Episode 26: Five Essential Tips to Stand Out and Win Client Projects

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Lauren: 

Welcome to another episode. Thank you very much for being here today. I was really excited to receive a message from a listener named Dylan and he asked the question about how can someone just starting out show how they stand out and communicate, that they deliver value for clients? He said that he felt like there isn’t a great reason for clients to pick him over the hundreds of other designers like him and all trying to get those same client jobs. So I wanted to give some insight into this, share five tips to help you stand out and to win those clients over others. To help you stand out and to win those clients over others, even if you’re just starting out, you don’t have any way to prove or when you are further along and maybe you don’t know how to present what you’ve done and all the work that you have. So we’re going to go over that today. And also, I wanted to just say, if you are enjoying this podcast and you are getting any value out of it, we’d love, love, love if you could take a second to just put a rating or review on Apple Podcasts or Spotify or wherever you listen. So thank you very much for that. So the first thing is how do you communicate with somebody and how do you make them want you if you don’t understand them? So this is a really, really, really important step that you’ve probably heard me talk about, maybe in some regards before, but I want to make that as part of this topic about standing out, and it’s super important that you understand and research why a client would hire you.

Lauren: 

Now, what this means is not just doing a quick search and thinking, oh well, they want to stand out, right. Oh, all of my clients or customers want more sales, or they want to stand out. What if you dug a little bit deeper and you actually went to the level of talking to them? When people are researching, usually they just do very surface level, just do. Maybe you’re doing a quick Google search, looking on ChatGPT, which is totally fine to get a sense of it. I’m not going to bash on that. But what if you went a step further and you went to talk to a client? And you went to speak with somebody who is in an industry or in a specific type of business that you would love to work with and you maybe went to them in person or you called them up in the business or you wrote them an email, wrote them a message.

Lauren: 

There’s so many ways to reach people nowadays and then you ask them some questions like why would you hire a designer? What are you struggling with with marketing your business? What are you looking for help in to make your business reach its goals? What are your business goals? Where do you look for help in marketing your business? Where do you look for designers? When you’re looking for a designer, and get a really great grasp on these different questions.

Lauren: 

It’s not only going to give you insight into why they would hire you and what you can put out in terms of your messaging. It also will give you an insight as to where are they online. Also, find out who do they listen to. Do they listen to specific podcasts? Do they watch specific YouTube channels? Do they follow specific accounts on LinkedIn or Instagram? Do they watch specific types of resources? Do they only read blogs? Do they read newsletters? What is their mode of communication that they receive on a daily basis? Because if you get a sense of that, you’re going to know okay, I can find more of these on LinkedIn, or they’re always listening to podcasts and maybe eventually you can start a podcast, or you can find podcasts that reach them and that can help to get in front of more of them.

Lauren: 

When you’re at the marketing stage, it can be so so, so helpful. If you have a sense of what is their preferred mode of communication for business marketing advice, realize that they might not, when you’re asking these questions, they might not understand design, they might not think that that’s important. So if you frame it as a marketing point, every business needs to get themselves known. They need to make themselves more attractive. And if you look at the definition of what marketing is, it is the activity or business of promoting and selling products or services, which is essentially making people want to buy or hire or be a customer at a specific business. So the design aspect you’re going in and you’re putting out posters, you’re creating branding, you’re doing a website, you’re doing motion graphics that make it attractive for those customers or clients to go and hire them. So it all falls under this big umbrella of marketing and that’s a term that any business owner would understand more than most of the time.

Lauren: 

Some of the time they do understand design, but most of the time marketing is a much more attractive word. So if you are asking them, what are their marketing struggles what do they need? What marketing? Where do they look for marketing tips? They’re going to give you a lot better answers that are going to be more fruitful as it, instead of you just saying what do you need help with with design. And then there is another way, which is you can always go and look at resources, big associations in this specific industries, and find what are they talking about in their own blogs, what are they talking about in their own resources, what are they doing events on, what are the topics of those events? Find the marketing sections in those and you can get some great insight into what people are referring to.

