How I got tons of new design clients with this small freebie


A couple years ago, I was stuck – big time.

Maybe you’re familiar with it. You’ve been designing for a while, finding clients, fulfilling their needs, rinse and repeat.

But my client pool was starting to grow thin (PS – “3 Simple Tips to Keep Your Client Pool Full“) and I was getting worried.

No clients = no cash

It’s obvious. Without any clients, it’s hard to make money as a designer (unless you work hard at passive income).

So I had to think of a new marketing tactic and I had to think it up quick.

How could I…

How could I find a bunch of potential new clients? How could I convince them they needed my services? And how could I convince them I was the best choice for redesigning their web site?

I was also reading a really interesting book at the time titled FREE: The future of a radical price by Chris Anderson. Actually I had read an ebook version that was free and found this particular book on a discount shelf in some collector’s store while on vacation. I was stoked!

Anyway, the whole premise of Chris’s book is that the future of successful business is in giving things away.

So I decided that’s what I would do:

Give something away

But, what can you give to potential clients? A free logo?

No way.

A free consultation?


A free candy bar.

Uh, I guess. But then you’re probably just out a candy bar and still don’t have any new clients.

So after thinking through it for a long time, I came up with, what I thought, was the perfect solution:

Free help and a free book

I decided I needed something that would build my credibility and helpfulness status with potential clients.

So I wrote a short book titled “10 elements all web sites should have” and I started mailing and hand-delivering these little booklets out to small businesses all over my small town.

The results were amazing!

Before I new it, I was getting new calls every day from potential clients who wanted to talk about their web site design needs. They would ask me questions and I would answer and then pitch my services and I landed probably a little more than half the clients that called in.

So why did they call me? Because I established my credibility by writing a book and then offered help by writing something they actually cared about.

I created a void within them that I then offered to fill.

The booklet taught them why their business web site was missing the mark in multiple places and what they needed to do to fix it.

They could have called any designer, but they called the guy who wrote the book.

I became a trusted designer and source of online promotion information.

What are you going to give away for free?

While there are at least 3 reasons to think twice before offering your actual design services for free, offering a freebie to clients in order to establish credibility can be a great way to build business quickly. What are you going to offer potential clients for free? Leave a comment and let me know.

PS. The links to the book FREE in this post are affiliate links. I have personally read this book twice and highly recommend it, but I thought you might like to know that a portion of the money you pay when you buy it will go to me. If you do click through and buy, tell me so I can personally thank you and talk with you about the book. Enjoy!


Like what you've read?

If so, join 12,000+ designers and stay updated on all our best business-building tips delivered for free to your inbox a few times each week. PLUS, we'll throw in a free ebook to get you started. Click the button below!


    • Preston D Lee says

      Chris, ha ha. I’ll have to see what I can find for you. I don’t have any printed versions, but I think I used some of the content for a blog post or two here at GDB. I’ll look around. :)

  1. says

    Preston, this post couldn’t have come at a better time. I have a collection of photographs of hideous business cards on my phone and I’ve been struggling with how to email them out of the blue and tell them their business card sucks and I’m going to make it better – and maybe a better logo, too! :)

    The 10 business card elements? I can name off several just off the top of my head.

    PS – How did you create and send this ebook? Was it in PDF format? Did you send it as an attachment?

    • Preston D Lee says

      Actually, April, it wasn’t an ebook. It was a printed book. I felt like that made it more likely to get read and also gave a little more credibility and professionalism. But I bet an ebook could work too if you spun it right.

      I guess a book just made it seem more official and more helpful. Otherwise, you’re just passing along a a glorified blog post. (maybe?)

      I dunno. Do you agree?

      • says

        A real book carries a LOT more weight than an attachment, in my opinion. It’s harder to ignore and never look at than a PDF. It can sit on the edge of a desk and remind someone that they wanted to talk to you instead of getting buried on page 4 of their emails that one day they’d like to get to.

        Thanks for the idea! I’m already formulating a similar strategy!

  2. says

    You hit the nail right on the head for me! I’m so glad for your post. I’m not 100% sure what I want to target as my freebie, but the book road is definitely an avenue I would love to venture.

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. says

    Preston, I’m an interior designer by profession, … and in desperate need of a professional LOGO … anyone out there willing to do a barter? :-) …. I can give you (ok, here’s my freebie offer) “10 Things you can do over the Weekend to totally Spruce up your Interiors on a Budget”

    Enjoying your articles by the way!

  4. says

    Preston, I read your article and I want to really, really, thank you. I’m living in Rome, Italy. We have big job problems here but you gave me a great idea that I was looking for. :D

  5. says

    I have a business starter kit for small businesses (logo, business cards, email signature and letterhead design), Im giving away a set of printed business cards.
    Next month or two Ill add a pull up banner design, and give one banner away for free, what do you think.

  6. says

    Hi there,
    I’m just starting with a graphic design and photography freelance activity, and I find your advices incredibly practical, realistic and useful!
    Thank you.

  7. says

    In the past, once a client wanted design and print work, I would do the artwork for free and get the job printed for them. If I want to establish a relationship with a new client, I offer the first job free, providing the prospect of more work is promising. One time (walk-in) clients, I offer them the best price possible to encourage referrals or repeat work.

  8. says

    Hi Preston – what was your conversion rates? How many books did you send out? How many called? Did you call any of them? How many became clients?

    Also, did you just send the books locally, or all over the country?



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>