“I want to become a web designer, but everybody and their mom seems to be doing it these days…”
“You’re so lucky you started when you did Paige, because now the market is just so oversaturated. I feel like I’ve totally missed the boat, and there’s no way I’ll ever be as successful as you.”
“I’m good at building websites, but I don’t have a super sparkly personality like other people, and social media isn’t my thing…how will I ever get people to notice me and book my services?”
“I hate my 9-5 and have wanted to take my web design side-hustle full-time for years now…but I feel like I’d never be able to find enough clients, or charge what I’d need to charge in order to make this work.”
These are actual messages that have landed in my inbox or DMs, and I honestly get some version of these every. single. day.
The comparison struggle is no joke, friends! And it’s totally normal to feel stuck, and like there’s no way you could ever measure up to all the other people killin’ it in the design world!
But there are literally a bajillion new businesses being started every day, and every single one of them is going to be needing a website! If anything, you couldn’t be choosing a better time to get started!
So whether you’re a total newbie, or you’ve been struggling to get your design biz off the ground for what feels like forever now, stick around, because this post was written justttt for you!
When you are first getting started out, it’s tempting to want to cast a super wide net for finding clients.
You need all the projects you can get at this point, and you don’t want anyone to be turned off by your packages or messaging.
But did you know that when you try to market your business to every possible type of potential client out there, you’re actually increasing your competition?
It’s true! When you try to stand out to everyone, you make an impression on no one.
Want to kibosh the marathon marketing and endless search for clients?
Let every last thing on your site and social intentionally point to how you are uniquely positioned to serve that one person.
Design trends and technology for different industries are changing on the daily, and if you keep your client search super broad, it would be impossible to keep up!
Picking a niche helps you to be the best at one thing, and become the obvious choice for people matching that exact description or ICA (ideal client avatar).
Potential clients want to see themselves in your portfolio, and see how you’ve been able to solve the exact needs and challenges of someone just like them.
Say I’m a restaurant owner in need of a new website…I’m going to google something like “restaurant website designer,” right? And I will automatically be drawn to people who have portfolios full of the exact thing I want, rather than a handful of completely random industries or styles I don’t care about.
And the best part of becoming the master at just one thing?
So if you want to land higher paying clients, become the expert at their one thing.
When you try to serve everyone, you will often find you are having to compete on prices rather than ability.
Uggh. No thanks.
Oh, and the same goes when choosing your platform, btw! There are definitely people out there finding success designing on multiple platforms, but in this post, I share why picking one platform may be the way to go!
That niche you picked? It’s time to read up on it!
The best way to know how to put together killer offerings for your preferred type of client is to know the things going on in their everyday life!
What do they deal with on the daily that would inform how you design sites for that type of client?
What current events or changes in their industry are affecting them that you can step in and make life easier on them through the packages or resources you offer as a designer?
Picking a designer is a huge decision for these business’ to be making, and it’s stressful for them to feel stuck in decision making mode! Help them see that you are the clear choice!
Show them that you don’t just design pretty websites, but you actually know a little about their industry and how it affects what their business does online (and therefore exactly what they need to have on their website to be successful).
You don’t have to be a Jill of all trades, but if there is something that would help you to become better at delivering on your one niche type of work, it’s 100% worth investing the time and $$ to learn it!
Enroll in that course, sign up for that live training, or take a class at your community college!
There’s nothing wrong with bootstrapping if you’re on a budget, but finding the authority on that topic, and getting your hands on what they are teaching, is the fastest way for you to seriously up-level your offerings.
(Without wasting hours and hours on a Google wild goose chase)
“Umm, but Paige…I’m having a hard enough time finding clients as it is! Won’t raising my prices make it harder to choose me?”
Competing on price is a losing battle, because no matter how much you really want that project, there is always someone more desperate than you!
Rock-bottom prices attract the red-flag clients, so underselling yourself as a designer will never get you closer to your goals of booking out a business with only ideal clients.
Often the type of clients you attract at low prices points are actually the most difficult and demanding to work with. Being more concerned with price-shopping than quality, they are always going to try to get a better deal and more work done for less money. #ScopeCreepForDays
Price is also a huge signifier of quality, so if you are scared to charge for your time, not only are you attracting more challenging clients, you’re also causing the higher-quality potential clients to raise questions about the value of your work.
So go ahead. Raise your prices.
(And then make dang sure your work reflects it!)
Still not convinced? Read this post to see what happened when I doubled my prices as a designer.
This could look like…
Blogging your portfolio so they get to know your personality and process
(Because you are more than just a creator of pretty websites).
Blogging your portfolio gives potential clients a look at the BTS of what you do, helping them to dream about what it would be like to work with you.
You’ll get more referrals from your past clients if they have a fabulous blog post to point people to when asked about their experience, and featuring them on your website legit makes them feel like a total VIP, putting your client satisfaction rate (and therefore your testimonials) through the roof.
