Starting any business is not easy. The same is true for any web design business. Once you have done all your homework and set up your website design business, what will keep it alive? A steady stream of web design clients, of course.
That was not a difficult answer, was it? Running any business has its own expenses. And those expenses are covered by the income you generate through your business. And where does the income come from? Your website design clients. So, how do you get web design clients?
The number of web design clients you have can make or break your business. In this article, we will look at how to get we design clients, i.e. the lifeline of your business.
I will keep my advice simple & practical. Will not unnecessarily complicate things just for the sake of writing. These are practical steps you can take to get your first client & beyond.
How I Build My Web Design Business
First I will briefly outline what I did to build my business. It can serve as an inspiration to many. I always had a keen interest in web design. But was never sure of what I wanted to do to make a living.
I took up many jobs initially in the corporate sector. Worked for about 4 to 5 years changing from job to job, as I was not very satisfied with everything I was getting out of it. When I look back and think about it now, I realize, that I was the problem. At that time, I thought the problem was out there. I would get discouraged when I saw others getting promoted. Others getting recognition. But they deserved every bit of it.
I later learned that when you think the problem is out there, that itself is the problem. If you are not doing well in life, it is time to scrutinize and see why you are not doing well. If someone is doing better, it is never a matter of chance. It is a matter of dedication and hard work. Identifying a goal and working towards it.
I Quit My Corporate Job.
I wasn’t happy working so many hours. Travelling took me around 4 hours each day. I thought that was a gross waste of time. Imagine all those hours thrown away!! I was expecting a promotion which I didn’t get, so I quit my job. I always had this thing in mind that I wanted to start something of my own. And I thought this was the right time to do that.
So I sent in my resignation. The HR department and my friends tried to convince me otherwise. They actually wanted good for me. I know they did. But I had made up my mind by then. And I wanted something different. So I quit.
Started My Web Design Business
By then, I already had acquired some knowledge in web designing by reading books and doing them practically on my home computer. I used to learn whenever I got some free time. So I offered a friend of mine to design a free website for him for his travel business. He was quite happy with the outcome. And showed the website to his travel agent friends. One of them now wanted a website for him too.
Got My First Web Design Client
So a meeting was set up with this client. I was there in time. I didn’t know what would happen. I didn’t have any experience at all meeting up web design client. The meeting was good. He told me he liked my friend’s site and wanted something similar.
At the end of the meeting, he handed me a 50% check, which was about the same amount I got as salary working in my corporate job. It was so exciting for me. I was thrilled. I felt like it was the first time I earned something worthwhile on my own. It fueled my desire for more.
Difficulty Find More Clients
I didn’t know what to do to find more clients. But I wanted to do something. Something is always better than nothing. So I took up a local business directory and started calling. I know it’s not appropriate to call people randomly and intrude into their privacy.
But at that moment, I was not thinking in that way. All I cared was to get more clients. I had no money saved from my job. Therefore, my business started with almost no investment at all. Myself and my personal home computer. I needed clients to sustain my business. These moments were critical.
Some of my calls were returned with rude responses. But I expected that. Some people were nice and declined gently. Some were curious. And very few wanted me to meet them. So I took all chances I got. Met many people. Some made me wait many hours in their office. But a few of them agreed to give me their project.
Started Advertising in Newspapers & Google AdWords
I was generating a little bit of income so I could barely advertise my business. I chose to advertise in Newspapers and Google AdWords. The later was quite cheap at that time. Not many people were using it. So pay-per-click (PPC) was very low.
I was getting calls from all over the city. All types of clients, big and small, both.
Working with International Web Design Clients.
Every day my website was getting better in search results. So I started getting international web design clients. I quickly learned that the way overseas clients worked was different.
They were much more learned and informed. One thing I found extraordinary is that they value your skills and your time. Projects would finish much quicker. They don’t tell you to redesign their homepage a dozen times. If they like it, they take it.
I can tell you from my experience the best web design clients to work with are from Austria, USA, UK, Canada, & Germany. I do get a lot of queries from other European nations, but they somehow do not materialize. Same with New Zealand, surprisingly not a single client there.
We did get a few clients from Singapore. But like all Asian countries, it takes ages to complete those projects. Sometimes, they stretch over a year.
So, we decided to choose who we want to work with.
We Choose Our Clients Now.
We are nowhere where we want to be. We are learning & improving each day. But we have reached a certain point in our business, where are able to choose who we want to work with. We decide whether we want to work with a certain client or not.
I can just talk to a client for some time, and with experience, know whether he is going to be a difficult client or not. If we have any doubt we don’t take up the project at all. Perhaps, I forego a certain amount of revenue. But in the long run, I can keep my peace of mind. My phone rings less often. I can concentrate on other things. Spending time with my family, reading self-help books, developing my skills, writing for my blog etc. By the way, I also sing. See my YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/user/amritray
So I keep busy with a lot of things. And I wouldn’t be able to do that if I didn’t choose my clients.
