Episode #13: Ten Ways You Can Get Graphic Design Clients

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Today, I’m going to be talking to you about 10 different ways that you can get clients. And I’m going to walk you through real actionable strategies that I have used and I’ve seen work. Because that’s what it’s all about.

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I’m in the trenches. I’m in the process of working with clients every day, and I know what it takes to get them. So what I want to walk you through is going to be kind of story-like almost, but we’re going to hit each point from the very first things you should be doing to more advanced.

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And when I say the first things, you might be like, oh, I’ve heard that before. Oh, I don’t want to try that. But I want you to really realize every single one of these strategies takes doing things you might not like.

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Some of them you might prefer. Some of them might not. But they all take things that are a little uncomfortable.

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That’s what work is about, right? You have to do things in order to get things in exchange. If everything was easy, if everyone was, every type of thing was just like taking a walk or doing something you enjoy all the time, everyone would be doing it successfully and there wouldn’t be any struggle with it. So that’s why it’s something you have to acknowledge at first, that it’s okay to feel uncomfortable about these things.

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It’s okay to not be super excited and jumping up and down about all these different strategies or the concepts and the fears of doing them. And that’s okay. I was very uncomfortable, but I did it anyway.

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And I knew I had to do these things in order to get where I wanted. And that’s something that you just can’t stress enough. I really can’t stress enough.

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So with that, we’re going to get into the first one. And this is about looking around in your network, on your immediate friends and family, and seeing who they know. Now, this is obviously the low-hanging fruit.

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This is the thing that is pretty obvious. However, I don’t think it’s utilized enough. And that’s where something that was where I got my very first client.

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It was somebody who a friend, a good family friend, knew someone who had a designer, but what their designer was going to go work in-house somewhere. And they needed someone to replace them. So it was great.

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I didn’t actually really know that person that I started to work with originally. It was all through channels of someone else. And what you would do in this case is make a list of everyone you know, see if either they have their own business, or they might know someone in their network that would have their own business.

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They might be part of networking groups themselves, or your mom might have a friend who’s starting a business. There’s a lot of opportunity that is untapped in this way. And if you don’t want to be posting on social media with your personal Facebook or Instagram, I totally get it.

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That’s not how I got this client. It was all through conversations on the phone, in person, in emails, back and forth, one-on-one conversations. So you don’t have to broadcast it and say, Hey, I’m a designer.

Who wants work? And normally when you do those kind of posts, it’s kind of like crickets afterwards. And it can be uncomfortable. And people then feel like you’re trying to sell on your personal accounts.

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I don’t like that. And I don’t want to put you in that position either. So what I would just say is really make a list.

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Go through and really think in detail. Who do you know? This could also be going back to past teachers, maybe some design teachers you’ve had in the past and letting them know you’re going freelance or you’re looking, you maybe are transitioning into the freelance world. Or if you already are freelance and you’re just looking to get more clients, just let them know, say hello, let them know what you’re doing.

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Maybe you have a new specialty or you just want to say hi. They might know people because they have a lot of connections, usually of people who are designers, maybe who have started their own agencies and such. You don’t know what’s out there.

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Tap into that network. Just don’t be backed off. If you don’t want to broadcast it, like I said, don’t do that.

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But make a list of everybody you know and all possibilities and then start having those one-on-one conversations. It’s a great way to start to get, even if it’s just lower paying jobs. I don’t want you working with lower paying jobs, but sometimes you just need that first client to validate that you can get paid for your services on your own.

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And that’s what happened to me. I was so flustered when she asked how much I was going to charge. I spent a week thinking about it and I finally got back to her and it was all hourly.

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She wanted to do hourly, which ended up being obviously ridiculous, but I could have charged more. But that was on what she wanted. And it was almost like she hired me on a contract basis for retainer for several months.

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So with that said, it was a great first opportunity and I’m very happy I did it. It got me a lot of experience freelancing. So moving on to the next point.

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Now, this is an interesting one, which I didn’t even realize I got into it. It kind of fell into by chance. And there had been somebody that the same family friend had referred me to.

