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Home » Run Your Business

15 ways to get more clients for your web design* business


*Or insert type of business here

As a coach working with entrepreneurs from the IT industry, one of the most common questions that I get asked is “how can I get more clients for my business?”

As the question keeps cropping up, I’m taking the opportunity in this post to share with you 15 ways to drive more enquiries to your business, which will not only get you more client enquiries, but make you more money too.

Get these ideas implemented before your competitors do.

Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below. Please share your ideas to get more clients, what’s worked and what didn’t work.

1. Produce better work

Seriously. Is every piece of work you produce for your clients the very best work you can possibly produce regardless of the amount of money the client is paying you?

If it’s not, then what’s special about you and your company?

If it’s not, then how are you going to be able to showcase your work to any potential prospects which shouts to them “they need to use XYZ web design”.

That’s not to say that the website or design that you produce for them should have features that the client didn’t want or specify, but it is about having a very deep understanding of your clients business and what they are trying to achieve from the website that they are asking you to design.  Showing interest and showing you care gets you noticed.

Action: At the start of any client project ask the client to list out for you their goals for the particular project you are working on and get them to think about what the successful achievement of those goals looks like. Make sure the goals are measurable and understand what the current situation is. Make sure that your final product meets these goals.

2. Focus on a niche

If you look at past work that you’ve done for your clients are the clients from different industries or the same industries? Do the same types of business keep cropping up again and again?

If they are then this could be an area for you to focus on and target your marketing more effectively. You can then find more businesses in the same field and approach them about the services that you can offer them.

For example, say you were  a web designer and you specialised in designing websites for restaurants. Don’t you think that you could offer a  restaurateur  more insight in what works for the their restaurant business than the general web site designer down the road?

Action: look at your client list and split them into types of business. Does one type of business stand out any more than another? If it doesn’t is there a type of business that you’re more interested in than another type of business?  Similarly if you’re just starting out and have had no clients previously is there a type of business that you’re interested in?

3. Work with Local businesses

Instead of being a faceless service provider pitching your services over then internet, why not consider focusing providing your services to other local businesses?  As a business you’re part of the community that the local business serves and therefore you have a vested interest in making the client’s business a success for the sake of the community.  Almost as importantly, the fact that you’re local means that it’s much easier to meet potential prospects at local networking events.

As a starter make sure you visit Google Places and claim your local listing and improve your rankings in local search.

Action: What local networking events are happening in your town or city? Get yourself an invite and go and talk to business owners about their businesses and see if you can help.

4. Educate don’t sell

Instead of pitching your services offer the prospective client advice. If the client already has a website, explain about Search Engine Optimisation and explain why it’s important for them and how they can improve their search engine rankings. Explain the importance of capturing lead information from visitors to their website and that any sign up boxes should be in a prominent position to maximise sign ups.

The more knowledge you share with your client the more the value you provide increases in the clients eyes. Which in turn means the more they will be prepared to pay you to help them out.

For example I have a client who replaced a whole load of custom code that the previous web designer had put in (which meant that each time the site owner wanted to change the site they had to have an expensive maintenance call to the original designer to change it) with a set of customisable “widgets”. This allowed the  site owner to make the changes themselves. Quickly and without any additional cost.

Action: Seek opportunities to educate your clients. Produce videos about how to use social media to drive traffic. Answer questions on forums or on Twitter and show them how to get things to work. Show you care about helping them fix their problem.

5. Pitch for work on job sites

With wage inflation increasing in low cost economies, the costs of having web design work undertaken overseas is not as cheap as it was. Plus a number of clients who’ve had bad experience of dealing (particularly when it comes to support) with work done in low cost countries are increasingly more likely to spend their money on home soil for their next project.

Freelance switch produced a Monster List of Freelance Job Sites which was massively popular. By popular demand they updated the post in 2009  with an even longer list of places that you can pitch your services.

Action: Check out The Monster List of Freelance Job Sites – 2009 Update and see if there’s work that you can pitch for.

