ICYMI, I recently welcome 3 past uber-successful Square Secrets Business students onto a live Q+A call where they answered all your most pressing questions about building a fully-booked out web design business!
Well, almost all your questions…
We had a crazy high number of questions come in, and even though we weren’t able to get to all of them right then on the call, I didn’t want to leave you hanging!
So I took to IGTV to answer the rest!
If you’d rather watch than read, you can catch video #2 here.
Missed part 1?
No worries, there’s really no particular order you need to read these in in order to follow along, so just bookmark this tab for binging more web designer business related gold later!
I remember feeling the exact same way when I started my web design business! I’d try to get a straight answer from other web designers on how it is they land clients and how they were able to be fully booked in their business and their answer was always “oh, mostly referrals from past clients…” ♀️
And I’m like…”Ok…but if I don’t even have my first client yet, how am I supposed to get a referral!???”
So I fully understand!
So, let’s talk about some legit solid ways to get clients (and then we will come back to referrals!)
You can absolutely get clients from being really active and genuinely helpful in Facebook Groups!
Whether you are running your own Facebook group, or going into other people’s groups and offer free advice or free trainings around building a website for that niche industry.
Tell everyone you know/meet what you’re doing
Many past students of my Square Secrets & Square Secrets Business Courses would start by reaching out to their friends and family and saying “hey, I’m doing this thing…if you know of anyone in need of a website then can you do xyz? (forward this email, give them my card, point them to my websites, etc.)”
This is a great way to get those first few designs under your belt and figure out the type of work you enjoy doing, while also building up your portfolio!
Social Media Marketing
Maybe Insta is your thing! Start sharing all of your work there to get the word out about your new business!
Don’t have any work yet? Create mock projects in the style of work you want to be doing!
Show the behind the scenes of your business, and start to build genuine connections by finding the people you’d love to work with and sliding into their DM’s! Not just to straight up pitch them, but to build a relationship with them first!
This is so important no matter your client-finding strategy, honesty!
1:1 client services are not something you can just mass market like you could a product. It relies on you establishing connection and building trust with an individual person.
This could be blogging, YouTubing, Podcasting – all three are a fabulous way to provide genuinely helpful content to those you are hoping to serve!
And then in every single one of those bits of useful free content on your niche topic, you get to say “hey, by the way…I’m a designer and you can work with me by doing xyz thing!”
So definitely add a call-to-action to work with you in every sigle post, video or podcast you put out there, even multiple times throughout!
Content creation is hugeeee in terms of organic SEO and working your way up in a Google search ranking!
When I was still offering 1:1 custom web design services, I blogged my way to the top of page 1 of a
Google search for the term “Squarespace Designer.”
(Right below Squarespace itself and Upwork…both of which are bascially impossible to beat with their crazy high domain authority.)
It was literally an inquiry a day minimum from there on in!
Giveaways & Contests
One of the guest experts inside my Square Secrets Business Course is Promise Tangemann from Go Live HQ and she talks about how they love to do contests like “Pin it to win it!” or really strategic giveaways where people can’t just tag their mom, they have to tag someone who would be genuinely interested in that topic!
Pinterest is King if you’re doing anything visual (which obviously web design is), and a great way to get other people to spread the word for you by pinning content that leads back to your site!
This one may not sound quite so glamorous and fun as giveways & Insta, but it can be crazy effective if done right!
All of these strategies and more are covered in depth inside my Square Secrets Business Course, taught by Your Truly as well as 10 other incredibly successful guest experts who all managed to build very successful Squarespace web design businesses using completely different strategies that fit their own lifestyle.
Which one is the best strategy for getting leads?
The best strategy is the one you will do consistently!
If you try to do all the strategies at once, you’re not going to get very far before you burnout.
(I say that from experience of having tried #allthethings).
Instead, commit yourself to doing one thing well!
Remember those 10 successful guest experts I mentioned from inside the course? They all chose 1-2 things and ran with them, and that was all that was needed to become fully booked out in their businesses.
Ok, I know you said not to say it, but it truly is one of the best ways to get clients!
Which means it’s extra important you give exceptional service to your first few clients so that they will want to recommend you to everyone they know who needs a website!
