How to Start Getting Clients for Your Divi Web Design Business

Posted on April 4, 2017 by in Divi Resources | 31 comments

How to Start Getting Clients for Your Divi Web Design Business

Welcome to part 2 of 5 of our Divi mini series How to Become a Successful Divi Web Designer. In this series, we’re showing you a proven path that you can take from learning to build websites to becoming a professional web designer. We’ll provide you with actionable steps that you can apply no matter if you’re just starting out or if you’re already an established web designer wanting to go to the next level.


One of the most commonly asked questions I see in many of the Divi Facebook Groups online and what I hear from aspiring web designers I interact with is “How do I start getting clients?” In this post, I’m going to expand on five tactics and strategies that worked for me when I started that you can implement in your web design endeavors.

Before we dive in, there are some things that I recommend you have in place and are prepared with before you start getting clients:

  • Be sure you can truly build a website from start to finish before selling your services.
  • Take care of the legal stuff – contracts, legalities like your business name, banking etc.
  • Have a good understanding of hosting, Cpanel and an understanding of email and DNS settings. This Elegant Themes Blog Post is a good resource for picking the right hosting company for you.
  • Make sure you’re inspired and excited to get going!

Ok, let’s get to it.

How to Start Getting Clients for Your Divi Web Design Business

1) Create Your Own Website First

I’ve run into several designers who are so consumed with getting their first few paying clients that they neglect the most import first step – building their OWN site first. Creating your own site first has numerous benefits such as:

  • Learning how to effectively build a site from start to finish.
  • Creating and refining your development process.
  • Getting familiar with good tools, plugins and basic coding.
  • Solidifying your services and products.
  • Creating an online presence that all leads, traffic and referrals will go to.

I get it, it’s hard to build your site when you don’t have much to show, but you can develop your services, mission and general information, FAQ’s and more before you have any actual work to show. And building your portfolio will happen quickly when moving on to step 2.

2) Build Your Portfolio

Before you can expect a client to pay you, they’re going to want to see that you can actually deliver and will more than likely want to see some of your work. So it’s important that once step 1 is complete, you build out your portfolio! In order to start building your web design portfolio, you’ll probably have to do some work for cheap or for free. And that’s ok! That’s how I started and once I had a handful of projects under my belt, I was able to start charging for my work because I had some examples of finished projects.

I recommend reaching out to organizations or non-profits that you may be involved with. You can also reach out to trusted friends and family who you know won’t abuse your willingness to do some free/cheap work to get some experience under your belt. A word of caution: Don’t advertise that you’re doing work for free. You’ll find yourself buried with “opportunities” and projects that will not pay your bills.

I began by doing free then cheap work for the church I was a part of, then doing some work for local bands who couldn’t afford a big site. That led to some smaller paying jobs with small businesses in my local area. I recommend getting at least 5-10 projects completed to help make you look established before beginning to charge a good rate for your work. And if you only have a handful of projects to show off initially, I’d recommend making your portfolio fullwidth instead of a 3 or 4 column layout.

When I did my initial free/cheap work, I did the following:

  • I made it known that those first projects were only free because I was getting started and I would be charging for those services moving forward.
  • I told them NOT to tell anyone else that I was doing the project for free. That way potential clients didn’t know that I was doing that work for free. For all they knew, those were happy, paying clients 🙂
  • I asked them to share their new websites and asked for referrals to anyone they knew who could use my services.

3) Utilize your Family, Friends and Social Media Networks

There’s no shame in getting your first few opportunities from your family and friends. That’s how many businesses, including mine, got their start. Once you have a website and you’re ready to start getting clients, the most important thing to do is get the word out.

Set up a Facebook page for your business and engage in whatever social media networks you have already going. I found it very important early on not to bug people but I did make it known that I was doing graphic design and web development. My first few leads came rather quickly from people I knew because I already had a relationship with them. They liked and trusted me and were willing to give me a shot at working with them.

If you’re working at first for cheap or free, there’s not much to lose for friends and family working with you. There may be an awkward conversation if they don’t like the work but if they do, then you’ve just created a good relationship and you’ll gain access to their network as well. And that’s how the referral train starts rolling!

