How to Get Web Design Clients

How to Get Web Design Clients

VIDEOS: The Top Two Ways Freelancers Get Design Clients


Strategic Networking (22 min)

Targeted Outreach (17 min)

+ a PDF with 102 ways freelancers found clients!

VIDEOS: The Top Two Ways Freelancers Get Design Clients


Strategic Networking (8 min)

Targeted Outreach (11 min)

+ a PDF with 167 ways freelancers found clients!

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​102 ​Ways ​to Get Freelance Design Work & Clients Looking for Websites​

Unedited stories told by freelance designers and developers in their own words

This is how web designers and developers REALLY get freelance work. It isn't ​always easy, fast, or cheap, but here you can learn about reliable methods for how to get web design clients.​

Browse all the ways freelancers use to find clients, or filter the stories for specific strategies, tactics, type of clients, etc.:
= beginner-friendly

How to Get Web Design Clients and Web Development Clients - Top 2 Ways.

​The top two strategies are networking and cold ​outreach.

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How to Get Web Design Clients

CreditYear
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDeveloperYesNetworkingReply to Questions Online$0Free, Personalized Tips at Expert LevelOnlineFacebook

Monitor Questions & Complaints on Social Media

BILDThis is how I built half of my business in six months just with this strategy alone: Every social media platform is filled with complaints and questions. Pick out a topic or problem that your clients have, and then monitor that social platform for those types of questions and/or keywords. When when one hits, jump into that thread and share a link, a resource, or just a helpful answer.

I do this with my Drip and ConvertKit services. Early on in my business, I did this with WooCommerce as well. I doesn't have to be a specific platform or tool either although that does make it somewhat easier.

Look at the questions your clients are asking you, and then pull out those keywords in there. Things like, "get more phone calls from my website," or "what's the best way to do X," or even a comparison type of thing "this versus that," or what's the best X in town that you're working." These kind of things are easy to jump into those conversations and provide value into a space that people don't understand.

As you continue to do that, you'll be in a much better and more referable spot to get that kind of work.

Jason Resnick | Rezzz
Web Developer

2019
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDesignerYesCold OutreachCold Calls / Cold Emails$0A Free Website ReviewOnline

Include a Targeted 1-Page Case Study to Your Cold Emails

BILDIn the first seven months of my freelance career, I managed to close $12,030 of business from a few batches of cold e-mails. … Before you ever send out a single cold e-mail, it is essential that you have a case study [single page]. … Your case study must:

1) Show a portfolio piece that you can be decently proud of,
2) Feature a raving client testimonial, and
3) It should outline a) the situation the client was in, b) the intervention or service your provided, and c) the end result for the client.

You must target potential prospects who are similar to the case study that you are sending out. If you are reaching out to chiropractors, then you need a chiropractor case study.

Never copy and paste a blanket statement in your e-mails. … You must fill in relevant information that is specific to the prospect and a review of their current situation. … The review of 2-3 things about the client is crucial. … As a web designer, this was easy because I could just review problems I noticed with their website.

Generally I will send one follow up attempt 7-10 days after the initial e-mail. … I have found that if the prospect doesn't respond after the second e-mail, then they simply aren't interested or they are not ready to buy. … You can expect to send roughly 100 e-mails to close 1-2 jobs. … If you need cash tomorrow, then cold e-mailing isn't for you. … Generally, cold e-mail sales can take 2-4 months to go through. From my experience, buyers who bite on these kind of offers tend to be extremely busy or slow moving.

Jake Jorgovan | Jake Jorgovan
Founder of Content Allies & Lead Cookie

2017
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDeveloperYesYesCold OutreachFind / Research Leads to Contact$0OnlineGoogle Maps

Use Google Maps to Identify Local Businesses in Need of Help

BILDI look around town on Google Maps and check out local businesses. The 'gold nuggets' are the companies that

1) have a domain name attached their YellowPages listing or auto-generated Google+ account, but the domain is inactive and
2) are still in business.

Those are people who, a lot of times, need help.

The 'silver nuggets' are the businesses out there that have a 'Coming Soon' page that has been there for over a year [Check web archieve or copyright notice]. That usually means a designer bailed on them or they tried to build their own site but quit at some point - and they're going to be confused and looking for someone to help.

The 'bronze nuggets' are the businesses whose websites are pretty bad. I look in the footer for the Copyright date. I'll see 2010, 2006, I've even seen a 2001 before. These people haven't updated in a while, and with a little smooth talking they are likely to come around.

I find the best way to get a hold of these people is through email. Writing a PERSONALIZED MESSAGE (not a blast email that looks like spam) is the way to go. That way they know you are local and here to help.

... in all seriousness, this strategy has landed me a lot of clients. HOWEVER - NOTHING BEATS WORD OF MOUTH AND REFERRALS!

David Miller | Start Bootstrap
Front end web developer and founder of Start Bootstrap

2013
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDeveloperContent MarketingPublish Blog Posts$0Ready-Made Answers to Frequent Questions or ProblemsOnline

Write Content That Answers Potential Clients' Most Common Questions

BILD… I would recommend is starting a blog if you don't have one. Target an area and post on it often. But research first. That is what I did. I researched the heck out of the market I am in and saw what people were concerned about the most.

It actually helped shape our business. We specialize in speed, on site seo optimization, and support. All under the PrestaShop platform, but those are the main area's that our blogs are on.

What made me choose those areas were because I saw posts, questions, and searches coming up for those areas a lot. Then I started churning out good quality articles.

Soon someone would ask a question somewhere and someone would link to one of my posts. Then after that happened for a while, it was a top result in the search engines. When this starts to happen, your whole game changes. It starts to fade from you looking for work to work finding you.

There is nothing more enjoyable than waking up in the morning to an inbox full of work requests.

Lesley Paone | designhaus 42
PrestaShop Certified Developer & Owner

2015
HtGWDCAgency ClientsDesignerAdvertisingAdvertise (Paid)Help Them Handle Overflow Work / Staffing GapsOnlineLinkedIn

Buy LinkedIn Ads to Advertise Your Services to Decision Makers at Creative Agencies

BILDI have a $10 daily budget for super targeted ads only to specific job titles and it seems to work well. My conversion rate is low once they are on my site but all it takes is one.

My niche is agency overflow, so I'm targeting creative directors, agency owners, managers and decision makers: https://d.pr/i/xcrtO9 (about 1 click a day)

Cal Hart | Raven Digital
Owner at Raven Digital

2013
HtGWDCAgency ClientsDeveloperYesYesCold OutreachCold Calls / Cold Emails$0Offline

Visit Local Agencies

BILDFirst I would track down all the marketing agencies within an hour drive of you and either pop in or give them a call and ask if they need any help with whatever your expertise is. Face to face goes a long way, and people WANT to hire local.

Itʼs the agencies that will give you ongoing work which is why I would go after them. Landing an agency is worth 10 or more random small businesses. Like I said you have to think strategically. Figure out what your low hanging fruit is and go after that.

Chad Tiffin | Chad Tiffin Web Development
Web Developer

2018
HtGWDCAgency ClientsDesignerYesCold OutreachFind / Research Leads to Contact$0Help Them Handle Overflow Work / Staffing Gaps

Approach Agencies That Have Lost Staff Recently

BILDIʼm currently working on a job for a small web dev agency. They recently lost their full time designer and were looking to hire a new one. I told them I wasnʼt interested in a full time position, but Iʼd happy help them fill the gap by contracting to them for a few projects until they found a new designer to fill the role.

