Note from Paige:
Wondering who the heck all these newcomers are on the blog?
I recently opened up the floor to past students of my Square Secrets™️ & Square Secrets Business™️ courses to share the super #relatable lessons they’ve learned in hopes of helping you on your own journey to becoming a successful web designer!
And Ya’ll…Katlyn Slocum (past student and genius behind the designs over at Katlyn Slocum Design) did NOT disappoint!
She’s coming to you with an unexpected yet super effective referral source that could literally be waiting right under your nose and you didn’t even know it!
Before I hand over the mic…how cute is Katlyn’s website!?
She built it to market her web design services to a super unique group of niche clients: landscapers, electricians, plumbers, mechanics, and contractors… and I’d say she “nailed it!” (See what I did there?)
Pssst! You can also use the left & right arrows below to scroll through some of her recent client work!
As a new web designer, I was scared! “Where are my clients going to come from? How will I ever get started?”
I had impostor syndrome as I scrolled through my Instagram feed and saw successful designers charge way higher than I ever thought I could charge, book their calendars out way, and even hire a team to help them grow.
I wanted all of this but had NO idea where to start.
Taking Paige’s Square Secrets Business™ class was where I started.
If you haven’t taken that course, it’s one I highly recommend.
Answers ranged from social media marketing, to email campaigns, blogging, and more. Everyone had their own way that they found success.
Over the past three years, I’ve slowly been building my web design business.
I’ve been building my blog, building my portfolio through freelancing, and I’m finally ready to ditch the freelance work thanks to an amazing client referral source you’ve probably never heard of – BNI!
BNI (Business Network International) is the world’s largest referral networking organization.
BNI is a way to build your business in your local area by forming real relationships with other business owners in the community.
Each BNI chapter has a variety of different professions in it. From insurance agents and attorneys, to roofers and plumbers.
There is only one profession or “seat” per chapter.
That means, if you fill the web designer seat, there will be no one else in that group that is a web designer. Making YOU the go-to for the chapter to refer business to!
Not only that, but you have the option to visit other chapters where they might not have a web designer and expand your network even further!
You can expect to invest a lot of time in BNI, but that time is spent building real relationships with people in your area that want to help you succeed.
I’ve found that the referrals have been awesome, but the business knowledge that members in my chapter can share with me is invaluable!
I’ve been able to learn so much about running a business, hiring, and goal-setting, just by chatting with those in my group who have decades of business experience on me!
As designers, we aren’t limited to a local area. We can work with people all over the world.
But a BNI chapter is a great way to build your presence in your local community and start filling your calendar as you build trust with the people in your chapter.
Then, you can take that extra money you’re earning and invest more in your social media marketing, building a team, and so on, to build a more widespread reach!
There are thousands of BNI chapters across the globe.
In my immediate area, there are more than a dozen chapters.
Request to visit a BNI meeting and see what it’s like. Ask questions in the visitor section. Find one in your area that has an open web design seat!
You can start the process of finding a chapter at https://www.bni.com/find-a-chapter.
Not all chapters are the same. Get a feel for different ones.
Some may be filled with an older crowd…some with all new business owners. It would be nice to find something with a bit of everything for balance.
Try to get a feel for how people speak about each other and the overall mood of the group. I’ve been blessed to be in an amazing group, where just about everyone is doing their part, which makes for a highly profitable chapter.
Larger groups of 30 will also have more opportunity for referrals than a group of, say 10.
If you have any questions, reach out to a couple of local groups, and the chapter presidents can hop on a call with you and answer any you may have!
BNI has a very structured process that has been proven to work for decades. Again, it’s not just getting together for drinks for happy hour.
It builds upon a system of “Giver’s Gain” – meaning the more you give, the more you get.
Giving of your time to really get to know the people in your group, giving referrals to other members in your group, and so on, will all help bring benefits to your own business.
A typical BNI meeting takes place once every week for about an hour and a half.
