Getting hired as freelancer through social media.

Hi everyone! I suppose a lot of you worked as freelance or had to hire one once. My doubts are a few. Is anyone getting jobs through Instagram/Facebook/etc? Is there anyone looking for candidates there as well?
If yes, how to show your work and create a hook for a recruiter?
And quite related, how to balance between showing too much ideas (to prove creativity and problem solving skills) but avoiding to give design solutions for free maybe. I know that a mere sketch about an idea doesn’t make a solution or even an implementation but there’s a starting point in that sketch! I don’t want to misplace awesome sites as coroflot or behance but I think using social media as a hiring tool could be useful. Maybe specific but useful at last.
Sorry if there’s too many questions but I’ve been with all this thoughts since a few months back and I’m sure I’m not the only one looking for some answers. I hope you peeps could provide some specific feedback, personal stories or professional tips. Thanks in advance!


I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a project off social media, though lots of “he bro, nice shoes, want todesigv a shoe for me and I’ll give a portion of the profits?” … yah, no. What it has done is act as a validation point. I have clients who follow me (and employees), and they seem to enjoy it. New clients will often find it in their research. The last few bids I’ve been going up against bigger firms (I even bid against Ziba last month) and all things being equal, that presence and willingness to share seems like positive, especially as my business is based on my personal experience.

As far as giving away ideas, I’ve always been of the school of thought that ideas are cheap. It is literally my job to keep coming up with new ideas. Most of the things I post are rather “light”, not a lot of conceptual heavy lifting, I save that for the paid projects. Some interesting partnerships have come out of it (real brands wanting to collaborate on a royalty basis) and I primarily do it because I enjoy it. If I didn’t, then I wouldn’t.

Even though your heavy work won’t come out off social media, I consider those partnerships you mention as an achieved goal.
If you were hiring (freelance or in house) will you consider a candidate you randomly saw on social media feed?

I wouldn’t consider a candidate solely on social media, but it might introduce me to someone’s work which might then encourage me to look at their portfolio and maybe have some casual conversations. I consider it marketing. As far as hires go, I’ve had 4 industrial design hires hires over the years that I first had conversations with here on the core77 boards. A fifth is someone who I first met at a car’s and coffee event. Then ended up following him on instagram. We got together for lunch a few times, and when I started my own studio he was the first contractor I brought in. Then ended up bringing in a second through his recommendation.

Don’t think of social media as a one stop, single point decider or influencer. Decisions like this are typically made on a constellation of data points. Recommendations, past work, initial impression of personality, social media footprint, cost, availability, capabilities, are all factors. I’d be suspicious of anyone who saw an instagram photo and then wanted to spend six figures with my studio… I guess unless it was someone like Elon Musk who has his own social footprint.

As far as showing work, I try to show a lot of work that is production. When I was doing the 365 sketches thing (finally finished all the captions yesterday for the book BTW… now it just needs to go through my proof reader so I don’t have mistakes like lab pointed out :slight_smile: ) I was posting a lot of new content, but that content was for the purpose of this book which is another marketing activity. Now when I post a sketch it tends to be because I had a little time or I just needed to get a sketch out of my head and I wanted to share it. I think it is a mindset. It isn’t transactional, it is about building a clearer image of who you are in the digital world now that clients can be anywhere. Some clients like to pay to have us come out and do onsite work/research/workshops, others are happy to never meet in person. For that second group, your digital footprint might be a big part of the picture of who you are in those first few interactions when you are hammering out terms, deliverables, costs.

Wow, as usual, I wouldn’t expect less elaborated replies from you Michael! Totally get your point, social media is just another tool and there’s more than meets the eye. Everyone might have their own rules about how, when, where and why to show themselves but I feel like it’s all about having a solid presence in those milestones you mention (blog/social network feed, portfolio, etc).
I have my ID degree but in my current position I’m more on a technical profile, solving mechanical issues and assembling food industry machinery but barely doing any CAD. I love what I do there and I’m learning a lot however I’m planning to do more conceptual work in my spare time to diversify and improve other skills. That’s why I’m asking all of this so I can get a proper mindset in order to evolve and improve.
Eager to hear some more voices and thoughts on this!

I’m certainly not a freelancer and actually not super active on social media but I think I’m getting a lot out of it and keep reminding myself I should post more often.

ID is kind of special being so visual that a lot of designers are active on Instagram. It’s also great if you’re interested in a specific niche as your work is quite likely to meet the eyes of the few people that are also into that.

I don’t post very often (150 followers, don’t laugh!) but often get a surprisingly big response. I’m surprised how people in companies I look up to have interacted with my content and in some cases that has lead to deeper offline conversations. It’s also a good way to keep some relationships active. I don’t know what this means concretely but it has helped me grow my professional network which can be hard as I don’t live in a design hub.

