How To Get Design Clients From Scratch


Focus on one type of service that you enjoy and do it well.

How to get design clients to pay you a premium for your services

Say I was looking for someone to design a logo and I came across two online portfolios.


Let’s call them something creative like Graphic designer A and graphic designer B.


By looking at graphic designer A’s website, I could see that they do logo design, web design, posters, SEO, videos editing, copywriting and a ton of other stuff.


Not only do they provide all of those services but their turnaround time is fast and the quote that I receive is pretty cheap.


Now I travel to graphic designer B’s online portfolio. Their website is very minimal and I could see that they only focus on designing logos. They also have a page explaining their logo design process.


For example, they spend a 2 days on research, 3 days on sketching and brainstorming, 4 days on rendering and 2 days on tweaking the final logo.


After receiving a quote back from designer 2, I find that their pricing is twice as much and their turnaround time is twice as long.


But you know what?


If it’s for the benefit of my business, I would rather go with designer 2.


I would rather spend that bit extra with the peace of mind that my logo will be designed with some real expertise.


This is the same with your freelance business.


By focusing on 1 thing and doing it right, not only will you be able to charge a premium for your services and products, but clients will be more than happy to pay you that extra since you’ve shown you’re a specialist and that you know what you’re doing.


Why be a jack of all trades and a master at none?


How would I get design clients if I started from scratch?

Let’s say I have a passion in branding.


The first step I would take is to do some research on what makes a good brand identity. I would also look at other branding projects on sites such as Behance and Dribbble.


However I know that if I spend too much time on research, I’m bound to procrastinate. So what I’ll start doing is create side projects on branding while learning along the way.


When Quentin Tarantino was asked to give advice to aspiring filmmakers, this is what he said:


“I worked 3 years on a 16mm film that ended up becoming nothing but a guitar pick. I was very disappointed after I realised that it wasn’t any good but it was my film school. And I actually got away real cheap. When it was all over, I knew how to make a movie.”


When you start working on projects you like, you’re more likely to be motivated.


And when you’re motivated, you’d be able to finish 3 weeks of work in 3 days. You’ll also be more likely to experiment, make mistakes and learn along the way.


On a slightly different note, Paul Jarvis wrote an interesting article about school vs life. It’ll probably answer some of your questions on whether design school is really necessary.


So the next step I’d take is to create a portfolio site and publish only my best work.


For each branding project, I’ll mention an imaginary brief (to make it look like I’ve worked for real clients), some text and images showing my design process and then display the final outcome.


To save money, I would invest in a DSLR camera and photograph the full brand identity project myself.


In order to get my name out there, I would publish everything mentioned above on Behance. I would then start following the followers of designers with good branding projects. Hopefully if my work is good enough they’ll follow me back, give me appreciations and leave comments on my projects.


I’ll also post a few articles on my blog about how clients can benefit from having a brand identity.


After this, I’ll slowly start getting enquires that will then lead to jobs. While working for clients, I’ll go the extra mile and do a little extra. Something that doesn’t take too much time but something that the client will appreciate.


My clients will then start referring me to other clients. Soon I’ll be booked out, and will need to start increasing my rates.


After increasing my rates, I’ll have filtered out a lot of the bad clients but let’s leave that for another post.


How not to be screwed over if you’re a student


I get a lot emails from students telling me that they’ve been screwed over by clients.


Fake it till you become it.


My advice is never, never and I mean NEVER tell anyone that you’re a student or a graduate. That way your clients won’t try to rip you off since you’re a noob and you’ll be treated the way you deserve to be treated.


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