In the Fall of 2017, I officially launched my professional website with high hopes, one business offering, and zero clients. The offering didn't have anything to do with design but it seemed like the right first step.
I remember crying on my couch in the living room—face covered by a throw pillow—and venting to my brother about how on earth I was going to find any clients. I felt like a ball of anxiety and fear. Why had I decided to start an online business? Who would even want to hire me?
About 2.5 months later, I started looking into Squarespace web design and, on a whim, took a leap of faith.
Web design to me sounded exciting and I certainly didn’t mind getting paid to do it for a living.
The only problem(s)? I didn't have a portfolio.
I didn't have a background in design.
I didn’t have a sales page indicating that I even offered design services.
And YET…despite all my doubts and insecurities, I decided to take things one clumsy step at a time.
Somehow, within a month of making this decision, I managed to get my first-ever paid Squarespace design project. I had no idea what to charge or whether or not things were going to pan out, but all I knew is that I had just booked my first client.
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Now, before I continue, I will say that it took me a whopping 3 months to make my first $1k (which is less than half of what I made monthly at my old job). Back then, I just couldn’t believe that people were hiring me to handle their branding and web design.
So then you're probably wondering, how and where did I find my first client? How exactly did I make my first $1k without even having a portfolio?
I delve into this in another blog post HERE, but in today's post, I want to show you where I found my first few clients and how much I made from each initial gig. If you’re struggling to find design clients (perhaps even your first client), this blog post will show you the strategies I used to get the ball rolling.
What I did to land my first FEW clients
Client #1: Facebook Group
Facebook groups work! This is where I found my first web design client, and thankfully, the project went well. I messaged my client after she announced in the facebook group that she needed someone to help redesign her Squarespace site. I noticed that she and I had had a mutual friend, so I decided to reach out.
Although I didn’t have a portfolio to show this client, she really liked my professional website and thought we had similar styles. As a result, the client agreed to hire me for my services (albeit at a ridiculously low price). At the time, I didn’t mind, because I knew I needed the experience more than I did the money.
Project: Squarespace Web Design + Branding
Total Price: $90.00
Price After Fees: $86.78
Tools I Used: Dubsado, Google Drive, Squarespace, Paypal, Canva
SIDE NOTE: Looking back, I can't believe I offered web design for merely $90.00 but I’m still grateful that the client agreed to take a chance on me.
That said, some people say that when you're starting out, you should be willing to do free work. And while I'm not completely opposed to the benefits of doing free work, something in my gut told me that I should price my services and still get paid—if only a little—for my time. This turned out to be a good call, as I ended up spending way more time on the project than I had estimated.
Remember: When you’re just starting out, you don’t really have point of reference for how long certain tasks will take you.
Client #2: Website + PeoplePerHour
At this point, I had one project under my belt, so I at least had something to add to my portfolio. I decided to start advertising my services on a third party platform by assembling a mish-mosh of my "best" work (AKA a combination of self-initiated designs & the first Squarespace website project) on my profile. Soon afterwards, I received an inquiry from who would become my second client.
When I asked her how she found me, she told me that had come across my profile on PeoplePerHour (the third party platform) and ended up heading to my professional website from there. Luckily, I did not have to go looking for this client, because she came to me first!
So again, this client came cross my profile from the third party directory —> found a link to my business website from there —> filled out the inquiry form on my business site, thereby becoming my first direct business inquiry.
Needless to say, I was ecstatic.
Project: Squarespace Web Design + Extra Graphic Design
Total Price: $250.00
Price After Fees: $238.40 after payment processor fees
Tools I used: Dubsado, Google Drive, Squarespace, Illustrator
Client #3: PeoplePerHour
For my third client project, I submitted several project proposals to a couple of web design gigs on PeoplePerHour. Someone eventually responded expressing her interest in hiring me to design her website and logo. Turns out, she already had a creative brief prepared, which made it a bit easier for me to understand her visual direction and approach.
Project: Squarespace Web Design + Branding/Logo
Post fees: $392.54 after fees
Tools I Used: Dubsado, Google Drive, Squarespace, Illustrator
Client #4: PeoplePerHour
The forth client project I booked came after I applied to another freelance gig on PeoplePerHour and got a quick response from the person who posted the gig. After working with this client, I would end up collaborating on several more projects thereafter. This is actually what I had wanted and I’m glad that I got to move off of the platform. Working with a client directly, rather than through PeoplePerHour, meant that I wasn’t losing a percentage of my sales (except for payment processor fees).
Total Price: $150 x2 = $300
Price After Fees: $290.70 after fees
Tools I Used: Dubsado, Google Drive, Squarespace
And the rest is history…
Although I worked many long hours to make what is now at minimum how much I would charge for a fully customized Squarespace site, I wouldn't be where I am now were it not for those initial experiences and opportunities that followed. The first few projects I got to work on were full of learning lessons and mistakes, which I share in my FREE e-course below.
If you're curious to know what these rookie mistakes were and how to avoid them as you book your first projects, don’t forget to sign up!
In the e-course, I’ll show you exactly what I wrote to pitch my (then non-existent) services as well as a list of recommended platforms and facebook groups to book your next gig.
If this formerly clueless designer managed to do it, so can you!