How do you position as an expert rather than a technician and prove your value? No matter how long you’ve been freelancing, proving your value, positioning yourself in the right way to attract the high value clients that you’re looking for is a big part of your messaging. It’s a big part of how you craft your portfolio and how you craft your website.

A few episodes ago, I talked about how to sell your expertise before you actually have built expertise. How do you market or position on your reputation before you’ve actually built a reputation in the marketplace? One of the ways to do that is to use case studies. and the thing is that even if you’ve never had a client before if you have done creative work for a specific project with a specific solution with a specific goal in mind, whether it’s for school, or it’s for a friend or a family member, or it’s just a basically self assigned project, you can create a case study around it. And case studies are not just throwing an image up on your website and say, hey, look, I did this. A case study gives all the background information your decisions, your research, your conclusions, your insights, how you solve the problem, basically, and as you go through the creative process to create the illustration or shoot the photo or create the design, you document that process and that documentation becomes part of your case study. In my two dimensional design class and my three dimensional design class, I require my students to create process journals. They do a new process journal for every design project, and these basically set them up and give the experience of creating case studies. In those process journals. They come to understand how they think how they work, how they come to the conclusions that they need to arrive at for a successful solution. They define the problem they map out if you will. The process that they’re going to follow to solve the problem. And they show evidence of solving the problem and the results of their work. So a case study used professionally is not just any old addition to your portfolio. It’s actually a deep dive exploration of how you solve the business problem for a client. So stay with me after the intro and let’s flesh this out
Welcome to the freelance road trip podcast. We’re located at the intersection of inspired creativity and common business sense and we talked about everything you didn’t learn in design school, but should have if you want to build a career and a life as an independent creative. I’m Alvalyn Lundgren, I’m founder of Alvalyn creative, my strategic brand design consultancy and also a freelance road trip which is an online business school designed to help shift your freelancing into high gear so that you don’t stall out. Our website is at freelance And just a little background if you’re new to the podcast when I graduated from a very prestigious, very elite design school, I had my portfolio but no idea what to do with it. Over the years I made my way through roadblocks and potholes and detours to grow my creative business into a successful enterprise. And I now teach fellow creatives to do the same. So currently, I’m both design practitioner and teach people how to design and how to practice in other words, be professional, build their businesses. One of the reasons I created or the primaries, the primary The reason I created freelance road trip is to help other creatives navigate smoothly and avoid the problems I ran into. And I ran into a lot of problems as I came along. One thing I discovered was that those problems those very problems I faced are common to freelancers everywhere. And you’ve probably experienced them as well, but with knowledge and the confidence that comes with that knowledge you can power through and perhaps even sidestep most problems altogether. Here in the freelance roadtrip podcast I share proven strategies and practical answers to transform your creative drive into a thriving independent business so that you can accelerate your creative and material growth. This is episode 128. And you can find the show notes at freelance one to eight.
So as I was saying, the point of a case study is to budget so we’re talking about case studies and I was saying that a case study isn’t just an addition to your portfolio. But instead it’s a deep dive explanation of how you solve a problem how you solve a business problem for a client and I want to emphasize that we as freelance creatives, whether we’re photographers, copywriters, illustrators, designers, we solve, not creative problems for clients, but business problems. We use our creativity, our creative energy, or inspiration or research or knowledge and skill to help businesses and organizations succeed in their markets. That’s a huge differentiation that you need to understand. You’re not a fine artist. If you’re serving clients, you are not a fine artist. You’re not in this for the purposes of expressing your creativity. It’s not about you. It’s about them design, the things that we do as designers, illustrators, commercial photographers, copywriters. It’s for our clients. It’s a service for our clients to help them achieve their business objectives. It’s a really crucial key idea to understand that’s a mindset shift. That in my experience, with coaching and teaching, a lot of people have a bit of a habit, a bit of trouble meeting but it’s necessary not everything in your website gallery. Not only that, not everything in your portfolio should be a case study. Most of your content is going to be a showcase or a gallery if you will. Okay, a case study is kind of like a point of emphasis within a field of other things. It stands out because it’s long form and it’s thoughtful. The point of having case studies is that they position you as an expert who is able to deliver effective solutions to business problems. I’ll say that again. A case study positions you as an expert who is able to deliver effective solutions to business problems. through case studies, you promote yourself as a strategic problem solver, not simply a technician or a wrist. You’re not an order taker who creates well designed things.
You’re a problem solver. You’re a thinker. This is an important distinction. And it’s a distinction that is going to elevate what you offer and very likely is going to attract higher value clients to you. So what’s the in a case study?
