Welcome fellow creatives!
Going full-time freelancer is among many of us designers’ dreams. We all know the highs and lows of it. And as Shayna Rodkin of The Nu School brilliantly points out, “The difference between a freelance creative and an unemployed creative person is clients”.
So how to increase your clientele or even better, how to have more awesome and faithful clients? Well, you can start by:
1. Taking a better look at your portfolio
Maybe it’s been a while since you last updated it, maybe now you would organize it differently.
Most successful professionals in any area keep studying and improving, until the day they’ll retire. With designers it shouldn’t be different.
Not only it’s a great step ahead to keep your software knowledge up-to-date, but make sure you have a killer portfolio. It should represent your better version. After all, it’s your business card.
2. Defining really well your Unique Selling Propositions (USPs)
Get to know your target client’s ABC
As Lou Levit from Millo.co reminds us, “one of the first things you can do – and this is one of the most important things you can do in your business in general – is to get to know your target market really well”.
Finding out who are the people you are trying to work with, what do they like, and most important, what are they missing, is gold info.
Knowing what problems do your target clients have will make THEM much more happy to be working with you.
Alternative path: elect a very specific niche
Maybe you rather work with clothes brands, or with gyms, or with travel agencies. It’s likely that, if you choose a niche, it will choose you back:
A travel agent will be much more comfortable briefing you, who already knows the perks and needs of their market, than someone who is not familiar with it.
Launch a poll among your clientele
Ask the source: inquire within your clients what do they like better about working with you. Which are the characteristics of your work that keep them loyal to you?
Then use all this delightful info to define what is it that you have that no one else do. What would influence other clients to start working with you? Knowing that, go and spread the word!
An USP, or unique selling proposition, is that special sauce, that special something about your business that makes you different from everyone else and keeps your clients coming back. – Lou Levit
3. Taking advantage of Social Midia
Work on those descriptions!
We’ve heard it from all social media and marketing gurus. That extra word in your bio is what promotes you to a specialist. So we couldn’t emphasize it more: define a niche.
Think SEO. Instead of “freelance designer”, go for “freelance graphic and UX designer”. This one or two extra words can make a big difference when it comes to people finding you on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or even Pinterest. Treat social media as search engines.
On that note, take 5 minutes and watch Amy Schmittauer’s super informative and direct video on niches and why defining it is SO important (wanna bet that she’ll convince ya?).
Develop a relationship with potential clients
If Muhammad won’t go to the mountain, the mountain must go to Muhammad. Look for groups on Facebook, or for forums were your future clients are hanging out and possibly exposing their issues.
Start answering their questions, and building a presence. On Twitter, follow your target clients and start interacting with them. Then on LinkedIn, send a connection request, but make it personalized.
There is no need to attack every social media. Choose a couple of them where you think your clients would be more likely to interact, and go for those.
Start a conversation before sending your portfolio
Don’t pitch without having built a relationship with your clients. It looks like spam, and it for sure does not give you credit for a triumphal entrance.
Imagine if someone follows you on Twitter, only to send you a sales proposal a couple minutes later. Not cool. First share their stories and properly interact before offering your services.
Share the client’s content, comment on their updates, or like their posts. That way, they’ll be more likely to want to work with you. – Jorden Roper
Take care of the image you want to reflect
Go through your Facebook page and think that you are a client. Is there anything you wouldn’t like to see? Maybe review your privacy settings?
Having a branded Facebook page and Google+ page is way different than overwhelming your friends with constant business posts on your personal profiles. So, you know, make it happen. If you already have business pages/profiles, write some new social media descriptions, spice them up with professional graphics, make sure they all work together cohesively. For your personal social accounts, create/add new pictures, a new email signature, a new LinkedIn job/position, a new Gmail chat status, a new Twitter background, etc. Be active socially. Be where your clients are and don’t be silent. – Regina Anaejionu
4. Attending Meetups
It’s a great way to meet contributors and potential clients. Be sure to have an awesome business card with you. Or even better, make it electronic and email or text your new contacts. Save the trees, y’all!
5. Stop haggling prices A.S.A.P.
Explain your value
It’s a pain that creative professionals still have to deal with bargains. But we creatives are the ones that have to help ourselves here. It’s time that we all understand that, if we do develop a service that we are proud of, it has a certain value.
And the clients that are coming from the low-budget, low quality options out there will know too, don’t worry – it’s a hassle for any client to have to deal with bad service. They lose their time and consequently their money.
So you ought to have clear what makes you charge the price you do. Do you offer high quality work? Do you deliver it quickly? Do you offer assistance and amazing customer care? By acknowledging that you aren’t trying to win on price, you are inserting value on your work. Let them know, nicely, that if your work don’t fit their budget, you understand – wish them luck, and move on.
In this crazy world we live in, pricing is relative; what’s cheap to one person is expensive to another. The supermarkets sell economy baked beans as well as truck loads of Heinz; there is a vast difference in the price but they are both basically baked beans in tomato sauce. YOU set your price. Don’t get into a haggling match in potential clients. If the client cannot afford your service then they cannot afford you – simple as that – do they haggle with the person behind the till at Tesco? No? I thought not. – Joel Hughes
Break down the “WHYs” on the price
Say that a client asks you why is your price higher than some other designer’s, or even why is the project you’re budgeting now more expensive than your last one. First, thank them for asking, and then break the price down by listing the most relevant specs on both projects.
Explain why the said project is more difficult, complex, or time-consuming than the other. It takes time, but you’ll probably save yourself some time on your next project. And bonus, will get paid full price.
Have a first-timers discount
Why not? Offering to cut a little on the price for new clients will, first of all, avoid the haggling. Second, they might be one-timers, but they also might have a friend, a second company, or maybe recommend your services.
It’a a good way to spread the word. Sometimes you will loose 50 bucks, but most times you will spend 50 to make 500.
Price haggling is generally an uncomfortable experience, but in all likelihood it’s something you’ll be dealing with for the rest of your professional career. Build your toolbox of answers for each situation type that arises, and keep honing those responses! April Greer from Millo.co
5. Eliminating the need to search for new clients
Finally, consider working along Design Marketplaces. They allow designers to sell their illustrations, patterns, fonts, and all kinds of artwork to a broad audience. Sites like Design Cuts, Creative Market, Design Crowd really help with work exposure.
Therefore, many artists make a living out of Design Marketplaces opportunities, like Lisa, who sells her illustration work at Design Cuts.
Thanks to the team of Millo.co for the helpful insights and tips!
Share it if you think these tips were useful!
And if you’re experimenting trouble getting paid on time, read these dos and donts that will definitely be of help.