9 Unusual (But Worthy) Ways To Get Graphic Design Clients

Arrigo Lupori
Last Updated:
April 15, 2024

Getting clients as a graphic designer has never been an easy task.

But even harder is getting good clients; those that value your work and come back for more.

Fortunately, there are countless ways to find them.

You just have to look in the right places…

How to get graphic design clients 101

Graphic design is a very competitive field with tons of providers seemingly doing it all. But that's no reason to despair, the basics all still work: using a portfolio, pitching your style, specializing in certain assets.

Having a portfolio on your site or on Dribbble is a must to get graphic design clients.

If I had to boil the process of getting more clients down to 3 steps, they would be:

  1. Deliver a finished piece of work and publish it on your portfolio for others to see.some text
    1. If you don't have a lot of customers, do it pro bono for people around you at first.
    2. If you do have customers, select those that you're most proud of. 
  2. Use your portfolio and style as leverage to find new customers.some text
    1. As a graphic design freelancer or agency, your work speaks for itself.
    2. Make each portfolio entry detailed and rich in information.
  3. Narrow your portfolio down to specific design assets only.some text
    1. For example, you could specialize in designing white papers or e-books.
    2. Selecting only a few types of assets makes you more desirable.

In services like marketing, taking a generalist approach to sales usually can work due to its managerial nature. But in graphic design, you have to have a specific reason the client will want to pick you.

Saying "I help you craft your brand, create illustrations, and design your website" isn't nearly as impactful as saying “I help you generate more leads with beautiful white papers that people want to read.”

The clearer and more direct the value proposition, the easier the sale.

The 9 methods I recommend to get graphic design clients

Almost everyone knows the common ways to get clients in the design business: sign up to a freelancing platform, hustle at low rates until you can raise them, publish on your portfolio every month, etc.

But there are other ways to do it that aren’t as explored from graphic designers, and that are just as valid as the “traditional” methods (if not more due to higher customer quality).

Method #1: Target niche searches on Google

As a graphic design agency or freelancer, you need to have your own website.

It doesn’t matter if it’s just a single page showcasing your portfolio items or a multi-page site with various services. Without a website you are simply losing out on a ton of client acquisition opportunities.

One of those opportunities is targeting niche searches on Google that other websites are either too big to bother trying to reach or too small to even understand they can land in these spots.

graphic design topics to get new clients google trends

You can use free tools like Google Trends in combination with Google Autocomplete to identify so-called “long tail” topics (i.e. topics with a lot of words in them, like “social media graphics packages”) that showcase small businesses on the first page of Google rather than large enterprises.

Then, once you have 2 - 3 you like, simply write a page about it on your site and publish it, making sure that you’re including the words related to that search together with the services you offer.

If you’re able to strike the right balance between niche popularity and relevance with your services (without writing about topics which people aren’t actually searching!), it becomes a gold mine.

You’ll have targeted customers knocking on your door in just a few months.

Method #2: Share highly-visual stories on LinkedIn

LinkedIn still has a reputation of just being a job search platform for some people, but it’s so much more than that: there are entire communities of people sharing professional expertise and winning clients.

As a graphic designer, this strategy should be right up your alley:

» Creating highly-visual carousels and portrait graphics that tell business stories.

Like, how a graphic design helped a customer get 2x the ROAS (Return on Ad Spend) on a specific ad, or how their new white paper was downloaded 500 times in just a few months.

Speak the language of business and clients will want to work with you!

Method #3: Offer a free sample as a hook

It’s common in software to offer a “free trial” that allows prospective customers to have a taste of the functionality, but graphic design in manual labor, so how can you leverage that same tactic?

By offering a pre-made sample that you customize slightly when a lead requests one; for example, they could ask for a free ad creative sample to see what you’re capable of on top of your portfolio.

With previous experience delivering for other customers, you can keep a list of templates where you add the new logo, change colors, and replace typography—delivering a sample in a few minutes.

Yes, I get that it sounds cheap.

But customers want an easy way in to reduce risk.

Once you’ve delivered this first “taste,” then you can send them a message with the rates for fully-custom graphic designs, pointing again at your portfolio for other designs similar to the sample.

P.s. The perfect way to offer these samples is via an intake form either on your website, social media, or forums you visit often. Onboarding tools like ManyRequests make the process of creating one super easy.

Method #4: Showcase your expertise in YouTube shorts

At this point we're all familiar with TikTok.

But YouTube shorts is rising as well, and it's not nearly as saturated as the former social platform.

Showcasing your expertise in quick, 45-second videos might seem like you're giving away your knowledge for free, but in reality it significantly boosts your reputation and customer trust.

There’s nothing better than actually seeing how you work in practice, that’s what wins you customers.

