Whether you are flying solo or a part of a team, attracting clients is a necessity that every web developer needs to keep the business going. According to International Telecommunication Union (ITU), less than half of the world's population (40% or around 3 billion people) is connected to the Internet and despite the Web now having 60 trillion individual web pages (Google Inside Search), it is still constantly growing. This means the demand for web designers and developers will not die down anytime soon.
But how exactly can a web developer make even more clients take notice?
Here are some strategies that web developers can use to get new, and more importantly, better clients in 2015.
There is nothing that replace the human connection created by meeting people face to face. Which is why going out from behind your computer is still one of the best way to find clients. Attend web development conferences and meet ups to establish a network with other designers and developers. Also, go to gatherings attended by your ideal clients like retail trade shows if your ideal customers are business owners or design exhibitions for those whose ideal clients are artists.
Stay in touch with people you meet even after the events. One way is by asking for their advice regarding your current projects that they may have an interest in. Another way to stay updated is by getting their opinion on topics your share in common. Remember to make it more than just business and aim to have a personal connection. Having relevant discussions online or over coffee can foster your relationship with these prospects.
Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, wrote in his book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose, “My advice is to stop trying to "network" in the traditional business sense, and instead just try to build up the number and depth of your friendships, where the friendship itself is its own reward. The more diverse your set of friendships are, the more likely you'll derive both personal and business benefits from your friendship later down the road."
Help and Provide Value
Most likely than not, clients who are interested in your service will search the web about you. So, a great way to clinch this prospect is by establishing your reputation by providing value.
Value creates connection and connection creates value. Share your expertise in online forums. Create resources like articles, ebooks, guides, and courses that will enable others to improve. Utilize your portfolio by proudly showcasing not just big-shot clients but also pro-bono projects for charities or non-profit organizations and highlight the ways in which you help previous clients.
Make sure to have a way to connect with people who got interested or found your content useful. Ask them to join your mailing list or follow you on social media. Open a discussion by using call-to-actions that will encourage your audience to participate either by commenting or sharing opinions, like in polls. Make the experience rewarding by offering more useful content or related services that are beneficial to your audience.
Author, entrepreneur, marketer, and public speaker Seth Godin said, "Generosity is critical because no one wants to connect to the selfish person, or to the people that are only taking. Think always in terms of offering something of value to other people and they will willingly connect to you."
Though some people may think that email is no longer a relevant marketing tool in the age of social media, research shows that it remains to be vital for businesses of all sizes.
As more people use mobile devices that are constantly connected to the Internet, building and utilizing an email list is a great way for web developers to reach and connect with clients. According to a report from Pew Research Center, 52 percent of US cellphone owners access their emails via their phones.
Versatility is one of the main factors why email is such a powerful tool in gaining more web development clients. It can be utilized to deliver different types of target or personalized content, ranging from simple articles to instructional videos that can be useful to potential clients. Providing valuable content also elevates your reputation as an expert and increases your chances in getting hired. Marketers who add a video in email campaigns had increased revenue by an average of 40 percent, according to a 2013 study by the Relevancy Group (The ROI of Video in Email Marketing).
Having a consistent and well-executed email marketing strategy that provides value can increase your chances of getting more leads. Offer relevant news, informative content, and exclusive promotions through your emails to make sure that people will continually receive, read, and share them.
Put things in motion to make people take notice of you and your business. Offer your services to charities or non-profit organizations and help them get exposure by sending out press releases about their new and improved website. This strategy not only increases awareness about the charity and their cause but also provide exposure for your web development business.
Another way for people to take notice on your web development business is by getting active in several communities. Local organizations, niche industry communities, and small business groups are good avenues to spread the word. Interact within the communities and provide input or information regarding how web design and development can be beneficial to members of these organizations. Offer to do talks or lectures to share information about the latest web technologies that can provide growth for their businesses. Leverage your content as useful resources for people who want to learn more. Make sure to let people know that you are willing to provide assistance whenever they have questions or require an expert's opinion.
