Getting back to the initial issue ...
Good content would definitely help to increase your rankings. But as a webdesigner, there might be other things that could help you to attract visitors to your site (images, videos, ...)
Good user interaction could also help to improve your rankings in a post Panda Google world.
As concerning link building,
I would analyze the backlinks from your best ranking competitors. Link buying (recommend you teliad or linklift) will be an option for you, as you could find there some high quality backlinks that would be difficult to get for free.