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And from that, she then was working with a web design agency. And that web agency saw my work and they were like, hey, we’re actually looking for a designer to outsource projects to. And we would love to give you a bunch every month.

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So that was really cool. But you could also yourself be more proactive and not just wait for that opportunity to fall in your lap. You could go and just Google web design agencies or any type of agency that is marketing related or design related.

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They sometimes will have two different things that could happen. Number one is that they could have a ton of projects coming in and they need someone to outsource some too because they have too much going on and their in-house team can’t handle it. Or they get a client who cannot pay the prices of the in-house team, of the in-house agency or the agency itself.

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Because agencies, they have more employees to handle. They have overhead of the paying the rent and all the different expenses that go with running an agency. So they’re much more known to be higher price than just working with a one-on-one freelance designer who’s usually doing it from their home.

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Obviously, you can’t undercut yourself and be charging nothing, but the prices are always going to be lower with a freelancer versus an agency. So when an agency can’t, they want to have someone to refer those clients who are not, they can’t meet the budgets of the agency. They want to have a network that they can refer to good designers that are reliable, but are more within the client’s budget.

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So if you get yourself into that network list, then you could be, that could be a feeder for you. It could be a great source of some clients coming in until you get your own business clients themselves. And those clients can obviously refer to others and can come back to you.

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So that’s something that I highly recommend doing when you’re starting. And there are so many agencies out there and find ones that fit your style so that it would be something that you know they’d be more likely to hire you. If it’s some agency that does some really specific style that’s maybe more grungy and stylized and your work is completely, totally disrelated to that, most likely they’re not going to use you.

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So be practical, look at their work online and know that you can do that kind of work before you reach out to them. The next one is doing something within communities. Now, when I look back to those early days, I had this intense desire to get clients.

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I was gonna do anything I possibly could to get them. And that was speaking to that initial fear went away because I had this excitement that this was my business and I was proud of it. And I knew that I could do projects.

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I had gotten that confidence from working with the first few clients. I knew that I was able to get a job from beginning to end. So what was really cool is I started going into online communities.

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Now, Facebook groups are kind of hit and miss these days. Back when I was doing this, there was a lot less saturation, though it was still saturated, but I could go into specific groups, specific communities. And I started really broad with just even searching on Facebook for how to get looking for a graphic designer.

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And I found one of my best clients that way. They had just posted in a public graphic design group looking for a designer. And I reached out, I commented on the post and said, hey, I’m a designer.

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I would love to find out more about what your project is. I did a little research about what they were talking about. And I made it really personalized comment.

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They were interested. We got in a call. That client turned into a big client who ended up then working in-house at this huge company later on that I ended up being a designer for because I had done that one comment on a Facebook post a long time ago.

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So you never know where these will lead down the road, which is the beauty of what we do, but it’s something that you could think about. You could also go into online specific niches, communities. And you know, I talk a lot about figuring out who your target audience is.

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Well, this makes this easier because otherwise you go into small business communities. If you search in the keywords for logo designer or packaging designer, you’re gonna find a lot of people have already commented on that. So either you’re gonna be on Facebook all the time.

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And I was on Facebook a lot in these groups, almost about, I would say a few hours every day, just scouring them, looking for people, asking for designers. And I would be the first to comment. I would link my Facebook page for my design business and they’d be able to see what it was.

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And they would, most of the time, then we would set up a call, which was great. Actually, back in that time, I didn’t even do a lot of calls. It was a few times that I did calls.

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We would have back and forth emails. I was charging a few hundred dollars for projects. So it wasn’t like they were doing a huge risk investment.

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And that’s when they wanna talk to you if they’re gonna be charging, if you’re gonna be charging thousands of dollars. So that’s later on when I got into that. But at the stage of when you’re reaching out and you’re looking on these Facebook groups, go into ones that are in a specific niche.

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You’re gonna feel so much better as opposed to going in these huge small business communities. Because there are thousands of designers in there too that are all trying to get that one person who needs a logo. It’s just not worth it.

