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So You Want to Start Your Own Graphic Design Business: The Secret to Selling Your Services to Clients

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Does the word "selling" bring to mind a distasteful image of an obnoxious salesman who is determined to sell you his widget whether you want it or not? Do your knees start to knock together when you think about trying to sell something to someone yourself? Well, have no fear. The secret to selling is something that everyone can do and do well.

Editor's Note: This is part 3 of a 5-part series. Read part 1, Are You a Good Candidate? and part 2, How to Get Started. Look for a link to the next part on the last page of this article.

In my first article I helped you decide whether or not you were cut out for owning your own graphic design business. In my second article, I told you how to get started. So here you are, open for business, and you have to start meeting with potential clients and selling them on using your company.

Does the word "selling" bring to mind a distasteful image of an obnoxious salesman who is determined to sell you his widget whether you want it or not? Do your knees start to knock together when you think about trying to sell something to someone yourself? Well, have no fear. I'm going to tell you the secret of successful selling. It's something that everyone (including you) can do and do well.

And here's more good news. If your website is impressive and comes up high in the listings, people will be calling you for your services, and you won't have to do the dreaded "cold calling." Cold calling is not really appropriate for the services you're selling, but you should practice a form of cold calling by looking for opportunities to sell your services to businesses that you use frequently. For example, if you eat in a locally owned restaurant that could seriously use a "menu makeover," talk to the owner about what you can do for him. Better yet, if you aren't busy working on projects for paying customers, do a menu makeover and take it in with you the next time you eat there.

Being Prepared for a Meeting

Before I tell you the secret of successful selling, I want to make sure you have everything you need for meeting with potential clients. (I'm going to call them "buyers" in the remainder of this article.) First, I'm going to assume that you have prequalified the person with whom you've set up the meeting. That is, you know in general what the buyer wants, you know that you are able to provide it, and you already have (or have specially created) some appropriate samples of your work. Next, I'm going to assume that you are working out of your home so you must meet with the client at his place of business, or you have set up the meeting at someplace like Starbucks or Panera Bread Company.

To be prepared for the meeting, you should have a laptop computer and a way to get on the Internet. If the place where you are meeting doesn't have WiFi, then you need a USB broadband modem. If the place has WiFi, make sure you know the name of the network and the password before the meeting starts. You should have your business card and your printed sales materials, which should include a list of your services and your rates. (By the way, you should have your rates memorized and know them cold!) You should have two copies of a blank client contract and one of those special pens like the President uses to sign bills into law (or you could just use a Bic pen).

If you've never met the person before, and you're meeting in a public place, make sure you have some way to recognize the person. Also, make sure you have described yourself to the buyer or told him what you'll be wearing so you can be recognized, too. (By the way, wear something clean, pressed, and appropriate. If you live in a very informal community, it might be appropriate to wear something informal, but it also depends on whom you are meeting with. If you live in a very formal and proper community, you probably need to wear a business suit.) Also, make sure you have the person's cell phone number in case neither one of you recognizes the other, and you are both sitting at different tables waiting for each other!

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