Freelance web development is one of the most competitive industries on Earth. Because of its location-independent nature, you’re not just competing with people in your local country — you’re competing with people all over the entire world.
Long-term, sustainable freelance web development thus requires a consistent method to get clients. If you don’t have one, the variability in your income can ruin an otherwise fantastic career.
I used to be a freelance web developer, and always had more clients than I knew what to do with. Some people would have called me lucky, but I prefer the term ‘consistent’. And I gained that consistency by applying several of the tactics I’m about to share with you below.
Get ready for the secret sauce: what follows is a short, effective guide on how to get more clients as a freelance web developer.
Tactic Number One: Increase Your Specificity
There are, as of this writing, over 1.5 billion websites on Earth. That’s a pretty competitive market to break into, don’t you think?
So why compete with everybody else? Instead of being a “web design company” be an “x web design company” instead. There’ll be significantly less competition, and the clients you work with in that niche will be much happier to work with an expert in their field.
For example, I used to make websites just for physios under a business name called something like “websites for physios”. It was straight to the point, and it also meant that any time one of my physiotherapy clients referrals came knocking, they were that much more interested because they figured I already knew their business inside and out. (Which I did, after frantically Googling everything there was to know about physiotherapy!)
Tactic Number Two: Google Ads Domination
Despite what most people think (that Google Ads for website design is a huge waste of time), you can actually find success running an ad campaign in your local market. Why? Because most people running web design companies don’t even consider Google Ads, defaulting to the notion that it’s too saturated. It’s kind of like hiding in plain “site”. Get it?
The caveat: some local markets are indeed saturated, and unless you’ve got a ridiculous amount of money to spend on Ads, you’re out of luck. So you need to judge your situation carefully.
Take a look at the first page of “website design +your city”. Are the top three Google Ads results taken? How is their copywriting? Try making your own. Worst case scenario, you spend a couple of hours and a few hundred dollars and don’t get a client — but at least now you’ve ruled out the most profitable acquisition channel in the world. You don’t know what you don’t know, right?
Tactic Number Three: Cold Outreach
I don’t care what anybody says about cold outreach — it’s not dead and it’s still one of the most effective ways of getting new clients for web design.
The problem is, most people just don’t do it right. Instead of creating highly targeted messages to companies that need it, they blast tens of thousands of addresses with the exact same crappy email, or they hire remote VAs to call on a hundred businesses a day. Neither approach works.
Instead, it pays to be specific — Google something like “veterinarian Sydney”, head to the second, third, and fourth page of Google search results for that niche and location, and compile a list of websites that need a bit of love. Write a brief bullet-point list of what’s wrong with the website and how you’d fix it to bring in more clients. Then, write a templated (but still personalized) email to that company explaining that you’re here to help. Voila.
Tactic Number Four: Networking
Any article on getting more clients wouldn’t be complete without the grandaddy of client sourcing: networking.
Networking and referrals are by far the best source of leads for any business, whether you’re in web design or you clean toilets for a living. How do you get started? Focus on building real, strong relationships with people in other industries.
Don’t go to free networking events with a handful of business cards and expect to make it big. Shell out a little extra — start heading to events in the $20-$50 range twice to three times per month, and focus on meeting a minimum of five people. Make it a lifestyle habit, not a one-off excursion. If you do it right, the next year of business will be the most profitable you’ve ever had.
Welive in a time of accelerated change, overwhelming complexity, and tremendous competition (thanks for the quote, Les Brown!)
I’ll come right out and say it: getting more clients as a freelance web developer is not easy! In fact, it’s harder than it’s ever been — and it’s only going to get worse from here.
But just because something isn’t easy doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. Running a successful web design business is one of the most liberating experiences I’ve ever had — it’s freed my time, it’s allowed me to travel and work from home, and it’s let me make more money at age 23 than most people make at 45.
Don’t just play life on the sidelines. If you want to get more clients, grow your business, and achieve your goals, start today! You just might surprise yourself with what you’re capable of.