Episode #10: Common Mistakes in Getting Graphic Design Clients

(2:00 – 3:38)
Hello and welcome back to another episode of Earning by Design. Today we’re going to be talking about a subject that is very much requested always, which is how to get clients, or really about the mistakes designers are making when they’re looking to get clients. And I thought it would be fun to have my husband, who’s also my business partner in crime, come on and interview me.

So he’s going to be asking me some questions that are going to guide you in the different tips and mistakes and ways to avoid to help you get more clients. So thank you for being here, honey. Oh, hello.

Well, yeah, this is going to be a fun conversation because I always think that, you know, you’ve always been better than me at sales. So I actually have some questions for you, right? But you also have had eight years of experience in polishing your skills to get clients for client acquisition. Is it fair to say that a medium quality designer with better skills or sales skills is going to have more possibility of acquiring clients than a designer with higher skills, design skills, but lower sales skills? Absolutely.

The skill, it’s very interesting when you become, when you work for yourself, you have to acquire a million different skills. And what I wanted was just to design. That’s what I always wanted to do.

(3:38 – 11:08)
And I realized really fast that there’s many other skills, including sales, including marketing, including obviously there’s treasury and there’s project management. And there is obviously the whole side of things where you have to go out there and like public relations type things. So there is a lot of skills that come with owning a business.

And at the heart of it is obviously your design skills. You have to have those, but I have definitely seen designers who have good skills, not, not bad, but they’re not the best, but they’re able to get clients because they have incredible ability to market themselves. Right.

Exactly. I have a question for you because I always hear this, this thing that is, that is being said by a lot of, you know, experts and people who, who deal with sales and client outreach or client acquisition. And they say that the outcome is directly proportional to the output, right? Which means that if you don’t do enough outreach, you’re never going to get clients.

But I would say that there is more than just that because you can do a lot of outreach and still don’t get any clients or, you know, you, you, you don’t know how to do it or you’re not doing it correctly. So let me ask you this question. What are the most common mistakes you see designers make when getting clients? Yeah.

Okay. So the most common ones are that they don’t try enough. So the, the biggest thing is I talk about, you have to do that outreach.

Like you said, the putting that out put to get something back, but the way that they do it is maybe they send one email or they send one Instagram direct message, or they send something on LinkedIn, or they make a connection. And then it doesn’t go, they don’t get a response for whatever reason. We have to remember that that other person on the other end has a life.

They maybe get a bunch of other emails. Maybe they don’t care about design right at that moment. There’s so many different factors.

Maybe their dog ran away or they have to go do something or they have something going on in their life. So that first outreach that you do can’t be, first of all, the only one that you do with that specific potential client, but it also isn’t the only person. There are so many businesses, even if you choose a specific area to focus on or an industry that’s still comes with an amazing amount of ideal clients that are there.

So you got to do quantity, but you also have to make sure every single message, every single outreach is also caring about that person individually. It’s not some bulk spam, you know, just robotic message that you’ve just spin out to everybody. And that’s one of the biggest mistakes is that they just say, Hey, I’m a designer.

I’m great. You should hire me. And they don’t actually do the research ahead of time to understand who that, who that potential client is, why they would hire them.

And even not even get into that at that initial point, it’s about building that first connection point, making them understand even who you are, why they’re in, why you’re interested in them. And that is one major thing. But also I see that when they do that outreach and then something doesn’t work or nobody replies, then they hide behind this point of, well, I guess it doesn’t work.

I guess clients don’t, um, I’m not cut out for this. And then it’s an excuse to not do any more and to just give up. And that excuse has been something that hinders people because they just want an excuse.

They want a reason because it’s scary. And when, you know, and a mechanism that we have is when something’s scary, we want to pull back because that’s survival. But that’s the thing is, is that the survival is ultimately getting your business to succeed.

So you have to push back through that, that fear and that, uh, that the excuses and all the reasons because they will come up in your mind. There will be many, many, many reasons. So I think that, that making sure that they push forward past that outreach and then get into other forms of client attraction, not just relying on the outreach, which we can also get into.

But that’s, that’s the, one of the biggest mistakes is hiding behind the excuses of the outreach, not working. So you’re telling me that if I send five emails and I don’t get an answer, that doesn’t mean that I suck. No, it does not mean that you suck.

It means that first off you have to in the email, let’s say you send an email, go find them also on LinkedIn, go find them on Instagram, make connections. The more touch points you have, there’s, there’s some different points of marketing, um, datums that have been said, which is something like they need seven or eight touch points before they will ever make a decision. So, you know, make those connections.

