How To Reach Beyond Referrals

Have you ever noticed how there seem to be three broad categories of clients for web design? There are the low-budget ($500 or less) do-it-yourself people. They are served with platforms like Wix. There are also established businesses that can afford to pay $30,000 or more with high-end marketing agencies. That leaves a rather broad middle. It seems like that would be a good audience to target as a web designer, right?

The problem is figuring out how to reach that audience. If you’re like me, you probably hold firmly to the belief that working with you is the best value for people who don’t want to build their own website but don’t have the budget for high-end agencies. Working with you means your client gets access to someone with professional skills, great customer service (you actually care), at an affordable price. It’s a vastly better experience than randomly hiring a freelancer who doesn’t know what they are doing and won’t be around for support after the site launches.

This is further proven out by the fact that if you can just get a prospect into a meeting with you, they almost always become a client. So, how do you get more prospects into meetings?

Expanding Beyond Referrals

Most web designers I talk to aren’t looking at the real problem that’s restricting their business. Most web designers correctly think that they offer a higher quality “product” and a better experience. But that’s not actually the problem. The problem is not figuring out how to deliver better value. The problem is figuring out how to expand the visibility of your web design business beyond the circle of people who know you. In other words, how do you expand your leads beyond word-of-mouth referrals?

Why Lead Generation Is So Hard

Think back to the three categories of web design clients. There are already DIY website creation platforms like Wix and Squarespace. There are also high-end digital marketing agencies catering to the more established businesses. But who is serving that middle ground?

At first glance, it might look like nobody is targeting that middle ground. Or maybe the competition is between you and overseas freelancers. To see the truth, don’t think about the target audience. Think about who you are competing against with your marketing. Who else is targeting the same audience as you?

Upwork Is Eating Everyone’s Lunch

Freelance platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, Bark, etc. are crowding out the advertising space. I was watching football over the weekend and Upwork is running ads on TV during NFL games!

The problem is not trying to create a package of web design services that is a better value than working with freelancers on Upwork. The problem is getting discovered. In other words, the problem is reaching the audience with your offer.

This is a relatively new problem but it is continually getting worse. I believe this is the end of small to mid-size web design agencies because the only way to land clients is through referrals. Referrals are inconsistent and tend to dry up over time as your new business becomes more commonplace in the minds of your social circle.

How To Get Leads – Pivot

Realizing that the real struggle is a marketing battle between you and the giant freelance platforms, the secret to winning is to pivot in a way that freelance platforms can’t.

Freelance platforms are forced to market in a generic way by offering a catalog of services.

Categories of services on

In other words, freelance communities are forced to offer services. They can’t market results because their audience is too broad. In order to talk about results, you have to know what the problem is that you’re solving. Freelance communities don’t solve business problems. They solve implementation problems.

Get What You Ask For

That means when business owners jump into a community like Upwork, they better be asking for the right stuff because they are going to get what they ask for.

In my experience, most business owners have no idea what to ask for in terms of actually getting the business results they need.

The way web designers are winning today is by pivoting away from the “one-stop shop” for all the services the business owner might ever want and, instead, simply offering the outcome the client wants.

Old Approach vs. New Strategy

The old approach is to offer services and deliver the implementation.

The new strategy is to offer a result and deliver transformation.

This is the secret to building a 6-figure agency working on your own with a laptop. Develop the solution first so that you can talk about the results in your marketing. Freelance communities can’t do this because their audience is too broad.

The freelance community reminds me of a dark cloud of locusts starving to devour the next low-budget project that pops up. Don’t fight it out in the dark cloud. Move over to the blue sky by positioning your business in a fresh, new way where freelance communities can’t go.

Rather than competing head-to-head. Offer something new, something different, something better.

Solution First Agency

If this makes sense, check out this totally free video workshop, and I’ll show you how to build a Solution First Agency right now for free.

It’s totally free, you don’t have to buy anything, and even if you just implement some of the ideas we cover, I guarantee you’ll land more leads at higher prices without having to compete against giant freelance communities for clients.

Niche Mastery

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You can send me questions as we work on this together.