Freelancers: How to Get New Clients For Your Web Design Business

You know how important getting new clients is for your business. Getting a constant new stream of clients is often the #1 challenge for most freelancers. Unfortunately, most of the advice provided online on this topic is often filled with ambiguity and doesn’t give you clear tips and instructions you  can use to start getting web design clients NOW.

Don’t forget to check out More of our Freelancing Articles!

I’ll assume 2 things here:

  1. You’re a web designer and provide web-design related services
  2. You’re competent in what you do. If you can’t provide at least a decent service for your clients then this article is not for you

No worries if you never had a client before. There’s a section of this article for you as well.

How to Use Your Existing Clients to Get New Ones

Without doubt, word of mouth is one of the most powerful types of marketing in existence. Many studies have shown that people trust friends recommendations over ads and even genuine review sites. Would you trust it more if arrived to this free people search page over Google or Google Ads? Yeah, I thought so.

There’s a good probability that many of your clients know someone who might need or currently needs a web design service (I’ll assume most of your clients are some type of business owners so they know other business owners as well). How can you make sure your existing clients recommend you to their friends? There are certain things you can do:

- Service Excellence

You do this by providing an excellent service your customers love. You fulfill their expectations or go way beyond them. This is an ongoing process and not a destination. You’re constantly adjusting/coming up with and testing new ideas and seeing how those ideas appeal to your clients etc.

How can you over deliver on your service? One way is to stand out. I assume you already know most of the basics on web design. What about usability? What about the science and the art of colors and copy writing? Or behavioral psychology? There are a lot of things you can learn from many other disciplines that can help you excel in this web design business.

- Customer support excellence

This is an entire process of communicating with the client till completion. Focusing on over delivering here doesn’t help as much as focusing on making the whole interaction as effortless as possible for the client.

For example:

  • Reduce the waiting time for answering his question (if it’s a common question, make a FAQ and send that FAQ once he contacts you with that question)
  • Make it easy for him to give you feedback. Give him easy-to-follow instructions so he knows how to give you suggestions on the finished design.
  • Reduce the number of times your client needs to repeat the question. If you have to redirect him to another department, you should redirect the question and not tell him to go to that department and ask the question again.

‘Customer effort’ has been found to be a pretty strong predictor of customer loyalty .

How to Get New Clients (if you’re starting from scratch)

One word comes to mind here: EXPERIMENT. First, start by going to as many websites as possible. Here are some ideas:

Freelancing sites

oDesk, Guru, Freelancer or eLance, these are the 4 biggest freelance sites on the world wide web. Try them all. Create a simple profile and start bidding for some jobs. Bid for cheap and expensive projects…don’t just think ‘they’ll never hire me for this expensive project’ because that isn’t true. You simply don’t know…test and experiment (and in this case, testing = just bidding for the project and seeing the results). You’ll learn a lot at least.

There are also some not so obvious sites you can use to get clients…

- Internet business sites/forums

Most of your clients are probably small/medium businesses who want to establish a presence online. Why not go to them directly where they hang out?

Check out the WickedFire Design section, for example. There are many people who pitch their design services there for a price higher than many ordinary freelance sites. And guess what…people are willing to pay that price (if they get a decent service).

WickedFire is just one example of many. Try writing related: on Google to find some similar sites. Many of them have a ‘services’ section where you can offer your web design services.

- Classified ads, job boards

You could try these as well. The important thing here is to experiment with different websites and see what’s working for you. For example, you might find that e-business forums are ideal for you because you realized you’re looking for a steady job and projects from the same client. Or maybe freelance sites are ideal because you want to get very diverse tasks.

- Long-term Approaches to Getting New Clients

Over time, you’ll want to increase the probability of getting new clients that will come to you. This is a long-term process and it takes time…but trust me, it pays off.

Have a website

The most important element to having a good web design website are:

  • Good web design (duh!)
  • Good PORTFOLIO – most of your clients will first take a look at this so be sure to keep it updated regularly and feature the best projects at the top.