It’s important to then create content. You have to make content that that’s going to be applicable to them and they’re going to see it. And the more times they see it, just think about it.

When you’re, when you are, uh, maybe in the market or you started to, you’re thinking about buying a car and you see, or you’re not in the market yet, let’s say, and you see car ads all the time, you see car ads, car ads. Most of the people that are seeing the car ads are not ready to buy a car at that point, but maybe down the road, maybe a few years, maybe five years, but they’re, they have to start the, these are just little like points put in your mind now, which are seeds planted for, okay, so now you have all this data there that you didn’t even realize in the future when you’re ready to buy a car, you know, okay, I want this one because I saw this ad a long time ago. And now I’m remembering this.

And I heard this word of mouth. So it takes the, the sales process is a long process. And, and maybe these most clients are not going to, or most potential people are probably not going to be ready for, for having a client, uh, hiring a designer right at that point, but they will at some point be ready.

And if you have made those non pushy, non, non-invasive connections, and you nurture it through content, through checking in on them, asking what their business goals are, being interested in them. And the, the brand building is so important, which is continuing to put out content that they can relate to. And that’s helpful.

That’s a really important point because they know then you’re not just trying to sell them. You actually care about them and their goals. Right.

Right. So I, you know, I guess this is a very important point that you said. So one of the things that, that, you know, people don’t understand is how much outreach it requires specifically at the beginning in order to get your business out of the ground.

Right. And, um, some people think in quantities of tens, uh, 60 emails or 60 contacts through Instagram, LinkedIn, whatever it is, but what is the real outreach in terms of numbers that you’ve seen that it requires for people to actually get a result? Well, in our course, we have this, the consistent clients blueprint. We have this, this challenge at the, that we do at the end of the outreach.

(11:08 – 12:27)
We should, we should, we should have a challenge here for, for our listeners. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it’s, it’s about doing a hundred forms of outreach.

That’s a hundred forms because you’re not going to get an understanding of what it takes to get that client when, unless you do that much work. Now we’ve had, we’ve had students who, who have gone and they’ve, they go to link LinkedIn, they do a form of outreach, they get the client on the phone, they close them for three times more than they, than they ever thought. So that happens.

But then there’s the other side of things where people spend a lot of time trying to do outreach. Nobody responds. It takes more time and it really depends on the person themselves, how they’ve set up their profile.

What is their strategy? How do they approach also the industry that they’re in? Some industries are more interested in, in more responsive. The getting lucky is also a part of it. You know, there’s a lot of points, but having that, that, that gauge of, I got to get to at least a hundred before I can really assess what is working and what’s not, because then you can break down, how many people did I get on the phone? How many people did I actually get to respond? What is working? What’s not working? And then you can stop those actions that don’t work.

(12:28 – 14:46)
So that’s, that’s from that point. I have other points also that need to be done in tandem to this outreach because outreach, yes, it’s important. It’s not everything though.

And there’s other ways to get clients that give you more bang for your buck, but you still got to do this more grudging work of the outreach too. Okay. So then people are listening right now and they say, oh my God, I have to do like 300, 400 outreach actions in order to get clients.

That’s going to be horrible. I don’t even have time for all that. Right.

But any business, any business when you’re starting is going to be like that. Right. So moving forward, like, you know, you’ve been on business for eight years.

So how much outreach do you need to do in a daily basis as of right now in order to keep the business going? Right now I don’t do any outreach. And that’s the honest truth. I do no outreach because I have did all the outreach in those initial years.

I did so much outreach. I devoted sometimes days. That’s all I would do was outreach, outreach, outreach.

And that while we’ve been talking a lot about emails and LinkedIn and Instagram, the online communities can’t be negated because those have an immense power. People have already gone in one location where they are asking for help. And I see this misused constantly.

And that’s why it gets a bad reputation, but it’s, it’s a, it’s a place that can be a gold mine of, of you just nurturing connections being seen as valuable and such. But I just want you to understand everyone out there. It does not last forever.

Obviously, if you want to grow to a massive agency and you, then you will need to keep doing the outreach all the time. There’s people in agencies that are doing constant business development, but I’ve gotten, we have gotten to the point where we have, we’ve gotten so many clients that have come in and they, we’ve been known in the communities of our ideal clients, and then they refer to other people and the word of mouth builds and the expertise becomes stronger. That means the clients do the outreach for us.

