Creatives reveal how they found their best customers

When you look at your client list, we all have a favorite. It can be a big, global brand that pays well and gives you kudos. It can be a small mom and pop shop that you personally click and get a deep sense of accomplishment from helping. Or it can be anything in between. Either way, you can’t believe your luck to have them as a client and they make a huge difference in making you feel good about your job and career.

Or maybe not. Maybe you haven’t reached that nirvana yet, and instead you’re still dealing with flaky clients who confuse you and keep changing their minds about projects. And they don’t pay on time.

In this case, we’ll start by saying: it gets better. Keep working hard, following the freelance tips and advice we share at Creative Boom, and having a good attitude, and you’ll eventually land your dream client.

Often, this will happen almost by accident. “One of my favorite clients landed through yet another incredible series of random factors, along with a case of mistaken identity,” says design consultant Liam Fitzgerald. “It was a match made in heaven, but the connection was not planned.”

Creative director Catherine Casalino tells a similar story. “So many wonderful clients have come to me through weak links,” she says. “They’re people I’ve worked with in the past and they’re passing my name on to others in their network: both the people I’ve hired and the people who’ve hired me. Sometimes, it’s several degrees of separation.”

In other cases, however, it takes positive action to find the client of your dreams. So to give you some inspiration, we asked the Creative Boom community to share the stories of how they did it. We share the best moments below and you can read the entire Twitter thread here.

1. Networking

We’ll start with the obvious: to find the client of your dreams, you need to get out there and meet people. “My biggest clients all come from networking,” says commercial photographer Kris Risner. “The more I put myself out there, the more I got in.”

When you think of networking, you think of attending events, joining online communities, and connecting with people in your industry. And that’s all good. But it’s important to remember that networking can happen anywhere.

“Just take a deep breath and talk to people,” advises graphic designer Tony Clarkson. “I found my dream client on a bike club ride with someone who is thinking of starting their own wine business. We talked about things we liked. I said I’d like to go into design if he continues. He’s still my favorite project to date”.

Designer and creative director Tom Muller also turned a personal passion into successful networking. “I used to hang out on comic book forums politely telling people that I could draw their books better than them and that we should work together,” he recalls. “More than ten years later, I’m still working with most of them and it’s opened a lot of doors.”

UX designer Duncan Buchanan-MacDonald followed a similar path. “I worked for the band Mogwai and their label Rock Action for years,” he recalls. “It all started when I talked to another non-drinker one night at the back of a gig. Turns out he was the label manager.”

2. The direct approach

Networking is a relatively relaxed approach to finding clients. But if you already know who your dream customers are, then why not contact them directly? It’s very simple, really: just send a custom email introducing yourself and your work.

That worked for illustrator Samuel Rodriguez, anyway. “I walked into the creative director of my dream client and asked to learn more about what they do,” she recalls. “It just so happened that the person I contacted knew about my work and was a good fit for the project. Good timing and great people to work with.”

Illustrator-painter Louise Gouet had similar experiences. “The boring method has always worked for me: my favorite collaborations to date have started with cold emails,” he says. “I make sure to keep it targeted and personal. Some won’t respond and some may have a dream project.”

Perhaps, of course, you have to be patient. Illustrator Lily LK found her dream client by “playing the waiting game. Cold email, follow Instagram and wait three months. Plus I posted work similar to their usual content.”

The thing to remember is that if they are your dream client, chances are you are their dream freelancer too. So settle on that. “Reaching clients with personal work that speaks to me like what I do I want Doing was a no-brainer for me,” says illustrator Amy Lauren. “It attracts clients who also love this subject, and then they keep me in mind for sister projects or refer me because the whole experience was so genuinely passionate.”

3. Use LinkedIn

While we at Creative Boom still love Twitter, many of you are telling us that it’s not such a great place to dive into for work anymore. With algorithms constantly being tweaked, we’re also hearing that Instagram and Facebook aren’t that useful. So where do the creatives go? Well, increasingly on LinkedIn. And many of you say that’s where you found your dream clients.