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It’s like you’re trying to be found a needle in a haystack. So if you can narrow it down even a little bit, maybe consumer packaged good communities, e-commerce communities, people for something maybe medical field related, or you’re in the hospitality, food and beverage. There are specific communities.

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Now, I just wanna warn you though on this point, when you’re looking in these Facebook groups, realize some of them are going to be the consumers themselves. Now, what I mean by that is, let’s say you go into a enthusiast group for food and beverage. This might not be the food and beverage business owners themselves.

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It might be the people who love food and beverage and they’re sharing their favorite food restaurants or their online food or different drinks. So you have to just realize, you have to search for the ones that are actually the business owner groups. I’ve seen this also in the therapist communities where I’ve had students who go and they go into therapist communities and it’s only the people who need therapy.

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Like they’re talking about their own depression problems and anxiety, and obviously they’re not gonna be the ones hiring you. So you gotta be smart about which ones you choose and have the thought process of, okay, well, what would my ideal clients be looking for in here? Looking in the way that you can kind of search that is you can even search on Google for best marketing online communities for therapists as an example. So then that will pull up some of the top ones.

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You can even look for industry leaders that might have communities. You can search on ChatGPT, the same kind of wording. Sometimes if it’s not ChatGPT4, it’s not gonna be up to date.

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So Google’s a great option in itself. It is a search engine. So that’s what I would say.

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The really cool thing also is if you are niched down and you’ve done all your specific messaging, you’re targeting a specific audience and you go into one of these very highly specialized communities, sometimes if you’re one of your clients, once you start working with them in that community, in that niche, some of your clients will be in that community too. And then when someone’s looking for a logo designer, that person could recommend you. And that’s one of the best ways to get found is when somebody else recommends you.

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And that’s what started to happen to me. There was somebody, I was getting like somebody would post, I need a package designer. And then I would have one person tag me and then another person tag me.

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And I had three comments on one post of people tagging me. And then anybody else who comes in and says, hey, I can also help. They’re gonna be not as trusted as somebody who’s already been referred by different people.

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So that’s a cool thing about staying in those niches is that you become more and more known. You become a little bit famous. It’s like you’re the big fish in the small pond, which is a beautiful thing.

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And that gets a lot of clients. And that’s how I got a lot of clients coming in. So I really recommend not just because it’s Facebook spammy.

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People think of Facebook groups now sometimes as being spammy. I would not negate this as an actual way to get clients, no matter what, because it was a really great source for me. And I really highly recommend it.

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Another way to get clients is if you know somebody who is already inside of a specific niche or community, it can be incredibly valuable. So this is not something I talk about a lot, but there was a specific friend of mine who had been a childhood friend and I did her design for her logo. I did it for free.

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I did her packaging for free. I did a lot of work. I went to the print shop with her.

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I was giving over, over abundance of help. Now I did regret not having actually charged her because later on she tried, she kind of misutilized our friendship and we haven’t really been in touch. So I do think that it can be overstepping some points, but the good side of it is she knew somebody else who was inside of this niche that I was trying to get into more and more, which I’d chosen.

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And she referred me to one client who was kind of at the beginning stages of his business. I think he’d been in for about a year or two and he had a lot of things going on, a lot of misorganization. So I went in there and I helped him, not just with design, but I was over delivering beyond anything possible.

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And I was not charging as much as I should have, of course, but that same client I still have seven years later. And this person has become extraordinarily successful in his industry. And he has been able to expand and I don’t even know how much he’s making, but it’s a lot.

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And so what was the great thing is that his business, he stuck with me even though my prices increased. So I did his branding, I did his packaging, and I’ve also done a lot of his designs, other things such as surface pattern design and such. And he has stuck with me the whole time, even though prices have gone up.

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He has in-house designers he works with, but still he uses me as well because he knows that I am very reliable, I can get the job done and I’m in that specific industry. So it was a great thing in the end. That person back in that long time ago, he also referred me to another person who was in the Amazon world and who was gonna be starting a whole other brand or actually no, he already had a brand and he was doing a rebrand.

