How to acquire clients for a new web design business focusing on Flash design?
March 16, 2004 9:29 PM   Subscribe

I want to start a web design business focusing primarily on Flash design, but I need some tips on how to acquire clients. [More Inside]

It has always been a dream of mine to start my own web development firm, and I am finally going for it. I have tried freelance web sites such as with little luck in the past. The few projects where my bid actually won were completed at hardly any profit, and did little more than to improve my résumé. My new strategy has been to seek partnerships with successful design firms, offering them 25% of the cost of any project I complete, simply for the referral (I will extend this offer to anyone, including the MeFi community, by the way). Although I have e-mailed a few dozen firms, I have received little response so far. One advantage I think I have is that I am willing to take on small projects that wouldn't be worthwhile for a larger firm. Projects in the $500.00 range are ideal, but I will take less just to get the work. Is all of this a waste of time? Are all of these jobs being shipped out to India and other places, or are there still ways to find work? How does one go about getting big name clients?
posted by banished to Grab Bag (6 answers total)
Have you considered just working for someone else's company? It's no boom time or nothing, but there are still jobs out there (well, possibly not depending on where you're living).
It's a good way to build up your portfolio/resume with larger clients than you could otherwise land on your own...
posted by juv3nal at 1:40 AM on March 17, 2004

1. Put your Flash portfolio on a laptop.
2. Identify the largest businesses in your area that do not have a web presence.
3. Develop a web-marketing strategy for those businesses.

4. Then, hit the pavement.

Also, do some volunteer Flash for local charities. These are generally chaired by successful business leaders. Leverage your network.
posted by mischief at 4:46 AM on March 17, 2004

speaking of leveraging your network...

get involved! i'm starting an analytics company (fancy way of saying business consultancy...i'm hoping it'll set me apart) and i'm going to try to go to where the money is.

just saturday i went to a charity ball, handed out some cards, and i'm thinking of joining the chamber of commerce. i also plan on posting my cards places, and i'm thinking about hitting gallery openings and boating events.

pounding the pavement is tried and'll have a better time of it because you have something to show... you're selling SOMETHING. i'm selling myself, and my services, and i don't really have anything to show.
posted by taumeson at 7:12 AM on March 17, 2004

Go right now and buy, The Business Side of Creativity it helps a lot. I tried this, during the Internet boom and it is really, really hard to penetrate the market. From my experience in my area (KCMO), most web design for small businesses are done by marketing firms. It's a roll-in type thing (brochures, web site, etc.). The only reason this wouldn't be the case is usually if the small busienss wanted an e-commerce or specialized application. Larger businesses go after the big boys which you won't be able to compete with.

Be aware of the legal issues and such presented in the book. One of the biggest obstacle in my foray was that people usually like ugly things. They don't want anything progressive like that presented by high-end design firms (FrogDesign, 37Signals...), they want geocities style sucky stuff. As a designer, and artist, you'll find it hard to do this. Very very hard to put your name to something you think is sucky. Also I had to deal with a client who kept changing his mind everytime I completed the site. He kept wanting redesign, after redesign. Finally after one I said send me the bill. I thought everything was completed until he said he wanted significant changes again. I said no. He yelled. Never talked to him again, at least I got paid. But that's the kind of stuff you're going to have to deal with. I was too young and naive to see a lawyer or anything. I suggest consulting with a lawyer that knows about IP and such, getting a contract and going through all possible incarnations of what could go wrong.

Now I had a limited experience that was before the bust, so it may be completely different. Just make sure you get the book and know the legal implications. Because as hard as getting clients is, getting good clients and making sure everything in the business relationship is smooth is just as important.

Realize as a web designer you're an artist. You're presenting information and it can be beautiful or kid-with-frontpage-ugly, a lot of times uninformed clients will want the ugly. Especially those on the lower end you're looking for. Realize you may have to sacrifice your artistic side for business purposes and that not everyone likes good design. Don't take it personally. I got fed up with being forced to design crappy sites, not being able to be apart of the creative process and eventually moved on.
posted by geoff. at 10:56 AM on March 17, 2004

If you're interested in lots of small projects, as you said in your FPP, then you should start looking in the Web Design jobs section of Craigslist.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:50 AM on March 17, 2004

I'm going to second geoff here. You will be amazed at the ugly stuff clients want. Most clients in the $500.00 range want stuff that looks like Front Page. I'm not kidding when I tell you that I won't list a lot of the sites I've done because I'm embarrassed by what the client wanted...even when much prettier and more functional designs were shown. Cheap clients are stuck in 1995 design mode, I swear it.

If want you want to be doing is Flash, you might be better off, financially at least, by subcontracting to ad agencies and marketing firms. Selling flash to people who don't have a website is a tough sell.

Good luck! I hope you do very well. :)
posted by dejah420 at 6:50 PM on March 17, 2004

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