One of the hardest challenges in turning your freelance “hobby” into a sustainable business is figuring out how to get web design clients. In general, most freelancers are incredibly skilled at their craft but are often quite inexperienced when it comes to both develoing new business as well as nurturing any existing accounts into bigger opportunities. The good news is you don’t have to tackle this challenge alone—there is a ton of support out there for you, it’s just a matter of finding it.
When it comes to learning how to find web design clients, there is no substitute for the long-term strategy of building an impressive portfolio and producing thought leadership content in an on-going basis. Our article, Now’s the Time! Learn How to Start an Agency, provides some great tips for anyone just getting started on their path to agency ownership. Building the right foundation of a quality portfolio supported by a solid SEO strategy will help provide a steady source of new business in the future, freeing up more of your time to keep doing what you do best: web design.
As you continue reading to learn how to get web design clients, keep in mind that the following sources of new business are all stop-gaps as you continue to develop your SEO strategy and produce thought leadership content.
If your inbound lead flow has slowed to a trickle, freelance job sites like Upwork provide a decent platform for sourcing new work. The site allows you to post a simple portfolio, select which skills you are proficient in, as well as establish a set hourly rate. You can actively pursue jobs posted by clients in need of your services, or you can take a backseat and wait for clients to find you (though you might find yourself waiting a very long time). If you’re just starting your own web design business, Upwork’s all-in-one contract and invoicing platform takes all the guesswork out of billing, providing protection for both you and the hiring client.
All that said, sites like Upwork aren’t generally a viable longterm solution. Many clients in search of freelance talent are highly motivated by price, and often hire the lowest bidder in support of one-off projects. This means it will also be difficult to nurture that client into a larger, more valuable account. Instead of building a small roster of sizeable accounts, you will find yourself jumping from client to client, project to project, always searching for the next gig.
If you’re learning how to get web design clients, chances are you already have a decent amount of professional web design experience, whether through working at an agency, as part of an in-house team, or even just the experience gained through web design classes. Think about all of the colleagues you’ve worked with over the years—whether managers, coworkers, or even customers. Now is the perfect time to reconnect with these colleagues to catch up and discuss your careers. Simply mentioning that you are starting your own web design agency is often enough prompt for a colleague to refer you to someone they know who is in need of a web designer.
Even if this doesn’t produce any new clients for you, it’s still a good idea to keep these relationships alive. Starting your own agency can initially be a fairly lonely experience—the more colleagues you keep in touch with, the more opportunities you have to discuss your craft and vent about challenging clients!
The final option for anyone learning how to find web design clients is often the most challenging: Networking. If reading this causes you to groan and your palms to get sweaty, you’re not alone! After all, you didn’t start a career in web design in order to go around shaking hands and trying to sell your services to strangers. If you typically find yourself standing alone during networking events, Glassdoor has put together a great guide to networking, giving some very clear and actionable guidance on how to cultivate genuine connections at networking events.