How to Get Your First Web Design Client (Step #2 is especially important)

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Getting your first PAID web design client is the most important action you can take for your coding career… whether you plan to be a freelance web designer long-term or not.

It’s THAT important because it immediately makes everything much more clear:

  • You see if you actually like coding
  • You figure out what your clients expect from you
  • You understand what to charge and why

And, most importantly… you gain CONFIDENCE. You get to see first-hand that people WILL pay you money to code for them and that you CAN deliver.

On the flip side, NOT getting your first client leaves everything unknown:

  • You assume you’ll like coding but don’t know for sure
  • You continue to have no idea what clients really want
  • You have no idea what you can charge

And, most importantly… you don’t gain the confidence necessary to move forward in your career… and that deep-seated fear about whether clients will pay you and whether you can actually deliver or not… will continue to linger.

I learned this the hard way…

I spent four years “learning to code” pretending that I still had more to learn before I could take clients. The truth was, I was scared.

What if nobody hires me?

What if I can’t deliver?

What if I piss of my client and they tell everybody?

I had 100 excuses for WHY I shouldn’t take my first client.

Meanwhile, my life was falling apart financially, I was working a job I couldn’t stand and my wife was on the verge of leaving me.

Getting my first client changed all that…

Here’s why…

Confidence comes from competence… and clarity comes from action. Take a basketball player.

We all recognize that the only way to get better at basketball (or any sport) is to practice. To get out on the court and play.

It’s the same with delivering on projects for clients… whether they be freelance clients or our boss at a tech job.

The ONLY way you can develop the confidence to succeed… is to get out there on the court and put in some practice.

Click HERE to learn the most important freelance job getting activity… you’re probably not doing

So, here’s how to get your first client…

Step 1: Fill out a profile on Elance (or oDesk if you prefer)

You need to fill out your profile first because anyone who seriously considers hiring you will take at least a quick look.

We could spend volumes talking about HOW to fill out your profile but for now the most important thing to do is actually fill it out… completely.

You’d be surprised how many developers on these sites don’t complete their profiles. Just having a complete profile can put you ahead of probably 90% of them.

That and a professional-looking profile picture. I know you probably have an urge to “express yourself” on your profile (and you can later) but right now you’re trying to get paid.

So, keep it professional. Tell your story and why you think you’re a good hire… and fill out every section.

That’ll be fine for now.

Step 2: Search for projects you KNOW you can deliver on

These sites have 100s if not 1000s of projects posted on them every day.

You could probably find anything you wanted on there. So, pick something you know you can deliver on.

Not something that sounds fun… or something you’re interested in. Some thing you KNOW you can deliver to the client.

We’re building confidence here and there’s already enough fear coursing through your veins. So, keep it simple and stick to something you know you can do.

Step 3: Bid on the project

Be sure to read their entire proposal. Many proposals contain phrases they want you to repeat in your bid so they know you read their proposal.

Plus, you need to be clear on what they want anyway.

If you can see what other bidders are asking then use that as a guide for what you should charge. If you can’t see them just be sure to keep within their budget.

Picking something in the mid-range of their budget usually works (unless your instincts tell you something different).

Finally, when you make your bid… take some time to write a well thought-out response.

Talk about their project and demonstrate you read the whole thing and understand what they want.

Give any advice you might have and explain WHY you’re a good choice for this project.

For example, whenever I bid on a project for someone who wants a membership site built with WordPress and WishList Member… I always say:

“As a developer at WishList Products and the Lead Developer for the WishList Member Certified Developers program…”

That phrase alone demonstrates that I’m a unique fit for the project. Try to find some reason why you’re a unique match for this project.

Feel free to get creative (but believable).

From there, simply negotiate back and forth until you either get the client or you don’t.

Feel free to take a really low fee if you have to. The point of this first project isn’t to make a bunch of money.

It’s to get practice… so just make sure you get something. Obviously, over time you’ll zero in on the right price and learn how to stand firm.

If you follow these steps you should be able to land your first freelance client pretty quickly. But, be careful… you just might get addicted! 🙂

Click here to download the 7 Strategies to Turn Your Code Into Cash cheat sheet

Here’s what to do right now…

Here’s how to get started with this right now so you actually get out there and do this.

I want you to head over to Elance (or oDesk) and do a search for projects that you know you can deliver on.

Look through the projects  and identify 10 that you think are a good fit and save the URLs somewhere on your computer.

It’s one tiny step that can have a dramatic impact on your career.

Once you have your list… continue with Step 1 above!

And, good luck! Let me know how it goes in the comments below!

Got a Question?

Call (515) 344-3163 to ask me your most burning coding question right now?

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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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