How to get web design clients—fast

/ 14 min read
Rebecca Noori

Selling a service online can be tough, especially within a creative field like web design. With 10k web designers listed on PeoplePerHour, and 242k+ website designers for hire on, the to say it’s competitive would be an understatement.

As a result, web designers are constantly dropping their rates to achingly low levels to win work on these saturated platforms. It's a race to the bottom.

But it doesn’t have to be all bad news. In this post, we’ll help you learn how to attract higher quality clients. The types of clients who pay what you're worth, pay you on time and aren’t waving a sea of red flags in your direction.

Whether you want to learn how to get your first web design client, your first ten clients, or your next big customer, this post can help you get started.

12 tips for finding high-quality web design clients

You'll need to be proactive in your quest to get web design clients, especially if you’re early career. Leads don’t always come a-knockin, even if your work is top notch. It’s not a sign that you’re doing something wrong: it’s just the way of the business.

1. Reach out to your existing network

Everyone has a network of potential clients, even if you've never labelled it as such.

Nick Cadina, Lead UX Designer at promises that “you don’t need to win awards or even have an epic portfolio” to get great clients. According to him, you just need to be willing to reach out to the following groups and tell them you’re open for business:

  • Past & present colleagues: Keep in touch with past colleagues and clients, even if it’s only a brief LinkedIn message or coffee date every few months. They’ll remember a pleasant encounter along with your excellent work, making it easy for them to recommend you to a new client.
  • Your friend group: Next time you’re having a drink with friends, mention your search for new clients. Their personal connection to you will encourage them to share any opportunities they hear of.
  • Your local environment: Do you have a favorite pizza bar but notice their website is terrible? Prepare a brief, solution, and presentation, and showcase it to them! Even if it misses, you never know who the owners know!

Remember to stay strong and confident. If you keep your head up while doing what you love, people are bound to notice you sooner or later.

2. Get active on social media

55% of consumers learn about new brands on social platforms, so you could be missing a trick if you're not actively building a social media presence. A few well-curated posts are enough to start the ball rolling.

But remember, you're not trying to close every sale in every social media post. The aim is to use the platform to attract clients by creating a visually stunning online portfolio that showcases your skills, style, expertise, and brand personality.

Here's what you can do on specific platforms to attract clients:

  • Facebook: This platform can put your web design business in front of 2 billion global users. Create a professional-looking Facebook Business page filled with examples of your work, and encourage them to like and share it with their network. Remember to fill out your profile with a cover photo, profile photo, your business hours, and design project images. You can also set up a custom URL to improve brand recognition.
  • Instagram: This visual platform allows you to create a quasi-portfolio of your previous work, share your personality (how about some original memes using your illustrations?), and expand its reach through a targeted hashtag strategy. Remember to include a link back to your website in the bio section, as you're not allowed to place URLs in individual posts.
  • LinkedIn: This tool allows companies to find talent for their work and to actively prospect new clients. As it runs based on keyword logic you can ptimise your headline (up to 220 characters including spaces) so it's eye-catching and describes exactly what you do. For example, Sarah Worboyes calls herself a "WordPress Website Designer | Sales Page Designer | Dubsado Specialist" to highlight her specific skill set, whereas Heather Hulbert uses the space to emphasise that she won "Website Designer of the Year 22."
  • Pinterest: This visual search engine is ideal for creators of beautiful content. Your focus will be on creating different boards based on themes, like font design, logo design, wedding websites, etc. Experiment with pin creation, including story pins that will stay at the top of your creator page and bring in a bucketload of impressions.

Constant engagement is the key to success, regardless of which platforms you choose. The rule of thumb is to post regularly (at least 3-4 times a week) and engage with the people who comment on or share your content.

Important: Sharpen your personal brand on social media with this guide on how to create visually compelling posts fast.

3. Attend virtual or in-person networking events

Networking is an easy way for freelance web designers to get in touch with their target audience and build one-on-one relationships. By meeting and chatting in person, potential clients stop thinking of you as one of the many freelancers online and begin trusting as an individual.

Most local meetup events entirely free to attend. Target meetup events where your ideal audience is likely to be present. For example, if your target audience is small tech startups, then make sure you join Meetup groups like the New York Entrepreneurs & Startup Network and become a familiar face at their events.

If meeting in person isn’t feasible, you can always network online. Seek out virtual networking events like Evolution, Network After Work, or The Female Business Collective to meet like-minded people from the comfort of home.

