The Best Ways to Get Web Design Clients in 2023

Just about every business needs a website to succeed, and that means they need web designers. Though thousands of potential clients await your skills, learning how to get web design clients and build a stable business takes effort.

Start by learning from successful freelancers and the companies that hire them. We turned to pros to get their best tips for what web designers should and shouldn’t do—from how to network and communicate to things potential clients see as red flags.

Here are their 11 tips to help you get web design clients and keep them, whether you’re just starting out or want to take your business to the next level.

Table of contents:

  1. Use social media
  2. Develop well-crafted proposals
  3. Make a website to capture leads and promote your work
  4. Create valuable free content
  5. Start reaching out to your network
  6. Use freelancing job sites
  7. Attend relevant events
  8. Don’t be afraid to pitch with a cold call
  9. Ask existing clients and friends for referrals
  10. Contribute to relevant communities
  11. Find talking spots at events, podcasts, and webinars

1. Use social media

Social media has become increasingly important in many, if not all, businesses. Almost 65% of the world’s population is online, with the average person using 6.6 social media platforms per month and spending almost 2.5 hours per day on social media.

To optimize social media results, don’t just repurpose existing content; tailor your social media content to the needs of different target markets. For example, if you want brand manager clients, you might create content on how the right web designer can create sites that serve to reinforce and build brands.

The posts could be part of a larger strategy, starting by showing you understand the pain points of potential clients and leading to ones where you offer solutions for those problems. You could close deals with calls-to-action of special offers for your web design services.

Benefits of a well-developed social media presence include:

  • Generating sales leads
  • Building your audience
  • Measuring how well your digital marketing efforts work
  • Improving your search rankings

Your target clients probably use different social networks, so try to reach them through different channels. For example, let demographics guide you. If your target is a younger audience, you might decide to focus on TikTok. For an older, more established audience, Facebook still rules.

“Don’t just drop your link and run in [the usual] groups, and don’t overlook exciting services,” says Kate Smoothy of Webhive Digital. “Use Instagram Reels and TikTok videos to share your process, educate, and give visual examples of your work. For example, a ‘6 ways to make your website stand out’ video could include examples of your work and educational tips in one 15- to 30-second video.”

She suggests web designers make a few videos and repurpose them across social platforms to minimize work while increasing reach.

2. Develop well-crafted proposals

Stand out from the competition by drafting a proposal that can win jobs. Whether you’re responding to a request through your website or Upwork profile, create a proposal that reveals why you’re the best person to handle the specific work.

If you create your proposal from scratch or use a template, your proposal should include a:

  • Cover
  • Information about you
  • A statement of the job challenge
  • Your solution to the job challenge
  • Relevant experience
  • Estimated cost
  • Timeline
  • References
  • Testimonials

Your proposal must show you understand the scope of work involved, giving a detailed job description and how you’d solve the problem. Show you’re capable of doing the project and answer “invisible” questions, such as “How will you make my life easier?” and “Do you really care about helping me succeed?”

The proposal should be designed well (given it’s your profession) and written so all the important information is easy to access and digest in clearly defined sections. Don’t cut and paste large portions of past proposals. Tailor each proposal to the prospective client and their work request.

3. Make a website to capture leads and promote your work

Some web designers know how to create beautiful and functional sites for clients but don’t deploy those skills on their own websites and landing pages. Put your best foot forward in your client work portfolio to demonstrate your capabilities and the level of detail and dedication a potential client can expect from you.

“As a web designer, your website is your calling card,” says Sophie Bowman, founder of the creative agency Brand Branding PR. “Your expertise will be judged entirely on your website. Having an ‘Under Construction’ page or a glitchy site is the kiss of death.”‍

If you’re highlighting your work’s sophisticated design and visual appeal, your website should show the same. Or if you’re focusing on advanced technical aspects, your own site should walk its talk. Make it discoverable on search engines, with all the metadata and other search engine optimization (SEO) work required for proper indexing.

Analyze websites and portfolios of web developers and designers to get ideas. If you want to show potential clients that you can develop sites that attract and convert web design leads, you need to do the same with yours. Consider adding inbound lead magnets to pages, creating forms to capture visitor information, and using other lead generation strategies.

To attract web design clients on platforms like Upwork, Bowman suggests “optimizing your Upwork profile to summarize what you do in a catchy line. To make your profile more visible, add hashtags for your field—e.g., #webdesigner and #webdesign—and don’t forget to add skills like #seo or #logodesign.”‍

4. Create valuable free content

Creating free content (like text, images, videos, and infographics) is the cornerstone of many online marketing strategies. As a web designer, you should create content targeted to the requirements of potential clients. Demonstrate that you’re the best person to solve clients’ work challenges.

For example, if you’re trying to get more UI/UX work, you could create inspiring case studies of innovative jobs you’ve done in the field or do a post on industry best practices. This demonstrates why you’re the right person for this kind of work.

You should also seek to get the most use from every piece of content, cross-posting and adapting information for different channels. This includes your website, social media platforms, Upwork profile, and even email newsletters.

Other content marketing strategies you can adopt for long-term success include using more videos, animating content into GIFs and videos, and optimizing content with best SEO practices.

5. Start reaching out to your network

Reaching out to your network of personal and professional contacts is an important method for landing web design work. Eighty percent of professionals consider networking important to career success. Use your networks and word-of-mouth tips to get new work.

Your network can include:

  • Former colleagues and employers
  • Peers
  • Friends
  • Family
  • Neighbors
  • People you meet at conferences and other events

Your outreach should focus on building relationships, both online and in person. Try building constructive relationships with people, asking them meaningful questions, providing useful information, attending industry events, taking part in online forums, and joining professional associations. As you expand your network, make an email list to stay in touch with prospects and useful sources of information.