Benek Lisefsk | Benek Limited
Interactive Art Direction & Web UX/UI Design

2018
HtGWDCAgency ClientsDeveloperYesYesCold OutreachFind / Research Leads to Contact$0Help Them Handle Overflow Work / Staffing GapsOnline

Adapt & Email Your Resume to Local Agencies

Cold-calling agencies is another matter entirely - it's much easier to do, because they're expecting to receive that kind of contact out of the blue. So what I would do is look up your local agencies and learn a bit about them. Then I'd build up a resume specifically for that position - focus your portfolio and bullet points on projects that seem in line with the type of work they do. Then send it in an email with a message about how impressed you are with the work they do (mention a specific project you liked), and mention that you'd love to help them out with overflow work if they need the help, and to please keep your resume on file.

mwilke |
Frontend Developer
2015
HtGWDCAgency ClientsDeveloperYesYesCold OutreachFind / Research Leads to Contact$0

Contact Local Dev Shops and Ad Agencies

Also, let me reiterate the value of contacting local dev shops and ad agencies, and letting them know you're available. You may not get immediate work, but their having your name on file never hurts.

dalek_999 |
Freelance Web Developer
2014
HtGWDCAgency ClientsDeveloperYesCold OutreachCold Calls / Cold Emails$0

Contact Small Development & Marketing Agencies

One piece of advice that has worked really well for me: contact small dev and advertising agencies. Let them know that you're available for work, list out your skillset, and link to your portfolio. Most small shops are always looking for good, reliable contractors, so you can get a lot of work that way.

dalek_999 |
Freelance Web Developer
2014
HtGWDCAgency ClientsDeveloperYesYesNetworkingExpand Your NetworkOffline

Rent a Desk From Well-Situated Business

I 'positioned' myself back in 2013 by renting a desk from a business consultancy / PR firm in my local hometown, right next door to one of the leading design agencies in Scotland. As a result, I get a constant stream of qualified leads with decent budgets.

Geoff |
Wordpress Consultant
2019
HtGWDCAgency ClientsDeveloperYesYesNetworkingNurture / Follow-Up With Your Existing Network$0

Keep in Touch With Past Agency Colleagues

Iʼve worked at some great digital & design agencies in my area (Aberdeen, UK) before going freelance so they all give me overflow work. Also when people move from these agencies they “take me along” as a consequence of having worked with them in the past. (This in particular was key to me surviving year 1 of freelance. Having worked in the industry already.)

cowboyecosse |
Web Developer
2018
HtGWDCAgency ClientsDeveloperNetworkingExpand Your NetworkOffline

Look for Recruiters That Put You in Teams Rather Than in Solo Projects

BILDI work freelance both via agencies and directly to client. And 90% of the time I get work because someone I've previously worked along side of recommends me to their current employer.

… Find middle men that put you in teams rather than in solo projects you'd begin to become recommended too. That is if you treat your coworkers nice and impress them with your skills of course.

… I recently finished a my time on a project, and at the last daily I just concluded the meeting saying that I'm freelance and if they ever hear of someone looking for a developer, tell them about me.

… I do webdev and react-native btw.

Rickard Petersen | Rickisen
Freelance Web/App Developer

2018
HtGWDCAgency ClientsDesignerYesNetworkingExpand Your Network$0

Make New Connections All the Time

BILDIʼve made an effort this year to get myself out there and create a lot of new relationships with colleagues, web development shops, and design agencies, and itʼs already paying off with many new exciting projects that I would have never had the opportunity to be involved with before. Nothing is more valuable than a good long-term relationship that continues to bring you repeat business. Getting more business from existing agencies or clients is always easier than getting brand new clients. So seek out, build, and nurture those relationships all the time. Define the industries and types of jobs you love the most and chase the clients you want.

Benek Lisefsk | Benek Limited
Interactive Art Direction & Web UX/UI Design

2016
HtGWDCAgency ClientsDeveloperYesYesYesNetworkingExpand Your Network$0Offline

Take Temporary Onsite Agency Jobs Through Creative Staffing Agencies

Take jobs from a creative temp agency like Aquent. … The creative temp agencies are nice for building up your contacts, because you can take onsite jobs where they "install" you at a business for a few weeks. I'm not a fan of onsite work in general - but with an agency it's nice because it typically only lasts just long enough for you to make connections. Eventually, the folks you meet at those jobs will start to contact you directly for new work.

mwilke |
Frontend Developer
2015
HtGWDCAgency ClientsDeveloperYesNetworkingNurture / Follow-Up With Your Existing Network$0

Stay in Touch with Previous Employers

BILDMy next major client was through my previous employer. I left the employer, taking project knowledge with me (I had written hand-over documentation, but I still knew the system better than anyone else), so when that client came back my previous employer looking for more work, that work got passed straight on to me as a subcontractor.

Samuel Levy | Determined Development
Software Engineer, Consultant, MD of Determined Development
HtGWDCAgency ClientsDesignerNetworkingNurture / Follow-Up With Your Existing Network$0

Keep in Touch with Agency Contacts

BILDI'm heading into year 7 of full-time contracting with a bang- and all those connections I made when I did work at an agency are where I get most of my work these days.

Kate Winsor | House of Winsor
UX Strategist & Consultant - House of Winsor

HtGWDCAgency ClientsDesignerYesNetworkingNurture / Follow-Up With Your Existing Network$0Online

Check in With Agency Contacts When They Move Into New Positions

BILDI've found my niche (and success) exclusively subcontracting with larger agencies. … How did I get in with these agencies? Personal relationships. People I previously worked with both as an agency employee and as a subcontractor moved into new positions at new agencies, and when they had a staffing need they called me up. I suck at networking with strangers, but I can keep in touch with people I've worked with like no one's business. :) When someone in my established network gets a new job, I shoot them a message seeing if there's any needs I can meet, or anyone they're now working with I can come in and chat with just to share my skillset and let them connect a name with a face. It's a long game sometimes, but much lower stress because I'm not necessarily depending on them to call back. I have three agencies I regularly work with, and I've been with them for several years each. Things still ebb and flow, but they tend to send me a baseline of work I can live off, and I bank the really good months for insulation.

Julie O'Neill Johnston | Julie Johnston Design
Freelance Graphic and User Experience Designer

HtGWDCAgency ClientsDesignerYesStrategic GiveawaysGive Away Services Strategically$0A Free Website

Do a Free Website for an Agency

I once did a free website for a talent management agency in London (calculated bet), she has since put tens of thousands of pounds of business our way. The vast majority of our work comes from either her company, or from clients sheʼs referred to us who have in turn recommended our services. We grew 300% last year as a result of that bet. ... Our giveaway to Emerge directly resulted in a dozen more clients and thousands in new revenue.

Conor Ashcroft | Metal Potato
Web Designer
2014
HtGWDCClients from Freelancing PlatformsDeveloperYesBid on Projects Posted OnlineBolster Client Testimonials / Reviews$0OnlineUpwork

Build a Client Base on Upwork

BILDI started web development 8 or 9 years ago. I was still learning and decided to try Elance (now Upwork). Getting initial clients was pretty hard. I sent 120 bids to get the first project, which was the development of a basic Wordpress website. Took me 2-3 weeks and the pay was $240. It took another 60 bids or so to get the second order. It was also a small blog and I got $150 for it. My goal was to learn along the way so my strategy was to select a project where I would know how to do 80% and would need to figure out the remaining 20%. More projects I completed - easier it was to get a new client. Besides my old clients were recommending me to others so it was becoming something like a flywheel. … My technology stack which at that time was HTML/CSS/WordPress/php5. The key here is that some of my old clients had additional work for me from time to time. In addition to that, some clients represented marketing agencies and they had new projects frequently.

Nick Surmanidze | Everycode
Full-stack developer @ everycode.net

2018
HtGWDCClients from Freelancing PlatformsDeveloperYesBid on Projects Posted Online$0OnlineCodeable

Join a Specialized Freelancing Platform

BILDI recently made the transition from a "real job" to full time freelance with the help of Codeable.io, if you're a WordPress expert I'd recommend you give them a try … It's nice to be part of platforms like this because there are new projects leads coming in all day, every day. … thatʼs where I find the majority of my freelancing clients. LinkedIn sends a few leads my way every now and again as well.

Nathan Reimnitz | Nathan Ello
Certified Expert WordPress Developer

2015
HtGWDCClients from Freelancing PlatformsDeveloperBusiness ListingsOptimize Your Online CVs / Personal Bios$0OnlineUpwork

Set up a Specialist Profile on Upwork

BILDI've completed a total of 1 job on Upwork. I don't go searching, the client found me due my skills in a unique niche. I don't invest time on marketplace sites like Upwork because the competition is too much and its a race to the bottom in pricing.

Chad Tiffin | Chad Tiffin Web Development
Web Developer
HtGWDCClients from Freelancing PlatformsDeveloperYesYesOnline Reputation ManagementBolster Client Testimonials / Reviews$0OnlineCodeable

Establish Yourself on Codeable.io by Completing as Many Small Tasks as Possible

BILDAn overwhelming majority (90%) of the projects Iʼve been hired for are those that I can complete within 1 day… To be crystal clear, Iʼm talking about projects at or below the $500 range. Why do I follow the “build your street cred” strategy? Well, for starters, when you join any new outsourcing platform youʼre going to start with a big fat “0” for “projects completed”. When I first joined Codeable I noticed that I wasnʼt being hired for new projects as quickly as my colleagues whoʼd already been there for a while and I figured some of that was due to the fact that they were sporting much larger numbers than I was for “projects completed”. Keep in mind, this is just a theory of mine and I donʼt have any fancy psychology reports or hard data to support it, but, from my own personal experience it does seem like clients are more inclined to hire the expert with the most projects complete. At least up until a certain point.