“Linkedin helped me a lot,” says UI/UX designer Maiane Gabriele. “I had this excitement about a company, so I started connecting with strategic people. I didn’t say anything, I just sent a connection. Meanwhile, I started posting things related to the company and their position. Then they contacted me.”

David Webb of We Are Beard tells a similar story. “We found the right person on LinkedIn, made a connection, and waited a while before sending the assignment showing what we would do if we ever had the opportunity,” he recalls. “It was a slow burner, but it ultimately led to a great relationship with ongoing work.”

4. Be humble and open

Sometimes a dream client doesn’t seem like that at first glance. Therefore, it is important to remain humble and open. Because what may seem unpredictable at first, well… may turn out to be worth persevering with.

Interior and architecture photographer Jak Spedding recalls the unlikely way he found his dream client. “I got a call from a lady who was upset because she couldn’t sell her house because the agent’s pictures were rubbish. This wasn’t my usual job, but I wanted to help. The lady got an offer on the property in three days. after changing the photos. So she put me in touch with her marketing team, and I’ve since made about £80,000 off that one phone call.”

Freelance copywriter Laurence Blume tells a similar story. “I got a call from a slightly disorganized small retailer,” he recalls. “He wasn’t clear about what was needed. He clearly wasn’t a big player. But he was friendly and engaging. And even though I didn’t expect anything to happen, 17 years later, and under different owners, this business is still my client.”

Likewise, saying yes to something small can sometimes lead to something big. Brand designer Ozan Karakoc says, “One of my best clients today contacted me about a very small project eight years ago. It was an email invitation to an internal employee appreciation event. I was busy with other projects and could easily I said ‘no’. Instead, I said ‘yes’ and created five alternatives.”

Sometimes a dream client doesn’t seem like that at first glance. Therefore, it is important to remain humble and open. Because what may seem unpredictable at first, well… may turn out to be worth persevering with.

5. Share personal projects

Personal projects are fun, a way to cope, and a great way to expand your creative horizons beyond normal client work. Plus, sharing them can often end up landing customers who wouldn’t have discovered you otherwise.

Creative director, photographer and filmmaker Xavier Portela has found his best clients this way, he says. “Personal projects can show your creative range and style and attract clients who are looking for something unique,” she points out.

Illustrator Dave Flanagan has also learned this lesson. “In lockdown, I panicked, thinking I wouldn’t get another illustration commission,” he recalls. “So I decided to try something brand new and mocked it up as a Nike ad. I posted it on Twitter. And I got an email the next day inviting me to work on murals for the LeBron Nike Innovation Center at Nike headquarters.” So his advice to others is, appropriately enough: “Just do it!”

Illustrator Tim Easley agrees. “All of my most interesting commissions have been through someone following me on socials, seeing some personal work I’ve done, and asking for something similar for their brand,” he says.

6. Follow what makes you happy

If there’s a theme that runs through these stories, it’s best summed up by designer Stanley Vaganov. “Do what makes you truly happy because it will produce the best results,” she advises.

He explains how a dream client came to his studio through his website form. “They wanted a range of services, and we kept saying no to most of them. They escalated and said, ‘Why don’t you offer all these services that your competitors offer?’ I said, ‘Honestly, because it doesn’t bring us joy. We love to do this one thing, and you will get the best out of it because of the love. Then you can hire everyone else to do the other stuff.”

“They loved that idea and it was the best experience with the client. Because we recognized our love of things, we’re experts, and we left the noise out of it, which resulted in some amazing results.”

Form Play Animation add this timeless tip to the list: “Share the style work you want to be hired for. Clients often mention our films on Instagram as featured style direction, which leads to our best commissions. For us, these Short animations are often better at generating new business than our work on big brands.”

Artist and illustrator Carina Lindmeier adds: “Always be open and kind to people. Doing the work is one thing, but being a good person to work with is the best.”

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