All freelancers have to start somewhere. Most freelance careers don’t come with a guided path to be followed step by step until success hits. Instead, each person has to come up with a plan — and finding work is usually the hard part. To help with that, here’s a list of five web design lead generation ideas for 2018.
5 web design lead generation ideas
With hard work and minimal investment, web designers can find leads from a variety of sources, both online and off. Here are a few places to start:
Let’s explore some of the most reliable online communities and offline sources for generating leads.
99designs is a great source for web design leads for designers just getting started. It’s probably the first recommendation I make for anyone I know who even talks about wanting to be a graphic designer.
The process for 99designs is pretty simple. A client goes onto 99designs and fills out a brief that (at a minimum) describes what they want, what they like, and what they’re going to pay. Several designers create designs they think meet the project’s parameters, and the client picks their favorite.
By working this way, the amount per project is typically higher than other online marketplace-type sites.
The reason it’s a quick recommendation (other than having no initial investment required), and what I like most, is while you might not be selected for any of the contests you compete in after you enter several contests, you have an automatic portfolio to show other prospective clients.
Pros: Great platform. Allows you to create a portfolio based on client briefs. Free to sign up. Typically well-paying jobs.
Cons: There are thousands of designers all trying for the same jobs. The more projects you try for, the better your odds of success.
This is the second place I recommend to aspiring designers because there is no upfront cost and it works for dozens of up-and-coming freelancers every day.
Using Upwork is different from 99designs because you’re not doing any work upfront and don’t have the time investment into a single project. The downside is you are bidding for work against potentially hundreds of other freelancers, which typically means a race to the bottom when it comes to price.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t hope for making a decent rate on projects coming from Upwork. What it does mean is you need to find the projects that will require your specific skills and sell yourself through the project bid.
They need to feel comfortable the freelancer is not only competent but will get them to their goal with the least amount of hassle.
Pros: Free to sign up. Hundreds of jobs waiting for bids. Can be a decent way to find projects.
Cons: Thousands of designers competing for the same work. This site tends to be a race to the bottom for price.
3. Co-working spaces
When a friend of mine started his web design/development business, his first act was finding a co-working space. It’s not that he couldn’t work out of his home office. Rather, he wanted to use the co-working office as a referral source.
Why would they use someone else when they’ve got someone who sits next to them every day?
A co-working space can be a great investment for web design lead generation idea. Not only do you have somewhere to get away and focus on work, but you can make your investment work for you.
Pros: You get to meet people in person. Get out of the house. Have a dedicated space for potential leads to meet you.
Cons: There is an investment required — although you’ll likely be able to find a co-working space that fits your budget.
Anyone who has been in business for a respectable amount of time will tell you the best clients come from referrals. Not only are you getting some built-in social proof, but you’re bridging the “know you, like you, trust you” factor much more quickly with a potential client.
Start networking by attending events in your area and providing value in social media groups related to your industry. People want to do business with people their circle does business with. The easiest way to get started with that is networking.
Sites like Meetup.com make this incredibly easy. Within the next day, there are more than 100 meetups within 25 miles of my house. It’s almost guaranteed I could find at least one or two each day. This means I could find at least 14 new events and, assuming at least 10 people go to those meetups, at least 100 people to talk to about web design.
Other forms of networking could be the obvious social media networks like Facebook groups, Twitter, LinkedIn groups, etc. Every day there are web designers getting new clients from Facebook groups they participate in and provide value to.
Pros: People can meet you in person and get to you know quickly. Usually free other than gas.
Cons: With the exception of online networking, you have to physically go and take time out of your day.
5. Online classifieds
Online classified sites like Craigslist and online communities like Reddit have been good places for many web designers to find work. These can be great resources to use when you’re trying to find people looking for someone with web design skills or you’re special skill set.
While there is definitely more work that goes into cultivating leads that come from online classifieds, they’ve personally proven highly lucrative in the past. One of my best clients came from a Craigslist post.
Pros: Free to sign up. Thousands of jobs and posts created every day all over the world.
Cons: Hard to weed through and find people not wanting the lowest bidder / free help.
It doesn’t matter what which method you use, but hopefully you see how easy it can be to come up with web design leads. Most of these don’t take much of an investment (even the co-working spaces are pretty wallet-friendly) and they are definitely idea for web design lead generation that someone just starting out can commit to doing regularly. Just be sure to stick with whichever method, or methods, you choose. Consistency is the key to growing your web design pipeline!