Want to take your networking up a notch? Show off your skills and establish yourself as an industry expert by engaging in public speaking opportunities at these online or in-person networking events.

4. Join freelance communities

The internet has opened up a world of opportunities for freelance web designers. To find your community, look up relevant Facebook groups, Slack groups, and Reddit communities related to web design where you can post your portfolio and connect with potential clients.

You can also join membership communities like Freelance Founders to access resources, connect with peers, and network with potential clients.

5. Create killer content (and offer it for free)

You may not realise it, but as a web designer, you have technical skills and insights that others would pay good money to learn. While designing a business card might be child's play for you, there are 1600 people searching for this query every month. They could your insight.

Writing blog posts is a great way to capture web design leads in the long run, but you can attract clients faster by creating special content and promoting it through your social networks. Consider these killer content ideas:

  • **eBook:** create a free download that acts as a lead magnet for your business. It could cover anything from logo design and typography to colour theory and responsive design.
  • **Podcast:** record a series of interviews with industry experts and offer it to your target market as an appetiser.
  • **Infographic:** use visual content to break down a common process into manageable steps.
  • **Blog posts:** the beauty of creating a blog is having an online address where all your content lives in perpetuity. Potential clients can find your work, writing, and contact information all from one place. Get started by collecting keywords with SE Ranking to use in your content, which is crucial in ranking higher on Google.
  • **Guest posts:** few web designers have sizable blog audiences when they're starting out. Get started by posting guest blog content about web design on established blogs. For example, Zapier attracts over 2 million monthly page views and publishes articles on topics related to landing pages, Canva design, design templates, and many other small business marketing tips.

6. Start a newsletter

A weekly or monthly personal newsletter is a great way to keep in touch with your network. And once your target market is signed up, it's easy to contact them to let them know you’re running a holiday promotion or that you’ve added a new skill to your tool kit.

Get started by embedding a simple newsletter signup form like the one below to create an email list.

newsletter signup form

Remember to promote your email newsletter on social media. Give a teaser of what your newsletter recipients can expect this week, and promote a sense of urgency by getting new signups to register for your newsletter by a specific deadline if they want to read the next week’s copy.

7. Design a landing page to capture leads

Friderike "Rika" Osterbuhr, co-founder at Kosmo, encourages new designers to prioritise getting their own landing pages online as an essential way to find client work.

While you can find clients and make initial contact through referrals or marketplaces, a personal website can be the final selling point to land new clients. It's a great way to showcase your work.

As a designer, you're probably a perfectionist when it comes to designing a landing page or website. While this is a quality your clients will appreciate, your priority at this stage should be to create a beautiful landing page as fast as possible.

Once it’s up, share your landing page frequently through your social media profiles to connect followers with your content, whether that’s an eBook, podcast, infographic, blog post, or anything else.

Make it easy for new clients to get in touch with you by including onboarding forms. These allow you to collect information about a potential client's needs and budget, which can be helpful when submitting your proposal for the project.

Using Paperform's project request form template is a quick and easy way to get a beautiful and unique landing page live quickly. And with our robust design options, you can add your branding and stylise every element of your form in minutes.

project request form

You can even capture contact information, collect payments, filter clients through a conditional logic powered quiz funnel, and showcase your work portfolio style.

When you choose Paperform, you get a truly versatile digital Swiss army knife. Use it to create stylish landing pages, or contact forms to embed on your personal website, payment pages, quick feedback surveys, and a whole lot more.

Capture Leads and Project Requests Online

Paperform is the versatile tool you've been looking for.

8. Choose a web design niche

Niching down means becoming a web design specialist within a certain industry. This puts you in a great position to command higher project rates.

Imagine a MedTech startup business owner has to choose from hundreds of different freelance designers to craft their website. They’d be more likely to choose one with a packed portfolio of relevant MedTech design work over the more generic designer.

Working within a hyper-specific niche can also help you target your branding efforts. For example, instead of a generic 'Freelance designer' Instagram profile, you could set up a more targeted profile as a 'Freelance designer for MedTech Startups.'

This marketing strategy allows you to attract followers who are more likely to become customers. While it might seem like a good idea to cast a wide net, narrowing down is a better way to stand out amongst the crowd.

Another perk of focusing on a niche is that you'll become an expert within the industry. You'll pick up the slang, understand the landscape and identify the web design trends that perform best within your industry.