6. Help other service providers

When you attend networking events look for service providers in related fields that offer complimentary services to the ones that you offer. For example, say that you met a copywriter  at a networking event, this could be a really useful  contact to refer your clients to when they need help wrting advertisements or sales pages. Don’t you think that when you start sending business there way they will start referring clients back to you in return?

Action: Attend networking events and look to connect other members of your network with the service providers that you trust or know to do a good job.

7. Ask for introductions, not business

Ask your clients or network if they can introduce you to other businesses or contacts in their network rather than asking them to refer you for business. Many clients are happy to make or facilitate introductions as this is much less onerous on them than referring you for new, as it implies an endorsement, which they may not be happy to give (especially in the early stages). However, if you’re looking for introductions be specific in the type of introduction that you want to be made, to make it even easier for them to connect you to the right person

For example saying to your client “could you introuduce me to a professional couple with children who may need insurance” is a lot easier for the client to introduce you to a suitable prospecs than “can you introduce me to someone who may need insurance”.

Action: be specific about the type of introduction that you want to make and ask your clients if they can introduce you to their contacts or network.

8. Love your existing clients and provide great service

I saw a TV programme the other day where the CEO of a UK based Truck company gave her customers her home phone number to call if they had a problem. I don’t know how many calls that she gets from her customers, but nothing signals “I want to help you” more than providing her home number.

What are you doing to show your customers that you care? It needn’t be giving your customers or clients your home phone number, but it could be sending them a card on their birthday or inviting them to an event that you’d know they’d love. (For example giving an opera lover tickets to the opera)

Action: Think about what you could do to show your customers you care. How well do you know your customers? Create a database and add to it with new information every time you make a connection with a client. Similarly before you meet or talk to a client review the database for your least interaction and see what you discussed with them.

9. Be an industry expert

Your clients use you because you have more expertise than they do. Which means that you’re an expert. Being seen as an industry expert will increase your credibility and prospects confidence in your services. You can be seen as an expert by speaking at networking events. You could provide industry updates or updates on the market or even providing advice on a particular subject, lets people see you as an expert. For example 10 things to consider when choosing a web designer or 7 things to think about when creating your business website.

Action: Find a subject that you have expertise in and offer your speaking services to your local networking event. If your networking event isn’t interested in having speakers, consider holding your own event.

10. Talk the same language as your client, avoid jargon

Every industry has jargon. That’s the language you as a professional use to communicate with you colleagues, your employees, your peers or your suppliers. But, the thing is that this jargon / industry terms mean nothing to your client. Using lots of buzz words like HTML 5.0, RSS or Camtasia may make you look clever but in reality it makes your client feel inadequate or stupid because they don’t know what you’re talking about. Don’t you think clients would much sooner work with someone they felt understood them and more importantly could understand you.

Action: Avoid the use of jargon in every presentation, speech or face to face meeting. Whilst sometimes it’s difficult to recognise that you’re using jargon, ask friends from outside your industry to review your materials and ask you to explain anything they don’t understand. If you are going to use jargon, make sure it’s the customers jargon.

11. Give something away for free

One of the most effective ways to generate interest for your business is to give something away for free. Everyone likes something for nothing. The objective here though is to give something of value to the prospect which enables you to start a conversation with them. If you’re a web designer, offering a free website review will promote interest.

However, you don’t have to give away something that costs you time. May be giving away a free report or guide might be valued by your potential clients.

Action: come up with a giveaway that you can give to your clients. Maybe it’s an ebook or a report. It might be a video tutorial or a webinar, but think about what you could do that the clients would find of use.  Get it produced.

12. Work with local media

You may have seen it before, your local newspaper or radio station has a giveaway or holds an event and provides some sort of prize, opportunity or added value to it’s readers and listeners. Well, you could get in on the act and provide either sponsorship of the event or provide a prize which promotes your business or services.

