When I was first getting started with design, I had no idea how to go about getting clients. Fast forward a few years– I’ve learned a few tricks that would have been helpful to know back then! So I thought I’d share 8 ways you can speed up the process to finding some of your first clients or customers.
Here’s what not to do: have a burst of creative inspiration based on some random thing you saw. Spend $$$ on supplies. List your craft on Etsy. Sit back and wait to watch the money roll into your account. (I’ve tried this. It doesn’t work.) ;)
Seriously, there are lots of great opportunities to make a flexible side income these days, but there are a few things I’d suggest you start with to make it worth your while.
How to get started:
1. Find out where your skills meet your strengths.
A good way to do this is to start with finding your strengths and weaknesses. I would love to be a food blogger, but I snack too much while I’m making food. Then I’d have to start a diet blog. (Okay, maybe that’s a little off topic–but you get the idea.)
Seriously, take the Meyers-Briggs test, or the StrengthsFinder test. You’ll find a lot of interesting insights into what makes you tick and it might give you some ideas of how to structure your services or products so that your business aligns with your personality and strengths.
You need a skill + natural strengths = happy spot
For instance, I have skills (design + photography + marketing) that combine with strengths (determination + cultivating potential + insightfulness) that help me present a strong branding experience to my clients and help them create the best version of their visual brands and cultivate the potential their business has.
2. Identify a way to package and sell that item or skill to people.
The type of service or product you sell will need customers! Find out where they hang out online and taylor your marketing to cater to where they are.
3. Set up a simple WordPress or Squarespace site (a .com)
(The only exception would be if you were starting an Etsy shop.) It adds credibility and professionalism like nothing else. It can be super simple but you must do this if you want to sell online.
4. Find 3 people with their own sites/communities (even small ones) to collaborate with.
Offer to do a free project in exchange for a high-quality testimonial and shout-out or do a giveaway of your item. Hello free advertising of the very best kind—referrals.
5. Try to avoid underpricing & working for super cheap rates.
Services: Either work for free, an agreed upon exchange or full price. You don’t want to be known as the ‘cheap’ option in the long run. Personally, I’d rather donate my time for something I really care about than offer a drastically discounted rate and feeling a little ripped off at the end because it was supposed to a ‘paid’ project.
On the product side of things: there are a few things you can do to help start out at a good price point.
First of all, look at your competitors and what they are charging. You’ll want to stay relatively within that margin, unless you are adding some kind of personalized experience to the product. In that case, you’ll need to have a very strong marketing strategy and proof that the desire for the item exists.
Second, know your cost of goods and total time spent on making the item from sourcing to shipping. You’ll need to pay for the initial materials, yourself for your time and add in at least 30% profit to cover other expenses.
6. Join industry-specific Facebook groups.
Watch for people looking for help or posting questions about your area of expertise. It helps if you come into the group with a specific niche of experience or knowledge, like writing, design, technology, client management or something along those lines. The more specific your knowledge the better. Don’t spam—just be helpful.
7. Don’t give people too many choices or they’ll get overwhelmed.
Come up with no more than 3 packages of services, and no more than 3 styles of products.
8. Keep your wording simple and easy to understand.
Make it very clear what you offer and how you can help people. Don’t be too creative or abstract with your wording.