Although there’s a constant demand for web design and development services, more service providers are entering the market each day and many struggle to find enough client work. There are countless ways that you can promote your services and often passive marketing methods are preferred because they require less time and effort. While passive methods are important, there may be times where you need work and you don’t have the option to wait for your passive marketing methods to produce clients. In these situations, being proactive may be necessary to get more work.
In this article we’ll take a look at 7 things web designers can do to make an effort to find new clients.
1. Design and Release a Free Resource
Giving away a quality free resource is a great way to get exposure and links to your site. Everyone loves to get something for free, and when you are giving away something that many people would be willing to pay for, it tends to get attention.
The downside, of course, is that it will take some time and effort to create a high-quality resource. But if you are looking for business you will need to spend time doing some type of promotion or work to find new clients.
The key to having success with using freebies for promotion is getting enough exposure. You can create an amazing resource and offer it for free, but if no one sees it, it won’t be very beneficial. The free resource could be released at your own website or blog, it could be released at a popular website or blog where it may get more exposure, or it could be released and offered at multiple places.
If your site doesn’t have a large audience but you still want to release it on your own site, you can use social media to help with additional exposure. Aside from your own social media profiles, maybe you have some friends or contacts who could help by sending some tweets or posting a link to your resource on Facebook. Once you have released the free resource you can also reach out to blogs in the industry and if your resource is of interest to them they may promote it in a blog post or through social media. Another option to promote your freebie is to write some guest posts for popular blogs, and include a link to your free resource in the author bio.
The goal with a free resource is to get exposure, to show people the quality of your work, and to hopefully land new clients as a result. In some cases you may get results quickly, but it can often take time for noticeable results to occur.
Some possible resources that you could create and give away for free include icons, textures, Photoshop brushes, vectors, UI sets, PSD files, website templates, and WordPress themes. Of course, there are plenty of other possibilities, but those are some of the more popular options.
Another possibility for using a free resource to land clients would be to create something that could be customized. For example, you could create a website template and offer it for free download, but you could also offer your services for anyone who would like to have the template customized to meet their specific needs.
Regardless of what type of free resource you create, it’s helpful if it is also explicitly mentions that you are available for hire. If you are offering the resource for free from your website or blog, on the same page with the download link you should also mention your availability and provide contact information or a link to a contact form where people can get in touch with you.
2. Write an E-book or Special Report
The basic idea behind a free e-book or special report is similar to the idea behind a free resource like a website template. You can gain exposure by giving something of value away for free, and that exposure can lead to new clients.
The approach used with an e-book or special report could be a little bit different though. First, you can decide if you want to give it away no strings attached, or if you want to give it away as a bonus for signing up for a mailing list. With no strings attached you’ll probably get more downloads and it may be easier to get links and exposure from others, but by requiring someone to sign up to your mailing list you will be able to stay in contact with that person and you can continue to promote your services as long as they stay subscribed to your list.
To get the best results with an e-book or special report, think about the target market for your services and your ideal client. In many cases, creating a very specific audience to target will make it easier to succeed with this approach. For example, if you are interested in getting clients who are photographers and are looking for help with creating a website to promote their photography, you could create your e-book or special report to target these people. So you could write an e-book that covers a topic like keys to successful photography portfolio websites, how to sell photographs from your website, or how to promote a photography business online. An e-book on any of these topics would be of interest to photographers who are looking to improve their web presence. You could then write an e-book that provides a lot of quality information on the subject, and also promote your services and offer to help them create a website that will make their business more effective.
To promote the free e-book you could contact photography blogs and websites, contact photographers who are influential in social media, or write and distribute a press release. Others are often happy to help promote a free resource if they feel that it would be useful to their own audience and followers.
3. Offer a Discount on Your Services
If dedicating time to create a free resource isn’t something that you are able to do at the moment, you can also promote your services by offering a limited-time discount. You could offer 25% off, or some other amount, to anyone who signs a contract with you in the next month. The discount could be promoted on your own website or blog, through your social media profiles, and by any friends or contacts that are willing to help with promotion.
Another productive and effective way to promote your discounted offering is to go back and contact leads that you have had from the past. For example, you probably have a number of people who have contacted you in the past few months regarding your services, people who never followed through by hiring you. Rather than letting these people fall through the cracks, why not reach out to them again and let them know about your discount. It may be just enough to push them off the fence and to land you a new client.
