Business development is one of the toughest aspects of running a web dev business.
If you’re a web designer, chances are that generating leads and business growth are two skillsets you need to learn. I certainly did. For many years I would fumble around trying different things without any coherent strategy. Then, it all changed…
As a successful freelance web designer, I’m going to share with you three ways in which I get web development project leads, and have managed to build a sustainable web design company.
#1 Find web design partnerships
Were you going to scroll past this? I know what you’re thinking: partnerships sounds intense and a lot of hard work. And to tell you the truth, at first they are. But the reason why so many people fail at developing web development partnerships is because they only think about what they can gain, not what they can give.
As a web designer, my two key partnership requirements are copywriting and branding. Many projects require one of these two skillsets, and I don’t have either.
So what do I do? I parter with those who can! This enables me to deliver better work for my clients and allows me to focus on what I do best: website design.
How partnerships help you find web design project leads
Try this: instead of sitting at your laptop thinking “how can I get web design clients?“, change your thinking to “how can I help those in my industry?”
By changing your mindset to somebody who’s helpful to others rather than someone who’s just out for themselves, you build trust and credibility within your network. In every conversation you have, think about how the vast knowledge and skillsets of those around you might be harnessed to help the person in front of you. Practice this way of thinking, and you’ll not only do much better work for more money, you’ll discover the magic of reciprocity.
If you can generate leads and prospects for those with complementary skills, they will return the favour. That’s how partnerships work, and that’s how to generate leads as a web designer.
#2 Web development job boards
I know what you’re thinking: what!?
But hear me out. When you’re starting out in web design, online job boards can be great a way to get leads. But the nature of job boards is that the barrier to entry is really low. Therefore, you see a lot of low quality providers and subsequently, low quality clients.
However, there’s gold in them there hills.
Back in 2014 I hit the job boards because of a slowdown in client work. But I didn’t enter that market to get loads of new clients, I used it as a method for meeting a few good clients. The simple trick was to ruthlessly sift through the obviously bad projects when looking for something better. This is how I generally define bad projects:
- Very low pay
- Poorly written/vague job description
- Uncommunicative client (no response to project questions)
Now you’re probably thinking “that’s pretty much every project on a job board”. And you’d be right, but, if you search for niches and have patience, the right project can come along.
It works, I’ve done it. I’ve met clients (and partners) who’ve been respectful, thoughtful and not afraid to invest their money in good people with the right skills. If you need to generate web design leads, job portals could be a viable route for you to try. Just be sure to hold out for the good-looking work and don’t be tempted to go bidding on every job you see!
#3 Generate web design leads by being helpful
Thanks to social media it’s now very easy to get access to people who need your help. I’m a member of various freelancer and small business groups on Facebook and elsewhere, and do you know what happens time and again? People ask questions to the group.
These posts range from seeking recommendations, to asking for help to solve a specific problem. This is the third way you could generate leads for your web design business.
But — look again at the title of this section. Being helpful is absolutely, positively necessary here.
You cannot simply waltz into a thread and offer up your services. I’ve been there myself: you’re in a busy group and somebody posts “Hi guys, I’m looking for a web designer. Any recommendations?”
Cue the absolute torrent of self-promotional waffle. Really, it’s just embarrassing 🙈
Get leads for web development by practicing usefulness
Here’s what you need to do: actually ignore the posts asking for web developer recommendations.
Instead, focus on all the other posts that you can contribute to. In my experience, you’ll find a constant supply of questions covering everything from setting up social media accounts, to online invoicing and everything in between. This is where you build your profile.
If you become known as the person in the group who’s always there, ready to help with no expectations, you will earn trust. People will learn what you do by the answers you give (no need to shout “I’m a web developer!!!” at every opportunity) and, before you know it, people will be recommending you under those group question threads. People will be coming to you for web development projects.
Yes, an intelligent use of social media can deliver a lasting supply of leads to your web design business.
Getting leads as a web designer isn’t really that tough!
There is an acknowledgement that our industry is saturated. But really, it’s only saturated because there are so many low quality players.
There is a tonne of work out there for the more sophisticated, professional web developers who deliver value and look out for others. Does that sound like you?