Paige Brunton Squarespace educator on client referrals

Prefer to watch?



“Paige, what’s the secret to getting all these dreamy client referrals designers are always talking about? They seem to fall in everyone’s lap but mine!”

I can’t tell you how many times I hear this on repeat from new (and not-so-new) designers!

They’ve read every blog post, listened to every podcast, and watched every interview they can possibly get their hands on, and STILL can’t figure out why all these other designers seem to be fully booked-out with word-of-mouth referrals…

…while they’re still stuck on the endless, dizzying, business-marketing merry-go-round!

Sound familiar?

Take heart, dear Designer…this one goes out to you!

Oh, and P.S…

This particular post is all about turning past clients into new dreamy referrals! But if finding clients in the first place is what’s currently keeping you up at night, check out my free 45 second Quiz on which client-finding method actually matches your personality type.

Don’t waste another day trying to do #AllTheThings and getting nowhere. Discover the ONE simple made-for-you strategy which will have you attracting clients with ease!

8 IDEAS to increase word-of-mouth referrals in your web design business

Alright, so now that you’ve taken the client-finding Quiz and finding clients is no longer your biggest hangup, let’s look at how to turn all those new clients into an endless source of dreamy referrals!


Idea #1

Add a “designed by” link in the footer of every client site you build

This is possibly the easiest possible way to start seeing more inquiries from referrals!

When you go to hand off a finished design to a client, add a simple text link to your services page from their website footer!

(ie. Website Design by Paige Brunton)

Here’s why this is uber-effective…

Say your ideal clients are fine art wedding photographers (this strategy works with literally any niche but just as an example…)

A photographer in need of a new website is probably going to spend some time snooping around the interwebs to get ideas for what they want their new website to look like.

So they are scrolling through Pinterest, or searching through trending photographer hashtags on the ‘Gram, and up comes this gorgeous design (*ahem*….your design) and its love at first sight!

They have got to know who designed their website for them. (That’s you.)

And BAM.

New dreamy inquiry coming in hot.



Want to know the best part about this strategy?

Your potential client doesn’t need to be actively looking for website ideas, or even be in the mindset they need a new website in order for this to work.

They may just be casually stalking other photogs they admire on social and randomly click over to their website to continue creepin’ their work.

And who’s name just happens to be featured at the bottom of their impressively laid-out portfolio?


Pro-tip: If you plan to use this strategy be sure you have permission first! Include a one-liner about it in your web design contract so it doesn’t come as a surprise to your client!


Idea #2

Turn your portfolio pieces into real-life case studies worth sharing

How most designers build their portfolio…

✓ Finish client’s website

✓ Screenshot the home, about, and services page

✓ Pop said screenshots in a cute little iMac Mockup

✓ Add the mockup to your portfolio page and call it a day


But there’s a key element missing here…and that is a real-life, #relatable story.

Wanna know how to leverage your past work for more referrals instead?

Build an entire feature or case study around your newly finished project!

Use storytelling to highlight your client’s journey through the design process, and to share the transformation they experienced by working with you.

Clients love feeling like a total VIP in your business, and they can’t help but show their feature off to everyone they know!

Strategically blogging your portfolio is an easy way to get clients sharing your work for you. (Read: free marketing!)

And to get your business in front of new, super-relevant audiences your own marketing might not be reaching.

Suddenly you go from being a total stranger on the internet, to someone they can trust – because you already made magic happen for someone they know! ‍

Chances are your client has networked with a lot of other business owners in their niche over the years, so thanks to those insider industry connections, your next dream client could be just one click away!

On top of all that, consistently featuring recent client’s stories gives your own audience a reason to return to your site again and again while they wait to make their buying decision!

P.S. Just like with the link in footer idea, you need to make sure you have permission from your client to use screenshots and testimonials for your own marketing purposes. So it’s best to stick it in your contract!

Suggested reading:


Idea #3

Throw in some branded launch collateral

When you’ve finished a client’s design and the launch-hype is still high, why not surprise them with a few branded launch graphics to help them shout out about their new site!

This could look like a small bundle of simple social media graphics you quickly whip up while you’re building out their feature on your own portfolio page.

You’ll already have the mockup ready, so it would take no time at all for you to pop those mockups into a handy IG template and tweak it for their brand.