Nathan Reimnitz | Nathan Ello
Certified Expert WordPress Developer

2017
HtGWDCClients from Freelancing PlatformsDeveloperYesYesOnline Reputation ManagementBolster Client Testimonials / Reviews$0OnlineUpwork

Establish Yourself on Upwork by Bidding Low

I've been freelance for the last 4 years, and worked on web dev also before that. What I've done was:

1- join a freelance site (in my case was oDesk, but any other should work too)
2- spent some time on the profile, past jobs etc.
3- scan the jobs offers for something interesting
4- as I have no demonstrable experience, nor score, nor history, nothing, (but I was completely sure of my capabilities) I've used the mafia method: "make them an offer that they could not reject". If my hourly rate was X, I've offered them: " X/4 for the first 2-3 weeks, and then renegotiate to X/2 for 1 month, and then to X, if the results were ok, if not, you could always kick my ass and lose almost no money".

It works perfect to me, to the kind of target job I was looking (middle/long term part time).

Ngelx |
Web Developer
2015
HtGWDCClients from Freelancing PlatformsDesignerYesYesOnline Reputation ManagementBolster Client Testimonials / Reviews$0Online

Start with Easy Fix Work to Build Up Reputation

Many are (cheapskates,) but not everyone on there is. Part of the nuance is finding good job requests. It's no harder than cold calling, or asking past clients to put you in contact with businesspeople that they know. I like it because I can find people who are ready to get started quickly. I've heard a lot of people put the site down, but with some selective bidding I haven't had any issue getting paid well.

… With a good portfolio, and a decent ability to write up enticing proposals, you can find and get hired for good paying gigs. Part of the issue is that you have to build up a reputation and good reviews to get well-paying jobs, so it's sort of a chicken and egg thing for many people.

My tactic when I started was to look for "easy fix" work, like people who couldn't get a WordPress plugin to work properly or who needed to have their website moved to a new host. By doing a bunch of jobs that took less than an hour, I was able to build up some reviews and I think that helped when I started to apply to full site builds and more complicated development tasks. It also helps to take their "tests", because just a like useless certification, clients on their like to see them.

... On elance you have to be selective in you bids. I personally only bid on jobs with well written project descriptions from employers who have a history of good reviews and large jobs. I don't want to work for cheapskates online or offline, so it takes a little due diligence.

Redditor |
Web Designer
2014
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDesignerAdvertisingAdvertise (Paid)OnlineGoogle

Target Your Competitor's Potential Client's via Google Ads

BILDTarget your competitors domain keywords and have your site above theirs via Ads on direct searches. That's the fastest way I know to make friends!

Daniel Seymour | Clemson Web Design
Front End Web Developer, Designer, Photographer, Writer & Entrepreneur @ Clemson Web Design

2017
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDeveloperYesYesBid on Projects Posted OnlineRespond to Local Classifieds$0OnlineKijiji

Find Local Leads on Kijiji

BILDCheck your local classifieds - I found good leads and projects on Kijiji :) … Look for the local opportunities, working with local business allows you to offer more value, so you are not just selling a commodity (your time) but offer some value (help to research business needs, come up with online lead generation strategy, etc)

Andrei Filonov | Smart Foxes
Freelance WordPress developer

2015
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDeveloperYesYesBid on Projects Posted OnlineRespond to RFPs$0Online

Bid on Projects From State RFP Sites

I started with a part-time contract position for a local school system and did a good job. Eventually I had a niche and a good reputation and got a lot of work through word of mouth. I eventually had enough of a reputation that I had to start turning down gigs. I just quit my full time job last week. It's scary but great. Check to see if your state has a RFP [request for proposal] site and see if they have any interesting web projects. The state projects I worked on were great because they didn't undervalue me and they reliably pay on time.

Redditor |
Freelance Developer
2015
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDesignerBusiness ListingsSubmit Your Company to Business Directories$0OnlineWix Arena

List Your Business on the Wix Marketplace

BILDIf youʼre a print designer whoʼs been dying to figure out how to add web design to your service offerings, Wix might be the perfect answer for you. ... About a year ago, I had the opportunity to join the “Wix Partners” which means Iʼm now listed on the Wix marketplace for clients from all over the globe to contact and hire me. While itʼs still relatively early, I would estimate that being a Wix Expert added approximately an additional $15,000-$20,000 (AUD) to my revenue in the last year alone and I project that to improve in the future. Becoming a Wix Expert really opened up the world to me for potential new clients from all corners of the globe.

Ian Grey | Ignite Design & Creative
Freelance Creative

2019
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDeveloperYesYesBusiness ListingsSubmit Your Company to Business Directories$0Online

Submit Your Business to Free Directory Listing Sites

BILDWhen i went freelance, I expected to get most of my business through freelance sites such as upwork / peopleperhour etc. I thought it would be a waste of time adding my details to online directories, as I live in a rural area. One Christmas, I did it anyway - it took about half a day to add to all the major directories. A month later, i got a call out of the blue from a local company looking for a local freelancer. I've built a business on the back of that enquiry, opened an office and taken on my first employee. It has since led to a number of referrals for other projects too. All by spending half a day submitting our details to free directory listing sites. In terms of ROI, it must be through the roof!

Gavin Coates | Nighthawk Software Ltd
Web Developer

2019
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDeveloperBusiness ListingsSubmit Your Company to Business Directories$0OnlineShopify Experts

Apply for a Public Listing in the Shopify Experts Directory

BILDI get 2-5 leads per day through my Shopify Experts listing. It's been phenomenal in growing my business. However, you need to have a lot of reviews. I got a few a month when I had 2 reviews. Once I got 10+ reviews, the leads started pouring in. Shopify's support of its partners is excellent. They're definitely nurturing an ecosystem.

Kurt Elster | Ethercycle
Shopify Expert since '11. Host: The Unofficial Shopify Podcast

2014
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDesignerYesYesCold OutreachFind / Research Leads to Contact$0A Paid Ready-To-Use WebsiteOnlineGoogle Maps

Use Google Maps to Find Local Service Businesses with Crappy or No Websites

BILDHereʼs a real tactical tip for you: 1) Get on Google Maps and pull up your neighborhood. Then find all of the restaurants, dental offices, retail stores, nail salons, and barbershops and check out their profiles. 2) In it, you will find a link to their website. (Or you wonʼt find a link at all, which is even better. That means they donʼt even have a website!) 3) If their site is garbage, pull as much of the content from it as you can, then rebuild it for them. No, Iʼm not kidding. 4) Then, once youʼre done, email them with a link to their brand-spanking-new website, and ask for their feedback. 5) If they love it, sell it to them. Thatʼs it.

Patrick Antinozzi | Rapid Web Launch
Web Designer

2019
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDeveloperCold OutreachFind / Research Leads to ContactOnline

Buy Leads from Lead Generation Services

This is going to sound cheesy, but I've found rock solid leads buying from lead gen shops on places like Fiverr and other small-time gig marketplaces. The good, well reviewed ones typically subscribe to literally every database and service there is and verify all the emails before they send it over, they just have more access to anything we'd have. I was averaging about $20 per 100 leads. I've had better success ordering 100 here, 100 there when I wanted more rather than making some 1000+ lead bulk purchase. It takes time.

ghuster903 |
Web and Mobile Developer
2018
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDesignerYesYesCold OutreachFind / Research Leads to Contact$0Google

Trawl Through Local Results Past Page 10 or 20 to Starting Finding the Gold

BILDGoogle is your friend here. Search the hell out of the industry youʼve picked to start making a list of potential matches. … Start local if you live in a big enough market, as youʼll have more success with this strategy if you contact local businesses. Expand to a larger area only if you fail to find enough local prospects. … Itʼs important to note that you often have more success with this the further down the search results you go. Companies with excellent websites, strong brands and reputations, and savvy digital marketing will naturally appear higher in your results. But they are the companies that, generally, will need your services the least. You may have the trawl through results past page 10 or 20 to starting finding the gold. Itʼs a balance. You want to find the sweet spot of clients who are good and successful in their own right, but who are struggling in some areas where you can be of most value to them.