4) Networking

Once you have a handful of sites in your portfolio, it’s time to start getting out in the real world. One of the best and most affordable ways to do so is to get involved in a networking group. The term “networking” has a bit of a negative connotation to it and can feel intimidating, especially if you’re not naturally social, but I highly, highly recommend it. Get involved in a closed networking group or look into meetups in your area that are referral based.

A majority of my leads come from my networking group since it is a referral group. All the members of my group are essentially a sales force for me and my business and I’m there for them as well. It’s an incredible mix of give and get and if you’re known, liked, and trusted within a group of people, you’ll have access to all of their professional networks as well.

Here in the states, we have networking groups like BNI (which is a global organization), AmSpirit (which is the one I’m a part of) but there are now meet ups all across the world. So whatever is available in your neck of the woods, take advantage of it! You can also look into what meetups are going on in your area at MeetUp.com. Again, you can join groups of fellow designers and developers but I encourage you to also check out any networking events and groups with business people in various industries. That’s where the referrals start happening.

5) Contribute to Open Source, Online Communities and Facebook Groups

When you begin as a Divi Web Designer, you already have a golden ticket to starting your business; being involved with the best community online – Divi Nation. There are numerous Facebook groups that you can plug into where you can not only learn from other designers but you can engage with them.

Here are some of the top ones I recommend checking out:

1) DiviWebDesigners by yours truly 🙂

2) Divi Theme Users & Elegant Marketplace

3) Divi Theme Tutorials

I’m not stating that you spam multiple groups saying that you’re looking for work. In fact, that’s a great way to spoil your very important first impression and you’ll find your way booted out of a group. What I am saying is that if you start contributing, getting involved in conversations, assisting with problems, sharing tools and plugins that’ll help, then you’ll very quickly make some friends and perhaps, some opportunities.

Another area you can explore is contributing to open source. This is essentially offering your work to projects already online looking for assistance. Here’s good resource for how you can get started if this interests you. You can also look into sites like Fiverr and other freelance sites that you can contribute to. But I recommend start with your friends, family, social media networks and face to face opportunities. It’ll get you farther, faster.

In Conclusion

I hope these 5 steps on How to Start Getting Clients for Your Divi Web Design Business has inspired and encouraged you with some actionable steps you can apply! Again, this is all real-world experience that helped propel my web design career.

Tomorrow: How to Grow your Divi Web Design Business

Once you’ve started your Divi Web Design business, it’s time to grow it into something sustainable. Tomorrow, I’ll explain the steps I took to grow my business and we’ll go over tools, tactics and strategies that you can use to help grow yours!

Be sure to subscribe to our email newsletter and YouTube channel so that you never miss a big announcement, useful tip, or Divi freebie!

31 Comments

  1. Hi Josh,

    I am a web developer with a successful freelance business now. I followed the steps you outlined almost exactly when I started in 2013. Just wanted to give my vote of approval!

    Thanks,
    Brian

    • Josh Hall

      That’s great to hear, Brian! Yep there’s certainly no right or wrong way to go about starting to get clients, but that’s great to hear that these methods worked for you as well!

  2. Thanks Josh

  3. Great article, like everyone. For those who start from scratch in the creation of a business without a physical office and the only way to reach customers is through the web, it is important to make our site as attractive as possible so that customers feel comfortable and reach Interact and compare on our site.

    • Josh Hall

      That’s a good point. I’ve found that my first impression either on a phone call or in a meeting is the first step, then they go RIGHT to my website. So it’s so crucial that it represents you well. Thanks for your feedback!

  4. I have to save all this because I’m just on the to start Thank you so much ET

    • Josh Hall

      Thanks, Alexandru. An ET categorized bookmark is definitely a good thing to have for your reference!

  5. Thanks Josh, I love these blog posts on Elegant Themes! Will restart my business very soon and these posts are very helpful!!

    • Josh Hall

      Awesome to hear, Gerry! Sounds like the timing of this series is great for you!

