Contributed by Michael Franklin, associate member of APLD and creator of Landscapedia
The buzz about social networking is creating a greater need for landscape designers to get their portfolios online. Because of my work with Landscapedia.info, I spend a fair amount of time talking with designers about their digital portfolios. I spend almost as much time convincing some that hiring a web designer and adding a website to their business cards is just the first step in leveraging their digital portfolio to help grow their design businesses.
Many landscape design professionals expect to post their work on their new websites and have their phone start ringing with clients. They get frustrated when they’ve spent time and money to create an online presence only to be disappointed by the slow pace of returns. Stories of internet millionaires from the 1990’s still permeate the conventional thinking – as long as you are online, people will knock down your door. That was then, this is now, and things evolve quickly online. Landscape designers need to embrace the power of the web and use it to their advantage.The internet today provides consumers with an overwhelming amount of information in seconds on any subject, including landscape design. It is easy for a designer to get lost in that sea of information, regardless of what consultants promise in terms of search engine rankings.
What can you do now? In order to get your work and business noticed, you have to be willing to go that extra distance. You have to put your portfolio in as many places as you can, using it as a teaser to drive potential clients back to your website. Think of it as free, interactive advertising. You wouldn’t just advertise once in one publication, would you?
That’s the beauty of portfolio websites, such as Landscapedia.info and others. They give you another on-line portal to get your work noticed. It’s a terrible waste to go through the effort and expense of creating a digital portfolio to use it only once, on your own site, when you can reuse it or parts of it to drive traffic to your business. The trick is to find the right websites to display your work. Not every site is going to work for every designer and some sites are pay-for-play, throwing landscape designers in with graphic artists, interior designers, architects, etc.
Here’s how to make your decision:
- A good digital portfolio site will give you a direct link back to your website without making consumers join or go through a series of steps.
- Before joining a portfolio site, browse the current portfolios to see how easily (or not) a consumer finds their way back to your website.
- Explore how the website reaches out to consumers to drive traffic to your portfolio. If they aren’t reaching out to consumers, then your portfolio may sit in obscurity. For example, Landscapedia has partnered with botanical gardens across the US to build mobile tour guides. This helps raise visibility of our designers among consumers interested in good design.
- Find out if they have versions for mobile devices, such as iPhone. Landscapedia has a significant number of visitors on mobile devices, and this area is the next big growth trend on the web.
- Ask your colleagues if they have experience with specific sites they can recommend.
If you don’t have a website yet, a portfolio site is a great place for you to experiment with your digital portfolio. Most give you a handy, easy-to-remember address (http://my.landscapedia/msfxDesigns) to send out to clients and colleagues. You can play with image sizes and formats in a safe environment before taking the plunge with your own branded site.
The key to a successful move to digital portfolios really lies in finding key websites that you can use to generate attention for your work. If you are sitting back waiting on people to find you, then you are missing out on countless opportunities to reach out and grab attention for your business. With so many designers competing for clients in any economy, a good business person will utilize every opportunity to introduce themselves to potential clients-a digital portfolio is one of those tools.