(14:47 – 16:32)
The clients work for you. And I know a lot of people see, know that after they’ve been in business for a few years, the word of mouth starts going. When you’re in a specific industry, it’s even more magical and it becomes even better because they know you, you’ve worked with so many people in the Amazon space and the e-commerce space that you’re the person they need to go to.

So it just makes it even more special that way. And that’s, that’s been something that’s been why I say that just, you made a good point with asking that question because yes, that initial few year, two years is an uphill climb. It’s like you are climbing Mount Everest.

You’re going uphill. You are doing all that work and getting to that top of the summit. And once you get over that hump and you start really getting the clients coming in, it becomes a snowball effect going down.

And it’s, it becomes easier. You still have to keep putting life into your business, keep creating and putting content and finding new places where people will be interested to hire, to have you speak in front of their audience, get in front of others. And it becomes easier once you’ve worked with people and you have these great testimonials and case studies, and you know so much about that area that you can then outreach to people who have those people in their communities, whether it’s Facebook groups, workshops, podcasts, blogs, social posts.

There are so many places to reach people online. And that’s the beauty of the internet. And you just need to know who you’re for, what your message is that’s going to hit them and stand out from the others, and then go there.

(16:33 – 18:55)
So now we were talking about client outreach. Now let’s go a little deeper into this. So let’s say that some people don’t have a problem with getting clients on a phone call or getting clients to respond to their LinkedIn messages or Instagram or emails, right? Some people are good at that, but then they don’t close them.

So I wanted to ask you, what follow up strategies do you have in place after initial contact with a potential client, whether this is email or LinkedIn or Instagram or a phone call, whatever it is? So how persistent are you in your follow up efforts? Yeah. So I err on the side of not being super persistent because really, if the person’s going to hire you, they might be going and checking a few different options. Like they might have already had an interview with a few different agencies or other freelancers.

A good step to do in your proposal is to have three options for pricing because people tend to want to get three quotes. So if you provide three options, three different tiers of pricing, that’s going to alleviate a lot of people’s need to go find other pricing options or find other alternatives. So that’s just one point.

But regarding the actual follow up strategies to get people interested, you realize if you go and look for a quote, and then let’s say you’re going and you’re getting a quote on a new roof or a painting in your house, a paint job, and then and then you get some quotes or you look at different options. And then that person, one of the companies, they just keep calling you or they keep emailing you every day, every day, every day, you’re going to get more and more repelled from them and have much higher chance of never going back to them. People think it would work the opposite.

But, you know, we’re bombarded with messages constantly and we don’t need more. So I say if send that initial proposal, if they don’t answer, follow up a week later, and then maybe a month after that. But don’t go too intense, because there’s going to be other people, there’s going to be other other potential clients that need you.

(18:55 – 19:56)
If you get stuck on that one person, you’re in this lack in the in this scarcity mindset, which is going to get you stuck and you’re never going to grow. So you have to look more and realize there’s an abundance of other clients out there. These people are going to maybe even I’ve had this happen.

I’ve had students see this happen other designers where they’re like, they they really wanted that one person that one client, it was a perfect project, but they never answered them. And then a year later, or six months later, they’re saying, hey, remember me, I’m so sorry, I something happened and my business goals had changed, but now I’m ready to do that rebrand. Are you still interested? And because you were not all over them and and and hovering over them, they feel that you’re not desperate.

They feel that you’re interested and you actually are not going to be smothering. So I say give space. You can always follow up, you know, a few times, but not too many.

(19:57 – 24:15)
Right. And I think that that’s also why it’s so important to understand the client’s pain points and needs and challenges they face day to day, because you’re going to be more it’s going to be easier for you to to be the number one option when it comes to other potential designers that they are checking out or design agencies. Right.

Because they they might I mean, there’s a lot of designers out there, but you will feel more comfortable with someone that actually understands what you’re going through and understands what you need. And what people don’t understand is that clients don’t really want to talk about graphic design. They want to be talking about their whatever their goals are.

Right. And if the graphic designers stops talking about graphic design and he starts talking about how he can reach their goals, even if this designer is more pricier than others, he’s going to be the number one choice. And we’ve seen it many, many times.

Can you please elaborate on that? Absolutely. I like I like that point. So I’ve seen that where there is a client that really, really wanted to to get a specific their their brand set up, they they knew about the options of Fiverr, they had used Fiverr, they’d used Upwork, but they had this this problem where the designs were not really well thought through.

