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How to Find & Book Your First Clients

Have you ever wondered how people get to the point of having too many clients, or how they even found their very first client? If yes, then this post is perfect for you.

How to find & book your first clients

Kate asked ::

“I’m a lady designer just like you and I’ve been heavily considering the jump from professional to freelance, much like you’ve recently chosen to do.

I think for myself it would make the most sense to begin freelancing on the side while I maintain a steady income from my current job until I’m ready to make the leap. so here I am, ready to get started and stay up all night working on projects and making a name for myself, but there’s one problem – I have zero clients.

I’d love to know how you managed to get those first freelance projects.”

I think this question is definitely one that a ton of people want to know, and there are many different answers to it. Some designers did it one way, while others approached it differently.

I had been working at a design company for about a year when I decided to quit and take my business full time. Before I quit my job, I had booked a few clients, so I felt comfortable putting in my two weeks. Once I quit, I was forced to get my shit together and find more clients, I had no choice if I wanted to pay my bills. The extra motivation really moved me and forced me to think like a business owner, not a freelancer. My livelihood depended on how many clients I would sign that month.

So, how did I go about finding those first freelance clients while I was still working at my full-time job?

Networking!

If you plan to be in this field, you can not be afraid to put yourself out there.

My first official freelance client (outside of college) and I met at a local workshop that I volunteered to help out at. I didn’t get paid to help at this workshop, I only volunteered my time hoping that I would meet a few local designers/friends. What came out of it was amazing – a design project for a photography business.

My second official freelance client and I met at a blogging conference.

My point is – networking is what started my business. After I had booked four clients I felt confident enough to quit my job and do this full-time.

(Note – not all designers are ready to quit their jobs after only four booked clients, but I knew that running my own business was something that I HAD to do. I hated working for someone else, wanted to do everything my way, and couldn’t stand the thought of only get paid for a quarter of my actual value. (I know – employee of the year over here!) Is this something that I recommend to everyone? Absolutely not! Only quit your job when you know that you’re ready. We are all ready at different points in our career. Some of us never quit our jobs, but continue freelancing on the side. When to quit is really up to you. Want to hear a little more about my leap? You can read this post and this post.)
Here are some take-action tips:
  1. Put it all out there

    You have to tell people what you do, how you do it and why they should hire you. You have to be able to communicate the value that you could bring to their business.

    Need help with this? Read a few books on the topic, consider taking an e-course and figure out what it is that you do that sets you apart in your particular industry.

  2. Find & attend 1 conference every year, maybe two your first year

    This is where it happened for me. Choose a couple conferences to attend based on WHO will be there.

    You want to make sure the conference will teach you something, but will also gather a lot of your target clients in the same room. Win-win!

  3. Offer a few businesses your services for free or at a discounted rate

    Make sure the businesses are ones within the industry that you’d like to be working with more.

    Pitch your services to them. Your goal is to show them what you can do for them that will help them earn more money in the long-run.

Did I miss anything? Are there other ways that have worked for you? Tell me in the comments below.

PS. I’ve set up a new email address for design and business related questions about your creative business, so fire away at me.
I’ll have a new Q & A up every Thursday, if you’re interested in checking back. I’ll also be sending the post out to my email subscribers with a little extra bonus.