How do I get graphic design clients

The ultimate guide to attracting web design clients

"Where can I find web design clients?"

"How can I optimize my sales?"

"How can I get more qualified leads?"

Every freelancer or agency has asked themselves these questions at some point. One thing is relatively clear: as much as you are passionate about your work, financial stability is more than a pleasant thing. It backs up your great work and justifies your decision to be your own boss (or boss for many others).

But to achieve financial stability, you need customers.

Below we describe six different strategies you can use to effectively attract web design clients.

1. Finding Web Design Customers: Offers

There are two types of people in this world: those who like to write offers and those who don't.

No matter where you fit in this spectrum, offers are a crucial component in finding new web design clients and can be an effective sales tool. This is especially true if you are having a good conversation with a potential customer and then want to get the deal wrapped up.

You can also use offers to present new ideas to cold leads. Nowadays companies often work with online tenders. This allows your company to bid on larger projects, close larger contracts and gain more visibility.

You just have to know where to find such advertisements.

We will not go into the individual details of an offer here. If you want to know more, take a look at The Ecommerce Proposal Guide for Shopify Experts by Kyle Rackis. But remember:

Writing good offers is just as important as finding good postings.

Here are two of the most popular websites you can use to find and respond to postings:

1. Information service tenders

Let's start with this platform, which you can test for free and without obligation.

The Tenders Information Service gives users the opportunity to search tenders from a wide range of industries for 30 days free of charge. The platform also has a fairly extensive area for web development.

You can also save searches and set up email notifications in the trial version. This makes the information service a good option for companies that want to test the submission of bids for tenders.


If you are looking specifically for jobs from the public sector as well as federal, state and local government, is a possible contact point. The posting and publication of tenders on is free of charge. You can also use it as a web designer or agency free of charge - but the tenders in the area of ​​web design and web development are relatively limited.

2. Finding web design clients: job exchanges

Even if the response to tenders can lead to excellent orders and new project opportunities, the whole thing is quite time-consuming. Time is of the essence for most businesses. This is even more true if you are looking for several new customers at the same time to increase your monthly sales.

A third-party "marketplace" may be a good choice instead.

These platforms list potential customer projects and allow freelancers to bid on them. Alternatively, web designers and web developers can publish their hourly rate and be contacted by customers for specific project types.

If you want to move forward really fast, you can take a two-pronged approach: explore customer projects and at the same time show potential customers your best behavior.

Sounds like an approach you'd like to try? Then take a look at the following platforms. You will definitely find one (or more) that suits you.

Free for you:

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Upwork, formerly known as Odesk, is one of the most popular marketplace platforms. Unlike similar websites, Upwork only allows web designers and developers to bid on client projects and not post their own services. That's perfectly fine, though, as there are a plethora of projects on Upwork, especially in the area of ​​web design and development.

And if you have built a good reputation for yourself (or are classified as a premium talent), Upwork will even select and contact you specifically for specific customer projects.

However, this type of access to quality leads comes at a price. The price levels for freelancers are as follows:

  • 20 percent for the first $ 500 a customer is billed.
  • 10 percent for sales to a customer between $ 500.01 and $ 10,000.
  • 5 percent for revenue from a customer that exceeds $ 10,000.

If those numbers put you off, keep in mind that Upwork can be a very effective channel for attracting new and even returning customers.


Similar to Upwork, Freelancer is a job and project exchange that enables web designers and developers to search through relevant advertisements and submit offers for attractive projects.

However, freelancers work a little differently than traditional marketplaces, as potential clients can choose between two different job types: projects and competitions.

Projects enable web designers and developers to submit competitive offers for a specific job. For competitions, on the other hand, you can submit works with a certain payment amount. The prospect only accepts (and pays) for the work they like.

A plus point: regardless of the type of job, freelancer is free. You can easily sign in with your Facebook account or create an account with your work email address.

Similar to Upwork, a commission is charged for each project - 10 percent or $ 5.00, whichever is higher.


On fiverr, web designers and developers can post jobs (so-called gigs) that they would like to take on. To do this, you can specify the amount that you estimate as a fixed price. Alternatively, projects can also be posted as packages (Premium, Standard, Basic). This allows freelancers to determine in advance exactly how much money they will earn from a project.

