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How to Get More Freelance Work: 8 Ways to Build a Client Base as a Graphic Designer 

Want to build a solid client base for your graphic design business? Straight from business coach and designer Jacob Cass, here are 8 ways to get more graphic design clients.

Posted 11 Apr 2023
Build Client Base Freelance Designer

Building a client base as a designer can be intimidating, even for experienced professionals. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to catch the attention of new prospects – from networking and collaborating with other designers and creators to optimizing your website and harnessing social media. 

While graphic design is incredibly competitive, it’s also an industry thriving with innovation and opportunity. There’s no secret to a successful graphic design career. However, there are ways to increase your chances – like learning from those who have been there and done it before.

Case in point: renowned graphic designer, business coach, and founder of JUST Creative – Jacob Cass – who has built his career around empowering creatives to do what they love and get paid for it. 

“The rapid increase in graphic designer talent globally has required creatives to differentiate their work from other designers and agencies,” says Jacob. “Designers must develop unique and innovative solutions that stand out from competitors and offer various services and expertise that appeal to specific industries and customer needs. Simply put, you must create a compelling offer that your clients find irresistible.”

Ready to build an impressive client base for your graphic design business? Read on for Jacob’s expert advice and eight top strategies for graphic designers to get more freelance work, promote their business, and attract more clients.

1. Network & Build Relationships

Carving out a creative career isn’t just about building an impressive design portfolio – you also have to get it in front of the right people. Networking is crucial for growing your career, building a solid client base, and ensuring industry exposure.

“Network and build relationships with prospective clients, showcase your work and portfolio online, and offer services that appeal to their needs,” says Jacob. “Attending industry events, conferences, and networking events can be a great way to meet potential clients and build relationships.” 

Staying top of mind is a vital aspect of effective networking. Always be prepared with a business card, a link to your portfolio or online platforms, and an elevator pitch when networking or meeting potential clients. If you meet with someone and don’t follow up by phone, email, or DM, you could miss out on the opportunity to form a genuine connection. Try to follow up immediately after an in-person meeting to solidify the relationship and show appreciation for their time. 

2. Join Design Communities

Joining a design community is a great way to connect with people who share your interests, goals, and career objectives. If you’re looking for a place to talk shop, ask questions, or simply meet like-minded individuals, there are countless design forums, websites, in-person meetups, and social media groups. 

However, design communities are also great places to connect with potential customers and clients. With people turning to the internet to find designers for their businesses, brands, or creative projects, the more groups, organizations, and communities you’re a part of, the more likely your work will get noticed. 

“Connecting with other designers and potential clients is crucial,” says Jacob. “Join professional organizations and communities, such as design associations, forums, and online groups.” 

Aside from meeting other designers and growing your network, design communities offer a forum to keep up with current trends and industry updates, search for job opportunities, learn from experienced professionals, and even find inspiration when you have a creative block. 

If you’re keen to join a design community, sites such as Graphic Design Forum, Design Buddies, Designlab, and Exponential Creatives are worth checking out. 

3. Create a Professional Website

Your digital footprint is your first impression on potential clients who discover you online. Investing in your online presence is essential if you’re serious about growing your client base and, in turn, your graphic design business. Potential clients will vet you based on your digital resume and online portfolio – such as your website and social accounts.

“Build a professional website and online portfolio to showcase your work and highlight your skills, experience, and services,” says Jacob. “Your website is your online business card.”

A professional website will set you apart from the hobbyists. Focus on showcasing your work, sharing all your essential information (such as About and Contact details), and providing a positive user experience. Ensuring your website is SEO-optimized is also crucial for ranking in search engine results. The more visible you are online, the more people will find you. 

If you want to create a professional, code-free website quickly and easily, check out some of these stunning template kits from Envato Elements

4. Build a Strong Social Media Presence 

Building a strong and recognizable social media presence is key to growing a successful brand, developing a creative career, and building a solid network and client base. 

“Use social media to promote your work, engage with potential clients, and build your online presence,” says Jacob. “The rise of social media and online marketing has made it easier for businesses to reach and engage with their target audience. A strong brand can help grab attention and stand out in a crowded digital landscape.”

Social media is also a cost-effective way to promote your business and engage your target audience. Many consumers now use social media to do product research, find reviews or recommendations, and even purchase products and services, which is why it’s so important to ensure you’re visible on these platforms. 

“Invest in marketing and advertising to promote your services and reach a larger audience,” says Jacob. “Many designers work with a limited budget, so leveraging free or low-cost marketing channels such as social media is vital. You’ll have a much smoother experience if you go slow and steady. Consistency is essential – show up, create, and share consistently.” 

