How to Get Graphic Design Clients for Your Freelance Business

Want to make the most of word-of-mouth marketing? ReferralCandy explains how to leverage recommendations to drive referrals.

How to Get More Graphic Design Clients
Portrait for Raul GaleraBy Raul Galera  |  Updated May 10, 2023

In our modern, hyper-competitive global marketplace, it’s easy to ignore the one thing that supersedes others when it comes to winning more business and attracting clients. It’s not your LinkedIn profile, Google PageRank, or even a fancy website – it’s word-of-mouth marketing. Read on to find out how to use referrals to get graphic design clients for your freelance business.

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What Is Word-of-Mouth Marketing?

Word-of-mouth Marketing by @RyanL on Twenty20

Word-of-mouth can more effective than any other advertising method, and may even be the reason prospects search out your business in the first place. When a prospect is referred to you by a person they trust, the likelihood of you acquiring that project or job increases.

Personal recommendations from clients you work with are very powerful. This is why even the world’s biggest brands – including Tesla, PayPal, and Dropbox – have all used referrals to boost their business.

It’s a lot easier to sell your services to a client if they get a recommendation from a satisfied customer. In fact, 75% of freelancers report that word-of-mouth and referrals are the most effective ways for discovering and closing new business.

But how can you be proactive about getting your satisfied clients to recommend your services to their friends and family? Do you simply ask them? For many freelancers, the thought of asking clients for referrals can be daunting. So, instead of asking them directly, you can create a system around acquiring referrals to close the loop.

Ready to get those word-of-mouth referrals pouring in? Here’s how… 

1. Request Referrals

After you’ve worked with a new client on a first project or contract, it can be useful to send them a feedback form. You can do this yourself or by using your favorite email marketing platform to automate the delivery.

In the feedback form, prompt them to let you know if there’s anything about your services that requires improvement. If they’re happy – and willing to share their experience – you can use their answers as testimonials.

Here are some questions you can ask:

  • What aspect of my service do you like the most? 
  • What outcomes or milestones has my service helped you to achieve in your business?
  • What aspect of my service do you think needs improvement? 

You can use the feedback form to secure further opportunities by including the following “magic request”:

  • How willing would you be to recommend my services to a friend or colleague that might need them?

Remember that providing good customer service to your clients is a great way to get more referrals from them. In fact, happy clients are 5x more likely to recommend you to their friends and family.

If your client expresses that they’ve had a positive experience with your business, you can send them a follow up email request for advocacy using the following template:

Hi [Your Client’s Name],

Before I get into the reason for sending you this email, I would like to express my appreciation for taking the time to give such amazing feedback.

You stated that you were pleased with my services [insert the positive feedback here], and that my services helped you to achieve [insert the business outcomes/milestones here]. 

You also indicated that you were very willing to recommend my services to others where relevant.

Is there anyone you’d recommend me to right now / who may be interested in hearing from me?


[Your Name]

Provide An Incentive

Motivating your clients to recommend you to their network or leave a positive review goes a long way. Since referring you to their network is a much more demanding task than writing reviews, motivation seems to play an important role here. You need to figure out what motivates your clients, and offer them incentives to increase the likelihood of referrals. Providing them with a discount on their next project could be a good motivating factor. 

2. Create Free or Shareable Content

If you want a direct way of acquiring referrals, then providing a free shareable report to satisfied clients might be the marketing approach for you. 

Think of your free shareable report as a combination of a case study and a free eBook. The report will contain an overview of why a business may require your services and how to use them, as well as showcase the results or numbers that you’ve helped your previous clients achieve.

Your report should be engaging, informative and not too salesy. For instance, here are a few topic ideas to use if you offer freelancing content services:

And here’s some tips on how to ensure your report is valuable for potential clients:

  • Display the positive results you’ve achieved with your current or previous clients. If you can quote numbers, testimonials, or any other concrete results from your work with satisfied clients, shout it from the rooftops!
  • Use relevant and relatable statistics from platforms like Econsultancy, Hubspot, and other respected sources to support the points that you make in the report.
  • Aadd a call-to-action at the very end so prospects can reach out to you. Your content will act as a first step towards building a strong customer relationship with your client, so make sure you pay attention to every detail. 
  • When you send the report to your clients, ensure that you encourage them to share the report if they find it useful. You can use a report builder for an appealing visual report. And if you’re not sure where to start with reaching out, it can be helpful to use an email template

3. Build Trust

Before trying to generate referrals for your freelance business, it’s incredibly important to first build trust with your existing clients.

You can’t ask people for referrals if they know nothing about you, or if they don’t know if they can trust you or your services. You must first show them that you are worthy of their respect, and that they can rest assured that if they recommend you or your business to someone they know, that person will receive the best possible service. 

Your goal shouldn’t be to convince your clients about why they should refer you to their family and friends and colleagues, but to encourage them to recommend you based on their experience. 

So how do you build trust with your existing clients? You can earn the praise and trust of your clients by consistently offering value, always delivering high-quality jobs, demonstrating your expertise (e.g. hosting webinars or publishing blogs). If you build trust, clients will be more than willing to talk about their positive experience of working with you. 

The result of this is that you become a part of the referral’s customer life cycle from the onset. By offering value and demonstrating measurable results, you may not even have to ask to be referred – the client might do it organically.

By preparing yourself using the foolproof methods listed above – such as using the Magic Request, providing a shareable report and building trust – there will be no room for fear. Using these easy systems to verify client satisfaction and encourage client recommendations, you’ll be acquiring plenty of referrals in no time. 

To Wrap Up… 

Generating referrals for your freelance service isn’t a big deal if you know how to go about it. As long as you can get over the hurdle of asking your clients for a recommendation, it’s all uphill from there. 

Want more resources on growing your freelance business? Check out Envato’s freelance guide, our top tips on how to succeed as a freelance graphic designer, and how to create a killer portfolio .

Guest Author: Raúl Galera

Raúl Galera is the Chief Advocate at ReferralCandy, an app that allows ecommerce brands to set up and run customer referral programs. ReferralCandy is the leading platform in terms of referral marketing for ecommerce brands. Founded over 10 years ago, ReferralCandy has helped over 30,000 brands leverage the power of word-of-mouth and turn their customer base into their marketing team. Raúl has been leading ReferralCandy’s partnership efforts for the past five years, working alongside marketing agencies, media and tech companies.

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