Getting new freelance graphic design jobs can be intimidating even for the most experienced professionals. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be as difficult as you think.
There are plenty of ways that you can increase your chances of winning more freelance clients—from how you approach sending proposals to essential relationship-building tactics.
Keep reading for 8 powerful strategies that will help you get more consistent work as a freelance graphic designer.
“Don’t sit around and wait for clients to come to you. Sure, you can get a few inquiries here and there, but if you want consistent work, sometimes you need to make it happen.” — Danielle Podeszek, Freelance Graphic Designer
- 1. Be clear on your value
- 2. Ask for recommendations
- 3. Make sure your portfolio is the best it can be
- 4. Create valuable content
- 5. Keep things up to date
- 6. Network, network, network
- 7. Use social proof
- 8. Don’t underestimate the power of a follow-up
Art by Olga Semklo
1. Be clear on your value
Your value to potential clients is what sets you apart from your competition. When you can clearly communicate the value you provide, you’ll have a better chance of winning more freelance clients.
The first thing to ask yourself is what your value actually is. Start by asking yourself the following questions:
- What results have your past clients gotten from projects you’ve done for them?
- What experience do you have that’s unique to you?
- What do you have to offer that other graphic designers don’t?
For example, if you have direct experience working in a particular industry (i.e. healthcare, fin-tech, lifestyle, etc.), then you’ll have more value for clients in that industry because you’ll better understand their needs.
Consider what your value is and then decide how you can most clearly communicate it. That could be through displaying awards on your design portfolio, including specific results from past projects, or leveraging your experience in your pitches and proposals.
Speaking of proposals, it’s a good idea to have a service where you can create and organize all your paperwork, from proposals, contracts, invoices, to your taxes. Software like Bonsai gives freelancers an easy-to-use platform to manage their paperwork, their projects, and more.
2. Ask for recommendations
If you have happy clients, ask them for referrals or recommendations. Let them know that you’re always open to talking to new clients and appreciate their referrals.
Depending on the exact services you offer, you could even set up an official referral or affiliate program.
While it might initially seem like a client wouldn’t want to refer you to their potential competition, remember that most businesses have working partnerships with all kinds of suppliers and other organizations. While they might not tell their competition to use your services, they could refer their vendors or other business contacts to you.
There’s value to providing good referrals in developing business relationships.
“Finding work at first is difficult but once you find it, a snowball effect happens. Your clients are friends with other people doing amazing things and if you treat them right, do a good job, and ask them to refer you, they usually will.” — Katie Cooper, Freelance Creative Director
3. Make sure your portfolio is the best it can be
Your graphic design portfolio is one of the most valuable assets you have in winning new clients.
Be sure that you showcase your best work there, and take the time to explain each project. Talk about what your role was in the project, what the design problem was, and how you solved it.
Share your portfolio far and wide. Add new projects to it regularly (but remember that you don’t have to add every project you work on; just the best examples).
The time you spend on your portfolio will pay dividends in building confidence with potential clients.
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4. Create valuable content
One of the best (yet often overlooked) ways to get new clients is by creating content. Writing blog posts, creating templates or UI assets, or otherwise providing valuable content that will appeal to your potential clients is an excellent way to build your professional reputation while also giving potential clients one more way to find you.
Writing articles about graphic design topics is one of the best ways to have new clients find you. Writing about design particulars for the niches or industries you serve can be especially helpful.
I’ve had clients from various industries approach me after I’ve written about designing for those industries. It’s an easy way (assuming you’re a good writer) to make yourself visible to the organizations who might want to hire you.
5. Update your online presence
Be sure that your design portfolio is up to date with more recent projects. The same goes for your social media profiles.
If a potential client visits your Instagram or other social media profile and there are no posts in the past six months, they may assume you’re no longer working as a designer. The same goes for your portfolio or blog: if there are no updates within the past few months, a client may assume you’re no longer in business and move along to the next graphic designer.
This is also true for your contact information. Make sure that you’re easy to get in touch with, and that any contact forms are functional and up to date. Don’t make potential clients work any harder than necessary to get in touch with you.
Art by Spencer Gabor
6. Network, network, network
Just the word “networking” can fill a lot of graphic designers with dread. But if you approach networking from the position of building mutually beneficial relationships, it becomes much less intimidating.
Meet people with the intention to get to know them. Don’t immediately think about what they can do for you or what you can get from them. Instead, look at how you might be able to help them.
Are there others you can connect them with? Is there a great book or article you recently read that might appeal to them? Look at ways to connect on an authentic level with the people you encounter and go from there. Maybe you’ll end up working with those people in the future, or maybe they’ll refer people to you (and vice versa).
7. Use social proof
Social proof in the form of testimonials can go a long way toward getting clients on board with working with you. Display testimonials prominently on your website or portfolio. Share them on social media, too.
Ask past clients for feedback and testimonials on projects you’ve completed for them. Ask for recommendations and endorsements on sites like LinkedIn, too. When prospective clients see that you’ve worked successfully with other organizations, it gives them reassurance that you have the expertise you claim.
Art by studiokat
8. Don’t underestimate the power of a follow-up
So you’ve sent a prospective client a design proposal for their project and haven’t heard back from them. Or maybe you sent them information on booking a discovery call with you and they haven’t done so yet.
Whatever the case may be, sending a follow-up after a few days is a good way to assure clients that you value their business.
The same goes for when you’ve met a potential client at a networking or professional event (in person or online). Send a follow-up after meeting them, reiterating any business you talked about, or sending them information or resources you may have discussed.
Follow-ups show people that you value working with them and that you’re eager to continue the relationship. You can even set tasks to follow-up potential clients or manage your proposals using Bonsai, making sure that you don’t forget or miss out on an important opportunity.
"Follow-ups show people that you value working with them and that you’re eager to continue the relationship."
If you don’t hear back after following up, beware of sending multiple messages. This can come across as pushy (or desperate). If it’s a prospective client you really want to work with and you feel the need to send more than one follow-up, consider what you could send them that would provide value to them. Is there an article you recently read that you think they might be interested in? An event you think they’d be interested in attending?
If you provide value, you’re building a relationship rather than just nudging them to give you business. And that can lead to more business down the road.
Art by Renee Fleck
How to start winning more freelance graphic design jobs
Winning clients is all about building trust in the relationship. When you make prospective clients feel comfortable working with you, you’ll find that more of them want to work with you and that things like cost matter less.
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