Five foolproof steps to getting projects you actually want to work on

5 foolproof steps to getting projects you actually want to work on

A few days ago I was flipping through my calendar and all of a sudden it hit me : I've officially been running my own web design/development business for over a year now. Wow, what a feat! 

It's a depressing fact that most businesses fail yet so far, I've been successful and I'm proud to say that I plan to keep it that way.

My business has been successful thanks to a combination of luck, hard work, perseverance and a willingness to approach my business strategically.

Here's the thing, though. A lot of it is replicable which means that YOU can start or grow your web design/development business too!

Being in business is great but how awesome is would it be to work on projects that you actually LOVE? You don't have to take any old project out there just to pay the bills, it is possible to do work that you like and get paid for it.

This article is going to walk you through the five foolproof steps that I use to get the web design/development projects I actually want to work on. By following these steps, I am confident that you can do the same! It's not rocket science but it will take time and effort. But trust me, it's worth it.

I created a free guide to go along with this article to make it even more actionable - I want you to secure your dream clients right away! To get the guide, simply enter your email address below and it'll be sent straight to your inbox. It might take you half an hour of real effort to fill out the guide properly but that's worth it, don't you think?

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This free workbook will walk you through the 5 steps to take to get the projects you actually want to work on!

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5 steps to getting the projects you want to work on

1. Market yourself

Ahhhh, self-promotion and image control. While these traits are often associated with famous actors and business sharks, the fact is that they are necessary steps to starting and growing your business, no matter the industry.

If you want to make it as a web designer/developer (or any other type of small business, really), you MUST control how you're searched online. When someone Googles you or your business name, what comes up? Give it a try right now and take a look at the results.

The first results should be:

  • your website (personal or business)
  • your social media handles (public profiles like Twitter and LinkedIn should be given extra attention) 

The goal is to market yourself by highlighting the work you can do (e.g., your skill set). This should clearly outline how you can help other businesses - primarily your ideal customer - but make sure to also identify the type of future work you're interested in.

2. Scope out the competition

Would you believe me if I told you that a little competition is a good thing?

For one, it means that there's demand for your services/product and it's always good to see that an idea is proven already. Competition also means that you have room to go in and make it better. Perhaps you can offer a stronger service/product or by set yourself apart in another way (e.g., top notch customer service or quick turnaround time).

Now's the time to indulge in some shameless digital digging to scope out the competition.

This can be by doing a simple Google search like "[your city] + web designer/developer" or by looking specifically on sites like LinkedIn or Instagram for real life professionals in the field.

Once you've found the names of a few individuals or businesses who are already doing the kind of work you want to do, consider the following questions:

  • Who is the competition?
  • Who is successfully securing clients? (i.e., who has a robust portfolio)
  • What are they including in their portfolios?
  • How are they marketing themselves?
  • Do they have a newsletter?
  • Do they promote their businesses on social media? How?
  • Are their prices clearly outlined on their websites if they offer a service? How have they priced their products?

Go ahead and research the heck out of them and their businesses. 

Note: the goal here is not to copy what you see others doing online. Instead, the "competition research stage" should be used to gather information about what successful people are doing (or NOT doing) with their businesses. Better yet, try to figure out WHY they're doing what they're doing so that you can understand the strategy behind those decisions.

3. Get experience

Let's say that you want to start a web design/development business. You have the skills and you've successfully built a few websites but now you want to make a business out of it. Yippee! When you're starting out, your goal should be to get experience and build up your portfolio.

Start by reaching out to three (3) friends, family members, local business owners, etc. and offer your services in exchange for a portfolio feature and testimonial. Bonus points if these projects are in your ideal market!

Do the work at 100% (duh) and create something that thrills your new clients. Once they've seen your job well done, they'll be happy to provide you with a testimonial and you can include the project in your portfolio. That's what they call a win-win. 

Note: The goal here should be to get experience working with your ideal client, or as close to them as possible. This might mean that you have to sacrifice on pricing in the short term in order to secure ideal projects at full price in the long term, but that's not always the case. Some people will do "experience work" for free or for a reduced cost, but others prefer to propose the full cost - it's totally up to you.

4. Start pitching

Once you've got three projects under your belt that highlight the work you have done or could do for your ideal client, it's time to start pitching! Pitching your products/services to potential clients can be done through email, by phone, in person, whatever. No matter how you do it, pitching is essential for getting more projects that you want to work on.

You know that saying "if you build it, they will come"? This isn't necessarily true in business because most of the time, you need to get the word out about your offerings in order to start bringing in money.

If pitching your work stresses you out, remember the famous Wayne Gretzky quote "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take". The worst that can happen is that someone will decline your pitch but more often than not, you'll either get no reply or a request for more information! Personally, I love this stage but for others, it can be stressful.

When it comes to pitching, some people follow the "10 before 10" rule to stay on top of this stage but you can pitch at the frequency that works best for you.

Remember that the best pitches highlight to potential clients how you can help THEM, either through your products or services. Consider what your potential client's biggest problem is right now and identify how you can solve that for them. Everyone is looking for a quick win so your pitches should always touch on that for best results.

Being the solution to someone's problem is how you'll turn those cold emails into clients. Don't just summarize your skills or experience because they might not understand how that applies to them. Instead, follow a basic formula like this:

  • [your skills] can be used to [project for client] which leads to [result for client]

Highlight the work you've done in that industry/related clients already so that the people you're pitching to know that you can back up your proposition. By showing that you're familiar with their type of business, you'll be more likely to get a reply or an inquiry for more information.

Note: when it comes to cold pitching, you will strike out. Know this ahead of time and try not to stress out about it! Yes, there's strategy in the pitch but often times it comes down to numbers : pitches sent out >>> replies and clients booked/products purchased.

5. Niche down

One of the best pieces of advice I received when starting my business was that you should never try to be the answer to everyone's problem. 

What does this mean? It means picking a niche and focus on being the "go-to" person in that industry or for that specific type of project.

In order to get the type of projects you want to work on, you should aim for a mix of big name projects (since those will help you pick up more projects in the future, thanks to the name recognition) AND smaller projects (where you'll have more freedom to experiment and expand your skill set).

If your goal is to design websites for creative entrepreneurs, for example, it wouldn't make sense to send out pitches and accept work from clients in an unrelated industry (like financial services or a health clinic). In my case, I prefer working with small professional businesses so I focus on building my name and experience in specific industries under that umbrella. This means that I might choose to turn down work if it doesn't help my end game, or at the very least I might not include it in my portfolio if I choose to accept that work. 

Final thoughts

Getting the type of work you want is totally possible if you go about your business systematically and strategically. I know that these steps work because I followed them successfully myself and have grown my web design/development business in a focused way! You can do the same, I promise. 

If you haven't done so already, be sure to grab the free workbook I created to go along with this article. You can get this in the box below. Feel free to print out the workbook, write down your notes and brainstorming ideas, and come back it it at any time when you need a little extra motivation.


This free workbook will walk you through the 5 steps to take to get the projects you actually want to work on!

No spam, ever. Powered by ConvertKit

Now it's your turn to tell me, what are your ideal projects? What type of clients are you dying to work with? How do you plan to get more projects that tickle your fancy? I'd love to know so leave me a note in the comments!

Interested in learning more about what it takes to get a website up and running? My free 7 day e-course will walk you through everything you need to know. Sign up for it today!