The real truth about finding more freelance design work

finding more freelance design work
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One of the biggest struggles in freelancing has to be finding more freelance design work when your client pool starts to dwindle.

If you’re like me, you’ve probably read countless blog posts on the subject.

I still find myself every now and then when times are tough making that search into Google – hoping that I’ll find a new and secret way of finding more freelance design work.

The real truth is, I already know everything there is to finding more freelance design work – and so do you!

What do we know?

In summary, these articles on finding more freelance design work nearly cover the same methods:

  • Word of mouth & referrals
  • Building a personal brand & online portfolio
  • Job boards & forums
  • Blogging
  • Put out an ad
  • Use social media
  • And the list goes on…

The point is, we’ve all read the same content on finding more freelance design work, just in different places.

What I’ve realized…

I’ve realized that the results of my searching will hardly ever change due to the same content always being the top of the long list of articles.

If there’s going to be an amazing new article on finding more freelance design work, chances are I’m going to know about it with the help of social media.

The secret to finding more freelance design work…

We’ve all read the articles, but you’re only going to find more freelance design work if you put what you know to use.

Reading the same blog posts over and over isn’t going to get you new work – so do something about that.

Use your social accounts, talk to potential clients, and ask for referrals!

The secret to finding more freelancing design work is quite simple – take action!

What are you waiting for?

Take what you know already and put it to use today!

If you know of a unique way of taking action and finding more freelance design work, please feel free to share in the comments on this post!

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About Brent Galloway

Brent Galloway is a freelance graphic designer, founder of Your Freelance Career, and author of Start Your Freelance Career. Check out his blog and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and Dribbble.

Comments

  1. This is a very effective way to get work. Use your feet. Drive around the business area where you reside and look at the logos, website, etc. Then, look to see how the business if fairing in this economy. Now, go to the business, introduce yourself (keep business cards, brochures, etc. as a leave behind) and ask for a few minutes to show what services you can perform to help them grow their business.

    We are too dependent on staying away from doing prospecting work but this is a very good way to find customers. And, by leaving behind a business card, you can call back later on to see how they are doing, thus over time establishing relationships which can lead to referrals and future business.

    Let your feet help you find more work.

    • Bobbi,

      That’s for sure an very effective method of finding work!

      Another similar method of prospecting which is right under our noses (or you could say finger tips), is to use Google. Search for local businesses in Google Maps to get a feel for who’s around your area. Visit their website if they have one and create a game-plan before you head in. And like you said, be sure to leave behind a business card!

      Thanks for taking the time to share!

  2. I can’t agree with you more Brent. 90% of the people who read this post still won’t take action. Why? Because we are prone to procrastinating.

    Once we start moving our ass and start taking action, we will hopefully see our life change for the better.

  3. Okey guys that’s all very obvious but what interest me is how do I get myself out there. As until now I’ve been getting clients via via and never before though about how and where to find clients. My trouble is getting in touch with potential clients. As Bobbi K described, I would gather brochures, flyers & etc. which could definitely use some “pimping”, clarity & effectiveness for their potential clients. But I just can’t get myself out there and make a contact. As I’m a starter, I still cope with some uncertainties. Maybe you guys could give me some tips about how to approach a client for the first time? How to arrange a meeting? Do i ask for an opportunity to do a pitch?

    Thanks in advance!
    Lana

  4. Actually, there are people out there searching for ideas about how to find more work, while still DOING something. And you come to us with “The secret to finding new client work is quite simple – take action!”. Wow. Thanks for pointing that out. That’s genius.

    • Alex,

      Sometimes when you find yourself too close to the problem for too long, the most effective solution might be the most obvious one that you’re ignoring because it’s right under your nose. This was just a reminder for others, and myself that no matter how many blog posts you read about finding work, there’s no new magic formula other than putting what you know to use.

      What are some things you’ve tried for finding work? What’s worked and hasn’t worked for you?

      Thanks for leaving a comment!

  5. Lana, I can associate with you to some extent. I really can’t quite get out and ask for work. But the thing is, if you ask yourself honestly why you are not doing it, you will see that you fear being turned down or never getting a call back or simply what that person will think of you. After reading the TEN COMMON MISTAKES DESIGNERS MAKE WITH CLIENTS, I made a commitment not to let my client pool die.

    I recently went to a local hotel and I love the place. it has potential but it seriously needs re-branding. So i have decided to do research on the place and get professional help to do a proper Re-branding proposal which i will just go and drop it off there, leave my card and other necessary info. Who knows, the manager might never bother to call but someone else could buy into the idea and ask for something else to be done.

    I have taken steps to leaving my cards in the salon I go to, beauty shops, even the coffee shops that give that service comment sheet, I take advantage and jot down what I think they can improve on and leave my card too.

    If you find it a bit awkward or intimidating talking to managers and all those big people, I found that you get the staff to buy into your idea, they can easily put forward the idea and then bring you up as a person to do the work.

    Also don’t enclose yourself in computer design only, interior design and design consultancy offer potential ground. Offering design advice could hold great opportunities. You just have to try to find out :)

    • Kate,

      I love the idea of leaving advice on a comment sheet along with your business card! Actually, I love all of these ideas! :)

      Thanks for taking the time to share!

  6. Very inspring artcle, I believe nothing is new to what you have mentioned. May be lets now look at “Obstacles to not taking action” Am a starter and one way I have got work is through throwing myself out there. More like marketing; having an action plan and acting is really important. Not forgeting to apply the power of consistency.

    • Baker,

      Consistency is extremely important when trying to get yourself out there! Staying consistent with your strategy (whatever it may be) is proven to work, because frequent engagements made with your clients and/or audience keeps them interested. Also it helps keep you active!

      Thanks for sharing! :)

  7. This is all good advice. I tried the drive around method but it is really dependent on the area. I found that driving around in my neighbourhood, I was able to make some contacts but nothing that really benefited me in a long run. Most retail small businesses are hesitant to spend any kind of cash on quality branding or design work short of the cheap template options available online.

    Not to mention the gas your are spending to drive around. I feel in the end it is not worth it. I am currently trying to find other ways to reach out to customers but it is hard.

    • Erhan,

      I’m with you on the driving around method. It’s never benefited me personally that much, but that doesn’t mean it won’t work for others. It might just be my area.

      Because of this I’ve really focused on my online presence. Get my name in as many places as possible and always try to stay personable. If I’m going to work remotely with clients, then they should feel like they know who I am and what I look like without having to actually meet. It really does go a long way.

      If you’re looking to get you name out there more, I’ve found it best to just create something. In return you get people sharing whatever it is you create and you’re more likely to have people contact you for your expertise.

      Just keep your head up and never stop pushing for success!

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  8. Cristina Love says:

    Lana, you need self confidence. A client who sees incertitude will run with the wind! Be confident with your potential and with your knowledge. Even if you’re at the beginning, I’m sure there’s something you know very well, stick with it at first and then develop. You also have to know what your limits are, and even if you haven’t worked before as a freelancer, you must have a clue about it. Listen to your guts and you’ll have the answer.
    Good luck!
    Cristina

  9. Great post! Having knowledge and not using it is like not knowing at all.

    A good way to find Freelance work is to show the client what you can do for them… why not make some mockups with their logo and send to them… If they are interested they will let you know.

    I typically create 5 designs a week that I sent to potential clients to get my word out and it works great.

    Show the customer you are ready to work for them and they will have no problem relying on you for their design work.

    • Tony,

      That’s a great method and I can vouch that it really does work.

      I just recently sent a mockup to a potential client who were trying to decide between my services and a local brick and mortar firm. My design immediately sold them on my services, because it showed them I had passion and drive to produce the result they wanted to see.

