7 Steps to Get New Web Design Clients on Autopilot

When I first got into the online business/internet marketing space (way back in 2004) one of the ideas I saw thrown around a lot was this notion of getting business on “autopilot”.

I always thought it was a little silly. It sounded like straight up hype to me. I mean how is it possible to get traffic, leads and sales on “autopilot”… the same numbers week after week without a lot of input on your part?

Didn’t seem possible. And, for a lot of years I simply wrote it off as hype and didn’t think much more about it.

Then, I started getting serious about my online business. I started putting a lot more effort into creating content and focusing and getting traffic and leads, in particular.

And as I started to track all the numbers, I started to notice something interesting.

It looked like this:

What you’ll see if you look closely is a fairly predictable pattern of traffic. In fact, I’ve since studied it a lot more closely and my weekly traffic pattern is eerily consistent.

My traffic spikes to its highest point on Tuesdays; dips a bit on Wednesday; spikes back up on Thursday; drops off to its lowest point on Sunday; climbs back up on Monday; and again spikes on Tuesday.

Week after after; 52 weeks a year; for several years now.

It’s frankly a bit scary how consistent it is.

But, that’s not all because it’s not just my traffic… it’s my lead generation too:

This is a monthly view but you can see month after month the amount of leads I generate remains fairly constant. Roughly 900-1000 subscribers each and every month like clockwork.

All of this translates into new quote requests for my web design services each and every month. In fact, THAT is eerily consistent, as well.

And, here’s the kicker…

If you’ve followed me online for any amount of time you know that I’m terribly INconsistent with my posting. In fact, I’ll go weeks (sometimes months) at a time without posting anything.

But, it doesn’t matter.

The traffic keeps rolling in. The new leads keep rolling in. The quote requests keep rolling in. It’s almost as if it’s on “autopilot”.

I tell you all that because I want to show you how I do it… but I don’t want you to dismiss what I’m saying like I did for all those years.

When you get the funnel that I’m going to show you set up and running… it will continue to work like this week after week after week.

So, here goes. Here’s the 7 steps I followed to set all this up:

Step 1: Attract Prospects

It’s my humble belief that getting traffic to your site has a lot more to do with what you do outside of your web site than what you do in it. The bulk of my traffic comes from YouTube.

I’ve uploaded 94 videos that have gotten 1,111,582 views (as of this writing) and generate roughly 40k new views each and every month.

In fact, if you look at the graph, you’ll see these numbers are eerily consistent, as well:

Now, do you have to create YouTube videos? No (although I strongly recommend it). You can write articles on a site like Medium (or others), post code on GitHub, answer questions on sites like Stack Overflow and Quora.

Whatever it is, you want to find out what answers your best clients are searching for and create content outside of your own web site that gives them what they’re after.

You’ll begin the process of gaining their trust (key to getting hired) and end up driving a lot of high quality traffic to your web site.

Step 2: Capture Leads

When you create content outside of your web site at places like YouTube or Medium, you need to do so strategically. You don’t want to just create content and hope.

Instead, you should end every video, article, podcast, etc… with a call to action that encourages your viewers to visit your web site in order to get something more.

It’s often best to have some sort of “flagship” lead magnet. For me, it’s my 7 Strategies to Turn Your Code Into Cash cheat sheet. If you hop around my site, you’ll see it everywhere.

In my videos and on my articles, I always include a call to action to that cheat sheet. That way, every piece of content becomes a little “mini-ad” that fuels my business.

Whatever you do, you need to start capturing leads from the very beginning. In fact, develop your lead magnet and set up your lead generation funnel before you do anything else.

Before you get crazy designing your site. Before you create any products or build a services page. Before you post any content outside of your site.

Leads are the lifeblood of your business… so you need to make sure that process is in place before anything else.

Step 3: Nurture Leads

At this point, you’ve got a potential client on your mailing list so you can contact them… now what? Repeatedly bash them with offers to hire you for your services?

Not just “no” but “HELL NO”.

If you do, they’ll unsubscribe from your mailing list as quick as they joined… and likely spread the word that your email list is just a pitch-fest. That’s bad mojo.

Instead you want to continue to deliver quality content that solves their problems AND gently soft-sells them on your services.

I call this the 99/1 principle. 99% content; 1% pitch.

So, after you deliver some piece of amazing content to them… either directly in the email or by linking to a video or article on your web site… you can say something like this:

“By the way, if you’d rather not hassle with all this technical mumbo-jumbo yourself and just have an expert do it for you… I encourage you to check out my web design services here: http://linktoyourservicespage.com.”

You want to keep it short and subtle. You’re not trying to sell them on your services here. That’s what your services page is for. Here, you just what to entice them to check it out.

Many will… and of those a certain number will pull the trigger and contact you to build their web site/application for them.

