Here’s the good news: There are always people out there in need of a new website or a site redesign. They just might not be concentrated in one place. With leads spread out across various locations, where should you turn to find your next project?
The right strategy requires first identifying where your most likely prospective clients are, and then crafting your messaging to target those exact audiences. Pursuing multiple avenues helps you cast a wider net, getting your business in front of more people who could be interested in your services.
To get started on landing your next project, integrate these six strategies for how to find web design clients.
How to get web design clients
Make a great impression online
Cold call web design clients
Grow your business through referrals
Pursue online and offline networking opportunities
Form partnerships with relevant companies
Leverage inbound marketing
01. Make a great impression online
Before you start promoting your brand to the world, there are some business fundamentals to get in order.
The first stage is taking stock of the assets you will be directing prospective clients to. Namely, your website and social media. Scan what you’ve built and adjust where necessary until you’re sure any visitors will come away with a good impression of your business.
Website: Don’t let yours sit passively until a new lead wanders its way. Instead, practice good SEO to make your pages findable online. Consider adding a blog to your website. Doing so expands the content you expose to Google’s bots, and positions you as a valuable authority on the topics that matter to your potential clients.
Social media: Staying active on social has become practically synonymous with being seen as credible and relevant. Outfit your pages with your logo, a well-designed cover photo, and a bio that states what you do and a link to your website. (Check out these graphic design tools if you need help conjuring up a professional images for social!) If you’re not sure what to post, newly-published blog posts or links to recently-completed projects are good places to start.
Next, dedicate some time to client research and identifying your market niche, so you’ll know how to best leverage your assets and get them in front of the right eyes.
Think about who your average target customer might be, and create a ‘user persona’ for them. Reference the following questions for guidance:
What businesses are they running?
What is their average salary or company budget?
Where are they located?
What is their age range?
Where do they spend their time online?
Where do they seek out professional advice?
What are some of the most common professional challenges they tend to face?
This market research will sharpen your sales messaging, and inform the tone you take in your blog content or social media posts. In particular, knowing where your potential clients turn for business consultation and professional development opens up new doors for promoting your services. For example, it should then be clearer which social media channels to focus on, and conferences or networking events to attend.
02. Cold call web design clients
In this day and age, the term ‘cold call’ can just as equally refer to emails. What is the secret to not getting dismissed as another piece of spam, though?
The first step is ensuring these emails land in front of the right eyes. Comb the member listings of associations that are relevant to your clients, or a general online business directory. Search LinkedIn according to profession, interest, or other advanced filters that help you hone in on likely clients. Scan the lists of attendees at conferences or networking events. Compile all of these names into a prospective leads spreadsheet to track the progress of your communication with each one.
When it comes to deciding on the content of your message, there are two common approaches to writing a cold call email:
After scanning the websites of your prospects, outline the value you’d bring to their pages. Take note of features like: load time, mobile display, design, page hierarchy, visibility of CTA and subscription buttons, and more. In your email, share what you saw as an area for improvement - and how your business can step in with the necessary solution. Most potential clients will be impressed you took the time to evaluate their page, and will suddenly find themselves noticing a new challenge that you can help solve.
Some web designers take more of a gamble and flip the standard sales funnel on its head. They first find an organization or person they want to be their client and whose site is in need of an update (or creation). They then design a sample page - it could be the homepage, a product page, a landing page, etc. - and enclose the design proposal in their initial email.
Whichever of these two directions you choose, you’re offering a taste of what they could have if they enlist your web design services. This approach is so successful because it activates both a need the potential client might not have realized they had - and an immediate solution.
Structure the body of your email along these four sections:
What made their website catch your eye?
What is your name, the name of your business, and what do you do?
What previous work or expertise positions you as an authority in their line of work?
Name the area(s) for improvement you noticed on their site and why you believe revising them will make an impact.
Explain why your trademark solution offers the exact improvement their website needs.
Even if you’ve already established your authority in the opening, it will take a little more work to gain their trust. Add in a reference page from previous clients, or a link to your portfolio on your website.
Above all, it’s the subject line that will dictate whether they open your message or not. The best cold call email subject lines contain a personal reference, and give the reader some foresight into what it contains. To stay out of the trash, keep away from clickbait lines that sound too good to be true.
Try this: ‘Saw your website and have some ideas’ or ‘Have some ideas about your site - let’s talk?’
Stay away from this: ‘Completely transform your business with this solution!!’
03. Grow your business through referrals
There’s a common rule of business that states that 80% of sales comes from 20% of clients.
That number alone justifies investing a significant amount of your time in ensuring your existing clients keep coming back - and bringing others with them. Also known as internal networking, this strategy is a good reminder to maximize the clientele you’ve already built before turning elsewhere for additional projects.
So, when is the right time during the web design process to ask for that priceless recommendation?
While there are differing ideas about when that should happen, we recommend asking right after the site handover. At that point, the client has seen the full range of your skills, and is feeling the rush of excitement about having a brand new website. Your thank you note and concluding meeting with them both present natural points to ask for a referral.
Most importantly, you just have to ask! Clients will rarely recommend you unprompted. It just might not occur to them. But when you’ve built a great relationship with a client, you will generally find they are more than happy to rave about your services to their friends or colleagues.
There are two actions you can take to facilitate the reference process for your clients:
Supply them with email templates they can use to send to their contacts. All they need to do is insert a name and email address, and press send. It lowers the bar of the ask you’re making of them, raising the chance they’ll actually do it.
