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Chamber of Commerce?
Help! I have been trying (unsuccessfully) to get clients.

 4:17 pm on Feb 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

I have been trying (unsuccessfully) to get clients.

I have tried a local newspaper that is free to every household in my county (about 75,000). I blew about $1000 over 5 weeks and got $0 out of it. Maybe because it is a free paper that most people probably throw away.
I also tried some targeted direct mail. I wasted about 4 days and $150 sending to businesses I thought might want web site or need theirs redesigned. This also yielded NO fruit.

My portfolio consists of my own site, 3 pro-bono clients and 2 design examples. I have been the webmaster at a large healthcare software company for a few years (recently left there to pursue this). I am humble, but I know my work is decent.

My $$$ are all gone now and I am going back to work, but I don't want to give up on this dream.

I am looking for some advertising suggestions. Should I join the Chamber of Commerce? How can I get my business going once I get some funds?



 4:28 pm on Feb 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

Chamber of Commerce is a great way to go. I'm not a member yet, but I know some people who are. They say it's a great way to network.

Also, try some door to door at local businesses. That's free!(except your time)

Don't give up. If you believe it will happen, it will.



 4:34 pm on Feb 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

Thanks, Birdman.
I forgot to mention that I hand delivered about 75 flyers to local businesses. That was also fruitless. I may give it another go sometime soon, though.

Please keep your replies coming; and thanks in advance for your advice. I am already enjoying WebmasterWorld and hope I can make a positive contribution here.


 4:52 pm on Feb 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

Here is a suggestion:

Join the local Chamber, then offer to hold a free 'class' for all members of the Chamber. This class could describe some "do's and don'ts" of web design.

By doing this, you distinguish your self from all the rest of the designers. (You are a 'pro', while others are just 'guessing'.)

I'm sure you could find several examples of bad design and could offer some tidbits of info. that would knock the socks off of your class.

<added> By the way, Welcome to WebmasterWorld!</added>


 4:56 pm on Feb 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

If advertising - regardless of the chosen channel you really need to set yourself apart - why you not some other guy?

What features do your services have - and what benefits you offer over and above everyone else.

Even simply using "word of mouth" which costs "zero" to you -- if there is no preceived "added-value" their is no reason to quickly jump at the opportunity.

When I started out - I thought this meant "cheap" - if I'm cheaper than the other guy - customers will flock my way, and as I got busier I could raise my rates to coup with business flux. Boy was I wrong!

Few will consider purchasing a 1 carat diamond for $10 since in all likelihood this is a rhinestone.

Perceived quality - is perceived value, and the only way to develop demand (particularly in a startup situation), is set yourself apart.

Spend alot of time reading here, at least an hour or so a night - and keep your eyes open for that niche that makes you stand out in a crowd.

Web Designing is quite crowded.


 7:54 pm on Feb 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

Networking works best for me. Tell anyone around you what you do, distinguish yourself from others an try to keep in contact with other entrepreneurs who might need your services.

Chamber of Commerce is a good start. Try to take one or two classes: your fellow students are potential customers. Visit meetings, same procedure, etc.

Good luck!


 8:40 am on Feb 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

Hi joelpcox

As Fathom said, "web designing is quite crowded", he ain't kidding. In a small town like Northwich Cheshire, there are at least 20 companies -- three good and the rest vary from OK to a waste of space, however, it's a totally unsustainable ratio per local business.

I have always done both web and multimedia work and the multimedia aspect is growing nicely (mainly SME’s and some Corporates) whilst the web side is just ticking along. I predict 2003 - 04 will be a year of attrition for most web design companies.

We offer a free consultation service, no freebie designs but I will discuss what potential clients needs. Out of every 10 enquiries we get 1 commission, the rest go elsewhere because “we are too expensive” they go to one of the competition. Why because they will design a site for £125 for 5 pages and host the site free… …and in 12 months time the client has given up and does not have a site because “the internet doesn’t work, for my business”.

My 2cents worth would be to find a niche market and target just that market - don’t bother general advertising it is a complete waste of money IMHO. Best way forward? Networking and referrals have to be the only way to go. Do you have a local Afterdark Club? Try writing articles for the local papers, business publications…



 8:58 am on Feb 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

Try writing articles for the local papers, business publications…

Thanks richardb... forgot this one.

When you're news it's free... Do a local study, survey, or local viewpoint - "State of something in...".

A few hours of background research, phone questions (no marketing pitches) and then write a PointBlank Case Study.

Submitted to every local media there is... if even one picks it up and you have that "catch" you're news & posibly all subsequent media outlets will run it.

Hype goes along way... especially if there is actually something running behind it.


 9:11 am on Feb 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

Hi, joelpcox

Welcome to WebMasterWorld.