They weren’t thinking with the end user, the actual consumer at the other end, the designers were not thinking with their end goal of what their business was ultimately there for, they just were there to take the order and do it. And this client had been with us before we raised our prices, and then they came back and and they were like, hey, I tried, I tried going the other route, but they just don’t understand what my business is about. They don’t understand how to market correctly with not saying that as a designer, you have to know marketing, though I think it’s an extreme plus if you do, but that we knew the type of design that would attract the right client, because that’s what you’re doing as a designer, you’re creating designs that are going to attract whoever the your clients, consumers or clients are.

So it is marketing, whether you want to acknowledge that or not. And so so that client didn’t care that we had doubled our prices, they didn’t care, because they knew that that investment in their business was going to take them the next level instead of having to try and explain to somebody who didn’t fully understand their goals and didn’t fully understand where they were going, trying to just hit their head up against a wall. And it’s like, instead of it being like this, this, this person cogwheel, it was like a partner in the business.

And that’s what I feel as a designer, if you want to be charging the right prices, and you want to be the one that they choose, frame yourself as the partner and helping them instead of just the order taker. I mean, it makes sense what you’re saying, because this is what we have seen over and over. And the way we win clients over other potential graphic designers or design companies is because we understand the niche of e-commerce.

We know what the pitfalls of this business are. We know how by them having a very generic logo, they’re not actually going to be able to expand into Target and Costco. And that’s one of the things that even these big companies like Costco, Target look into when they are trying to decide whether this brand is a good fit for them or not.

So we talk about this, we know about this, so they understand that we are not talking about logos. We are talking about how to be a winning brand among the competitors, right? Right. For the long term game.

Exactly. That’s right. So what strategies do you recommend for increasing visibility and attracting the right clients on platforms like Instagram or LinkedIn? And of course, this is a very broad question.

(24:15 – 26:22)
We can’t possibly take up everything because otherwise it will be not really a podcast, but an episode of six hours. But just briefly, if you can touch up on this, I’m probably going have to wrap it up and we’ll do a second episode on this. Okay.

Yeah. So LinkedIn and Instagram and really any online platform, they’re massive. Let’s just say you’re starting a new account and you put up an Instagram post and you put maybe the hashtag graphic design or brand identity or something like that.

And you hear crickets. Nobody sees it. Maybe a designer finds you who follows those hashtags.

Maybe your mom or your sister or your significant other or somebody. And then you put up more posts and it really doesn’t go anywhere. So you have to treat these platforms like they are.

You have to have give them some information and and it will work with you. If you if you just make yourself some some broad for everything, it’s gonna work against you. The more specific information you can provide, it’s like a computer program.

You give it the more information, the better you you write it, the more more in operational information it can go off of. It’s going to output better results. So that’s the same for Instagram algorithm and LinkedIn as well.

If you are on Instagram, you’ve got to figure out what’s the ideal clients. What are they looking for? What hashtags do they follow? What people do they follow? And don’t go follow other designer accounts. Don’t go follow your if you’re really interested in Disney, don’t go follow Disneyland or some other things.

If you’re really interested in horses, don’t go follow horses unless that’s your ideal client. You got to train the Instagram algorithm to work with you. And that’s going to be by going yourself and following the right accounts that are in your ideal clients using the hashtags that they’re following, putting out content that’s relevant.

(26:23 – 27:42)
And it may take time to build up. You’re going to be talking to no one for a long time sometimes or those first few followers. But just keep going, keep going, keep going.

And then once you have some content there, you have a platform people can you know, you don’t want to go right to people from a profile that doesn’t have anything on it. You want you can then start approaching people, just saying, replying to stories saying, Hey, I really liked what what that product was. I really thought that this had some amazing ingredients in it.

And then just kind of start the conversation that way they might follow you then you put out more content. LinkedIn is kind of similar because who you follow the type of people you follow are the type of people LinkedIn is going to recommend you to. So if you start just following other designers and connecting with other designers, it’s going to recommend you to other designers and you’re going to get recommended.

Let’s say you start following people who are expert in Amazon or their Amazon softwares or their their specific in that whole world. You’re going to get recommended to more people like that. And they’re going to recommend LinkedIn is going to recommend others like that to you.

So every one of these platforms is like a huge universe in itself. You have to find that little planet that you are meant to be on. And that’s where you got to go.

(27:43 – 30:55)
That’s very well put. And well, we are getting closer to end this episode for right now. But so let’s just wrap it up with summarizing what we went over.

