Find out how to reach out to potential clients the right way as a freelance graphic designer. Learn how to start building relationships and maximizing your marketing efforts, so you get more clients and more work and make more money.
In this episode of Design Domination, I am talking about how graphic designers can reach out to potential clients the right way. Stick around to get tons of easy-to-do tips that will help you start building relationships and maximizing your marketing efforts, so you get more clients and more work and make more money.
Most graphic designers go about trying to get new clients all wrong. They reach out to people who don’t know them and ask for work. That’s like proposing marriage to someone you just met.
They might also tell them their branding or their website could use updating. That’s insulting. They may know that. They may not. Maybe the nephew of the person you just contacted did their design work.
They might even lead with how cheap their rates are, which is not what quality clients are even looking for. Quality clients are looking for quality work, and they expect to pay for that.
A lot of times what happens is the designer ends up leaving a bad impression with the prospect. I don’t want that for you!
The designer may also have high expectations and then they feel let down because they don’t get a response. If a potential client doesn’t respond, it doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t interested. They may keep your email for a potential future need they have. They may just be busy.
Remember: the goal is about building relationships and creating an ongoing marketing engine, not getting work because you just contacted someone. Even if they don’t have the need, they might know someone who does.
So I want to help you understand some easy things that you can do that will not only keep your dignity intact but leave a good impression and be perceived as an expert, not an order taker.
Before you do, it would be good to make sure your website is more targeted to your ideal clients and that your LinkedIn profile is up to date. But don’t let that stop you from taking action and reaching out to prospects. Perfection prevents progress! So just make a note to do those things at some point.
Find a connection.
The first action you can take is to find a connection. Before you even reach out to a prospect, whether it’s a call or an email, put some effort into it. The last thing you want to do is send some boilerplate email that gets deleted right off the bat, maybe without even being read at all.
To maximize the chances of your email getting opened, getting read or getting a response, spend some time up front doing your homework on them—not just the company but the individual you are going to reach out to.
You don’t want to become a stalker or anything. But go to LinkedIn and see if you have any connections in common. By that, I mean people you actually know, not just people who are connected that you know nothing about. People are more likely to give you the time of day when you’re a friend or colleague of a friend or colleague instead of a total stranger.
Check out their LinkedIn bio or go to the company website and look for their bio to see if you have a common interest. It could be personal or business related, such as being a dog rescuer, or even that you speak another language, have a degree in something unusual or that you’ve both worked in the same industry for a long time.
The purpose of this is to get noticed, so that your email gets read or your voice message listened to. It will show you’ve done your homework for one, but also that you have taken an interest in them, which shows them you are worthy of their time. Otherwise, you’re just another designer out there who’s asking for work and putting themselves in a vulnerable position.
When they see you that way, they will just delete your message. They won’t respond. Worse, they might remember your name in a bad way.
The next thing you can do is to demonstrate an interest in what they are currently doing. This is easy!
Follow the company on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (wherever they have accounts) and connect with individuals from the business or organization who work in marketing or publications or whatever department might hire graphic designers. Then regularly check out their posts and like, comment and share them with others.
They might start noticing your name. After seeing it a few times, you’ll be seen as less of a stranger when you do decide to reach out to them. It will also increase the chance of them replying to you via email or a call later on.
When you reach out to them, you could mention something they recently posted online that resonated with you. This will show you’re paying attention to them and genuinely interested in what they are doing.
Remember: it’s a two-way street like any other relationship. Seriously. I talked about this in the episode called Client Relationships Are Like Dating.
Think about it. What’s in it for them? Why should they give you the time of day if you haven’t shown any interest in them first? Why should they read your email? Why should they call you back? Give them that reason.
Don’t talk about you.
This next point is easy. It’s something not to do, so just don’t do it.
Don’t talk about you. Most designers want to talk about themselves. When you talk about yourself, you are trying to convince someone why they should work with you, instead of demonstrating why you’re the obvious choice and letting them see that, decide for themselves.
So when you talk to prospects about potential work, don’t talk about you. Don’t talk about your awards. Don’t talk about how great a designer you are.
Instead, talk about what you can do for them, what your work and your expertise can do for them. Talk to them about how you’ve helped other clients in the same industry or who have similar needs.
When you do that, you change the conversation. You stand out. When you stand out, you’re more memorable and seen as trying to be helpful and understanding their needs—as opposed to trying to sell them something they may or may not need because you’re trying to make money.
That’s important because they want to know you can help them too. That builds confidence and trust with them.
As I always say, design isn’t about designing for design’s sake. It serves a purpose. Clients only care about what the design work will do for them.
It’s like this example I read in Keenan’s Gap Selling book. I think it was his book. The example was about headache medicine and how much someone would be willing to pay for it. If someone has a headache right then, they are probably willing to pay more for that than if they do not have a headache. Someone without a headache likely isn’t going to buy from you right now.
So think of it as you cannot sell someone something they don’t need. They need to understand why they need something and how it applies to them.
If they don’t know they have a problem, how can you offer a solution to that problem?
Offer something of value.
Another thing you can do is offer a potential client something free, such as a PDF guide you created that talks about something that would be of interest to them. It could even be a blog post or LinkedIn article you wrote.
You could assess their website and make a short video going over a few issues you found and how fixing them would be beneficial to them. This can be particularly useful if you come across a slow website or a website with accessibility issues, for example.
Just make sure it’s of interest to them, meaning pertaining to their industry or the work they do. You don’t want to send them a PDF of your brand identity tips just to send it to them, for instance.
So that’s how you can reach out to potential clients the right way as a graphic designer. If you try any of these, please let me know how they work out for you.
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