Benek Lisefsk | Benek Limited
Interactive Art Direction & Web UX/UI Design

2018
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDeveloperYesCold OutreachCold Calls / Cold Emails$0

Focusing on Your Local Region Is Better Than Upwork

The amount of time and effort freelancer's put into bidding for jobs on these platforms [Upwork, etc.] could be used to find clients in the wild. Yes, it requires cold outreach but it's not as difficult as it seems. B2B cold outreach isn't as daunting as you think, people will just tell you flat out if they are interested or not and they have to do the same thing half the time to get customers themselves so they know the situation you are in. Sure, maybe 1 in 10 times I get a cold lead using profanity in a call or email about the outreach but everyone else is nice and friendly.

ghuster903 |
Web and Mobile Developer
2018
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDeveloperYesYesCold OutreachCold Calls / Cold Emails$0Online

Rotate out Targeted Email Campaigns to Certain Industries

I've always been shaky about this, as I don't like to be bothered myself and if you were to cold email no matter how good the message or offer, I'd delete it right away (I guarantee it). However, not everyone is as experienced with internet communication as we (tech people) are and they do actually read the emails sometimes. It's about volume, go ahead and build lists of certain industries within your geographic region (that you are ok driving to) and rotate out targeted campaigns that you tweak overtime. I used to spend a lot of time researching individual businesses and making super detailed emails with suggestions etc but the response rate was almost the same as my "question about {Company}", 2 lines in the body email that I send out on drip now. Just A/B test all your cold email templates, I personally use Mailshake but there is a lot of other stuff out there. Last month I sent out 900 emails, got 20 responses, 5 of those met with me in person and I closed 3 of them.

ghuster903 |
Web and Mobile Developer
2018
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDeveloperYesYesCold OutreachCold Calls / Cold Emails$0Online

Send Cold Emails to Hundreds of Local Businesses

Cold emailing - you know what? This did work a few times. It's definitely a needle in the haystack kind of thing (sent well over 700+ emails), but I did sign a few clients where the average website was ranging from $2,000 - $5,000. I don't mind doing it, the only painful part is collecting emails and names of local businesses that have websites + SEO sucks.

JD Fillmore | JD
Front End Developer

2017
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDesignerYesYesCold OutreachCold Calls / Cold Emails$0Online

Send Emails to Local Businesses

I send about 5-10 emails a week to businesses near me. I've heard back from about 3/50 or so. I'm working with one now though. So, it does work, but in my experience it seems like a lot of companies with bad websites made a website and just kind of forgot about it along with the email address linked.

Nick Morris | Nick Morris
Freelance Web Developer

2017
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDesignerYesYesCold OutreachFind / Research Leads to Contact$0Online

Use Google to Identify Local Prospects With Crappy Websites

So, I used Google primarily in the beginning. I mean itʼs a directory of bad websites ha. I pick a certain city (I usually target Canada because I lived there) and just start going through niches. SO, for example Toronto + Carpet Cleaning. I go through the first two pages and pick out any bad websites. … [Look for] shit design, broken links, terrible layout and flow, useless info, info that is needed missing, no calls to actions, no easy to find vital info and so on. Lots of stuff. Use the site from the eyes of a customer and see if it makes sense. For old boring industries they are usually terrible. … I give those a call and explain that their SEO is already taken care of (usually cause the domain is so old) and that with some a better website they would be converting the traffic they already have a lot more. It makes starting the sale (and adding value) a lot easier. After I got a few of these sales word started to get out that I was good at what I do and I got more and more referrals. At the moment they make up about 50% or more of my new websites. If you do great work and you add a lot of value, you will quickly be in demand. And of course, it helps with cold calling too when you can point to past results. The first few months are hard but when you have a track record it starts to get a lot easier. There are so many terrible websites in so many cities. And your average web developer can only really do about 20 - 30 jobs a year anyway so they are not running out.

Rob Anthony O'Rourke | Sirra Design
Web Designer
2016
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDesignerYesCold OutreachFind / Research Leads to Contact

Aim for Big Projects

AIM BIG. I did just as much work for $150 a month as I did for $15,000. Well maybe a little more work now but not much. Sales for a HUGE site and a small one takes the same amount of time, so does emails, so do calls, so does hosting, so does invoicing, so does 100 other things. The only big difference is design and code but that is only 30% of a job. My point is it is easier to aim big. Aiming big pushes you harder and gives you the reward to keep going. Aiming small sucks and everyday is a drag. I have been there. So instead of dialing the small cafe dial Jimmys Tow Truck company, believe in what you can do and what you can achieve.

Rob Anthony O'Rourke | Sirra Design
Web Designer
2016
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDesignerYesCold OutreachCold Calls / Cold Emails$0Offline

Cold Call Small Business Owners

There isn't many gatekeepers on a smaller construction or engineering company. Usually the owner answers the phone or has a personal number listed. If not, I just ask to speak to them directly and call them by their first name (Hi is Pete there I need to talk to him). If I do gets a "who is this" then "I have emailed before about doing business together, he should know me". No gatekeeper will keep asking questions if they think itʼs a client. Just use a normal tone and not some call-robot voice and you will be fine. Works 90% of the time.

Rob Anthony O'Rourke | Sirra Design
Web Designer
2016
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDesignerYesCold OutreachFind / Research Leads to Contact$0A Free Website ReviewOnline

Find 3-5 Clients a Week Who You Could Help a Lot & Tell Them Exactly How

Lots of people use a "spam" approach - call 200 people and hope something sticks (not saying this is you). I pick maybe 3-5 clients per week and really look for people I can help A LOT. I then do up a really detailed email and/or call and tell them up front a lot of ways they can improve on their site. I have done this and people have gone and hired someone cheaper (ha!) but usually they end up going with me. I don't like to cold call a lot and I hate spam/hard sales. People really appreciate it, even when they don't buy, and word gets out either way. Nowadays I make very little calls and most of my work is done on the researching and preparing side. With websites its great because you can already see nearly everything before you even talk to the client, with proper homework you can really find people who will get a lot of value out of a new website (and you can charge a % of that!)

Rob Anthony O'Rourke | Sirra Design
Web Designer
2016
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDesignerYesCold OutreachFind / Research Leads to Contact$0Offline

Target Businesses without Gatekeepers

Going after businesses that can afford 5k websites, which is literally any business with 4 employees ever. Those types of businesses don't have gatekeepers. You just call the guy in charge and start chatting.

JesusxFuckingxChrist |
2016
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDesignerYesCold OutreachCold Calls / Cold Emails$0Offline

Call a Select Few Potential Clients & Put the Value up Front

Ya, I don't do/like cold calls much either. I call a select few and really try knock it out of the park. My close % is high but I do very few. people get spammed left/right these days, so you need to put the value up front.

Rob Anthony O'Rourke | Sirra Design
Web Designer
2016
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDeveloperYesCold OutreachFind / Research Leads to Contact$0Offline

Call Companies With 20-50 Employees

Your best targets will be where the decision maker is not too far organizationally from the person who answers the phone. Company sizes 20-50 employees are a sweet spot, in my experience.

Spencer Phillip Young | sPYoung
Freelance software engineer and consultant
2016
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDeveloperYesYesCold OutreachFind / Research Leads to Contact$0Online

Browse Local Advertising Magazines for Potential Clients

Got my first work through my girlfriend's step-dad, but landed my first "real" client last month. To be fair, I think I got lucky… I was browsing a local advertising magazine, and e-mailed a couple of businesses with non-responsive websites, explaining how a fresh re-design and a mobile-friendly site can benefit them. The second place I contacted gave me a call back within five minutes and agreed that their site "did need re-doing", and the rest is history.

(Of course, being a noob I obviously quoted too low, and gave a fixed price for amendments rather than per hour. Ah well, it's been a good learning process so far, and it felt good getting my first deposit for my services!)

