In the first installment of our four-part guide to building a better design business, we’re going deep on what it takes to attract a new client and seal the deal. The secret? Before you start looking around, look within.
Close your eyes for a moment and imagine your ideal clients. Who are they? What kind of home do they want? What kind of budget do they have? What are they looking for from their designer—from you?
Every project starts the same way: with a lead. Whether it’s a fellow passenger you met on the plane, a stranger on Instagram who’s been following you long enough to know your dog’s name, or the friend of a friend of your sister’s neighbor, a potential client elicits (at least for a moment) a spark of excitement and hope. Then, once the butterflies settle, it’s time to transition from daydreaming to reality. That means taking a clear-eyed look at if the project is a good fit—for example, if the clients are kind, the budget is reasonable, the job fills a gap in your portfolio, or it aligns with how you want your business to grow.
Finding your perfect client isn’t something that just happens. Laying the foundation for good leads is a lot like gardening: The seeds you sow now will eventually deliver in abundance—but in the meantime, there’s a lot of watering and weeding to do. That can entail finding new ways to polish your message so that it resonates with your ideal clients. It could mean fine-tuning your site’s SEO, revamping your social media approach or starting a blog. It might even involve taking a class or hiring a consultant to get your messaging or business model just right. In short, it requires investing in yourself and in your business.
If all of that sounds intimidating, there’s good news: The more you understand your purpose as a designer, the easier it is to start thinking about what prospective clients need from you. That’s why we’ve dedicated this issue to getting the job—and not just any job, but the right one.
Homepage image: While polished photographs of her projects typically land on her Instagram grid, Jean Liu has shifted her design firm’s social media focus to more ephemeral Story posts that offer a behind-the-scenes look at her work—part of a lead-generation strategy she outlines here. | Casey Dunn