3 Tips to Ensure Success as a Freelance Web Designer

What’s your number-one need as a freelance Web designer—or as any business, for that matter?

Is it better marketing or better skills? No. To be successful and profitable, you must be able to find and keep clients.

Recently, I was reviewing a new program from 1stWebDesigner’s resident evil genius, Spence Forman. I liked it so much, I dipped into some of his other programs as well.

One of the things that impressed me most was the practical business and marketing tips he sprinkles throughout them all. So I took the liberty of gathering a few of his best advice, mixing them with my own, and put together this list of 3 tips for getting and keeping clients.

Let’s begin with the ground rules

It goes without saying, your business model must be solid.

You need a market that’s big enough to provide plenty of work. The people in that market must have a pressing need that you can fill. And they must be willing to pay you to fill that need.

Of course, as a Web designer, you’re in a good place. Especially if you work with WordPress websites. It’s the world’s largest CMS with more than 70 million sites, and 20% of Internet sites use WordPress.

What’s more, many of these people aren’t experts on website design or technology. They just want a website that works, so they can focus on their business. In most cases, they’re more than willing to hire someone to make that happen.

So the market is strong, and the opportunity is great. Clearly, you have a market here.

All that’s left is to connect with your potential clients and make an offer they can’t refuse. Here’s how.

1. Have the right tools in your toolbox

Finding and getting clients doesn’t happen by itself. You need the tools and connections in place to make prospecting as automatic as possible.

A few basic marketing tools I recommend:

A well-optimized website

webdesigner 1

It can be simple and have as many or few pages as you want. But when your ideal clients search for your services, you need to show up in the SERPs.

Focus on providing a strong value proposition and customer-oriented sales copy. Make it as professional as possible—your website should showcase your skills.

Social media

You don’t have to use every social channel. But you should be present on the channels where your clients hang out most. If that’s Twitter, start tweeting. If it’s Pinterest, create some boards that show off your brand.

Your goal is to develop a consistent social media brand. So take time to develop a solid strategy that you can maintain over time. Remember, use social media to engage with people and build relationships, not to sell.

A blog

To build your credibility as an expert designer, you need to create content that showcases your knowledge. I recommend starting your own blog and, whenever possible, writing guest posts for respected blogs in your industry.

Focus on developing name recognition and credibility. As your name become known, you’ll likely find that new projects come your way with little or no marketing—simply because people have read and liked your articles.

LinkedIn

Similar to content marketing is networking with your peers and potential clients. For this, there’s no better resource than LinkedIn.

Create a keyword-rich profile, optimized with a professional image and description. Then get involved.

Join appropriate groups related to your skills. Interact. Engage. Answer questions. By connecting with people on a regular basis, sharing resources and answering questions, you may find that work comes to you.

SearchTempest

webdesigner 2

SearchTempest is a terrific research tool, allowing you to search for jobs on Craigslist, eBay and more. All you have to do is set the geo-distance (up to a 4,000-mile radius) and you can find listings in your area that match your skill set.

Make it a goal to spend time each week reviewing job listings and connecting with prospects. By combining this with inbound marketing efforts (social media and blogging), you should be able to keep a steady work flow.

2. Become an expert at working with clients

Most of the time, you won’t close a sale on first contact with a prospect. Be prepared to take time building relationship, credibility and trust, so they feel confident hiring you. Here are a few tips:

Be personal

Prospects want to feel you understand their problems and have the skills to solve them. But your skill set isn’t the only criteria for hiring you. When prospects are weighing two freelancers who are equal in every way, they’ll hire the one they like most.

When dealing with prospects and clients, make sure you’re likeable.

Every conversation, whether on the phone, by email or direct message, should show that you “get” your prospect. If you know their location, reference it. If they’re getting unusual weather, ask about it. If they’re in a different time zone, schedule calls relative to their time zone.

You don’t have to be chummy, but you should be personal when dealing with clients.

Stay in touch with RightInbox.com

webdesigner 3

Regular contact can go a long way to staying top of mind. (Just be sure not to make a pest of yourself!)

