Want to know the top question I get in the inbox before someone joins us in my Square Secrets Business Course?
How to land clients!
It usually goes a little something like this…
“Hey Paige, I’ve heard amazing things about your courses and I’ve been hovering over that enroll button for a couple days now, but I’m having some serious doubts about whether this is possible for me.
I have less than zero experience…
Will I really be able to find enough clients to make this my full-time gig? I don’t want to have to go crawling back to my 9-5 if this doesn’t work out. Please tell me this is possible!”
(Actual message we received, and ones just like it on. the. daily.)
So if you’ve ever caught yourself wondering the same, just know you are not alone.
The answer is 100% yes, btw – this is possible for you (yes you!)
And because I know it’s possible, I’ve dedicated two giant sections of my Squares Secrets Business course to learning to confidently market your biz, and land clients in your sleep.
Not convinced? No worries!
In this post (#2 in our “Web designers speak out: What I wish I knew about…” series) I’m rounding up a whole bunch of talented ladies who were in your exact same shoes just a few short years ago and they are here to give you just the locker-room pep-talk you need to get started!
“I wish I knew that starting a business would mean getting comfortable with selling!
Marketing is great to attract people to you, but it can be slow when you’re your starting out. But if you can learn how to connect with people and sell confidently, you’ll start booking clients sooner.
I always thought of selling as icky and pushy after dealing with salespeople in the past, but it doesn’t have to be that way at all.
– Jessica Haines, Jessica Haines Design
“Prior to starting my business I thought I would need a ton of clients.
Those clients would actually be the key to recurring design projects and ongoing referrals.”
– Jacinta Gandy, Social Circle
“If you do free consultation calls, you will be repeating yourself over and over again a bazillion times.
I have a loose script that I follow and lots of analogies that help people understand what I do or what they need.
But I’ve also learned that I need to stay brief and explain next steps so that I’m not wasting hours talking about minute details before I’ve even been paid.
It’s mostly trial and error, but once you find the rhythm it becomes so much easier!”
– Lindsey Anderson, Six Leaf Design
“Pinterest is where it’s at!
(At least that’s what I know and have experienced!)
As a designer, I’m on Pinterest a lot to look for inspiration for mood boards and client projects, and I have discovered many other talented designers through it!
I have about 1 or 2 trending posts on Pinterest. I know that if I dedicate a little more time in my day to social media marketing I will see the benefits.
Consultation calls are another amazing way to captivate your prospective client and reel them in!
– Kaitlin Hoppenstedt Ortgega, Studio Kait
It just reinforces the trust aspect.
My business is very referral driven.
Every once in a while you will get those nightmare clients. Pre-screening can REALLY help avoid some frustrating and costly encounters!
I have an initial inquiry form followed by a Discovery Call.
During this call I have a “script” of questions that help me to understand the potential client’s needs, expectations, urgency and personality.
I have dodged many bullets by investing 30 minutes in a phone call rather than months and months with an unhappy client!”
– Malena Southworth, Southworth Design Co.
“Everyone wants the quick fix or the short answer for how to land more clients.
But the honest answer is that it takes time. It just does!
You have to put in the time!
Same goes for landing clients, but here are a few starter tips.
1. Build community.
Reach out to other designers or people in your similar community (ie: social media peeps, branding designers, etc).
Make friends – don’t be network-y! Just genuinely look for people you’d like to get coffee with and keep showing up. That will pay off!
2. Don’t waste too much time on social media.
It’s just too hard these days with the ever-changing algorithms. A few years back, you could post a bunch and engage and really gain some traction, but these days it’s really going to take a lot (A LOT) of work to build an audience.
And frankly, you could put your time to better use!
3. Do good work. Period.
This is THE SECRET SAUCE!
If you get to the point where you don’t have to market yourself at all because you have past clients and friends chatting you up, that’s like striking gold!!
4. Create content. Good content of value still matters!
– Kali Edwards, June Mango Design
“Watch out for red flags! Two big ones for me…
First, when a potential client wants to have multiple people on the discovery call.
The second red flag is when the potential client says something along the lines of “it shouldn’t take you long.”
I now price web design as a package instead of hourly, so there aren’t any surprises.”
– Christy Price, Christy Price
“Word of mouth is huge!
So, make sure to focus on creating a fantastic customer experience from start to finish.
If you can do that, those people will sing your praises to others down the road!”
– Ciera Krinke, Digital Box Designs
Two years ago I knew nothing about SEO.
Today, 50% of my business comes from web design projects and 50% come from SEO projects.
And how do my clients find me?
You guessed it, Google! It really is a powerful tool.
The best part?
There are amazing *free* resources that teach you everything you need to know about landing your website on the first page of Google.
All you need is a little bit of time and a deep desire to improve your knowledge.”
– Erin Neumann, Be Aligned Web Design
I quit my corporate job on a Friday.
The following Monday I went to a conference for freelancers and sat at a round table hosted by someone I would later hire to be my business coach.
A few months later, she hired me to do her website.
A few months after that she recommended me to her friend who is one of my most prominent clients to date.
When I first started, I’d seek out others in related industries such as social media, PR, copywriting, photography, etc.
I asked for phone calls or meetings just to make these new connections. Every week I’d contact someone different and most agreed to meet.
Within a couple of months, this turned into referrals and booked clients.
There’s been no looking back since!
