Booking top-notch clients is key to having a successful web design business. The challenge is in getting them to take notice of your work. But it’s especially difficult when you’re just starting out.
The market is flooded with designers, and thus, it can be hard to rise above the competition. And it takes a lot of work to get your portfolio in front of potential clients and partners.
Thankfully, there are some tried-and-true steps you can take to stand out. Let’s explore ways freelance web designers can position themselves for success.
Have a Beautiful & Updated Portfolio
Maybe it sounds a bit obvious. But it’s amazing to see how many designers don’t have a portfolio website. Or they have one but haven’t updated it in several years. It’s a wasted opportunity.
Every web designer needs to have a website. Depending on the services you offer, the site should consist of at least a few pages. So often, we see single-page sites that have very little information. Brevity isn’t a bad thing. But it doesn’t help to build trust with potential clients.
The good news is that your site doesn’t have to be in-depth. The main idea is to introduce yourself and show off your very best work. Beyond that, you’ll want to clearly indicate how people can contact you.
Keeping it up-to-date is also important. An outdated portfolio can be worse than having nothing at all. Design trends change over time, and you don’t want to be caught with a portfolio that looks dated.
That’s not to say you can’t include a few older projects. But they should represent an important milestone. For example, maybe you worked with a large client or had a technical achievement.
You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned online portfolio hubs like Dribbble or Behance. They’re great communities. But I don’t know how relevant they are when looking for new clients.
For one, your work is listed in the same place as some incredibly talented designers. That can be good or bad, depending on how you stack up. Second, there are so many designers on these sites. Standing out may be nearly impossible.
Feel free to use these services. Just don’t depend on them for booking clients.
Find Ways To Share Your Expertise
It’s important to show that you are an expert in your field. This helps establish you as a trusted source of information and provides potential clients a chance to get to know you.
Here are a couple of easy ways to get the word out:
Blogging – Share Knowledge
Blogging may be the simplest way to share knowledge. Writing short, simple posts about topics your target audience cares about will do the trick.
If you’re targeting small businesses, write about ways you can help them succeed. If you’re looking for a long-term relationship with an agency, focus on the technical and design aspects of your work.
You’ll also want to share your content via social media. Note that it doesn’t have to go viral to be effective. Reaching even a few interested people may be all you need.
Local Meetups – Meet New Clients
Web design is a global industry. But you’ll often find opportunities right in your backyard. A local meetup is a great place to meet people who share an interest in web design or related topics. But it’s not just professionals who attend these events. For instance, I’ve met several business owners who are hoping to learn about the process.
These events are usually informal and are all about sharing knowledge. Once you’ve been to a few meetings, you might consider volunteering to make a presentation. Again, it’s a low-pressure atmosphere. Just be yourself and share what you know.
Build Your Reputation
This one has absolutely no shortcuts. But it’s the best way to get your name out there. A great reputation will get you everywhere in this business.
You can earn one by doing great work and providing an outstanding client experience. There’s more to it than building beautiful, functional websites. It’s often the little details that make a big difference.
Focus on the basics of customer service. Responding to requests promptly, for example, affirms that you care about your clients. A simple reply stating that you’ll get back to them shortly projects a positive image.
Clients also value designers that are honest and realistic about pricing and deadlines. Nobody wants to be told that their project exceeded the initial estimate. Nor do they want to wait for days/weeks/months past a promised deadline.
Talent only gets you so far. Plenty of designers have failed because they ignored customer service. Don’t be one of them.
Clients who value you and your work will gladly tell others about their experience. This is how you build your reputation, little by little. It’s a process that may take time but can pay off in the long run.
Show Them Who You Are
Here’s a little secret: The “right person” is the one looking at your portfolio, reading your tweets, or your latest blog post.
That doesn’t mean that they’ll become a top client. They may never become a client at all. But they’re looking at what you have to offer. That makes them the right person at the moment.
You aim to let them know who you are and how you can help them. Accomplish that, and you’ll take a massive step toward a successful career.
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