This job exchange differs from others because freelancers do not simply bid on customer projects. Rather, it enables freelancers to win customers based on their expertise.

Like the Freelancer platform, fiverr is in principle free for the self-employed, which includes creating profiles and posting jobs. However, the portal retains a 20 percent fee per project.


Find new clients and develop your web design and development skills with Guru - a platform that contains over 1 million active job postings for web, software and IT services.

This website enables potential customers to search Guru's database for freelancers and agencies and sort them by subject area. Alternatively, potential customers can publish jobs and let freelancers and agencies bid on their project.

Guru offers different membership levels: Basic, Basic +, Professional, Business and Executive. With higher levels, lower project fees as well as expanded tendering options and premium functions are offered.

As part of the free basic membership, there is a fee of 8.95 percent for projects.

Shopify Expert Marketplace

Wouldn't it be ideal if you could get your work right in front of Shopify merchants? The Shopify Expert Marketplace makes it easy for you to attract retailers' attention to your business and take it to the next level.

Once you've become a Shopify Expert, you and your company will be listed in the Shopify Expert Marketplace. There you can adjust your entry, present customer ratings and publish work samples. This is the central place we direct distributors looking for help from outside service providers. With over 600,000 merchants on the platform, your name should not be missing on this marketplace.

Not a Shopify partner yet?

The opportunity to become an expert, earn more and grow your business is only available to members of our partner ecosystem. If you're not already part of Shopify's free affiliate program, sign up now.

Get started today

3. Find web design clients: cold calling

We talked about offers and online job boards. However, there is a way to address potential customers even more directly.

No, we're not talking about phone acquisition (although you can try that too).

Email and in-person pitching are proven approaches for businesses that can't afford to spend a lot of their time on phone calls. Just like with phone acquisition, a successful strategy here can certainly be described as an art.

So let's take a closer look at how you can use email and personal pitches to successfully attract new web design clients:


One thing must be said from the start: A typical cold calling, as it is in the book, is not permitted in the form of e-mail marketing or telephone calls according to Section 7 of the Unfair Competition Act (UWG). You may not send advertising emails without the recipient's prior consent - this applies to both B2B and B2C.

Therefore, your first step should always be to get the consent of your counterpart. Then the ability to contact prospects via email can be a boon. You have direct access to your ideal clientele.

If you've never acquired email before or if you want to polish up your current template, here's an example you can build from:

Subject:Talk about your website? (I would like to help)

Hello (name of prospect).

I hope you have nothing against my contact today. My name is (your name) and I am (position) at (your company). Over the past year we've helped companies like (Company Name), (Company Name), and (Company Name) address their web design vulnerabilities by providing (your solution).

Thought we could help (prospect's company) achieve the same thing!

At first glance, there are many things that your website does well:

  • (Compliment 1)
  • (Compliment 2)
  • (Compliment 3)

But there are also things that could be better:

  • (Proposal 1)
  • (Suggestion 2)
  • (Suggestion 3)

And this is exactly where (your company) comes in. If you are interested in rebuilding your website or in optimizing it in a targeted manner, please let me know. I would be very happy to support you in this. To get you started, I've included a case study for (Company Name), a company in a similar position. This should quickly show the benefits of such a type of project.

Thank you for your attention and please contact us if you have any questions.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,

(Your name)


Let's imagine you just found someone on LinkedIn. What you see there pretty much reflects the living incarnation of your perfect customer. You have the opportunity to meet personally. So you need a pitch that creates a real wow factor - otherwise your dream client is unlikely to pay any attention to you.

In such a scenario, what is known as an "elevator pitch" is appropriate. You don't know the concept yet? An elevator pitch should explain who you are, what you do and why your contact should listen to you within 30 seconds. It is based on the theory that while you are on an elevator ride with someone, you only have 30 seconds to get your point across.

According to MindTools, there are four components to a great elevator pitch:

  1. Presentation of yourself and your goals
  2. Explanation of what you are doing
  3. Highlighting what makes you unique (think of your USP)
  4. Involvement of the contact person with a question

If these four points are taken into account, an elevator pitch could look something like this:

Hello, my name is Tanja Schmitt. My company specializes in web design and development, creating custom e-commerce websites and content management systems. As a business owner, you spend less time tracking orders and inventory in your online shop. Instead, you can focus more on creating great products!