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So he was already successfully selling, but he needed a rebrand. So I went in there and helped rebrand everything. And that person went on to not only have a successful business, but he started to work with an Amazon consultancy where because he knew Amazon so well, he was giving advice.

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And that person then in that consultancy, they referred some big player clients to me, which has been amazing. So that is the power of finding one person in an ish community and doing really great service and you’re going to continue to get referred. And possibly they will stick with you if their business grows and grows and grows.

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So I can’t underestimate or under, again, I’m trying to think of the right word. I can’t negate the power of doing, finding someone, even if you do lower paying project, I just don’t like even recommending that anymore because there’s something that I was just talking about with my students yesterday was on the coaching call, we were talking about just how when you do one low paying project, it kind of sets the bar for what the rest of the world thinks because the more we put out there that we’re lower priced, that we should charge low prices, we should only be charging no more than $100 for project. That is this mentality that then more business owners start to have.

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And we have to change that perception ourselves. So I think just like most lawyers or accountants or doctors, they’re not going to be doing free work, even on that first client they get. So ourselves, we should also not be doing this free work.

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We should price it. We know our value. We know we’re there to help that business do better.

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So please try not to do my mistakes. And even if maybe you just push it a little bit higher than you think that you should, because that uncomfortability is beautiful. It’s an amazing thing.

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So I don’t like the advice to just do a bunch of free work all over, unless you’re doing passion projects for yourself that are to build up your portfolio, which aren’t really free work because you’re not working with the client. Okay, so I had to do that little tangent about the pricing there. The next thing I wanted to say, which is a very, very powerful way and something that I think is so underutilized, is getting with leaders of communities and those that have big followings and do workshops for those communities and get in front of them and show some incredible value.

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An example of this for me is that there was this Facebook group that was started by some Amazon people who were helping others to be able to be successful in Amazon. And I went in there and I spoke to them and I said, hey, could I post my blog posts here? And they said, yeah, please do. They then saw what I was talking about and it was all geared towards my ideal clients, this blog post that I had done that I had shared there.

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So it got attention on that and there was people who commented on it and were interested in it. Then what happened as a result of that is that this guru person, he said, oh, you know about this subject from a totally different angle than we know. We talk about all of the technicalities and how to get your product sourced and how to get started in ranking on Amazon, but we don’t talk about the branding side.

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So can you do a module for our course? And I was so excited. So yeah, of course I did that. So that led me to be in front of everyone who went through their course and was starting an Amazon business and it got people into my world and got me having clients from that.

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So the power of getting with those leaders of communities, I know it might be hard to reach them, but try LinkedIn, try email, try Instagram, try Facebook Messenger, every way, just hit them up from different points and don’t go in there and just be annoying, but say, you know, I saw your incredible community that you’ve built and what you’re doing for them. I would love to add to that, add some value here and do a free workshop to show them the importance of branding or show them the importance of having a strong website or a packaging or great presentation or illustrations, whatever specific skill you have. So that’s why you have to think with this point as being effective, because imagine then you do this great free workshop for all of their community and some of them go to your website and then when they need a designer, it might not happen right away, but when they need a designer, they think of you.

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So don’t underestimate that point of going and getting with those leaders of communities. Then something that kind of tags along with this, another really, really powerful way is doing guest social media posts or blog posts. So they, let’s say this person has a huge following and you go and you do this really cool social post about how doing branding can increase their sales in their business and maybe show a case study or show an example of a big company that’s happened, not necessarily a client of yours, but just showing the importance of it and giving them that understanding and then it would tag you.

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They would say, oh, wow, this is cool. I wanna know more about this content. And then you have this cool Instagram page, let’s say, or LinkedIn profile or something and they see all the value you’re providing and what you do and how you help and examples of what you’ve done and testimonials there.

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I’m obviously assuming that everything’s optimized when you’re doing this, but that gets them into your world, gets a lot of eyes on who you are. And even if they don’t hire you there, but they start to follow you and you keep nurturing them with content, that is going to be a very, very effective way to get them in eventually hiring you. Because sometimes it takes time.

