When you’ve venturing into the world of self-employment as a web designer, the world looks full of a promising prospecting future. Your eyes are wide, your mind is hungry to take on a new design task and your pockets are ready to fill with all that cash you hear is floating around in the wide world of web design.
Then a month goes by, then two…
Soon, it’s been longer than you can count and you’re scraping by on creating $5,000 websites for a few hundred bucks and living off of those Top Ramen noodles you hoped to leave behind in college.
Now that world of web designer Nirvana sounds like nothing more than a fallacy you got duped into.
Sound a bit familiar?
It’s one of those things that quite a few people run into when deciding to jumping to doing web design. Sure, you may be the Michael Jordan of web designers, but most clients who want your services don’t care if you know PHP or can whip out WordPress Hooks from that digital tackle box of yours.
Therein lies the issue and the bigger question:
How do you drop those cheap clients who undervalue you and find the bigger fish with deeper pockets?
It’s not always easy to to get the answer to that question, but there are some places now available online that can help drop these types of clients in your lap, and a few old tricks that can help you snag quality leads as a web designer.
Where To Find Web Design Clients
People in need of a web designer are everywhere. The problem is that many either don’t want to pay the price you ask or they undervalue what you do.
For as popular as sites like Freelancer or Elance are for people selling services such as web design, most of us can’t compete with the low prices offered by others — and you really shouldn’t.
Therefore, bidding sites like these should be off your list of places to look for clients who will pay well because people on those sites are looking to hire the best designer at the cheapest possible rate which is exactly where you don’t want to wind up.
When looking for quality leads you have to think like the person you are trying to land as a client. Where would they look? Where would they go to find and pay someone for the solutions?
Thinking like that will help you narrow in on where to find the clients you want. There are some great places to start online, but you’d be surprised what you can do with your own site and getting out off your butt and doing a bit of face to face stuff too.
For starters, let’s look at the online places.
The Envato Network is a vast network of popular sites that have recently made a new addition to the family:
The Envato Studio
Since many people know about Envato, this is one place where they will go in hopes go finding a great designer for their project. This means that getting your name and portfolio here will put you in front of a large audience of folks who need what you offer.
Not just anyone can land a spot on the site so it does cut out some of the competition in that regard. The downside to this site is that you’ll still be competing with other designers who can afford to offer their services for less than you can.
However, you can offer smaller segments of design for a price that both you and prospective client or WordPress related tasks that can help you build out your portfolio. Many times, if you can be professional, easy to work with, deliver on time and deliver something that amazes your client, then they will come back to you for more and with more money to offer.
Remember — charge what you’re worth and for the value you offer or you’re going to get deeper in that cheap client debacle you’re trying to escape from.
Codeable is a site where people go when they need WordPress solutions it done right and they want it done right now. (No wishy-washy clients.)
The business was built by Tomaz Zaman and Per Esbensen who wanted to create a site that collected only the best WordPress designers and developesr under a single roof and then served them up to people who need their services and are willing to pay for them.
In order to get on this team of WP experts, you have to apply and go through a 4 week testing period before you can stay on with them for consistent work. Therefore, you really need to know your stuff (WordPress, PHP, jQuery, and HTML) and will need to have current portfolio that you can show them to start with.
The great thing is that at the very least, you are making $60 an hour, and most times it is 3 to 4 times that much. If you can get in the door here, then you have a chance of forging relationships with high paying clients who will want to work with you again and again, and you don’t have to scramble to find them because Codeable will have done that part for you.
If you’re a web designer, then chances are that you’ve heard about 1stWebDesigner and read many of the posts and other content on their site. A few months back, the minds that created the site banded together and launched AwesomeWeb.
This site plays as the happy medium between Envato Studio and Codeable.
Whereas Envato Studio and Codeable will take a cut from whatever project you land, AwesomeWeb is only $17 a month with no added fees in the mix meaning you keep more of the money you make.