In contrast to other companies, we take the time to interview our customers' target group and to test our end products before the release. For this reason, our customers have 20 percent more sales year-on-year than their competitors.

How do you manage your online shop?

Reading tip:The Counterintuitive Approach to Getting Your First Customers

After the first contact

So you've written your email or rehearsed your elevator pitch, and you've reached out to your prospect. But what now?

One of two things will happen.

You emailed your prospect:

  1. You will hear from him.
  2. You won't hear from him.

or ...

You have personally interviewed your potential customer:

  1. You will receive a positive answer with a request to contact you again regarding your services.
  2. You have a polite conversation without arousing real interest.

If you get any feedback or a positive reaction, that's great. This is the lead you need to get more clients and projects. Now you can take the next step and find out whether the potential new customer is a good fit for you, or at least qualify their potential as a lead.

But what do you do when you don't hear anything further or when you get the cold shoulder? How can you be persistent and remind people of the benefits of your services without bothering your contacts?

It's always about timing, personalization and patience.


So you've sent your first email or just met your potential customer in person. Regardless of how you originally approached your prospect, you should send an email by default for your follow-up. This will provide you with documentation that you can use to keep in touch with that person.

So how long should you wait for the first follow-up (of course only if you have not already received feedback)?

According to TheMuse, the general rule of thumb is to give your prospects a week to respond. If you still haven't heard anything after this period, you should get in touch every few weeks - provided you know that the prospect hasn't opened your emails.

Now you might be wondering how such a thing is even possible. How can you see whether a prospect opens the emails sent to him?

Well, if you're doing email acquisitions, consider integrating HubSpot Sales. This email tracking tool sends you desktop notifications as soon as a prospect opens your email.

However, if your prospect opens your emails and ignores them, you may want to take a different approach to follow-up. Go directly to the point "Patience".


In your subsequent emails, make sure that you continue to personalize your content. Address known problems, offer tailor-made solutions and resources. Also, you should always propose a meeting to further explain how your company can help the customer.

If you also know that your contact person has a digital presence, you should do a little research. Add a suggestion related to one of their hobbies or interests, or connect on a more personal level.

Connecting on a more personal level can increase the chances of getting a response. It shows that you are paying attention and that you care about more than just money.


Maybe you still haven't heard from your prospect. You may also know that he has ignored your contact so far. In this case, you should set a reminder on your calendar to contact you again in six months and then again in a year. Maybe the timing for your contact is just not right. Plus, in such a case, you can better use your pitching resources on warmer leads.

Use this time to research more information about your leads and stay up to date on changes in your business. You never know when an opportunity might arise to offer your web design and development services again.

4. Find web design clients at events

Do you want to practice your personal pitch? We have the perfect place for it.

If you're looking for new customers, attending events can give your business the visibility it needs to grow continuously. Conferences can also be great fun.

Whether the event is free or paid, nearby or further away, events are an investment in yourself and your company. Here are three ways you can make the most of these opportunities:

1. Attend web development conferences

Industry-specific conferences can help you identify new business networks, potential partnerships, and co-marketing opportunities.

The point here is simply to make contacts.

You've probably already attended a conference (or a local industry event), met a lot of interesting people, and thought, "Wow, I should add them all to Xing or LinkedIn"!

Follow this instinct. You never know who could lead to a new customer. If you're a freelancer, your new connection could pass on smaller projects or refer to your expertise for more complex client projects.

If you're really serious about networking, consider creating a table that you update after each event. Write down who you met, what the person specializes in, and why you should keep in touch with them.

Should you then be looking for new web design clients, you can tap into your external network for lead generation.

Reading tip: 4 options: This is how you prove your expertise.

2. Participation in customer-oriented conferences

In addition to industry-specific events, you can also take part in customer-oriented conferences. These should be events that you know your ideal clientele will be there. If you specialize in e-commerce, these can be events such as the Shopify Meetups, the K5 Conference or the Retail Conference in Berlin.

Customer-oriented conferences offer the perfect opportunity to introduce potential web design customers directly to cooperation options.