My golden rule is to get web design clients from the regions I listed above. I avoid all other places, including Africa and Asia. Singapore and Japan are an exception.
I should warn you here, that this strategy may not be right for you. I do it because it works for me.
Well, that is all folks. That’s the end of my story.
But I will continue with my advice of what I think you should do.
Step #1: Ensure You Want To Be In the Web Design Business
Before you even think about getting your first web design client, first ensure that this is the business you want to be in. Being in a profession you don’t like is not easy. It will be a pain every step of the way. Doing something you love, is the best profession to choose. Because then it does not feel like work. It feels like fun. And we all want to have fun all the time. Don’t we?
Therefore, the first step is to ensure that this is the profession you want to be in.
Ask yourself these questions
If most of the answers above are in the affirmative, I guess you can move ahead onto the next steps.
Step #2: First Ready Yourself.
Once you have decided you want to be in the web design business, it’s time to prepare yourself first. Can you imagine you are landing projects, and you are not even ready to take them on!! What kind of impression would it give to your clients? They will consider you an amateur. Not likely to generate many recommendations for you.
It is important to prepare yourself first to be able to take on those projects. I know you are uncertain of the projects you are getting. But you got to keep the faith. You will get projects. But your future will depend on how you execute those projects.
Make Sure Your Knowledge Is Up To Date
You need to establish yourself as an expert in your field. So much competition out there. Why would clients choose you over other web designers? Give them a reason to do that. Make sure your knowledge of web designing is up to date. Buy as many books as you can. Read them whenever you get time. See what technologies other companies are using.
Most people make the mistake of believing that their knowledge acquiring process stops as soon as they leave school or college.This keeps them average like most people. Generalized knowledge is of no use in acquiring wealth. You need specialized knowledge. So acquire as much knowledge as you can in your niche.
Make Sure You Are Adequately Skilled
You need to be skilled in what you do. Brush up your skills if you think you are lacking. Learn to put in those finishing touches that make a site look extraordinary. It takes time to learn and be good at anything. There is no shortcut, and one has to go through this process.
Anyone with good designing skills invested their time and energy in acquiring those skills. You will have to do the same.
With specialized knowledge and skills, you learn to design great looking websites. It becomes easier to get web designing customers that way.
Make Sure You Have The Right Tools & Setup.
You have acquired sufficient specialized knowledge and skills, and are ready to design great websites. Ensure you have the right tools and setup to do that. You need something to edit your images and create graphics. Photoshop is the first name that comes to mind. However, there are plenty of free tools that you can use also.
You also need something that you can use to write your code. Or to set up projects on. Notepad does work, but something more professional is always desirable. Netbeans is free IDE that you can use. It works great for us.
Staying focused & motivated.
The next step is perhaps the most difficult of all. To stay focused on your goal. And to stay motivated despite all odds.
A few things that you can do to stay focused at this stage is to take the help of motivational & self-improvement books. Why do it? Because it can help you see the things you do that are counterproductive to your success. You can change them and learn things that lead you to the path of success.
I am highlighting a few books here:
- You Can Win (Shiv Khera)
- The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People (Stephen R. Covey)
- Think & Grow Rich! (Napoleon Hill)
- How To Win Friends And Influence People (Dale Carnegie)
There are plenty of other books too that you can choose from. But only choose to read from credible sources. What you read will influence you. Remember that.
How important is it? It is more important than anything else you can think of. This is what would differentiate an average person from a winner. A lot of my friends ask me how to set up their own online business. I tell them, to read these books. And they never do it. They start something and when they see the difficulties, they move on to something new.
You don’t want to do the same. If you want to get web design clients, you need to persevere. Keep trying until you succeed. If it was so simple, then I wouldn’t be writing about it; and you won’t be reading it either. If you are not reading those books, you are leaving yourself to chances.
Step #3: You Need A Well Optimized Website
You need to create your website as best you can. Once you have the knowledge and the skills, you will know what to do with your site.
When you are starting out in the web design business, you don’t have too much of a portfolio. If your own site is not attractive, you don’t have much to convince your client to hand you their precious project. Therefore, make sure your own site is presentable and in good shape.
Step #4: Getting Your First Web Design Client
This is perhaps the most difficult phase in any business. Especially because your business is new and you don’t have any work to show to your client.
A lot of people advise doing free work. I don’t really recommend that. But it is up to you really. I believe that anything offered for free is never appreciated. It’s worth is next to nothing for them. Even though what you have offered is really valuable and useful to them. That is, unfortunately, the nature of us humans. We only appreciate things when we have paid for it.