Lauren: 

So that is tip number one in this five, five tips is understanding the client and make sure you keep note of all that. You researched the client. And make sure you keep note of all that you researched. Make sure you take it and use it as that body that you’re going to be referring back to when you’re crafting the next step, which is your messaging. That leads me to step number two. This is all about defining what is your unique aspect that you can offer to a client and why they would get attracted to you. This can be reworded into finding your unique value proposition, finding your messaging, your positioning. These are all different marketing wording and phrases that essentially mean the same thing, which is how do you put out a message that is going to make people understand what you do and how important you are to them, why they would need to hire you, why it’s important? So, instead of just saying I’m a designer, I am a freelance designer, I’m a motion graphics designer, I’m an illustrator, which is great. That identifies your skill, but it doesn’t really encompass everything that you do and what makes you attractive to them. So, after you’ve you have this wealth of knowledge that you’ve done with research on and you understand well, I know that they really, really are struggling in their marketing to reach the right event goers, or they really need to get people interested in the right type of food. Whatever the unique aspect is is so important that you include in this messaging Now examples of this, so you understand, and so it’s not just something that goes over your head and you’re like tuning out. Now.

Lauren: 

Some examples for very specific designers would be event. Let’s just say you’re an event designer or your event poster designer for festivals, so you could say something like making the rhythm music festivals attractive for event goers through dynamic and vibrant event posters. So it is very much along the vibe of that industry. It’s saying that trying to attract the right event goers give them the rhythm of whatever that event’s going to be, and it’s done through these event posters. Then people realize, oh yeah, I need to do marketing. But this person understands the whole marketing and they’re a designer so they can actually output those great event posters that can not just embrace my event but also help to attract the right people to that event. So that showcases that you have done the research, that you understand what their goals are, what their pain points are and how to get them interested in your services.

Lauren: 

Another example book cover designer for self-help authors. And maybe your wording or your messaging is elevating self-help books with emotionally resonant cover designs. So you’re elevating them so that people are interested and they can connect on an emotional level with your designs. So that shows that you’re not just saying I’m a book designer, but you are communicating that you know that those people who are looking for self-help books have some emotional situation and they need to be able to connect with the book before they’re going to want to read it and that you help those authors be able to elevate their books and emotionally connect with those readers or potential readers. Listening to a podcast is fantastic, but sometimes we need a more straightforward way to access information. That’s exactly why I put together some free downloadable resources for you, including a free pricing guide with a free pricing list, how to get clients guide and how to manage your time better. These are packed with quick reference information and actionable steps that you can start using right away to enhance your own design business skills. Make sure to visit for the creativescom and get your free copies today.

Lauren: 

Last example I’m going to give here is infographic designer for healthcare providers. So this could be clarifying complex healthcare information with engaging and informative infographics. So if there was some specific healthcare group or organization or a clinic and they had to take really complex health information and put it in a way that the common person who’s not medically trained would be able to understand it and engage and interest them, that you know that they’re running into that problem of it being complex and that you can help them to turn it into something simple to educate whoever they’re looking to educate. So that’s helping them know you’re not just putting out pretty infographics, but you understand the reason and you’re on their team. That right there will help you to be set apart from all the other designers that are just saying that they’re motion graphic designers or they’re infographic designers or they’re illustrators or web designers, because it takes it a step further.

Lauren: 

Now, at this point, you may be asking yeah, but what if I’ve never done this for somebody? What if I have never helped to attract the right clients or I’ve never helped to grow their sales or get people to buy books or their books or something based on these examples I just gave? Well, that’s okay. That brings us to the next tip, which is to build a really strong portfolio, and if you don’t have case studies yet, then you’re going to just be showcasing in a way that still makes people understand. You are there for the design process, the design thinking. You’re not going to be just putting out a pretty picture and saying that this is your product. You’re there to help do the thinking with them. As a side note, when you approach it in this way, the clients are going to expect you to charge more, because they know that you are there to be a partner in this. You’re going to be meeting with them. You’re going to be working through aspects of it.

Lauren: 

Now I know that some designers and this because this used to be me I did not want to deal with any of that real uh working with the client. I didn’t want to do anything but just sit down and design. I didn’t care about any other aspect. If you’re thinking that you really, really, really don’t want to be dealing with this whole working with the client and meeting with them and making sure that you’re doing a design that’s not just from the outside in but from the inside out, it’s so important that you understand that is going to set you apart, that’s going to take you to the next level. That’s going to allow you to charge more.

Lauren: 

I used to not want to do anything but sit down, get an order from a client and just make it look good. But what I realized when I cared more and I took it a little bit further and I got why they would want to hire me, what their goals were of the project. They were willing to invest much more money first off, and I got better products. I got better testimonials and sometimes it can take years to actually see a result. Sometimes companies don’t make it. Sometimes clients you work with their businesses for whatever reason, not just because of your design. It would never be only your design that made that it. They just don’t do well or they they have higher costs and they go under.