So make it your mission to go above and beyond, throw in some freebies, send them a client gift to celebrate launch day, and make them feel really loved and well cared for so that they will continue to be a source of referrals for years to come!
So even though hearing “I get all my clients from referrals” can be super frustrating when you are first getting started, it’s actually great news in the end because if you do an exceptional job from day 1 you won’t have to be so worried about where you’ll find your next client all the time. Instead, they will be finding you!
I’ve never had a client not request a revision so pretty much across the board people are going to want tweaks made to their site.
You definitely want to include for that time when you are figuring out your pricing & packaging, setting it high enough that you aren’t frustrated if a client asks you for more revisions than normal!
So if your client purchases a 5-page website package, and then comes to you later saying they completely forgot they needed a terms & conditions page, you’re now creating a 6-page website! Or if they come back for a 2nd round of revisions when your contract only allows for one…
You can definitely let them know it would be extra for the additional page or edits, and I’m by no means saying you should let a client walk all over you, but…
Making it clear that normally that would be something that’s outside the scope of the project, but you’re happy to do it for them as a freebie, can really leave a lasting impression!
So just build all those extra revisions into your pricing and timeline in the first place, and you won’t find you’re so frustrated when those requests come in.
While I did offer both, most of the websites I was creating were for complete top-to-bottom custom designs, or complete redesigns after moving from a different platform. I was rarely ever tweaking designs built on Squarespace by other designers.
One thing I do strongly caution against is working with clients who say “Oh, I just want a few minor edits to my site.”
Often times what you’ll find once you get into the project is that their website needs way more work than they realized or let on, and suddenly your handful of tweaks turns into a full-blown custom website design.
If someone is asking you to take their current site and make it into something better, it’s best to let them know up front that they are looking at the full-price package!
Okay, so this depends on a few things…
How many blog posts do they have?
Are you transferring from a different platform or just redesigning it in Squarespace?
If the blog already exists on Squarespace site and has hundreds of posts, there’s no way to migrate all those posts to a new Squarespace site. So you’d want to use their current subscription/site, making yourself the admin, and switching them back to admin when you’re done with the project.
If they have something like 3 posts, it would be pretty easy to just manually copy and paste the content into a new blog on a new site.
This is 100% up to you and your preference, but I’ll share mine!
If you caught the first post in the live Q+A series, you’ll have heard me talk a little about my personal distaste for retainers!
Tons of people love to offer it because when you offer a retainer, the client is then booking you for a set number of hours a month, so it’s basically guaranteed income you can predict months out!
But it also means dividing your attention among multiple things and multiple clients. You are essentially on call for your past clients every month, so I wasn’t personally a fan.
I find that when it comes to my mental bandwidth, it’s better that I’m able to focus on one project at a time. So when I wrapped up a project, I would hop on a recorded video call and screen share as I walked them through their sites and the basics of maintaining or updating it. They could then just watch the replay if they needed a refresher.
Any updates they didn’t feel they could manage could be hired out to me at my hourly fee, but for the most part I loved being able to hand off the finished site and move on to the next!
Many people also choose to offer a library of video tutorials. This is super beneficial to the designer, because you only have to create them once, but I found that clients really appreciated being shown those steps on their very own site during our recorded live call, rather than referring to generic videos they could probably find themselves by Googling it.
A common fear that clients have is that you will build them this fabulous website, but that if an issue arises or they have an update that’s needed, they will be stuck on their own!
So it doesn’t really matter which type of post-launch support you offer, but you definitely want to give them some option so that they don’t feel completely abandoned.
To be honest, most of my past clients would get in touch maybe once a year to ask for something small so it never really amounted to much additional work on my part to offer those hourly services, but it did wonders to calm their fears about being left to their own devices if something went wrong in the future.
So unless a client is a blogger with hundreds of blog posts, you really aren’t transferring anything. You basically just have their current website open, and copy and paste their content (if they even want the same content).
People often think there’s some technical thing which transfers whole websites from one platform to the next, but it really doesn’t work that way.
Take WordPress for example…there’s so many external plugins to make all the different needed functionalities happen, whereas in Squarespace, those functionalities are natively built-in to the platform, so there is really no way for one platform to sort of communicate with the next in order to automatically migrate your content over.
