Starting out as a freelance designer can be a bit confusing when it comes to figuring out how to get clients. I found that the best way to figure this out is by asking yourself how to not gain clients.
1. Cold Emailing
Cold emailing may instinctively be the first option when trying to build a client base. Off of experience, this does not work. Out of 150 emails sent, I only got 1 mediocre job from it. Your time may be better used in constructing your business in a different way.
2. Design Contests
If you’ve read any of my previous articles, you would know that finding work on design contest sites results in almost nothing. Designers often make the mistake in thinking that they can gain clients by “winning” these contests. You should always remember that contest winners don’t get referrals, the contest sites do.
There are lots of people who post creative assignments on Craigslist. The majority of these assignments have a very low payout. Not to mention that these posts may exist on Craigslist, just so the clients can see how low they can pay to get the job done.
4. Chasing Clients
Like cold emailing, chasing clients by constantly calling, and following up only to get rejected over and over again is pretty much unproductive. Instead, you should find ways to make clients chase you. That can be done by creating a strong online and social media presence.
build your portfolio to the point where businesses want to spend top dollar on you.
5 . Elance/Upwork*
I wouldn’t necessarily say that sites like Elance are outright terrible, but a lot of designers getting into the game often misuse the service and expects more than what they are putting in. Designers compete with others for jobs by lowering their hourly wage to be more affordable for potential clients. Just like design contests, people who want to spend the smallest amount of money on a cheap design are not going to refer other people to specific designers, they will instead refer them to Elance for getting a cheap designer.
Building a client base involves building relationships with people who enjoy working with you. Designers make the mistake in devaluing their work by lowering prices and turning their work into a commodity. Work on your portfolio and continue building your social network and from there you will build a strong client base.