Step 4: Convert Sales

This is your services page. This is where you get to sell them on your services all-out. There’s lots of ways to do this, but I’ve found that you can get good conversion rates by including the following items at a minimum:

  1. Your core offer… usually as the headline of your services page. For example, “Get Your Membership Site Launched… Finally” or “Get a Fancy New WordPress Theme With All the Bells and Whistles”.
  2. Exactly what work you accept. You should be picky and only work on certain types of projects that you’re best at. So, tell them exactly what that is.
  3. Exactly what work you DO NOT accept. There are certain things you hate doing. List those and make sure it’s clear you will not work on those kinds of projects.
  4. Your portfolio. Past projects of this type you’ve worked with supporting images. Let them see for themselves what you’re capable of. This is probably the #1 thing potential clients will look at so make it count.
  5. Client testimonials. Potential clients will want to know what it’s like to work with you. Be sure to include testimonials from past clients talking about how awesome you are to work with.
  6. Service packages. What packages do you offer? For web design it might be: bare bones for $1,000; an existing premium theme for $3,000; a fully custom theme for $5,000. Whatever it is, list it (max of 3 options).
  7. What to do next. How do they take the next step? Make it simple and obvious. Usually this will be a quote request form. If so, keep it simple. Having 1000s of questions will drive people away.

You could spend a lifetime covering all the things you could do with this page. But, I’ve found that any high-converting services page will include these things at a minimum because it’s the big things you’re client will want to know in order to decide to hire you.

Step 5: Deliver

This is ultimately what everything else is about. I’m not going to spend a ton of time on this because it’s vastly different depending on what services you offer and frankly is the thing you should already have mastered.

That said, there are a few techniques you can use to WOW your clients during this step:

1. Speed. This is the easiest way to blow your clients away. When you can deliver faster than what they expected… faster than what you promised… they’ll immediately love you because very few service providers actually do this.

The key here is to under-promise and over-deliver. A web designer friend of mine likes to say that he takes whatever amount of time he thinks it’ll take him to complete a project and triples it.

That way, if something unexpected comes up he has time to adjust AND he almost always finished before the deadline… and his clients love him for it.

2. Surprise. Give your clients something they weren’t expecting. Find some way to surprise them. Most clients are so used to being let down that when you do the opposite and not only deliver… but deliver ahead of time AND give them something they weren’t expecting.

They’ll be blown away… and they’ll come back to you again and again.

Step 6: Upsell

It’s 6-7 times harder to get a new client than it is to get repeat business from an existing client. So, while you’re working with them on their project look for natural upsells you can offer them.

The trick here is to NOT force it. Don’t upsell just to upsell. Instead upsell to provide value. If you have a service that legitimately fills a need you see they have… talk to them about it.

If you’re doing your job in Step 5… it’ll probably be he easiest sale you ever make.

Step 7: Get Referrals

This is the step that really puts all of this on another level because it creates a kind of infinite loop that keeps pouring new clients into your business from two different directions.

You’re getting new clients in the front door through your lead generation and soft-selling… but you’re also getting new clients in the back door from referrals from existing clients.

It multiplies the value of each one of your clients because now it’s not just their business but potentially an infinite number of new clients they refer to you.

There’s three types of referrals you can get:

1. Natural Referrals. These are referrals you get naturally… because your client is so blown away they can’t help but talk about you to thers. Step 5 is the key to this kind of referral.

2. Solicited Referrals. This is when you just flat-out ask for referrals. Do this once your done with a client’s project and ask gently. Don’t be pushy and if they say no… just move on.

3. Incentivized Referrals. This is when you actually give your clients something in return for the referrals they send your way. Think of it this way… if I asked you to give me $1 and I’ll give you $5 back… would you do it if you knew for sure you’d get the $5?

Of course. This is the same idea. Give your clients a percentage of every new client they refer to you that completes their project and pays in full. It’s like tradding 1s for 5s all day long.

Getting Started

We’ve covered a lot and you might be wondering… “this is great, but how do I get started?”

Here’s what I suggest…

Most web designers/developers I talk to don’t actually know what their core offer is and what it is they want to do tech-wise. Often they’re desperate and just looking for a way out of a job they hate and will do anything.

Don’t do that. Not only will it make you miserable… it’ll actually take you longer to get where you want to be.

Instead, answer these 3 questions:

  1. How can you help others?
  2. Doing what you love?
  3. That others will gladly pay you for?

I was a membership site expert…

  1. I helped membership site owners get their membership sites launched…
  2. I loved working with WordPress and WishList Member…
  3. And they’d happily pay me thousands of dollars a site to do it.

Figure that out… master it… nail down step 5… and go from there.

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John Morris


I’m a 15-year veteran of freelance web development. I’ve worked with bestselling authors and average Joe’s next door. These days, I focus on helping other freelancers build their freelance business and their lifestyles.

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