It’s safe to say that one of the scariest things about cutting loose from the cubicle and starting your own business is the sheer terror of how you’re going to get your first clients. All those “what if” questions and doubts start flooding your mind:

  • What if I can’t get any clients?
  • What if they hate my work and can’t get any testimonials?
  • What if I can’t pay my bills?
  • What if I have to go back to being just another employee?

Don’t fret. In this article you’ll find eight effective tips and advice on how to find and land your first clients.

Designer looking out the window

Learn to communicate your true value

Clients don’t care about platforms, technology or responsive design. All they care about is how you’re going to make them money, the reason they started their business in the first place.

So, whenever you present your services, whether it’s on your own site, on LinkedIn, in an ad on Facebook or in a client meeting, don’t just say you design sites. Say you transform people’s businesses. Say you can change their life for the better. You breathe life into their ideas and make them a reality. You make people money and deliver results. That’s what you do.

Always remember that storytelling is one of our secret weapons and clients love to hear stories so don’t be afraid to use them to attract new business.

Start with people you know

Word-of-mouth will always be a powerful tool, and the best and easiest way to get started is with the people you already know.

So get your family and friends to spread the word about what you do to their friends and work mates. Better yet, if you’re just getting started and don’t yet have a portfolio, this is a great opportunity to get more experience and to pad your portfolio.

Make sure you get in touch with every contact you have – you never know who is looking for a new website.

Piccadilly Circus at night

Don’t sell how everyone else is selling

With such fierce competition in web design, how can you get clients and convince them they need your services? And how can you convince them that you’re the best choice for (re)designing their website?

The answer: give something away. But what? A logo? Sweets? No way.

The thing you give away needs to help build your credibility and helpfulness status with prospects. So try writing a short book on any topic of interest like “web design mistakes that are preventing your site from making money” or “elements all websites must have to convert”. Create that amazing resource and then start sharing it anywhere you think your audience might be. Be sure to share it online – and if you can capture email addresses then that’s a great way to generate leads. Also try mailing and hand-delivering your booklet to local small businesses that could use your services – just make sure they know how to get in touch with you if they want to hire you.

With this tactic, not only are you spreading the word about your services and establishing credibility, but you’re also helping businesses out by sharing your knowledge on something they care about. Remember: generosity sells!

Position yourself as an expert

If your portfolio isn’t as substantial as you’d like, you need to give prospects a reason to hire you over another web designer or agency. The key here is to make yourself look like an authority, and the best way to do that is by publishing amazing content on both your site and other sites that your prospects are reading.

Here are some ideas for content types that might work for you:

  • Blogging on your site and other industry sites
  • Podcasts and webinars
  • Helpful videos and tutorials
  • Infographics

Just make sure they’re interesting enough to grab people’s attention so they’re compelled to share them with others. And again – focus on lead generation. Make sure the people you’ve impressed know how to get in touch with you.

Hand writing on a chalkboard

Send cold emails

Get in touch with small businesses you want to work with, and pitch them your services.

To create your prospects list, do some research to find out:

  • Which businesses could use your services?
  • What do they do?
  • Who is the decision maker?
  • How you can contact that person

When writing your pitch, make sure your focus is on the prospect’s problems and needs, and how you can help solve them. Here are some great resources on how to get clients by sending cold emails:

How to write a great email to a cold lead.

How to get clients by sending cold emails.

Use job boards

While your site and social media channels are a must to ensure potential clients find you online, you can’t just wait for business to come in. You have to roll up your sleeves and search for clients. That means going on job boards and searching for those projects you want to work on.

If you’re not picky and are willing to start small, you can use bidding sites like Upwork or Guru. But if you’re looking for clients with budgets bigger than £1000, then run a search for “web designer job boards”.

Open laptop

Run an AdWords campaign

A good PPC campaign can help drive qualified leads to your website. However, with so much competition, running a campaign can prove to be costly, especially if you don’t have a niche. You also need good writing skills, a decent understanding of AdWords and its testing techniques and, of course, money. But if you’re willing to learn, or have someone knowledgeable who can help you, it’s worth it.

Be everywhere

Tweet, blog, shoot videos, create infographics, comment on other blogs, answer questions on Quora, join Facebook private groups. Being everywhere increases your visibility online so your prospects will see you too. Plus, you’ll make connections which are likely to pay dividends.

Man looking through the viewfinder on a camera

Have any other useful tips on how to attract those first clients? We’d love to read them below.

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