Three client-types that are guaranteed to bring tons of business

Last time I checked, 74% of our new business came from word of mouth referrals. That’s just downright staggering isn’t it? Pretty much three quarters of our clients came from people jibbering on about how awesome we are (or something to that effect, we’ll just go with that to stroke my ego okay?)

You do good work, you deliver great results, clients rave about you and you get more great clients. And so continues the blissful cycle of never having to look for leads.

But is it really that easy to get referrals?

We actually have a referral program in place and still most of our clients don’t refer.

So what’s the trick?

In my experience it’s this: you gotta partner with the right types of businesses.

Over the years, I’ve noticed a trend. I get a lot more referrals from three types of clients. Want to know who they are? Of course you do, let’s dive in!

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Here’s my top 3 must-have partners every designer should have…

1. Business Coaches are a glitter-bomb of glory for your web business.

The right kind of business coaches can do wonders for your business.

I say ‘the right kind’ because I have come across quite a few lemons in my time who seem to just like change for the sake of change. What I mean is, they like to get involved in the design process and make really stupid suggestions steering the project completely off course. In my opinion it’s just to justify their existence to their coaching client but I could be wrong. My advice is to steer clear of these ones though, you’ll know them when you see them! 🙂

But, if you’re careful and you partner with Business Coaches who are happy to trust you as the expert, give good advice to their clients about how to get results, and work well with you, never let them go.

A mentor once said to me “Bianca, if I send you business and you don’t show your appreciation, I’m going to stop sending you business. That’s just the way it is. And if I’m like that, everyone else that sends you business is probably the same.”  I love that mentor, he’s just so raw and honest. It’s true though. It’s human nature. No one likes to just give, give, give and never get any thanks. That’s not cool.

Some won’t want any money but you still should pay them in some way or you may find the leads start drying up. Wine, dinner for two, movies, gift basket, whatever, you can have a lot of fun with it being a designer and all!

2. Marketing Consultants are a designer’s best friend.

I once worked with one particular marketing consultant on a rebranding project and it injected $150,000 into my design business. That’s why I say ‘they’re a designer’s best friend’. I was introduced to her through a developer who I met through my own business coach at the time so you can see how it’s all very incestuous! LOL We were all in bed together!

Seriously though, that one consultant and I probably did close to $500k of business together and still do the odd website nowadays even though our businesses have shifted. We have others that just flick us a lead, and others who have ended up joining my reseller program and doing all the work themselves, just buying sites off me at a wholesale rate.

There is literally TONS of business to be done with marketing consultants. It’s a whole other blog series on its own there’s so much! You can choose to work transparently like I always have, or keep behind the scenes and they manage the entire project with the client. Either way works great.

One of the best things about these guys is they skill and experience they bring to the table. We all know how much we love a good brief and you’ll always get the best from these types. I learn so much when I work with marketing consultants, and I especially love getting invited to sit in on workshops they run because I take away so much new knowledge.

The projects you work on together will also amp up your folio because there’s so much strategy and planning that goes into it from a marketing perspective. And nothing beats a web design with a great strategy behind it!

3. And Event Managers will be back time and time again.

We have a handful of really great Event Managers as clients and one of them has brought us over 20 websites! If you work out the average lifetime value of those 20 clients, we’re talking a tidy sum of money.

Sometimes Event Managers take short-term contracts with government departments and councils, tourism events, private contracts etc. They get around. And guess what? They are forever in need of new websites for all the new events and contracts they manage.

Don’t let their title fool you either. They can sometimes be disguised as Special Project Planners, Marketing Coordinators or Consultants, Tourism Coordinators or Event Organisers depending on the contract but keep a lookout for anyone who manages events on a regular basis.

The best part about teaming up with these types is that if you knock their socks off and they love the way you operate, they get familiar with the same process and they never want to leave. They’ll go into bat for you, and I mean HARD, when it comes to presenting options to committees. They basically sell the website for you and you just line up to take the order.

I’ve had Event Managers in the past migrate sites over to us just because they hated working in the platform the site was set up in. Not because the event needed a new site.

They’re a dream to work with and they always pay on time, probably because it’s not their money! They know how you work, they’re super organised with content, they’re happy to upload it all and they know what they’re doing. I love my Event Managers, I really do. I could kiss them every time they bring me a new project. Total bliss!

So I’m really curious, do you have a referral program in place? If so, do you pay cash, credit, gifts? What’s your secret sauce?

I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours… 😉  Leave me a comment and let’s chat!

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  1. Hi Bianca!

    Thanks for a extremely helpful article (one of many!)

    Your tips inspired me to start tracking down those must-have partners. So far I’ve tracked down 320+. Mostly in U.S. / U.K, some in Australia, Canada, other English speaking countries.

    I’ve put them on Twitter lists for everyone to use.

    Here you will find links to all the lists: 17 Pre-Built Prospect Lists for Freelance Creatives

  2. Bianca, I enjoy reading your posts – they’re jam-packed with the information that has made you super successful. Thank you. You mention Business Coaches here. In your remarks you say, “Some won’t want any money….” Please describe who these coaches are and where I can find them! I contacted a business coach last fall who made a pitch that had me on the edge of my seat until she got to the dollar amount she needed up front: $4200. I would love to work with a business coach and work together: “I’ll wash your back, you wash mine”, but I have no idea how to meet one without a major upfront cash payout. Please explain further!

    1. Hey Elizabeth! Thanks so much for your kind words. 😉

      Sorry hun but I was talking about exchanging money for referrals, not for mentoring or coaching. In my experience, I’ve always had to pay for my mentors and coaches but they’re so worth it. In most cases they’ve brought me 10X what I’ve invested!

