One could argue that there lies truth in the famous phrase about a tree falling in the forest with nobody around. One’s work may indeed carry immense value and deserve all manners of recognition – but it must be observed to matter. Especially in these challenging post-pandemic times, truly impressive work may still fail to break through and reach audiences. The AEC industry, too, faced such inherent challenges of its own as, in the US, it was only allowed to advertise at all in the 70s. Thankfully, getting your design work noticed in the digital space is, arguably, quite easier now, if approached with due care.
Getting your design work noticed: optimizing your website
The first step toward this goal should come with introspection and self-presentation; your own website. An excellent website can improve your AEC business substantially, as we’ve covered before. In this context, it can additionally act as an effective platform through which to promote your design work.
Engage in technical, on-page, and off-page SEO
The foundation of any well-performing website lies in Search Engine Optimization (SEO). For architects, no less than for other professionals, SEO can serve to both appease search engines and satisfy human visitors. In doing both, it will increase your website’s online visibility by ranking it higher in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). However, SEO comes in 3 main subsets, each of which warrants attention:
- Technical SEO: The subset that deals with technical health, such as crawlability and structure.
- On-page SEO: The subset that optimizes on-page elements for readability and responsiveness.
- Off-page SEO: The off-page practices that further augment SEO rankings, such as link-building.
In addition, these subsets often overlap in their intended purpose. For instance, both technical and on-page SEO seek to improve page responsiveness and speed. Regarding your website’s final ranking and appeal alike, speed is one of the factors that affect it most visibly. Google/SOASTA research confirms this, correlating lower speeds with higher bounce rates:
As such, this first step requires due diligence and a holistic approach. You may, by all means, prioritize a subset depending on your needs, but none should be remotely neglected.
Getting your design work noticed: perfecting your portfolio
That said, a robust, well-ranking website is only the first step toward recognition. Once it has gained sufficient visibility, it will need to effectively present your work; through engaging project pages, for one, but primarily through your portfolio itself.
#1 Select your best work
Making your architecture portfolio stand out is no easy task, often because portfolios are simply too expansive or unfocused to draw attention and captivate. To curate it effectively, you may ask such questions as:
Which work do you want to get noticed?
You may be proud of all your work through the years, but not all of it may complement or work toward your current goals.
What exact purpose does being noticed serve?
For that matter, you may align your portfolio with your exact current goals. Expanding to a new niche will require an entirely different selection of work than working toward acquiring specialist status, for instance.
What narrative does your portfolio weave around you?
Finally, as we covered in the above article, your portfolio builds your brand image. It will not just be your design work that gets noticed, but also you as a brand and as an individual – and for many purposes, those are equally significant.
#2 Promote yourself
On that subject, your portfolio in its entirety serves as a component of your identity. In an era of visual marketing, how you present yourself may often spell the difference between attracting eyes to your work and not. Put differently, getting your design work noticed may hinge on getting noticed yourself.
Among others, you may directly or subtly promote:
The exact projects you choose will outline your skillset, but you may also pronounce it more strongly according to your goals.
As a human element and a diversifying factor, you may add your interests and values – especially if they directly relate to design.
An express mission
Finally, should it fit your portfolio’s context, you may weave an express mission through it to further stand out.
#3 Demonstrate your design expertise through it
Lastly, regarding your portfolio, remember that it in itself is proof of the skills it markets. SEO professionals’ pages must abide by SEO; proofreaders’ content must be error-free; designers’ portfolios must be well-designed. Your web design will greet visitors and prospects, but it is your portfolio design that will captivate them.
In this regard, you may let your creativity drive your choices toward your goal. Does your portfolio breathe through white space? Are color balances in order? What about proportions, fonts, and visual quality? Apply your professed skillset to the medium and let your work speak for itself.
Getting your design work noticed: networking
Finally, with the foundations in order, you may promote your work to your intended audiences. In this final step, the distinction between quality and quantity is crucial; reaching wide general audiences may yield much less benefit than captivating engaged audiences invested in your industry.
#1 Expand to social media
Initially, you may consider expanding your promotional activities to social media if you haven’t already. Social media serve as an excellent promotional tool for all industries, as they offer access to vast, untapped audiences. In the case of the AEC industry, in particular, social media go so far as to influence architecture trends – a relationship that warrants its own article.
For effective social media promotion, you may consider the following:
Social media audiences are indeed eager to engage with brands and professionals but crave value in their interactions. Remember to avoid promotional and “salesy” language and offer clear, tangible value – as search engines also dictate for SEO.
As you do, remember that such audiences are there to engage, not to be promoted to. Respond to comments, initiate discussions, and engage in genuine ways that foster trust.
Finally, remain consistent in your activities; post-scheduling software may be of great help in this regard. Simultaneously, stay consistent in your messaging, tone, and visual identity across all digital platforms and your website.
#2 Leverage AEC influencers
Once you’ve established a foothold on social media, influencers may offer tremendous additional assistance toward getting your design work noticed. Influencer marketing can present distinct challenges of its own, however, so you may consider:
For influencers to effectively promote your work, their audiences must match your industry. AEC-specific influencers, or at least ones somewhat adjacent to it, should arguably be the only ones on your candidates’ list.
Similarly, their audience size will often directly inform their fees. Depending on your needs and budget, you may carefully consider which influencer “tier” may work best for you.
That said, size in isolation matters little in influencer marketing. Engagement rates offer a much better effectiveness indicator, and smaller influencers typically boast better ones.
#3 Reach out to AEC leaders
Finally, your networking should, without a doubt, lead you to other leaders, pioneers, and influential figures within the AEC industry. From them, you won’t simply earn powerful endorsements if successful. Perhaps most importantly, you will gain exposure to their highly relevant, highly invested audiences.
Consider such AEC-specific platforms and mediums as:
Getting featured in design websites may be among the best, safest ways of getting your design work noticed – and building robust foundations thus far should only increase your odds of success.
Similarly, podcasts of all types continue to gain traction. AEC podcasts, too, will help attract attention to your work, as well as diversify your promotional activities for a wider reach.
Local AEC-relevant events
Finally, especially if you delve into local SEO, you will inevitably network with fellow professionals in your area. Should you participate in local events once you do, local safety regulations permitting, you may further promote your work to engaged local audiences.
To summarize, getting your design work noticed hinges on an impeccable, search engine-ready website. It then requires a robust portfolio with enough personality and applied design principles to stand out. Finally, as with all brand awareness efforts, it requires networking within your industry and relentless promotion across social media and other platforms. While challenging, this endeavor will let your work earn the recognition it deserves.