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  1. #1
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    building a portfolio

    How did you get your first clients. I need to create some websites for free to develop a portfolio.

    How did you approach yor first businesses?

    Today I made a list of businesses I would like to design/redesign and visited them in person. Only one was interested.

    I think it would be better to call them instead if only to be able to reach more of them.

    Thanks.

  2. #2
    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    Before I get lambasted with the glory of the cold call, let me say that I once owned a brick and mortar business. When a business is open, that means the proprietor is focused towards making money, not spending it. In fact, many businesses have a "no solicitiation" sign clearly posted on their front door for this exact reason.

    One of my pet peeves was the off-the-street solicitor. I don't mean to be harsh, but I felt that it was arrogant of someone to come into my place of business and expect me to divert my attention away from my customers to listen to their spiel. Moreover, my first impression was that they didn't care a rip about my business needs -- only theirs.

    In short, not a good first impression and first impressions are most of the ball game.

    Send prospects an introductory letter. Summarize your services and enclose your business card. Tell them that you will follow up with a phone call to set a time when it is convenient for them to hear the details of your services.

    Then do EXACTLY that. Follow up with a phone call. I think a good time for most folks is just before hours or shortly after they are open for business. Keep it short. Reintroduce yourself. Set the appointment. Close by thanking them for their time, whether or not you get an appointment to meet with them.

    When setting an appointment, ask them when would be a good time to meet. Morning, afternoon, or over lunch. Ask them what day of the week is best. If you suggest a day, suggest Monday or Tuesday since Mondays and Tuesdays are "slower" days for many businesses.

    If you want to succeed in your business, the first step is showing your prospects that you are genuinely interested in their business success.
    Linda Jenkinson
    "Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don't say it mean." ~Unknown

  3. #3
    SitePoint Member adamquaile's Avatar
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    Thumbs up contests

    There's a paid contests section on this site at http://contests.sitepoint.com that's good for picking up clients but it'll be a waste of time if you don't win any.

    I'm in a similar position to you, and that's what i'm doing right now

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    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    By the way... I also sold real estate for six years. My best success with a follow up phone call was when I introduced myself and asked "Do you have a minute now or when would be a better time to call?" Generally the response was much more cordial than if I just said "I wrote you a letter last week blah, blah, blah,..."

    1. They can tell you now's a good time.
    2. They can tell you when a better time would be.
    3. They can tell you they just aren't interested which saves your time as well as theirs.
    Linda Jenkinson
    "Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don't say it mean." ~Unknown

  5. #5
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    I was providing a service for free so I don't know how I would be more concerned for their business. I made that clear upfront.

    The most common reaction I found was that they were satisfied with their current site and did not want to explore any further options.

    I found that in this situation I did not have any counter points to present since I did not have any examples or results.

    Initially I would like to produce 10 sites for a portfolio. Free of charge.

    My intention is that if I have done an example site for a business in one category (and it has done well), I can give that as proof to other businesses in the same category.

    One thing I noticed is that some businesses have registered a domain but the site is down or suspended by the ISP. They usually have another year left on their registration and I can offer to reactivate their site since they already have expressed an interest in having a website. Free again.

    Also I see some companies doing expensive direct-mail campaigns that do not have a website which seems like folly.

  6. #6
    SitePoint Evangelist Unit7285's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by drakke
    I was providing a service for free so I don't know how I would be more concerned for their business. I made that clear upfront.

    The most common reaction I found was that they were satisfied with their current site and did not want to explore any further options.

    I found that in this situation I did not have any counter points to present since I did not have any examples or results.

    Initially I would like to produce 10 sites for a portfolio. Free of charge.
    You might get on better if you don't offer a free website. People can be suspicious of free things, especially if it's something significant like a website. It's not normal and it just doesn't 'seem right'.

    It might be better to design, write and build a couple of showcase websites for imaginary businesses and use these as your portfolio. You will not be pretending they are real businesses - you'll explain to your prospects these are examples of the high standard of work you're capable of. It's the next best thing to showing real projects. In some ways it's even better, because you can really go to town and do a great job without being constrained by a real life client's horrible logo, nasty corporate colour scheme or strange demands, for example. Plus you get to choose the business type.

    Then offer your prospect a website for a very good value price, not so high that price will be an objection but not so low that it seems unrealistically cheap. That way you're more likely to get the real life project you want for your portfolio while making some money at the same time.

    However you go about your sales prospecting, whether it's cold calling in person, cold calling by phone or targeted direct mail (ie. phone to identify decision maker's name, then send letter, then follow up with phone call) it's a question of numbers. You have to contact a lot of people, probably more than you were expecting, before you get some response. The more you do it, the easier it will get.

    One old saying that's often used to ward off despair goes something like: 'The more people who say No, the closer you get to the person who'll say Yes'. It's not a lot of comfort at the time, but there is some truth to it!

