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(edited by: Travoli at 6:55 am (gmt) on Dec. 29, 2001)
>>still NO BUSINESS!!!
Great question, lets keep it in the realm of a general discussion about what web designers are doing to draw in clients. Besides search engines, how else do you advertise your services?
I have heard repeatedly that networking is by far the most successful long-term solution to building a business. For example, I watched a good friend of mine mention to a deli owner that he should get a website and take online orders. The owner said he would think about it. The next week, he asked my friend to draw up a plan! Sometimes it can be that easy.
In the short term, advertising locally sure could boost sales. Have you gone out and "beat the streets" to find out who might be interested in your services? Web design tends to be very personalized. Because of this, I recommend going out and meeting potential clients in person.
First consider an industry/product that you have a good understanding of and phone the company ask to speak with the MD and offer your services completely free of charge, explain your circumstances that you are looking at breaking into website design and would like to have a portfolio to show other companies. If you already have a good portfolio of sites this saves you doing this
Next Iíve found that the only way to sell web site design is to contact people direct not unless you have a very large advertising budget, which by the sounds of things you don't & I didnít either.
Then comes the "Sting" perhaps sting is the wrong word "Presentation" look at purchasing a database of companies within the same industry of your example site and construct a good marketing introduction letter to the MD making sure that you tell them about the other site you have just completed, most MDís will want to have a look at their competitors website and hopefully so long as youíve done a good job thatís half the battle over with, also look into the domain name and tell him/her that you could arrange both the purchase and setting up the email accounts for them.
This should have the company interested in your services and would have made the client warm towards a telephone call (make sure you tell the MD within the letter you will be phoning them, to see if this interest him) leave it for 3,4 days after you sent the letter and contact them.
This is what Iíve been doing for 2 years now and itís kept both myself & my wife working, but if sales is not your strong point look at contacting a local tele-marketing company offer them a trade off youíll produce them a site & market it with the search engines, they will do the marketing for you, with maybe a commission on any sites you produce.
Networking (I hate that term) works well as does offering your services either free or very inexpensively to build up a portfolio. In addition to carrying a business card, what I have is a small color brochure with some screen shots of sites I've designed (the better ones, of course) and a highlight of my philosophy on designing as well as some general information like pricing (of course with the usual disclaimer that prices are subject to change without notice).
I have found that people in general have a difficult time visualizing concepts even when you give them a detailed explanation. The brochure helps provide a visual impact AND it's something that hopefully will be set in view so they don't forget. It can also be passed around the office or, if given to a secretary, passed to whomever matters. And they can glance at it whenever they want. Since I have several high quality printers, I do them myself on good stock, which also allows me to change the content rapidly. If I know I'm going to meet with someone, I can customize the brochure to therr needs. I have found this to be very effective and rather inexpensive. If you already have a good printer, the only other cost is a screen shot program (one time expense) and quality paper and ink. They also mail well. I figure they cost me about a dime each - 44 cents when I mail them.
Having a sample of screen shots on your site with links to the actual sites is good too. So is a line like "For comments from our customers, please contact them through their web site." Your existing customers will also appreciate both the link and a the fact you're sending them business. You can get a lot of referrals from existing customers.
One more trick. Join your local Chamber of Commerce then through them offer discounts to other Chamber members, say 10% off. Not only do other members appreciate a price cut, but it makes you and your business appear to be more involved with the community. Surprisingly, people do like to see those things.
When you meet people (at the car repair shop, chamber of commerce, club meetings, etc)ask if they have a web site. If they have a web site, ask if they are happy with it. If they are not....be prepared to listen to their woes and offer to look at it - at no charge.
If they don't have a site, they may state that they "just haven't gotten around to it" or "don't have time" or any other reason. Offer to meet with them and rough out an estimate. This is an easy way to get local people interested in your web design services. Once you get a few web sites done, ask your clients for referrals.
Building a successful web design and development firm requires that you ultilize all marketing channel to get a project. Make sure your website is looks great visually and with strong content. It is your virtual brochure. Make sure your website is ranking in the first 3 pages of most major search engine. Our firm has receive 5 major projects since January 2002 from search engine searches. Make sure that you network. One of my biggest client is my brothers employer. He works for the top hotel in Beverly Hills.
Most of all, Never Never Give Up.