Lauren: 

So but there are those ones that will make it and we’ll be able to be case studies in the future and the more you put into and really, really treat each one like it’s a it’s a great exciting project that you’re working on and give them your all and be that design thinker, looking at all aspects, understanding the goals, you’re going to take them and they’ll be much, much happier. You’re going to get a much better design product in the end and later on it can result in an awesome case study end and later on it can result in an awesome case study. Also, you feel better because you’ve helped a client do better. But when you’re at the stage when you don’t have that yet and you want to just showcase that you can get there, do a lot of sample projects and don’t just put them up in a portfolio page, but dedicate a page to each project and go deeper into why did you choose this, what was the project, who is the intended audience, what is the intended goal, where and what was the? If you have this, of course, only what was the end result and what is the testimonial.

Lauren: 

If you don’t have those last two parts and this is a sample project that you have never done, that is not an actual client project, that’s totally okay. You don’t have’t have those last two parts and this is a sample project that you have never done. That is not an actual client project, that’s totally okay. You don’t have to have those last two options. You want to just say this was a personal project. Just you can put that somewhere small so that people know that that it was made up because you don’t want to be putting out something that’s a lie or something that’s false.

Lauren: 

But having just showing that you can take a project from start to finish, that you have the design thinking behind it and backing up your decisions along the way, it will definitely entice clients to hire you, even if you don’t have any real projects yet. And that is something that’s so, so important for people to understand and designers to understand that just embrace the work that you have done and the work that you want more of and put out that work. Show the design thinking behind it. You only need to do three. If you just have three great strong case studies that are even if they’re not real, that is enough to get people clients interested in you. If you think about when you’re hiring somebody and maybe they’ve never done anything, they’ve never worked in this area before you still want to see that they can get the product. You still want to know that they can do it. You wouldn’t hire somebody if you can’t see anything that they’ve ever done. So make sure that you take on that aspect. But showing a sample one, even if it’s not a real client, is absolutely valid to still prove you are able to problem solve, you’re able to help really show the process you’re able to design and you’re able to work with somebody on what their goals and their target audience are. So now that you have, let’s say you have this awesome, awesome understanding of your clients, you have this great messaging, you have a really strong case studies and portfolio.

Lauren: 

Now what do you do? How do you get the message out? What are you supposed to be doing in marketing yourself? Well, if you had done enough research in the first aspect, the first tip, which is understand your clients, you will know where they are online, you’ll know if they’re on LinkedIn, if they’re on Instagram. Are they on YouTube? Are they on a podcast? Where do they listen to things? Where do they what? What makes them attracted to to you? How do they, how do they find out about marketing information? And you find the channel that will be the best. And start with just one. Don’t overwhelm yourself. It takes time to grow and be willing, willing to have that time.

Lauren: 

I’ve had some clients, or some students, who are doing some awesome, awesome posts on LinkedIn and they get inquiries from LinkedIn because they’ve been doing it for a while. They’ve been nurturing them, they’ve been putting out content that is applicable. This can include those case studies that you did. You can put together a series of posts that showcase the whole design thinking process. So that’s an absolutely valid point to put out. Don’t just put out a nice design, though. You want to show the process behind it so that people see okay, so they’re. They really understand that they are a partner in my business when I hire them. It’s a great plus.

Lauren: 

You can also put out a little bit of tips related to things that they would care about. Don’t put out tips about, oh, the latest font trends. Clients could care less about that. If let’s take the example of book cover designer for self-help authors, you could put out some cool industry statistics about the best trending book cover designs, what’s getting the most. Maybe there’s been some author that has done a whole rework of their past books and they have done some cool new cover designs. Showcase those. Showcase what the statistics were. Did they go up? Did they go down? These kind of aspects that are around what you do help to elevate your knowledge and their eyes about how you understand the industry. You’re up on the trends, you know what’s working. You know why it’s working. You know what’s not working.

Lauren: 

Those kinds of things can be extremely valuable. You don’t have to be posting all the time. It can be once a week. It can you get on a schedule that is specific to you. The more you’re going to do it. At the beginning, though, just realize it will help to train the algorithm in knowing who you should be shown to, what you should be shown to. You can also start your own podcast. You can start your own blog and be sharing that content as well.

