Written by Mat Casner

let’s connect

Freelance CEO Podcast
Listen Now

3 Strategies to Get Client Referrals For Graphic Designers

Branding & Marketing, Design Business 101, Finding Clients | 0 comments

When you decided to embark on the graphic design scene, you might’ve been filled with high hopes of endless design creating days. In fact, you knew that there’s a demand for graphic design work as online stores are created every day.

It doesn’t end there. You know that every single business needs a graphic designer for every aspect of their communication. But, you’re struggling. You don’t land clients and the ones that you do bag, can’t afford your services.

“A referred brand is a preferred brand; and a preferred brand is a referred brand”

~ Bernard Kelvin Clive

As true as this saying is, it’s easier said than done. Even veteran graphic designers get this tactic wrong. And the reality is that they’ve been doing it wrong for years.

That’s why I’ve scoured the net to find some of the best techniques that you can use immediately. Combine this with my 20 years of digital branding and graphic design expertise; makes an interesting cocktail for creating your next referral generating strategy.

Look, we’re all in this together. Graphic designers all want the same thing, right?

Clients, money, referrals, and maybe even a six or seven-figure income in the future.

Customer Acquisition stats shows that it takes 5x more time and capital to generate a new customer compared with offering the same customers a new service.

But where would you even begin to get this going for you?

It’s simple. The happier your customers are, the more likely they are to refer you to others and give you a testimonial. They’d even go as far as to spread positive information about you by word of mouth and social media if your service blew their mind away.

Ingredients For A Stellar Referral Strategy

Generating referrals is half art and half science. So, before you even contact your client, you need to plan every last detail about what exactly you’re going to do and what you’re going to say.

And there’s a high chance you’re not going to get this right the first time. It’s even possible that you’d forget some of the important bits which cost you along the way.

That’s why, before contacting your client, it’s important that you focus on what makes them unique and what makes them the best to you.

1. Customer Appreciation Notes

Customers don’t choose whom they do business with based solely on products and what they cost. There are other things at play too. It has a lot to do with the overall service that you provide, especially regarding communication and on-time delivery.

For example, 80% of customers said that they stopped doing business with a company because of poor service.  And 68% said that businesses lost them as a customer because they felt unappreciated.

Going out of your way to say thank you to your customer (coupled with excellent customer service) is more important than you think. The two go hand-in-hand. And, a simple gesture can make or break a deal in a  business relationship. It shows that you value your client more than you value their money and strengthens your relationship.

Nothing speaks louder than a customized (handwritten) thank you note. So, remove “thank you for your business” from your vocabulary. A cookie-cutter generic email screams you’re only grateful for their money, and not them.

Let them know why you appreciate them. Focus on the working relationship and how it helped you uncover the creative elements in your project. This could be in the way they communicated their instructions or just the fact that they had faith in you to get the job done. The point is to stay away from talking about how you appreciate “doing business” with them.

You don’t even have to wait until you’ve been paid. Show appreciation as and when it happens (but be sincere).

2. How to Ask for Referrals – the Correct Way

Referrals are effective and the most cost-effective way to generate business. Yet, asking for referrals feels awkward. You need more clients but don’t want to come across as desperate or pushy. And just by asking for referrals won’t guarantee that you get them.

To make things easier for you; I’ve included a template that I’ve used many times before. Be sure to customize it to suit your writing style and suitable for your referral marketing scope.

Hey [client first name],

I’m so happy that you’re impressed by the latest [website/logo/brochure] that I designed for your brand. It was an enjoyable experience bringing your brand to life through this project. In fact, knowing that you’re crazy about the design I made makes me want to do even more for you… and others too. That’s why I need your help.

I’d love to see as many businesses flourish by sending out the right message that suits them, through the right sort of branding. And, since I know you’re the kind of person that wants the same for others too; I’m hoping that you would spread the word about how they could benefit from my skills and abilities.

I know how much people hate getting “cold called,” and I’d hate to be that person who makes them cringe. So, if you know of anyone that would benefit from visiting my website and getting in touch with me, you’d be doing more than your fair share. I appreciate any kind words that you’d add, and (off-course), your friends would receive exceptional treatment.

I know you’re a busy person. So, as my way of thanking you for your time, I’d love to give you [insert free gift: % discount on business cards design, etc.] for every person that uses my services.

I’m so glad that we worked together and ecstatic that the design I made for you exceeded your expectations, and I can’t wait until our next project together.


[your name and sign file]

3. Create a Referral Program with Rewards

Companies with a referral program are 3 x more likely to reach their targeted revenue. But, many people won’t go out of their way to find you referrals, unless there’s something in it for them. Having a referral program and offering rewards for each person that they refer to you could land you more clients.

You get to decide what and how you’ll reward customers to your business. E.g., you could offer discounts off their next purchase or even a cash payment for sending a paying client your way.

Once you realize that referrals are an integral part of client acquisition; creating a strategy to generate referrals takes you one step closer to success. Knowing that the fundamental aspect about referrals is about the experience that your client had with you. Making sure that their service was impeccable and that they feel good about referring prospects to you often means that they’ll re-hire you. For you to be successful, the key to managing a graphic design business is (always) consistency and superb-level customer care.

How to Start Freelancing: A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners

How to Start Freelancing: A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners I began my journey into freelancing while still in high school, dabbling in various projects alongside my studies and early professional work. It wasn't until 2006 that I decided to dive into freelancing...

Ignite Your Passion and Join the Accelerator: Enrollment Now Open for IGNITE Accelerator

Ignite Your Passion and Join the Accelerator: Enrollment Now Open for IGNITE Accelerator

Are you feeling unfulfilled in your current job? Do you have an unparalleled desire to pursue a freelance business that ignites your passion? Look no further; the IGNITE Accelerator program, a program designed by Freelance CEO founder, Mat Casner, to help guide web,...