How To Get Clients As a Junior Freelance Designer?

November 6, 2023

Be good at what you do, show up and seek your dream clients. Sitting and waiting for them to find you won’t happen as fast as you would like if you are being passive.

I often get direct messages and now even email inquiries from other designers asking me how I get clients. There is no one-size-fits-all answer, and certainly whatever I answer will sound too generic, but at the same time, it will still be valid. What I can mention that I don’t see being talked about as often is that everything starts with you and your mindset. Ready to see what I mean?

Neon sign of shaking hands as a sign of sealing a deal. Keyword clients.
Building relationships and having solid social proof is a great start. — Photo by charlesdeluvio on Unsplash

Before we jump to the trivial answers like building a portfolio, doing some cold outreach etc, let me tell you what I did.

I didn’t ask anyone this question when I started freelancing. No one except Google, because ChatGPT wasn’t even a thing then. What I did was research. I started learning from others and their stories online and started to translate their experience and relevancy to my situation. The more similar their situation was to mine, the more relatable and valuable it was.

Email asking for advice on how to find clients.
The way the question is phrased almost sounds like… Solve this problem for me. Also not the most polite email inquiry but useful for content creation around it. — Image by the author.
How does this help me as a service provider, how can I apply this to my business? — All questions that provoke critical thinking that help problem-solving skills to shape.

Getting clients as a junior freelance designer or any kind of professional can be difficult, but with the right approach and strategies, you can build a successful freelance career. Here are some steps to help you get started:

Part 1: Inner work

1. What is that you have to give to the world? Focus on your strengths and skills. Do the tests, ask people around you, and get feedback from colleagues and bosses. On one side put what you believe are your strengths and skills, then on the other those people around you think.

A great way to find out more about yourself is to ask people you like, trust and respect what they think you’re best at. Why not make a list of people you can ask about the kinds of jobs they think might suit your strengths and personality, and why? —

2. Sit down and think about who you want to work with. Who is your ideal, dream client? The more specific you are the better. Is it B2B or B2C, or a local beauty shop that needs a marketing campaign and you want to make a real and local impact? Who are you targeting?

3. After knowing WHAT and with WHO, it is time to think about the WHY. But before we continue if you are thinking: Why should I bother with this bullsh*t? I will tell you. If you don’t get clear with yourself first set your honest intentions, and align them with who you are, people won’t work or collaborate with you. Because they can sense when someone isn’t speaking their truth. You can pretend and try to appear as someone, but that’s more exhausting.

Part 2: External efforts

  1. Everything starts with you and your self-development. After you have programmed your software a.k.a brain, now you can focus on your hardware. Which tools are you going to use and focus on? What will you offer with those tools? Are your clients also fans of the tools?
  2. It’s time to get clear about your offer — services and/or products. Include what is included in the price, think about your extras (what to upsell later on), and everything that you might be asked by a client with a sentence: Do you make/have/give… Make sure you have a clear answer for it so you know where you stand and are never caught off guard.
  3. Create your brand. Start simple, don’t overcomplicate it. Here you can implement all that inner work we did earlier into your branding and messaging. This is what people will see when they Google your name. Want some guidance on your brand style? Check my other story here. 😉
  4. Reach out to your inner circles. Big companies do it too, it’s called internal staffing. See who in your network might need you as a collaborator. In this stage, think about it as a warm-up, start practising the way you introduce yourself, and your pitch and also don’t forget to mention projects you are working on. Yes, you should be working on passion projects and mentioning them in conversations, before being able to share client project stories.
Internal staffing is a strategic human resources approach where a company looks to current employees for promotions or to fill new positions.

5. Now that you have practised your pitching, start showing up online too. Go to online networking events, join the communities you are interested in, contribute, help others and join some conversations.

6. Start networking in real life too. Be genuine and try forming relationships with others.

7. Be open to upcoming opportunities, no matter how small or boring they are. You need to start from somewhere.

8. Your portfolio equals what you do and what you would like to do more of. Through case studies and storytelling, you can also show who you want to work with.

9. While waiting make sure you give a go to the freelance platforms. * Disclaimer* It is hard to start, and each platform has its own rules and strategies for success. They also change fast, so try focusing on one as a start. Plus to see results you need to constantly put an effort to get high ROI.

10. Last but not least, be delusional. If you see a problem, pitch yourself as the problem solver. Give a suggestion, create a concept case study, and flex your creativity muscle.

And always polish your process, customer skills, offer and branding. This is just the beginning, and beginnings are meant to be slow. Take this time to build good foundations and improve and shape your business.

Thank you for reading until the end, and hello from rainy Zagreb, Croatia! 💓

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