Episode 266: My Best Lead Gen Advice For New Designers

April 26, 2023

Today’s episode is especially for my fellow graphic, brand, and web designers! I’m peeling back the curtain on my best lead gen advice for new designers (and established designers!) just like you who are ready to connect with your ideal clients in ways that better honor your time, energy, and creativity.

In this episode, I am sharing exactly how I recommend getting client inquiries when you’re just starting out and–spoiler alert–this method doesn’t require you post on social media or create content like it’s your new full-time job.

Whether you’re a totally new designer just starting your freelance journey or you’re a seasoned pro looking for a better way to get new client leads, today’s episode is for you!

Tune into the podcast via the player above and check out the resources and full transcript below!

You Might Also Like…

Tips to find your next design client

Using people-led marketing to generate leads

How designers can keep more profit without burning out with Kady Sandel


Buy Me A Coffee


Brand Strategy Podcast



Leave a Review!



Review the transcript:

Please note this transcript has been auto generated and may contain typos.

Bonnie (00:07):
Hi, friend, and welcome to the Brand Strategy Podcast, a show created to equip you with the inspiration, encouragement, and clarity you need to build a brand of your dreams. I’m your host, Bonnie bti, brand designer, strategist, and founder of the Illume Retreat from sustainable Strategy to heartfelt Encouragement. Each episode is designed to equip you with the tools you need to chase after your dreams, because you deserve a brand that empowers you to do what you love, connects with your dream clients, and offers a deep sense of fulfillment along the way. So grab a cup of coffee and join me on this journey, won’t you?

Bonnie (00:45):
Hey, y’all. Welcome back to the Brand Strategy Podcast, where today we are talking about my best lead gen advice for new and up and coming graphic brand and web designers, and for my established designers. Today’s episode is for you too, if you’re wanting to think about more thoughtful ways to generate leads for your incredible business. In the 11 years that I’ve been in this industry, and in the seven, almost eight years that I’ve been an educator, coach and mentor in this industry, I have seen so many lead generation techniques to attract new clients to your design business. But what I keep seeing over and over and over again is that new designers are constantly getting stuck with all of the options that are out there. Let me know if this feels familiar, but I I find myself, you know, recently having lots of conversations with designers who are in the early days of just starting just getting into freelance work, and they’re wanting to find maybe their first client or their next client.

Bonnie (01:55):
And a lot of the advice that we see in the online business space is that if you wanna get clients, you’ve got to be on social media, you’ve gotta be creating content for TikTok, for Instagram, you’ve gotta be showing up on LinkedIn, you’ve gotta be doing all of these things. And what I find with that is that that’s advice that doesn’t work for everybody. In these conversations that I find myself having with, with newer designers, I’m hearing that a lot of you don’t actually wanna show up on social media. Like that thought doesn’t sound fun. It doesn’t sound like something that you have the time or the energy for, and that’s incredibly valid. But that can kind of create this, like, this frustration, this dichotomy between feeling like, oh, I really don’t wanna show up there. I really don’t wanna have to market my business on social media, but that’s what everyone is doing and that’s what everyone is telling me to do.

Bonnie (02:51):
And so there’s kind of this disconnect, this, this level of friction essentially between what you want to do, but you don’t feel like it’s possible, possible. Because there’s all this advice telling you that you need to suck it up and do it anyway. And like, if I’m just being completely honest, that doesn’t work for me. Um, I am not a believer that you have to use social media to generate leads for your business and actually for brand new designers or for designers who are, um, wanting to go after their next client in a way that doesn’t rely on social media as that primary lead gen source, I would say actually, don’t spend your time and energy creating this profile from scratch when you probably already have access to a small community of people right now, right where you are, who would love to hire you for this incredible work that you’re starting to do when you are in those early stages of growing your business or going after your first, your next client.

Bonnie (03:56):
Yeah, there’s a lot of advice. It’s, I, I believe a lot of it is very well-intentioned. Um, but what we have to keep in mind is that people who are sharing this advice are sharing what has worked for them and what has worked for them might not necessarily work for you. Because if you were getting this advice from a coach who has never worked in the design industry, has never tried to go out and get a branding client or a website design client, I’m not saying that their advice has no merit, but it’s not tailored to you and your industry and who your ideal clients are. Now, of course, what I’m sharing is coming from personal experience, but it’s also coming from the expertise and the, the results that I’ve seen over the years that I have been working with designers and I’ve been coaching designers on how to grow their businesses with intention.

Bonnie (04:55):
And a big part of that is getting clients and generating leads. So all of those social media can be a great tool. And I’m not knocking it, like, if you wanna try it, if you have the time and the energy to do it, for sure, go and have fun with it and see what kind of results it’s gonna give you. But when you’re just getting started, where I see a lot of new designers getting stuck is trying to do too much at once, right? You’re trying to launch your business, you feel like you also need to have a website, and that website needs to have a portfolio. And that portfolio can’t just have one project, it needs to have more projects. But how do you put more projects in a portfolio when you haven’t had your first client yet, right? And we go through this whole list of things that you’re thinking and somewhere later down on that list is, oh yeah, social media.

Bonnie (05:44):
I need to start creating content for social media so I can tell people that I’m open for business and I can start getting leads for my business. But is that really the best use of your time and energy at this point? Right? When you’re starting something from scratch, when you’re literally in startup mode, you have this beautiful, beautiful gift, and that’s momentum. You can build on that momentum by spending your time and energy in places doing actions that will generate more momentum for you. And because I believe that social media is not necessarily an overnight success, social media can actually dampen some of that momentum that you’re building and that can actually start to make things feel a little more sluggish, a little slower, a little less exciting. And then we get really down and we start feeling a certain way about ourselves because we’ve created all of these reels or all of these, you know, TikTok videos, and we’re not, people aren’t like, you know, trying to break down the door, trying to, hi, hire us right now.

Bonnie (06:55):
So my best advice, don’t try to be everywhere at once when it comes to marketing your new business. It instead, what I have found to be more effective is focus on announcing your business to your existing community. What I mean by that is, instead of spending a lot of time and energy trying to market your business to complete strangers on the internet, take a look at the people that are already in your circle. Do you have industry friends, former coworkers, friends, family members, people that you used to go to school with, people from past jobs that you’ve held? Um, you know, like there’s so, so many points of connection that you’ve had with other people at some point in your life. Look at those connections and say, is there someone already in this circle that I can work with or that knows someone who would wanna work with me?

Bonnie (07:53):
So when I share this advice with new designers, I get a lot of pushback of like, well, but Bonnie, my community’s mostly friends and family and people from school and people from my past jobs. And they don’t, they’re not starting businesses. They don’t wanna hire me. Okay, that’s valid, and I understand that. But what we’re overlooking when we immediately dismiss the relationships that we already have in front of us by telling ourselves, oh, they won’t wanna hire me. Oh, they won’t wanna, you know, say my name in rooms where I am not physically there. They won’t wanna support me. We are writing off opportunities that are already waiting and ready for us to take action on. You never know who your industry friends, who your family, who your, you know, former coworkers know, right? I cannot tell you the number of times that I’ve seen newer designers announce their business on, you know, their personal Facebook pages or send an email to, uh, you know, people from their past saying, Hey, I’ve launched this new business.

Bonnie (08:59):
This is what I do. This is how you can work with me. If you, if this sounds like something that, um, would serve you well, or it sounds like a great fit for someone, you know, I’d be so grateful if you passed my name along and wow the responses people get from, you know, like from family members, from old friends from high school, from someone that you met that one time. But you guys stayed in touch and it’s a really great, you know, friendship. You hear from these people who are, first of all so excited for you, they’re so proud of you, they are so excited to cheer you on in this new business venture. But you hear these stories of, oh yeah, my friend from, you know, wherever is starting a business and they need logo design, can I introduce you? Or you hear from your, um, I don’t know from your aunt, and she’s like, oh yes, this kid in my community down at the community center, they’re starting a lawn care business and they need help, you know, creating business cards.

Bonnie (10:10):
Like I’m not saying, and here, and here’s the thing. Some of these opportunities that come to you through your existing network are gonna be amazing. They’re gonna be dream opportunities. They’re gonna be more than you ever imagined. Some of them might be smaller, um, kinds of projects. But the thing is, right, we’re focused on generating revenue and we’re focused on building momentum. And people who are going to hire you, people who are going to work with you, they are going to keep saying your name, right? Whenever someone hires you to design a website or design a logo or help them with print collateral or flyer design or any of these things, right? And they get compliments on that website, or they get compliments on those business cards, they say, oh, thanks, so-and-so designed them for me. And that is powerful because that’s momentum that’s building for you, and you are not even physically there.

Bonnie (11:05):
These are relationships where people are saying your name in these spaces, and you are not physically there. But what is happening is you are leveraging the relationships that you have spent your entire life, in some cases, building to help this business get up and off the ground. And I don’t know about you, but I would, that’s actually a big way of how I started getting consistent clients is, um, I was doing the branding for some of my friends from high school or from college, and then they would tell their friends or someone would see their website and then they’d get in touch with me. And it was kind of that organic word of mouth growth that was way more successful than me posting heavily filtered photos on Instagram back in, you know, 2012, 2013. And so when I say, you know, think about how can you maintain this space, this energy, this presence of focusing on creating momentum and building on that momentum, how can you focus on bringing money in quickly?

Bonnie (12:15):
And then how can you focus on making that money turn into more money in the future? And looking at the community that you already have access to is so powerful. And you might be listening and you might be saying, Bonnie, that’s great for you. That’s great for all of your other past students who have had those experiences. But literally, there is no one in my community who would be a good fit for my ideal client. That may be true. I believe you. I mean, you know your people better than anybody, but ask yourself, do I have access to people who I feel safe with, who respect me, who will support my dreams? And can I share this business with them so they can just, they can just support me, just cheer me on? Can they celebrate this with me? And you never know when you announce your business to them, you never know what’s gonna come down the pipeline for you in the future, posting about your new business as a designer on, you know, a personal Facebook page, a LinkedIn page, um, sending emails, mentioning it at you know, that, that friend gathering or that family get together, give people a chance to celebrate you and support you and be excited for you, and then share your name in the future when an aligned opportunity presents itself.

Bonnie (13:42):
And that is such an easy thing to do when you’re just getting started. That can be this incredibly powerful kind of catalyst for your client roster in the future. Um, with that being said, of course you can dip your toes into the world of email marketing, of social media, of starting a YouTube channel, of, you know, showing up on Pinterest, of starting a blog, doing all of these other marketing avenues that, that catch your interest. But what I’m saying is don’t feel this pressure to do all of those your very first week in business when you’re just getting started. Focus on getting the word out on announcing your business to the people that you already know. Um, I’m a part of a group coaching program, and one of the kind of sayings that, um, the coach kind of likes to remind us of is that you probably, at any point in your career, you probably have access to at least a hundred people who through, you know, friends, old friends, friend of a friend, family member, um, old coworker, person, you know, from school, you know, like the list can go on and on and on and on.

Bonnie (14:59):
But most of us, we have bigger communities that than we think we do. And so when we tell ourselves, oh, there’s, we tell ourselves these stories and , if you’re like me, it’s usually pretty dramatic. Ugh, I don’t know anybody, nobody’s interested in my business. No one’s ever gonna wanna hire me. Well, the advice here is actually, do you really know zero people or do you maybe know more like, you know, 30, 50, 80, a hundred people that you have some point of connection to that you could share your business with? And that kind of opens up this possibility where all of a sudden, instead of trying to hustle online to get in front of strangers, you can just, I don’t know, make a Facebook post. You can send an email. You can be brave at the family gathering and stand up and make the announcement. And I, you know, and, and I, I do wanna be honest, and I, I do wanna acknowledge that sometimes we have relationships that are not healthy and are not safe.

Bonnie (15:57):
And some people can’t celebrate our wins and they can’t, they’re not, they’re not able emotionally to support us in the big moves that we’re making. Um, and so if you find yourself with people like that, um, you know, practice good boundaries, make moves that support you and the kind of information that you feel comfortable sharing, I’m not suggesting that you need to announce your business to people that will not support you or that you don’t feel safe with. But for those who do have friends, maybe a handful of people who would support you, who would cheer you on, give them the opportunity to do that. Give them the opportunity to support you and share about your work with their friends, with the people that they meet, the people that they, um, might come across through, you know, the gym, work, dating, there’s so many different, so many different ways that we can meet people.

Bonnie (16:55):
And word of mouth is such a beautiful way to grow your business. Even now, when I look at how I’ve grown my business over the 11 years that I’ve been doing this, there have been seasons where I’ve relied on otherly generation tools more heavily than others. But right now with this very snapshot, I am relying more heavily on relationships and referrals and word of mouth marketing than any other marketing channel that I have access to. And I do that by looking at the data. I do that by looking at where my inquiries are coming from. And I know that my inquiries are coming from people. And so I’m choosing to invest my time and energy in people instead of trying to play and perform for a social media algorithm that actually isn’t driving inquiries to my business. So food for Thought. I hope that this gets you excited about all of the possibility that awaits you.

Bonnie (17:54):
I hope this gets you excited about what I would say is your homework, which now as you are taking action to get the word out about your business, share it with the people that are in your community. Make a list. These are all the friends, friends of friends, family members, family members, you know, once removed that I haven’t spoken to in forever. These are all the people that I’m going to announce my business to. And you can do that in whatever way feels good to you. It could be an email, a social media post. It could be, you know, uh, you could get really creative with it. You could send a letter, you can show up at a family event or a, you know, a in-person event and share the news. You get to do what sounds fun for you. But your homework is to create that list, figure out how you’re gonna share the news, and then share the news.

Bonnie (18:44):
And when you share that news, make that request clear. Do you know of someone who could use my services? Make it clear how people can work with you, how you can support them, and what kind of support you’re looking for. And I promise you, the people who have your best interests at heart want to support you in this new business that you’re creating. And they’re gonna be so excited to have that opportunity. So be sure to give it to them. Friend is you are focused on growing your graphic brand or web design business. I am so excited for you. I know that this is an exciting period of time, but I also know that there are a lot of decisions, there’s a lot of possibility and that can sometimes feel overwhelming . So I’ve got a couple resources for you because I’ve been there. First of all, if you are wanting to learn how you can grow your design business sustainably and how you can generate consistent revenue without relying on taking on more one-on-one clients than you have the capacity for, I have a free training where I talk about how to triple your income as a designer without, um, burning out on clients.

Bonnie (19:54):
And you can go to BS for bonnie design.com/training to sign up for that on demand class. And then if you are wanting to dive deeper into the archives of resources, tutorials, and educational, all free resources that I have compiled over the last almost eight years, I have a hub on my website specifically for designers that is going to point you towards my go-to resources. So you can go to www.bisforbonniedesign.com/for-designers, and that is going to take you to a really all of my best advice for growing your business, scaling your business, working with clients, and more. As always, all of those resources and a full transcript of today’s episode will be at www.brandstrategypodcast.com. So you can go there, click on the latest episode link and click on today’s episode, and you’re gonna find everything that you need waiting for you. As always, friend, thanks for tuning in. I’m grateful that you are a part of this community. And until next time, I’ll be cheering you on from Waco.

Bonnie (21:11):
Thank you so much for joining me today, friend. Before you go, I would be so grateful to receive your feedback on the Brand Strategy podcast. If you enjoyed this episode or the podcast in general has helped you grow your brand, I’d really appreciate it if you left us a review in iTunes. Your positive reviews enable the brand strategy podcast to continue to grow and reach like-minded creatives just like you. Thank you for all your support and encouragement as together we pursue building brands with purpose and intention. Until next time, I’m cheer you on from Waco.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

My name is Bonnie – I’m a brand designer, strategist, and writer which all adds up to one eclectic conglomeration of qualities that enables me to serve you well! Past clients have dubbed me "the Joanna Gaines of brand design," and I've had more than a few call me a dream maker, a game changer, and a design wizard (my Harry Potter-loving heart didn't hate that one, let me tell you!). At the end of the day, I'm a big-hearted creative who will get teary-eyed as you share the heart behind your business; who will lose sleep over the perfect font pairings and color selections to bring your brand to life visually; and who will work tirelessly to empower, encourage, and equip you to share your work with the world intentionally. 

hi friend!

meet bonnie

create your dream brand


yes! send me the guide >