Episode 12: How to Attract Graphic Design Clients

We are spoiled as consumers. We are completely spoiled about getting free content. Look at the amount of YouTube videos out there giving amazing value and free content on every single subject by most brands.

Look at on Instagram, on LinkedIn, on podcasts. There is stuff all over the internet on pretty much any topic you could possibly wanna know about. And as a result, consumers expect brands to be putting things out and not just putting out promotions and, hey, I’m a designer, please hire me now.

It takes time, it’s a process. Welcome to Earning by Design, a podcast dedicated to guiding graphic designers and creative freelancers towards building successful businesses from their passions. I’m your host, Lauren Gonzalez, with over 14 years in the design industry, including both in-house corporate and freelance design roles.

I’m here to share insights and strategies to help you thrive in your design business. My journey was not without its challenges, including finding well-paying clients and struggling and managing an overwhelming workload for minimal return. But through perseverance and strategic planning, I was able to transform those obstacles into a six-figure design business that allows me to work from home, set my own hours, and select projects that truly resonate with me.

So whether you’re embarking on your design career or you’re already an experienced designer, Earning by Design is your companion to help you stay competitive in the fast-paced world of graphic design. ♪♪♪ Hello to you, listeners. Thank you so much for tuning in for another episode of Earning by Design.

This episode is going to be about how to attract the right clients, how to make yourself attractive as a designer to the clients, and get them into your world and interested in you. And I just want to thank you, everyone, who is tuning in. I know there’s a lot of design podcasts to choose from, and I really appreciate that you are here listening to me.

And I really feel privileged to be able to give you my knowledge of what I’ve learned because it’s just better to hear it and not make the same mistakes and not be in the rut that I was at the beginning, where I wasn’t even seeking knowledge. I didn’t even know there was knowledge out there that others were sharing that had gone before me, and it took a while. So thank you for being here today.

I’m excited to talk about this. And the main thing that I want you to be thinking about is we’re going to be doing some storytelling a bit, and I’m going to take you through the process of what it is like as a client, as a consumer, on the other side of the coin. Basically, what it is like to go through the journey of deciding to hire someone or deciding to buy something, because in all respects, they are the marketing cycle.

And what the marketing cycle is, I don’t want you to get bored or think that you’re going to get lectured about marketing as a subject and feel like you’re back in business school or something. Marketing is really just about making something appealing to the right audience. It’s making them see the value and how it is meant for them.

So as a consumer, you buy things probably all the time. You go to the grocery store, you see a box of cereal or a box of milk, and there is a whole reason why you chose the one that you chose. There’s other ones on the shelves, but there is a process behind that choice.

And that’s something that is very similar to why clients hire you. So I’m gonna go right into a story about myself and what made me a recent purchase that I did. So I have been planning for a Disneyland trip, and I was watching a lot of content and listening to podcasts around the subject of Disneyland.

And I grew up in LA, so I got to go to Disneyland all the time, but planning as a parent to go to a trip like this, it takes a lot of planning. It takes a lot of thinking, and many things have changed in the parks since I was there. So there are people who are very, very kind enough to put out content on YouTube, on podcasts, and give really, really valuable tips that when I was growing up, I had no access to that.

Maybe there was some blogs online, but that was way before the content marketing world really came around. So I have been listening to specific YouTube channels, I’ve been watching specific YouTube channels and listening to podcasts on this subject. I then saw that they were offering a newsletter which gave even more valuable free content.

And they were telling me things that were solving problems that I had about how do I make the trip more efficient? How do I reach and go to all of the different rides that my kids want to? How do I know what food to eat? How do I know how to avoid lines and use all the different things like Genie Plus and things that they have? Don’t worry, this is not gonna be a whole episode about Disneyland, I promise, but I have a point here and I’m gonna get to that point. So I got a lot of incredible information and it turns out on the newsletter, once in a while, they will offer things to buy such as guides to help make your trip easier or they have a whole agency to help with the planning and to help with buying the tickets and making reservations. So after about a month or so of following this content, I find myself booking a reservation for the future and actually putting down a deposit to go to Disneyland through this specific company that I had been following.

They were giving a lot of free content that was solving problems I had. And I knew and I trusted them and I felt very comfortable giving them my money because I had already been following along with them and they had been solving problem after problem that somehow they knew I had and that was the beauty of what made me gain trust. So I ended up booking with them, as I said, and when I make my final payment, they’re going to be getting that payment.