If you come across potential clients, don’t hesitate to tell them you’re interested in working with them and explaining why you’d be a good fit. If your name is out there and your work is well regarded, you might get an online colleague who wants you to help them with a job that’s too much for them to handle alone.

6. Use freelancing job sites

Joining a freelancing job site is a great way to land new work. The best job boards are used by a lot of potential clients. As a web designer, create a profile that shows who you are, your relevant experience, areas of focus, star ratings, testimonials, and more. The site should let you bid on jobs and let potential clients come to you for quotes on work.

These are the reasons many web designers and millions of other freelancers use Upwork to find jobs in their field. You can create a free profile, look for work in the Talent Marketplace, create ready-to-buy web design projects with Project Catalog, or receive invitations for work from new clients.

Freelancing job sites offer web designers benefits like:

  • Access to multiple sources of revenue
  • A self-directed work environment
  • Flexible work arrangements
  • A variety of work experiences
  • Remote working options

7. Attend relevant events

Attending industry events is a great way to meet potential clients and create visibility for your business. You can also upgrade your qualifications, learn about industry trends, and find inspiration.

These events can include conferences, workshops, practical learning sessions, social mixers, interactive presentations, research sessions, and other professional development events.

Of course, just showing up to an industry event isn’t enough to make connections. You need to arrive prepared. Have a goal in mind, such as meeting a certain number of people in industries where you have demonstrable experience (e.g., creating e-commerce sites for small businesses and startups).

Practice how to introduce yourself, including what you bring to the table as a freelance web designer or an entrepreneur who runs their own web design agency. You should also have business cards to give out to prospects.

8. Don’t be afraid to pitch with a cold call

While seeking work from people you know might be relatively easy, it’s more challenging to cold call prospective clients or sell your website design services to someone you just met at a networking event.

Cold calls (and cold emails) are traditional sales techniques that are all about numbers. You have a 2% chance of landing work with a phone call or email out of the blue. But you can up this number by refining how you present yourself in a short pitch.

The so-called elevator pitch is what you’re prepared to say or write about yourself to a client. The presentation needs to be succinct—about 30 seconds in a phone call or 75 to 100 words in an email.

Keep in mind there are a lot of web designers in the market. What makes you and your services unique? For example, doing a lot of your own research, like thoroughly examining a client’s online presence and target audience, could be a strong selling point. Tailor your pitch for the client’s needs.

9. Ask existing clients and friends for referrals

If you’ve done good work for your client base or have industry-connected friends who admire your web design, take advantage of that goodwill to find new customers.

When one client refers you to a prospect, it helps establish your reputation as dependable and shows people you can do good work in a timely and cost-effective manner.

“The main thing we often look for in freelancers is reliability,” says David Adler, who was CEO of The Travel Secret and now runs infrastructure financing and development company PinfraUS.

“Anything you can do to show you can deliver on time is paramount when you’re looking for jobs. If you’ve completed previous work, ask for referrals or even a quick blurb you can share with prospective clients. It doesn’t have to say anything more than ‘you did a great job on time.’”

For freelancers just starting, Adler recommends demonstrating reliability and dedication in the way you communicate. Be on time for meetings, send follow-ups, and be proactive.

10. Contribute to relevant communities

One way to establish your reputation among potential clients is to contribute to professional groups, ranging from groups devoted to web design to broader ones catering to different marketing communities. Your contributions can range from guest posts to giving advice to others.

“Get involved in LinkedIn or Facebook groups, and start offering help to people with questions,” advises Kolleen Shallcross of Shallcross Marketing & Design.

“You’ll build up a reputation of helping without selling. I personally spend an hour (or more) a day helping out people with their issues on Facebook without pushing a sale. The byproduct is that I get referred to by others because they know I’m not out to just make a quick buck.”

“This type of ‘customer service’ helps web designers land clients and create long-term relationships.”

11. Find talking spots at events, podcasts, and webinars

Another way to establish your professional credentials with potential clients is to become a speaker at different web design and marketing events, including industry conferences, podcasts, and webinars.

For example, a speaker or web design seminar panelist can talk to peers and potential clients trying to keep up with the design field.

With more people working from home, webinars continue to be a valuable tool for professional development and connecting with potential clients. As a web designer, you can create your own webinar in formats that include single-speaker presentations, panel discussions, Q&As, and interviews.

If the webinar is on the latest trends in web design and development, use participants’ contact information to follow up. You can gather event feedback and sound out prospects about using your services.

Marketing and design podcasts also come in a wide variety. While you may not want to take the trouble of creating your own podcast, you can find ones that align with your expertise and reach desirable audiences. Try reaching out to podcast producers and offering yourself as a guest speaker.

Get more clients today

One of the hardest things for a new web designer is finding people who are actually looking for help. Potential clients don’t often advertise their needs on LinkedIn or their website, but they do use services like Upwork to find top talent.

If you’re new to the web design freelancing world, sign up with Upwork and put together a portfolio to quickly get in front of potential clients. It’s a smart and straightforward way to find ideal clients and generate the interest needed to get your web design business off the ground.

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The Best Ways to Get Web Design Clients in 2023
The Upwork Team

Upwork is the world’s work marketplace that connects businesses with independent talent from across the globe. We serve everyone from one-person startups to large, Fortune 100 enterprises with a powerful, trust-driven platform that enables companies and talent to work together in new ways that unlock their potential.

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