As a freelance graphic designer, having a plan of action and creating your portfolio is only the first step — finding people to actually pay for your services is where most of the work begins.
Although you might have offered your services for free and received great response, that doesn’t necessarily translate into higher quality clients. In fact, it’s recommended that you use a different name for that purpose so you don’t devalue your services.
See also: Building Your Portfolio
Fortunately, graphic designers are always in demand, so you will surely find success if you know how to market your services. For now, your top priority is to get your first client.
SOME NOTES BEFOREHAND
But first, understand that it can take some time to get your first client. As such, you should have enough resources to last until you get your business off the ground. 6 months of expenses is a good place to start, allowing you to lessen the risks of freelancing and increase your chances of success.
See also: When to Start Freelancing
Also, make sure you have a call to action on your portfolio site so prospects can reach you — you don’t want to lose your first client just because you left out your email.
See also: Looking at Your Site Design
It might be tempting to try out freelance marketplaces such as Upwork to get your first client. While there is a lot of traffic in such places, most people there are just looking to find graphic designers for cheap. At the same time, you’re competing with others who can afford to offer low prices. Finding your first — and decent — client is like finding a needle in a haystack, and you don’t want to waste time and effort doing so.
START WITH THE BASICS
Instead, market your services using your portfolio site. Marketing takes a lot of practice, but it doesn’t have to be complex. You don’t need to perform Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or create targeted ads. In fact, stay clear from paid advertising for now; don’t spend money before you make money.
Focus on a specific target market and find out where they go to look for design solutions. From there, come up with ways to match them with your services. It’s much easier to get your first client if you focus your efforts on what you do best and for a group of people who will pay for your services.
For example, you might want to target redditors on a subreddit like /r/entrepreneur. With entrepreneurs, they’re usually cost-conscious, so creating an affordable package will make your services that much more attractive to them.
See also: Finding Success on Reddit
You can also approach friends and family to get your first client. They should be more receptive to what you have to offer, though that doesn’t mean you hard sell your services at every opportunity. Just letting them know that you’re open for business is often good enough. Even if they don’t need your services, they probably know someone who does.
Whether it’s a specific target market or friends and family, you need a way to get the word out there about your services — which is where social media comes in. Facebook and Twitter are great for friends and family, while platforms such as LinkedIn cater more towards businesses and professionals.
Getting your first client isn’t just about promoting your services. Instead, you should focus on establishing yourself as a professional first before any business opportunities will come your way. It can be difficult to build a trustworthy reputation as a freelance graphic designer online since there’s minimal face-to-face contact — you essentially have to convince a stranger that your services are not a scam and worth paying for.
As such, you need to put yourself and your business out there, while highlighting your strengths along the way. Be sure to offer helpful advice wherever you can and engage actively in discussions related to graphic design. People buy from people they know and trust. If you’re passionate about your services, then your enthusiasm will win them over. Also, master speaking and writing clearly. Professional communication will make it easier for you to earn the respect of others.
GETTING YOUR FIRST CLIENT
Now that people know and trust you, they should start reaching out to you with opportunities. You’re close to getting your first client, but don’t celebrate just yet.
Before accepting a project, take time to learn more about the prospect, which allows you to better tailor your services to their needs. It’s also a good idea to go the extra mile in communicating with them. Instead of an email, consider a video chat so both parties have a chance to talk face to face. Doing so builds trust and credibility, making it easier for you to close the deal.
It might be tempting to jump right into the first offer you receive, but be careful not to run into bad clients who are looking to exploit your services.
See also: Avoiding Bad Clients
DON’T GIVE UP
As mentioned earlier, getting your first client can take some time. Consequently, it’s easy to let negativity take over and procrastinate — but don’t give up. Be proactive and stick to a daily schedule. It might be as simple as updating your Twitter feed, but the act of doing these tasks will help you stay on track.
Even after getting your first client, don’t just do your job and get it over and done with. Remember, business is all about networking and relationships. If you can build long-lasting relationships from the start, it will pave the way to more referrals and business in the future.
Getting your first client is an important milestone, since it not tells you that there is demand for your services. From there, it’s a matter of building on what works previously to get even more clients. Succeeding as a freelance graphic designer is a long journey, but you have already crossed the first — and probably hardest — hurdle.