So they get a percentage of it being a travel agency for Disney. So it’s an amazing, if you just go back through and see the whole process, what were the things that worked, that they did right? They, first of all, were knowing exactly who the target audience that they wanted to reach were. And they talked a lot to the parent in me.

They weren’t talking to my kids. They were not meant for kids. They were not meant for necessarily singles who didn’t have kids yet or people that don’t have kids.

They were talking to me as a parent. So they had an exact target audience already in mind. They talked about things that solved my problems.

They talked about what it’s like to experience with kids, all the different planning aspects, why there’s so much more involved than just going as it used to be, you could just show up the gate. And that was what built up my trust in them specifically. And there’s a lot of other ones out there that are doing similar things, but because I really liked their content, I really liked how they were putting things out and talking about it, that led me to trust to give them my money.

And from that point, now I regularly read their articles. I still am interested in what they have to say because they are genuinely interested to help. And they know when they put out helpful things, people will exchange with them down the road, whether that is today, whether that’s in five years from now, there is a process that comes and sometimes that it’s shorter, sometimes it’s longer.

So how does this have anything to do with you as a designer who has a business and is looking to attract clients? Well, it has a lot to do if you dissect those same points. You have to not just expect when you’re gonna go to a, let’s say you find a business and you go up to them and say, hey, I’m a graphic designer. They could say, okay, that’s great.

I’m glad that you’re a designer, but what does that have to do with me? Whereas if you were to start putting out some sort of content, know where they are online. So if they, let’s just say, let’s take the example of Instagram, which is where everybody wants to be, all designers generally are because it’s a visual platform, makes total sense. But are your ideal clients there? Let’s say you wanna work with businesses that are in the medical profession and you love designing websites for medical businesses.

Are they really on Instagram looking for marketing solutions? Because you’re, what you do as a designer and let’s say a web designer, you’re helping to make people who are their potential clients know about them. So you are essentially part of the marketing cycle as a designer yourself. So they’re gonna be genuinely looking for marketing tips.

They wanna know about how can I make my practice, my medical practice more known? How can I be in front of more clients? How can I get people to trust me more so that they will hire and come into my office? So they’re gonna be where they’re gonna be looking for those. Would they be on Instagram looking for those tips? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe they’re gonna be more in specific platforms like forums, or they’re going to be in networking groups, or they’re gonna be more specific to the medical world, or they’re going to be going to conferences.

And maybe they look on LinkedIn for tips about marketing instead of Instagram, because on Instagram, they’re just there for personal reasons. So you have to see where are people going to be finding out the information? And in order to find out that data, you gotta talk to them. So you can go and have a conversation, let’s say with some medical professional that has their own practice and say, hey, where do you find out about your marketing tips? Where do you learn about how to market your business? They might say, oh, I listened to this podcast, or oh, I read this blog, or I find out about it on LinkedIn.

Great, that data is golden to you. Because if you’re just doing what every other designer is doing and going on Instagram and just starting to post, post, post, post endlessly and hoping that somebody will see it, that’s not going to make the cut because most likely, the people who are seeing those are other designers because designers love to watch other designers design. Of course, we’re visual people.

We admire it. We critique it. We get inspired by it.

So that’s natural. But that’s not necessarily the people who are going to be hiring you. So you gotta first know, where are they? Where are they online? Taking back to this Disneyland example, they know that busy moms are going to generally be listening to podcasts.

I never am able to really sit down and watch a YouTube video. I am always listening. So even when I’m watching a YouTube video, I’m actually listening to it instead.

So they have it on podcast form and video form. They know that it’s not most likely that they’re gonna just sit down and watch that. They also have it on newsletter.

Now, I’m not a usual mother. I’m not on Instagram as a personal account, but I love newsletters because I check my email a few times a day and that’s where I wanna get my content. So they have a newsletter.

They know it’s going to reach their audience where they’re at. So they do it in the right format. So you have to be in the right format.

And then you have to ask yourself, well, what is the real situation and the real problem that these medical professionals, obviously this is an example of who we’re taking as this ideal client, the medical professionals, what do I do as my skill that helps them get closer to their business goals? And what are those business goals? So those are the kind of things you have to know before putting out any content, even a case study. It’s so important to know the target audiences, what their really, really deep problems are. Because if the Disneyland people hadn’t, the travel agents hadn’t known what my problems were and what I was trying to solve, I wouldn’t have listened to them as much.