The one thing which does exist is a blog transfer feature from WordPress to Squarespace (or vice versa) and Squarespace has a pretty solid tutorial for this.
But if you’re still feeling stuck, Squarespace live chat are pros at walking you through it if what you’re asking its possible!
But for the most part it’s pretty much just good old copy and paste!
So, I would say trying to negotiate with you on the price of your packages is the first one! For me that’s pretty much a definite no!
Number two would be complaining about a past designer!
If they mention that they’ve already worked with a designer on this project but the designer just didn’t “get their vision,” or the project had to be cancelled or didn’t work out, then there is a chance that they just got a really bad designer, but more often than not it’s because these clients were super difficult to work with or not able to communicate clearly what it was they really wanted.
The best way to avoid red flag clients and nightmare projects is to do a consultation call! Don’t just let random people book your services directly from your website!
While that does seem more efficient in terms of ease of booking for your client, you really want to talk to the person beforehand to make sure the project really is the right fit!
And really, most clients are going to want to talk to you first as well to ease any concerns they have before dropping a large chunk of change on a project!
It’s your opportunity to be finding out if this is really who you want to spend the next 2-6 weeks working with!
Step one: don’t do what I did.
What did I do?
I went on Etsy, looked at what all the other designers we charging and then set my pricing squarely in the middle!
But Etsy (and marketplaces in general) has the lowest pricing, because they are competing with 100’s and sometimes 1000’s of other designers in that marketplace.
So my first web design project, I only charged $560…which if you know anything about website pricing, that was wayyyyy to low to be pricing my services, even as a begginner.
Now what you should actually do?
This is honestly a whole post in itself, so stick around! I’ll be sure to do an entire Q+A just on pricing later in this Web Designer Q+A series!
This can be a super delicate conversation!
It’s 100% ok to say that you don’t feel like the right fit for the project, and that you want the client to have someone who is fully able to serve them.
If a client falls outside the scope of the ideal client you typically like to work with (ie. you serve photographers but they are a restaurant owner who just really likes your work) then let them know that you’d love to recommend them to someone who might better understand their business or has more knowledge of their industry.
This actually happened to me where I had a limited number of design slots left in the year and I would just let them know that I had X number of consultation calls with different clients this week, and that I’d be accepting the projects that I felt I could serve best and that you would be in touch either to let them know they got the limited spot or to make a recommendation for someone else.
It’s definitely helpful to have a list of people or places you can refer to when projects aren’t the right fit so you aren’t leaving inquiries hanging!
Ok, so the type of content that you create is highly highly dependent on who exactly that ideal client is!
In the first post/video in this Web Designer Q+A series, someone asked how they were supposed to stand out among all the other designers out there blogging about Squarespace for small businesses!
And the advice I gave there was to get very specific! The value is going to come from knowing your ideal client’s industry, struggles, and questions inside and out and consistently creating content on that niche topic!!!
Niching may feel like you’re narrowing your potential client base, but what you are actually doing is making yourself the obvious choice to the exact right people, not just another designer in a long list of people trying to serve a super broad audience.
And when it comes to still learning Squarespace, believe me…when I blogging long before I was a Squarespace expert!
Besides, Squarespace is constantly coming out with new features, so you will always be learning!
So don’t let the fact that you don’t know everything stop you. You will never know everything, and you don’t want to wait until you do to start consistently creating content and marketing your business!
Quick story: there’s this guy named Nathan Barry. He’s the founder of an email marketing software, but years ago before he ever started his company, he was just learning CSS on the internet, and teaching himself new things every day.
There was another guy with a blog who was at pretty much the exact stage of learning that he was – not at all an expert, and blogging the most beginner of CSS basics.
Long story short, this other blogger went and launched a Kickstarter campaign and blew his goal out of the water…and it was because he had already built up an audience!
This other guy now seemed like the total expert! And even though Nathan Barry knew just as much as this guy did, he had no audience because he had never put out what he knew on the internet!
So what I’m trying to say is that in order to get found by your ideal client, you first have to define who they are and then get busy consistently putting out content that is very specific to them! You will become an expert in the process!
Suggested reading on content creation: