How to Sell Graphic Design Services

You’re a graphic designer. You are good at what you do. You know there’s a need for your skills in the digital marketing world. The problem is that you don’t know how to “sell” your services. 

Maybe your sales process is a bit haphazard or unpredictable. Maybe it’s unproductive. Maybe you don’t have a process at all because you don’t even know where to begin. This video will give you a streamlined baseline for thinking about selling your graphic design services so you can do it more effectively. 

So, how do you sell web design services? First, you must know the experience level of your potential client. Second, set your pricing according to the business problem your prospective client is facing. Third, develop a sales process that allows your prospective client to make the decision quickly and confidently. 

The article below provides the outline you need to sell graphic design services effectively. Let’s begin.

[Download] Graphic Designer's Client-Approval Cheatsheet
Your client should not be able to wipe away weeks (or months!) of your work with a single "I don't like it." --> Download: Graphic Design Client Approval Cheatsheet

How Can I Promote My Graphic Design Business?

Let's start at the beginning: What is the most effective sales strategy for graphic design services? How should you be thinking? 

I think there are two important points here.

  1. The first is to remember that the person that buys your graphic design services is, in fact, a person. There's an actual human being looking to make this buying decision. That person can reflect a variety of ages, genders, social status, and interests, but at the end of the day, it is a person trying to make a buying decision. Any information you offer is designed to help this person make that buying decision as quickly and as safely as possible.
  2. The second major point is to remember that your best client is doing digital marketing already. There's some level of web presence that exists, and they're trying to optimize that web presence. 

So to think about that for a second, your best client might be: 

  • in the content business, like Shutterstock, a site that uses, posts, and manages thousands of images each day.
  • in the e-commerce business, like Nike, selling thousands of skews every single day. 
  • in the software business, offering different kinds of apps and downloads and software tools. 
  • running a membership site, with the majority of their offering, the majority of their interaction with clients, behind a paywall. 

Your best client may operate in one of these models or some hybrid of these models. But the point is that your best client already has an existing web presence, and they want you to help them better optimize, to get even more value from that presence.

Marketing Graphic Design Services to Potential Clients

What do these clients need? What might they be looking to buy? Let's put them in three categories here.

  1. Beginner. The beginning client already has an existing client base, but their web presence may not be integrated into how commerce is typically done, so they may use the phrase, “We want to put ourselves out there.” They're trying to use their online marketing to push beyond their normal community, their normal physical location, their established organic opportunities.

    So for them a design update means expanded reach. The beginning client knows that their digital marketing doesn't have the design quality they need, and they're willing to make the initial investment. It becomes your job to quantify what that core investment needs to be and what to expect from that initial investment of time, energy, and money.

  2. Intermediate. The intermediate person has most likely made an initial investment, but it was an imperfect investment. They have some basic graphics and an overall design, and it more or less works. But it could be better. There is probably some version of a break/fix that needs to happen in their world.

    Someone needs to look at the website, look at the design, and fix what’s broken so it is more appealing and can attract more clients. Do you know what I mean? The immediate person more or less is looking for a break/fix solution.

  3. Advanced. The advanced client is looking for a top-of-the-line design for greater results. They already have a pretty good design. It works and they know it works, but now they want it to be even better. And they have metrics in place to measure engagement and conversion. So they start using terms like ROI (return on investment) or ROAS (return on ad spend).

    They're comfortable spending money, and they know they may have to make a significant investment, but there's a way that they measure the investment when it comes back. And so you've got to be willing to look at their situation, see what has the most opportunity for return on it, make the improvement and measure the return.

Don’t Make This Classic Mistake! 

There's an important point that I have to call out here, a classic mistake that we make when we sell digital marketing-related services: It's important to sell to the sold, not to the stubborn. What you want to do is sell to people who are already doing some digital marketing and understand the value of good design. 

The mistake that we make as experts is that we see the opportunity—if a company would just do this, if a client would just do that—and so we begin to “evangelize” to clients. The trouble is that the person you’re selling to hasn't already understood for themselves that an opportunity is present. 

If you're selling to stubborn people, that means you have to convince them that investing in top-quality design is a good idea. And if you have to convince them, that's heavy lifting on your part, and if you have to convince them, then they don't pay the premium for it.

You want people who are already sold on the idea that having well-designed marketing pieces is a good idea, that design investments are profitable investments, and that if they invest with you, they can see a compounded return on their effort. You want to sell the people who are already sold. Be careful of becoming an “evangelist” and selling to people who are stubborn.

How Do I Price My Graphic Design Services?

The basic framing of hourly work, project-based work, and retainer-based work is always sound and will always be appropriate. You can choose from those three, as they relate to your clientele and as they relate to your company.

Let's look at pricing on a per-hour basis. Here’s a rate calculator that can help us. What is the average per-hour fee for a web-based graphic designer with three to five years of experience? You can see that the vast majority of services are sold for between $40 and $140. That's quite a spread. 

You can sell for more than that if you choose. You can sell for less than that if you choose. But you get an idea of where the sweet spot is for how the pricing of graphic design services is typically structured. If you’re charging by the hour, it'll fit somewhere along this scale, typically in between $40 and $140 per hour.

Now let's talk about why that price range might exist. If you want to charge more for your services, make the prices go up, what do you have to do? 

  1. Scope: You’ve got to be willing to take on more scope. These could be simpler projects, just done on a larger scale. So instead of designing one content piece or 10 content pieces, maybe you are designing a hundred or 500 content pieces. Larger scope allows you to drive the price up. 
  2. Complexity: If you want to drive the price up, you’ve got to take on more complexity. Maybe you're working with fewer pieces of content, but the design is very intricate or the fonts are challenging to work with. Those things make a project more complex, and that allows you to turn the price of your services up.
  3. Opportunity: Another element that allows you to charge more for your prices is the opportunity. That could be a matter of revenue, or it can be a matter of cost. 

If there's an opportunity in the marketplace that your client is aware of and your graphic design executions can help them acquire that opportunity well, that's worth revenue to them. That's worth more to them. On the other hand, if they know that not having well-designed marketing content could cost them money, if there's some sort of marketplace disadvantage there, the client is aware of that cost. If you're saving them from that cost, again, that allows you to turn the price up. 

So if you want to charge more for your services, be at the high end of the band, these are the kinds of things you need to deal with.

Now, what kind of things drive the price down? If the price is cheaper, why might that be the case? 

  1. Existing Branding and Templates: If your client has branding in place, if they already have fonts and a color palette, if they have templates for their content pieces, the more that they have, the easier the projects are to execute. So there's just no need for a premium to be paid if they've already paid the premium for branding.
  2. Existing Organization: Another thing that can drive the price down is if your client has an existing organization. Right now I'm talking about people. If they have specific people in place to do some of the work, if they have people who can execute basic graphic content, then they don't need as much from you. Those things help keep the price down and a bit more manageable. 

As you think about working with clients and finding a price point that makes sense, all of these options need to be considered, because at the end of the day you're trying to solve the problem facing your client. If your client has challenges that drive the price up, so be it. If your client has assets that keep the price more moderate, so be it. What’s most important is that your pricing reflects the scenario your client is experiencing.

What Are the Best Marketing Strategies for Graphic Design Services? 

If you're looking for a step-by-step process to sell your graphic design services, what might that look like? Well, the basic process begins by identifying the right people. From there you make contact, that contact leads to a conversation, and that conversation becomes a closed sale. This is pretty much how the process works. 

Now the mistake we often make is that we have the wrong attitude as we move through these steps. Let's look at how you should be thinking as you take each step.

  1. Identification: When you identify people in the marketplace who you may be able to serve, what you're looking for are problems you can solve. These are people with an existing web presence, and you can tell by looking at their website or marketing pieces that something is not 100%; the design could be improved. So there's something about their scenario that reflects a problem to you. 
  2. Contact: So when you reach out to make contact, the offer that you're making here is an offer to have a conversation. So if they have this design issue, you’re asking, “Hey, would you like to talk about it?” That’s all you're trying to do. You’re not trying to sell in this contact. You’re just trying to see if a conversation makes sense.
  3. Conversation: When you talk to that person, you are confirming that the design issues you think you’re seeing actually do exist. If you're correct, then you can move forward. If not, then you should try to understand what's really going on so you can propose the next course of action. This conversation is about confirming, not forcing their hand to move forward as a client. 
  4. Sale: When they decide to become a client, when they decide to close, then the work begins immediately. You don't introduce anything else; just get started solving the design problem that you thought existed in the first place.

Now, timeout for a brief sanity check here. I know that what you're looking at here looks really, really simple. We under-appreciate how simple and how elegant the sales process can be. 

The number one mistake that we make is we try to force people down this chain of events. We’re so focused on making our sale, hitting our numbers, getting that closed deal, that we don't leave enough space for the person on the other side to move down this process with us. So yes, this process can be quite simple, but it's really important to navigate it in a professional way so that both parties can be comfortable with the conclusion that's made in the end.

How Do I Get Graphic Design Clients? 

So if you're excited, you're focused and you want to start this process right now, what do you do? I recommend that you go with tried, true, and proven approaches. 

  1. Go with friends and family. There are people in your network who know who you are and who respect your graphic design skills. It makes sense for you to reach out to friends and family first to get your initial point of momentum.
  2. Use social media. There are people who follow you, who have connected with you, who are in your online networks, and it just makes sense to leverage those networks to help you build on that momentum. 
  3. Use freelance networks. A variety of them exist, and they're all designed to put people in front of you who are ready to make the buying decision. You can bid on that work and get numerous opportunities from Upwork and similar platforms.