I can understand which situation you are in. You mentioned that you have been the webmaster at a large healthcare software company for a few years. I guess by working there you might have got in touch with many people in the healthcare field and you would have gained some contacts there. Try getting in touch with them (personal meeting is better else phone would do) and find out if anyone of them may be interested in having an online presence.

Do not think of money at this stage. Instead try finding out their needs and how you can be of genuine help to them even if it means doing it for free. Also try to advertise in medical/health related publications in your area. Trying to do everything for everyone might not help instead focussing on a niche would.

Wish you all the best.


 10:29 am on Feb 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

Network. Get on the phone and call everybody, and I mean everybody, that you know and tell them that you just started your own business and what your business does. No sales, just spread the great news. That's what I did when I started and I got more business than I could handle (though that was many years ago, I admit).


 11:35 am on Feb 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

Hey Fathom you should copyright that one

"Hype goes along way... especially if there is actually something running behind it."

Seconds thoughts don't will use it in some new publicity :) what a lovely header.



 10:58 pm on Feb 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

The Chamber in your area may or may not be a good idea.

Depends on what types of companies belong and who attends the meetings from those companies. If the business owner and the CEO and VP of marketing attend, great. If the lower level people attend, not so great.

In any case, you won't get immediate business from it. They don't know you, they don't trust you, and they want to see if you are even going to be in business a year from now before they give you any work.

To bring in $$ today, you will have to do other things that I am not seeing mentioned so far.

1. Find a referral source that can bring you the business.

For example, another designer with too much work, an ad agency that doesn't do web sites, a local ISP that needs a design resource who has corporate experience and can converse with business people/decision makers.

Even if you earn less, you will have lower selling costs, so you should come out ahead, and of course, some cash is better than none. You need some cash flow to stay in business while you conduct other marketing efforts.

This is a great freelance moonlighting strategy that provides a lauching pad from employment to being in business.

2. Determine what you can do better than anyone else.

What is your key selling proposition? What makes you a better web designer than anyone else? Determine what you don't do well, and what you simply can't do. The days of the jack of all trades, one man wonder web designer are over. One person can't do it all well, on time and on budget unless it's a very simple project.

If you're a designer, you're probably not the best programmer in the world. If you're a programmer, you're probably not the best copywriter, etc. Find resources for the missing links that complement your strenths and enable you to deliver a world class web site and feed them into Step 1.

3. Be clear on who is a prospect -- and who is not.

In my book, recently out of print, I advised web designers to target companies that have revenues of 300 to 500 times the cost of the web site project you are going to sell them. At that level, they can easily afford you. That means, they can afford to pay you.

Don't get trapped working for the little ma and pa companies that can barely afford a yellow pages ad or a business card or a sign out in front of their store. They are not sharp enough to benefit from a web site. Call on only those are true prospects.

4. Identify all prospects in your area.

Your area is defined as a radius around you such that you can travel there in a reasonable period of time (e.g. 1-2 hours, less if you are in a large city, more if you are in a sparsely populated area). By identify, I mean make a list. There are a number of ways to do this which I will not go into in this post.

You need to end up with the company name, the name of the owner or president, the address, phone number and some idea of the size of the business, either their sales revenue or the number of employees, the industry they are in, and some idea of whether that industry is doing well or poorly in the current economic climate. You need at least 100 prospects to start with.

5. Forget advertising.

Even though you are helping other companies, in effect, advertise, by designing their website, don't spend another penny on it until your revenues exceed $100,000 per year.

You would have been better off paying a college kid with a sales personality $6 an hour to get on the phone and make cold calls for you and then pay them $10 for every valid appointment (that is, one you are able to actually meet with) and then an additional commission (couple of %) if you get the business. Which leads me to the next step.

6. Make cold calls on the prospects.

There are two ways to do this. Actually three. You can go visit them in person unannounced, but this is almost certain to be a waste of time. You can send a letter and then follow up with a phone call, or you can just call.

Your purpose in calling is to get an appointment, not sell over the phone.

7. Be prepared for the President or owner to refer you to someone on his staff.

The size company you are calling on will have a Marketing manager or director or VP that is handling their marketing and web site. Or maybe an internal communications person for an intranet.

Be cautious if you get shoved over to the IT dept. That's not where you want to be unless you are just looking for some contract design or programming work.

8. Be prepared to do some solution selling.

There is not room in this post to cover this, but there are some great resources on this subject. Be prepared to prove to the customer by showing work you have done for others that you can make a great web site that meets the customer's requirements.

9. Be prepared to close the sale.

Again, there isn't room in this post to go into details, but you need to be aware of this vital sales step - ask for the business.

