Are you a freelance web designer, or a small firm? If so, you’ve probably thought at one point or another about how to find clients in web design. It’s an adventure to journey off the beaten path of a traditional career and go into business for yourself.
How to Find Clients in Web Design
But, being a freelancer or small business is not just about sitting at the computer, making beautiful designs all day (if only it were so easy!). The biggest hurdle for any new web designer or developer trying to break into the freelance gig is, by far, the question of how to find clients in web design.
Where do you start? Who do you reach out to, and how? Never fear. We at 702 Pros are here to shed some light on a genius approach to finding your own ideal candidates for outreach.
Defining Your Web Design Clients
The first step to finding web design clients is to determine who your clients are. This is not only the first step, but possibly the most crucial. A scattergun approach to marketing will fail more often than not.
In fact, if you spam people and businesses with ads who aren’t interested in your service, chances are you’ll just annoy them and harm your own reputation in the long run.
In any case, finding the best web design clients is about targeting the correct businesses. We want to reach out to motivated companies who want to succeed, who will see the value in a website re-design. They must be in a position to where they might be thinking about re-designing their site.
Although it’s impossible to know this for certain until you reach out to them, there are some indicators we can look for that often mean a business is ready to re-design their site.
Identifying Motivated Businesses
In order to find clients in web design, it’s essential to understand their perspective. When you approach a potential client, you are asking them to make an often-substantial investment in their business, and they must stand to benefit from this investment.
Obviously, in most industries, the largest companies are often highly motivated to keep their websites up to date. But, they are generally out of reach, as they tend to hire large-scale marketing and design firms to handle their websites rather than freelancers or small design firms.
On the flip-side, the smaller companies often have neither the budget nor motivation to pay for a website re-design. These are the clients who settle for a WIX site made by their cousin’s roommate, and couldn’t fathom spending hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, on a page.
To find clients in web design who are motivated, the sweet spot is in those companies or entrepreneurs who are somewhere in-between, who aren’t too large to notice you, but who have picked up enough steam to need your services.
Google is Your Friend
Motivated companies are those who are trying to succeed in their industry, and have proven themselves at least to some degree with a good product or service, who have or are in need of solid branding, and are up-and-coming in their field. One way to find these companies is through the Google business listings.
If you search, for example, “Web Design Las Vegas”, the top results generally represent the highest-level businesses in the local industry. They may be out of reach for you.
But, scroll down to the bottom of the first page, or the second page of Google, and you may quickly find clients in web design that are prime for you. Companies in the first couple pages of search results have usually made an effort to climb to the top of their industry, which shows motivation.
Being on the second page of Google, or at the bottom of the first page, also means this company has something to gain from re-designing their website. By properly designing a new site for this client with SEO in mind, they can present themselves as more professional with their expertly-designed site, as well as climb Google’s rankings.
Do They Need a Re-Design?
Sometimes, all it takes to answer this question is a look at their current site. If you’re looking at a company that makes tens of thousands of dollars in sales, but looks like they haven’t had a new website since 2003, it may be time for a re-design.
Other times, it’s not so obvious. But, to find clients in web design, it’s crucial that we answer this question when we approach them. You must be sure that this company needs a re-design in order for them to want to do business with you.
Use Your Time Machine
There is an entire world of fantastic tools out there freely available to us these days to find web design clients, and to identify those with needs. One such tool is the Internet Archive Wayback Machine. This nifty tool allows us to view screenshots of websites at various points in time. Type in the URL of a potential web design client, and what do you see?
Check the dates back several years, and determine when this client last re-did their site. If they haven’t done so in several years, this could be an indication that they are ready to think about your services.
Researching and Creating a Leads List
Now that we have identified who our ideal candidates are, the next step is to do our research. To find clients in web design, we need to be organized. Start a spreadsheet and do your Googling. Focus on industries that you know, and are in your local area.
Create a Shortlist to Find Clients in Web Design
A helpful format for your list of potential clients is to create a spreadsheet for each industry (e.g. Dance Schools, Restaurants, etc.), and fill it in with businesses you find in the first two or three pages of Google and Google Businesses.
Besides filling in fields with relevant contact information (business name, email, phone number, website URL, etc.), be sure to take notes on what design needs each website has, and fill them in as you go. Determining the client’s needs will affect what you say when you approach them. Try to make these notes align with your level of knowledge and skill.
For example, if you specialize in SEO, one great tool is the Website “Authority” Checker, by ahrefs. By entering a URL, this nifty tool generates a website’s “Authority score”, which is calculated based on links, backlinks, and follow/no-follow. These metrics are good indicators you can use to determine if you should focus on improving the client’s SEO.
Or, for another example: if your area of expertise is in digital art design, focus on taking notes on the website’s color profile, and what improvements you can offer.
Keep it Organized
It should go without saying, but make sure you keep your list organized. This means keeping your leads up-t0-date, including dates of contact, records of correspondence, and any notes from client responses your receive after reaching out. Every so often, go through and re-organize which contacts are in your top five, or ten, hottest leads.
Congratulations! You now have a working system for filtering local businesses for clients in web design, and a method of keeping it organized and up-to-date. Hopefully, you understand the importance of understanding which businesses would make ideal clients for you, and how to determine whether a business meets those criteria.
Once you have your list, and have thoroughly researched your potential leads, and have narrowed your list down to the most likely candidates, you are ready for the next essential step needed to find clients in web design:
Stay tuned for the next article in this series, in which we will discuss how to contact your potential leads in a way that will maximize your chances of receiving a positive response. Until then, best of luck, and happy designing!