      Thanks for sharing! :)

      • Tony & Brent,

        You both mention sending mockups to potential clients as a way of convincing them you’re right for the job. I’m a bit confused about how to do this. Do you have any guidelines to stick to when doing this, so that you don’t end up offering free work or have the potential client steal the design without paying you? How rough are the designs you send etc?

        Thanks!

        • Alycia,

          In the scenario I mentioned in my previous comment and in this post, http://www.graphicdesignblender.com/how-i-beat-out-a-brick-and-mortar-agency-with-a-killer-proposal – I had already discussed the project in detail with the client, so I had a good understanding of what they were looking for and I took the risk!

          It was a great project to land, so I spent a couple hours and designed just a mockup of what the new homepage could look like. Nothing else.

          What else helped sell myself was giving the client a vague idea of what I thought would help their project in the proposal, and it reassured them that I knew what I was doing.

          I hope this helps! Feel free to reach out with anymore questions! I’d be more than happy to answer. :)

  10. My advice would be this… Do not be afraid to ask for referrals. I tend to send out an email newsletter to my past clients asking for any referrals. I will offer them a service/discount on items such as website maintenance, business card printing, etc… for any new business.

    With this, you are getting double duty for your efforts. You are earning new referral business while also keeping your company fresh in your past clients’ minds.

  11. Interesting, that exact thought was a theme of my day today.
    There is no new information we need to know
    Stick to the things that you are comfortable doing, depending on your personality and set of skils,notice which revenue brings you clients that you like, and be consistent with it, even when you have enough work on your table!

  12. Hey guys, I’ve noticed that referrals are my best way to getting new clients. That’s not enough for me.

    One night I was discussing marketing strategies of my personal brand with a colleague and friend an he taught me something great: research your favourite clients. What type of work do you like best and what are the best clients you’d like to work for? I researched my current and fav clients and found out that they are producers and music artists belonging to a hesitant group in the overal design service market. If you know this, adjust your way of approach.

    I highly recommend you read this:
    The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It, by Michael E. Gerber

    Changed my game completely. Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/0887307280/ref=redir_mdp_mobile/175-1546558-2487449

    Check out my work on http://rutgerprins.com, thanks for a great post.

    • Rutger

      Your work is some of the finest I’ve ever seen. You are definitely in the “professional league,” with brilliant concepts, intelligent design, and absolute perfection. (I am proud to be in the same league.)

      Your website is stunning, but the extra touch is the animated logo as we scroll. Brilliant!

  13. Thanks Brent for the great advise. Making it part of your job to find work is important.
    It also depends on what type of clients/jobs you want, and attitude. I think the way you put yourself out there has a lot to do with your success.
    When I started on my own 2 years ago, I did small jobs for little money for friends and their contacts just to get exposure.
    I also did a lot of free design work for some companies to show them how I work and what my service is like. Today I’m struggling to keep up with all the work. There are quiet moments, but I see them more as a blessing at the moment just to catch my breath.

    Do you want 1 or 2 clients giving you enough work every month (corporate clients with a marketing budget) or do you want something different every month? Knowing what clients you want is a great start. If you advertise yourself as a ‘jack-of-all-trades’, you will get those type of jobs.

    I find that if you narrow down what you specialise in (for example branding, CI’s etc) potencial clients needing that service will rather go to a specialist in that field and pay a bit more than going to a ‘jack-of-all-trades’.

    The right attitude contributes a great deal in finding jobs. It only takes 1 contact to open many doors. Just believe that they are out there in need of YOUR design and service.

  14. On the other side, I’ve been looking for a talented – yet decently priced – freelancing gfx designer to design a WP theme. I contacted candidates from Deviantart.com, Behance, forums, themeforest, etc and they all came back to me saying sorry, we have plenty on our plate already.

    So where should I look then, apart from Freelancer and oDesk, where it’s even harder to find what you are really after.

    Cheers,

  15. Brent, I read this at 5:30 in the morning, and it was the inspiration I needed at a tough time. I passed out some business cards in a retail/restaurant-rich area this afternoon, and I will keep on seeking high-quality clients. Thank you very much!