Consider having a strong personal identity in your posts. There are a lot of people on the platform and people aren’t going to follow yet another profile filled with average looking sketches of minimal smart home device. If someone has a strong style, interesting story to tell or is trying to push something new, then I’m in. I think people realize this is not your portfolio and I don’t think people assume you’re not well rounded as a pro even if your posts are concentrating on something.

As for posting design solutions. I’m with yo on this one. If I can’t see myself making money out of an idea (which is 99% of the time), I’m making the most of it by trading it for exposure. Heck, if someone steals it, I’ll be pissed off but appreciate the validation.

I’m with you Louis about building a strong and solid style and I think, as Michael stated, that ideas are cheap but I like to believe that posting some heavy conceptual work it’s definitely a plus. After reading you guys, I’m considering to use social media just as a hook or enter point for possible networking and also feedback from all kind of people (end users, designers, etc.). I’m not saying that these online platforms will replace a good ol portfolio but in my opinion, a nicely curated profile works like a nano version of it.

PS: Glad to hear about the 365 almost done Yo!

A good designer will know about how to speak about their work in a way that they do not give confidential information away or prop up their work by dropping names or referencing unsubstantiated claims about their experience (this includes social media). This comes with time and is not taught in any design school.

Having said that, anyone hoping to gain cred from their facebook or instagram accounts is so clueless about the world in which we now inhabit that it is difficult to undue the narrative and propaganda valuation that this particular person holds as meaningful. Hoping blindly that a platform which harvests your data and then sells it to others for profit shows little regard for the integrity and confidentiality that is associated with the profession of design let alone your design work and its value.

A designer that knows their work, knows how to talk bout their work and knows how this vast new existence of being online effects who they are, the career they are building and the integrity of their work is the one I will consider hiring these days. You need to open yourself up to the fact that even though social media will draw attention to you and your work, at what cost will it have in developing your career as a designer?

Stop giving yourself away for free on worthless platforms that in the beginning were there to make the world a better place, but now are doing just the opposite.

Use the internet by all means, but don’t let it use you…

[ Deleted ]

Social media to me as a B2B agency is mostly a marketing tool, mostly to spread my name, link to my websites, plus gaining followers builds loyalty.

I recently started to use Instagram to tell a hopefully meaningful story through photography related to my work/life/worklife.
Twitter, LinkedIn and blogs are then to progressively go more into depth reflecting on and promoting my work.
Then of course one of the best real-life social media are trade fairs.

I think that is a good way to look at it Ralph.

Rodrigo, I mentioned the ‘constellation’ idea as a way people make decisions. Let me give you a few examples of how that has worked for me.

  1. Existing relationship: An old college friend of mine was working on designs for several sci-fi movie franchise properties. I had only spoken to him a couple of times over the past 20 years but he heard I started my own studio. He checked out my social media outlets and saw some sci fi looking doodles, clicked the email button to reconnect. We’ve done 9 projects together in 18 months.

  2. New relationship: someone I know who is a director of design at a company was following me on social media. He commented on a few posts, we had a few virtual conversations. A few years later I happened to be in his city for a project. I reached out to see if he wanted to grab a beer IRL. We continued to chat post via email. 12 months later we did a project together.

  3. Validation: two business guys created a start up. They needed to bring on a design partner and they had it down to us and another small firm. In this case we were recommended by an engineering partner I’ve worked with several times over the past 10 years. They checked out my youtube and instagram and decided on us because they saw and liked the way I took time to explain things. The project turned into a 6 month program that spanned ID, product management, brand positioning, brand identity, and working with their contract engineering firm on DFM.

So, did I get hired through social media? I think I would answer no in all three examples. But I do think it played a helpful role in all three.

While my instagram is mostly fine art related, I have gotten one freelance gig through it and it was one of my favorite commissions I’ve ever had. I was commissioned to illustrate a watch for a company and to post it on my account. They gave me complete creative freedom, didn’t negotiate with the price I requested, and gave me one of their watches when I was complete.

It’s really hard to get noticed on instagram, there’s just so many talented designers on it. I was fortunate enough to have one of my drawings go ‘viral’, one of my drawing videos has over a million views (on other peoples accounts, @StreetArtGlobe alone got 500k views on their insta with my art), but without that I would never have gotten the commission.

not exactly 1:1 but it isn’t inconceivable that it happens more often than one might think…as was stated it is unlikely that it would be the sole point in a decision, or that it would be mentioned as counting for (or against! a person), but it could get the right person’s attention…

i think while it is possible, it would be best to temper the expectation of that sort of thing happening but operate as if that goal?

curious, what is the cost it has/will have on one developing their career as a designer?

i don’t think most designers (or people, generally) are really hoping that/relying on using any or all of these online platforms as the key to building their career, rather most see it as these platforms as tools to share things…some more savvily, selectively, and/or substantially than others; the internet/these platforms, much like anything else have their pros (connections, discoverability, maybe build an audience that allows for some influence, etc.) & cons (distraction, developing oversized importance or giving too much weight to those virtual spaces, etc.)