  6. Hi Josh, this is great advice, I started out because someone liked my free WordPress blog(looks like a website though because I put a lot of work into it) and wanted me to work on her site,then I made loads of mistakes from choosing a host to themes to plugins, plus I was not done with hers and I got two other jobs and of course more mistakes, haha. Then I took a step back, went on quora to find answers, talked to some developer friends over here, and majorly taught myself online by reading and troubleshooting for more than 24 hours straight most times, bottom line I ended up doing this the exact same way you have listed out. I practically started all over again in the manner you have stated so heck yeah, I would bookmark your advice for newbies. Thanks.

    • Josh Hall

      Thanks for the feedback and encouragement on this post, Mary! Yea I’ve found it’s good every so often to simplify things, take a step back and go back to the basics.

      Glad things worked out for you and you were able to get things back on track! That’s a great story for Divi newbies to consider before getting too far along 🙂

  7. I have been doing it right all along then Josh 🙂 again thanks for this series!

    • Josh Hall

      Thanks Rambo! That’s good to hear man.

  8. I think the best way to do it is to provide free content and tutorials. Later, people will trust you more on working with them

    • Josh Hall

      Hey Darrel, I actually delve into that later in the series. You’re right, providing free content and tutorials is definitely the best form of earning trust in marketing yourself.

  9. Thanks Josh. As a WordPress developer i’m always flow Elegant themes blog. keep sharing.

    • Josh Hall

      Awesome to hear. Thanks for the feedback!

  10. Excellent, even though I know these things sometimes I forgot and get out of way . Your articles remind of that and high quality advice

    🙂

    • Josh Hall

      Thanks, Krishna. Yea I feel like sometimes there so much going on, it’s good to simplify and just get reminded of some basic, practical ideas 🙂 Cheers!

  11. A tip you would give to the elegant theme, use a serial to use 30 days, you create video and content the person uses the div 3.0 pirate. Destroys the work of affiliates

    • Josh Hall

      Thanks for checking it out!

  12. Another way to build your portfolio while not giving away your services is to work for trade. I’ve traded with several local businesses that now have great websites and I have a beautiful garden and all of the chocolate I can eat in exchange!

    • Josh Hall

      That’s a good point Rob. I did that when I started out (and should’ve mentioned that) in the post as it is a good way to get some portfolio work going while also getting something in return!

  13. Very good information here. I will start building my site first then get going on my portfolio. just a quick question… What hosting provider do you recommend for a Divi web design business?

    • Josh Hall

      Thanks, Michael! I use and recommend Siteground. They’re not the cheapest but have reliable service, great tools and second-to-none support. They have a reseller option where you can have multiple Cpanels per site in your account and some flexible/scalable options for adding multiple sites to one package.

      Hope that helps!

  14. Josh

    Been really enjoying this particular series. I started out with offering cheaper sites myself. Definitely a great way not only to get referrals but also gain confidence and learn how to set up a standard process for yourself.

    Thanks again!

    • Josh Hall

      Thanks for your feedback, Aymee! Great to hear this method worked for you as well. Good luck with everything moving forward!

  15. This was a great guide, I did have another idea around this and wanted your opinion on it?

    The problem I have is that I have already tried using family and friends to start with but with no luck, I have got one live website which i did do for free (work friend )

    My idea was to build examples of what I can achieve, I have done my research in a particular area which struggles with good sites. My plan was to have several different demos, bit like how elegant themes works.

    What do you think? Wise idea or not?

    Cheers

    • Josh Hall

      Hey Grant, yea that’s certainly a solid option. I know of a few designers who will also target certain industries but I think being diverse is the best option so you don’t limit your clients. My biggest recommendation would be to get in a closed networking group of businesses in different categories. Along with the social networks of family and friends, you’ll be opened up to a variety of leads.

      Just keep at it, do the best work you can and make it known to everyone that you are in business and are looking to grow/get clients!

      • Awesome thanks for the great support, the encouragement is great as I have been a tad negative 🙁 chin up!

        Cheers

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