I get tired of fielding questions around how to get more clients, so I’ve decided to write an article on things you need to do right now before going online and asking, “Help. How do I get more clients?”

Before you go hire a business coach or sales person, enroll in an online course, follow a get rich quick scheme, do this first. Warning, this is a long list of things to do. No easy answers, no quick fixes, but the bare minimum of what you need to do before looking for more help. Remember, people hire who they know, who they like and who they trust. So time to get known. #GetKnown

1. Build a website. State what you do clearly, then back it up with great examples. Show me. Don’t tell me. Make sure the site is responsive, avoid anything that will slow down or impair the ability for someone to navigate your site. This includes: Cinemagraphs, parallax effects, tricky animation or unconventional interfaces. A simple hamburger menu with the following will work: work, about, contact. Use a legible and neutral typeface. Limit the number of colors you use. Have a simple logo. If you don’t have one, just typeset your name in Helvetica Bold using upper/lower case. Make your site SEO friendly. Name the images on your site with descriptive names. “Untitled” or “Final_final_03” doesn’t count as being descriptive. Instead, try “Los-Angles-Design-Branding-Anime-Expo”. Basically, help Google classify the images so that if someone is searching for you, they can find you.

2. Update your LinkedIn profile. Start with having a professionally shot photo. Keep it simple (white, grey or black backdrop). It’s worth the investment since you’ll be able to use this elsewhere. Ask yourself, would I hire me based on this photo? Would I dive deeper into this persons’ profile? Do they appear professional, credible and friendly? Is this someone I can trust with my money? Is this someone I can see myself being around for a long period of time?

Write a captivating headline instead of a job title. Focus on a user/customer benefit vs describing what you do. What do you do for them? An example could be “I help small brands look like big brands.”

Update your education, work history, awards and accolades. Get a few, well written, but sincere testimonials.

3. Get on Behance. Have 3-5 in-depth case studies of outstanding work. Make sure they’re labeled and tagged appropriately to make sure others can find you. Keep the photography or mock-ups simple to make your work shine. Where appropriate, document the creative process. Put the time and energy into designing every component so that it looks as attractive (and expensive) as possible. Look at your work through the lens of a prospective client. Would this excite them? Could they envision working with you through the work that you presented? Is the thinking clear? Are you focused on craftsmanship and detail? Is your typography excellent?

Not sure about the impact of Behance on your sales leads? Watch this video with Farm Design Founder Aaron Atchison.

4. Ask for referrals. Reach out to current and past clients and ask them for a referral. Tell them that you’re growing your business and have additional capacity to take on more work, that you’d appreciate any referrals or recommendations to anyone that could use your services. If they know someone, offer to contact them directly vs. leaving it in their hands to follow through. People are busy after all and you don’t want to add any additional work on their plate.

Why would you say this? One, it’s fun to share exciting news. Two, they won’t worry about sharing you since you are growing your team. Some clients actually do worry that you won’t be available any more, or that you’ll become more expensive as a result. You can address by saying that, “Yes, our rates are going up, but I appreciate your business and loyalty. I will do my best to work within your budget moving forward and will give you preferential pricing.” Lastly, people don’t always think to refer you. It’s just not top of mind. So if you want something, you have to be willing to ask for it.

5. It’s old fashioned, but have a business card and use as a tool to engage with others. Keep it simple and tasteful. Make sure you say what you do and that your contact info is legible. Other than that, avoid using additional photography, illustration of artwork on your card. It’s a name card and not a billboard. Use 1-2 typefaces (max). One or two colors on a sturdy card stock is sufficient. Don’t spend more than a dollar per card. You’re better off stamping your name and contact info on a dollar bill and hand those out instead. When you are at social functions and have an opportunity to meet a prospective client, don’t give them your card. Instead, ask for theirs. Say, “I’d love to follow up with you after this event. Do you have a card?” When they give your their card, hand them yours.

It’s more important to get their contact info than to give them yours. This way, you can follow up vs. waiting by the phone or inbox for them to reach out. The next business day, follow up by connecting with them on LinkedIn. Add a short note reminding them of who you are. Keep it short and simple. Close the note by inviting further dialogue if there’s interest. You could close with something like, “If you would like to continue our dialogue about rebranding your company, I would love to help. Please let me know.”

6. Join communities and organizations. Be active in both social groups (Facebook and LinkedIn) and trade organizations. Chances are, there’s a professional organization within a few miles of where you are located (AIGA, RGD (In Canada), Entrepreneurs’ Organization, Meet up groups, etc…). Build relationship with people without trying to sell. Find out more about who they are, goals and challenges. The people that you form a genuine relationship will become your best resource for leads, people and resources. This is a long term activity that will not appear to be helpful or productive in the short term. If it’s online, post relevant articles. If it’s in person, volunteer to help. You can do simple things like set-up or clean up an event. You can help find speakers or be one yourself. Whatever you do, make an investment in the community to which you belong.

Here are some others you can join: Futur Network, Futur Feedback/Crit, Futur Pro Members ($150/mo.).

7. Invest in a good interchangeable lens camera (ILC or DSLR) and start taking pictures. Take photos of everything you do, places you go and things you see. Why buy a camera? One, your eye will become much more aware of composition, color and lighting. Two, you’ll learn a new skill. Three, you’ll be motivated to visit new places and do exciting things. Four, you’ll start to learn the value of having beautiful photography and how powerful a single image can be. Five, your social media posts will look much more interesting. I’ve had good results with the Panasonic Lumix cameras Gh4, Canon 5d Mk III (or even their entry level Rebel line), Sony A7s and Sony A 6500.

8. Read these 10 books:

9. Subscribe/listen to these 10 podcasts:

10. Watch these 10 videos:

Bonus videos—because you’re an overachiever and that’s why you will get clients.

Congratulations, if you’ve made it this far. If you’re thinking to yourself, yeah, I’m doing all of this and I have a ton of leads but am having trouble closing prospects. Or, if you struggle with overcoming objections or pricing work, you might want to consider the new Business Bootcamp we just launched. Click here for the details.

Finally, find a mentor and offer to work for free (for a period of time). Apply your skillset to help someone you admire. Reach out to them and offer to help them with something specific that taps into your strengths. Getting access to someone that you really look up to can change the way you think, but it can also open doors for future opportunities. You never know where this will lead.

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Author Chris Do

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