5 Ways to Increase Sales as a Web/Graphic Designer

By Dave Mancarella

There was a discussion recently (on the Designer Talk LinkedIn group I belong to) about the benefits of having a salesman working with you, and also the responsibilities a designer has to be their own salesperson. That got me thinking, and I came up with the following 5 ways that a freelance web/graphic designer can increase sales on their own. (Some of these also apply to any small business). I’ve rated each one on their relative cost, time commitment, and potential effectiveness. Hope this is helpful!

1) Ask for Referrals

  • Cost: Low / Time: Low / Effectiveness: Medium
  • Referrals are often the bread and butter way to get new customers as a designer. You do some good work, and you hope your customers send friends and colleagues your way. However, as the Designer Talk discussion illustrated, referrals often don’t fall in your lap. But ask yourself this: when was the last time you ASKED for one? I think it’s a common delusion of business owners: you think (or hope) that you’re always on the mind of your customers, and that they’ll go out of their way to recommend you. Be realistic! Even if they love your work, they’re business owners of their own, and probably have 500 things that are of higher importance than getting YOU more business. It’s not personal – they’re just busy. So don’t be bashful about asking them directly, especially if you have an ongoing relationship with them. There’s nothing wrong with saying “Hey, I’m looking to expand my business some more. Do you know of anyone that could use my services in the near future?” It doesn’t take much time, zero dollars, and who knows what you may get out of it. Granted, you can only do this so often. That brings us to step #2:

    2) Create Consistent Contact with clients (past/potential)

  • Cost: Low/ Time: Med-High / Effectiveness: Med-High
  • Another way to increase referrals is to create consistent contact with your target market, and that includes both current customers and potential customers. As I said in step #1 – you’re most likely not top of mind with your customers day-to-day. You change that by creating consistent contact, and that’s where social media comes in. Begin blogging and try to get people to subscribe. Or, use that content to create an e-newsletter you send out once or twice a month. That way you are going straight to them. Is your target market on Twitter, or Facebook, or LinkedIn? Then direct content into those venues. The goal is to create content they would find interesting. They’ll get used to hearing from you or reading your work, and you’ll create a much stronger presence with those you already know. If you’re lucky, they’ll send your content along to their friends/colleagues, and your exposure will grow. It’s a long-term strategy, and may not pay off right away. But it greatly increases the chances of getting referrals and new business without you having to ask directly.

    3) Craigslist Posting:

  • Cost: Low / Time: Low / Effectiveness: Low
  • If you don’t already, I’d recommend posting ads on Craigslist – it’s free and takes 5 minutes a day. Unfortunately, CL is pretty swamped with local ads, so don’t be surprised if you don’t get a ton of business from it. But at the same time, if you get one customer every few weeks, then isn’t that 25 minutes a week worth it? It’s worth a shot. Here’s how I approach it:

    • Create 2-3 ads with different wording / titles. Include an image if your work if you can.
    • You can’t have the same ad on there twice, but you can repost so that it shows up for today. Cycle through your ads, reposting one every day.
    • There are a few areas under “Services” you can post under, namely: Computer, Creative, and Sm Biz Ads.
    • Don’t forget to look at “Gigs –> Computer/creative” where you have people expressing the need for web/graphic designers. If you see a job that you’d be good for, shoot them an email.

    4) Networking

  • Cost: Medium / Time: High / Effectiveness: Medium
  • For a more thorough analysis of all the networking options, read my article: “Networking Groups – Which Type is Right for you?” It lays out the various networking event-types and the pros and cons of each. Overall, attending networking events is a relatively cheap way to meet small business owners and potentially get new business. However, timing is everything, and each event can be very hit or miss. The real key to networking is to do it consistently, so that (like with step #2) you are top-of-mind when people DO need something. Like anything else, the more you network the easier it gets, and the more you can identify valuable events.

    5) BNI (Business Networking International)*

  • Cost: High / Time: Med-High / Effectiveness: High
  • I saved the best for last. BNI  is a networking group, but it’s significant enough for designers to have its own category. For those who don’t know, BNI is an international organization with thousands of local chapters. It is what is known as a referral group. Unlike many networking events, BNI meetings allow only ONE person from each profession. Thus, if you join a chapter, you will be with 12-25 businessmen/women who will use YOU for web/graphic design. Not only that, but it is everyone’s job (including you) to bring each other good leads. Since website and graphic design is so widely applicable, belonging to a BNI chapter can be very lucrative for designers. It is also beneficial for the shy types, as the meetings are very strictly structured and encourage everyone to speak. The downsides: you are required to attend the 1.5 hour meeting every week, and are expected to bring in leads for others. The cost is generally around $750-$850 per year, so it isn’t cheap. On the other hand, if you do have the cash and the time to commit, you may not have to do much else in terms of selling, and the amount of work you’ll potentially get from it will make it well worth it. It’s not for everyone, but check out a few local chapters that need a web/graphic designer. Each chapter is different -some more friendly, some more strict – and each has a different array of businesses. You can find chapters at BNI.com. My recommendation: look for groups that have members that offer computer or other B2B services. These will be the ones who will most often run into businesses that need web design.

    That’s it! Each option has its own time/money commitments, as well as their potential rewards. Pick the ones that are right for you and start plugging away. Good Luck, and let us know YOUR thoughts/ideas on the subject.

    Remember, you can subscribe to this blog, and have new posts uploaded automatically to Outlook or various other services! Just click on the “Share” button on the top-right side of the screen and subscribe.

    I also encourage you to send this article to your colleagues. Email a link by clicking here.

    categoriaUncategorized commento4 Comments dataNovember 18th, 2009

    About... Dave Mancarella

    This author published 10 posts in this site.


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    Claudiu Geanta
    November 18th, 2009

    Great post. I especially liked the one with Craigslist and constructing several ads instead of juts one. I should do this immediately. Thanks and keep up the good work!

    Holly Ferree
    November 18th, 2009

    Really interesting advice. I’m putting it all into motion!

    November 19th, 2009

    i think craiglist veryfication part is complecated bcoz of phone veryfication system spcialy if you are out of USA

    http://www.creativeVigor.com | Creative Jobs
    http://www.JobsRialto.com | Web 2.0 Job Board

    Derrick Sebagala
    November 19th, 2009

    Hi, this information is really useful esp. BNI and Craiglist. Didn’t know this actually happened. Of course it presents a totally different scenario for me who is based in kampala – Uganda, relatively small market. Keep up the good work.

    Leave a comment

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