You’ve put together a slick personal website which hosts your best work - your prime pieces of design that highlight just how amazing a designer you are. You’ve set up your social media accounts to reflect your new desire to start working with new clients, and you’re ready to put in as many hours as it takes.
There’s one small problem. You need to get those clients…
Don’t panic, don’t press the big red button and above all else, don’t think that you stand no chance of landing some top-quality client leads.
Yes, generating leads is not exactly the easiest or the most fun part of being a freelancer, but it’s an integral part of the process and one that you most certainly need to get comfortable with doing.
We’ve collated 5 tips that will put you ahead of the pack with it comes to lead generation, and ultimately, securing clients that will stay with you for months and years to come - not just for a one-off project.
We deliberately narrowed this list down to 5 top tips, as it can be easy to get carried away with lead generation techniques. While it’s always a good idea to have a series of approaches available to generate new business, they will almost always end up falling under similar categories, as we’ll discover.
Of course, you don’t have to use all of these tips, and you may well already be putting them into practice. Either way, if you’ve noticed a slump in new client interest recently, it’s always wise to consider other options to generate leads.
1. Ensure Potential Clients Can Actually Find Your Work Portfolio
We started this article by talking about your beautiful portfolio - I mean look at it, it’s amazing!
That’s great, but if people - or more importantly, your potential clients - can’t find it, then its value is lost. Letting your portfolio do the hard work for you by grabbing the attention of potential client leads is a common - but often underestimated - way of winning customers. Take designer Tobias van Schneider's portfolio for example. It's sleek, unique and incredibly easy for potential clients to navigate.
Putting hours into your portfolio and its design is a waste if you don’t also focus your attention on promoting it to your target audience. How? Well, start by ensuring your email address and other contact information is right on your site. Then, use your social media channels to drive people to your portfolio. More specifically, make sure you’ve set up accounts on Dribbble and Behance.
These sites already have cemented their presence on Google with well-established SEO - they certainly show up more often than your portfolio website. Even if you don’t actively engage on the platforms, you can still use their SEO traffic to drive interest to your work for free. However, we recommend you do post regularly to create your own mini-marketing campaign for your services.
2. Use Theme and Freelance-Based Marketplaces
Marketplaces can be split into two groups. You have freelance marketplaces, such as Upwork and AngelList, and then you theme marketplaces, like ThemeForest and Creative Market. Although each is different, they both offer a valuable way for you to build up a base of leads quickly.
On Upwork, you can create a profile, upload your portfolio, and start pitching for work through their marketplace platform.
But one thing to mention with Upwork (and other freelance marketplaces) is that you might feel that their competing bids are far below a rate you’d be comfortable working for. That’s perfectly fine. Why's that? Well, most employers or company-based Upwork’ers don’t want to waste their time, and they’ll generally pay more for skillful designers.
Regarding ThemeForest and other theme-based marketplaces, you can use these to publish web design templates, for example. If your work catches the eye of several users then you may well be contacted with requests for further development and design projects.
3. Offer Prospective Clients Free Sample Work
In a follow-up to the previous point, offering prospective clients some free sample work, or at least heavily discounted sample work, can be a great way of scoring new leads.
One problem that many designers face is that although their initial portfolio impresses, it can be difficult for a prospective client to imagine their own branding or own style of design through the designers work. Putting together a sample piece of design work serves several purposes including:
Show that you’re capable of a quick turnaround time.
Lets the prospective client get a taste of your design process, and how you’d work together in the future (and vice versa!).
Even if the prospect doesn’t want to proceed you still have another high-quality piece of work to add to your portfolio.
Although the thought of giving away free work might seem a bit counterproductive, from a long-term perspective, if it was to help gain the trust and reliance of a full-time client then you might be more inclined to take on the additional work.
4. Try Blogging, Vlogging or Another Type of Logging
For some designers, the thought of writing will immediately make them exit this article, but bear with me, blogging (or if you prefer, vlogging) could well be a designer's most underutilized tool for generating new leads.
Writing high-quality blog posts about topics related to your profession and industry shows that your an expert in your field. You’ll build a reputation as a credible source of information, and awareness of your name and work will ultimately rise.
It’s a good idea to start by writing a blog for your personal website and then reposting on Medium or LinkedIn a number of weeks later. These additional channels serve a similar purpose to that of Behance and Dribbble in the sense that they have an established SEO presence on Google, and thus, give your writing an opportunity to be discovered more easily.
5. Don’t Forget About the Power of Word of Mouth
Last, but most certainly not least, you've got word of mouth. Granted, this is generally more effective once you have a few clients, and it might be a slightly capped resource, but it’s without a doubt the most compelling form of promotion and an excellent way to generate high-quality client leads.
By using your current client base as a means for referrals, you can attract similarly themed companies to ones that you’ve already worked with. Why is this a good thing? Well, you already have a connection (the referrer), and that is often all you need as a foundation for a solid working relationship.
How to Start Scoring New Client Leads Today
In summary, you can start landing client leads that you never thought you could by using a series of methods and techniques, including:
Promoting your own brand and your portfolio.
Pitching and publishing through freelance and theme marketplaces.
Offering prospective client free samples of your work.
Using blogging to showcase your knowledge and expertise.
Making the most of word of mouth and using your current clients as referrers for new leads.
Do you have any tips for landing client leads? Share below.