RightInbox makes it easy to follow up with prospects and customers and even to verify that emails made it to your intended target. Best of all, it integrates with Gmail to give you professional CRM system at little to no cost to you.

Make it all about them

Above all else, make every touch-point customer oriented. Whether people are reading your website, corresponding through email, or working with you on a project, focus on their needs, not yours.

If it’s appropriate, take time to chat and get to know clients. Ask questions that help you understand their business goals. Then let them know how your services will help them achieve those goals.

3. Master the fine art of pricing

Pricing is always about value. If value outweighs price, people don’t mind paying. So your job is to deliver more value than people expect. Always.

How do you add value?

It can be little things, like giving progress reports during the project, asking for input at various stages in the project, or following up afterward to make sure there are no issues.

I heard of one freelancer who sent cookies to clients upon the completion of a project. With that strategy, if the cookies are good, the client may dream up more projects just to fill their craving for cookies. J

I heard of another who sent an email with additional tips for getting the most from the work he had just completed.

However you decide to do it, make sure clients feel they got the better end of the stick. And be sure to communicate that extra value when talking to new prospects.

Want more?

If you like these three tips, you’re going to love the materials at 1stWebDesigner.

Visit their main website, to get a free private training course that teaches you the techniques you need to succeed as a freelance Web designer

Visit 1WD.tv to review a variety of programs for building your design skills and helping you succeed as a freelancer.

Need other business-building tools? Check out Maqtoob.

Now you

What are your best strategies for getting and keeping clients? Share your winning ideas in the comments below.

Read other Crazy Egg articles by Kathryn Aragon

About 

Kathryn Aragon is editor of The Daily Egg, and offers advanced training for content marketers at KathrynAragon.com. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.

Comments

  1. Fantastic Tips on freelance webdesign from base to edge.it not just three you cover all the main points.Thanks!

  2. Thnks but give more ideas

  3. Found it helpful
    Thanks

  4. Great post Kathryn! I especially like your point on mastering the art of pricing, it really is the deal breaker for clients and you have to be weary that they will be shopping around and getting quotes and unless you offer competitive and fair deals you’re going to struggle

    • Thanks, Maria! Pricing is a strategy all its own. It’s true that a lot of clients are shopping by price, but you want to be careful not to set your fees too low just to accommodate them. Frankly, low prices communicate poor-quality work. If you need some guidance, let me know.

  5. Very AWESOME advice! Never though of sending cookies but helping clients after the job is complete is the best way to get more future work. Always take care of the clients :)

  6. Really great tips .Keep coming up with the content like this.

  7. The question is where to find them? Linkedin is alright but can you suggest more sources?

    • Great question, Kasim. The key is to know where they hang out online and then get your name in front of them. Do they read a particular blog? See if you can write a guest post. When searching for a web designer, what keywords are they using? Create a page for your website that’s optimized for that keyword. Start sharing useful content for these people–in Twitter, to your email list, and wherever else they hang out. Focus on building name recognition and credibility. Then your customers will come looking for you.

      • Thanks for the suggestion. What you are suggesting is absolutely great and will need some time to get returns.

        I was wondering if there is a way to build a great list of emails ? So if we send 1000+ email a day and get atleast 3-4 replys.

        So, I have a question is there a way to find that much amount of emails?

        Thanks

    • Kasim, guest posting as Kathryn mentioned is a valuable source.

  8. Whenever I finish WordPress website for my clients, I follow up by providing security tips. Sending cookies is a good idea. Thanks for the wonderful article.

  9. HI,
    That was some good useful info you have given. Thanks for sharing. We are going to start a webdesign firm and these things will be definitley handy….

    • Your welcome! I hope you have good success.

    • Vivek, glad we could help :)

      • Hey Neil. I’m an experienced Google Adwords specialist and I am Google Adwords Certified. I am trying to start my own freelance business, but I have a hard time obtaining clients for myself. If you have any tips or can get me started with any businesses, I would really appreciate it. Thanks!

        • Sunny, do you have any specific questions I can help you with :)?