    Paul

  7. #7
    SitePoint Enthusiast mile-jerkovic's Avatar
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    Hi drakke!

    I would also suggest against doing things for free - in B2B that's just bad reasoning - company that is interested in having a website would rather pay for a good one, then have a free website that could harm them (or spend their time and effort with no results).

    I was in your position few years back, and started by making websites for taekwondo school I was going to and some other non-profit organisations (for free), and they were grateful - few months after, people envolved in that organisations who also had their private businesses wanted me to build websites for them, for a price .
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  8. #8
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy
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    I initially built a portfolio simply by creating my own web sites. They were genuine sites, mostly hobby sites, but this gave me several active web sites which could show case my various skills, along with detailed case studies.

    I then set about getting good rankings in Google for local searches ('web design city name') and within 3 months had another 3 third party web sites under my belt. I moved on from there, gradually attracting slightly more complex projects and gradually building a decent portfolio.

    I'll admit that I did my fair share of blagging, and at the beginning didn't openly admit that most of my portfolio consisted of my own sites (but didn't lie about it when asked directly).

    I would never do a site for free, even for charity - people rarely appreciate something they don't pay for, and will usually expect freebies for life and can be more demanding than most paying customers (i have scars from charity work to prove this). And as someone else mentioned, people can be quite suspicious of freebies.

    I would also not suggest simply turning up unannounced on business's door steps. It doesn't matter if you aren't charging anything (they'll probably not believe you anyway) - you are disturbing them in just about the most intrusive way possible; at least if you ring they can hang up on you!

  9. #9
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    I created 12 test sites and sent them along to the one company that was interested. But it may be just better to flesh them out and add more content structure. And it will be quicker as well.

    Quote Originally Posted by shadowbox
    I then set about getting good rankings in Google for local searches ('web design city name')
    Did your customers search the internet to locate you?

  10. #10
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy
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    Quote Originally Posted by drakke
    Did your customers search the internet to locate you?
    Yes. I'm currently top5 for most local key phrases and get up to 20 referrals a day from local businesses searching on those types of phrases. Yuo canalso look at PPC.

  11. #11
    SitePoint Wizard silver trophy
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    Quote Originally Posted by drakke
    I need to create some websites for free to develop a portfolio.
    That's just silly. For free?

    Seriously, I just called up people I knew. My first website was for an attorney who is a family friend. I think I made about $900 on the design (simple 5 page website) back in 1999, which was about $2000 less than was probably average at the time.

    But there was no way I was working for free...

    Now, if you want to make yourself a website for free - go ahead! Make several. But I've found pro-bono work to be the worst kind. You'd be shocked at how demanding people are when they're getting something for free. They can get downright rude. Don't take my word for it - do some pro-bono work for a charity and find out for yourself.

    Now, if I'm in a giving mood I give some money. I save my time for paying clients.

  12. #12
    SitePoint Addict MBScott's Avatar
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    Brandon said:

    Now, if you want to make yourself a website for free - go ahead! Make several. But I've found pro-bono work to be the worst kind. You'd be shocked at how demanding people are when they're getting something for free. They can get downright rude. Don't take my word for it - do some pro-bono work for a charity and find out for yourself.
    And he ain't kiddin'!!! I did a CMS for my church and you can't beeeelieve how awful they are to work with.

    Sheesh.

    Don't work for free.

  13. #13
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    I think I will avoid free designs as a marketing technique.

    A few design companies create directories on certain industry sectors (ie. travel agencies in a city X, hair salon in city Y) and list the particulars of all the businesses for free.

    The intention is that this would be a good way to let them know about your services without an explicit proposition.

    Is this an effective marketing technique?

    I have seen quite a few of these and they usually aren't really useful as they don't give any more information other than name/address and a website link.

    Thanks

  14. #14
    SitePoint Evangelist Unit7285's Avatar
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    Stick to the basics. Just contact people directly (by whatever method) and ask if they would like to discuss a website. The more people you ask the more business you will get. It's the quickest way to get new business when you're starting out (apart from friends/family referrals, of course).

    I can't see how the directory idea would help sales.


    Paul

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    Is emailing a prospect thought of as spam? I thought so until I read this article.

    If I do an evaluation of a company's website and sent it to them with a personalized email, would that be considered intrusive?

  16. #16
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy
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    Quote Originally Posted by drakke
    Is emailing a prospect thought of as spam? I thought so until I read this article.

    If I do an evaluation of a company's website and sent it to them with a personalized email, would that be considered intrusive?
    Any form of initial contact runs the risk of being seen as intrusive, that's just the nature of the beast. As for an email being classed as spam, this will depend on your country's laws, but as this is a business-to-business email, you'll probably be fine - I'd recommend you state it's a one off communication - but check out Canada's spam laws to see what they say.


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