Web design: how to get clients (6 powerful methods)

Written by Belle Beth Cooper on August 27, 2012

Getting new clients can be one of the hardest aspects of running your own web design business. The way you go about this will depend on the way you work and the type of clients you have, but I’ve collected some tips to get you started.

Here it is – 6 powerful methods that explain how to get web design clients.

1. Get web design clients by starting with people you know

Word-of-mouth is a powerful tool, and the best way to get it started is with people you already know. For word-of-mouth to take hold, people need a compelling reason to talk about you.

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Luckily, your friends and family already have one – they are emotionally invested in you. Just by being someone’s sister’s neighbor’s brother, you’ve provided an incentive to promote your services (although the strength of it may depend on the person in question, or your closeness to said brother’s neighbor’s sister).

Once you’ve exhausted your collection of friends, family and acquaintances-of-acquaintances, you’ll need to find another reason to compel the crowd to talk about you. Hopefully by this stage you will have completed enough awesome work that the quality of what you do will be reason enough, but if you need another strong selling point, here are some ideas to work with:

  • do you have competitive pricing?
  • have you carved out a niche?
  • are you using cutting edge technology? (responsive design, anyone?)
  • do you have a quick turnaround?
  • are you local?
  • do you have recommendations from high-profile clients?

2. Get web design clients by marketing yourself the old-fashioned way

Depending on your target market, you may find that many of them can be reached through traditional advertising methods. These could include advertising in local directories, creating flyers or getting business cards printed.

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You’ll want to have these handy when you start pounding the pavement. Yep, I really said that. Pounding the pavement is such an old-fashioned term that we hardly hear of anyone doing this anymore, but I think you should.

Pounding the pavement and cold calling are two methods of marketing that most business owners (and I’d almost say all web designers) hate. But if you really need new clients, you’ll want to give these a try. By meeting people face-to-face or chatting to them on the phone, you can immediately give them someone to relate to, unlike the hundreds of other faceless designers competing for their attention in directories.

3. Get web design clients by beefing up your online profile

You’ve no doubt heard (or asked) the question, ‘have you ever Googled yourself?’

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There’s a reason that people often ask this: it’s fascinating – and important for your business – to know what people see when they Google your name. You can even set up a Google Alert to keep on top of new search results automatically.

If the search results you see are not as numerous as you expected (or those terrible photos from last year’s Christmas party are right on top), there are a few ways you can change this. By getting your name mentioned in more places across the web, you’ll give Google more search results to choose from. Essentially, this gives you more control over what people will see when they search for you.

Here are some different ways you can get your name out there:

  • Set up a website for your business
  • Create a profile on a portfolio site like Carbonmade or Dribbble
  • Ask friends or colleagues to link to your site from their own (and return the favor)
  • Offer to be interviewed for other sites
  • Write guest posts for other blogs
  • Set up profiles on major social networks (especially Google+, as it’s favored in Google search results)
  • If you have a niche that you’re focusing on, join and participate in relevant online communities

4. Get web design clients by listing on marketplaces

Freelance marketplaces usually let you register and create a profile showcasing your skills. If you’re looking for short-term projects, you can also directly bid on or apply for jobs here.

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Most of these sites are free to join, although those that require members to pay fees tend to have both a smaller pool to choose from and higher quality jobs.

Here’s a list to get you started:

5. Get web design clients by offering a deal

With online advertising you can often target your ads very specifically with user data like location, age, gender and occupation. If you’re offering a special deal or discount, this may be a good time to try out some online ads to promote it.

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Of course giants like Google and Facebook offer excellent targeting options using the data they have about users, but you can also advertise on many targeted sites and blogs, which may be more useful if you have set yourself up in a specific niche.

Another way to get more clients is to reward the people who refer you. Setting up a referral rewards program provides that extra bit of incentive to people who know your work and have opportunities to refer you to friends or their own clients.

6. Get web design clients by providing killer content

Content marketing is the new black, dontcha know? Of course, it’s nothing new – brands have been offering content for yonkles, but there’s a big push for online content marketing at the moment and it’s not hard to get into if you have the time.

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If you want to create your own content, think about your target market and what kind of content would be useful for your audience. Here are some ideas for content types that might work for you:

  • Blogging
  • Guest blogging
  • Conducting interviews
  • Recording a podcast
  • Creating videos
  • Writing an email newsletter

You can grab more ideas (as well as some neat tips and tricks) from this content marketing resource list.

Another option is to curate content from across the web. You might want to collect links to articles you find interesting or share industry news on your blog. To make this process really easy, you can use a service like Tumblr, Bundlr, Delicious or Pinterest to curate content into collections.

Six methods – loads of ideas. Which one works best for you? Leave a comment below and let me know how you get clients.

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About the Author

Belle Beth Cooper

Belle has spent the past four years as a freelance writer and social media consultant. She has written for The Next Web, Desktop Magazine and Social Media Examiner. Belle now spends her days wielding a pencil as Attendly's Head of Content.

6 Comments

  1. February 28, 2013 at 10:22 am

    Great tips, Belle. Thanks for sharing. I’ve just got back home from pounding the pavement! Regards, Ash

  2. April 12, 2013 at 12:36 am

    Thanks Belle..! These were so useful. I think the ‘providing killer content’ approach is a much feasible and systematic way to get clients. Everyone loves killer info being provided on the web. I am gonna start a new video series soon on web design best practices very soon. You inspired me to do so. Will let you know about it definitely.
    Thanks again..!

    • Belle Beth Cooper
      April 12, 2013 at 9:31 am

      Glad they were useful! I hope the video series works out well for you.

  3. July 12, 2013 at 1:20 am

    Great stuff Belle. I have been really lucky and haven’t had to advertising and have obtained many amazing clients through word of mouth and no advertising but am now looking at getting more clients and some other marketing techniques to further expand my client base and this is a great list to start with. Thanks.

  4. September 18, 2013 at 5:42 am

    Awesome tips Belle. I just started my own web design and mobile application development company. I am thinking outside the box and I am offering Free websites to my customers for now.
    I don’t think you can get much better than FREE.

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