You want to get started in the web design business but in order to get clients everyone tells you to put together a portfolio of your work.  But in order to do that you need to have some work to show off. But you can’t get work without clients.

It is a classic chicken and egg conundrum. So how do you get started as a designer, and get your first clients?

Like this:

Know your goal

Your goal is to get clients, not make money.  This gives new entrants an advantage because there are loads of potential clients who need help with simple website design and management, fan and capture pages, and a host of other design based services.  Many buyers are short on cash but are more than happy to sing your praises for a job well done – and right now, that’s all you need. When we first started out, we bet our company on giving our services away for free, a strategy that resulted in a boost in profits of over 300%.

Use your list

Yes, you have one – most people these days do and it is called social media.  Whether it is your friends list on Facebook or your followers on Twitter or Google+, you have a powerful marketing tool at your fingertips.  The odds are that either your friends or one of their friends needs your services.  Let people know that you are open for business and looking for new work.  Friends refer friends.  It’s how it works.

Get to an online marketplace

There are several online marketplaces and some will be a better fit than others.  Some will let you post your own ads, others have you bid against other sellers.  Make an attractive offer and you will get work – in the online world money talks and people are always looking for a good deal, which makes it just like the off-line world, only less touchy-feely.

Think local

Many local businesses, charities, and schools want to improve their web presence but lack the knowledge – and the funds – to make it happen. A sales letter, delivered in person or by email, along with a few samples of your design capabilities (you can always build a couple of your own websites for this), and an offer to work for feedback, and you will soon have some excellent additions to your portfolio.

Focus on the customer

In any business, it pays to focus on the needs of your client.  This is especially true of designers starting out. Business is based on relationships and the best relationships are based on trust, communication and responsiveness.  If you can respond to the needs of your client, you will quickly move from novice to veteran.

As your portfolio grows, so will your confidence.  In no time at all you’ll have all the tools you need to start bidding on bigger contracts and investing in more advanced marketing.  Not only that, you will have a steady flow of repeat and referral business.

And that is egg-sactly where you want to be.