In addition, do not forget to ask your family and friends for help in spreading the word about your web development business. Your family and friends multiplies your marketing effort's reach by utilizing their network.
Social media platforms are powerful communication tools but they are not just good for connecting, they are also a good way to discover new leads.
A great tool to engage current clients or share useful content and links, Twitter also serves as a way to search and reach out to new prospects. Its search bar is a simple yet powerful tool in finding work and expanding your network. Searching for keywords like web designer or web development can provide a number of results you will need to sort through. You can also use Twitter's advance search tool to have more specific results like including locations to find local business or hashtags of trending topics as keywords.
After finding prospective clients or job posts, connect and share your credentials through direct messages. Ask to be considered for the job by highlighting the benefits your services can provide. You may also try to engage local businesses by commenting on their tweets and starting a conversation. Offer your expertise, share your knowledge about web development in relation to their business, and extend your help for any issues or projects they may have.
Focus on an Industry
Developing a reputation as niche web developer takes time but it can be very rewarding. As you build a portfolio that shows specialization in one or two industries, prospective clients in those fields will most likely choose your services over generalized businesses. People prefer to search for targeted solutions to specific problems and according to SEOMoz, 70% of online queries lie in long tail searches that use more, precise key phrases. Actively searching for prospects in a particular industry and highlighting previous work on that particular niche increases your chance in getting more clients.
Some great ways to find prospective clients in certain industries include joining industry associations or organizations, attending conferences and meet ups, participating in online message boards and forums, and utilizing social media platforms.
Ask Clients for Referrals
"When you're introduced to a prospect through a personal recommendation, that prospect has a vastly higher comfort level than, say, a buyer you find through cold calling. After all, few things are more reassuring than a positive endorsement from someone you know and trust." -Ray Silverstein, president of PRO (President's Resource Organization).
Word of mouth is as powerful as ever. And if you are able to create great connections with previous clients, amassing a wealth of trust and appreciation, they will gladly vouch for your business.
But remember that previous clients are most likely busy with their own work. Some may even think you do not need their help or they may not know how to refer people to you. Be proactive and reach out to them with a short but professional email asking if they know anyone who can benefit with your services. Share you ideal client profile or the range of projects you can work on.
It is a good idea to let clients know at the start of a project that you are open or in need of referrals. Tell them to share any leads or spread the word about your business if they are satisfied with your work. But be sure to keep your approach professional and do not overdo your inquiries for referrals. You can ask clients for referrals while doing their project and then following up a few months after finishing to avoid becoming a nuisance.
Partner with Non-competing Agencies and Freelancers
"Teaming up with other companies can provide much more credibility that going at it alone." -John Rampton, Entrepreneur and Connector.
Working with other companies is a great way to increase your clients. If you are a freelance web developer, you can approach an agency to partner with and introduce yourself. Agencies pass on clients or projects due to various reasons (low budget, full production, skill unavailable, etc.). And these can be referred to other companies in their network so it is best to let them know about you. Other freelancers can also be a source of clients as referrals or subcontracted projects. And do not forget to do the same to others.
"One of the most powerful ways to elicit referrals is to give them generously yourself." -Ray Silverstein
Never delay. When a prospective client shows interest to your service, communicate immediately and highlight the benefits you can offer. And also, make sure to provide clients as many ways to communicate as possible (email address, social media, contact numbers, Skype username, etc.) to accommodate their preferred way on how to reach you. Competition is tough and there are a lot of options now available to clients looking for web design and development services. Failing to immediately answer a prospective client's email or tweet can cost you to loss that lead.
Searching for new clients is an essential part of being a web developer, not just for beginners but also for those pushing their business to another level. It takes time, a well-planned strategy, and constant hard work. But if you prioritize in providing value and helping clients succeed, being a web developer can be very rewarding indeed.