And places like YouTube Shorts have millions of people browsing it.

Even if only 0.2% of a 20k viewer audience decides they want to work with you because they’ve seen one of your videos, that’s a whopping 40 customers knocking at your door.

Method #5: Capitalize on new socials like Threads

Lower volume social media platforms like Threads might not give you access to the same huge audiences that YouTube provides, but they’re still worth a mention due to a highly-engaged user base.

Threads has a beautiful carousel interface that allows you to showcase your best work, sort of like a portfolio on Dribbble. Being a text-first medium, using graphics helps you stand out.

Plus, the platform is full of entrepreneurs and people looking to build their own startups. This means potentially landing gigs with interesting software companies or high-growth ventures.

Method #6: Use freelance platforms as launching pads

Let me get this straight, I’m not suggesting you use platforms like Fiverr or Upwork as your main source of customer work; they work for small freelance gigs but they promote a whole lot of unhealthy hustling.

Especially Fiverr which keeps a score of how fast you deliver, even on weekends.

(I know because my first professional experience was on Fiverr and not much has changed.)

But what I am suggesting is that, just like the first method, you use Fiverr and any other third-party website as career boosters, especially if you’re just starting out or have a new venture.

google search fiverr linkedin carousel design services

Platforms like Fiverr rank really high on Google, bringing lots of eyeballs on your services.

That of course also means lots of competition, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

If you’re strategic about the type of services you offer on these platforms, you won’t have to burn yourself to the ground when a customer comes knocking on your door.

Just be transparent with them about what you can and won’t be able to deliver.

Method #7: Partner with a marketing agency

You don’t always have to go it alone!

There are plenty of marketing agencies out there that have the resources to bring customers to you, and that can apply your skills directly to the specific assets you’re best suited for.

For example, there are a ton of agencies that need help with their ad creative design.

Even in the age of AI, ad creative made by professional graphic designers is unbeatable.

clutch marketing agencies to partner up with as a graphic designer looking for new clients

Look for marketing agencies on directories like Clutch and pitch yourself!

It’s usually much easier than pitching yourself to clients.

(But pay attention to what you sign—many agencies unfortunately take advantage of creatives.)

Method #8: Nurture a sales mentality

Few designers like to think of themselves as salespeople, but the reality is all creative professionals have to sell their own skills—whether that be via word of mouth or via pure outbound sales.

The thing is, sales isn’t the sleazy activity most people think of.

Yes, we all get annoying sales pitches in our email daily.

But that’s not the type of sales I’m talking about.

Instead, think of going on a prospect’s website and looking at their visual identity, then spotting areas where their graphic design isn’t optimal and could actually hurt their performance.

loom helps you shoot quick videos to sell more graphic design contracts

By recording a quick video of yourself describing how you would fix that particular spot (no more than 3 minutes otherwise people won’t watch it), you are being extremely personalized.

Yes, it takes time, but the reward is often extremely satisfying.

If you do it enough times, people will eventually reply.

And the more you get used to doing it, the more the results will compound.

Find websites that have so-so graphics (or none at all), propose added-value changes in a quick video, and send emails to people responsible for the websites or budget holders using Apollo or similar.

Method #9: Hustle on Dribbble!

Well, to be fair I say this as a given, but I understand that nothing should be taken for granted. If you don’t have an active profile on Dribbble, you’re really missing out on a lot of opportunities.

It’s the biggest professional hub for designers, and it promotes much higher quality work than the usual Fiverrs and Upworks of the world. You absolutely must have your portfolio updated there!

How to get graphic design clients coming back for more

Growing a healthy graphic design business isn’t just about getting more clients; it’s also about retaining them. But retention is a huge topic on its own and not necessarily why you’re here today.

Instead, think about how you’re going to retain customers from the beginning.

When you’re sharing visuals on LinkedIn and a customer reaches out to commission one for their own business, what are the steps they need to take to move ahead with your services?

Spoiler alert:

» Customers don’t love overly-complex onboarding processes.

If they’re coming to you, it’s because they want a design done and are seeing you as the expert guiding them through the process. But there are only so many steps they’re willing to go through.

Usually email is a great way to interact with customers.

You can schedule calls, agree on deliverables, and get work done.

manyrequests onboarding software with client portal

But even better than email is a customer portal like ManyRequests, where customers are immediately onboarded into a fully-branded space where they can interact with your services.

It’s way better than email because you have all the context of the projects you carry out for customers in one single place, making it easy for them to review your work and for you to deliver faster.

So next time a prospect reaches out, make the onboarding experience outstanding.

That will get them to pay faster, stay with you longer, and ask for less revisions.

It’s a win on everyone’s books!