They will be delighted to have some done-for-them Posts and Stories announcing their new virtual storefront! And you can even tastefully include your domain name in the design!

Another type of custom launch collateral that goes a long way in helping them shout out about your business is to create them a short, easy-to-remember link to their feature on your portfolio page!

So instead of:


You can create a link that simply says:’


Here’s how to do that in Squarespace if you’re wondering!


Idea #4

Send a post-launch client gift or handwritten thank-you note

People have wonderful intentions. But the truth is we’re all busy…

So no matter how much your client raved about your bend-over-backwards customer service and how they swore they were going to refer you to everyone and their aunt after working with you…it may have just slipped their mind!

So why not send them a little something to say ‘thank you’ and to remind them of all the warm and fuzzy feelings they had while working with you!

It doesn’t have to cost a fortune!

And you can even rely on companies like greetabl, or BoxFox to put together cutesy little packages if gift-picking just isn’t your thing.

Many of your clients are actively trying to build their own business’s online presence…

And since people are pretty much posting their entire life on social these days, if you send them a super on-brand, Instagram-able gift or note, the likelihood that they will post about it (and tag your business in that post) is very high!

“Eeeeee! How darling is this little package my designer just sent me!?”

Even if they aren’t a super public person and your gift never makes it on their Stories, you’ve still managed to remind them of all the warm and fuzzy feelings they have towards you.

And next time web design comes up in a conversion, you’ll be on the tip of their tongue!




Idea #5

Be specific when you ask for referrals

Now that you’ve buttered up your past client with a cute little gift, it might be the perfect time for you to straight up ask for that referral!

This can be done with a quick little voice DM you send their way, making sure their little package showed up in the mail, or even a well-timed, personalized email!

However you feel most comfortable asking, it can be helpful to give your clients a little direction.

So rather than just saying “do you know of anyone needing a website?” try getting specific!

So if your ideal client is someone in the wedding industry, and you just wrapped up a site-build for a photography client, you might send over a little list of people you love to serve (ie. florists, event planners, stationery artists, bridal boutiques, etc.)

Being specific not only means less time wasted on referrals that aren’t a good fit…it also reminds clients of connections they would have otherwise overlooked if you kept your search general.

Again, most clients do actually genuinely want to refer you if you’ve done a bang-up job of their site and given them top-notch customer service from start to finish!

So sometimes it really does just take asking for what you want!


Idea #6

Offer referral incentives

Nobody is above a good bribe!

So offering something of value in exchange for shouting out about your business can be just the kick-start you need to start seeing more referrals!

Maybe this looks like offering discounted site-builds to newly referred clients along with a certain number of free future edits for the client who referred them.

It doesn’t always have to be a discount on your services, btw!

You could also try opening up your incentive program to everyone – not just past clients- and offer something like a gift card or cold-hard ‘finder’s fee’ for anyone who sends legit leads. (But only if they end up booking of course!)

Though sometimes when you are first getting started, you have more time than money, which is why offering discounted services is such a popular model for getting referrals!


Idea #7

Become an active referral source for someone else

It costs absolutely nothing to start referring your clients to other related (but not directly overlapping) service providers and businesses they might benefit from.

You’re not only proving yourself to be a super valuable resource hub for your dream clients, but it can also lead to some pretty solid networking relationships and new referral sources for you.

So as a web designer, you might start hooking your clients up with a trusted copywriter, or a brand photographer, or brand designer, or a social media manager – if you don’t already offer these services yourself.

Find someone who loves to serve a similar ideal client to you, and tends to attract people at a similar price-point to you and start sending people their way, and it won’t be long before they’ll want to start returning the favor!


Idea #8

Provide crazy-amazing customer service

Ok, so this one sounds pretty obvious…but sometimes as designers, we get so wrapped up in the finished product, we miss the memo on how to make the process feel rewarding from the client’s perspective!

So probably the most effective thing you can be doing to land more dreamy referrals is focusing on the clients you already have!

(I have 6 ideas for creating the ultimate client experience as a web designer here if you need them!)

Treat your clients like and they’ll be a walking billboard for your business for life!

Part of amazing customer service is making every step (from inquiry > post-launch) feel seamless and stress-free.

So if you have yet to really nail your client design process, then I suggest you snag a copy of my free client process template for web designers



You’ll also love…

8 ideas for more dreamy client referrals as a web designer