          • Do you have any tips on the best way to capture clients for Adwords & Local Seo? I have tried emailing a lot of businesses, but no business has ever contacted me back.

          • Sunny, I hate to break it to you, but I’ve never found it profitable to email businesses looking for work. Focus on getting your name out there as a credible resource. Write high-quality articles for the blogs your prospects read. Use social media to share useful information. Focus on becoming a recognized authority in Adwords and SEO. Then blog on your own site (and optimize it so you show up on the SERPs). Over time, people will come to you. It’s a long-range plan, but it’s been proven to work.

  10. Great article.
    In my role as Business Development Manager at our growing Web Agency I’ve used some of the strategies mentioned.
    If you have a talent for writing, blogging is definately a winning strategy for building your “authority” in the market.

    Web Design is also a very wide field.
    I’d suggest narrowing your focus and building deep specialized knowledge in one or two specific niches. Either a technology type or a client industry type. e.g. become a leading developer of Drupal or Car Industry Websites. You get the idea.

  11. Definitely see how you can apply these techniques as a freelance copywriter, too. Solid advice. Will come back to this.

  12. Way solid advice for sure! I remember a few years ago someone told me that the art of freelancing isn’t actually about your skillset as a designer or creative. It’s about your ability to find clients, work with clients and manage projects.

    So, I love when you said “Prospects want to feel you understand their problems and have the skills to solve them.”

    While you should be good at your craft (whether design, copywriting, etc.), the real art of freelancing is in finding the right kind of clients and then helping them understand how you can help them grow their business, organization, etc.

    Nice post. Thank you!

  13. Great tips, thanks for sharing! I believe one of the hardest thing for me as a freelancer was to learn how to deal with the clients impossible requests.

  14. This is the first time I have heard about this tool, Search Tempest. Can’t believe I never knew that such a tool exist. Searching jobs from so many platforms, this is awesome.

    Also, your advice “Be Personal” is spot on and something I prefer. Exactly defines my style of dealing with clients. We are more open and friendly with clients and, as a result, they are more open to discuss new ideas and suggestions with us.

    Great article. Good Work, Kathryn.

  15. Here are some videos of some helpful tips to find clients. They’re worth the watch and they’re free.

    Powerful Stuff

  16. Kathryn, Thank’s a lot, I realy learned a lot just by reading this article,
    I believe it’s long term goal,

    • You’re welcome, Gil. Glad it helped. Finding clients truly is a long-term goal, but tips I shared here should help–as should many of the cro tactics we talk about on the blog. Good luck!

  17. Thanks for the article! It was quite helpful.

    I was wondering if you knew or could tell me like a really brief list of some well-known respectable blogs in the web development/design industry. You mentioned writing guest posts and that sounds like something that would be cool. Just if you knew of any off the top of your head.
    Thanks!

    • Rob, I don’t know any off the top of my head. A great strategy is to Google “design blog guest post” or “web development guest post.” This should turn up some blogs that publish guest posts in these two areas. Best of luck!

  18. Love the article and I’m working on my own marketing strategy which will definitively include Facebook and Pinterest.
    For Facebook I like posting tips on facegroup groups for business owner that allow that.
    Question: I like to write, how do I get my articles published at a reputable site?
    Thank you in advance

    • Hi Paula. Glad you lied this article. Your Facebook strategy is a good one for building your reputation. To get started as a writer, you need to start your own blog, producing the best-quality content you can. That will give you some links to share with reputable sites so they can evaluate your work. When pitching to blog editors, make sure your focus is on helping them with their content, not on getting yourself published. lol. It’s an easy mistake to make when you’re starting out, but that “all about me” attitude can hurt your reputation. Good luck!

  19. thanks for tips

  20. Hi Kathryn,

    We are web development experts from Vancouver, Canada and we have office in Pune, India as well. We are looking out for new business opportunities and we are constantly searching and replying to suitable ads on Craigslist. We have also listed our business in some of the US and Canadian cities local business directories. We also searched web development companies of big cities around the world and contacted them by email looking for outsourced work or partners in web development. Inspite of all the efforts there is no result coming out of it so we are planning to implement a new strategy. Would like to know your opinion about our approach and any suggestions are most welcome.