It is this personal contact through which you can identify challenges, offer solutions, discuss trends in the industry and collect important information for the growth of your company.

Similar to industry-specific conferences, you should create a table that is updated after each event. Write down the contact's name, company name, role in the organization, a challenge they're facing, their business goals for the year, and an email address for subsequent contact.

You can then use this data as a powerful tool in finding new web design clients.

3. Become a speaker

The number of conferences you present at will have a direct impact on your reputation in your industry. It's very simple: Public lectures promote your company's brand awareness. So when the time comes to hire someone for a web design or development project, you will be the first choice.

To most, this tactic sounds easier than it actually is.

Speaking in public is one of the most common fears of all. According to Psychology Today, it even ranks above fear of death. So report z. For example, according to the Statistic Brain, 73 percent of Americans say they suffer from language anxiety. If you are part of this group, stepping onto the conference line can feel daunting.

And even if you're not afraid of public speaking, this step poses additional challenges. If you have never lectured at a conference, you first have to find out how you can kick off your career as a lecturer.

First of all, think about this: You are great and your company deserves visibility. Speaking at conferences is a great way to promote your business, meet new people, and take advantage of advertising opportunities before and during the event. So don't let this chance slip by.

Don't know where to start Cat Hunter, an IRL marketer at Shopify, offers helpful tips to start your speaking career in her article, Kickstart Your Speaking Career: How To (Metaphorically) Drop The Mic. It also provides some great templates that you can use to send your presentation ideas to event coordinators.

If you're looking for more resources, check out the blog series by web designer and developer Catt Small. In it, she discusses how you can become a public speaker in a year's time. Here are great introductory tips and an easy-to-follow guide to becoming a seasoned speaker.

5. Finding Web Design Customers: Referrals

Now let's take the step from external networking to a more internally oriented approach. It's about making use of your existing clientele.

Do you have a referral process in place for your web design and development business? If not, it's time to consider. Word of mouth is one of the most powerful marketing tools available to your business. Therefore, you should use every opportunity to get people to talk about your work.

Why? Because your work is excellent and the world should know!

Also, people tend to surround themselves with like-minded people. So who better to help you attract new customers than someone you've already built as an attractive (and compatible) customer?

In this article, you can read how you can encourage your customers to recommend you to others.

So when it comes to attracting new web design clients, a referral strategy should be an integral part of your repertoire. You should use your existing connections in such a way that they benefit the growth of your business.

The end product can vary from company to company, but a sustainable and scalable recommendation system takes the following into account.


When are you going to ask your customers for a recommendation? Is there such a thing as the "perfect period"? Well, it all depends on what makes the most sense for your business. There are three different approaches to finding the right time to ask for a recommendation:

  1. In the middle of the project: Let's say you've provided your customer with a working prototype of their new ecommerce website - and they're pretty excited. You have strictly adhered to your project plan and consistently kept your customer up to date on the progress. So your collaboration so far has been excellent. So why not capitalize on your customer's enthusiasm by asking them to refer you to other potential customers?
  2. At the end of the project: There were some problems, but you finally made it. The client is impressed with your work and has already praised you for one ability or another. Do you think that the customer is completely satisfied and that you have successfully solved their problems in the area of ​​web design? Then you can ask them to refer your company to their professional network.
  3. When starting a new project: You have already completed a project with your current customer and were then able to secure a follow-up order straight away. You learned a lot while working on the first project. You have been able to customize your workflow so that it is really tailored to your client. You understand what makes the customer tick and what drives them. Your customer now also has a better understanding of working with you. Now would be the perfect time to ask for a recommendation. Of course, only provided that you have already established a trusting working relationship.

You don't always have to ask the same question in a project. It all depends on your relationship with your client. Identify the right time based on when your customer is most likely to be satisfied.

Current workload

How many new customers can your company still serve? Keep an eye on ongoing projects and the list of upcoming projects. This way you can better estimate how many recommendations you need to keep (or increase) your current monthly sales. You can use this information to ensure that you can keep up with the demand generated by your referral program.


Do you work with incentives for existing customers who refer you to new jobs? This is an important question. Because while you may get more referrals, the quality of your referrals could suffer (i.e. your client could recommend very generously in view of the bonus instead of carefully considering who might be a good fit for your work).