Create an incentive program to make referrals an even more lucrative option. Generally, this takes the form of a percentage discount on future services purchased from you, or a ‘freebie’ offering that you normally charge for (e.g. a marketing webinar or one web traffic analytics report). It could also be a gift card to a local business. Advocates find the added encouragement is the push their clients need to spread your name. Others find they end up with lower quality leads, as clients don’t use the same filters as you do. Like most marketing strategies, the outcomes are highly individualized, so it’s worth giving it a try to see if it’s an approach that could work for your business.
04. Pursue online and offline networking opportunities
Getting your name out there is one of the biggest favors you can pay towards your business. There are so many stories out there about how a chance conversation - at the gym, in line for coffee - resulted in a new project. Those are always exciting moments, but you also don’t have to wait for fate to put you in touch with new people who are in need of a website.
Networking uses a similar psychology to sending a cold email to a potential client with a sample redesign of their site. When you show up in these venues and introduce yourself and your work, you’re offering to immediately solve a problem your new connections might not have realized they needed to address until then. Now, after meeting you, they know exactly who to call.
And even if they don’t need your services immediately upon meeting, you can bet your name is the one they’ll remember when the time does come. Not to mention, showing up in the same places as your clientele proves you have that insider knowledge of their industry that they can count on.
Knowing which sites to prioritize will largely depend on your client research. Facebook and LinkedIn are both great platforms for finding online communities focusing on relevant industries to your clients. Marketplaces, like the Wix Arena, allow you to showcase your work to high-intent visitors looking to hire a freelancer or agency.
Events in this category can be broken down into two categories: ones that are tailored for you to attend as a web designer, and ones that are geared towards your likely clients. Both important, just two different approaches.
When you attend web industry workshops or gatherings, you probably won’t be meeting people who need to build a website. However, connections made there can prove valuable in the future. Someone you met might receive a design request that isn’t suitable for their own business, but will recall your specialty in that area and refer you. Another option for boosting your visibility and credibility within your network is organizing your own meetup for web professionals.
On the other hand, gatherings aimed at your target clientele are a prime setting for finding new business. For example, if you specialize in building websites for media publications, scour the web for conferences and meetups intended for this audience. Depending on your budget and time capacity, select which events you will attend.
Arrive at all in-person networking opportunities prepared with a compelling elevator pitch. If you don’t have your 30-second introduction down yet, here are some guidelines for the questions your pitch should answer in order to stand out:
Who are you and what is your mission?
What do you do?
What is your business’ unique selling proposition (USP)?
What value do you offer to clients?
End on a question in order to keep the conversation going and move the person closer towards becoming a client.
After each event, input all names of potential business contacts into a spreadsheet (you can just create a new tab on the same one you use for your cold emails), and prioritize sending an immediate - as in same or next day - email to each one. Many experts find it helpful to put a slot of time on the calendar, and work methodically through their list. Your spreadsheet is also a way to visually monitor who has responded, and who requires additional follow up.
This communication differs from cold outreach because you have had some prior interaction with the potential client. Draw upon your conversation and any additional background research you’ve done on their business to personalize the message, and highlight the services you offer which would be the best fit for this person.
05. Form partnerships with relevant companies
As your client thinks about managing and expanding their business, they’re probably in touch with a variety of other professionals. The goal is to figure out who these other companies are, and brainstorm collaborations that will better serve your clients. To qualify, a company must not directly compete with your own business. Instead, they should offer complementary services to your clients. A good partnership should produce mutual referrals for both of your brands.
For example, if you specialize in building websites for restaurants, you could join forces with a popular menu printing company. Agree to share your respective new client lists, or devise a joint package of your offerings.
In addition, revenue sharing, commission agreements, or affiliate marketing are all ways to translate these kinds of partnerships into a source of income for your web design business.
06. Leverage inbound marketing
Inbound marketing: The practice of creating pathways that lead potential clients ‘in’ to your business, rather than actively reaching ‘out’ to find new leads. It operates on the understanding that much of the content you’ll create will naturally interest and attract people who have some prior intent to learn more, or even to buy.
In fact, you’re probably already engaging in some level of inbound marketing: SEO efforts, a comprehensive website, and active social media presence.
To expand your reach in this field, a few other options include:
Creating a lead magnet (digital content available for download, usually in exchange for a web visitor’s contact information).
Building a portfolio section of your website.
Sending a regular email newsletter.
Many of these pathways are heavily content-oriented. Careful keyword research will help you devise material that is relevant to potential clients, and will therefore bring them in closer to your website, social channels, or subscriber list.
Like with your other lead generation strategies, add in another tab to your follow up spreadsheet to track new contacts coming your way from inbound marketing sources. Continue applying the same principles of immediate follow up and check-ins at measured intervals.
Finding new web design clients: 2 big takeaways to remember
Monitor everything. Track all of your activities: your traffic sources, subscription rates on your lead magnets and email newsletter, follow up rates from each tab of your lead tracker, and ranking in SERPs. Use Marketing Integrations, such as Google Analytics or MailChimp, to analyze visitor behavior, and practice A/B testing to optimize your efforts.
It takes time. Seeing the impact of your marketing strategies won’t happen overnight. Through patience and careful monitoring, though, you’ll see what’s generating the highest number of leads (and, eventually, which strategies are the most profitable). With that information in mind, you’ll be able to allocate your time and resources strategically in the future, building well-established mechanisms for connecting you with future web design clients.
By Joanna Kramer
Editor, Wix Partner Blog