How to get design clients - checklist

Updated: Oct 6


One of the most important parts of running a creative business is finding and keeping great clients. It can sometimes feel like a bit of a random process where you put in a lot of work to maybe see results months later. However, there are some surefire ways to set yourself apart and start getting noticed by the right people. We will look at some helpful tips and finish off with a checklist to make sure you are setting yourself up for great results to avoid those ups and downs. If you prefer to listen, check out the podcast episode we did on this topic and how Stefan Sagmeister created a winning niche for himself in the music world.


Why not have some fun with your own brand?

OVERVIEW:

  • Attracting the right client

  • Know your niche

  • Use content to drive quality traffic

  • Create a lead funnel

  • Follow up

  • Checklist

Attracting the right client


When we say we want more clients, most of us mean we want a few great clients rather than a ton of small, time consuming ones. This is because every project requires some basic tasks like writing a proposal, meetings and feedback. If you have a bigger project, you can spend a bigger portion of your energy creating. But size is not the only way we can define a great client. Wonderful clients are people who are open to a creative discussion and respect your time. The truth is, this can be most clients as long as you have a great process. Avoid the lengthy "I know it when I see it" by making sure your client feels excited and informed throughout the design process. This starts now when you are looking for clients. As you reach out to people, update the copy on your website or attend networking events, be clear about your working style, expectations and how you can make their lives and business better.


Know your niche


Most businesses want more work. That is why cold calling and traditional marketing where you come off as a sales person is not proving very effective. It is better to aim for a situation where clients seek you out. The first step in this is to have a niche. People tend to surround themselves with others they can relate to. You probably know more designers than you know people from other industries. This is why a niche is so helpful. Once you get known by one company, it is much easier to get a referral if they know a lot of people that would benefit from your services.


A niche can be anything. An industry, a type of service or even companies driven by a similar mission. They key is to make it narrow enough that when the right people read about you, it resonates with them, but general enough to give you a big enough market. Try to create a persona for your ideal clients and really try to understand what they value.


Use content to drive quality traffic


Content is still key to getting more work. You want to make sure what you put out there feels generous, helpful and not like it has strings attached. Try to expand your brand and go beyond the traditional business updates and new offers and instead build a story around your company. You can do this by writing helpful blogposts on things related to your business, team up with other companies that share your values or feature clients and encourage them to interact with your followers. Make your website easy to use and try to get all your marketing to point to your website. This way, it becomes a hub for your brand. Using your website as the main point of contact is great because unlike social media, you can decide how it is presented. You can find a structure that helps people find what they need and get in tough in a way that feels helpful and easy.


Create a lead funnel


A lead funnel can sound intimidating but it is actually quite simple. All it means is that you start off by trying to reach a lot of people through social media, find a way to speak to them regularly and eventually some of them will buy. In practice, this usually mean getting traffic from social media to your site where you ask people to sign up to a newsletter. You can then get in touch now and then to provide helpful advice and eventually some of the people on your list will reach out to start a project. This is all about building trust and showing yourself as an expert over time. It can take a little time to get started but once you have it all set up, it can become a steady source of new clients.


Follow up


Follow up with potential leads that have gone quiet and make sure to check in with past clients every now and then. Often people are too busy to get in touch themselves so a happy email to catch up can be the trigger for a new project. Once you are ready to get started, make sure you have a clear and helpful on-boarding process to help your clients feel comfortable.


Checklist


These are all tips you can try to find new clients. Please do not feel like you have to try them all at once, instead, see it as a list of inspiration when you want to attract some more attention to your business. It is easy to get overwhelmed so pick one at a time to try out.


How you present your business:

  • Create a persona - describe their problems and how you solve them

  • Find your niche

  • Edit the copy on your website to appeal to your niche

  • Make your website easy to use - start with the goal and work backwards

  • Add social proof like testimonials to your site

  • Check that your own branding is clear and consistent on all platforms

  • Make sure your website and social media copy focuses on benefits and not features (e.g. "branding is a feature, "building trust" is a benefit)

  • Work on your website SEO to help drive traffic over time

  • Create unique business cards or promotional materials for yourself (try to pick sustainable printing options for your work)

Tell people about your business

  • Attend networking events where your customers will be

  • Tell friends and family that you are running a business

  • Join a creative community and explain what you do

  • Introduce yourself to other creative companies over a coffee

  • Host a Masterclass to help businesses that consider hiring a creative

  • Interact with potential customers online

Social media and content:

  • Decide what type of content you want to post to social media and why

  • Make a schedule for your social media

  • Find a publishing tool to make posting easier or automised

  • Make sure it is easy for people to contact you once they find you on social media

  • Set up a Behance and interact with other creative agencies

  • Use Pinterest to drive traffic to your site

  • Team up with another business to cross promote

  • Create engaging content and ask questions in your posts

  • Consider a blog where you post tips for your niche

  • Start a newsletter and add ways for people to subscribe on your site

If you want tips for tools to use, have a question or just want to connect with other creatives, join our Facebook community! Everyone is welcome and we are a very supportive bunch.