Codeable doesn’t require you to pay a fee upfront, however, you really need to know code to land work. AwesomeWeb, on the other hand, opens the doors to more design based work and has many features to it that which makes it easy for clients to come and find you.
Like the other sites above, you have to prove your stuff to land a spot on the site, but it’s a site where potential clients will go to in order to find talented designers and who what to pay for them — no bidding allowed.
In addition to that, you’re not tied down to sticking with AwesomeWeb and can opt out of using them.
I know it seems strange to mention Dribbble here since most people use the site as merely a portfolio, however, it has a feature that allows potential clients to pay a very small yearly fee in order to find designers and contact them for work solely based off their portfolio there on Dribbble.
Therefore, this is one site where it can pay off to create a portfolio for yourself and the design services you offer. The hard thing about Dribbble though is that you can’t just sign up and create a portfolio there. In order to land a spot on this site you have to be invited by a current member on the site.
At the very least, you can get started with a free account there that allows you to comment and connect with current Players on the site. If you can build a report with these people both on and off Dribbble, then you’re one step closer to getting yourself on the site and in front of more leads.
Other Tips for Landing Quality Web Design Clients
When you’re first starting out as a web designer, you should understand that the world of self-employment and web design requires a hustlers mindset with a need for both online and offline marketing chops.
Though it would be great to be able to sit at home and never get off the couch to find work, it’s hardly that easy. And if you want to land higher paying work as a designer than you need to have a portfolio that shows off your talent and skills, but it doesn’t stop there.
Here are some tips for landing high paying clients.
Being a broad scope designer might be fun for you, but most high paying clients neither want nor need a Jack-of-all-trades designer. As that is the case, you do well to consider niching down in your business.
You can do this a few different ways:
- Pick a framework and learn it inside and out. Divi, Thesis, and the Genesis Framework are largely popular framework type themes with an audience and users who want to use the theme for their site and will pay someone to create something amazing if they use it. If you can pick one that suits you best and then establish yourself as an expert with it, then you’ll start attracting clients with wads of cash ready to pay you for your expertise.
- Become a WooCommerce Ninja. WooCommerce is an insanely popular plugin that is easy to use for the basic stuff, but is difficult for an average user to expand the scope outside of the basic settings. If you can learn how to create stunning e-commcere shops and expand the functions of the plugin, then you’ve just opened the door to a market of high paying and likely big name clients. Of course, just saying you’re an expert isn’t enough. You really should work to establish this for yourself which means showing what you’ve got plus getting your name out there (i.e. outreach and networking)
- Find your niche. This is kind of bland, but it should still be mentioned. There are quite a few areas of WordPress that you can specialize in, but it will take some research on your end to find the shoe that fits. Find an area that people have problems with and then become the solution. Are you knowledgable about small business and/or local SEO? Do you like designing creative sites for authors, musicians, etc? Jot down some ideas, do your research, and start working towards the goal of becoming a designer in a high paying niche.
Outreach, Networking, and Brand Building
I touched on this briefly above, but it should be mentioned again.
Being successful as a web designer and building a clientele of better paying customers requires a hustlin’ spirit. If you want to get your name out there as a top notch designer, then you need to connect with others who can help that process along.
I’m not talking about spamming people’s emails begging for work. I’m talking about building and forging relationships that are mutually beneficial.
How do you do that? Here are a few ways you can give a go:
- Get on design forums, Facebook or LinkedIn Groups and answer questions relating to your niche
- Follow people you want to connect with on social media and interact with them
- If you can write well, pitch guest post ideas to sites that can get you in front of an audience of folks who need your expertise on WordPress
- Go to WordPress WordCamps or local Meetups and connect with people face to face
- Get on YouTube and create engaging videos that establish your brand, skill set, and expertise
Really, this list could go on and on, but the takeaway from this should be that forging connections and building on them is one of the best things you can do for your business.
Wrapping It Up
There are many people who have found different ways for landing high quality web design clients. Many of you guys here in the Elegant Themes community are some who know how to do just that.
What tips do you have to share with aspiring web designers looking to land better leads?
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