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Ahh, the timeless tale of finding freelance web design clients.
It’s a tale as old as time, really. And with that tale comes a certain amount of beauty and a certain amount of beastliness. (Catch the Disney reference? Sorry, I’ve got 3 daughters)
Whether you’re just starting out with a web design business or you’ve been doing this for a little bit the art of finding freelance web design clients is an ongoing effort.
It’s an effort that you will have to fine-tune and adapt as time goes on.
The Fun Way Find Web Design Clients
You may think I’m weird but I actually think finding web design clients is fun. Okay, let me be clear. When I don’t have any projects lined up I get a little anxious.
Okay, really anxious. Okay, maybe I have a tough time sleeping at night and it’s all I can think about.
That’s not the part I love. I love the amount of creativity it takes to find, nurture and land freelance web design clients.
It’s fun to try out new methods, see if they work and make adjustments based on what happens. It’s like my own little R&D department.
For a lot of web designers who are just starting out, finding freelance web design clients effectively can be intimidating.
After all, you don’t have a lot of work to show for what you’ve done because well, you’re just starting. I’ve written about how to fine-tune your portfolio even if it’s tiny here.
But, you also don’t quite know where to look. And, you don’t have a list of previous clients ready to hand your name off to a friend.
Don’t worry. After doing this for as long as I have I’ve tried a lot of different avenues. Some have worked really well and some haven’t.
So, I decided it was time to make a list of all the things I use. Without further delay here are my 10 ways to find freelance web design clients.
1. People You Know
The best place to start is always with people in your very own sphere of influence.
Write down a list of everyone you know that might need a website now or in the future. They don’t have to be people you know really well although that might help.
My very first web design client was from someone that goes to my church. I had started telling people I was getting into web design and asked everyone if they wouldn’t mind keeping their ears open for someone that might be looking for a website.
Sure enough about 2 weeks after getting the word out a friend of mine told me of ANOTHER FRIEND OF MINE that might need one.
So, I reached out to them and thus began my web design freelancing journey.
Before you tell me you don’t know anyone that needs a website just stop and think a little bit. Maybe go through your Facebook friends list and ask yourself if anyone there might be a good candidate.
I do this every once in a while.
I’m always surprised because, inevitably, I can think of at least a few people that might need my services.
I love Upwork. It has been one of the biggest sources for me to find web design clients..and yes even high-paying clients.
Upwork has been a constant source of good web design projects. Yes, for some freelancers it’s a race to see how low they can bid on a project.
But, I’ve always found good clients who are willing to pay really well for good work.
If you aren’t familiar with Upwork it’s basically a big project board for freelancers of all shapes and sizes. Clients post a project they need to be done and freelancers offer their services.
The client goes through the list of freelancers that have applied, interviews them and picks the best candidate.
I started working on Upwork when it was called O’Desk. They’ve made a lot of improvements to the platform since then.
If you haven’t given Upwork a shot I’d encourage you to apply as a freelancer. There’s an approval process you have to go through at first.
But, once you’ve done that you’ll be able to bid on as many projects as you want.
PRO TIP: it can take some time to really dial things in on Upwork. Don’t assume that once you get the approval web design clients will just start rolling in.
You’ve got to work to fine-tune your profile and learn how to bid on the projects that fit you best.
BUT, after a while, if you’re intentional, it will be a great source to find freelance web design clients.
3. Local SEO
Local SEO is a pretty amazing thing. Basically, the idea is that you set up your online presence in such a way that it ties you to a specific location.
That way when someone in your area searches for a web designer you’ll get priority over someone 1,000 miles away.
There’s a lot to this. Enough to devote an entire blog. Which a lot of people have done. BUT, here are the basics.
1. Add your address to your site.
2. Make sure you set up your google business and include your address
3. Get good google reviews from clients.
4. Mention your city in the content on your site.
You might be saying, “Wait a second! No way I’m telling people my address.”
