I’ve been a Graphic Designer for nearly 20 years now. I’ve been a Graphic Design Boss for around 10 of those years and one of the things I’ve had to learn is how to win new design business. To be honest the finding new business hasn’t come easy to me. I’ve done it sometimes through gritted teeth.
Winning new business isn’t easy at the best of times because you may be introverted like me. By your own nature you probably prefer the company of a few rather than the many. I bet that once you get to know people you probably feel like you can be yourself and you tend to open up. Sound familiar? It’s really okay to be yourself. Don’t try and change just because you now have your own graphic design freelance business.
Being introverted doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t get out there and win new business. There are some stunningly simple (and easy) ways to find new business even for introverts. Some of you may be put off by the fact that I’ve said that it is stunningly simple – but it really is. There is no hyperbole here. Just simple strategic thinking to help you in your quest to become a graphic design boss who thrives rather than just survives on the smell of an oily rag from week to week.
I’m not talking about marketing or sales calls to businesses or corporations. Just simply putting yourself out into places where you will have the opportunity to network or simply fill in a tender. The key to finding new business through networking is that you actually have to go and look for it. Get out there. Talk to people. Get uncomfortable and introduce yourself and start conversations.
5 easy ways you can to find new business
Extended family network - Talk to your family, tell them what you are doing and if they know of anyone that could be a potential client. Give them some business cards to pass on when people are interested.
Friendship network - You have lots of friends who would love to support you in your venture. They are probably just not aware that they can help you. Ask them if they know of anyone who is in business who would be worth talking to in their friendship network. You will be accessing pools of thousands of people that you never had access to before, AND those potential clients are warm leads because they know your friend.
Local business network - Every developed country I know of has a chamber of commerce, or organisations like Rotary or Lions. Many decision makers and business owners frequent these environments for exactly the same reason. To cultivate and build networks for business opportunities. Why wouldn’t you want to be there?
Local/State/Federal Government - Every local, state or Federal government I know of does tenders for graphic design work. Access to these tender lists is very simple. Just call them and ask. The beauty about tendering is that once you’ve done one tender most of them are very similar and you can copy and paste. The other wonderful thing about working for government is that they are prepared to pay better rates.
Once you’ve networked in these groups sooner or later prospective clients will respond. You’ll probably be very excited that a prospect said yes to meeting with you about a possible job, however you will need to have the following things ticked off before you can expect to even be considered for a job.
5 simple ways to ensure that you actually win new business:
Turn up 5 minutes early to your appointment – People appreciate you more if you are prompt. It demonstrates a high level of professionalism and respect.
Find out about your prospective clients business - Check them out on their website beforehand so when you talk to them they can see that you understand their business. Every time a new client of mine finds out I actually understand what they do, their impression of the level of my professionalism increases.
Have your folio ready - You live or die on the quality of your creative work in your folio. Presentation and simplicity also counts. Make reviewing your folio easy and segment it into areas your client would be interested in. Clean your folio if you have a physical one. If you supply a digital folio ensure that it is easy to use on PC or Mac.
Present your credentials as a leave behind - They should include:
a. Experience – Tell them how much experience you have and the type of work you have done. Name drop higher profile clients.
b. Areas of expertise – Tell them the other design disciplines you operate in. They may not be hiring you for this now but there may be other work that they could hire you for in the future now they know you have a wider level of expertise.
c. Why you? What makes you better than anyone else who will come knocking at your prospective clients door?
Follow up promptly with a quote and an email/letter/phone call thanking them for the opportunity - Have a templated letter or email ready that feels personal and professional. This letter can reinforce your key selling points as well as including a quote.
What else can you add?
This isn’t an exhaustive list of finding and winning new business. I’m sure there are some simple ways you may of found and won new business. What works for you? Leave a comment.