Redditor |
Web Developer
2015
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDesignerYesYesCold OutreachFind / Research Leads to Contact$0Online

Contact Local Businesses with Crappy Websites

Check every business in your area that has a crappy website. I canʼt tell you how many clients I have who really wanted a new website and had no idea who to call.

guruscotty |
Web Designer
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDesignerYesCold OutreachFind / Research Leads to Contact$0Expand Their Offerings / Know-How With Your Skillset

Target Your Current Employer's Competitors

Before I went freelance, I had been working part-time for a small business as their web and graphics guy. … I decided to go to other organizations that were similar to my part-time job and offer my services, hoping to get hired full-time by one of them. I figured they'd want the web guy that worked for one of their competitors, plus my work was better than what any of them had. They did want me, but not full-time. Instead, they wanted me to work on a contract basis. I created my own contracts and monthly invoices and signed up several three-month gigs. Some of them lasted a while. Some only lasted the initial three months.

MontegoBarbados |
Web Designer
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDeveloperYesYesYesCold OutreachFind / Research Leads to Contact$0Help Them Handle Overflow Work / Staffing GapsOnlineKijiji

Look for Gap Positions on Kijiji

BILD4th Year full-time freelancer here.. Kijiji (like Craigslist in Canada) was the single biggest source of jobs for me. At the beginning nearly 100% of my clients were found by trolling the jobs ads for people looking for web designers/developers, and I would spend a lot of time replying to those ads with a quick summary of my expertise and how I could help them. I probably had about a 5-10% conversion rate. … In my last year and a half of work (and for at least the next year ahead), my primary source of work has been by being hired to run large, long-term projects. One of these contracts I found off Kijiji (they were desperate and put an add on Kijiji as a last resort, and found me), the other came through my network of clients.

Chad Tiffin | Chad Tiffin Web Development
Web Developer
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDeveloperYesContent MarketingPublish Blog Posts$0Online

Write Industry-Specific Content to Help Prospects Like & Trust You

BILDStart a blog and say interesting/insightful things about your industry. Having a good blog has helped me to seal contracts a few times because it shows that I'm interested in the industry, not just "working a job", as such. It puts me in a position of reasonable authority, because I know enough about the industry I work in to write intelligent things about it.

Samuel Levy | Determined Development
Software Engineer, Consultant, MD of Determined Development

2013
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDesignerYesCROOptimize Your Website for Inbound Inquiries$0Instant Response to Pre-Sales QuestionsOnline

Offer Live Chat on Your Website

BILDHaving conversations with potential customers through our website chat tool, Drift, has made a huge difference. We were able to make each website visit or inquiry truly personal and memorable. People have recognized that, and we have been able to have a good rapport with our potential customers. After every inbound inquiry, we would use the opportunity to find out more about their needs and how many people are on their team. Using a chat tool has helped us do customer support and user research at the same time. Result: 20+ paying customers. Lesson: A short conversation can provide short term support for the user and can allow a brand to potentially build long term trust.

Aloke Pillai | Pastel
Designer/Co-founder at Pastel

2018
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDesignerYesCROOptimize Your Website for Inbound Inquiries$0Online

Share a Site With a Co-Operative of Creative Professionals

BILDWe find a well populated website, with a clear 'menu' of the services we offer get's us enquiries every single day. It's all optimized, which we work very hard at, but generates 9k visits a month - It flies in the face of the theory you have to have a 'specialist' website for every service - We get a great variety of startups, to established medium sized companies. The bottom line is, in my opinion, you need a well formatted website - that way you get more clients, even more referrals and the circle continues.

James Adams | Designers Up North
Director at Designers Up North Ltd

2017
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDesignerYesCROOptimize Your Website for Inbound Inquiries$0Instant Response to Pre-Sales QuestionsOnline

Offer Live Chat on Your Website

BILDBecause I can honestly say, it now ranks up there in my top three lead generation tactics. Seriously.

Bianca Board | Web123
Facebook Messenger Marketing Expert | Chatbot Strategist | Lead Generation | Revenue Growth | Chief Marketing Officer

2016
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDesignerYesYesNetworkingExpand Your Network$0Offline

Advertise Your Services On a T-Shirt

BILDOk, this one sounds silly but it helped me get my business off the ground. When I first started out I designed a T-Shirt that said “Hi I'm a website designer. Is your site working for you?” I had one shirt printed through some website with white ink on a black shirt, same message on both front and back. I wore that shirt anywhere people would see it. The mall, sport events, my kid's school events, you get the idea. It amazed me how many people questioned me about my services. Some just wanted advice, some wanted a quote and a couple hired me right on the spot. They all left with my business card in hand.

Mark Des Cotes | Marksman Design
Owner of Marksman Design

2018
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDeveloperYesNetworkingNurture / Follow-Up With Your Existing Network$0Online

Continually Reach Out to People You Meet at Events

BILDWhen you follow up with people, you are showing that you care about the relationship you started [at the event.] But it doesnʼt end there. I continue to follow up with people. Maybe a month or two down the line, Iʼll shoot them another email just to see how things are going. There have been many times when I follow up with someone I havenʼt spoken to in a while, and I get a job out of it.

Brandon Yanofsky | MyWPexpert
Freelance Full Stack Developer

2015
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDeveloperYesNetworkingReply to Questions Online$0OnlineReddit

PM Answers to People on Reddit

On reddit someone was asking about developer rates, I PMed him and ended working for him for 5 years.

uazaa |
Freelance Developer
2015
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDeveloperYesNetworkingNurture / Follow-Up With Your Existing Network$0

Get Work from Old Co-Workers Who Move On

It's been 5 years since my last "real job" and I still get work from old coworkers who have moved on to new jobs where my services were needed. … My advice to you would be to build up a network of other skilled people who know that you do good work. Do overflow work for an agency, do a pro-bono website for a client with a lot of good connections, or take jobs from a creative temp agency like Aquent.

mwilke |
Frontend Developer
2015
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDeveloperYesYesNetworkingExpand Your Network$0OfflineLocal WordPress Meetup

Go to Local WP meetups

Start going to your local WP meetup -- there are often potential clients there. Go to every WordCamp you can get to.

dalek_999 |
Freelance Web Developer
2014
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDesignerYesNetworkingAsk Your Network for Leads$0

Always Tell Your Family & Friends that You Need More Work

I always made it a point to tell all of my clients, friends, and family that I was always looking for more work. It turned out that someone always knew someone that needed my services.

MontegoBarbados |
Web Designer
2014
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDesignerYesYesNetworkingExpand Your NetworkOffline

Join a Co-Working Space, Position Yourself, and Be Approachable

BILDShared Workspaces / Incubators - Huge. Establish yourself as a master of one topic or another, and be approachable. Bump elbows and become a customer of the businesses around you. The ROI of this is realized pretty quickly, and shared workspaces usually offer room for very affordable prices (in my case, a great incubator out here starts at $50/mo. for working space not to mention a steady lead source).

Tommy Geoco | Geoco Strategy & Design
Product Designer (UX/UI) in Advertising Technology

2014
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDesignerYesYesNetworkingExpand Your Network$0OfflineStartup Weekend

Socialize at Local Startup Weekends

I stopped freelancing a while ago, but when I did I would hit up local Startup Weekends. Basically folks show up to pitch ideas, everyone breaks into teams and tries to make a startup in 54 hours. There's a lot of startup events/hackathons like it now, should be easy to find a few events that are local to you. My business cards have a full card game printed on the back of them which gave me a chance to sit down with someone I just met/a potential client and play a game with them during a break (about 5-10 mins,) talk to them about my work, and basically show them a portfolio piece printed right on the back of my cards. It's actually a 5x5 match three game, like Bejeweled but as a card game. Here's what they look like (https://imgur.com/a/gX8uw). Usually I'd hand someone a card, they would ask about the back and I'd ask if they wanted to play sometime. I ended up with a decent amount of Twitter followers, LinkedIn contacts and so-on from that - basically a network that I could hit up anytime I was available for new work.

SeattleEsports |
Web Designer
2014
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDeveloperYesYesNetworkingExpand Your Network$0Offline

Invest in Getting Your Name Out

Yeah, it sucks. As a massive introvert, it's really tough for me. But get yourself out there. Go to local meetups, chamber of commerce meet and greets, conventions, whatever. Get your name out there. It's an investment in time. I have actually found a few clients that way, that ultimately led to more referrals, so in my experience, it's worth it.

dalek_999 |
Freelance Web Developer
2014
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDesignerYesNetworkingNurture / Follow-Up With Your Existing Network$0Free, Personalized Tips at Expert LevelOnline

Follow Up With Your Network

I followed up [by email] with an entrepreneur I met a few years back, who had recently founded a company. He asked for my feedback on his product and any advice I had. I hopped on a call with him to discuss, and he later hired my consultancy for some internal design and UX work.

