Many freelancers begin their careers without a formal marketing plan for their web design business. The truth is that sales and marketing is a crucial part of all businesses, and that is why your clients hire you. Today’s business owners know a great website is an important part of their marketing toolkit, and since this is your career you should have an awesome website yourself. While a great site is critical for a web designer, don’t depend on it as your only marketing tool.
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Whether you are a novice designer or already have a good book of existing clients, gaining new clients is vital to the ongoing success of your business. Use these offline and online tips and tricks to find clients in unusual ways and keep your freelance web design business growing.
Offline Marketing for Web Designers
Disclaimer: Yes, these methods require some old-fashioned face-to-face communication. However, they are effective, especially when coupled with some new-fangled technology tricks.
Make a list of your centres of influences
“My whats?” you say. Centres of influences are people you know whose standing or success in the community can influence the decisions of others. They are often asked for recommendations to other professionals. For example, doctors, dentists, real estate agents, accountants and lawyers. The next time you see one of these fine folks, give them a business card and let them know you can help them set up a new website or spruce up the one they already have. Centres of influence can be a wonderful source of referrals to others who need your services.
Target businesses in industrial parks
Drive to an industrial park and actually check out the businesses or stores. New businesses and those undergoing renovations make great web design clients because they are enthusiastic about their new ventures and want to promote them. Older, more established businesses may not even have a website, especially if they started before the internet! Make a list of five to ten businesses and contact them by email, phone or in person to offer your services.
Join your area business networking organizations, business improvement associations and/or chamber of commerce
Join a breakfast club where other small business owners discuss the joys and difficulties of running a business. Mingle. Make small talk. (Don’t shudder.) Offer to look at websites, and if you have time, use your mobile device to take a quick look right there. Give one or two suggestions and your card.
Research regional available resources catering to small businesses
Look for classes, workshops or seminars for new businesspeople. Inquire about speaking to a class about setting up a website for new businesses. Better yet, offer to design a website for the resource itself. If they are happy with your work they are more likely to promote your web design services to the students. Also look for programs offering municipal or federal funding to new businesses. Small business owners who have just received a grant from the government have money to spend on marketing, including a professionally designed site.
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Local restaurants or coffee shops
Seriously. Target establishments in business districts. Begin by looking at the website for the restaurant itself, and get in touch with the owner to offer your services to update or design the restaurant website. Ask to put up a poster, brochure, or leave paper coasters with your logo or QR code on them. If you really want to make an impression as a cutting-edge web designer, place a digital advertisement on the restroom mirrors to get people talking and attract new clients who want innovation and creativity.
Contractors, plumbers, electricians and other tradesmen are good sources of new web design business
As more people turn to the internet to find local tradespeople, these professionals need websites. Leave marketing material in building supply stores, lumber yards, plumbing supply outlets, and any other places you think they will hang out – even your neighbourhood pub.
Go old-school and print a stack of notices or posters about your business
Include a QR code leading to your website or a coupon for a discount on your web design services . Post these notices on the bulletin board at your local post office and business supply stores, where all the local entrepreneurs end up sooner or later.
Libraries often offer free talks to their patrons on a wide variety of subjects
Contact the information desk at your local library and offer a half hour presentation on websites for businesses. This is your chance to speak loudly in the library without getting kicked out.
When a client mentions a problem – for example a leaky faucet in the lunchroom, suggest the name of an area plumber you like and trust. Write the name and phone number on the back of your own business card. You are more likely to get a referral back or even get work from the plumber himself.
Ongoing and Online Marketing for Web Designers
Not all of us are fantastically proactive and outgoing marketers in the real world. In that case, be proactive online, especially if you prefer to avoid or limit your offline marketing techniques.
Introduce your business to online organizations whose members belong to specific professions
For example, engineers, doctors, lawyers or veterinarians belong to professional national or regional organizations which grant them their licenses or designations to practice. They pay fees to these organizations which often have websites, a newsletters, and blogs for their online readers. Write a guest post for the organization blog aimed at the membership – something along the lines of “5 Things to Remember When Designing Your Veterinarian Website.” Many entrepreneurs say “I’ll do my own website, thank you very much,” not realizing the work involved and expertise required. Soon they discover they are too busy designing bridges or neutering cats to worry about getting their websites up and running. They will read the post, think “yikes, I have to remember all that?” and decide they need a professional website designer.
Send warm emails to businesses you regularly visit
Personalize the email so it stands out, and begin by pointing out a product or service you love. For example, “ I just wanted to tell you that your new butter pecan lattes are fantastic.” Mention you looked them up online to find something – (hours, other locations, whatever) and offer a tip or two to improve their site. I noticed x y z – I can make it better. If you change a and b you will increase your traffic. I can help you with this. Let me know. Be nice, and don’t tell them their website is awful, even if it is. Instead, focus on what you can do to help them improve the site. Keep your email short and friendly.
Ask for referral as part of your email signature
“We value your business. The greatest compliment you can give ABC Design is to tell your friends, family and business colleagues about the services we offer. Thank you for trusting us with your web design needs!
Write a guest blog piece for a website targeting specific groups
You are probably sick of being told to write guest blogs, but you know what? It works, and it works better to specialize in a specific niche and market yourself as an expert in designing plumbing sites, or recipe sites, or landscaping sites. Even better, target a specific professional niche of individuals that are likely too busy to nickel and dime you over your fees, such as architects, engineers, doctors, lawyers, dentists, investment professionals, and real estate agents.
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Become an online authority
People want to deal with an expert. Build your reputation as an expert online and offline. Become active in forums and discussions around marketing and small business and entrepreneur issues. Open a Quora account and answer questions on web design issues.
Write in your local newspaper
Okay, this may be offline, but it requires minimal face to face interaction. Provide a free weekly or biweekly column. It establishes you as a local web design business, and as a reliable professional.
READ your local paper (online or offline) for announcements about new businesses or other places that may need a website revamp.
Join LinkedIn business groups for B2B sales leads
They can be location-based or represent a niche or demographic you would like to specialize in. Join in conversations, provide thoughtful and insightful information as well as links to websites you have created (or your own website) when suitable.
Connect with other technology-related businesses
Web hosting providers, IT support businesses, graphic artists and content writing professionals all serve customers who are likely to need web design services. It is well worth developing a relationship with professionals in these fields as they can be an excellent source of referrals to new clients, as well as provide opportunity for you to branch out into other areas if you want to spread your wings beyond a career as a freelance web designer.
Provide great service to existing customers to gain their future business
How many of your clients are serial entrepreneurs, the kind of people who always have a new idea? More businesses mean more websites. Do an awesome job on the first one and you’ll have more work to come. Ask clients what they are working on, and tell them about new techniques, technology or other tips that could suite their new projects – Mobility First, anyone?
Ask for referrals from existing customers
at the end of every meeting or interaction. Provide incentives for referrals that result in new clients, such as a discount on a future site upgrade.
These are just a few techniques used by successful freelancers to find new clients and new work. Use them to inspire your marketing and networking techniques. If you have a really fantastic story of what works for you, please feel free to share it in the comments section!