Using Your Creativity to Win Design Clients

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As designers, we use our creativity everyday to accomplish goals. Our clients face challenges in their business, and we use our creativity to solve them with design.

Yet when it comes to the challenge of how we get design clients for our own business, most of us stop thinking creatively. Instead, we revert to tactics we read about online and look for a magic solution to fixing all of our new business problems.

My goal with this is to share a simple framework with you on how you can use your creativity to win more clients and better clients for your design business.

There Is No Silver Bullet

Illustrations by June Bui

Before I dive into the steps on using your creativity to win new design clients, I want to first debunk a serious myth about running your business: There is no silver bullet that is going to fill your pipeline with endless amounts of work. It simply doesn’t exist.

You will read blog posts online about people who have had amazing results with some specific tactic or thing they did. And, they will probably try to sell you a course on how to do exactly what they just did.

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But just because something works for one person, does not mean it will work for everyone else. Each designer and agency has their own set of strengths and weaknesses. And as a result, the tactics that will work best for each designer will vary.

Instead of looking for that silver bullet, it’s time that you thought creatively about your business and how you can win new design clients.

Step 1: Brainstorm Ideas

The first step is to step back and let your creativity run wild. At this stage I typically like to use mind maps as a way to expand my mind to new ideas.

Grab a pen and paper, and just start jotting down any idea you have on ways that you could win new clients. Dream big at this stage, and don’t set any idea aside.

I’ve had ideas as crazy as sending puppies to people before, so don’t fear if it is too outside of the box. If it comes to you, just write it down.

If you need more inspiration on creative approaches to win new clients, check out this post on 20 creative ideas on how to win new clients.

Step 2: Narrow Down Your Options

Once you have your mind map complete and full of ideas for growing your business, then go back and ask yourself the following questions.

  • How have you gotten clients in the past?
  • If a tactic has worked for you before, put a star next to it as it’s worth putting more energy into.
  • What are the top 3 tactics that I feel confident in?
  • Do I need money ASAP, or can I focus on a tactic that is a longer term strategy?
  • Which tactics will take the least time and money to execute on?

There is no perfect way to choose, but by answering the questions listed above, you can start to trust your gut in terms of which are the ideal tactics that you should focus on right now.

Step 3: Test Tactics

You started off thinking creatively to create a list of tactics to grow your business.

But, now you must act like a scientist and test each of those tactics.

Once you have your top 3 tactics chosen, start putting those into practice. But before you start, try to set a timeline or boundaries on each experiment.

For example, if you are running an outreach strategy, then it is safe to say that after contacting a few hundred people with multiple follow ups, you should be seeing some sort of engagement with ideal buyers.

For a content strategy, you might not be seeing inbound leads right away, but if your current customers are resonating with your content, then that is a good sign that you are going in the right direction.

There is no perfect formula to testing your tactics, but be sure to give each one the time and attention it needs to flourish before throwing in the towel.

If you have been pushing on a tactic for a while, and you are seeing no results, then it simply may not be the right approach for you.

Scrap that tactic, and go back to your mind map to pull out another idea for something that you could implement.

Step 4: Focus

While some tactics will fail, eventually you will find some that work well.

Whenever you find a tactic that works, double down and focus on it. If it worked for you once, it is likely to work for you again.

Your goal with this entire process is to eventually identify 3-4 tactics that work well for you, and then to keep going them over, and over, and over again.  

This is how you create a predictable source of work for your agency or freelancing business.

You simply brainstorm ideas, test tactics, and then you focus.