Do you have a head full of ideas, but a client database that’s not big enough to make them come true? Time to get new clients. A bit more specific: new clients that are a great match for you and will sign a web design contract.
Why not say yes to every job that comes along? Because if you aren’t feeling the project, it will most likely reflect in the end result. And that is ultimately what you as a web designer will be judged on and hired for.
That being said, if you're a web designer who is just starting out or if you've been in the game for a while and want to freshen up your client database, these tips are for you.
Need inspiration fast? We’ve summarized our tips here:
Connect with other web designers and see how you can help each other
Put out content outside of your portfolio (and use it as a lead magnet)
Focus on a niche if you want to build a reputation for the long run
Reach out to clients you’d love to work for—but warm up your acquisition skills firs
Ask the right questions on your website with conversational marketing
Look at local businesses you could work for
1. Connect with other web designers
Connecting with the competition might sound counterproductive, but hear us out: there will always be web designers who are fully booked and looking to outsource work. Or who won't take on a project because it does not match their style.
Whatever their reasons might be, chances are that if they know they can connect their client with another great web designer, they’ll do it. Because it will keep their relationship with their client strong: even if they can't help their usual clients themselves, they still remain helpful to them.
Where can you connect with other web designers? On basically every social media platform. Join Clubhouse and listen in on interesting rooms and connect. Engage in web designer groups on LinkedIn. Find Facebook groups for web designers (there are plenty!) and show other web designers some love on Instagram.
2. Put out content outside of your portfolio
Having a website with a portfolio and keeping it at that is wishful thinking: it means you’re waiting for clients to randomly find you and decide to work with you based on only what they see there.
But clients will choose to work with you for more than just your track record: are you knowledgeable? Are you up to speed on the latest trends? Does your vision align with theirs? And last but not least: are you a nice person to work with?
That might sound like a lot of information to convey in just some pieces of content, but there are relatively easy ways to do it. For instance, you could write articles on design-related topics and spread those on LinkedIn or Medium.
This will help you build the status of an expert and authority in your field. It shows you're really dedicated to your craft and up to date on the latest trends and topics. Plus: you can show off some of your personality in your writing. Or video, if you choose that format.
As you can’t expect people to engage with your content out of the blue, make sure to return the favor to your network as well. Take a few minutes every day to read and comment on other people’s work as well. Engagement works both ways.
If you want to step things up a notch, you could turn this content into a lead magnet as well. Write a weekly newsletter, or make an e-book or guide that people can download on your website. All they need to do is leave their email, filling up your funnel with leads.
Make sure to keep pushing out great content to stay top of mind, and your clients might find you—instead of the other way around.
3. Focus on a niche
Are you looking at the market and projects out there and feel overwhelmed? Don’t even know where to start? Let’s break it up: you don’t have to take over the entire world. Just a few paying clients will do. And wouldn’t it also be much easier if they were somewhat alike?
Choosing a niche makes virtually all your marketing effort so much simpler and effective. You can dive right in and really get to know your target group and what they need from a web designer.
Is there an industry that you have experience with, or feel drawn to? Or is there an industry that is booming right now, and are you willing to dedicate yourself to that? Think about it before you commit, but keep in mind that one-size-fits-all usually never fits anyone at all.
Picking a niche might sound scary: if done right, it also means you would sometimes say no to projects that are simply out of your usual scope. But if you want to build up a reputation in a certain industry for the long run, it will certainly pay off.
4. Reach out to clients you’d love to work for
Cold acquisition, really? Yes, really. Because there are better ways to go about that than sending out one and the same pitch to everyone.
First of all, determine who you want to contact and if needed, who in the organization is the best to reach out to. That way, you can make your message even more personal.
Because that’s how you make cold acquisition a success: by warming it up. By making it as specific and relevant to them as you can. And by starting a conversation, instead of just sending an offer.
The second step is crafting your message. People can be skeptical when receiving a LinkedIn message from a stranger, so you might want to connect first and engage with some of their posts before you reach out.
Then you can dive into why you are contacting them specifically, asking about their needs and mentioning how you specifically can help them. Really focus on your unique selling points and why you think those would make you a great match for them.
Keep it short and snappy. And last but not least: leave it up to them how they get back to you. Don’t ask them to send you an email in case they’re interested. Just leave it below your message, as well as your phone number. And if this person likes staying in the chat to talk, go with that.
5. Ask the right questions
When people come to your website, what answers are you giving them? Many freelancers are guilty of focusing on what they do, instead of what they do for you. Of course, you’ll want a sleek looking portfolio, but you want people to interact with you, not merely look at you.
A smart way to do this is to add a direct chat option to your website. Not to have some bot repeat answers, but to start a genuine conversation. This is the moment where you start building a relationship with your future client.
This way of interacting with your website visitors is called conversational marketing, and it’s a must for specific services and products, such as web design. It’s part of the experience you deliver. And to 84% of customers, this is as important as your services and products.
How does this help you get clients? Because you will be able to send much better-tailored invoices and proposals that will help you seal the deal. And because clients get the feeling that you are trying everything to understand their needs. That’s something a generic contact form just can’t give you.
6. Look at local opportunities
Many freelancers immediately hop online when they are looking for new clients—and there’s enough to be said for that. After all, you could get clients from all over the world, and the bigger the market the better, right?
Right, sometimes. But if you are just getting started or are looking for a specific project, why not start local? There might be businesses in your city or town that could do with a new web design. So start looking around and reach out to them directly.
Your benefit will be that there’s immediately a link—after all, you know the area, what the people in it are like, and what that means for their target group. And hey, maybe you’ll even find a familiar face in there.
Just like we mentioned in #4, this gives you an opportunity to reach out with a detailed offer and present the parts of your work that are relevant to the potential client. Instead of a generic pitch that, frankly, most people won’t fall for anymore these days.
And there you have it, six ways to build or reshape your client base. There’s no universal cure for a dry-spell in your web design work, but by combining the tips that match your style most you could get a long way. Change won’t happen overnight, so stay on top of it.
Are things getting busier? Great! Reach out to us to see how we can help you focus on your talents.
Vicky Frissen is a freelance copywriter based in Barcelona. She helps brands and businesses stand out from the crowd by putting some personality in each piece of copy she writes—whether it’s a 1,000-word blog post or a short and snappy Instagram caption.