I wouldn’t have been as interested in what they had to say. So you come in and let’s say you’re this great web designer for medical professionals and you come in and you’re able to help them get in front of more of their ideal customers, their specific patients. So everything that you do, all content is gonna be around how they can get in front of more of who they want to attract.

This kind of content can be in the form of a social media post where you’re talking about the importance of doing the right branding or having the right branding on your website that will attract the right type of clients. The right way of talking about how promotion and marketing assets and having your emails designs all aligned to that branding to keep consistency so that the customers trust you more. There’s a lot of aspects, the colors to use that are going to attract the right person.

Maybe they’re more of a holistic type, a chiropractic. So you wanna look at what colors would appeal to their target audience and talk about that. Talk about these things that they will, of course, they’re not thinking about because they are medical professionals, they’re not designers.

And that’s where your expertise is needed. It’s an important fundamental to their business doing well because every business obviously has a lot of pieces that make it succeed and you’re one of those pieces. And that’s so important.

I like to say it a million times because it is so, so true. People can’t get where they wanna go in this world without designers helping them visually communicate. And there’s a lot of really bad visually communicators in especially in fields that are completely disrelated to the artistic and that’s why they need our help.

So you have to be there showing that you understand them, you put out content for them. Let’s say one medical professional on LinkedIn finds this great post where you’re talking about the importance of the design on the header of their website and what you should put there, what you maybe you give a case study of what you did to help a medical professional go from this really bad website that was just repelling clients to having a really good website that was attracting more clients and got more interest. And they come on and they see this and then they see another post where you’re talking about the importance of email marketing, how designing the emails to look like the websites helps to build trust.

And they see this and then they go to your own website, they see the work that you do, they look at their website, they realize, wow, I really actually need to change some things. They’ve already had some trust in you because you’ve been providing content, not asking for anything in return. You’re not asking for them to hire you directly.

And they see this content, they reach out to you, they get on a call, they’ve already built up that trust. And while that is obviously the perfect cycle of how something would work, sometimes it will take much longer. I’ve had it where I have been putting out content for a long time and it takes over a year for somebody to build up enough trust.

Or they’re just not at the place yet where they’re ready to hire me, and that’s okay. You just have to keep showing up and knowing that what you’re doing is there to help and it will eventually pay itself back. I want you to think back to the last thing that you bought, whether that was a product online or whether that was something that you bought in the store.

Something, why did you buy it? What led up to that purchase? Let’s say that you went into a store and you were maybe just looking around, but it was a store that you had trusted. And you decided then to buy a pillow that you absolutely loved. Okay, so this is obviously not a service, so it’s a little bit different, but what led you to buy that pillow? Maybe you loved it and it was beautiful and it was great.

Or maybe you had been seeing this company, maybe you had gone to the store before and you got on their newsletter and they kept sending you cool tips about how to make your house decorated better or what are the great accent pillows to throw on your couch or something that’s just, it was giving you tips, you felt more connected to the brand and the next time you went in the store, you bought the pillow or you bought a pillow. It’s very, very similar in the way that we have to as businesses nowadays, be very, very focused on the content that we’re putting out. People are unfortunately very, what’s the word I would say, spoiled.

I guess spoiled is the best way to put it. We are spoiled as consumers. We are completely spoiled about getting free content.

Look at the amount of YouTube videos out there giving amazing value and free content on every single subject by most brands. Look at on Instagram, on LinkedIn, on podcasts. There is stuff all over the internet on pretty much any topic you could possibly wanna know about.

And as a result, consumers expect brands to be putting things out and not just putting out promotions and hey, I’m a designer, please hire me now. It takes time, it’s a process. And the way that you can make yourself the most attractive is to really, really know where they are online.

What is the location? They’re not gonna be necessarily looking, remember, for business related things on a personal platform. What is the problem that you help them solve in reaching their business goals? It’s so, so simple to say, but it’s so key. You have to know because that’s going to be the determination whether you’re resonating with them or not, whether your content is going to be seen or not.

And then you got to understand the whole process and be there with your website, having some incredible case studies there. And I wanna put a plug in here. This is something that recently came up with a student of mine.

And she was asking about how do, what if she has never really had any real big results that a client came back and was like, hey, I have, you know, I just, because of your branding, I was able to sell a million dollars worth of product. Now, it takes time. Once you start your business and you do a branding for a project for a client, it could take up to two, three years before they’re gonna have any real great results.