And, listen, I get it. It scared me at first. What if my mailbox is flooded with junk mail?
OR, what if they see that my business address is residential? Will that negatively affect me?
Despite those worries, I went ahead and put my personal address on my website and I’m glad I did.
I’ve had quite a few freelance web design clients tell me they wanted to hire someone close to them. My site popped up and they loved what they saw.
The rest was history.
And, honestly, the junk mail and spam phone calls aren’t that bad.
I know this strikes fear in the hearts of all introverts. I get it.
It can be tough to build relationships with absolute strangers. But, it doesn’t have to be.
You first have to approach it by trying to give value rather than trying to take it. You will never get a project through networking if the only goal you have of building a relationship with someone is to get money from them.
There’s this cool thing that happens in business if you just genuinely want to help people. People hire you.
So, go into building a network with the idea that you’re there to see other people’s dreams come true. That may sound cheesy but for me, that thought takes away a lot of the fear associated in networking.
Some good places to start are at your city’s chamber of commerce meeting. OR, look on meetups.com for local business gatherings.
You might have to do a bit of searching but eventually, you’ll find something.
You might be laughing but believe me, Craigslist is a great place to find web design clients.
There are two places to find freelance web design clients on Craigslist. One is in the services section and one is in the jobs section
From there you’ve got two sections “Creative” for Services and “Web/Info Design” for Jobs.
In services, you can list what your offering and in jobs, you can search for people looking to hire for a specific project.
If you’re posting your services in services then I’d suggest deleting and re-adding the post every once in a while. These have a tendency to fill up fast. So, if you let it sit for too long it will definitely go to the bottom of the list.
This is something you can do for craigslist in different cities as well. You’re not limited to your specific town or area. A lot of times there’s more work in some of the major cities like Los Angeles or New York.
So, check around and see what might be available.
Toptal is a lot like Upwork. Clients go on and post jobs and find freelancers looking to work on projects.
Here’s the catch, Toptal accepts a very small amount of freelancers and only in the web design and development areas.
You’ve got to have a bit of a portfolio for this one AND you’ve got to go through an interview/application process in order to be accepted.
But, once you make it in, it can be a great source for some really good leads.
My suggestion would be to come here after you have a few projects under your belt. AND, when you do decide to apply, be sure to research the best methods of doing so.
Want to know a secret? I was actually rejected from Toptal. My presentation wasn’t good enough. So, I got sent home crying.
But, they were very encouraging and told me how I could improve my chances when I applied again.
Thankfully, Upwork picked up quite a bit by the time I was able to apply again and I never got around to re-applying.
Sorry Toptal, you had your chance.
7. Content Marketing
Content marketing is something that will take a while to build up but it can be worth it.
The idea is simple enough. You put out enough content, either blog posts or videos etc., that eventually people start finding out who you are and what you do through your content.
This takes a few things:
2. Knowing who your ideal customer is
3. A bit of SEO
You’re trying to establish yourself as the “guru” in web design for your particular client. So, you’ve got to know EXACTLY who your client is and the problems they might be trying to solve.
So, let’s say you’re a web designer that focuses on building sites for pet-sitting businesses. You’d want to write articles that help out people in the pet-sitting industry.
So things like, “5 Ways to Optimize Your Pet-Sitting Website” or “What to Do to Keep Your Client’s Hamster Entertained.”
If you ever write that last article please let me know. I think we might be really good friends.
The point is to figure out ways to help your clients and write about it on your website. Eventually, with some effort and time, you’ll start getting organic traffic from search engines and people will start contacting you.
8. Other Web Designers
When I first got started, I would find freelance web design projects from some friends of mine who were also web designers.
Of course, they gave me their reject projects but I didn’t care. A project was a project.
I was happy to take their leftovers because I didn’t have anything at the time.
So, do what you can to build relationships with other web designers. This is a lot like networking. You’re not here to try and get something from someone. You’re here to add value to their lives.