For example you might decide to contact your local newspaper and say that you’ll provide a free web site design as a competition prize if they give you publicity in the competition. That publicity alone could be worth many times the cost of providing the “freebie”.

Action: Think of something you could offer youd local newspaper, radio or TV station and contact their PR department with your idea, to provide value to their readership and publicity to your business. Always think about the value that it will bring to them.

13.Promote yourself

Don’t miss an opportunity to promote yourself and your business. Come up with a tag line that clearly identifies who you help and what you do for them. Then get  that printed on your business cards. Have the tag line in your email signature and on your website.  Have it everywhere.

For example: Specialists in web design for bars and restaurants.

If you’re focusing on your local market then use the names of the areas which you serve in your site keyword meta tags to help let the search bots know who you’re serving.

Don’t miss an opportunity to promote yourself, but don’t be overbearing. When speaking to prospective clients at networking events ask about them and their business, don’t just talk about your own.

Side Note, at networking events always ask for the other person’s business card and jot down on the back of it what you talked about. That way you can follow up with them later. Hi I’m Matthew from XYZ Web design, we met at XXXX the other night and talked about your trip to London for the weekend. How did it go? etc.

Action: Is your marketing message or the market your serve clearly stated in all your marketing materials? Website, emails, leaflets and brochures? If it’s not change it. Make sure the message of who you serve is clearly stated.

14. Grab Attention

By now you should have a fair idea of the market you’re serving. In a spreadsheet or on a sheet of paper list out every business you can think of in your chosen market. Maybe you might need to do some more research to find who they are, but list them all down. Next find out what everything you can about that business, note down your impressions of their website, whether they have one or not. Who the directors are, when the business was founded. How many employees they have etc.

Then for each business on the list come up with a hook that will get you attention. Maybe the business is celebrating 25 years (or 10 years or 5 years for that matter) in business and you could send them a birthday cake to celebrate and take it personally to the offices or premises of the business and ask to speak to the owner/marketing manager or whoever will be responsible for web design and present it to them. Don’t you think that will get you noticed and at least 5 minutes of face time with a decision maker?

Action: Come up with a list of prospects in your chosen niche, then work out what you could do to get yourself noticed and grab attention of the decision makers. Then follow it through and go and meet them.

15. Ask for referrals

I know number 7 said ask for introductions and not referrals, but when you’ve been working with the client a while, it’s ok to ask for them 🙂 . When you’ve completed a job for a client ask them if they are happy with it.  (If they aren’t it at least gives you the opportunity to do something about it) – then ask them the follow up question of “would you recommend our services to a friend or colleague”. If the answer is yes, you can follow that up by saying “do you know anyone in the XYZ business who also might be interested in us creating a cool website for them”.

Ask for referrals but strike whilst the opportunity is hot and they are excited about what you’ve just done for them.

Action: Ask your clients for referrals when you complete each piece of work for them then follow up on those referrals. Even introduce yourself to the referral “Jim at ABC has just had his website made over and he thought that you might be interested in having yours done too, as he said it was something you’d talked about last week”.

Let us know how you get on in the comments section below:

If you’d like me to help you get more clients for your business and make you more money, enter your details below and let’s talk:







  • Rob Cubbon said:

    As a web designer who has found clients successfully over the last few years I would say this article is better directed towards business in general rather than web design.

    I would urge web designers to take a broader view and try to widen their specialisations and their global reach rather than honing in on a specific niche and a local area which can potentially lose you markets. The nature of the web is global. Yes, you can get great client from local contacts but I haven’t met 90% of my clients and they are from all over the world. I wouldn’t advise any web design company to specialise in bars and restaurants. If you’re stuck in that niche I would urge you to branch out as quickly as possible.

    The best way I’ve found to get jobs as a web designer is to focus on getting traffic to your own website. Try to get on the first page of Google for “web designer [your town]” if you can’t do that, who’s going to take you seriously?