From my experience, many people that inquire about web design services but do not make a quick commitment will often wait months or longer before ever doing anything. So just because that person didn’t hire you last month doesn’t mean they have already hired another designer.
4. Run a Giveaway
Another similar idea is to offer your services for free to a winner of a giveaway. There are countless different ways that you could run the giveaway. For example, you could ask people to “like” your Facebook page to enter, to follow you on Twitter, to submit an application, to write a blog post about why they should win, or any number of other possibilities. What you giveaway is also up to you. It could be a free website for a business or organization, a free logo design, free web hosting, a free website critique, etc.
Like free resources, giveaways can also be a great way to get exposure and links from other websites if your offering is of real value. And depending on the details of what people have to do to enter the giveaway, it could also help to increase your exposure or reach on social media. These things can often lead to new clients, making it worth your time to give something away for free in order to gain that exposure.
Additionally, people who enter the giveaway but do not win could wind up being clients. You already know they are interested in your services or else they would not have entered the giveaway. For example, if you offer a free custom website design to one winner and 100 people enter the giveaway, you have 99 other warm leads. As a consolation prize you could offer these people a discount on your services and you may immediately gain a few new clients.
5. Target an Industry
Being proactive with your promotion sometimes means that you’ll need to contact people, whether it be cold or warm leads, about your services. One effective way to do this is to target a specific industry. For this example we’ll use the real estate industry. So if you want to gain clients in the real estate there are several things you could do. One example, you could develop a WordPress theme or several WordPress themes for real estate agents. Set up a demo of your theme or themes and get in touch with agents that you think could benefit from an improved web presence. You could offer your services to customize the design (colors, logo, etc.) to meet their needs, and you could install WordPress and set up the site for them. By contacting them with demos already set up, they will be able to see exactly what you have to offer. You can show them how easy it is to add new listings and upload photos of those listings. Regardless of where you live, there are probably plenty of real estate agents in your area that would allow you to get started, and they’re easy to find and contact.
Targeting an industry gets a little bit easier once you get some experience working with a few clients in that industry. You’ll learn more about what they will be looking for and how you can help them the most. You’ll also probably learn some common objections or obstacles that you may need to overcome in order to land the business. You’ll also build a portfolio of success stories that will make it easier to convince new clients to trust you. And you may even get some referrals through the networks of your clients.
It’s important to note that if you are planning to target a particular industry it is a good practice that your clients know about this business strategy. Some clients may not appreciate it if you are targeting business in the same industry in which they work, because you could be helping their competitors. If it is clear from the start that you will be working with a lot of clients in the industry it should prevent potential issues.
6. Offer a Referral Bonus
Similar to offering a discount, using a referral bonus can help to land you some new clients quickly without requiring much extra work on your end to secure the business. If you have some down time and you need some projects quickly, you can contact friends and people in your network and offer them a bonus if they refer someone who becomes a client.
Most likely you have a number of friends and contacts that you have made, and they all know people who could potentially benefit from quality web design services. If you offer them a bonus it gives added incentive for them to come up with some good referrals, and everybody wins.
7. Write an Article for a Magazine or a Popular Blog
Another way to get exposure and to help to build your name recognition is to write for a print publication or for a website. In some cases you may even be paid for your article. Regardless of whether you are paid or not, it can result in valuable exposure.
Where the article is published and what audience the publication or website targets will have a significant influence on the results that you get from this approach. There are countless publications and websites that target designers that accept article submissions. This can be a great way to build your reputation in the industry, but it may not lead to new clients since most of the readers will be other designers.
On the other hand, you could write for a publication or website that targets some other audience and cover a topic related to web design or doing business online, and this may lead to some clients. Sticking with the previous example of the real estate industry, you could write an article for a publication or website that targets real estate agents and cover a topic like options for setting up a real estate website, how to use a website to get real estate leads, how to use social media to help sell real estate, or any other topic that could be related to your services.
The ideas presented here are just a few of the countless possibilities. The goal of this post was to help with the creative process of deciding which ways would be most effective for you to promote your own services. There is no right or wrong approach. If you have experience or suggestions that would be helpful to other readers, please leave a comment.