So in the domain of client outreach, the outcome is directly proportional to the output. So if you’re not getting enough responses, that means you’re not getting enough output. You’re not running to enough people or you might be thinking that you only have to do an outreach of 10 people for you to get 10 clients, which is impossible.

So the second point is if there is adequate outreach, but no results is often an indicator of sales skills or people skills, right? Right. Practicing that is really important and not hiding behind the outreach as in of no one responding as an excuse to not continue in your business. Okay.

But now there is one thing that people, especially new people or, you know, designers who are more introverts than extroverts, which, you know, accounts for, what would you say? 78% of them. I don’t know. I’m one of them.

So I don’t think that I’m not because man, I’m an introvert. So absolutely. What would you say to people that feel that they’re not getting enough clients, they are trying the outreach and they know their sales skills are lacking, their people skills are lacking, but they don’t feel comfortable talking to other people, or they’re trying to move off of the actual standard solutions that, you know, the outreach solutions, and they’re trying to find quick solutions or some AI program that will do everything for them.

So how would you go about it to tell these people how to overcome these fears of, you know, getting in front of clients, outreach, not having some fear of rejection? Yeah, great question. The best, simplest way is Nike slogan, just do it. Because there is always going to be something stopping you like that.

Like we went over about that, that reflex mechanism that tells you danger, danger, danger, because you always want to be comfortable. So the best way is to do that first one, just do that first one, prove to yourself, you can do it and then do the next one and just take it one at a time. And it’s going to get easier the feeling of, okay, if they don’t answer, what is the worst case scenario? They say, no, don’t ever email me again.

I’ve had emails like that. I just delete them. You know, that’s the worst case scenario.

Realize it’s not because you’re a bad person, or it’s not because your design skills are bad that they are rejecting you. There’s so many other factors that you may not know. They might have just gotten divorced, they might have had a bad day, they might have, there might be sick, they might have some other problems going on in their business or their life.

(30:55 – 33:29)
There’s a lot of factors. And it’s not because it’s you, you didn’t do anything wrong. You just keep going and you go on to that next one.

You keep going and you if you for practice on on getting in front and actually talking to people, grab your best friend, grab someone you feel super comfortable with and talk to them first, pretend they’re a client. Because that’s going to make that first initial point easier. And of course, while that will talking to clients, that first one will never be super easy.

It’s going to be a bit better if you have at least practice a little bit. That’s perfectly good. Okay, that’s great.

Well, we want to hear from you. Do you have any suggestions of topic that we want that you want to hear often? Well, just all you got to do is to support at ForTheCareers.com and give us suggestions of topics that you want to hear. We’re here to answer any questions, right? Absolutely.

And something that helps to get this podcast in front of other designers is to make sure that you rate if you’re on Spotify and rate and review on Apple podcasts. Really, really helps just like we’re training those algorithms and such. But really, it means the world to me.

I’m here. We’re here for you to give you some really good knowledge that you can use. And that’s what I want to do for more and more designers because people need help out there to build their businesses.

And that’s what I’m here to do. So thank you for listening and have a really good rest of your day. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Earning by Design.

If you found value today, I would be incredibly grateful if you could leave a review on your favorite podcast platform. Your feedback not only helps this podcast to grow, but it also helps to get in front of more designers who need help too. So thank you sincerely for being here.

And for more resources to help you succeed in the world of design, please visit ForTheCreatives.com. That’s the number four, TheCreatives.com. We offer a variety of courses, programs, and free resources, all tailored to enhance your design skills and your business knowledge. Also be sure to follow me on Instagram at ForTheCreatives for more updates and tips. And if you haven’t already joined my growing community of over 100,000 subscribers on the ForTheCreatives YouTube channel that has more content, all designed to fuel your creativity and your professional growth.

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What are the most common pitfalls in attracting graphic design clients?

In this episode, we dive into the art of client acquisition for designers, a crucial yet challenging aspect of growing your design business. Join me as I switch roles, being interviewed by my business partner and husband, where we explore common pitfalls in attracting clients, effective strategies for using social media platforms like Instagram and LinkedIn, my personal approach to follow-ups after sending proposals, and successful client acquisition tactics I’ve observed.

Whether you’re feeling isolated in your quest for clients or just looking for practical advice to apply to your business, this episode offers insights and tips to help your design business thrive.

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Graphic Design

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How to Learn
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Overcome the anxieties faced by beginners and confidently
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