Abhinav Marla |
Web Designer
2014
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDeveloperYesYesNetworkingExpand Your NetworkOffline

Take Local Entrepreneurial Courses

Take some local entrepreneurial courses -- guess what, all those people will be starting a business, and will need websites.

dalek_999 |
Freelance Web Developer
2014
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDesignerYesNetworkingNurture / Follow-Up With Your Existing Network$0OnlineLinkedIn

Whenever Someone Connects on LinkedIn, Send Them a Short Personal Message

BILDOne of my best sources for clients has been LinkedIn. Whenever someone connects with me, I send them a short personal message, letting them know that if they ever need help with WordPress or a website, or anything else for that matter, to not hesitate to contact me. Extremely simple, but it works, because so few people actually do it. I've got over 500 connects on LinkedIn, and very rarely will I get a note from someone I connect with unless I send one first. Most people just connect and move on, so if you actually engage with the people you connect with, you stand out.
My target market is small business owners and entrepreneurs, so those are the people that I try to connect with. I've probably gotten a dozen clients in the past 4 months that way, and they've given me at least that many referrals.

Dave Soucy | Barefoot Web Designs, LLC
Freelance WordPress Consultant

2014
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDesignerNetworkingNurture / Follow-Up With Your Existing Network$0

Stay in Touch With Contacts That Change Employers

Some of my existing clients have moved to other companies and have then called me up from their new offices.

crazybones |
2014
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDeveloperYesNetworkingReply to Questions Online$0Free, Personalized Tips at Expert LevelOnlineReddit

Help People out on Online Forums

BILDPosting to forums brings in a lot of work. When you constantly are answering questions for people, and your name keeps coming up, it does stick with people. Now names like bigbong68 won't work. Either try to use your company name or your real name. Keep the brand consistent across all platforms. Even if the brand is your name design, vie to have it the same on everything you do, don't confuse people. I get recognized every now and them from one forum to the next by users, things like "oh hey, I didn't know you reddited, you helped me the other day on xx forum."

Lesley Paone | designhaus 42
Prestashop Developer E-commerce SEO Specialist

2013
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDesignerYesYesNetworkingNurture / Follow-Up With Your Existing Network$0Offline

Talk to Friends/Family/Acquaintances About What You Do

BILDMy primary source is those I meet in day to day life -- friends, acquaintances, referrals from past clients or people in my social circle who know what I do. My website is primarily there to give people a place to view my work and feel confident in contacting me, but I don't personally get many direct leads just through the site. Networking seems to be more and more important now that I'm doing freelancing full time. […] I'm constantly talking to friends/family/acquaintances about what I do, passing out business cards or the link to my website.

Benjamin Falk | Falken Creative
Designer & Developer

2013
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDeveloperYesNetworkingReply to Questions Online$0Free, Personalized Tips at Expert LevelOnlineLinkedIn

Help People Out on LinkedIn

Posting status updates [on LinkedIn] that are relevant to my field of work or commenting on new technologies/techniques as far as web development goes have also allowed me to find work easily. … Use it daily. There are groups on there you can sign up with with active discussions. … Participate, add people everyone to your connection lists, and then make yourself known on LinkedIn by posting relevant status updates and links. A lot of people think LinkedIn is just another job board to search for jobs. I've never searched for a job on LinkedIn. People come to me. Once you get the ball rolling with that stuff it honestly doesn't take much effort to get new clients. It is actually surprisingly easy.

Rozo-D |
Web Developer
2013
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDeveloperYesNetworkingReply to Questions Online$0Free, Personalized Tips at Expert LevelOnlineReddit

Help People Out on Reddit

I've received a few jobs via Reddit either by commenting in threads or messaging people directly that are in need of assistance. Basically show people that you exist AND that you know what you're talking about with a solid portfolio to back it up. I got a lot of gigs just by commenting in /r/webdev and people messaging me asking for help.
… Essentially if you show expertise in your field and you openly discuss your field with individuals the clients will come to you. "hey this guy knows what he's talking about, maybe he can help us."
… You'll find a lot of advice online with people stating "start a blog, write blog posts about what you know" etc. that's all well and good but it's not as immediate as engaging in existing conversations or venues where the topic of discussion, which is your field, is already being talked about. Subscribe to subreddits on here that are related to what you do and comment on the threads. Start new threads. Those subreddits aren't just for people already in your field but also people looking to hire or seek advice will also go there. A lot of people think it's difficult to find clients but in all honesty it's not. Put yourself out there and they will come to you.

Rozo-D |
Web Developer
2013
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDesignerYesNetworkingExpand Your NetworkOfflineBKK Web

Start Your Own Targeted Networking Event

BILDIf you do not find any interesting groups in your town, you could create your own group. This would give you a strong exposure as you become the central person in the group, besides prospects are most likely to trust someone that takes initiatives. That's what I did in Bangkok [BKK Web, a free monthly web design meetup]. A lot of people join my group because they need to hire designers or developers for their next project. After only two months running this group, I got three new clients and talked to many prospects.

Jeremie Tisseau | Morphosis Apps Co.
UI/UX Designer

2011
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDesignerYesYesNetworkingNurture / Follow-Up With Your Existing Network$0

Reach out to Former Co-Workers

BILDReach out to connections youʼve made during your corporate years. People youʼve worked with have also moved on to new companies, and there are always opportunities to be found through them. Go to local networking events. Look into your local or regional chamber(s) of commerce. Almost all of my work has been through referrals from former coworkers, clients, or friends.

Elizabeth Manning | elm DesignWorks
Owner / Designer at elm DesignWorks

HtGWDCDirect ClientsDeveloperOnline Reputation ManagementBolster Client Testimonials / Reviews$0OnlineLinkedIn

Use Linkedin Recommendations for Proving Your Awesomeness

I have gotten a ton of work from LinkedIn because I have a ton of awesome recommendations on there. Include your LinkedIn page with every proposal you make -- people go there and see how awesome you are based on your recommendations, and you're that much more likely to get work. I've even got some non-solicited work from people poking around on LinkedIn.

dalek_999 |
Freelance Web Developer
2014
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDeveloperPromotionsGive Away Services Strategically$0Online

Use a Contest to Give Away a 4-Hour Support Package

BILDContests, yeah, we give time away for free. Here is our latest contest, http://dh42.com/blog/win-4-hour-prestashop-support-package/ We provide a lot of PrestaShop based support. So, what we came away with from this is giving 4 hours of support to one person and a new mailing list segment of 50 or so people who would be interested in PrestaShop support. We also got 50 new Facebook and Twitter followers as well, so that helps too. But now I have more targeted people to advertise to. Most industries can benefit from something like this. The way I look at it is I am going to spend 1/2 a day doing something for someone for free to get 50 more people that would be interested in paying me to do it. When the rubber met the road, we gave away $350 support package and through further marketing earned over $5k from that list.

Lesley Paone | designhaus 42
Prestashop Developer E-commerce SEO Specialist

2015
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDesignerYesReferral MarketingPay for / Reward ReferralsEarn Referral Fees Paid by You

Pay Commission for Warm Leads

Find someone you know who doesn't actually do sales but has a huge business network. Show them your past results (you don't want to fuck them over) and have them work on a commission. They don't have to hard sell; they just need to send you warm leads. I give like 15-25% depending on the sale.

Rob Anthony O'Rourke | Sirra Design
Web Designer
2016
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDeveloperReferral MarketingCrediting on Client Sites$0Online

Request a "Designed by" Link on Client Websites

I always ask to put a link to my portfolio in the footer of anything I'm working on, most people say yes. I always get a couple calls from that (usually from people in the same industry as the project they see it on). Also "he's got a link at the bottom of my site" is much more likely than someone writing down my name, email, phone, and / or site for a buddy of theirs. I don't usually request it on bigger things but for small businesses it's a nice thing to have put there.
It's definitely tacky to put it on a large companies site, when they pay you good money to deliver a product. When I'm between big projects I pick up $500 - $1k jobs here and there - that's an amount of money I appreciate but I know all of them have Googled "how much does a website cost" and understand they're getting a good deal. But it's usually friends of friends small businesses or for a co-worker's side gig or something like that.
So for those small ones it's a comfortable enough thing where I can ask if I'm feeling it, and if they say yes it usually generates at least one or two new client calls, if not new contracts - but those are at the normal rate and I wouldn't ask to put my name on there.
The way I do it is usually the same - I'll have the normal footer with the usual stuff, then underneath that is a 100% wide stripe in a dark color (say $color-1), with like 80% sized font, and the text color is something like lighten($color-1, 20%). It's like 3px padding on the top and bottom. The point is, it's hard to notice unless you're looking. Like I said, I just have it there because I feel like it's way more likely someone will follow through with the instruction "click the link to his portfolio at the bottom" rather than "try to remember his weird name and type that into google".