"Mr. Business Owner, I understand what you're looking for in a web site and I have the ability to develop it for you, as I think you can see from the sites I have done for other successful companies. Assuming we can agree on price and other terms, I'd like to be the one to handle it for you."

Well, that's it in a nutshell!


 11:23 pm on Feb 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

Great post bobinorlando!


 1:10 am on Feb 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

<"Forget advertising.

Even though you are helping other companies, in effect, advertise, by designing their website, don't spend another penny on it until your revenues exceed $100,000 per year.

You would have been better off paying a college kid with a sales personality $6 an hour to get on the phone and make cold calls for you and then pay them $10 for every valid appointment (that is, one you are able to actually meet with) and then an additional commission (couple of %) if you get the business. Which leads me to the next step.">

Just wanted to bump this and maybe here some more opinions on this one in particular...


 4:11 pm on Feb 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

Welcome to WebmasterWorld, [webmasterworld.com] Joel. I think you'll find members here are happy to help each other when they can.

If you're looking to get experience, grow your portfolio & bring in some revenue, bobinorlando made some good points.

>For example, another designer with too much work...

That's what I'd list as #1 to help you during this time. If you live in a metro area (or just outside a metro area), you might have good luck finding top design firms with some extra work for you. You could look through the yellow pages or maybe search Google for "(city) web design" to find potential opportunities.

Once you've got some revenue coming, maybe focus on the vendors that you came into contact with at the HealthCare job. It never fails to amaze me that some big companies have crappy looking sites, or no site at all.

It sounds like you're willing to work hard. Good luck on working smart.



 4:23 pm on Feb 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

Find a local non-profit that might like a website (or a redesign of an existing one) and offer to do it pro-bono in return for some advertising - your choice as to what would work best for you. As you've read here, track-record is a big issue. You need to develop one quickly.

Getting your foot in the door is hard. You're up against the guy who "designs websites" for fun and can undercut your price significantly. You need to clearly delineate how you're different and why the client should buy your services.

Total Hosting

 5:19 pm on Feb 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

Hi Joel.

How many chambers are there in your area? Check their websites for their next open house and visit them all. Bigger isn't always better. Look at the competitive set with the chamber. Are they good sources of referrals? Observe how they themselves network. Would you take a referal from any of them? Give them one?

If the Chamber's website is old, poorly designed or non-existant, ask who's running it. Offer to help or do it yourself in exchange for exposure to the chambers membership. That has worked wonders for me.

Also, check out business networking groups like LeTip or BNI. They are not for everyone, but you will be the only web person in the chapter you join. They enforce a strict no-competition approach.

I belong to LeTip and it has been very worthwhile.

Networking takes time and effort, but can reap big rewards.

Also look for groups like little leagues and any local philanthropy. The parents and boards of directors are usually people you want to get to know.

Good Luck.

Undead Hunter

 11:26 pm on Feb 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

The firm that undercuts your price is a *blessing* in disguise. They suck off all the really cheap clients that don't appreciate your work and take up too much time. Best of all, they rarely last that long, a year or two at best before $20,000 a year + expenses doesn't look so good...

I still find it hard to raise my prices over the competition - but I'll be damned if it doesn't work, time and time again. In fact, our rate keeps edging up as bigger and bigger clients come in...just because our time is limited, and there's simply not enough to go around.

I'd have to say, networking and all is great, but nothing beats a short, concise cold call. I avoided it for years, and looking back it cost me $10,000's of $1,000's. So far I haven't even had to make mass calls - just smart ones. I looked up our local yellow pages listings, for example, checked out several URL's printed there, and found a handful that weren't complete or out-of-date. Followed each up with a simple call to the boss of each - "who can I talk to that would handle your marketing or yellow pages listings?" - and found, lo, almost every one had a web designer crap out on them for one reason or other.

Ads: 17 times, I think that's the average # of times an ad has to run before it hits critical mass in the viewer's mind. SO one month of ads will get you nowhere, its got to be a year of running in the same spot.

And your guess about the "Freebie" paper is right - not the place where most businesses will be searching for this stuff. In fact, SO FAR, I've found that most businesses aren't searching *at all* for a web site, but have been considering it. Had I not called they wouldn't have done it. There's always something more useful for them to do! :)

Keep at it -> debt and losing money = more serious motivation. It will be the best thing for you in the end!


 4:43 am on Feb 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

Personal Networking is the best way I have found most of my work threw my local church, do a few cheap sites then the word starts spreading. Cold Calling is a great way too. Find crappy sites and ask if they need help. Serve people in ways they don't exspect and they will spread the word.

Volunteer your time for organizations with a large group of your target market.... again go out of your way to serve them and they will spread the word

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