Networking is an extremely effective means for a freelance web designer to meet potential clients and people who can introduce you to potential clients. Networking happens in many settings, both formal and informal, and here are some ideas to get you started.
Friends and family
Make sure the people you already know are aware of your expertise as a freelance web designer. While actually working with friends and family can be precarious (they always want a discount, what if the don’t pay?), they may have friends who own a business and need a website. Don’t be afraid to talk about what you do, and always ask for referrals.
Associations and clubs
joining your local Chamber of Commerce or Rotary Club may sound old-school, but actively attending their functions will ensure that leaders in your community know who you are and what you do: freelance web design. Go to the luncheons and seminars, introduce yourself, pass out cards and be sure to get cards from others. Always listen more than you talk, and always send prompt follow-up emails to remind people that you’ve met. Something simple always works: “Hi Jan, it was great to meet you at the chamber event yesterday. I’d love to do lunch sometime to hear more about your business. How’s next Thursday?” Always include your portfolio’s URL in your email signature along with your phone number and Twitter handle.
AIGA and AAF
The American Institute of Graphic Artists and the American Advertising Federation both have local chapters where industry types meet to learn and network. If you want a shot at the bigger agency clients, join these groups and attend their events. Find the art directors and introduce yourself. Take them to lunch. Getting to know design leaders is the key to getting your foot in the door as a web design freelancer at ad agencies and design firms.