- Get involved in the web design community

You have various web design forums (again, experiment to see which ones are best for you). By participating on web design forums you’ll meet new people who do the same you do, learn more about the trends in web design and, guess what, many business owners go to web design forums to find people to do various web design jobs (so you should find projects to work on there as well)

- Learn how people make decisions / behavioral psychology

Why learn this? Because, ultimately, you’re dealing with people and you need to know more about them overall, on how they make decisions. You can use this knowledge to influence them (ethically!) so you get more clients and gain other advantages as well.

Some of the best books for starters are:

Influence: Science and Practice by Robert Cialdini

After you read influence, take a look at 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive by the same author

Prediction Irrational by Dan Ariely, explores some mind-blowing principles on why people behave irrationally sometimes when they buy stuff.

- Focus on the 3 most important aspects in your business

I wanted to finish this article with this concept, and although I know it doesn’t directly helps to get new clients, I feel I need to share it because it’s the most important lesson I’ve learned while having my own online business. In order to get the most out of your business, focusing on these 3 things simultaneously helps a lot (most businesses focus on 1 or 2 but not on all 3):

a) Your PRODUCT (or in this case your service) – making it better, etc.

b) Your PROMOTION - experimenting with ways of getting new clients, getting more referrals from existing clients

c) Your MONETIZATION - experimenting with different ways to make money like selling web design templates, logo creation services and so on.
There’s no magic pill to having a successful web design business and getting new clients. It mostly involves working consistently (notice I haven’t said ‘hard work’, working regularly for 10 days is better than working ‘hard’ for 1 day and then doing nothing for 9 days) and working smart.

What’s your feedback? Share it with us in articles.


Executive editor of FinderMind magazine, a people search engine on helping you find long-lost friends.

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  1. says

    I get clients from content writers. It take me some time to get my first client. But now I am getting more and more work.

  2. Kenn Schroder says

    When starting out, here’s what I suggest:

    1. Get out there in any way. Many new web designer are scared to death about talking about what they do that they will do other things (like redesign their site for the umpteenth time) instead of talk to people.

    2. Tell everyone you know about what you do. Everyone. Even that person you are hesitant to tell. Everyone.

    3. Start to hone in on special clients. Think about the work you’d love to be doing, the kind you really liked in the past, and the kinds of clients that were the best. If you’ve had none, that’s fine, just start where you’re at and outline for yourself, what you want in your work and clients. Then go hang out where those kinds of clients/projects are at. (yes this is more involved that what I said, but do your best, and try to go for projects you really are interested in instead of trying to be everything to everyone.)

    At my blog you can get a free copy of two things: (1) The first chapter of my book, Web Design Clients Galore, and (2) a report, 8 Mistakes that Stop You from Getting Clients.

  3. Justin says

    Great Article. I have gotten most of my clients through referals, after completing a website for a client its a good idea to get them to write a testimonial for your website as well as hand them a few business cards so they can give to people. Let your clients spread the word about your excellent web design services.

  4. says

    Sorry. But “oDesk, Guru, Freelancer or eLance”? “Internet business sites/forums” and “Classified ads, job boards”? Really?

    If you’re just starting out in Freelancing you need to forget any of those sites unless you want to work for little to no money or attract 80% tire-kickers.

    What you need to do is get out and about. Email or ring local agencies and ask them if you can come in for a coffee (take biscuits) and find out if they need any extra help or if there is any gaps in their skill sets.

    Join business networking groups and attend their meetings with business cards. Shake some hands and actually meeting some people instead of sitting behind a monitor 18 out of 24 hours.

    Also what does: “If you have to redirect him to another department, you should redirect the question and not tell him to go to that department and ask the question again.” even mean? Department? I thought this was about freelancing not running a branch of Barclays Bank.

    • itechnovation cyber solutions says

      u said it right buddy… i get clients just by hanging out in social gathering, where all i have to do is some hand shakes, business card distribution, and educating clients about internet and fruitfulness of websites.. i have made a large portfolio with the same tricks. have a look at .. nice article though…

  5. adhi says

    now i try to join in odesk, so hard and almost despert in the begining. but when i get for the first time so happy as freelancer.

  6. says

    You needed to add NEVER work for spec.

    I have spent 13 years as an illustrator and another 16 as art/creative director. When you don’t respect yourself enough to charge a fair price for your work then you cheapen yourself and your clients will not have respect you either. Better to work pro-bono for a charity or a good cause than to work for free to someone who is to cheap to pay you.