The designer’s guide to a great first impression

GUEST ARTICLE by Joe Valdez–If you would like to write for Millo, contact me.

We’ve all heard the saying “you don’t get a second chance at a first impression”. When it comes to your design business and landing a deal, nothing could be more true. A great first impression is the first step to securing a client and forming an ongoing business relationship.

One of a designer’s main keys to developing a great first impression is trust. No matter what the circumstances of the first impression, if the person cannot trust you, they won’t want to move forward in a designer-client relationship.

For a designer, first impressions can come in several different ways. Most of our first impressions are visual: a website, advertisement or personal meeting. After an initial visual impression, phone calls and emails may follow which can also leave an impression. This article will discuss practical ways to impress your clients over and over again.


Most of the time a website will be the first thing a person sees about you. The first few seconds that the visitor spends on your website are monumental and directly related to the time they stay on your site. The look of the site should be professional and appealing.
For designers, a “wow” factor is always welcoming. We don’t always have to follow standard layouts but we have to be careful not to make them hard to follow. Your website should not take long to load or make the visitor have to look for what they need.


A designer’s advertisement can be in the form of a banner ad, Craigslist posting, postcard, flyer, brochure, business card or many others. A great first impression not only attracts a client, but also gets them to want to know more about your design business. Put your best skills or specialties front-and-center. Great advertisements are clear, direct and attractive. You have to stand out over your competition or you leave no impression at all.

Personal Encounters

If the person is impressed by your website or advertisement they may want to meet you in person. This is the chance to have a stronger impression and secure an agreement. When first meeting a client, your appearance is most important, followed by your attention, speech, and preparedness.

No matter where you meet, your office, a public place or their place of business, you should dress professionally. Remember, this is like a job interview, you are a candidate for hiring.

When sitting down with the potential client, you should make eye contact, listen to what they are saying, avoid interrupting and take notes when needed.

You should speak clearly and professionally, it doesn’t matter if the potential client doesn’t do likewise or seems unprofessional.

Be prepared. Being unprepared could be your downfall. This tells the potential client you are unprofessional and probably can’t be trusted. You should have information on the company or person memorized. You should know before your meeting what the potential client needs and what their basic objectives are.

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Phone Calls

If a potential client visits your website, sees your advertisement or gets your phone number through word-of-mouth, a phone call will provide another opportunity to leave a great impression. A phone call can be spontaneous or it can be planned.

The spontaneous ones are harder to deal with, obviously. If you are uncomfortable or unprepared to handle a call, it’s best to politely and professionally explain to the caller that you are in the middle of something and you will promptly call them back.

If it is a planned call, much like an in-person meeting, your attention, speech and preparedness are very important. While on the phone, make sure you aren’t rambling and make sure you take notes. The notes help with potential questions to ask, concerns to bring up and to make sure you don’t forget what you talked about.


When first responding to emails, the more professional the email the more the potential client is inclined to trust you. If available, use Mr. or Mrs. and always thank them for the email and interest. The first email should introduce yourself and your services.
Don’t get into contract or legal-talk, and don’t be pushy about what you can do for them. First emails serve as an introduction, so think of it as an in-person introduction. If your email turns off the potential client, you most likely will not get a response.

What else would you add?

Now it’s your turn to share. What other tips would you add to the list? How have you successfully made a good first impression with your clients in the past?

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About Joe Valdez


  1. Make sure you give some attention to your About page. I did this for my site in the beginning. I knew it was important to have a page that described who I am, what I do, and also some things about me personally.

    About pages are like Thank You pages and 404 pages – they are the “unsung heroes” of your web site and the perfect places to add personality and character (just like my artwork).

    If you have done your homework and designed these pages in such a way that is unique and intriguing then when a person clicks through to one of them you might very well earn a subscriber or at the very least a return visitor.

  2. Well from my own experience I will say communication is the prime key that creates a long lasting impression. Client can know a designer or programmer’s worth from first or second conversation. So talk clearly, write in an effective manner and try to solve the theory in steps. Some clients are tech saavy some are not. It is duty of the designer/programmer to take a guided tour towards his goal. Too much technical jargon will confuse the client.

    Then comes your online presence which will show him your capability. The site should be simple and effective.

    I will further add Testimonials by your old clients will go a long way in impressing your clients as they will clearly show what you are worth.

    And most important a good price is always beneficial. As they say, run after the work and money will follow. So try to give your client best price in the market as he knows it all. That surely will be returned back to you as a second or third project.

    Great article indeed 🙂

  3. Totally agree. There’s never a second chance to make a first impression. Nicely done.


  4. The testimonial/comments about your design portfolio can also be a reason of a great first impression.


  1. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by designblender: New blog post: The designer’s guide to a great first impression

  2. […] The Designer’s Guide to a Great First Impression – Graphic Design Blender […]

  3. […] your peers will see you, dress like a professional. You don’t have to wear your Sunday’s best, but at the very least put on a nice shirt, […]


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