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How to get design clients to connect with your work (& hire you)

Your website should bridge marketing and sales by fostering connection. When clients feel connection, sales come easy.

Clients Connect With Your Work

Back in the day, I used to meet with potential clients in person and show them a physical portfolio. A big black zippered thing with large black pages. It was similar to a fancy photo album. I carefully showcased each project – one per page – and would go through them, explaining the thought and the collaboration that went into each project. I almost always got the job.

These days, the inquiry process is more efficient and slightly more disconnected. In this age of everything online, we tend to make too many assumptions and miss the opportunity to truly connect with our potential clients.

We make it hard for prospects to picture working with us, and as a result, we end up losing out.

Attracting the best clients isn’t just about marketing. Your simple marketing plan should get potential leads in the door.

Your website should bridge marketing and sales by fostering connection. When clients feel connection, sales come easy.

Inquiry calls will no longer be about defending your prices or hiding how desperately you want the project. Instead, you’ll spend your time determining if the prospect in front of you even qualifies to work with you.

So how do you make that shift toward truly connecting? Start by assessing your own website.

Imagine that you are visiting your site for the first time. You have very little knowledge about your business or the projects you’ve worked on (you either stumbled on it or were referred through various marketing tactics). Most of us are too close to our work and assume that those coming to us have a level of understanding about what we do. They really don’t.

If you have a hard time being open minded about your own work, try this. Visit a site brand new to you try to imagine yourself working with that person. What are your impressions? Good? Bad? Meh? Did you fumble around? Did you decide in favor or against that person? Why? Note your own reactions.

Now go back to your website and and answer the following.

  • Can your potential client see what you look like?
  • Can your potential client picture themselves in a scenario of working with you?
  • Do you spell out how to take the next step?

Connect with potential clients through a warm, friendly headshot (NO excuses).

Potential clients assess your personal ability based on the quality of your photo.

It’s not fair, but it’s reality. You will be judged by your cover, so make it a good one! A good quality headshot is not hard to come by. Ask a capable friend if you have to. No snapshots or selfies.

If you want to attract clients who value good photography – and don’t ask you to work miracles with grainy cell phone pictures – then quality photography has to be important to you also. Set a standard of quality with your own headshot.

Help potential clients to picture themselves in a scenario of working with you by telling the story of your work.

I see this a lot… a single screen mockup with a link to a website. How is your potential client supposed to know the scope of the project from this? Or understand the strategy you contributed? Don’t count on them to catch the scope of what you did with just one image or even click through to visit a website you’ve built. Don’t count on former clients to keep your work as nice as the day you launched it. You could be sending potential clients to a butchered website.

By not telling the story (visually or otherwise), you are missing an opportunity to showcase your value (and then be able to charge for it).

Be proactive and tell the story visually. Make the work feel tangible – like something they could reach through the screen and touch. Help your potential client to identify with the thrilled client in your portfolio. Make them want to be that person.

A few tactics for showcasing your work:

  • Clients – use your client’s photography to make the project feel more personal. Sometimes I use photography from the finished site. If my client had a photoshoot with other options, I’ll grab a different photo to use as part of the project’s story. Use testimonials and case studies to articulate the value of your work through your past clients.
  • Branding and visual identity – show logos in their various applications, such as business cards. Show brand elements, inspiration, style tiles and possibly previous sketches if you want to visually demonstrate your process.
  • Websites – use mockups – full monitor and mobile devices – to make the website feel real. Help your potential client connect with something that’s more than just an idea. Capture and show your favorite site pages and features.
  • Print work, apparel or packaging – show examples using mockups of your designs or photograph the final product.

Don’t forget to tell your potential client how to connect.

Remember to tell clients to connect with you. If they like what they see, what is the next step? It may seem obvious to us, but it’s not to them. We have to remember to tell them exactly what to do next. For most of us, it’s going to be directing them to fill out an inquiry form.

Here’s a couple ways (and places) you can encourage clients to connect:

  • Homepage – After introducing yourself and your work, invite your potential clients to work with you in that capacity. “Let’s Get Started” or “Let’s Collaborate”.
  • About page – At the end of a shorter about page, or in the middle of a longer one (where it makes sense), add something that flows with the conversation. Is this exactly what you’ve been looking for? Get started by answering a few simple questions. OR I help creative business owners create compelling websites. Let’s talk.
  • Services or Work with Me pageThere are a lot of choices for your business. My process will help us select the right way to move you forward. I’d love to work with you. OR My branding services guide clients like you through the brand revision process. Sound like what you’re looking for? Let’s talk.
  • Footer – Add a “Start your Project” or “Let’s Get Started” button to your footer. For those not quite ready to start a project, offer the ability to stay in touch through social media.

In reading this, you might feel a bit overwhelmed at the missed opportunities for connection on your website. Don’t. You’ll be happy to learn that you are very typical! It’s also easy to let our own websites lapse when we get busy.

I encourage you to make a list of these missed opportunities. Set aside time each week and tackle an item from the list. Maybe it’s adding some CTA’s or updating a client project in your portfolio. The time you spend working ON your business always results in better clients and better projects.

Head on over to the Drama-Free Design Collective on Facebook and talk to me! Tag me in a conversation and tell me – what is on your missed opportunities list? What do you think will have the highest impact on your potential clients’ ability to picture themselves working with you?

How to get design clients to connect with your work by helping them picture you as the solution.

Author: Christine Thatcher

Christine Thatcher is the founder of Christine Marie Studio, a boutique design agency dedicated to helping visionary entrepreneurs infuse their personalities into profitable virtual platforms. She combines 27 years of design experience to guide her clients through the web design process. Also the creator of Designing to Delight, a brand dedicated to teaching designers how to build collaborative client relationships so they can charge more for their work.