So you’re thinking of starting a web design business. You have the skills, the motivation and the passion. But what you don’t have is clients.
The bad news?
It’s not easy to build a web design business and get clients. The competition in this industry is fierce. This means that even if you have the skills to build fantastic websites, convincing someone to hire you when you have no portfolio and zero proof of your abilities can be a challenge.
The good news?
If you’re willing to take on the challenge and use the tips and advice in this post, you’ll soon get your first ten web design clients, and then more.
Pretend you are your own dream client
Most people wait to get a few clients first and then build their portfolio websites. Why? Because they believe they need to have at least of few samples of past work to share, otherwise it’s not a portfolio.
But why wait? Your own website is the best way to prove your skills and abilities.
So instead of pitching right and left “I have the skills to build you an amazing website” and waiting for someone to give you a chance, you can instead show off your skills by building yourself the best website you’ve ever built.
Pretend you are your own dream client and just knock your own socks off. If you do a fantastic job at showing off your skills with your own site, potential clients will feel more confident hiring you to work on theirs.
The first steps? Register a professional domain name, buy a reliable and secure web hosting plan, and get your impressive portfolio website up and running as soon as possible.
Sell what you can achieve, not what you do behind the scenes
Most of your potential clients don’t know or even care about responsive design, UX, cool slide image galleries, or whatever else is going on behind the scenes.
So of course they won’t be impressed or be able to see the value in what you’re offering if you present yourself as someone who design sites.
Want to get clients? Focus on the outcomes that they will see from your work.
Don’t tell them about colour schemes, navigation or UX. Instead, explain how the website you can design for them will help them to build a consistent, memorable and instantly recognisable brand online; how it will transform their business, help them to tell a more compelling story, and make their audience fall in love with their brand; or how they’ll boost profit thanks to a simple and more intuitive purchasing or checkout process.
The key takeaway here is that when you’re “selling” your skills, you should focus on the results that your potential clients are hoping to achieve (like more customers and more money).
Booking client numero uno
When you have no experience, no clients and no portfolio, the fastest way to get that first, much needed client is through the network that’s right in front of you: family and friends.
It’s incredible how many people overlook or skip this step when they first start a business, even though it usually works.
Why? The reason is simple: people do business with people they know, like and trust. So start by letting everyone close to you know what you’re up to: that you’re starting your own business and you’re looking for offer your web design services.
Avoid technical jargon when explaining what you do and definitely don’t pitch them. Just show them your portfolio website so they understand what you do, and ask if they know anyone who might need a new website.
Next, tap into your social media network – former coworkers, acquaintances and other connections. Send them a quick private message or email, explaining that you are starting a business and are offering your services. If they don’t need help, ask if they can refer you to a connection of theirs who does.
Not everyone will deliver you a client. But that’s ok because you only need one to get started.
We’re not talking about creating a social media strategy, sharing content and building your fanbase.
Sure, you can (and should) add your portfolio website to your bio/ About page on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or other social networks you’re using. You should also share it in a post. However, you can leave the rest for later.
What we’re recommending instead is that you join any web design, web development, copywriting or small business groups on Facebook and other social networks or forums. You’d be surprised how many people find clients on these groups.
So, don’t hesitate to join and share a post where you introduce yourself, share a link to your site, and ask for help or advice on how to find your first clients.
There are lots of web designers who are overbooked and are looking to outsource. There are also many others who are happy to help either by sharing a contact or some very useful advice on how to find clients.
Give something away
Another way to build trust and convince potential new clients that they should hire you to design or redesign their website is to give something away for free.
But what exactly? A landing page? A free banner ad? A social media cover? You can’t do that for everyone because then you’d earn no money and have no time left to look for other clients.
Instead, offer something that not only helps to show off your skills and expertise but also to build your credibility and helpfulness status.
It can be any useful resource that people can download, like a video tutorial, an infographic, a checklist or short book where you share some original tips and tricks to improve their website, design-wise.
You can put it up on your website and either give it away for free to anyone who clicks a “Download” button, or exclusively to those who give you their email address in exchange for access to the resource.
If you want to build an email list early on, we’d recommend using the second tactic. (Just make sure you comply with GDPR.)
Consider (some) freelance marketplaces
If everything else fails, consider setting up a profile on one or several of these freelance job sites. While there’s a lot of competition, if you’re willing to start small to get your first clients, they might be worth a try.
You can also use LinkedIn’s job board where you can search for and filter results by industry, location, job type, experience level and more.
Your turn. What successful tactics have your tried so far that have helped you to land your first web design clients?