How to Use Instagram to Showcase Your Work

Use the power of story to create bite-sized case studies

Jordan Aspen
Sep 3, 2019 · 6 min read
Photo by Will Paterson

More and more designers are turning to Instagram to display their work and find clients. It makes sense — Instagram is a visual platform and a great place to show off design work.

Ji Lee is a communication designer at Facebook and a former designer and creative director at the Google Creative Lab. Last year he set out to “hack” Instagram to turn it into a design portfolio:

Many creatives use Instagram to share their work so their Instagram ends up becoming their main creative channel and site so to speak. With this in mind, I wanted to create a proper portfolio site by hacking the Instagram grid where I can feature all my past work.

He uses multiple accounts and special hashtags to craft a multifaceted portfolio (you can find a tutorial here). In this article, I’m going to show you how to enhance your posts and leverage the power of story to attract future clients through the captions you write.

Writing a case study in 2,000 words or less

A case study is the story of your project told in a way that showcases how you helped a past client achieve success. That success story is what makes a prospective client want to hire you instead of someone else.

This is not the story of your creative process; it is the story of your professional process.

When you share what you did and how you did it, you attract other creatives. Share why you made each decision, and potential clients will begin to take note.

Great clients don’t care about what colors you use, unless those colors will help them make more money. So when you’re writing a case study, mention only those design decisions that contributed to your client’s success. If you chose yellow and red for the restaurant’s branding because those colors have been shown to increase appetite, then tell us all about it, but if you decided on that particular shade of green simply because you liked it, leave that detail out.

Writing a story is simple:

  1. Begin with the problem.
  2. Show the process of overcoming that problem.
  3. End with the solution to that problem.

Here’s how that applies to writing a case study:

1. Begin with your client’s problem

Why did your client come to you in the first place? What problem did they want you to solve? Explain what they were looking to accomplish by hiring you.

2. Then share your process

Focus on the details that pertain to your client’s success, not the fun and fancy bits that would only impress fellow designers. You can always write a separate post targeting people who want to learn from you, but don’t let that distract you right now.

3. Finally, show the solution

What did you ultimately deliver to your client and how did they respond? Did the solution you came up with actually solve their problem? Show us!

Bonus tip!

To make this story even stronger add an intro and some final thoughts.

The first sentence is what will hook your reader. Think about what your ideal client wants to hear and craft your introductory sentence accordingly.

The last sentence is what your reader is most likely to remember. What do you want a potential client to remember about you? Include that in your closing sentence.

Let’s try it

I’m going to make this even easier for you by giving you a template for a short case study that will fit neatly into an Instagram caption:

  • Intro: One sentence. Keep this under 125 characters so that your reader won’t have to tap “read more.” Focus on what will capture the attention of the kind of client you want to attract.
  • Problem: Three to six sentences explaining why your client hired you. How did they want you to help them?
  • Process: Three to six sentences showing the decisions you made in order to come to a finished product that accomplished your client’s goals.
  • Solution: One to three sentences showing how your work brought your client success.
  • Final thought: One sentence that sums up what you want your reader to remember about this project — and what you want them to remember about you.

Following this template should result in a case study between 1,000 and 2,000 characters that fits nicely within the permitted caption length on Instagram (2,200 characters). Write it in an app like Google Docs or Ulysses so you can keep track of the character count easily. If you find yourself going over the limit, ask yourself whether a potential client will care about everything you are saying. Cut out anything that is a distraction from the crux of the story, aka how you helped your client achieve success.

But does it work?

I developed a version of this template when I was a fashion designer. It was so effective at attracting great clients that I became a professional writer and case study specialist. Now I help other high-quality designers, like Karen Ybarra of Inspired Creative, sell their services and get recognized. The first case study she published immediately got her a job.

So yes, this template works, and yes, case studies do attract great clients.

Here’s an example of a case study about a bio I wrote for logo designer and brand builder Jacob Cass of JUST Creative. I used the template I’ve provided here for you.

  • Intro: Most designers can write a decent bio for themselves — but a decent bio doesn’t accurately reflect a high-quality designer.
  • Problem: Jacob Cass has worked with clients like Disney and done rebrands for cities like San Francisco. It’s obvious that his work is high quality; he deserves a bio to match. This particular bio will be used in a webinar. The goal is to impress people in the tourism industry and intrigue them so they will be eager to listen to the content following Jacob’s introduction. He wrote up a bio himself and shared it on Instagram, challenging any copywriters in his audience to do better. I took the challenge.
  • Process: I took the information in Jacob’s bio and rearranged it with the end listener in mind: I began with how he helps his clients. After all, his listeners don’t so much care about him as their own needs. People are most likely to remember the last thing they hear or read. I ended with the details that are most relevant to their industry so as to drive home the point that Jacob isn’t simply impressive, he’s the right person for their job. I also reformatted the paragraphs and reworded the sentences to create a more readable final product, whether this bio is read aloud, shared on a slide, or both.
  • Solution: Jacob was so happy with my version of his bio that he not only plans to use it in the webinar instead of the one he wrote, he is also sharing the before and after in order to help his audience learn to write better bios.
  • Final thought: There may not be anything “wrong” with a bio you write yourself, but hiring a professional can give you the edge you need to actually be remembered.

Strong design skills will help you do great work, but skills alone don’t sell. Marketing sells. Case studies are an effective marketing tool. Like Dan Brown said in his article “If I’d Known Then What I Know Now,” writing is a skill worth pursuing for every designer. Now that you know how to write a bite-sized case study, start using them anywhere you showcase your work.

Whether you’ve had success attracting clients on Instagram or not, I’d love to connect with you! Send me a DM @askjordanaspen so I can see what you create.

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Helping designers thrive.

Thanks to Paul Alan Aspen and Killian Piraro

Jordan Aspen

Written by

Wife💑Mama👧👦Entrepreneur✍️Cut the time you spend writing in half: http://civanpro.com/blink

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Helping designers thrive. A Medium publication about UX/UI design.

Jordan Aspen

Written by

Wife💑Mama👧👦Entrepreneur✍️Cut the time you spend writing in half: http://civanpro.com/blink

Modus

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Helping designers thrive. A Medium publication about UX/UI design.

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