  16. Julie Contreras says:

    I’ve found work most by by referral, but I’ve done a few things to increase my pool:
    > Do an occasional pro-bono project that is high-profile enough to be seen by other business people (like a poster). Have your url listed on the piece so people can visit your site if they are interested.
    > Have business cards and personal website viewable by mobile phone at any social situation. Speaking confidently about your profession to others (not necessarily trying to sell yourself) can attract potential clients, and having your website handy can show your work is legit.
    > Be willing to help someone out in a pinch. I literally just got a call from someone who distantly worked with me on a job about 3 years ago, and she called because she needed a small but emergency deadline job turned over quickly, and she didn’t have time to do it. These kinds of jobs can sometimes lead to more work if you can finish them up and help them out without drama.
    > Facebook. (I know, but yes!) Having your url listed on your personal page and keeping a close eye on your networks can sometimes bag a job or two. Or can at least put you in touch with someone who might refer you in the future.
    > and honestly, the number one way I get jobs is this: Be easy to work with. Be easy to talk to. Make your current clients and people you meet for the first time feel like it is easy to work with you. They will tell their friends or remember you when they need work done.

    What I won’t do:
    I will never do spec work to get a job, so I disagree with some of the posters here. I won’t do a presentation and put work into a job before I get it–that feels like working for free. I also feel it devalues my work and my professionalism: the client should be able to talk to me and see from my portfolio that I can do a good job, and they should not ask me to do free work to get the job. I have also found that some businesses will use this tactic to mine the design community for ideas, and don’t actually intend to hire anyone. My first employer went so far as to write a document called “why we don’t do spec presentations” and would send it to clients to educate them better when they asked. I am fully on board with that sentiment!

    • Nice post, Julie.

      I don’t do spec work either–for all the reasons you mentioned, plus this: The most professional assignments will come from marketing departments and agencies that don’t expect spec work.

      Personable and easy to work with is for sure the best practice.

      I create a monthly poster featuring “the ampersand as fun & fabulous art” and attach a relevant poster or two to each of my emails, or just the link to the collection. That is even more convincing (& more fun) than my portfolio. It’s won me some clients. http://amperart.com

  17. Some great posts on the issue, I go through the same issues as many people here. You can be working along with enough work, then it will just go dry and you think that you are the only one that its happening to. you know what you need to do to resolve the issue, but sometimes you think that you are doing something wrong or it won’t work before you even try, scared that you will frighten off potential clients and loose them for good.

    Then you talk to your friend in the design business and he is up to his eyes in work and the envious thing is that they have never done any marketing, don’t really bother with social media to get there face and name out there, and they don’t even have any business cards. and all there work is just referrals!

    I know my clients love what I do for them as my testimonials and feedback are always glowing, it’s just a case of getting your face out there and making connections, and I know this! its just putting it into practice and not just doing it when your work go’s a bit slack.
    I was thinking if I spend an hour a week on just approaching new businesses and following up current clients, seeing how they are doing and if there is anything else that they need, which I already do on a quarterly bases (unless I come up with something that I think will be of huge benefit to them, then I just get in touch sooner). Hopefully this will help to supply me with work so that my client base will continue to grow at a steady rate.

    For people who don’t say no, but don’t need my services just yet, set a reminder to email them in 1-2 months time or mail them something that will be of interest, like a recent project you have completed to show them what you can do for them etc, and attaching your business card to it.

    I don’t know if any of this will work, only time will tell. but its better than procrastinating and wondering why is there no new clients knocking down my door. Reading blog post’s about how to get clients when freelancing, expecting to find a golden nugget of information that will bring the business rolling in, we all know what to do! Its just how you go about doing what you know.

Trackbacks

  1. […] We talk about it all the time on GDB – referrals are your largest source of new clients. […]

  2. […] at the right place to find out all about this! There are a lot of individual posts on this topic at Design Blender. Feel free to check them out and jot down the methods that seem the most […]

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