Referral Rock, a provider of referral marketing software, goes through the pros and cons of an incentivized referral program. Take the time to read and then decide what type of program will work best for your business.

Recommendation template

To make it easier for your customers to make quality recommendations, you can provide them with a simple email template. You can then use these in your contact with other companies. This way you can be sure that they are passing on the information that you think best positions your services (and their quality).

Here is an existing template to use as a guide:

Hello ______.

I recently posted (your name), one (your title), for (summary of the objective of the project). (Your name) suggested (summary of the project). I am very satisfied with the solution and the quality of the work done especially in the area (area in which you have received positive feedback).

When (your name) asked if I knew anyone who was also looking for web design and development support, the (description of your ideal client), I thought of you right away.

If you are interested in a quote or further information, you can contact (your name, your contact details) directly. I can definitely only recommend working with (your name).


Remember, if you don't ask, you'll never know if your customer is ready to give you a recommendation. So don't hesitate to approach your best customers about it. In the worst case, your customer will reply, "Sorry, I don't know anyone in the market right now who has a need for web design services."

In this case, you can ask your customer for a testimonial. This is a form of social proof that you can use for all of your sales materials and your own presence (e.g. your website or portfolio). Kai Davis at offers some actionable advice to help you build strong customer testimonials with six simple questions.

Stay in contact

Whether you want a recommendation or a testimonial, maintaining good business relationships is incredibly important. This includes responding to your customers in a timely manner, being considerate of their needs and doing everything possible to ensure their satisfaction.

At the end of the day, you never know where new web design clients might be coming from.

Compared to other strategies, this is a very simple approach to new customer acquisition: Always stay connected with your customers. Because who knows: your contact person could leave their company in order to develop themselves further and take the next step in their career. If you've given him a straightforward and enjoyable work experience, he'll likely recommend your company to his new employer.

6. Finding Web Design Customers: Inbound Marketing

So you've tried all of the above outbound efforts: offers, job boards, cold calls, events, and asking existing customers to recommend them.

But wouldn't it be a lot easier if those prospects came to you directly (and passively)?

This is why inbound marketing is important to your business. You are likely already using inbound marketing tactics and have a solid foundation to build on (such as a blog). As a result, you should now maximize your efforts in attracting desirable web design clients.

Start (or continue) a blog

Let's not rush anything.

If you haven't already started a blog for your business, you should spend some time identifying your niche and writing about it. This will not only help to consolidate your position as a thought leader in your industry (supported of course by your skills as an excellent speaker). It will also provide you with a platform to start building your inbound marketing efforts.

Reading tip: You can read here how to set up a successful blog and fill it with content.

Still not convinced that it is worth investing time, effort and resources? Here are some great reasons why you should blog on your business website:

Search engine optimization

You have probably heard the term "SEO" before. In fact, you've probably optimized the rest of your website for it.

You want Google to recognize your business as the number one choice for potential web design clients looking for similar services.

You want to be number 1, or at least get included in the first few organic results in a search.

A blog will help you build that reputation further and give your company the ability to rank for more diverse but closely related keywords - without resorting to semi-flood SEO tricks like keyword stuffing (please don't).

And while we're on the subject, here's a special tip for blogging success:

You should do regular keyword research to determine how to expand your audience and attract new web design clients to your website.

Some of the most popular websites in this regard are Moz and SEMRush. Both services come with a subscription fee. However, the investment is worth it to simplify the research process. If you're looking for a free alternative, you can try Google's Keyword Planner.

Definition of your niche

You can also define a niche with a blog on your company's website. By this we mean the area of ​​expertise that sets you apart from your competitors.

This differentiation is, for example, the industry in which you specialize. So your company uses z. B. the focus on web design and web development for the fashion industry. This specialization could meanwhile be so pronounced that you are an expert for the wishes and needs of this particular segment and the target groups associated with it.

Or maybe you're the only Shopify-focused company in your region. When a potential web design customer is looking for an e-commerce solution, you are the first point of contact for all matters relating to theme and application development.

Choosing a niche doesn't just help you be more successful in your SEO efforts, though. It will also help narrow down the types of customers you are targeting and the content you want to post on your blog. This will make it easier to find topics relevant to your audience and pre-qualify future web design clients.

