Making the decision to leap into freelance design work is a big one. As a new freelance designer, you may feel uncertain about how to get your first clients, how much to charge and a million other things. Selling yourself as a new freelance designer takes a bit of charisma and a lot of research, but it’s doable. Here are some tips to help you get started with your clientele book and to start building your design business.
Step # 1: Figure out Where You’ll Work
The cheapest solution for office space is to find a spot in your home where you can work. However, if you live in a busy household or need to meet often with local clients, you may require outside office space to run your freelance design business.
Don’t worry, though, you don’t have to rent an entire office when you are just starting out. You can easily rent some shared space a day or two a week so you have meeting space that looks professional. You’ll pay about $200/month for shared desk space or $500 a month for a fixed solo desk. There are services available such as just renting a meeting room as well.
Step # 2: Design a Logo and Order Business Cards
Before you start advertising yourself as a new freelance designer, make sure you have a nice logo and business cards designed. You might also want to create a basic website and/or Facebook page. Keep in mind that as you meet people and attempt to sell your services, you’ll need to present a professional image. You are a designer, so people will expect a nicely designed logo, business card and website from you.
Step # 3: Get the Word Out
Tell everyone you know that you are now doing freelance design work. Post on social media, but also pick up the phone and call close family and friends to let them know. If you belong to any social clubs, church or other organizations, be sure to let them know you are offering this type of work now. You might just pick up some work from people you know to start with.
Once you’ve shared that you are now working as a freelance designer, go ahead and ask if your friends and family will tell others about you. Even though they may not need design work themselves, they might know a small business owner or a manager who is looking for a designer of your caliber. Word of mouth is one of the most powerful and cheapest advertising tools you have. After all, 84% of people say they trust a recommendation if it comes from someone they know well, such as family or friends.
Step # 4: Promotional Techniques
In addition to telling people you know about your business, you should do some specific and targeted marketing to get the word out. First, you must decide who your target audience is. For design work, you might choose to work mainly with local small businesses at first, or you might even have a particular niche you wish to work with, such as restaurants.
Once you know who your target demographic is, you’ll know how best to reach them. Which publications do they read? Take out an ad or two in that publication. Are there any organizations these people belong to? How can you best network with your target audience? How is your competition reaching this group and can you repeat their efforts?
To reach local business owners, you want to touch base in person, especially with small businesses. Walk into their business and ask to speak to the manager or owner. Tell them what type of services you are offering and invite them to set up a free consultation with you.
Step # 5: Building a Clientele Book
Once you’ve landed a few good clients, it is time to branch out and build your client base a bit more. Start by asking for testimonials from happy clients. Then, simply ask them to refer you to other business owners they know. Remember that people are 84% more likely to find you trustworthy if you are referred by someone they know.
You’ll also want to make sure you retain the clients you have. The cost of gaining a new customer versus keeping one you already have is four to 10 times higher. It makes sense to keep your current clients as happy as possible. Always over deliver what you promise. Finish faster than planned. Add an extra customization at no charge. Also, make sure you reach out to your clients and let them know you appreciate their business.
Don’t be afraid to finish a project and sever ties with difficult clients, though. If a client is taking up most of your time with changes, complaints and trying to get additional work out of you for free, then you are probably better off trading that client for one that is not difficult. Also, if a client does not pay you on time or fairly, then you will want to move on. There are many clients who need freelance designers. There is no reason to put up with abusive language, lack of payment or any of the other issues that can sometimes occur.
If you spend the time and effort to build a list of clients you enjoy working with, not only will that work be pleasant, but their connections are likely to be pleasant as well. Then, as your business grows, you’ll still enjoy the work you’re doing and the people you’re working with.
About The Author
Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her re-reading the Harry Potter series, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or hanging out with her dogs, Bear and Lucy.