Ever tried to have a conversation with someone you don’t share a common language with? It can be fun, under the right circumstances (hand gestures are a great ice breaker), but if neither of you have the words to properly express yourselves, it can quickly turn frustrating.
Freelance designers are notorious for sending mixed messages to potential clients – they either want to reach too broad an audience, or they simply haven’t studied their market enough to know what their ideal clients want to hear.
In this article, we’re going to look at 3 ways freelance designers miss the mark when attempting to reach new clients, and how they can correct their course and begin speaking the right language.
Recommended Reading: 5 Effective Communication Tactics/Tips For Designers
1. Leaving Former Clients in the Cold
It goes without saying that bad clients – the ones who disappear with your work without paying for it, or who are so aggravating that you end up firing them before the project is done – should be taken off of your contacts list forever.
If the first experience with a client was that terrible, there is usually no reason to contact them again (unless you’re trying to collect payment, but that’s a topic for another article).
But what about your good clients? The clients who were easygoing and polite? The ones who knew exactly what they wanted and trusted you to deliver it to them? The clients who paid on time and continue to rave about your work? They’ve given you a great testimonial and a referral or two, and everybody feels good in the end.
Keeping In Touch
Once the work is finished, it almost seems like a shame to lose touch with such an awesome person. Well, of course it does – which is exactly why you should never do it. It may seem like a lot of effort to keep in touch with old clients, especially if they have no work for you in the immediate future.
But this is actually one of the most important things you can do to build your network and ensure that you virtually never have to go chasing after new clients again. Even something as simple as one quick email every quarter, updating old clients and letting them know what new projects you’ve done can go a long way in keeping you at the top of people’s minds.
When a former client needs design work done again or knows someone who does, even if it’s years from now, who do you think he or she is going to call: the designer who still makes an effort to keep in touch, or the one who vanished without a trace? Exactly.
2. Not Having a Consistent Call To Action
We all know the benefits of having a strong call to action on your design website. More and more designers have jumped on this bandwagon in recent years, with excellent results. They’re pulling in more business with better quality clients who are clear about what they’re looking for.
However, a lot of designers don’t consider where else a call to action might serve them. You might be thinking "Huh? Where else is there to place a call to action except on my website?"
The answer is: pretty much everywhere you put your name.
Constantly Market Yourself
Got a print portfolio or mailer? Perfect place for an engaging question or two. Business cards? Don’t just list your contact info – tell people to give you a call. If you have a design blog or Facebook page, provide information that’s useful to potential clients, and make sure you encourage them to join your mailing list.
Your calls to action across your marketing materials should all be streamlined for one particular purpose. Only you know what that purpose is, but whatever it is, it’s important that you keep it consistent and clear. Perhaps you’re on the hunt for new clients. Discover what actions people are most likely to take when they’re looking for freelance designers, then give them the incentive to take those actions – no matter how or where they find you.
3. Not Being Yourself In Writing
I know it seems trite, but one of the major ways freelance designers lose out on potential jobs is by adopting a writing style they think is more “businesslike", sacrificing their unique personalities in the process. If you happen to be a more formal person naturally, then by all means, convey that in your marketing and promotional efforts.
But if you’re like the rest of us, chances are good you don’t use phrases like “dynamic imperatives" and “synergetic user experience" in your everyday speech.
Tone It Down
The classic rule of thumb is, if you wouldn’t say it out loud, you probably shouldn’t say it in writing either. Remember, you’re a human being attempting to make a connection with other human beings. Forget greetings like “To Whom It May Concern" or the dreaded “Dear Sir or Madam" – it’s important to reach out to people the way you’d want them to reach out to you.
Imagine if your favorite online retailer assaulted you with a wall of big, pretentious words in an attempt to get you to make a purchase. You’d probably run away screaming before you’d whip out your credit card. Potential clients feel the same way. They don’t want to have to break out the dictionary just to navigate through your "about" page.
When in doubt, always go with what sounds natural to your own ears. You’ll connect with more people almost all of the time.
Marketing yourself as a freelance designer is a full-time effort that requires an artful touch and a heaping dose of humanity. If you aren’t speaking the same language as your potential clients, they’ll end up passing you by, often without you ever knowing they were there.
The sooner you can patch up the holes in your marketing “net", the sooner you can start attracting more and better design clients.