The other benefit to this strategy – you build up an amazing network of people you can refer clients to.
Just last week my client said she was so grateful I was well connected – I set her up with a photographer, social media manager and a potential videographer.
These reciprocal relationships are the reason I’m still in business today.”
– Vanessa Bucceri, Vanessa Bucceri Creative
Waste of time and waste of your talent, keep those customers far away from you.”
– Anna Hamilton, AH Design
There are two types of strategies to land clients. The “long game” and the “short game”.
“That’s a terrible name, but you get what I’m going for.
When you first launch your strategy is going to look VERY different. There’s going to be a LOT of outreach on your end.
Whether that’s telling friends and family about your business, commenting on FB posts for people looking for a designer (yes, even if there are already 50 comments…) or directly DMing that person on IG you’d LOVE to work with.
It’s hard. I’m not going to lie. But there’s magic in momentum.
Once you get a couple of clients: you get referrals, you have a portfolio, you have testimonials… and it grows!
Lots of experts say you have to blog and podcast and Pinterest and and and. Just stop.
Focus on the numbers and focus on what feels right to you. Running around like a chicken with my head cut off never felt quite right to me. I couldn’t do all the things.
Focus on what works and pour more of your time and energy into that.
In addition, I will say that connecting with other entrepreneurs and designers has always had a great effect on my business.
Do you know what those designers love?
Having a list of amazing designers with a consistent process and strong client experience that they can recommend to their prospects they turn away.
Make that you.”
– Becca Wood, Alto Design Co
“It’s okay to be selective.
When you’re just starting out, it’s tempting to take on every project that comes your way.
I used to think it was a good thing that I could design t-shirts, business cards, murals, logos, holiday cards, patterns, AND websites for every type of industry out there.
There’s nothing wrong with taking on as much work as needed in order to pay your bills, but as you become more skilled in your industry, the more selective you can be.
Higher prices = less projects you’ll need to take on each month to make ends meet.”
– Rose Lindo, Bittersweet Design Boutique
“I had a nightmare client who refused to pay for work completed.
I saw some red flags during the consultation process (the prospective client was quite rude and demanding), but I brushed it off as inconsequential.
I figured I’ve worked with difficult people before, no problem.
But there’s a difference between “difficult” and “disrespectful.”
When someone shows little or no respect for you, that’s not going to lead to a healthy working relationship.
– Melissa Stephenson, Five Design Co
“My first client was a family friend (this is a great way to find your first one!).
They then recommended me to someone else, who recommended me to someone they knew and it went from there.
Most of my clients in the first year came from referrals which was so lovely, and I didn’t need to put much energy into marketing.
If you give a positive, fun and professional client experience and end product people will be delighted to recommend you to others!
– Steph Bisson, Colour & Love
– Michanae Edwards, Michanae’s Designs
When I chose to work with coaches, it allowed me to gather market research specifically from coaches.
I went from having no clue how to find new clients to filling up my schedule 3 months in advance with the exact clients I wanted to help!”
– Carissa Erickson, Carissa Erickson
“One of the things that has helped me CONVERT leads into paying clients is my confidence in the Discovery Call.
Once I started sharing those success stories of previous clients (and all the success and money they made after working with me!) I noticed a big uptick in my booking rate.
Most of my fresh leads (non-referral) come from Instagram because I’m so active on there!
The next spot I’m looking to expand into is Pinterest marketing to send more traffic to my site.”
– Jen Davis, Hello June Creative
“Social media is your friend here.
Don’t be shy and share your work on each platform and make sure you are active on the ones you choose.
– Maru Ramirez, Studio Mer
“I wish I knew that it’s not easy and it takes time to land clients consistently.
I ended up hiring a business coach for this exact reason and it‘s been one of my best investments.”
– Hannah Phillips, Dear Brunch Design
“Clients love to be heard and understood.
If they don’t understand the value, they’re just going to see you as another “expense in their book” and nobody wants that 😉
Rather than just telling a potential client a price and crossing your fingers that they book, take some time to understand them and their business, and then take a little more time to explain the value of your services and how it can help solve their pain points.
– Sarah Dobbs, Mckinly Media
– Cherise Vecchio, Joelle Studio
“I’m going to say two things that sound contradictory but hear me out!
I wish I knew the power of saying yes and saying no when landing clients.
You’ll be able to figure it out and finalize things afterwards.
Saying yes is going to quickly transport your business to great places.
But also on the flip side, saying no is totally fine. In fact, sometimes it’s needed.
It’s important that if alarm bells are ringing about a potential new client, your gut is probably right.
Besides, that time spent working with this client could be spent attracting more of your dream clients to work with you.”
– Eleanor Stones, Eleanor Stones
It’s rough but you may have to work for free, you may have to go cold calling and you absolutely will have to fearlessly put yourself out there and back yourself!”
– Islay Wharton, Forme Creative
“It’s ok to say no to a client if they’re not the right fit.
– Jackie Elefante, Jaks Digital
– Jaime Lawson, by Jaime
And consultation calls should really only be scheduled with individuals who you know are within your budget range so you aren’t wasting your time.”
– Mackenzi Green, Kenzi Green Design
“I studied graphic design and marketing in college but I definitely didn’t learn anything in college about how to get clients!
I learned a ton from listening to as many entrepreneur podcasts as I could!
– Mary Kiser, MK Design Studio