How do designers attract new clients?

You have to make your own waves every day, or drown.

Over the 16 years of co-owning a design firm, I’m often asked by students and other owners of design firms the simple question: How do you get clients?

I wish I could say that in my 16 years I have cracked the code of how to land new clients, and that over time, I have it all figured out. Sadly, I do not. I think it’s actually something all creative businesses struggle with. A never-ending, often stressful, puzzle.

Not knowing where your next project is coming from can feel like you're in the middle of the ocean, just sitting there, treading water. Waiting for a boat (or anything) to arrive on the horizon. Hey, over here!

There are times when you don’t see a boat for days. It can be pretty scary.

And while you can’t control what new project opportunities float by you, the best thing you can do is make your own waves. Another way to put this is to create action that might get you noticed by someone.

The waves of self-promotion are different for everyone, but what matters is that you try a variety of things to see what works best for you.

Personally, I write and create blog posts for my agency website, give quarterly live presentations about things I’ve learned in my industry, and lately, have been trying to be brave enough to crank out as much video content as possible. Throw in some email newsletters and social media on the pile as well.

And while I find it difficult to pinpoint a direct correlation between my activities and landing new business, I can tell you that we’ve operated for 16 years without a sales guy, and that when I stop making waves, it always seems like the opportunities stop too.

I’m convinced that the best thing design firms can do for new business is to build reputation. Dedicating a little time each day to write and share is the fastest way I’ve found to build it and to get in front of people.

My goal is not to drown. And occasionally somebody sees me.