You’ve done the hard work to set up your design business. You’ve identified your ideal client, researched their pain points, created packages they’ll love, and poured your heart into a killer portfolio and/or website.
Now comes the fun part — it’s time to start getting clients and collecting those paychecks. Cha-ching!
You enthusiastically hit publish on the last page of your website and wait in anticipation for the clients to come knocking at your virtual door, but instead, you only hear crickets.
Hello? Anybody out there?? Do you see my snazzy brand colours and clever About Me page?
This is the moment you realise that simply building a framework for your design biz isn’t enough. If you’re going to be successful (and make money), there’s more work to be done. It’s time to take that framework to the streets to actively market your biz and build your clientele.
I get it. Finding clients is one of the biggest struggles a new business owner faces.
I know it’s scary to put yourself out there, but if you follow these steps, the clients WILL start rolling in. (I promise!) Before you know it, you’ll be pointing clients to your waiting list and even raising your prices.
Start by reaching out to the people who already love and support you, and tell every last one of them about your business! Most people know someone who is a business owner these days, so sharing your new venture with friends and family is a no-brainer.
Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals. Simply ask them if they have someone in mind who could use your services. If they say yes, ask if they’d be willing to refer you. Make sure you have a paper or digital business card on hand, and don’t forget to follow up with a text or email. This is how I got my first client, and you’d be surprised how many business owners can say the same.
You’ve probably made a few business connections already as you went through the process of defining your goals and creating your online presence. Now it’s time to reach out to that network — people like your copywriter or your tax accountant. This is also a good time to reach out to former coworkers who may be willing to refer you!
Even better, look for collaboration opportunities within your network. Do you know an incredible virtual assistant who may be able to refer clients to you and vice versa? A business coach who works with clients who need design services? See how you can build a collaboration that is mutually beneficial.
Facebook groups are a golden opportunity for new designers to connect with potential clients. There will always be business owners looking for help online, so make sure to leave room in your schedule to build relationships in these groups.
Since there are a zillion Facebook groups out there, it’s best to choose 1-2 to be involved in. Spend a few minutes everyday interacting in the groups, looking for opportunities to add value and give design tips.
In addition, respond to every request for a designer when they’re posted. Be proactive by sending your portfolio and pricing if applicable. Before long, you’ll be the first person to pop into someone’s mind when a designer is requested in the group, and other members will tag you before you get the chance to respond yourself!
Sites like Fiverr and Upwork are often dismissed as being oversaturated with freelancers and low-paying gigs. But don’t completely dismiss the platforms if you’re just getting your design biz off the ground! They can be a great place for beginners to gain valuable experience and add to their portfolio.
To get started, create an account and make your portfolio look sharp — it’s what separates you from the amateur designers. Also, don’t freak out when you see a lot of really low bids. Many people are looking for quality work on Upwork, so bid what you’re worth and leave the low-paying jobs for the rest.
Create accounts for your biz on Facebook and Instagram if you haven’t already. Since many designers do a lot of B2B work, you may want to also consider building a LinkedIn profile.
Once you have your accounts set up, it’s time to research the best strategies to implement on each platform. After you’ve formed a plan, you’re ready to start creating posts that encourage engagement and create opportunities to connect with your ideal audience.
If you haven’t done this already, create a stunning sample of your work and designs that showcase your skills. This is a must because, let’s face it, no one is going to hire a designer without seeing their work.
You’ll need to share this key piece of marketing on every platform, link on your website, and send to potential clients.
Look into small memberships or local business networking groups with less competition. These groups can be great opportunities to stand out because you’re often the only person in your niche within the group. This allows you to become the official go-to design girl!
Yes, I know, creating content takes time. But, if you really want to build trust with your audience and be seen as an expert in your field, creating content is your golden ticket.
In addition to blog posts, create free downloadable content that will educate and add even more value to your ideal client’s business. This content can be offered as an opt-in so you can start building your email list right from the start!
Blogging + Pinterest is a powerful duo that many business owners leave untapped. That blogging content and those freebies you created? Post them all over Pinterest. This combo effectively brings loads of traffic to your site which translates into more clients for your business (and more $$$).
The last tip to landing your next design client? Keep at it no. matter. what. It can sometimes feel like your first client will never come, but remember, it just takes ONE person to say yes! Keep working the steps and improving your strategy and that day WILL come.
Once it does, the secret to landing even more design clients is simple — work so hard that your first clients can’t stop talking about how incredible you are.
After you thrill those first few clients, the floodgates will open and more and more be lining up in droves to work with you.
Ready to get started and grow your design business, then I have a great resource which can speed up the process of starting your own design business: