How to get your first client and specifically How To Get Your First Interior Design Client – Without a portfolio of work and without a long list of contacts
When I started my business as an online architectural and interior designer, I had been living in the UK for about 10 years. Anyone who moves away from home, even to another city, knows that meeting new people and creating a network isn’t quite so easy. I had no idea where to start to get my first client.
By my age, people have families and they don’t go out as often as they used to, their sports have taken a back seat and their priority are their children. Most of the women I know who are architects or designers get most of their work at the “school gate”. Its like an abundant place where friendly people speak to you knowing who you are and seem to trust you straight away.
But what if you don’t have kids, family, friends and a great network of supportive, like minded people who are willing to help you out? How do you get your first client?
Getting clients doesn’t have to be hard. I slowed my progress to having a successful business because I didn’t do these things to get clients and once I did… they started rolling in (literally).
Tell Them All About It
You can’t be the world’s best kept secret. You have to talk to literally everyone you know about what you are doing – repeatedly. You have to keep reminding people that you are around and that this is what you do now. It may take some time, but someone you ultimately know or know through someone else will think of you when someone needs you as a designer.
Word of mouth (or even word of social media) is so strong, but you have to remind people ALL THE TIME. No room for being shy or thinking “oh they know”. I didn’t get any clients for years… yes I was trying to start a business for years… and I didn’t tell anyone… because I thought they all knew…
As soon as I announced that I as finally working full time for myself, I got 4 referrals straight away. All of which ended up being my clients. Job done and I got my first client.
Share Your Knowledge
I used to believe that without a gorgeous portfolio of projects to show your clients there was no hope of ever getting a client. To me it was like this chicken and egg scenario, but I need a client first before I can get some photos of my work!
I know that isn’t true now… at all. If you check my website, I still don’t have a vast portfolio and I have worked with well over 30 clients this year! (My projects are only just now coming to completion and we will be photographing them soon, so stay tuned), but this isn’t an excuse either.
The way I started to get respect for my expertise is by giving by knowledge freely. I helped people out on any forum I could find. Interior design and architecture historically are not those kinds of professions where people share their knowledge too freely, so getting real help (for free) was my way of getting some street cred.
Speak To Someone New Every Day
This was the hardest for me. When I was low and all poor me about my work and life situation, the last thing I wanted to do was to speak to anyone about my loser life. But I put in my diary that I had to speak to someone new every day. Whether it’s the post man, tell him what you do. If it’s the local shop, put a flyer up and speak to them and tell them what you do. You this on social media too, but don’t just type, set up a meeting or a call, because you cant click with a person as well (in my opinion) with just typing, especially if you feel a bit weird at the beginning just trying to meet people.
Oh and this is a bonus one…
Leave Your Dignity At The Door
Oh man, yyou can’t imagine how many bruised ego’s I had. Again, it took me a super, duper, really long, long time to get that you have to toughen up and be confident about what your skills are and what you can do. People will say no.. that’s ok and sometimes that’s actually a blessing!
Don’t get upset if people ignore you, (because they will), don’t worry if people think you are a freako (because they will), if you are passionate about what you do, even those people who were non believers will come back, so never give up, keep going and every time someone knocks you down, you can find ingenuitive ways to keep getting back up (with some or no class.. your choice).
And if you want to know what its like to be an online freelance designer, you can read my blog post here: https://www.jochrobak.com/2018/01/02/life-online-interior-designer/