Are there nuances? Yes. Are there complexities? There certainly can be. But whatever process you choose to go forward with, what’s important is the essential insight that you’re using your process to help this person make a buying decision. The easier you make the decision for this person, the faster they can say, “Yes,” and work can begin. 

[Download] Graphic Designer's Client-Approval Cheatsheet
Your client should not be able to wipe away weeks (or months!) of your work with a single "I don't like it." --> Download: Graphic Design Client Approval Cheatsheet

What Should My Graphic Design Business Model Look Like?

So you’ve figured out your pricing, you know how to pitch your offerings, and you’ve landed some clients. Now let’s talk about some of the difficulties you’ll face as you continue to market your graphic design services. 

One of the major challenges in selling creative design services is that so much of the graphic design process is subjective. The end result is subjective and the process to get there can be very subjective. How do you package high-level design services when the client can just simply say, “I don't like it”? 

In this next video I'm talking about how to package premium, creative design services in a way that respects both you and the client. Let’s look at a few examples.

Service Option: Creating a Client's Logo

A common, classic design project is creating a logo, or a mark, for a company to use in a variety of different formats. Let's start with that. 

  • Set measurable objectives. Again, you know that you’re designing something that takes the client where they want to be. One of the first things that you can do to help your client feel better and to value the experience is by being clear that it is, in fact, an experience. You know that there's a process to get them to the finished logo that they actually want, and your client has invested in that process. There are milestones already set in place that will take them where they want to go.

    You've got to make sure that you know how to measure this end result. As you set up this process, what you get to at the end must be measurable. Don't allow them to say, “I like it” or “I don't like it.” You’ve got to be clear on it: “We’ve followed our steps, this is where we want to be, and this logo accurately represents us.”

    How do you do that? We’re talking about it now.

  • Set up your process. Let's work backwards. Having a logo all by itself is not really good enough, right? The logo has to be located somewhere. If you just sent them an email with a logo attached to it, then what do they do? You've got to put it somewhere, probably on their website, for one. It makes sense that somewhere in the process you’re actually installing a logo somewhere.

    Going back a step, you're going to have to draft. Draft a few mockups, get some feedback. You have to create some examples that they can say yes to.

  • Work from core concepts. Going back further, you’ve got to get down to a core concept. They want a logo that reflects who they are and what they represent. Do you have a process that will nail your client down to a couple of core ideas? Are we talking about shapes, are we talking about animals, are we talking about more eclectic or eccentric ideas?

    As you know, any of those could be appropriate, but they can't be thinking about bears and squares at the same time. You’ve got to get them going in one direction or another. That’s your job, and your process has to get them there. If your process helps them identify some core concepts, then it's easier to move them into drafts. You know what to draft because you know what the core concepts are.

Once you’re clear here, it’s easy to put the new logo where it's supposed to be because the core concept told you where they're trying to represent themselves. If you're clear during the process, it's easier to get to a winning logo that they're happy about.

Service Option: Delivering A Rebrand

Let's do the same conversation, broader scope. Let's say you're not just doing a single logo; let's say that you're doing an entire rebrand. You're doing an entire suite of images—let's just assume that it's across their entire social media spectrum, so Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube—those are the big ones. 

  • Establish the objectives. Again, we've got to make sure that we can quantify, that we have an objective measurement at the end, so everyone can agree that we had a successful experience. If you don't have that, your client can just go, “Uh, we didn't like it,” and then it's a flat line for everyone.

    We know there's a suite of things that we're going to create. What's important here is that you think about where you’re installing it (because clearly if you just sent them an email with a bunch of links or a bunch of images for all these different social media properties, good luck with that). You know you've got to put it in those different places for the client.

    But now when you think about drafting these things that will eventually be installed, we're not just thinking about a logo. We're thinking about how that logo would look on different platforms. How to represent the company on YouTube and Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter. How about the header image? How about the smaller icon? Is there a gravatar that we're also creating? Etc., etc., etc.

  • Establish the core concepts. When you draft these things, they aren't just giving a point of view or a yes or a no on one image; they're looking at how all of those images work together to communicate what they want to communicate. It makes this part of the process even more important. If you can't nail your client down here, on the core concepts and the core places where they want to put these new marks, then the rest of this becomes complex and not as much fun.

  • Establish the process. This is the big idea here: You’re not spelling out the process just so that it reads well to your client, so your client can understand that “we do this first, that second, that third, then we get there.” Not only does that happen, but also when you implement this your client feels your methodology here.

    They'll go, “Wow, we haven't gotten that clear on our core concept in forever!” That's how you want them to feel. Then you want them to say, “Wow, you were able to create all those different marks from our conversation? That's genius.” Then you want them to say, “You can install all these things immediately? Thank you so much!”

    Now you’ve gotten to that objective place at the end where you can say, “Your suite is installed in a way that represents and reflects your company at the highest level.”

Thinking through your services in this way allows you to position yourself as the premium graphic design provider you desire to be.

Leave a Comment