Let’s face it: finding awesome graphic design clients is not easy. How do I know?
Type in “how to get graphic design clients” in Google and you’ll find there’s over 10 million results on how to find people who will pay you to do what you love.
Like many designers, you'd prefer spending your time creating kick ass work rather than searching for that perfect customer. However, unless you put in the effort to market yourself or your agency, high-paying clientele will be all-but-impossible to come by.
Don’t worry, not all hope is lost! With tools like Google, social media, and local communities, finding people who will pay you to do what you love has become easier than ever.
Here’s four ways you can find amazing graphic design clients that won’t take much time or effort away from your creation process.
1. Give Something Away for Free
Don’t get me wrong - I definitely don’t want to underestimate your value as a graphic designer. In fact, designers are worth a lot; you are in control of creating a brand’s image and bringing it to life.
Rather than giving away your design services for free, think of another creative way you can win those clients.
Preston Lee of Millo recently published a blog on how he managed to get new clients once his current pool of them started drying up. In the article, he described how he wrote and printed a short book (printed, not emailed) and gave it away to small businesses in his area.
The book was titled “10 elements all web sites should have” and established his credibility as a website designer. It also got people excited about what he could do and ultimately gave him the leads he was looking for.
Whether it’s a book, calendar, or even a poster for a local event, there’s a lot to be said for giving someone a taste of your work for free. Not only does it get your name out there, but it also establishes your credibility as a graphic designer.
2. Use LinkedIn More Than You Do Now
Social media gurus love to talk about the potential of Facebook (especially with their new augmented reality platform, Spaces), SnapChat, and Instagram.
The internet is becoming more visual every day as attention spans shorten and people get better at communicating through images and video.
Even with the success of these visual-centric social platforms, there’s still one that many design agencies and freelancers aren’t using to its full potential: LinkedIn.
If you think this platform is dead, think again. When used correctly, LinkedIn can be a powerful tool to find and engage with potential clients.
Here’s a few techniques you can implement to make your personal LinkedIn profile work for you:
Optimize the headline on your personal profile - Include keywords that potential clients would search for (i.e. Graphic Designer, Freelance, Agency, Brand Consultant).
Include your best work on your personal profile - You should have at least 2-3 projects they’re especially proud of. These should not only live on your website, but also on your LinkedIn Profile.
Link to your website - You can add media to your LinkedIn profile, including a link to your website. Doing so will allow those who are interested in your services click to learn more about how they can hire you.
Actively grow your network - LinkedIn was designed to allow you to connect with people and build your network. Join groups for graphic designers or small businesses in the niche you are targeting. Participating in group discussions can also do wonders to build relationships on the platform.
Now that your personal profile is all set up, it’s time to work on your agency’s profile (note: if you’re a freelancer, skip this step unless you have a company profile on LinkedIn).
Get visual with it - LinkedIn Company Profiles, similar to personal profiles, give you spaces to upload your logo and a banner image. The best part? They’re above the fold, meaning this is your first impression to anyone visiting your page. Use these spaces wisely to convey your value and brand message to people who stop by.
Add your keywords - In LinkedIn’s new admin experience, flip over to the “Overview” tab and scroll down to specialties. In this section, you can add up to 20 keywords that describe what your agency does (i.e. graphic design, web design, logos, branding). While you’re at it, make sure these keywords are also somewhere in your company description for extra strength.
Share your content - Stay on top of your followers’ minds (and feeds) by sharing content on a regular basis. Aim for 3-4 times a week to ensure you don’t get lost in the crowd. Don’t have content? Feel free to share content from someone else (and link back!) or outsource it to a freelancer (read more about that later).
With these techniques, you’re already ten steps ahead when it comes to having a kick ass LinkedIn presence.
Don’t forget, even when you have built up a network, you still need to engage and build up those relationships. Start conversations with connections and fellow group members and make sure it's not all about self-promotion and you’re already well on your way to building their trust.
3. Build Relationships Face-to-Face
As businesses continue to grow into the digital age, one important element of communication and relationship building is fading away: meeting and communicating with people face-to-face.
Because of the growth of the internet, we are now able to find and communicate with people from all over the globe.
However, as the trend of online relationships, both personal and professional, expands, one question has remained the same over the years: are these true relationships, or just a figment of our lives, existing only in the digital space?
This statement is not to discredit digital relationships by any means, as there’s no doubt that many friendships and professional opportunities have certainly originated from the internet.
However, it is worthwhile to go old school once in a while and meet up with individuals in person.
Building relationships in person is a great way to find graphic design clients because, according to Brett of BiteSize Business School, “The ability to hear the voice and see the face and body language creates a memorable visual.”
Going up to someone, looking them in the eye, shaking their hand and introducing yourself is likely to go a lot further than sending them a cold email on a Tuesday afternoon.
Of course, this isn’t always possible to do - especially if you live across the country from your prospective client. However, attending local networking events and joining communities in your niche will help establish those connections that will benefit you, and your business, in the long term.
4. Amp Up Your Content Marketing Game
If you’re like many of the other design studios I’ve worked with, content marketing - especially in the form of the written word - is not your forté. This often results in a website with little to no blog activity, eBooks, or case studies.
Providing engaging and educational content is one of the best ways to provide value to your leads, and your current clients, outside of the specific services you provide for them.
Think about it: A small business is desperately in need of a new approach to rebranding itself to keep up its online presence. It needs a new logo, website, and business cards as creative pieces. However, you and I both know that branding doesn’t end there - in fact, that’s where it begins.
The problem is that many companies, especially small businesses and startups, don't realize that a brand is more than just the logo and colors they have on their website.
It’s your job as their potential designer to educate them on what branding truly is: it’s the whole package - everything from the logo and style guide to the brand voice and how it communicates with its customers - that’s a part of their new strategy.
Educating them will not only establish their trust as someone who can help them beyond just the look and feel of their brand, but will also give them advice on how to be a successful business later down the road.
How are you going to create this content?
As a designer, sitting down and staring at that blank white document with a blinking cursor is probably the last thing you want to do. You’d rather spend that time creating kick ass designs that help businesses achieve results and create brand awareness.
A great way you can ensure your time is spent more on designing and less on marketing is by outsourcing your content creation process.
Fortunately, there’s an easy way to outsource both your content creation and strategy. Click here to find out how I can help you streamline your content marketing with a free 30 minute content consultation.
Ashley Hoffman is a freelance content marketer based in Seattle who writes for businesses in the tech and design industries. She has studied digital marketing for over five years and has worked as a marketing professional for over two. She loves good books, awesome design, coffee, and natural disasters.
Find her on Twitter: @ashhmarketing