    Lots of great advice here, Matthew, but some of the points run counter to my experience 🙂

  • Matthew Needham said:

    Thanks for your comment Rob. A friend of mine, based in the UK, regularly charges £4000 for a simple 3 page website. He focuses solely on service to high end (not big) customers. His websites certainly aren’t technical masterpeices by any stretch of the imagination and he has more work than he can handle. It’s not really a question of whether you can get clients or not, but being able to attract more profitable business at higher income levels.

    In my experience focusing on the niche has brought me far more income than being a generalist.

    Thanks for your input Rob, always good to have your wisdom and experience.

  • Rob Cubbon said:

    Ah, yes, I totally agree to try to get the best clients as possible (actually if you follow the CommentLuv link of my latest post you’ll see more exactly what I’m saying) but that’s not what I think of as a niche (you used the restaurant trade as an example). I’m certainly not advocating being a generalist but I can’t see the benefit of advertising yourself as a web designer that only works in a certain area of business, especially when you’re starting out.

  • said:

    15 ways to get more clients for your business…

    15 practical lessons that will get you more clients for your business, whether you’re a web designer, software developer or accountant, this advice will help you grow you business and make more money….

  • Natalie Sisson said:

    Epic article Matthew and a ton of great advice for business owners regardless of their expertise.

    That said I have to disagree with Ron on not honing in on a specific niche. All the best companies in the world have identified their key niche and focused 100% on that and becoming THE Go to person or business in that niche.

    Too many entrepreneurs try the machine gun approach and failing to miss their target by scatting their brand, their message and their services to try and reach too many people and end up serving no-one in particular.

    You can own your niche and then look for verticals in other markets that you can expand to once the time is right.


  • Matthew Needham said:

    Thanks Natalie, much appreciated. I think your experience certainly mirrors mine. Focus on the niche than expand across verticals as demand comes your way.


  • Rob Cubbon said:

    I didn’t say to not hone in on a specific niche I said to widen your chosen niche, Natalie.

  • Lain Ehmann said:

    Great list — I love that you provided action items. And I agree, this could work well for pretty much any business in any niche. We get so focused on getting new clients that we forget to take care of existing ones!
    Thanks much for the reminders.

  • Matthew Needham said:

    Hi Lain, thanks for the comment. Glad you like the list and the action points and the reminders. Thanks again, Matthew

  • Saya said:

    Great points. Specially about the quality and better work. Normally when market is low designers tend to wrap up the job, and since some clients can not pay much, designers lower the quality. In long term, this approach hurts more. We should never think, this is a small job and doesn’t need so much attention. For me most of the big projects I got in my design work came from sources that surprised me.

    Best, Saya

  • Matthew Needham said:

    Thanks for the comment Saya, really appreciated. I started with the “do better work” because I think that’s one area that’s frequently over looked. What were the sources that surprised you Saya?

    Best wishes, Matthew

  • Ravi said:

    As a relatively new business (just under a year) I think this list is really good and quite a lot of it pretty much common sense (do good work, actually care about your customers etc).

    I was quite surprised by the comments about targeting a niche/not targeting a niche. And even more surprised that big businesses pay up to £4000 for a simple 3-page website!

    For me, as a small business who is really trying to develop a brand and help business and community organisations get online the main issue has been getting a ‘conveyor belt’ of jobs going.

    I agree that you should really work to get your business high in search engine rankings but this isn’t an overnight process at all. And to be fair most of my business has come from word of mouth as opposed to the internet.

    Still, would love to hear your comments for a small business just finding it’s feet; and also whether any of you would like to work together on a project or share some work:)

  • Matthew Needham said:

    Hi Ravi thanks for the comment. I’m glad you’ve found value in the post and comments. Just to be clear, my friend doesn’t work with big business, he works with businesses who focus on well heeled customers like kitchen designers and independent furniture stores. These businesses pay for his advice as much as the websites. So to him it’s about focusing on a horizontal niche rather than an industry type.