I remember when I starting my web design business this had to be the biggest question facing me. All my other concerns about the business were secondary.
I just needed a chance to get that first client and I know I could do a great job for them – but where do you find that first client?
Being an introvert I hated the idea of ‘selling’ my services to anyone. Cold calling? – nope, not my style at all. Hitting up family and friends – I still felt uncomfortable with that approach too. Networking at events? If your an introvert you can guess how I felt about that.
So how the heck did I get my first client?
As much as I hated the idea of networking I bit the bullet and started going to local Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours events. I think I went to about 2 or 3 before I landed my first client. Now I use that term ‘client’ loosely – I’ll explain. I was talking to someone that I didn’t know very well when she said “Hey, I know someone that was just complaining about their website and that they needed to do something about it, come over here and let me introduce you to…”.
So I met with this new person and after a few minutes of hearing about their web issues (they basically needed a redesigned website) but money was tight at their organization. I quickly improvised my response. “In my business I look to do one project per year where I waive my fee for worthy not-for-profit organizations, how about we meet for a coffee and chat more about your website and see if we would be a good fit to work together”. Her response was “really? you’d do that?”
So we met for a coffee and ultimately I did redesign their website – for no fee. When the website launched I gave a presentation to their senior people on the new website and they were ecstatic and loved it. It was an all time high for me too.
I think this was truly a win-win scenario.
- a great website they loved ….for free.
- added functionality/features they didn’t have before
- now they have a contact person they trust and can go to for future web issues.
- my first website client
- great experience on what worked well and what to improve upon for the next client
- not one but two testimonials – both in writing and on social media
- my first portfolio item to display
I learned a valuable lesson through this..even though you might be an introvert or even a super introvert. If you are going to run a web design business it will mean you should – no scratch that you MUST step a little out of your comfort zone to meet people. In general-people tend do business with those they know and like. If you just sit at your computer screen at home all the time it will be very very difficult to get new business.
*note – I still struggle to get out there and attend networking events, social events etc. As an introvert – I recognize that is an issue for me and I constantly need to work at it.
To get your first website client I recommend you:
- Go to local networking events – chamber events, meet ups, etc.
- Consider approaching a not-for-profit organization you are familiar with (i.e. churches, clubs, service club, etc).
- Consider offering them that “if we are a good fit” pending an initial meeting/discussion that you would waive your traditional fee.
- In exchange for your services (& provided they are happy) that they give you a testimonial and permission to display their final site in your portfolio
- And lastly, just because you might be doing the project for no-fee, still treat it seriously as if it were a full paying client, that means developing timelines, commitments and having a contract – yes still have a contract, with specifics in it such as start date, end date, exactly what you will do and won’t do.
But what about blogging, placing ads, tradeshows, social media marketing, email marketing, marketplaces such as craigslist, freelancer.com, Upwork etc.?
I’m not saying that those other types of activities don’t work. Some people have great success with some of those marketing activities, however in the early early days of your business, you should be looking for quick wins. It’s likely that you are short on time and money and while the above activities may work over time its my experience that you need to get your (human) face out in your local community and meet people face to face to build that rapport and being an introvert – that in of itself is challenging.
Even though my first client project was for free – over the years I can attribute thousands of dollars of revenue in subsequent follow up projects/work with that organization. Want to guess where I met my first paid client? Yep – networking event. I attended a Meet Up event.
Are you struggling to get that first client? What kind of issues are you grappling with? Let me know below (or privately here).