And they’re not always gonna come back and tell you about those results. I like to say to check in with clients every year and just see how they’re doing. It could open the door to having a really great case study in the end, or it could open the door up to more work.

But it’s something, if you are at the beginning and you don’t have any of those awesome testimonials or case studies yet, that’s okay. You got to show it and show up by, in your website, really communicating to their pain points that you understand them and that your design process is tailored to going deeper than just how something looks. And that’s the difference between somebody who really does get it and does know how to grow their business and knows how to resonate with their ideal clients, and somebody who just isn’t so much resonating.

It’s that deeper understanding, knowing the design thinking process of why they chose that color. Why did they chose that typeface over this? How certain are they that this is going to resonate with the client’s target audience over somebody else, some other design? And those things, those little points, and they add up to massive differences, and clients want to know about that. So if you are able to, part of your content should absolutely be talking about case studies.

It should be talking about, even if you have passion projects that you don’t yet have real results with, or they’re just made up from projects off your own, still talk about that design process. Clients appreciate it, and they will appreciate it over somebody who’s just putting out something, hey, look at my pretty design, hire me now. There’s a big difference.

Nowadays, we need to build up trust. Trust is so, so important. You’re not gonna give away your money to someone you don’t trust, and similarly, clients are not going to give money to you when they don’t trust you yet, and they don’t know you.

And it’s up to you to be that person to make it trustworthy. Are you going to be trustworthy, or are you going to just be showing up and saying, hey, hire me, hire me, hire me? Nobody wants to hear that. Do you like getting people coming to your door and knocking on the door and saying, hey, can you buy this from me? Hey, I’m selling this, can you buy this? It just doesn’t happen nowadays.

When anybody knocks on my door to sell something, I’m either expecting it to be a Girl Scout cookies, or it’s someone that I just, it’s like, ah, just don’t do that, because it’s not the way we have evolved as a society. People expect to build relationships with brands before they’re going to hire them. And that’s what you should be doing, but again, don’t be where they’re not going to be.

That’s going to waste your time, and it’s going to be an uphill climb. It’s hard enough having a business as it is, and having to deal with content marketing, which is what we’re talking about here, putting out content to market yourself. It’s hard enough to have that on top of having to do the design projects, on top of having to handle all of your finances and doing contracts and this and that.

It’s a lot to deal with as a business. So you want to make sure that your time is spent efficiently and you’re doing the things that are going to result in results for your business. So content marketing, it might take a little bit longer, but if you show up with that in mind, with building that trust, you are going to be much, much, much better off than if you were just throwing designs out there without any real thinking about who’s going to see them.

So I hope that this episode was helpful for you. I would love to hear in the reviews, if you’re on Apple Podcasts, what you would like to hear more of, and also what you liked and can take away from this episode. So please let me know.

I’m very happy to have you listen, and I want to make this whole business thing simpler and give it a different way of looking at things so that you can be doing the actions that will result in your business growing. Thank you so much for being here. I appreciate you to no end and have a really great rest of your day.

Talk to you later. 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, join my growing community of over 100,000 subscribers on the For the Creatives YouTube channel that has more content, all designed to fuel your creativity and your professional growth. Until next time, keep creating, keep exploring, and continue to push the boundaries of your own creative journey.

I’ll be here to guide and inspire you every step of the way. Thank you.

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The key to truly resonating with and attracting the ideal clients we want lies in a subtle but powerful shift in perspective.

In this episode, we delve deep into the art of making your graphic design business irresistibly appealing to your ideal clients. Often, we find ourselves caught up in viewing our business solely through our lens, focusing on what we want and how we see things. However, the key to truly resonating with and attracting the clients we yearn for lies in a subtle but powerful shift in perspective. It’s about stepping into the shoes of those we aim to serve, understanding their desires, their challenges, and what draws them to a business like ours.

Join me as we explore how to transform your business into a magnet for your ideal clients, ensuring that every aspect of what you offer speaks directly to their needs and aspirations.

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Also, if you haven’t yet, make sure to follow the podcast. I’m adding several bonus episodes, and you might miss them if you’re not following. Follow now to stay updated!

Additional notes and links mentioned in this episode

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How to Learn
Graphic Design

Overcome the anxieties faced by beginners and confidently
steer clear of the 5 most common mistakes that often trip up new designers.



How to Learn
Graphic Design

Overcome the anxieties faced by beginners and confidently
steer clear of the 5 most common mistakes that often trip up new designers.



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