How to Get the Design Clients You Deserve


Nothing’s more frustrating than not getting clients. You know your designs are good. You write really concise and sharp emails. Your people skills are impeccable. Yet no matter what you seem to do, you just can’t get many, if any, clients. Or you get desperate and start accepting what you can get.

Why does this happen? Why do some designers seem to be turning away clients left and right because they already have more than enough ideal clients to work with? Well, there are three possible reasons why you’re not getting any clients.

Thinking About What You Want Rather Than Them

This is the biggest reason for not getting any clients, plain and simple. When you’re not thinking about what your clients want, then you’re not going to offer what they actually want. And when you don’t offer your clients what they want, they have no need for you. Hence, you won’t get any clients.

Before analyzing any marketing techniques or sales copy or the wording of your pitches or anything else, first check to see if you’re thinking of yourself first, your clients second. If that’s the case, correcting this simple mistake will make a world of difference.

This seems like forehead-slapping common sense. Yet when it’s time to get to work, most designers forget to do this right away. They think about what they want out of their work, how much they want to get paid, what kind of work they want to do, what styles they like to create, and so forth.


Thinking about what their ideal client actually wants and how to solve their problems doesn’t even cross their mind. And after putting up their website and portfolio and pitching to plenty of prospects, they scratch their heads in confusion as to why they’re not getting any clients.

Think about it: if a designer comes to you talking about what they like to create, what kind of features they can craft, and what they’re strong at, you could care less. You think “maybe” and move on, never to come back to that email or call that designer again.

Yet when a designer accurately points out the weak points or problem you’ve been having and clearly explains how they can fix it for you and deliver results that matter to you, you’re all ears. You hire the designer.

What’s great is, as a designer, thinking about your clients’ needs isn’t a compromise on what you want. You envision your ideal client first – the kind you’d most want to work with. Then their needs and solutions become aligned with what you’d want to work on anyway.

So think about your client’s needs first. It’s about them, not you.

In fact, thinking about your client’s needs is also one of the mindset shifts that’ll get you paid more by clients.

Stuck On An Idea Rather Than Being Adaptable

The second quickest way to not get any clients is to be stuck on a single idea rather than being adaptable.

If you have some great design style you want to offer, or a particular package, and no one is biting, then take a hint – change or tweak your approach. Being married to a single idea is dangerous.

See, your contribution to design isn’t some single idea – it’s your core value. Your inspired creativity and approach to creating web or visual designs. An idea is just one of countless packagings of that value of yours. If one package isn’t working, unwrap and come up with another package. Or tweak that package until something sticks.

Say you really wanted to create a cool logo for clients. But clients couldn’t care less about your custom logos. Most are content to find a good-enough icon, slap text next to it, and call it a day. If they don’t do it themselves, they’ll get one designed for cheap. Sure, you believe that they need what you offer, but the client doesn’t care.

But then you notice that your ideal clients do need great headers and designs for their email newsletters. You notice one of your client’s blogs posting an article showing improved conversion rate on nicely-designed emails.

So you adapt. You change your idea to offering great email newsletter headers and designs and pitch again. Now your clients start biting.

You still get to create what you want and offer your unique visual contribution, but by adapting you were able to offer exactly what clients need – rather than get stuck on an idea you love but no one cares about.

Doing Unnecessary Tasks You Think You “Need” To

Also known as the productivity illusion. You fill up your to-do list with countless tasks you think are important. You go through and complete them during the day. You feel good about yourself for getting so much done. You think, I’m productive.

Yet, you still don’t get any clients. Why is that?

It’s because all those tasks don’t get you results that matter. The main one being: paying clients.

Sure, that task increased your Twitter follower count. Or this task resulted in these profiles being created or this portfolio being put up. Or that task got these people to give feedback on your sample work. Or whatever. But did any of those tasks result in getting a paid client? No.

Welcome to the productivity illusion.

So how do you escape that? Well, realize first why this happens. It’s because going after prospects seems like a bigger task then setting up this internet profile or tweaking your website design or writing blog posts or whatnot.

So you go for the low-hanging fruit of tasks. And by doing a few of them each day, you feel good because you “got stuff done” – even if that stuff ultimately doesn’t matter. Since there are countless tasks like these, you never actually get to that one important task that does matter.

Now that you’ve identified why this happens, use good ol’ fashioned self-discipline to analyze what specific task(s) will actually get you clients. It’s usually really simple. Something along the lines of:

  • Create your offer pitch
  • Decide on and find your ideal clients
  • Pitch those prospects with your offer

Notice how even having your own website or Twitter profile or whatever isn’t necessary. Sure, you’ll probably need a portfolio of some sort. But some designers will just link to work they’ve done for others or send an attachment or whatnot.

Just by doing a simple series of tasks like that—or whatever applies to your specific situation—you’ll actually start getting clients while saving yourself time and energy by not doing those unnecessary tasks.

Avoid These Pitfalls and Start Getting Clients

By avoiding these 3 pitfalls, you’ll be well on your way to getting more clients. What’s great is you’ll also get to choose which clients you’d ideally like to work with, rather than getting desperate and taking what you can get. That’s a slippery slope you as a designer never want to get on.

To recap, here are the 3 major reasons why someone wouldn’t get any clients (and thus what to avoid):

  • Thinking about what you want rather than them
  • Stuck on an idea rather than being adaptable
  • Doing unnecessary tasks you think you “need” to

Have you had any other problems that you were able to fix and start getting clients? How else do you avoid the pitfalls that prevent you from getting the clients you deserve?

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