9. Find web design clients on freelance marketplaces

Beance homepage(Image Source: Behance)

While some freelance marketplaces like Fiverr and Upwork encourage you to drop your prices to remain competitive, other marketplaces value quality above all else. These are the ones you want.

When you find work there, you can still charge the rates you deserve and work with clients who value the quality of your work. Here are a few options to consider.

  • Toptal: Their entire marketplace operates on the promise of only including the top 3% freelancers. You'll have to undergo a rigorous screening process to prove your mettle, but the reward will be high rates for your work, access to projects from top companies like Airbnb and Zendesk, and a top-tier professional network.
  • AwesomeWeb: This marketplace caters specifically to graphic designers. While the screening process for AwesomeWeb is less strenuous than TopTal, it ensures that you're only competing with the top talent in design instead of the cheapest.
  • Behance: Behance is more of a creative jobs board, but it also has an active section for freelancers where agencies and companies post their projects.

10. Build a referral engine

client feedback form

Seasoned web designers don't need to spend many of their hours seeking work, as the leads come directly to them. This is possible due to the breadth of quality work and happy clients they've built up over the years.

As a junior web designer, you may not be ready to capitalise on your past work just yet, but you can put systems in place now to set you up for the future.

  • Client feedback form: at the end of every project, request a testimonial from your client covering everything from the quality of your work to creativity and communication style. Place the best recommendations on your website and across your social networks.
  • Referral request: as you're signing off a client project, send an email thanking the client for choosing your services and request they keep you in mind as a referral if any of their business partners requires web designers in the future. You could even offer a discount code for every client referred to sweeten the deal—you can use Paperform to do both.
  • Partner with fellow freelancers: other independent creatives aren't always the competition. Web designers often partner up with content writers or graphic designers and either work together on the same project or refer work back and forth to each other.

11. Target your outreach

Sending cold emails may feel like the last thing you want to do, but while daunting, it can still be successful when done right.

You don't have to target a thousand email addresses or scrape sites to find your ideal clients. There’s a fun and effective way to do outreach, and it all starts with smart audience targeting.

1. Find your targets

Research the websites of people within your network, including:

  • Friends and family
  • People who follow you on social platforms
  • People you've met at industry events
  • People who have downloaded your content

2. Analyse their websites to find improvements

Here's where you provide them with value and showcase your skills. Don't criticise their websites outright, but point out any possible improvements with kindness and levity.

Let them know how you've improved conversion rates through design for similar businesses or create a prototype for their landing page that looks 50 times better than their current one.

A quick way to do this is by recording videos of your screen as you move through their website. Use tools like Loom or Vidyard to record your screen, your camera (or both) and your prospective clients won’t be able to resist watching a personal video made just for them. It’s true: 86% of marketers agree that using video has helped generate leads.

3. Reach out

Once you've finalised your suggestions, reach out to your contacts through email with your video embedded and provide them with your treasure chest of knowledge.

The great thing about this kind of outreach is that it's not cold. These are people who are familiar with you and are much more likely to respond to your marketing efforts.

12. Set up slick onboarding systems

So, you've established an online presence, and the enquiries are trickling in. Now it’s time to give your prospective client a stellar first impression of what it might be like to work with you. A great onboarding system is the perfect start.

Establish yourself as a true professional by having a PDF rate card drafted up, and clear documentation outlining your processes, including what you need from your client to execute an out-of-this-world web design project.

Paperform has tons of templates you can use to make this easier. The ones below are just the tip of the iceberg. If you like them, just click “Use this template” to add them straight to your account and start customising them to the nines.

Project Request Form

Business Evaluation Form

New Client Onboarding Form

Scope of Services Form

Client Questionnaire Form

Single Page Website Form

Design Consultation Form

Creative Request Form

Get web design clients fast with Paperform

Whether you’re a freelancer, an independent design agency, or a creative collective, Paperform provides an array of templates to help you attract and onboard prospective web design clients for your small business.

Getting those initial clients will always be the hardest part. Trust that by using these tips to get the ball rolling, you’, and you'll be swimming in leads in no time.

Ready to get started with attracting web design clients? Use Paperform to build a beautiful landing page or form, and start automating your workflows today. Try our 14-day free trial—no credit card necessary.

About the author
Rebecca Noori
Freelance Contributor
Rebecca Noori is a freelance content marketer who writes about productivity and HR solutions for B2B SaaS companies. You’ll also find her supporting beginner freelancers when they’re starting out.

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