      $4200 is a bit steep though if you’re a solopreneur, I’m in a program currently which is about $1900 per month with 4 annual conferences in Sydney. I love it because I get to meet so many other like-minded business peeps and that alone is worth it in my book. They also have a fantastic online portal with about 400 educational business videos, weekly webinars, other meetups etc so you get a lot for your money.

      My very first coach 10 years ago used to cost me about $500 per week but it fast-tracked my business about 5 years I think in just one year. I then had another coach that was double that and I got hardly any value, in fact I went backwards, so I cancelled.

      I would suggest you start contacting coaches with your proposal of a contra deal and test the waters. I’ve personally not had much luck with contra deals in the past so be careful not to get burnt, but I could absolutely see it working for the right fit. Just be very clear on who’s supplying what and put a value on everything!

      Let me know how you go! I’d be really curious to know if it works! 🙂

  3. Marketing Consultants have been a huge source of business for me as well. In fact, about 75% of my annual income in 2013 was from 3 marketing consultants alone!

    1. Way to go Frank, that’s huge! Well done. I think I’m going to put a hit list together myself and get a few more on board now reading your comments. Thanks!

  4. Hey Bianca,

    Completely agree with number two on your list. I once did a free website for a talent management agency in London (calculated bet), she has since put tens of thousands of pounds of business our way. The vast majority of our work comes from either her company, or from clients she’s referred to us who have in turn recommended our services. We grey 300% last year as a result of that bet.

    We wrote about it here on Millo:

    1. Wow, that’s awesome Conor! 300% is huge, well done!!

      And great article. I’m normally anti free work but your blog actually just gave me an idea for our business. We have a few partnerships with associations and get a steady flow from them but we could absolutely try your approach to try get our foot in the door with a few others.

      Thanks for sharing and pointing me to it!

  5. Awesome friggin’ tips. We help other clients form JVs all the time but have never thought to do this ourselves. I want to kick myself for not already doing this lol. Really inspires me to scope out some of these guys and reach out. Thanks again 🙂

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed David!

      Isn’t that always the case… We never hear our own advice sometimes and miss really awesome opportunities sitting right under our noses!

      Let me know how you go scoping out some opportunities and please, if you uncover any others, share them with us here! 🙂 Good luck!

  6. Awesome friggin’ tips. We help other clients form JVs all the time but have never thought to do this ourselves. I want to kick myself for not already doing this lol. Really inspires me to scope out some of these guys and reach out. Thanks again 🙂

  7. Hey Bianca,

    You mentioned a referral program without going into much detail. Can you please elaborate? I would like to start my own, but not 100 % sure how to make it as effective as possible.

    1. Hey Nicholas,

      No probs at all mate. I’m surprised you’re the only one who asked! We offer our clients $200 for every referral they send us. They can take that as cash or use it as a credit against their website ongoings, design services etc

      We’ve tried a few combinations over the years. It used to be that the new client got $200 off their website and the referrer got $300. Now we just give $200 to the referrer and throw in a few goodies to look after their friend or associate they referred.

      We used to give them their own unique code and they use that to tell all their friends. That was way back in the day though where we had our website builder software available to the general public. These days normally a new prospect will phone in and say “Sally from XYZ company told me to call you” and we’ll reward Sally. Or a client will introduce us via email and we’ll go from there.

      We still use referral codes against clients and pay out referral payments on the 15th of every month after the referral client has paid in full but it’s not quite as formal as it used to be. The codes now are more used for internal accounting purposes.

      Now, I should mention the formalities… We started our first formal referral program about 5 years ago and because of the tax laws here in Australia, we had advice to create an application form for anyone who wanted to refer, which included them giving us permission to create invoices for payment on their behalf. Here they’re called RCTI’s or Recipient Created Tax Invoices. We have two forms, one if they are registered for GST and one if they’re not.

      So if you’re in Australia, you might need to look into that to cover yourself. If not, I’m sure giving credits to clients as gifts to say thank you will be fine but it’s best to check.

      To get the word out, we send email campaigns to all our clients (except for our ProPartner’s clients of course), and we also send a direct email within 30 days of a client joining us. That email comes from the salesperson who sold the website and we do a friendly check in with them, ask them how everything’s going and ask if they know anyone who would benefit from our services. I’ve also had a lot of luck from just calling clients and asking them directly for the names of 3 people who they think might benefit from working with us. (Note: we also get some really valuable and constructive feedback on our processes doing this so it’s an added bonus!)

      There’s a great book by Jay Abraham that’s on my ‘To Read’ list; you might want to check it out. “93 Extraordinary Referral Systems”

      I’m sure there’s loads of other ways to do it other than just mine! Let me know how you go!


      1. Thanks for your gigantic reply!
        I’m quite happy to know your system would pretty much like mine when I start it.
        I just placed the book on my wishlist and I’ll definitely let you know how it well go for me.

        Thanks again!

  8. Bianca,

    You are so right. I just (and I mean just – like a month ago) started working with a client who’s life coach and digital publishing expert. Since then, she’s already brought me another client of hers, and she seems to know almost everyone!!

    Wow! Thrilled.


    1. Hey April,

      That’s awesome news, I’m so happy for you! Hopefully the start of many more to come. 😉


      1. So did you use the life coaches service before you took advantage of the referrals? If so, why?

      2. One never speaks about the inception, just the results.. Landing the referral lead source is the hard part. Right?

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