Developing new business for your graphic design business is one of the key’s to your long term financial survival as a graphic design boss.
Whether you like it or not, clients (and your work from them) come and go for various reasons. Some clients will move jobs and won’t have an opportunity to hire you in the future. Some businesses merge with other businesses that have have a graphic designer they currently use. If your client is female she may also take time out to have children, she may only return in a part time capacity in another role, or she may just love being a mum and leave her current paid position all together and become a full time mum. I’ve seen that scenario occur more and more in the last ten years.
There is a business axiom ‘If you aren’t actively looking for new business then your business is dying’. While this may seem extreme, it is true. Life is moving at an ever changing rate and that means that your clients are moving at an ever increasing rate. But there is good news. You can ensure that you are putting yourself in the right places to find new business. There are many ways to position yourself in the right places.
What I am about to share with are some priceless tips that will open up new business opportunities for your graphic design business like never before. You won’t get results overnight, but by you putting yourself in these places will help your graphic design business more likely to win that new business opportunity when it comes up.
1. Apply for Government tenders
Depending on where you are in the world Local, State and Federal Government are obliged by law to tender out graphic design services. For example in my home state of Victoria in Australia, the State Government of Victoria lists all of their tenders on their website. The vast majority of tenders my State Government have the same tender requirements so once you’ve completed one doing it again is very easy with a few minor adjustments for the particular job. Sooner or later you will get your first job. Once you have worked for one department it is alot easier to get on tender shortlists in other departments.
Government work isn’t sexy. But it pays well. It will make your graphic design business look more mature and more employable when you have it in your folio. After all if your government trusts you to do their work who wouldn’t?
2. Join business groups
Rotary, Lions Club and Round Table are just a few of the many business groups that have key business people who are in a position to hire your graphic design business. A photographer friend of mine who runs a large professional photography business is a net-worker extraordinaire and he swears by the advantages of networking with people in these groups. I know these groups aren’t cool and funky, but these are the places that the big fish swim, and if you want them to bite, you should think about being there.
3. Start social networking – offline
The Internet didn’t invent social networking. Meeting people outside of their work environment and connecting with them in a social environment is the easiest way to meet your future clients. Choose an activity you are interested in and start there. My son loves playing soccer and I go with him to every practice session. It has been a great way to connect with other dads. I let them all know what I do so if any future opportunities come up I know will come to mind.
Before starting school, my son was at creche. My wife and I became friends with one of my sons friends and over the years we have become good friends with his parents. When the mum started a new upmarket cafe she needed a new logo, menus and signage for the cafe. Without even being in a competitive pitch against other graphic designers we got the job.
You can also choose areas your prospective target audience would socialise in and enter into those environments. Try your local tennis club, chess club or MBA course (that may be a little more difficult to find, but you get the point).
5. Develop a marketing list
There is no better way to show clients how good you are than to show them the kind of work you are capable of doing. When you create a new piece of work you are proud of – show it off! I’ts a great reason for you to be able to contact them without your email or mail feeling spammy.
Keep a marketing list of all of those potential clients who you may of contacted, but for whatever reason you aren’t working for and send them the direct mail piece.
Don’t just contact your potential clients, send your direct mail piece to your existing clients. They may never have thought you worked in that area and the direct mail piece may change their perception of you which could mean more work for you.
6) Social network online
Social media is not just a great place to tell the world about yourself. You can also make ‘friends’ with your potential clients on Facebook. It will help you understand them more. You’ll get to know their personal likes or dislikes, or tap into their passion which will help you build a relationship.
7) Get political
Local politics is a great way to find prospective clients. People who see the world the same way from an ideological point of view are naturally more inclined to work together. When I worked at a large communications and marketing firm we lost a lot of business to a rival firm because they were so well connected in the Government because of their bosses political affiliation with the Government of the time.
8) Buy a potential client a coffee & muffin (and never mention work)
My wife does this really well. She has called old clients and asked them out to catch up for a coffee and a muffin. She does it to build a reconnection with the old client. Clients are people too and while they know what the agenda ultimately is they really appreciate being treated like real people. Sooner or later that client will call and offer a small job. Which we then turn into larger jobs by doing great work for them in the first small job. It’s all about building trust and proving yourself.
Over to you: Do you have any strategies to find new business?