If you suffer from F.O.S.S (fear of social media syndrome, obvs) then blogging is a perfect alternative!
People can truly get to know you and your business without you ever having to make an appearance on live stories if it just ain’t your thang.
You can make all the changes you want before that post goes live, so there’s no risk of saying something embarrassing or accidentally burping on a live video (Yup. Definitely happened to me once.)
Want to learn my best tips for blogging your design portfolio? Check out this post!
Sharing glimpses of daily life and your BTS on social
Say someone stumbles upon your account because of some tip or resource you shared or some super gorgeous web design project you posted.
They might stick around for all your super binge-able free content or drool-worthy pics at first, but the thing that will keep them coming back again and again (and the thing that totally sets you apart from ever single other designer on their feed) is, well…you!
The curated is lovely, and I’m definitely a big believer in being on brand in every aspect of your business, but YOU are a huge part of that brand.
So don’t forget to let people see there’s an actual person behind the flawlessly executed business!
At the end of the day, the connection people find with you as a person could be the deciding factor between choosing one talented designer over the next.
P.S. Not everyone is super outgoing, so the type of personality that attracts one potential design client could actually be strongly off-putting to the next. So don’t think being the “quiet type” is a hurdle you have to overcome in order to be successful!
Just be you!
Obviously your direct competitors are probably not going to be featuring you on their Vlog anytime soon, but there are plenty of people out there in complimentary industries that have audiences full of people who could be interested in what you offer.
Say you’re a web designer, but you’re also a low-key yogi on the side. If it’s a passion of yours, you probably follow tons of yoga accounts on Insta. Why not reach out to see if you can partner with them for their next yoga teacher retreat?
Those yoga teachers need websites for their studios, and if you show up with a bunch of helpful site-building knowledge that is relevant to their industry, you’ve just become the expert in their eyes.
Not every one has the time or inkling to DIY their site, so who do you think they are going to want to hire to take their studios’ online home to the next level?
Try to think of the industries you are already brushing shoulders with on the daily and dream up how you could provide real value to their communities and audiences.
It’s the perfect opportunity for you to get discovered by potential clients who may not have even known they needed what you offer, and if the person you’re guest appearing for likes you enough to let you appear on their channel, show, or blog, you instantly seem a whole lot more trustworthy in the eyes of their audience!
Wayyyy easier than trying to sell your services to a cold audience, right?
Make it your mission to get back to inquiries right away, and in a way that feels personal.
People can love your designs, but if you don’t make the effort to connect with them right out of the gate, they aren’t going to stick around long enough to see your passion come to life on a consult call.
Potential clients are looking for someone they can trust with their baby/business and with the future of their online home. They are nervous about investing huge amounts of money, so how you respond the first time they reach out is going to go a long way in how they imagine what it might be like to work with you.
Don’t want to be tied to your inbox?
Email templates are your friend! Rather than try to rattle off a rushed, impersonal message on the fly to every inquiry that comes in, spend some time creating a few email templates for yourself.
You’re already probably repeating yourself 50 times a week anyway, so why not create something once that you can quickly tweak for infinity future uses?
This will make for:
Fewer typos because you feel rushed
More helpful, informative responses to make it easier for your potential client to make an informed decision
More opportunity for connection and for them getting to know and love your biz
Want to know my absolute fav tool for streamlining your process while still making it a totally personal experience?
Don’t offer a certain thing that your ideal client tends to need for their project?
Team up with someone who does so you can easily offer the whole package, even if you aren’t the one delivering on everything!
People don’t want to have to search and search and search to find someone to do their brand, their copy, their site, their SEO, etc. so it’s worth having people that you trust to refer to to get the job done.
If you work with them frequently, you can develop a bit of a workflow where you refer to them, and they refer to you in return.
Your clients will appreciate not having to return to yet another Google search, and you will have new constant source of qualified client referrals that are actually a good fit for what you do.
Being a one-stop-shop for helpful resources for your ideal client’s project is one of the fastest ways to put yourself a head above the rest! If you’ve genuinely helped a person, you no doubt become the obvious choice over someone who may be just as talented, but has never done a thing for their business.
Want to design sites for high paying clients? Make dang sure your own site is on point, and always up to date.
Invest in copy, or a DIY copywriting course.
Schedule that photoshoot. (On a budget? Find a photographer in need of a website and offer tradsies!)
Do your own site audit every few months and honestly ask yourself:
“Is my site easy to navigate and quickly find what they need?”
“Is every section or page relevant? Or are some just taking up space and distracting from what really matters on my site?”
“Is it stupid easy to get started working with me, no matter what page visitors land on?”
If you’re looking for more ways to stand out and attract the exact type of clients you are dreaming of working with, check out my post: 6 reasons you aren’t attracting your ideal client as a Squarespace website designer