  21. My Company is struggling to land contracts in IT software projects. We are based in canada and recently started in USA.we have an employee strength of about 72 Specialized in Java & .Net

    We did couple of projects from one of our Client Pen Groups. They outsourced 4 projects for us but, as everyone knows, if we have to grow and expand, we need find overseas clients.

    Any advise? Any direction would be helpful.

    Thanks
    Ankith

    • Ankith, marketing gets hard if you can’t concisely tell customers what you do for them. By that, I don’t mean “IT software projects,” but something like “save XXX dollars in XXX months” or another end outcome your customers already want. I recommend that you identify your ideal customer: what type of business they have, how big, their specific needs, etc. Then identify the final outcome you give them that no one else can give them. This will be your value proposition, which should guide all your marketing. (It sounds easier than it is. You may find a couple of end outcomes and have to test to figure out which one works best.) Good luck!

  22. It’s important to remember what a freelancer is. Traditionally, a freelancer is an expert in their field. I know, I know… that’s not necessarily the case anymore.

  23. Web Presence is key for any business. There are a lot of factors that go into creating a good web site. Content is still king on the web and quality, original, content that is designed to sell can have a large impact on converting traffic. Determining the target audience and demographics of this market can give us user behavior data which will allow us information about web user behavior.

  24. Awesome! Great write up thank you! It’s easter time, should’ve sent some Easter Eggs or nice choclates to my current and past clients earlier this week! Great idea about the cookies. Love your style

  25. Very good article and nice tips. I am a freelance web designer and understand that working as a freelancer is not an easy task, it needs more struggle but once you are set in your career then it will be easy. I enjoy my work a lot of freelance web designing.

  26. The most important tip coming above all of this. You are in the web design industry, that changes quickly so you must be committed to never ending learning. You gotta love what you do to do this. But when you do, you will be able to offer higher end services for your clients and eventually double your freelance rates.

  27. Hi Kathryn, thanks for the tips, i find it helpful and easy to understand..

  28. Great article, thanks. Some really useful tips in there!

  29. Good Article by Kathryn, I will definitely try these things. Hope they will work for me :)

  30. Great tips, looking forward to implementing them

  31. Sometimes you can get work from creative agencies. In many cases they’ll give you projects that might not be a fit for them, or you can get some consistent work if you build good relationships

  32. You are right, basically every person on 1stwebdesigner, when asking what is their biggest problem is about how to get clients.

    As you said it’s very important to price yourself right and be personal. It’s all about positioning yourself between the competition. Usually it means niching down – never say you are just a web designer, developer – say specific solutions you provide and don’t be jack of all trades.

    We just did interview with Philip Morgan, that helps freelancers to position themselves, might be worth a watch. Read it here.

  33. The best way to get clients is to treat the few you have well. Under promise and over perform. Really if you can find one client and do a great job, it will take time, you will see improvement. Keep your reviews up and leave your clients happy. Do right by your clients and be proactive! Thanks for useful info!!

  34. I think it is very important to have a good website with a blog section like you said where you can offer information and share with the world what you know. Also having a friendly relationship with your clients it is important, it helps you to keep them and also to recive recommendations.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Marketing for Freelancers: 3 Tips to Find Clients for Web Design – So the market is strong, and the opportunity is great. Clearly, you have a market here. All that’s left is to connect with your potential clients and make an offer they can’t refuse. […]

  2. […] Marketing for Freelancers: 3 Tips to Find Clients for Web Design “One of the things that impressed me most was the prac­ti­cal busi­ness and mar­ket­ing tips he sprin­kles through­out them all. So I took the lib­erty of gath­er­ing a few of his best advice, mix­ing them with my own, and put together this list of 3 tips… […]

  3. […] should you suddenly double your prices? It’s worth a test! If you’re a freelanceror you sell services, double your rates. If you have a SaaS business, double the monthly fee and see […]

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