients if no one but your mother reads them (after all, your mom is probably already well aware of your talents). That can mean more writing, such as submitting guest posts to other sites or simply investing time in submitting links to different sites.

On top of that, your blog has to be well written and interesting. If writing isn’t your strength, that can be an incredibly difficult situation. There are plenty of people who will write your blog for you, for money, but that can be an expensive proposition.

A neglected blog – one that hasn’t been updated recently or has a standard theme on it – can be detrimental to your efforts to bring in business, rather than helpful. There’s a saying: “The shoemaker’s children go barefoot.” It tends to hold true for freelancers, too. A designer’s website routinely gets put off in favor of paying client work. If you can’t truly commit the necessary time to a blog (writing, designing, promoting and so on), it’s not going to be helpful for your freelancing.

But if your blog knocks it out of the park, you can land amazing amounts of work with each well-crafted post. The investment, at least of your time, is huge, but the payoff can certainly match if you do it right.

Don’t Blog About Design

If a blog is going to be worth your while, in terms of helping you bring in more clients and showing off your amazing freelance skills, there is one further point to remember: you shouldn’t blog about design.

The number of freelance designers blogging about design rises every day, without a corresponding lift in the number of clients those designers are picking up. That’s because the average design blog is read almost entirely by designers, rather than the sorts of individuals that hire designers. You may pick up a few readers who are creative directors or agency heads or are otherwise involved in bringing in freelancers, but it’s rare.

It’s crucial to think hard about who your ideal client is – and then blog for that client. If you want to build websites for real estate agents, you should be writing posts about real estate, probably along the lines of how real estate agents can better market themselves online. If you want to design logos for restaurants, you should be blogging about restaurants, possibly narrowing down the field to how a restaurant can use its logo and what a restaurant owner should look for in a designer.

Get as specific and narrow as possible. Don’t be afraid as getting known as an industry blogger, rather than a designer – that will help you sell your services to the people who view you as an expert and will be willing to pay top dollar for your work.

Discussion time: What is your opinion on this matter?

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Mae Krukin is a writer who covers design and art. Mae is a freelance writer for - a freelance design website.

  1. Reply Ashraf June 27, 2011 at 1:34 PM

    Thanks for the insightful post! My own blog hasn’t been updated in a while and I’m considering removing it from my site.

    However, instead of having nothing I am thinking of replacing it with my Twitter feed which is far easier to update and still shows that the website is active.

    Anyone experimented with that?

  2. Reply inspirationfeed June 27, 2011 at 2:26 PM

    Great article, I strongly think they should have personal blogs. All of these new design blog pop-up for a few months and die. People think its very easy to run design blogs, but the truth is it takes tons of planning and hard work.

  3. Reply Jon Garcia June 27, 2011 at 3:57 PM

    Great post! I like that it offers the alternative to every other post that parrots freelancers need to blog as regularly about design as every other zebra out there. Not saying it isn’t useful, but you like you said, takes a lot of time and dedication some freelancers don’t have.

    I’ve been so busy with freelance work I haven’t taken much time to work on my own portfolio site (currently relying on, let alone a regularly updated blog.

    I do use Twitter more and more each day. Like Ashraf, it’s easier to update and shows much more social networking activity than a regular website.

  4. Reply Theo June 28, 2011 at 12:22 AM

    I think side projeckts are important, dealing with your downtime, design blog, well why not but i also think that you may try something different, something that you like at least as much as your freelance work.

  5. Reply Ryan June 28, 2011 at 3:38 AM

    Great post!

    I graduated from design school three years ago and have been working as a freelance designer since then. I am working on getting into a design firm and was wondering if I should have a blog and how I would target it to design firms? Do I discuss design in general or should I focus on my process?


  6. Reply Mike Tinsley June 28, 2011 at 3:59 AM

    Interesting points. At first I was skeptical, thinking “What else’s would a designer blog about?” but you make a valid point.

    Do you think the same would be true for an artist? Such as a watercolor artist? Would he blog about watercolor, or things his collectors seem to be interested in besides art?

  7. Reply Brennan June 30, 2011 at 12:28 AM

    As a designer (not freelance at the moment, though) and a blogger of 3+ years I will say it’s crazy hard to keep up sometimes, but it’s really rewarding to look back and have it as both a time capsule of who you were years ago and as a growing following.

    I won’t claim to be a celebrity, but it’s been really neat to see who you meet and how seemingly random connections are made.

    Employers (or at least they should) really get to know who you are when they read your work and so it stands as a much better reflection of who you are (opposed to, say, a boring and often forced resume speech).

    And even if you get no traffic, it’s super cool to look at your first post and see the things you were making back then…

  8. Reply CiNaMi GraFiKs June 30, 2011 at 12:47 PM

    I don’t blog. I find that I don’t have the time. I like to write articles for other sites and create my designs but in regards to a dedicated blog… I think it would suffer as I couldn’t put in the time.

  9. Reply Jamie March 11, 2012 at 1:09 PM

    There is another catch to this. If you set up a blog with the sole intention of only gaining clients or manipulating Google organic search results you may find it backfire on you. I don’t blog either but have heard some horror stories. I think if you love what you do and can find time to share your knowledge to genuinely help people than you will eventually bring in traffic with very little effort.

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  11. Reply Ifham khan July 24, 2012 at 4:45 PM

    A blog is most powerful tool for freelance designer. It always bring more and more clients.

  12. Reply mvgrafix December 10, 2012 at 4:53 PM

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