The general contents the parts of a case study are usually a project summary. And a problem statement. The creative brief itself description and documentation of the process, the creative process the solution to the problem and the impact of the solution. So let’s take each one of these one by one. So project summary problem statement, the brief, the process, the solution, the impact. So the project overview is a general summary. Who is the client, what is their sector or industry? What were the deliverables for the project? What exactly did you do? What you What did you? What exactly did you do in the project? What did you directly create for the client? Did you participate in naming in strategy or are you more focused on execution? What is your role so that’s kind of the project overview in a nutshell. And then the brief is basically describing the problems or struggles that prompted the project. Why does the client need this work done? And why now? What is their situation? Rather than leading with rather than leading with something like the client hired me to design such and such lead with their problem? What were they experiencing? What was the reason they needed the creative work? What was the reason they needed the creative work? They have to reposition were they launching a new product? Was there a merger
have they done some focus groups because they had lagging sales and they were trying to figure out what was going on with their brand and if their brand was actually positioned properly. You know every time a client comes to you, they have a need and the need is not for the thing that you’re creating the need is for what that thing will do for them. That’s another mindset shift. And perhaps that’s a mindset shift that both you and the client need to make. But you directly need to understand that the work that you create it’s not about the work it’s about the results
so lead with why the client needed you in the first place? So lead with why the client needed you in the first place. included his include a description of their specific goals for the work where they want him to increase their online sales. To increase list opt ins to promote Event registrations.
To acquire new markets, new audiences
and then your process. So in this section, you should describe your research findings. Your insights, what did you learn from your investigations? How did you apply it in your creative thinking and problem solving. And this is where you would include photos or preliminary sketches, notes ideations. Wireframes your development phases, highlight reels, timelines, videos, things like that anything that actually shows your process. It should be apparent that throughout your creative process you will need to document and record what you’re doing. That’s one of the ways that we can use our phones or cell phones for our businesses.
If you use AI in your process include that.
A case study, developing a case study is where Mindset and Marketing coexist, they actually come together. You want to cultivate marketing and promotion opportunities throughout your creative process so that you’ll need to intentionally pause, hit the record button, grab some screenshots or recordings or take a few photos. Write down some notes. Go into your voice dictation app and record some comments about what you’re doing
then you can transcribe those for your website. Then you can transcribe those later for the case study.
Section four in your case study is all about the solution. You’ll include images of the final designs and deliverables, mock ups photos of how they’re used. You can include brand guidelines and a reel that showcases the design in use. And then the outcomes the results is the last section. How did your creative solutions achieve the client’s goals? What was the outcome? Did they experience increased traffic or revenue did they sell out the event tickets? Did they grow their email list or achieve their sales goals? You get these results. You get these results from asking your client. So you glean them from your clients feedback and it may take some time before there are measurable results. But if you stay in touch with your client, you can ask how things went. That can also possibly lead to new work from the client. You will also want to include a Client Testimonial and to obtain a testimonial you just need to ask for one. You may also want to provide questions for the client to answer like prompt questions. And they can tell you verbally and you can write it down they can send you their recommendations or their testimonials via email, phone calls. If you’re having a conversation with them kind of a debrief, how things went and they’re basically so happy with you they’re gushing over you. Ask if they can use a quote or to ask if you can use a quote or two on your website. You’ll also in the case study want to include. You’ll also want to include links to the client’s website where people can go see the work.
You may also want to include links to the client’s website if your work is displayed on their website in any way.
How can illustrators and photographers utilize case studies pretty much in the same way whether you work digitally or traditionally, whether you’re a character designer narrative illustrator, conceptual illustrator, you can document your process from the research concept sketch and development of final art those phases you can focus on how you created dynamic compositions, how you selected color palettes, how you utilize your research. Begin with the premise of the idea, share your approach and insights and then conclude with shots of the work in use, whether it’s on a book a poster, a sequence of publication it’s a spot illustration. If it’s a self assigned project, and you’re doing it basically just to attract clients, that’s perfectly fine. Just treat it as if it’s a client project and follow this same path. document your process from start to finish. Talk about it. Describe it, caption it. Show your sketches, your color palettes, your research notes. Share your approach share your insights. Here’s a lot you can do as an illustrator. If you’re a photographer, you can also utilize case studies. You begin with what you begin with the premise of the problem or what the client wanted to accomplish. Include any mood boards lookbooks preliminary shots behind the scenes stuff. Describe your approach and process. conclude with the final photos. And if relevant how they were used, were they used on social media or are they equal ecommerce shots used on the website where they ecommerce shots used on the client’s website
include credits to any photo assistants production assistants, models, stylists rental spaces, everybody who contributed to the success of the shoot and again if it’s a self assigned project, that’s okay.
Including a few case studies in your portfolio can level up your authority and position you as an expert who creates effective solutions that solve client’s business problems. A lot of freelancers don’t think in those terms, my friends, if you do you will rise above the crowd. But there are other benefits to case studies as well. You can repurpose a case study into a promotional piece into sort of social media. You can repurpose a case study into promotional pieces into social media posts, email campaigns, e publications, lookbooks. and more. Simply take the contents, slice and dice it use it in different formats. on different platforms.