Building a client base means cultivating a dedicated audience that finds your content useful and engages with it frequently. Ensure you know your customer base, plan your content, and post regularly.

5. Collaborate with Other Creatives

While design can be incredibly competitive, no designer is an island. Collaborating with other creatives can broaden your audience, client base, and skillset. 

“Collaborate with other designers and freelancers to offer a broader range of services and attract more high-paying clients,” Jacob advises. “Once you’ve got experience, this will help you build a “runway” to grow your freelance business and give you a rich pool of creatives with diverse skillsets to draw from.”  

Design collaboration is a process where different people with different skill sets come together to work on a project to achieve better results and a greater impact. As a freelance designer, this could mean:

  • Collaborating with other designers in your field to extend your reach.
  • Working with designers with other specialties – such as UX/UI or motion design – to expand your target audience and level up your services.
  • Collaborating with creatives in a different field to further extend and promote your work, such as up-and-coming brands, video creators, or social media influencers.

6. Offer Additional Services

Scaling your business as a designer can be challenging. There’s much to consider when expanding your service offerings, such as cost, time, training, and customer needs. However, offering additional services is a surefire way to reel in more clients, expand your customer base, and, ultimately, make more money.  

“One way to expand your client base and make more money as a designer is to offer additional services which go beyond design work,” says Jacob. “You can provide training, brand consulting services, or upsell clients with other benefits.”

additional products and services on Pink Pony Creative

When choosing which additional services to offer, ensure they align with your business objectives, play to your strengths, and can be easily upsold alongside your existing offerings. 

If you want to offer additional services but aren’t sure where to begin, start by considering the following:

  • The needs of your existing customers/clients.
  • Your creative strengths and best-selling products or services.
  • Your business goals and alignment.
  • How they could help make your business a “one-stop-shop.” 

Another way to boost your business and expand your client base is by creating passive income streams within or alongside your business.

“Passive income streams could mean affiliate marketing, selling your designs as physical products (such as prints or t-shirts), or releasing a font,” Jacob says. “You can also license your designs to companies for use in their products or advertising, contribute to stock sites, or sell your designs through online subscription platforms such as Envato Elements.”

7. Focus on Customer Experience

Customer experience is the foundation of any successful brand or business. While your body of work, marketing, and social channels are great tools for building brand awareness and drawing in new clients, your service’s quality will ensure clients stay. In fact, 89% of customers report they’re more likely to make a repeat purchase with a brand after a positive customer service experience.

“Providing excellent customer service and high-quality work is key for building a strong reputation and generating referrals from satisfied clients,” says Jacob. “A well-designed brand can help differentiate a company from competitors, build customer trust and credibility, and create a lasting impression. I like to call this a “high-end customer experience.” Treat every client like gold.” 

So, how do you create a successful customer service strategy? First, develop efficient back-end processes to ensure you aren’t losing any leads or clients. Communicate frequently and effectively with clients by being authentic, responsive, and transparent. One way to ensure effective communication and save time is by using automation to respond to inquiries, thank you emails, invoices, and more. By accurately filling out invoices, you can show clients you’re a professional who takes their business and their work seriously. Lastly, go above and beyond for your clients to show that you value them. Going the extra mile could look like providing a bonus business card design when they’ve commissioned you for a logo or offering them a discount for their next project. 

8. Iterate & Innovate

While staying in your comfort zone and sticking with what’s working can be easy, innovating your brand or business is much more likely to catch a client’s eye. Whether integrating new industry tools, learning new skills,  jumping on trends, or trying out new content types or formats, you should always push yourself to improve. 

“Never settle,” says Jacob. “Continually improve your skills and stay up-to-date with industry trends and innovations to remain competitive and attractive to potential clients. The rapid evolution of technology and digital tools requires designers to constantly adapt to changing market needs. To counter this, we must invest more in our education and create more compelling offerings that add value. For example, provide a strategy to help a business grow rather than just design deliverables.” 

In addition to evolving creatively, designers must keep their finger on the pulse as the world prioritizes sustainability, ethical practices, and social and political change. 91% of millennials reported that they would switch to a brand or business if it were associated with a cause they care about. So, by showing that you and your business align with your values, you’re more likely to draw in clients who share them. 

“You may have also noticed an increased focus on sustainability and ethical practices,” Jacob continues. “If you haven’t, it’s time to get out from under that rock. This may require designers to evolve their work and techniques to meet new standards and market expectations. We must educate ourselves and our clients about the importance of these issues.” 

And that’s a wrap! We hope you’ve gained some helpful tips for building a client base as a graphic designer. While you’re here, check out our Graphic Design Trends for 2023 and How to Kickstart Your Design Career with Jacob Cass.

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