Snagging your first client as a brand new web designer is not as difficult as you might think.
Though online marketing has been mainstream for many years now, thousands of local businesses are still scurrying to catch up.
In fact, for my day job in digital marketing, I still run into businesses every now and again that have, at best, a one-page website their cousin threw together in an hour and, at worst, no website at all.
There’re plenty of opportunities out there to find someone in need of web design assistance, and here are a few tips you can utilize to find your first client.
Word of Mouth Referrals
After I started down the path of becoming a web designer back in 2014, word got around through my friends that this was something I could do.
One of them referred me to a woman he worked with who needed an updated site for her ballroom dancing studio.
When I was able to build her a great new site and get her ranking in Google, she became a regular client of mine and I continued to maintain her site for a monthly fee.
She also referred me to other business owners she knew, and my web design business was on its way.
After you’ve built confidence in your abilities (and even if you’re a little scared – it’s OK) get the word out among your peer groups that you build websites and see if any of them know someone with a business that needs help.
Start slow, be patient, and do your best!
Use Social Media for Referrals
Social media makes getting the word out about your new endeavor easy.
Use your personal Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts to let people in your networks know that you’re building websites.
Ask if anyone needs a site for themselves, or if they know of any local businesses whose sites need a refresh.
Eventually, you may want to create social accounts for your business, especially a Facebook page, but when it comes to getting that first client, personal connections are everything.
As I mentioned. don’t be afraid to let your friends know what you’re working on!
You never know who may be starting a new business of their own, and every business needs a website, so put yourself out there.
Target a Specific Niche
One of the best ways to get off the ground is by targeting a specific niche.
If you can connect with a specific local industry, especially one you already have some familiarity with, you can begin to specialize.
Positioning yourself as the go-to for websites in a certain industry will help give you a consistent source of work.
A targeted pitch that addresses industry requirements will catch a potential client’s eye much more than a generic one, and it’ll make the work itself easier for you as well because you’ll be familiar with the features that your clients need.
Check the Second & Third Pages
Once you’ve found a niche, you can begin to search for businesses in your area that would benefit from a new website.
Type in a search like “veterinarians [your city]” and take a look at the second and third pages of search results.
Businesses whose sites are already ranking on that all-important first page are likely doing fine while the ones further down would love to reach that first page.
So, if you find some sites that look awful, find their contact information so you can send them your pitch.
Email the Potential Web Design Client
Once you’ve collected some contact information for potential clients, you’ll need to reach out to each of them.
You’ll save yourself some time and effort if you build a simple email template to use for these initial contacts.
Also, it’s a good idea to build a mockup so that you have something concrete to show them.
A great looking page will illustrate what you can do and what they can have if they hire you.
If you’re going after a specific niche, it might be worth investing in several different themes for that industry from Themeforest and use their demo content to create a fully-functional site that they can view.
Cold Call the Potential Web Design Client
Sometimes you’ll also want to reach out by phone to potential clients if they’re not responding to your email or you couldn’t find an email address on their site.
Cold calls can be intimidating, but you can create a script for yourself to use.
One of the most important things to remember is that you need to be familiar with the company you’re calling.
You should definitely be able to ask to talk to a specific person by name.
Know some basics about their business, and don’t jump straight into your pitch.
Be personable, give them time to talk as well, and try to nail down a specific time for a follow-up if they’re interested.
Use Freelance Websites Like UpWork
UpWork has been a dream come true for me.
Through utilizing their platform, I’ve been able to get both long-term and short-term SEO work and, as my profile grows, the freelance work will become more and more frequent.
You can also use UpWork to find web design clients as well since there are dozens of gigs being posted every week with people needing help with their websites or in need of a brand new one.
If you’re new to UpWork, my recommendation is to read each job description carefully and write a specific, custom cover letter for each gig so that you’ll be able to stand out.
Also, I would try to price your service slightly lower than their initial offer to help entice them to select you.
Buy Web Leads
Another option you have to find work is through buying web leads.
There are sites like Web Leads Inc. that will sell you a list of leads that you can contact.
Essentially, the research is done for you.
The benefit of this is that these leads are actively looking for web design work, so they’re more likely to be responsive to your pitch.
On the other hand, they’ll be hearing from other people who purchased the same set of leads, so they may be a bit annoyed with having several people call them.
But if you’re comfortable with the competition and willing to shell out some money for leads, this is an option to consider.
Take Action and Stay in Motion
You can utilize any of the above methods and you’re bound to get your first web design client.
However, the most important thing to do is to stay in motion and not be discouraged if you get several “no’s” thrown in your face.
Keep honing your skills through building your own websites, and stay on the hunt for potential clients.
An SEO expert, web designer, and writer, Thomas writes on topics he deems fun such as digital marketing, entrepreneurship, and personal development. Since 2014, he’s worked with countless business owners to help them improve their organic presence online. When he’s not writing about online business or geeking out about the latest Google algorithm update, he spends his free time playing the piano and working out with his wife.