Most web designers are more than happy to sit down with a newbie and try to help. Because we were all their once.
So, find some people online and ask if they’d mind giving you some pointers. You’d be surprised how many people are willing to actually take the time.
LinkedIn can be a great resource to find web design clients. But, you’ve got to approach this carefully.
The amount of spam I get from other people trying to offer me their web design services on LinkedIn is downright criminal.
I don’t really understand it. I, after all, make websites for a living. Why would someone try to sell me on building my website?
Whatever. Bottom line, you’ve got to know exactly who you’re looking for. The more niche your market is, the more success you’ll have here.
AND, you’ve got to give value before you ask for anything in return. There’s a few ways to do this.
You first want to make sure that you’re building a relationship with them. Comment on their posts or milestones. Then reach out with some suggestions on how their website might be improved in some way shape or form.
Don’t ask for anything in return for a while. Eventually, the moment will come where they ask you OR the opportunity will present itself. When that happens, you’ve been developing trust with them for a while and you’ve got a great opportunity.
10. Social Media
Another place to find web design clients is through social media platforms. My encouragement would be to pick one avenue at first.
Find out where your ideal customer hangs out the most. Is it Facebook? Twitter? Instagram?
Don’t get overwhelmed by posting to ALL social media platforms ALL the time. Just pick one.
A lot of your clients might hang out in one particular Facebook group OR they might be posting their content with certain hashtags.
One photographer friend of mine follows specific hashtags that tips him off to when people in his area just got engaged. When they post engagement photos he comments pre-made responses using shortcuts on his iPhone.
He gets all of his clients on Instagram and only uses a few hours a week commenting on photos.
The same can be done to find web design clients.
Follow hashtags in the industry you focus on and the area you serve. When someone comments about starting a new business or a new season in their businesses journey, it’s your chance to engage with them.
11. Online Job Boards
Another place to find web design clients is online job boards. There are a ton out there and new ones pop up all the time!
The concept is really simple. People looking to hire web designers post a job and then web designers apply to be considered.
You might be thinking, “Hey aren’t these job boards only for full-time positions?”
And, the answer is, “Nope!”
They have everything from short-term to long term gigs for web designers. And, the best part is, most of them allow you to set up notifications when a job pops up with the criteria you’re looking for.
A few popular ones are Indeed and Zip Recruiter BUT there are even job boards on Stack Overflow and Smashing Magazine. Heck, even WordPress has an online job board where you can find web design clients.
12. Portfolio Platforms
Behance is run by Adobe and is open for anyone to post their work. It takes a bit of work to stand out because there are some killer options to show your work off. You can add animations and tons of other elements outside of screenshots of a recent website build.
And, trust me, if you want to stand out, you’re going to want to put a little bit of effort into how your projects look.
Dribbble on the other hand is a much simpler concept. You can only post images that are 400px by 300px. You can add larger attachments to the project. BUT, the only thing visitors typically see is the 400 x 300 pixel overview.
You can post up to three projects and then you’ll need an invite. BUT, they’re not super hard to come by. People typically offer them when they have a few available.
Listen, I’m not great about posting projects to these platforms. BUT, the little that I’ve done has landed me a few projects. Clients have reached out to me because they saw my work and were impressed.
So, post some of your work on these portfolio platforms. It might turn out to be a great way for you to find web design clients.
Don’t Try Everything to Find Web Design Clients
You should have plenty of avenues to find web design clients now. Honestly, there are so many sources for good clients out there.
It’s not a matter of how but a matter of which one.
So, my suggestion is to pick 1 or 2 at first and just try it out for a little bit. Don’t give up quickly. It’ll take about 2-3 months to dial in your approach.
But, after you’ve done that if you’re not seeing results, go to the next one.
With a little bit of effort and persistence, you will eventually find some great sources for freelance web design clients.
What’s your favorite method? If you have another way of finding web design clients that I didn’t mention let me know.