Lauren: 

Another really great thing that takes a lot of time but it can be very valuable if you do it right is building up an email list. Maybe you share let’s just take this example again of the book cover designer share five tips to how five, five tips to make a really attractive cover design, and that’s a some guide that they can download and then they’re on their email list. So every week you can send them tips, or every month you can send them tips to keep you top of mind and then maybe at the end of three months you can send them tips. Or every month you can send them tips to keep you top of mind and then maybe at the end of three months you can offer them a free book review in terms of reviewing their book cover or reviewing something in their business or their branding or their their marketing something that would help them and it’s a free analysis on your part and it could lead to them hiring you down the line.

Lauren: 

So there’s a lot of different aspects of your self-marketing and I have done many other episodes about this topic. You go to episode 24, there’s 15 ways to get your first graphic design client, but that doesn’t just include the first. It’s just a ton of tips that you can take a look at. So I would highly recommend that you go and listen to that and if you want to get some more ways to get clients, but if you have those points in place that understanding the clients, you have your messaging, you have that strong case study to back you up that portfolio and then you’re going out and you are communicating your value through social media posts and blog posts and podcasts you’re well, well on your way to standing out. The thing is, the persistence aspect here is so important and the trying different aspects and then once you do get the clients in and you do get those inquiries.

Lauren: 

The last tip I want to leave you with is it is so important that you go above and beyond for every client experience. Leave them with more than they expected. Be there in a complete making their client experience so memorable that they’re going to recommend you to others and they’re going to come back. It’s it’s something like where here’s some examples let’s say you’re hired to do some really cool motion graphic design and you also have maybe some graphic design skills. So in addition to delivering the motion, the animation, the video, you also give them a cool thumbnail that they can use and to have on their social media or some little additional marketing design that doesn’t take you long and it’s going to be above and beyond their expectations, which is really helpful. Another way is always cushion your deadlines a little bit, so add another week or two onto those and then deliver early and they’re going to feel like you care and you went beyond to get them their designs and their products earlier. Then that’s going to lead to more clients down the road. This is something that I did a lot at the beginning. I just went over over, over delivered and it helped to have long-term, eight-year-long clients now that are still coming back and have been willing to increase prices as I grew.

Lauren: 

Okay, so I give you a lot of different points. I’m just going to recap. Number one understand your client’s needs. Really, really really do that research. Number two showcase your value. What is your messaging? Make sure it aligns to that research that you did in point number one. Number three build up a really strong portfolio with case studies that, even if it’s just passion projects, show how you can help them with their process, your process, your problem solving skills and what that you really understand what their goals are. Number four is make sure you have the right outlets, your marketing. You have your marketing channels. You are going to where they are, you’re not shooting in the dark and you test different ways and persist along them. And number five is make sure that those client experiences are magically beautiful and very, very, very exceptional, that they leave happy and will be coming back for more.

Lauren: 

Thank you so much for listening today.

Lauren: 

I would love to hear if you have any other questions.

Lauren: 

Always feel free to write me and I look forward to hear.

Lauren: 

If you have any other questions, always feel free to write me, and I look forward to more podcasts with you.

Lauren: 

Have a really great rest of your day and I’ll talk to you later. 

How to stand out especially when you're just starting out.

As a designer, you’ve likely faced the challenge of making yourself stand out in a crowded market, especially if you’re just starting out. In our latest podcast episode, we delve into effective strategies for managing these tough conversations:

Understanding Client Needs: Approach objections with empathy and understanding. Truly get to know your client’s business goals and marketing struggles to tailor your services effectively.

Defining Your Unique Value: Be honest about your experience, offer a discounted rate if necessary, and showcase your transferable skills. Craft a compelling value proposition that communicates why clients should choose you.

Building a Strong Portfolio: Maintain professionalism, explain the value of your services, and explore flexible payment options. Create sample projects that demonstrate your design thinking and problem-solving abilities.

Choosing the Right Marketing Channels: Create urgency with timelines for proposals to encourage prompt decisions. Focus on the marketing channels where your potential clients are most active, such as LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, or podcasts.

Exceeding Client Expectations: Role-play sales calls to build confidence and handle objections effectively. Go above and beyond to deliver exceptional results, creating memorable client experiences that lead to repeat business and referrals.

Dealing with client objections is a natural part of the sales process. By approaching these conversations with empathy, effective communication, and a problem-solving mindset, you can transform objections into successful outcomes. Remember, every objection is an opportunity to strengthen your client relationships and demonstrate your value as a designer.

For more in-depth strategies and practical tips on managing client objections, be sure to listen to the latest episode of Earning by Design, where I share valuable insights that can help you turn objections into opportunities and close deals with confidence.

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