Find out several overlooked places graphic designers can find clients—online and offline—that can help you based on your industry and clientele. Are you overlooking any of them?
- Twitter Lists feature
- Directory of U.S. associations
- U.S. trade associations and trade shows
- Major trade associations
- Canadian trade associations
- United Kingdom Professional Bodies and Trade Associations
This is going to be a shorter episode than usual, because I’ve got what I hope will be some very helpful resources for you to check out. So I hope after this, you check them out and then do some research.
“Where do I find clients?” is one of the most commonly asked questions I see from designers all over online. But the problem with throwing this question out there without providing any context about your audience is that everyone can give you answers as to where they get clients, but that won’t necessarily help your situation. What works for others may not work for your client base.
You may be working within a particular industry or certain type of client with unique needs. You really have to put yourself in your audience’s shoes, do some research and find out where they hang out offline and online. Then go there and join in on their conversations to demonstrate your expertise (without being salesy, of course) or you can “eavesdrop” (you know, just be a lurker for a bit) to find out more about their needs and how you can help them.
For instance, my client business focuses on nonprofits, so I have joined local associations that nonprofits are a member of, Facebook groups that people working for nonprofits are in, and then I also consider the social media platforms they are on.
So a few things to think about here…
First is: where are your ideal clients online?
Social Media Platforms
What social media platforms are they on? I often hear designers saying they get clients on Instagram. But maybe your ideal clients are not on Instagram; maybe they’re active on Facebook or Twitter. Focus your efforts where they are. Don’t necessarily set up accounts everywhere just to have them there.
LinkedIn in another one, of course. But how often do you use the search features? LinkedIn has some advanced search features that can help you filter your search. You can search for second-level connections, which is great, because you already have one or more connections in common. These may be potential clients or they may potential referral partners, which I’ll get into in a bit.
On Twitter, you can follow individuals or companies that could be potential clients and get in on the conversation. Maybe they use a hashtag unique to them, and you can contribute to that conversation or ask a question to get their attention.
In addition to that, Twitter has a Lists feature. You can see what lists someone may have created, be a member of and subscribed to. You could then subscribe to those lists.
Industry E-mail Groups or Forums
You can check to see if there any e-mail groups or forums that serve the particular industry (say, natural health) or type of client (female business owners or nonprofits, for example) that you serve. Some industry associations may have their own and you get access as a member, or there may be public ones that you can join free.
There are some good clients who pay well on Upwork. I know someone who did so well on Upwork that Upwork asked him if they could use his name and face on a billboard in Times Square. A lot of it is how you present yourself.
How about some offline methods?
Trade Shows and Conferences
Are there any trade shows and conferences that serve this particular industry? Do some research and find out which ones. Maybe you can attend some of them or maybe you could become a sponsor—or even a speaker—for one.
In research for this podcast, I looked up food and beverage conferences and came across a list of the top 46 Food and Beverage Trade Shows for 2020. I also looked up pet trade shows and came across an article about the 9 best pet trade shows.
Just look up what’s relevant for your situation. There are lots of conferences for nonprofits of all types too.
Industry Trade Associations
There are tons of associations that serve all kinds of industries. And don’t forget about federal and local chambers of commerce.
Ilise Benun of Marketing Mentor has compiled an enormous list of U.S. trade associations and trade shows, breaking them out them by industry. Jennifer Hazen has compiled a list of 200+ Canadian associations [replaced with list from Canadian government].
I’ve got links to a few others in the show notes.
Now, let’s not forget about colleagues and potential partners, especially those you already know. They might be creatives who provide the same services as you but serve a different audience. They could be creatives who provide complementary services in the same industry or for the same type of client. These can be valuable relationships.
Think about what online and offline groups you may be a member of. These could be paid memberships or free. They could be local creative networking happy hour–type events in your area. They could be design-related MeetUps or even WordCamps. Developers oftentimes need a designer to partner with, you know?
Make sure these colleagues understand what you do and whom you do it for, so they can keep you top of mind for that and then refer clients to you. This could be done as a favor to each other, or maybe you agree to a referral commission when you get clients from each other.
Of course, there are clients and colleagues who value working with someone locally. So you might look first at local online groups, local e-mail lists, local Facebook groups, local associations, local events and so forth.
Are there other places you look for clients? Please add to this conversation by commenting below or posting in the Design Domination Facebook group.
I’d love to hear how some of these work out for you.