You might be an expert in your field, but gaining clients is never an easy job. Before a client hires you to design, they need to feel confident about your abilities and often require you to prove that you’re up to the task. If you’ve ever tried to get a client’s business, you might have realized that simply saying that you’re good at graphic design doesn’t matter.
In the world of freelance graphic design, gaining clients requires knowing that they have needs, expectations, and standards. To increase the possibilities of landing consistent clients, follow these nine pro tips that are easy to implement at any stage of your graphic design career.
1. Enter Design Competitions
Clients need to see that you have a portfolio before they can trust you. But when you’re new, proving yourself to clients may be impossible. Design competitions are an excellent avenue for beginners and pros alike, offering a platform for learning, recognition, and networking.
In design competitions, you are introduced to a client with a specific need, such as the need for a new logo, an updated business card, or an advertisement poster. You may also be given specific rules or parameters that your design must follow, such as size or color scheme. Some competitions allow you to work for a few months on a project; others require in-person events with quick thinking and fast hands. Regardless of the type of design competition your join, you will increase your knowledge and graphic design know-how.
For budding graphic designers, a design competition teaches you how to follow client instructions and work under a deadline. If you don’t win the competition, you can add your design to your portfolio. If you win the competition, you may get prize money, bragging rights, and a new piece for your portfolio.
2. Join Freelancing Websites
Traditionally, designers are assigned tasks by their bosses. Freelancing websites cut through the red tape in the digital age, bringing clients and graphic designers closer than ever. Before you get started, conduct some research to identify freelance websites that work best for you. Some popular freelance websites for graphic design include Upwork, Fiverr, and Freelancer.com.
Once you join a platform, create an attractive professional portfolio, and set your prices. (You may choose to lower your prices due to your lack of experience.) You can attract clients with your professionalism which can help you build a strong reputation and following. Since these platforms have options for ratings, do your best to give 5-star service. After each project, add the piece to your portfolio to show prospective clients your skills.
However, don’t make the mistake of accepting every client. If a task is too complex or advanced for your skills, say no! Shoddy work will destroy your credibility fast.
3. Think Local
Online platforms are incredible for building your credentials but don’t ignore potential clients from your local area. Your local grocery store, restaurant, or mechanic might need graphic design work. Approach such businesses by sending emails, visiting them, and even giving out your business card.
While some local businesses might not pay premium rates, they’re great for getting you visibility and word-of-mouth promotion. By being open to small local clients, you may get referred to bigger clients in the community, such as a county hospital or local government offices.
4. Use Social Media
Social media platforms started as platforms for socializing with friends and family, but they soon became places where businesses meet potential clients. With a wide array of social media sites available, a freelance graphic designer’s search for clients has never been easier.
To use social media, there are some factors you need to consider. First, know where your clients are located. Don’t simply open a Twitter page hoping to attract clients. Instagram might be a better option since it’s more visual. When using social media, start by discovering where your clients and their specific needs are located to ensure you present yourself appropriately.
Craft your messages appropriately since you’re not the only one hunting for customers. A common platform for many graphic design freelancers is Facebook, perhaps the most popular of all social media platforms. However, users on the platform are used to business advertising, and simple posts might not attract attention. Get creative with your posts; the more you can engage your followers, the better. The more chatter you get on your page, the more visibility you receive.
5. Start a Graphic Design Blog
There are many ways to get information about your business out to potential clients. Running a design blog or website gives you a chance to promote your business, build a community, and become an expert in your field.
To know what to write about on your website, begin by identifying what clients need from graphic designers. Is it the pricing of logos? The best sizes for caricatures on their posters? Do colors that pop matter more than calmer colors? Use search engine tools to discover your clients’ topics of interest and give them expert opinions. If they find your blogs useful, they’re more likely to bring you business.
When you use graphic design blogs, mistakes that can cost you include lacking a target audience and not maintaining a schedule. Your blog needs to address particular readers, not the general public. Once you decide who to target—clients or designers—you can craft your language and content appropriately. Also, failing to update content often might indicate that you’re no longer active. Show that you’re dependable by having something fresh for your readers every time they visit your site.
6. Reach Out To Clients Online
One tactic that most graphic designers ignore is the power of cold outreach. Cold outreach refers to the act of contacting people without prior knowledge or connection to you or your business. While this may sound odd, start by drafting a custom message that appeals to your client and their field. If they’re in the wildlife conservation industry, draft an email or message that identifies a ‘green’ need you can meet through your work.
Critics of cold outreach undermine its value by noting how it might be intrusive or a blind approach to marketing. If you choose this method, take comfort in the idea that the worst thing your client can do is say ‘no.’ Make it a goal to reach out to fifty people. From there, you might get five replies and end up with two quality clients. You need to plant a seed about your business now; if a client says ‘no’ today, they may say ‘yes’ tomorrow, but you have to make contact first.
7. Showcase Positive Reviews
Remember when you wanted to buy a phone, PC, or rent a house? Chances are, you started your search by asking a friend or loved one first. Marketers know that word of mouth is one of the most effective forms of marketing, and you can take advantage of this feature too. After completing a task for a client, ask them to provide you a review showing that they were satisfied with your work. Add the feedback to your website to make it visible to potential clients.
Avoid getting caught up in collecting positive reviews while ignoring negative ones. Negative reviews can help you grow as a graphic designer. Don’t delete your negative reviews; respond kindly, and improve with the next client.
8. Seek Critiques
If you have family or friends, the chances are that they tell you things they wish you did better. For your graphic design business, treat every client as an opportunity to learn more about what you’re doing right or wrong.
After completing a job, not only can you ask your client to leave you a review, but you could ask them to fill out a survey highlighting things you did well and areas you need improvement on. For example, clients may find you personable and easy to communicate with, but you lack when it comes to delivering designs on time or even early.
9. Build a Network with Other Designers
Working alone is usually the easiest way for a graphic designer to get paid and complete a job. But when you have a network of skilled graphic designers on your side, you improve your flexibility and build meaningful relationships with other experts in the field.
Instead of seeing other graphic designers as your competition, look at them as future partners and opportunities for learning. If a project is large, you can seek the help of other graphic designers. Working as a team may allow you to take on larger projects for more prominent clients, which may even lead to long-term assignments.
There are many ways for graphic designers to gain clients, and these nine strategies just scratch the surface. The key aspect of graphic design is understanding client needs, building good relationships, and constantly improving. If you consider these aspects, they can make you the go-to expert for all your favorite clients. In the end, the market is big, but only the boldest and most outgoing graphic designers earn clients.