When we started out initially, a lot of clients asked us to design the homepage for free. They promised, as soon as we gave them the homepage, they would give us the advance amount. 100% of clients that we designed the homepage for free, never gave us the projects. See our work and tell me if our designs are lacking? You will find that we do amazing work. You know, why they didn’t appreciate our work? Because it was for free. Therefore, I don’t recommend anything for free.
Moreover, if any client wants you to work for free, leave them out. They are not worthy of your time. You will find clients that would pay for your time. Clients that think win-win.
We did a lot of cold calling initially, as we didn’t have much money to advertise. I don’t always recommend that. As it is not right to intrude into someone’s private time by making unsolicited telephone calls. But sometimes I guess it is okay to break some rules. As long as you are not majorly inconveniencing someone else. What the heck, try it out if you want to give it a go.
Do cold emails work? I don’t know, I haven’t tried it. But this blog post says it does.
It is up to you to decide whether you want to follow these unconventional routes at all. If you can avoid them it is better. I feel that advertisement is anytime a much better alternative to generating web design clients in the initial stages of your business.
Step #5: Advertising Your Business (Paid advertisements)
During the initial stages, I feel that paid advertisements are a great way to generate leads and revenue for your business. You should concentrate mostly on local businesses. Targeting them using Facebook, Twitter, and Google AdWords is easy. Since you are targeting your local market, the cost involved is also less.
Facebook gives you some great tools to target business within a certain kilometer range from you. Use such tools to get traffic and interest from your prospective clients. I feel nearby businesses would be more willing to give you their website design projects. So it is a good idea to target businesses that are nearby.
Google Adwords are one of the best ways to find new prospective clients. But it could soon turn out to be quite expensive. Because a lot of other established businesses would be targeting those keywords. And they would be a position to pay much higher bids than you could. Another strategy could be looking for keywords that others are not interested in or have less competition. Usually, these would be the keywords that have lesser search volume, therefore, fewer chances of getting found.
The best form of traffic is getting a better placement in the search results.
Step #6. Keep Your Focus on SEO for Long Term Sustained Growth.
For small businesses, marketing costs can pile up quickly, if not done right. Thus endangering the health & very existence of your business. Search Engine Optimization in the long run can generate a sustained inflow of visitors & traffic to your site. Thus resulting in huge growth and profit.
And over time, your business could be targeting clients from all over the globe. That would be quite exciting, isn’t it?
Step #7. Blog for visibility & recognition. (Building your brand.)
Blogging can generate a huge amount of traffic to your site. It also helps establish credibility & recognition. You should look at blogging like a traffic generating tool.
You could use the Google Keyword Planner tool to look up keywords in your niche, that have a relatively higher search volume. Write blog posts targeting those keywords. Over time you will see that those blog posts are generating traffic to your site.
Reach out to authority sites in your niche. See what they write about. Offer to write for them. If they turn down your offer, do not feel dejected. Keep trying and reach out to other blogs. There will be many who will let you guest post on their site. The more you write, the more people will know you. With recognition, it will be easier to get others attention.
This will further generate many more leads and web design clients.
Step #8. Build your business on Ethics.
Nothing can stand for long if it is not built on solid foundation. It is important to do business ethically, truthfully, & honestly if you want to make it long lasting. Trust plays a major role, especially if you are targeting clients globally. Clients are not able to visit you locally. They will decide whether they want to work with you or not depending on how they perceive your image online.
Dishonest practices can quickly tarnish your reputation. This will prevent many web design clients from working with you. Even if they perceive you as lacking in ethics, they will not work with you. Therefore, it is so important to create trust in the eyes of your clients.
Try to include trust seals and symbols prominently on your site. Register your site with Google My Business. Tell your clients that you are a legitimate business. Ask them to review your services.
All this will go a long way in creating trust among your web design clients. More trust would translate to more business.
Step #9: See & Learn from Influencers.
Every niche has its influencers. Learn about them and get to know them. Follow them online so that you can keep updated with what they are sharing. They have been there and done that. Your first step to learning from them is to give them the recognition they deserve.
You need to learn from them what they did to reach where they are. For this, you need to keep your heart and mind open to new ideas. Follow them and learn from them.
10. Perseverance & Motivation – Critical to your success.
I have spoken on this earlier. But this is so important that I had to mention it again. Nothing worthwhile can be achieved without perseverance. To keep at it against all odds, you need motivation. And in fact, you need lots of it.
There will be many ups and downs, during your business building process. But you will need to stay focused on your goals. Self-help books can keep you in a positive frame of mind. Make you see what others did to succeed. It can make you realize what you are doing wrong so that you can change that.
Your destiny is in your hands.
I have given you some practical tips that go beyond web designing. Because I actually believe, success begins with you. Most people do not succeed because they are standing in their own way of success. So changing oneself for the better is a necessity.
Let me know what you thought of my tips in building a sustainable web design business. And of course, getting web design clients.