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Remember, if you listened to last week’s episode, I talked a lot about the importance of building relationships in today’s world. We can’t just assume that just because somebody sees our website or they see us talking about what we do, that they’re gonna hire us right away. It’s a process.

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And the beginning of that process is making people even know about you. So if somebody took the care and the time to actually have you on their social posts on their blog, you did a guest blog post, people who are following that person will have the trust in that person already. And they’ll know that this, that that person wouldn’t have just put you out there if they didn’t trust you.

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So it’s a really great way to get kind of, you cut a bunch of steps that would take more time yourself building up that relationship. Though that’s important for you to do it too. I’m just bombarding you with different ways to get clients right now, obviously.

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So this is one way that is super, it can be super effective. Okay, another way that is incredible is having a free guide about something that’s applicable to your ideal clients so that they get on your email list and then you continue to give them great value, maybe through blog posts, through podcasts, through YouTube videos, whatever you decide to do. Now, what that could be as an example for myself is I did a free guide on how to create a converting listing through design.

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So then I showed them the process of how to do it and what they should think within the images, how they should place them, what they should talk about, the right way to do it, the wrong way to do it. And people were loving this. I was getting a lot of people downloading this guide and I don’t really focus on Amazon listings anymore.

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So I stopped doing that specific one. But as a result of that, I would send them then a series of emails, just giving them more value and talking about the importance of design and how it relates. And then that final, about fifth email, they would get a request to send me their listing so that I could do a free video, five-minute video, just doing a whole analysis on what’s right and what’s wrong about it.

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And that got me clients. That got me people realizing, oh, I can’t do this myself. I better get on a real call with them.

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And it was incredible to see that people actually converted after that. So it’s another way to build up that trust. Think about what your ideal clients are having trouble with.

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Think about their goals. Think about what is stopping them from getting those goals that you can help them with. Is that getting in front of their consumers, getting more loyalty, getting more clients, getting more sales? What are you helping them? And then create something around that that has a really impressive, catchy title.

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And share it. Share it in LinkedIn. Share it in these communities.

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Share it on your Instagram. Talk about it a lot. And it will get people into your world.

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And just keep nurturing them with content that shows what you do. All right. So that is kind of in tandem with the next one, which is creating your own blog content.

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And that’s something that you have to decide. You can’t just be thinking that if you just show up places and you’re outreaching and sending emails to people that that’s the only way you’re going to get attention. You have to create your own content yourself.

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That could be doing blogs that talk about how maybe criticizing designs that are why they’re not working, showing the importance of why you have to understand what type to use in your logo. Whatever it is for your specific ideal clients, you’ve got to create this unique content yourself. And another way you could do this is by doing behind the scenes of yourself designing.

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Show that thinking process. I have been doing YouTube videos, as you know, probably. And I didn’t intend to get clients for design out of that at all.

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I had no concept. But because I had people search for package design or logo design, and sometimes my videos come up and I’ve gotten now two big clients from showing my own design process and the thinking behind it. Because real clients that are going to be great and are willing to invest, they want to know that they’re not hiring somebody who’s just going to take orders.

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They want someone who will actively participate in the design process with them and will give suggestions and come up with ideas based on what that client’s goals are. So if you’re showing that in a YouTube video, in a TikTok video, in an Instagram reel, on a video on your website, or some form of maybe even just visually showing it in a carousel if you don’t want to do video, it’s a really important way. And I never used that before until I started For The Creatives and I was surprised about getting clients that way.

(29:58 – 30:21)
So I want to make sure you know that that is not off the table. Showing your own unique style is an incredible, powerful point. And then the last one I’m going to talk about, which is, I think I’ve even gone over 10, I’m going to have to go back and count these, but using similar businesses as your own and referring to them and them referring to you.

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Now I call these complimentary businesses. What I mean by that is somebody who is not a designer, but they work with clients who would need designers. So that could be photographers, people who do marketing like ads and websites, web designers or web developers.