Redditor |
Web Developer
2015
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDesignerReferral MarketingPay for / Reward Referrals$0Earn Referral Fees Paid by You

Pay Cash Bonuses to People That Refer Business

BILDLook after the people that send you business. Show them you appreciate it otherwise they might stop. Consider a referral program, it works great for us. We keep our referral program simple; we donʼt want to muck around with gifts and postage, so we stick to cold hard cash. You refer a website client to me, you get a payment as soon as the client pays their invoice. You refer a ProPartner designer client to me, you get a cash bonus too. Cash referral payments are easy to transfer online, fast, and always appreciated! And, if you think about how much it costs to FIND and convert new business, it makes financial sense. … Weʼre offering $200 cash, moolah, dinero, and quite a few buckaroos to anyone who refers a new client to us. If youʼre already a Web123 client, weʼll sweeten the deal even more by giving you the option of either taking the $200 cash or upping that reward to $300 in credit (thatʼs over 6 months hosting! FREE!).

Bianca Board | Web123
Facebook Messenger Marketing Expert | Chatbot Strategist | Lead Generation | Revenue Growth | Chief Marketing Officer

2013
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDeveloperStrategic GiveawaysGive Away Digital Assets$0Free Digital AssetsOnline

Give Away WP Themes, scripts, etc. on Your Blog

BILDOne thing that really worked for me was to write a blog and offer free content on it (free Wordpress themes, jQuery or mootools scripts, icons, tutorials...). Some of my themes and scripts became really popular and were mentioned on Smashing Magazines, SpeckyBoy and all the other major sites out there. This brought a lot of visitors to my site and naturally they started to contact me for my services. In some way, these scripts and themes became my portfolio and still bring prospects after many years. Not to mention that having all the big sites linking to your site increase your visibility in search engines. … However, be aware this is a lot of work and you might have to wait a few months before you can get a ROI. And note, this only works if you offer high quality content. No one will notice you if you offer crappy content, even for free.

Jeremie Tisseau | Morphosis Apps Co.
UI/UX Designer

2011
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDesignerYesYesTripwire Products or ServicesTake on Small / Boring Jobs$0Offline

First Do Small Sites for People Close to You

I go after big projects by networking in, do a smaller site or 2 for people close, either geographically or socially. Then they already know of me and what I do. This is how I have gotten most of the bigger ones. It is really powerful and you still make money while you out it into action.

Rob Anthony O'Rourke | Sirra Design
Web Designer
2016
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDeveloperYesYesTripwire Products or ServicesSell Small Digital Assets$0OnlineCodeCanyon

Sell Small Files on Online Marketplaces

BILDI sold some small files on codecanyon and met clients that way. At first, most of them wanted a simple customization to my files. I would get it done quick and that brought on more projects. I eventually had to turn some of them away since I landed a client that was doing movies and needed all sorts of work and the pay was great. You'd be surprised how many companies out there use Envato networks (graphic river, code canyon)

Ryan Sadwick |
Application Developer at Qurate Retail Group

2014
HtGWDCDirect ClientsDeveloperYesYesTripwire Products or ServicesTake on Small / Boring Jobs$0

Get Your Foot in the Door by Taking on Tasks No One Else Wants

BILDAgree 100%. Start with small jobs to build trust and rapport with the client. Get your foot in the door by taking on tasks no one else wants. I have two long-term lucrative clients (6 years & 10 years) that both started with "Can you fix this minor bug with our web site? … I meet freelance developers all the time passing up jobs because they only want the sexy green fields projects using the language they are in love with this month. Unsexy maintenance work very often leads to more interesting work. The successful freelancer isn't that one who occasionally gets the job out of 200 other proposals, they are the person who is the only one asked to do the work.

Greg Jorgensen |
Developer, debugger, code fixer, database expert, Unix/Linux system admin. Represented by 10X Management.
HtGWDCReferral SourcesDeveloperYesYesYesBid on Projects Posted OnlineExpand Your Network$0OnlineJobServe

Apply for Contract Positions Through Recruiters

BILDIʼve found nearly all my work for the last few years through JobServe, which is essentially just a job listing site, but very hot in the IT market. Bang some CVʼs at agents through that and let them do the legwork. Find an equivalent site in your country/region and get applying. Admittedly, this gets a lot easier once youʼre settled into contracting and have some half decent contracts behind you, but youʼve gotta start somewhere. My first application through JobServe landed me a job within three days of hitting “send” on the listing. My latest one ended up with a phone call from the recruiter within 45 minutes of applying, and landed me a 6 month contract. Nearly all of my contracts have been renewed/extended at least once, and some of my clients have called me back in more than a year later. Those sites will earn you a living and build your career a hell of a lot faster than something like Craigslist and itʼs ilk.

Steve Mitchell |
Front End Architect

2018
HtGWDCReferral SourcesDeveloperYesYesNetworkingExpand Your NetworkReferrals From You

Rent a Single Desk in a Co-Working Space

BILDI've worked part-time (1-3 days a week) in three different coworking spaces, two of them for a bit over a year, and the other for about nine years. … Coworking spaces that are all single desks to me (no small offices all for one company) are what I prefer - tends to be all freelancers, who are generally more talkative and willing to refer work around. … Work gets referred around like any other sort of networking - the better you know people and the better impression you make, the more likely they are to send work your way. As a web developer you'll have a chance to get referred work by other web developers and designers primarily, and everyone else too but mainly other people working in the web. So, don't see them as your competition, make friends with them, which is easy as you have plenty of common ground. I get plenty of work offers from people I know from coworking, and in turn I have subcontracted work to people I know from coworking, and referred work off to others.

Paul Silver | Silver Web Services
Search Engine Promotion and Web Development

2019
HtGWDCReferral SourcesDesignerYesYesNetworkingExpand Your NetworkOfflineChambers of Commerce

Join Your Local Chamber of Commerce

I just recently joined my neighborhood Chamber of Commerce and have already gotten several referrals from other business owners who are also members. It's an interesting network I had not thought to tap into you until just recently, and it might be worth it to explore that. ... Just google Chamber of Commerce in your neighborhood or city. I live in Houston in a neighborhood called the East End, and I belong to the greater East End Chamber of Commerce. The annual fee is $500 but it seems to be paying for itself already.

Joni Mueller | Pixelita Designs
Web Designer/Developer; Project Manager

2019
HtGWDCReferral SourcesDeveloperNetworkingNurture / Follow-Up With Your Existing Network$0Referrals From You

Refer Prospects That Can't Afford You to Other Developers

One of the things you have to learn with sales is that you need to qualify your leads ASAP. … I ask for the budget upfront after the first conversation by sending them a questionnaire that specifically asks for their budget range. … Typically an unqualified lead will either stop filling out the form at that question and never respond to me again or simply respond back that I am out of their budget (I start at $2000). This helps to avoid wasting each other's time.
I also openly refer them to other less skilled (but cheaper) freelancers in my network and sometimes they come back realizing they need to pay if they want something complex done well. This is a great opportunity, because that less skilled freelancer will usually repay the favor and send a few leads your way as well.

ghuster903 |
Web and Mobile Developer
2019
HtGWDCReferral SourcesDeveloperYesNetworkingExpand Your Network$0

Target Marketing Consultants

BILDMarketing Consultants have been a huge source of business for me as well. In fact, about 75% of my annual income in 2013 was from 3 marketing consultants alone!

