Are you having trouble finding local clients? Want to start selling web design services, but don’t know how to start? You’re not alone. Many freelancers and web designers face these challenges. You might be able to design websites like a champ, but if you don’t know how to close the deal, your bank account is going to be looking a little hungry, my friend. It’s not just about “making the sell”. It’s about creating value, solving problems – being the solution. You don’t need to be the Knight in shining armor for this to work. You just need to use your brain a little bit. It’s time to get your hustle on.
If you don’t have a website, what are you doing?
Unfortunately, I have seen this time and time again. A web designer without a website, without a portfolio, or both, is definitely not one to inspire confidence. It would be like an auto mechanic without a wrench. So, if you are guilty of not having your own website, I implore you to complete this “to do” list before you proceed with the rest of this tutorial.
Complete the following steps:
Polish your online image and create something that stands out. You’ll want something nice for people to look at when they are checking out your site, so put some effort into this! Your website will be the best business card you will ever have. You should also create a cohesive brand presence on social media. If you are pressed for time and want to get to making money, the very least you need to do is create a fan page, get on Twitter, and launch a Google+ page.
Once you have all that set up, you’ll be ready to go. As long as your website looks good, you won’t even need a portfolio (it does help).
Let’s Drum Up Some Local Buzz
In this portion, I’ll let you in on a great way to approach local business owners, get your name out in the community, leverage social media, and create buzz around your business.
I’m sure you’ve heard about web designers offering free web design services to a few clients to build up a portfolio. While this can be a good approach, there are a few more strategies you can put into play.
Target the right customer
It’s safe to say that you know your city better than I ever will, so this is where you need to let those street smarts come into play. Your ideal candidate will be a local small business owner that doesn’t have a website (or has a sloppy one). The clincher is that they must have a strong presence on Facebook.
This is important.
The owners of popular local businesses are almost always connected, people deeply rooted in the community. These are the type of people you want to work with. Do your research. Find 10 – 20 (or more) local small businesses that meet the following criteria:
- No website (or poorly designed)
- Popular in the local community
- Engagement on Facebook
Create the incentive – a contest
What you will be doing at this point is creating a contest. Personally contact the small businesses that you identified in the last step. You should have at least 10 different businesses on your list. Walk in to their establishment (when they’re not busy), and explain to the owner that you are a web designer (hand them your card). Tell them:
I came down to introduce myself. My name is [Your Name]. I own a local web design company called [Biz Name]. We’re getting ready to launch a contest for local businesses. We’re giving away a free, no-strings-attached website. If you win, I work with you to design the site you want for your business.”
“The contest is on Facebook. What I will be doing – if you’re interested – is adding your business to a tab on my fan page. You’ll be there with a number of other local businesses. The business that gets the most votes, gets a free website. Sound like something you might be interested in?”
“Great. I’m going to leave my business card with you, and if I could get your email I can send you more information on the contest, so you can take a look.” [If they object to the email, ask if it’s fine if you post the information on their fan page.]
Badabing. Badaboom. Of course, you should have a post on your website outlining the details of the contest, even before it’s under way. This way, they can always refer to your website for the details, but their email is what you want. An email will be your bridge to communicate with them in the future. It’s a valuable asset. That’s why you push for the email, rather than send them to your website. Marketing 101.
Prepare for #OpGetMoreClients
Congratulations. You now have introduced yourself to some local small business owners and offered value right from the beginning. When they think of web design, they’ll think of you. You also have all of their contact information, which is an added bonus. If you managed to get a “no” – I’m shocked. You’re offering a FREE WEBSITE. Either switch up the pitch or improve your delivery.
How to win, contest rules, and stuff
For the contestants (the businesses) to win, they have to encourage THEIR customers to vote for them. If you put the contest on your fan page behind a fan gate, you build local fans that know your brand through a business they “like”. This means highly targeted, local traffic, with the potential for great word-of-mouth. Write out the rules, get the details together. Then, simply display their logo on the contest app with a way for visitors to vote for which one they like the best.
Here’s your checklist:
- Outline the rules and how to win.
- Create a facebook contest tab on your fan page that lists the businesses that have entered. Use a contest app to run the contest. Both ShortStack and FBiframes are good options.
- Design a custom Timeline cover that promotes the contest.
- Write an article on your blog promoting the contest.
- Provide tips on how the owners can boost their chance of winning a free website.
- Pitch the local media. Write a press release. You can use the contacts you just gained to inquire about media contacts. Explain that you are trying to get some local media coverage that would benefit everyone involved.
Promote the contest
In order to pull this off, you need momentum. Make sure you are communicating with all of the business owners, get them excited about the contest. Remember: you’ve chosen them well by zeroing in on local businesses that need a website, but have a great presence on Facebook. If their fans are receptive already, and they become excited about the contest, you’ll get more people visiting your page to vote (and “like” your page in the process).
And yet another checklist:
- Set a timeline for the contest (2 – 3 weeks)
- Launch the contest and start promoting your ass off
- Encourage the business owners to “Promote” a post on their fan pages
- Announce a winner
You’ll definitely get some good local exposure, and in the end, you’ll have an item for your portfolio – for web design, promotion and social media marketing. Plus, some nice local buzz – and you’ll have a handful of local business owners that know you by name.
Here are some other ways to spice it up:
The winning business owner is getting a new website, so why not encourage them to reach out to their fans and ask them what they want to see in the website? You can post updates (screenshots, what you’re working on) on your fan page and ask the business owner to share it to their fans. It will encourage interaction – most people will get a kick out of having a hand in helping you design the site. Plus, in the end you’re showing the business owner that you know how to create a buzz on social media. If they are happy with the site, then they will be more open to hearing other suggestions. You may just walk away with an upsell, and become their social media manager, or webmaster to boot.