Dear Budding Designer,
You are not alone. Even if it feels lonely at first, the web design world works like any other community – hang around long enough and you’ll begin making designer friends online.
There are a few things you can do to speed up the practice. And yes, I say practice because if you’re an introvert like me, it’s something that you have to work at. I know it can be scary to put yourself out there but I promise the benefit is worth it in the end.
Life is simply easier with friends by our side. You are going to need a community of other designers and developers to help you as you learn. One of the best things about working in an online space is how easy it is to connect with others from the comfort of our homes.
4 Methods to Make Designer Friends Online
1. Say Hello on Twitter
One of the easiest ways to connect with other designers online is on Twitter. Twitter has a really low barrier of entry. You don’t have to “friend” someone before tweeting them.
- If you admire someone’s work, tweet them and tell them!
- If you agree with a tweet that says WordPress needs to add a “create page” option within the menu settings, then throw in your support with a retweet!
Connect with other designers (no matter how many followers they have) and you’ll find that every now and then someone will tweet you back. Before you know it you’ll end up in a conversation!
But how do you find people to connect with? Well, there are a few ways:
Follow people you admire
As you’re surfing the inter webs and come across other designers whose work you admire, follow them on Twitter. You’ll be surprised how approachable people can be on Twitter. Everyone likes to hear that their work is received well.
Check out a Twitter Party
Twitter parties are an awesome way to introduce yourself to lots of people at once. There is generally a (well-known) host who provides a topic or question for conversation. Then the participants reply or answer the host, including that party’s hashtag in their response. The hashtag allows participants to set up a search to see all the replies in one view.
Tip: Check out A Beginners Guide to Twitter Parties
I admit that Twitter Parties can be a little overwhelming at first. The first time you attend one, you might just watch and see what happens. Then the next week, attempt to answer the questions or reply to thers.
Here are some fun parties related to design, to get your feet wet:
- #FireWorkPeople: Tuesdays @ 9pm EST
- #AltChat: Wednesdays @ 9am EST
- #ElleChat: Wednesdays @ 8pm EST
- #BlissChat: Thursdays @ 9pm EST
Twitter lets users set up “lists” to organize who you follow. If you’re not sure who to follow initially, checking out other people’s lists is a great place to start!
Here are a few lists to get you started:
If you decide to follow someone from a list, tweet them and let them know how you found them! You never know, maybe they’ll reply and follow you as well. Either way, it’s a good way to introduce yourself so they know who you are in the future.
Actually follow people! Take the time to check in on Twitter and read what people are putting out there. If someone shares something you like, retweet it! People take notice of who retweets their messages and appreciate it.
2. Join a Facebook Group
There are some awesome groups on Facebook for designers & developers. In these groups, you’ll find that there’s a mix of people asking questions, sharing information, and sometimes just friendly conversation.
Here are some groups to check out:
Tip: Look at the other groups designers are a part of and join those!
During the first two years of running my online design business Facebook groups were invaluable to me. There is no way I’d be the designer I am today without the help and support from the generous ladies and gentlemen I met in those groups.
It’s understandable that at first you’re going to have a lot of questions. Just remember to always search google and the group archive before asking a question!
After I became more proficient in my craft, I was able to start answering more questions than I answered. I hope that will be your goal too!
3. Comment on Blogs
Aside from Facebook groups, one of the first ways I began to make friends with other designers was by commenting on their blogs. Ladies like Kate from katelynbrookedesigns.com and Erin from erineflynn.com both started blogging about their design businesses about the same time I did. By reading their blogs, I learned new things and also slowly started to build relationships through commenting and sharing.
When you find another designer who has a valuable blog, follow it through Feedly. Feedly is great because you can go to one webpage and read all the blogs you follow, instead of getting all the posts in your inbox or having to jump around the internet from site to site.
You can set up categories within Feedly as well. I have one for designers, one for developers, one for small business advice, etc. This is helpful because sometimes I’m in the mood to read a particular kind of post.
While reading blog posts from other designers is great, you’ll never build a relationship unless you comment on their writing! Try saying something more than “Great Info!” or “Thanks for Sharing!” if you are going to comment. Take a few minutes and write out a thoughtful response to their article. This will show you took the time to read it and mean what you say.
Another thing I’ve seen people do instead of commenting on the blog post itself is to send a tweet to the author. If you have a question about what you’ve read this is an exceptionally good method. It’s very likely the author will respond to you if your question is short and beneficial to the rest of their audience.
After you comment, if you think that your audience would find the information interesting then consider sharing the post! Most sites nowadays have social sharing icons at the bottom of the post (like mine!) to make sharing easy as pie.
I really believe the golden rule applies here. If you treat others the way you want to be treated, they will do the same for you. So share away and you’ll find that soon enough others start to return the favor for you!
4. Take an Online Class
Many online classes include communities and these spaces are the perfect place to meet other designers who are interested in learning the same things you are! As you learn side by side, you’ll often talk about your businesses and begin to support each other.
Here are some courses that include designer communities:
And of course, please check out the Designer Guidebook Academy as well! Some courses include opportunities for you to connect with the other students!
4 Benefits to Making Designer Friends Online
1. Free Support & Advice
Help others, encourage them, and you’ll find that people will start to do the same for you.
Although you can always hire a design coach to help you when you need it, free support is good too. Make friends so that when you need someone to check and see if your new favicon is showing on their end, you’ll have someone to ask.
Like all things in life, we receive what we give. Help others, encourage them, and you’ll find that people will start to do the same for you.
2. Learn New Things
The internet is a vast and huge space. There is simply no way for any one person to come across all the valuable information that exists out there! By making friends online, you’ll have friends who will share the interesting, helpful, or timely things they come across.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a friend share just the right article or class for me. Something that despite my hours of googling, I totally missed. Or let me know about a steal of a deal from Creative Market or Design Cuts just in the nick of time!
There will always be situations where a client isn’t a right fit for you. Even if you’ve declared a niche, from time to time you will still get inquiries from off-the-wall places. In these cases, it’s helpful to have a list of friends that you can refer these clients to.
By referring clients to a designer who might be a better fit, you’ll actually be bettering your reputation. Alway be helpful. Think about who might best serve these clients and take the time to write a genuine referral for the potential client. As you refer clients out, it’s likely that these designers will return the favor for you when appropriate.
The more you refer out the wrong clients the easier it becomes for the right clients to find you!
Don’t worry about “losing a client”. If they aren’t a good fit, I promise it’s going to be better for everyone involved if you help them find a better match. The more you refer out the wrong clients the easier it becomes for the right clients to find you!
By filling your portfolio with the kind of projects you like working on, your unique style becomes more apparent. Over time, you’ll become known for your style and the kind of clients you work with.
4. Start or Join a Mastermind Group
Once you start to make a few friends online, consider coming together to create a mastermind group. In brief, a mastermind group is a group of 3-7 people who meet regularly to work on their businesses together.
Pat Flynn explains it better than I ever could. Check out these resources:
- How to Find a Mastermind Group article
- 7 Tips to Make the Most of your Mastermind Group video
- How to Structure a Mastermind Group video
- How to Build a Winning Mastermind Group video
I’ve been a part of a handful of mastermind groups over the last few years and the ones where there is structure and commitment are always the most successful. Masterminds groups have been instrumental to me in ironing out business problems and having the courage to try new things.
Take a leap of faith and try out just one of the ideas for making designer friends online that I mention above. The very easiest thing to do, in my opinion, is to join a Facebook group. Or if you like Twitter better, go and compliment one fellow designer – right now!
Have you made friends online? What has worked for you? Please share in the comments below!