If you’re a freelance graphic designer, you probably already know that most of your income comes from getting and keeping client projects. But if you want to stay in business and keep earning good money, you’ll need to find repeat clients and develop lasting relationships with them. Here are nine ways you can win more graphic design projects, whether the client is an individual or another company.
1) Have your own style
Every artist (and designer) has his or her own signature style, but it’s important not to get too attached to your own techniques and way of doing things. When you’re approaching new projects, let your client take on some of the burden—no matter how complicated your smart pictorial graphic design is, you can never be sure that it will be exactly what they want until they see it. By letting them choose from several options, you give them more control over their project and also ensure that you don’t waste time designing something that won’t work for them.
2) Look after your client’s interests
When you’re in charge of your own career, it can be difficult to remember that your clients are paying for your work. This means more than just taking on new projects—it also means making sure you’re always delivering high-quality work and that they’re getting their money’s worth. Try following up with them after projects, which will help remind them of how great of an asset you are. And don’t forget: if you get a bad review, don’t take it personally; instead, try to use it as an opportunity to improve your services. You can even turn negative reviews into positive ones by offering a discount or other incentive to unhappy customers who give you another chance.
3) Show you care about deadlines
While it’s true that all graphic design projects have different deadlines, if you truly care about helping your clients, you’ll always give them one month or more in order to ensure they have enough time. Think of it like Christmas shopping: If you need to buy presents for three different people who celebrate three different holidays, wouldn’t you start at least six weeks in advance? Taking an appropriate amount of time will show your client that you truly care and want their business. It’s just good business sense.
4) Get referrals and recommendations
Since you can’t possibly be familiar with every project that comes your way, one way to increase your chances of winning is by getting referrals from other designers. If you have good relationships with other local graphic designers, they may give you valuable recommendations. People generally trust their peers and will likely choose an established designer over a complete stranger. Also, make sure to ask clients for references when you finish a job. That way, if someone asks for a recommendation about your work in future projects, you can send them a list of names and contact information.
5) Don’t be afraid to charge higher rates
While you might feel like you’re competing with every other freelancer out there for work, charging high rates for smart pictorial graphic design won’t scare away clients. In fact, research suggests that when someone is looking for a professional service (like graphic design), they’ll often choose higher-priced providers in order to get more value from their investment. It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s true—and it can be an excellent way to stand out from your competition. Just make sure your portfolio includes plenty of smart pictorial graphic design samples!
6) Don’t panic if another designer gets the job
While graphic design projects can often be intensely competitive, don’t freak out if you lose one. Things will even out. You don’t need to win every single job you bid on in order to make ends meet—you just need work. If one goes south, another project is coming your way any minute now. And if it doesn’t, keep looking and networking until it does. It may take a while to get back on track after losing a client or two, but once you do, you’ll find yourself with more time and energy than ever before. And when that happens, there are plenty of new clients ready for your creative touch!
7) Manage clients’ expectations
Clients will always have unreasonable expectations, but it’s your job as a freelancer to work with them and help them see reality. The last thing you want is for someone who’s paying you big bucks for your time and skills to be upset about deliverables. By managing client expectations early on in your relationship, you can avoid a lot of headaches down the road. Even if they are unrealistic, try to figure out what they want and then propose something that meets their needs while also being realistic (and profitable) for you. For example, I understand that you really want me to design three mockups instead of two—that’s great! I think we can get everything done in two weeks if we stay focused on one mockup per day.
8) Offer Guarantees
In addition to competitive pricing, you can offer clients guarantees such as refunding them for delays in delivery or offering free content revisions. A guarantee gives your clients peace of mind that you’re invested in their project and will do everything possible to make sure they’re satisfied with your work. By increasing your perceived value, you’ll be able to charge more for your services—which may give you an edge over competitors who can’t offer such guarantees. And if you deliver on your promise, it could also lead to repeat business from a happy customer.
9) Use a contract template
One of most important things you can do when starting a new client relationship is entered into an enforceable contract. A well-crafted contract not only protects you but also reinforces trust and goodwill with your clients. To make sure that your contracts are up to date and in force, take 10 minutes every month or so to review them. This includes updating contact information, reviewing rates and payment terms, making sure all provisions are relevant (such as those related to intellectual property), and ensuring that any changes made since last update have been properly recorded. You should also consider using a contract template—many are available for free online—as it can help ensure that your contracts stay consistent from project to project.