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It could be somebody who is just in a related field or in the same kind of field, but not what you do. So they’re not competitors. And I’ve gotten some great clients this way by working with photographers.

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I refer them to her, she refers them to me. And it’s a great collaboration. Also doing it with people who are in web design or web development.

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If you’re not a web developer and maybe they need a designer to design those websites, it can be a great mutual collaboration. That doesn’t mean you need to be in some joint venture or have some legal aspect to the relationship. You should have a contract between the two of you if you’re going to be doing that.

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But I prefer that it’s just done like a referral basis. So I say, this is this person’s photographer. This is the photographer.

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You work with the client directly. Because if you’re gonna have it go via you, it’s gonna add a lot of time and pressure on you that you don’t want. The whole point of this relationship is not to have it as like a white label where you’re having them under you.

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It’s that it’s a referral and they’re going to agree to refer people to you. This can work also really great with coaches or consultants in specific industries because they will see and recommend to their clients, oh, you need some design work here. If you wanna be successful, you have to have some design work.

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And then they refer to you. So it can be a really great symbiotic relationship. I’ve gotten many, many clients this way that are already, they’re high paying because they’re already investing in the other person’s service.

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So they are, you know that they’re already willing to invest which is a great qualifier. All right, so there you have it. I’ve just inundated you with ways to you can get clients.

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I’m just gonna recap really fast. So this is getting immediate friends and family, looking at the network that is there, doing really good service in those and getting referral within communities, having intense search and outreach in Facebook groups and then getting referred inside of those Facebook groups, getting with leaders of communities and doing workshops for those communities or doing some sort of a module if they have courses on the subject that you’re expertise at, doing guest social posts or guest blog posts, having a free guide about something that’s applicable to your ideal clients and then nurturing them through an email sequence and having a call to action for you to do a free analysis to then get them on a call with you, creating your own blog content, creating your own behind the scenes content, showing your thinking process and using complimentary businesses. So there is other ways to get clients as well, such as reaching out through Instagram, reaching out on emails, which can be super effective, LinkedIn, nurturing all that way, going on podcasts of other people but I didn’t wanna overwhelm you with too many, I’ve already inundated with you with tons but I hope that you take some of these ways and really go out and use them.

(33:49 – 34:29)
Remember what I said at the beginning of this episode, it’s okay if you’re uncomfortable, it’s okay if you don’t wanna do these, do it anyway. Think about what you’re going to gain when you have consistent clients coming in, when you have enough people, when you’re not struggling with, where’s my next client gonna come from? It takes work, business takes a lot of work, there’s no way around it. So we have to embrace that knowledge that it is going to get easier but right now, if you’re in that stage where you haven’t gotten that consistency yet, take that to heart that you can get to that consistency level, you just have to embrace what you have to do and love it anyway.

(34:30 – 34:52)
Thank you so much for being here and tuning in, I really appreciate you and I would love it if you would put a review or rating on your favorite podcast platform. It really does make, it helps me to know what you like and also just to know that you’re out there. I’ve gotten some beautiful reviews, I so appreciate every single one of them.

(34:52 – 35:16)
You are each why I do this, so thank you for being here, thank you for supporting me and have a really great rest of your day. I wish you nothing but success and I would love to know when you try some of these tactics out, what happens? Let me know, I love that stuff, I love it when people write to me and say, hey, I tried what you taught and I got now a bunch of clients this way. That is one of the things that drives me.

(35:17 – 35:29)
So thank you, thank you and I hope to hear from you soon. Keep creating. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Earning by Design.

(35:29 – 35:59)
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.

(35:59 – 36:22)
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.

(36:22 – 36:25)
I’ll be here to guide and inspire you every step of the way.

Listen to this podcast episode on…

Ten different ways to get clients

Let’s go through 10 different ways YOU can get clients into your design business. Some are easier than others, but it is important to be doing many different actions until you get consistency into your business.

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Additional notes and links mentioned in this episode

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