Frank Burder | Burder Creative
TPA / Designer / Web Developer / WordPress / Shopify

2014
HtGWDCReferral SourcesDeveloperYesNetworkingExpand Your Network$0Referrals From You

Work in Conjunction With a Couple of Designers

I'm a shitty designer. I know that. So, I work in conjunction with a couple of designers, and we feed each other work. If I have a client that needs design work, then I contract the work out to one of my designers. Conversely, if they find a client, I almost always do the development work for them. It's been great and is a healthy chunk of my work. I've also got several social media and SEO types that feed me as much work as possible.

dalek_999 |
Freelance Web Developer
2014
HtGWDCReferral SourcesDeveloperYesYesNetworkingPartner up with Local or Industry Suppliers$0Expand Their Offerings / Know-How With Your Skillset

Target Local Services for Small Businesses

Find local businesses that merge well with yours and offer your services to them to sell to their clients. Examples: IT companies, computer stores, copy stores, or other places that serve small businesses. They're not likely to offer websites directly, but might be willing to contract you for it, or pass your info on to interested customers.

dalek_999 |
Freelance Web Developer
2014
HtGWDCReferral SourcesDesignerYesNetworkingAsk Your Network for Leads$0

Remind Your Family & Friends to Drop Your Name

I hit up friends and extended family, not for work, but for leads. You'd be surprised how diverse most families are and how willing they can be to drop your name when they hear of an opportunity.

Andrew Nolte | Agile League
Partner / Creative Director

2014
HtGWDCReferral SourcesDesignerNetworkingExpand Your Network$0Referrals From You

Refer Work to Programmers

Although I know my way around WordPress, I can't write an app from scratch. So, on a few occasions I've partnered up with a developer to build everything from an iPhone app, an intranet from scratch, and even a few Drupal sites. Sometimes I'm the one bringing work to a programmer, but a few times programmers have brought work to me.

Paul Jarvis | Paul Jarvis/Fathom Analytics
Designer/Author
2014
HtGWDCReferral SourcesDesignerYesNetworkingExpand Your Network$0Earn Referral Fees Paid by You

Target Event Managers

BILDKeep a lookout for anyone who manages events on a regular basis. They are forever in need of new websites for all the new events and contracts they manage. […] We have a handful of really great Event Managers as clients and one of them has brought us over 20 websites!

Bianca Board | Web123
Facebook Messenger Marketing Expert | Chatbot Strategist | Lead Generation | Revenue Growth | Chief Marketing Officer

2014
HtGWDCReferral SourcesDeveloperYesNetworkingExpand Your Network$0Help Them Handle Overflow Work / Staffing Gaps

Partner up With Other Web Developers

Just started doing eCommerce, web design, and web dev as freelance 2 months ago. Its been slow, and its been hard finding clients. My background is that I've been full-time in web design/dev for 10+ years now, Magento Developer Plus Certified, worked on tons of high profile eCommerce sites, getting my MBA right now, and have 3+ years experience with WordPress, Joomla, & Drupal, can make themes for all from scratch. Its been tough, but is slowly coming along.
My best help has been partnering with colleagues who are in similar fields. I have 2 friends in the web dev business who pass me web work. Sometimes itʼs some small frontend CSS fix, or WordPress customization, and sometimes itʼs a large eCommerce project.

gloomis120 |
Web Designer/Developer
2013
HtGWDCReferral SourcesDesignerYesNetworkingExpand Your Network$0Earn Referral Fees Paid by You

Target Business Coaches, Marketing Consultants, etc.

BILDForm strategic alliances with business coaches, marketing consultants, event managers, business advisory centres, copywriters, SEO companies and the like for a steady flow of inbound leads. How? Network. Go to events. Find the people who are already talking to your target market, befriend them, impress them with your know-how, offer them cash for referrals, wine ‘em and dine ‘em and watch the new business flow in.

Bianca Board | Web123
Facebook Messenger Marketing Expert | Chatbot Strategist | Lead Generation | Revenue Growth | Chief Marketing Officer

2013
HtGWDCReferral SourcesDeveloperNetworkingExpand Your NetworkReferrals From You

Develop Close Relationships With Tech Suppliers

For example: There are IT support companies out there that specialize in servicing dental practices. If you've happened to do websites for a couple of dentists, I would reach out to them and network. Find a way to refer business back and forth.
Develop a niche and work with more established partners in that niche. … My business specializes in building and supporting web apps built on Amazon Web Services. Over the past two years, I've developed a very close relationship with Amazon to the point where I'm talking to someone there nearly every day. I get several, highly qualified leads from them each week. … Find a way to refer business back and forth.

Redditor |
2013
HtGWDCReferral SourcesDesignerYesYesNetworkingExpand Your Network$0Help Them Handle Overflow Work / Staffing Gaps

Get to Know Your Local Developers

BILDI've also found it super helpful to know others in the web industry in my local area. I often handle overflow work or have people pass on leads to me that they can't take on.

Benjamin Falk | Falken Creative
Designer & Developer

2013
HtGWDCReferral SourcesDeveloperYesNetworkingExpand Your Network$0Help Them Handle Overflow Work / Staffing Gaps

Partner up With Other Web Techies

Personally, I've found partnering up with people with complimentary skills, and being referred overflow work have been great ways of getting work. Both tend to involve less sales work than something like cold calling as you're pursuing a warm lead. Also, talking to other techies / people in the industry is easier than talking to random businesspeople, especially when you're starting out.

tenpastmidnight |
Web Developer
HtGWDCReferral SourcesDeveloperYesNetworkingReply to Questions Online$0Free, Personalized Tips at Expert LevelOnline

Help out With API Issues on Freenode

freenode on IRC.. I used to hang around #facebook on freenode and I'd help people with the API. Whenever people came in looking for a developer to hire, people would refer me.. There is definitely #ruby and other technology specific channels too.

Dave |
Web Developer
HtGWDCReferral SourcesDesignerYesStrategic GiveawaysGive Away Services Strategically$0A Free Website

Offer Free Sites + Paid Maintenance Plan to Build up a Client Base

I did a number of sites for free, with a contract of what would be done, mock-up, etc., the whole deal. Part of the contract was a maintenance plan. I maintain the site, help with small things, and get a monthly fee. In the contract I also offer a great rate on future changes to the site or new projects. Several of those help keep the lights on, and clients that are not tech savvy are delighted that they do not have to do anything, which resulted in referrals.

cant-make-this-up |
Website Designer/Developer
2019
HtGWDCReferral SourcesDeveloperYesStrategic GiveawaysGive Away Services Strategically$0A Free Website

Do a Free Website for a Pro Bono Organization

I did a free website for a non profit organization. One of the advisors of said organization recommended me as a contractor with a business development company (grant writing, web site design, analytical marketing, social media, etc.) which he was best friends with the director of. That company contracted me out for three years throughout college. So I got to work my own hours, make good money, and gain experience in my field while attending college as opposed to fast food and customer service which is what I did before hand.

Skyler Roberts | Bizarre Media
Web Developer
2015
HtGWDCReferral SourcesDesignerYesStrategic GiveawaysGive Away Services Strategically$0

Do Free Web/Graphic Design Work for Pro Bono Organizations

I recommend doing some pro bono work. It's a great way to network, show off your talent and build your portfolio. Working for free can be a drain, and you must be mindful of your own boundaries and avoid being taken advantage of, but just about every pro bono gig I've done has led to pay work, because the clients are so pleased that they go on to recommend me to everyone they know who needs web or graphics work.

coaxial-flutter |
Web Designer
2014
HtGWDCReferral SourcesDesignerYesStrategic GiveawaysGive Away Services Strategically$0

Do Free Design Work for Pro Bono Organizations

So, early on before I made the full freelancer shift, I donated my time to causes I felt strongly for. I did work for animal shelters and literacy programs and literary journals. It was a blast, I was able to do some fun book covers and get some basic web experience, which rounded out my portfolio. I made multiple contacts that turned into paying work later. It's a fine line to walk though, you don't want to devalue your own services.

Andrew Nolte | The Agile League
Partner / Creative Director

2014
HtGWDCReferral SourcesDesignerYesStrategic GiveawaysGive Away Services Strategically$0A Free Website

Barter a Website with a Graphic Designer in Exchange for Referrals

The greatest client I have in terms of getting further clients is... a graphic designer. We had a barter for her website and she in turn has always looked out for me

blandastical |
Web Designer
2014

How freelancers got their first clients - often with little or no experience/without portfolio How freelancers got local clients How freelancers got clients fast Free or low-cost ways freelancers got clients Ways freelancers used to find clients online

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​How to Get Web ​Design ​Clients

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How freelancers got their first clients - often with little or no experience/without portfolio
How freelancers got local clients
How freelancers got clients fast
Free or low-cost ways freelancers got clients
Ways freelancers used to find clients online

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All rights Reserved.