Building an audience

Once you have a niche, you can start building an audience that your niche is relevant to.
Back to our fashion example, if you produce content that addresses the challenges and opportunities of web design for the fashion industry, you will be more likely to build an audience of potential fashion buyers. Many of these will follow your blog for more tips and advice.

Downloadable content

One question remains, however: how are you going to ultimately convert these new found audiences into real customers?

As you work, you may encounter common problems that repeat themselves from customer to customer, project to project. You may also be asked some questions more often than others. Or you may find that you offer very similar solutions to many different customers.

Write down all of this valuable information. Keep them safe.

It will come in handy, I promise.

This information helps your business create valuable content: how-to guides, templates, and other resources that current and prospective customers can download in exchange for some basic information (and their email address). Content can be short and sweet or very detailed. They should only add value for your potential customers and aim at solving a problem.

Here's an example of how Shopify Plus partner WeMakeWebsites is using downloadable content to encourage registration for the company's blog:

The Shopify experts at Pop Commerce also use a download offer to promote their website audits to potential customers:

Think of it this way: Your blog and publicly available content will attract visitors. Then you use downloadable content to collect their contact details, convert them and turn them into a new web design client for your business.

Email newsletter

If you are producing content, be it in the form of resources or blog posts, your company should create an email newsletter. Your current and potential customers can register for this and thus passively inform themselves about your specialist area.

What's more, newsletters are pretty easy to automate.

With your RSS feed and an email automation tool, you can compose blog articles into a daily, weekly, or monthly email newsletter. This saves your company time and resources and provides your customers and potential customers with valuable content.

It's a win-win situation.

And while you're making this list, you can add promotional content and other information about your services.

Shopify Plus partner Kurt Elster, founder of e-commerce consultancy Ethercycle, shares his favorite email newsletters in his article, "The Counterintuitive Approach to Acquiring Your First Customer" (in English). He also gives actionable advice for creating your own email newsletter.

Reading tip: You can read here how to use the AIDA method for your newsletter funnel.

Social media

Congratulation! You now have all of this great content to turn your blog visitors into real customers. But have you also thought about how you can get readers to your blog in the first place?

SEO aside, you should consider using social media to expand the reach of your blog.

Social media isn't just another way to keep building your audience. It's also a channel you can use to nurture your community (of customers or like-minded people), participate in industry-related discussions, and develop your brand outside of your own presence (like your portfolio page).

You can use free automation tools like HooteSuite, Buffer, and Tweetdeck to schedule your social media posts. This way you stay present with your followers and consistently deliver new content to them.

Portfolio and case studies

Content marketing is great, no question about it. However, one of your most valuable marketing assets is your portfolio.

It shows the responsive web design and development work that u do every day. In addition, potential web design customers can decide on the basis of your portfolio whether your company is actually suitable for a cooperation.

It's also an area where you can get valuable information from potential customers.

We could talk about this important topic all day. To get started, we recommend this article on our blog: How to Design a Compelling Web Design Portfolio. Shopify's Simon Heaton goes into depth here on what makes a good web design portfolio and how you can make it available to your potential customers. Use these tips to spice up your current portfolio page and optimize it for your inbound marketing activities.

Do you know this saying: Behind every good portfolio there is a good case study.

Okay, we may have modified the saying a bit, but there is definitely some truth behind it.

In addition to your portfolio, your website should also present practice-relevant, data-driven case studies. This is a tangible basis for prospects to use to decide whether your company is a good candidate for collaboration. And if the landing page is well written (and optimized for search engines), it can become a real gold mine for new customers.

Reading tip: You can read here how to write a case study that will bring you new customers.


How you ultimately find new web design customers for your company depends on many things - but above all on time and resources.

We hope that this guide has given you new ideas and approaches to further expand your web design and development business.

What is your preferred approach to attracting new web design clients? Let us know in the comments below.

Would you like to open up new target groups and reach hundreds of potential customers? Join the Shopify Affiliate Program and work as a freelancer or agency for Shopify merchants.

Become a partner now

Posted by Hendrik Breuer: Hendrik is the editor of the German Shopify blog. Do you want to publish a guest post? Then please read this guide first.

This post appeared on the blog and has been translated.

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