When you're looking for new Web design clients, whether you're trying to find your first client or you five-hundredth, you need to present a professional image. Most clients will be first introduced to you by your website. So you need to make sure it's professional. Many Web designers feel that they can skate past this on their portfolio, but if you don't have a large portfolio or you're trying to move into a new area of design work, your website is going to speak for you.
Once you've got your website up to snuff, then you can worry about other ways people might see you. If you're going to a networking event, make sure you're dressed appropriately (ie. suit and tie if you're trying to get lawyers as clients, band t-shirt and jeans for the rock bands). Because you're a designer you can get away with some flair, but don't expect a doctor to want to hire you if you show up with multiple piercings or an artist to hire you if you show up looking like you're headed to a funeral. Understanding your clients is an important part of being professional.
Finally, you need to make sure your identity system (logo, business cards, stationery) represents your business well, and reflects the kind of work you do.
The more professional you act whenever you are somewhere representing your business, the more likely you'll get a new client later.
Referals from Existing Web Design Clients
Most Web designers get their new clients through referals from their existing clients. So it pays to keep your existing clients happy. Being known as someone who gets the job done, is professional, and competant can be just the thing when a business owner or manager is looking for someone to work on their website.
It's a good idea to remind your existing clients that you're hoping for their referals. You can be as direct or subtle as you like, but giving them a gentle reminder every few months is not going to hurt. And it might even remind them that they need your services again. You can do things like:
- Send out a bi-monthly newsletter to your clients
- Send holiday cards once a year
- Mail postcards every quarter
- Add a note to your invoices and bills
- Send thank you notes after a project is done and include it there
If you're looking for clients, you should think of any situation where you're meeting new people as a possible networking opportunity. Even if you aren't meeting with actual clients, you could make friends with someone who introduces you to your best new client ever. You never know. Keep your business cards with you. Some other great people to network with include:
- Other designers This may seem counter-intuitive, like you're networking with your competition, but by talking with other designers you keep your skills sharp and stay up-to-date with what the trends are in your local market. Plus it gives you places to send clients that are too big or too small for your business - and they can send you their non-productive leads.
- ISPs ISPs often provide Web hosting, but they may not provide Web design services. By working with them, you can be one of the designers they recommend to their new clients.
- People who do what you don't This could be anything from graphics to programming to writing. If you hook up with a graphic artist, you can share clients as you do the Web programming and they do the graphics. And you both benefit.
Advertising for New Clients
Advertising doesn't have to be expensive. You can set up an AdWords account on Google and spend only the amount you can. If you're careful with your keywords, you can create an advertising campaign that is very effective without being too expensive.
But just because you're a Web designer doesn't mean that you can't advertise offline. By buying ads at your local movie theatre or createing flyers to paper a supermarket or sending out postcards you can get the word out about your business and get new clients.
Follow Up on Leads You Already Have
Go through your address book and send out queries to anyone you haven't worked with in a while (or ever). You can ask them if they need Web design work or if they know someone who needs Web design work. Don't be shy. The worst that will happen is they'll delete your email. But because you already know them, chances are they'll at least take a second or two to open your message.
Go through your existing client list and check out their sites. Have they changed since you worked with them? If so, follow up with them to find out why they didn't go with you for the redesign. If they haven't changed and it's been more than 6 months, write to them asking if they are thinking of doing a redesign. If that seems too pushy, then just write to them telling them how much you enjoyed working on their site and that you hope that they think of you when they next need a Web designer.
Toot Your Own Horn
Remember that no one is going to express how wonderful you are unless you do it yourself. If you learn how to speak well in public, you'll be able to create opportunities for your business. Then once you feel comfortable talking about yourself, you should:
- Chat with the press - send out press releases about interesting things your company is doing. Try to get on radio programs or even televsion. And become a useful source for print journalists.
- Become an expert - it's less useful to be the expert of Web design (although you do want to be that, too) as to be an expert in the types of websites you build. If you're focusing on lawyers, then know all about what they should have on their sites.
- Don't be afraid to brag - if you get a high profile endorsement, then tell people about it. Write it up in your blog, add it to your business cards, mention it in your newsletters, even put it on your answering machine.