The meeting is structured, includes education training, a weekly speaker feature presentation, and get this – every single week you have a minute to ask your entire group for the perfect referral for you.
The meeting closes with a testimonials and referrals section where we can share how others in the group helped us or a client we sent their way.
It’s all about supporting one another and helping each other make more money through referrals.
The more people in a chapter, the better. Especially when they are all doing their part to make the group successful.
In my group of about 20, we passed $1,000,000 in closed business to each other!
That means my “web design” seat in our chapter is worth $50,000! Imagine what a chapter of 30, 40, or 50 could do.
BNI has been around for almost 40 years. Their proven processes have led to the growth and success of countless businesses. I know many who have been in BNI for over 10 years!
I had a portfolio, I was proud of my work, and I was ready to start filling my calendar with dream clients at my own pricing!
I got an email from someone in my chapter (now my bookkeeper) about a group of business owners in the area that help each other by sharing referrals. They were needing to fill a web designer seat.
I jumped at the chance to claim that spot.
I wanted to be the one in the community people would refer web design clients to.
I had flirted with the idea of going to networking events but never acted upon it. This was my chance to get out of the freelancing world and really establish myself as the web designer for the community.
It was a no brainer to me. I applied right away – I didn’t want any other designer in the area filling that slot – and was accepted into the group without even attending a meeting.
Those early days were overwhelming. Meetings every week. Then meeting with people in my group 1 on 1 to form those relationships and that trust needed for them to refer clients to me.
It definitely filled my schedule. But it wasn’t long before people did begin trusting me.
They are a well connected group and had several people to send my way.
When I got my first referral from BNI, it was actually from someone in my chapter.
His name is Ron and he is a personal fitness trainer. On that project, I worked with a copywriter from another chapter, who referred me to someone she knew in her chapter that needed some web work.
I also work closely with a graphic designer in the group. Since our services appeal to the same types of people, we are a very easy referral source for each other (called a “power team”).
The ball gets rolling until you have referrals coming in from everywhere!
When you build a rapport in your community and your BNI chapter, word of mouth referrals begin to spread like wildfire. This has been huge for the growth of my business!
Not only has BNI been huge for filling my calendar, but the mentorship, knowledge share, and growth opportunities in the community have been something that will truly help my business soar in the next couple of years. I’ve formed great friendships and business partners I trust.
I would recommend it to anyone.
To really see success with BNI – plan to put in time.
There are meetings every week. Outside of meetings, you will be meeting with at least one person from your every week for a 1 on 1 conversation.
These are to help you get to know each other and your businesses so that you can refer to each other.
There is required training and continuing education is expected by listening to podcasts or other trainings. The point of doing all of this is to really grow the group.
When everyone in the group is doing their part and wants to grow, you’re going to see so much business passed in your chapter.
You get out of it what you put into it.
Quick note on this from Paige:
In case you’re reading this and thinking: “Pfff! That sounds like way too much work,” or “I don’t have time!”, or “In-person networking? Hard pass…”
You have to put the time and work in somewhere if you’re ever going to fill your books!
If your current strategy has you having to personally hand-search for every single new client, or if the quality of inquiries you’re seeing are less-than-ideal and few and far between, then it may be time to rethink how and where you are spending your marketing efforts!
What feels like the path of least resistance now can actually end up costing you more time in the end (not to mention the results are often wildly underwhelming.)
So as you are considering marketing strategies be sure to weigh the time invested to the actual quality of leads it’s getting you!
K, back to you Katlyn…
Paige gives SO much great advice for getting new clients.
If you haven’t taken her Square Secrets Business™️ course yet, I highly recommend it. It literally helped me get to where I am today.
There are so many methods to gaining new clients. But the one that works best for me was joining my local BNI chapter.
Visit a chapter in your area.
See what it’s all about!
It may not be for you, and that’s okay. But at least you have another tool in your tool belt for ways to prospect new clients in your area.