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Bartering for web design: How to find your next client

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Even before the pandemic, it could be hard for web designers and developers to find new clients, especially for new web designers. In an effort to bring you some new, creative ways to approach prospective clients, I tapped my coworker Jeremy for a little advice.

Jeremy Simpson works in our care department, on a team that provides advanced support for our partner products. He also runs his own web design business.

I approached Jeremy because I heard that he built up a clientele through bartering. It seemed like a cool idea, and when I found out how he came up with it, my mind was blown!

This is his story.


A new economic landscape

As I stick my head out of my quarantine cave (or as I like to call it my “Command Bunker”), I can’t help but ponder what the landscape will look like for those of us who make our living creating a better web presence for small businesses.

While as website builders, we have had the luxury to keep our business running (most of us work remotely already), many in our community haven’t had that luxury. The economic engine of America that we call small business has taken a difficult blow.

Let’s be realistic. a lot of our customers’ budgets have gone towards survival. They may not have a lot in the reserve tank to spend towards making a better online presence for themselves.

This has me thinking about my first forays into making websites for fun and profit.

“ The best piece of business advice that I ever received was from my father: ‘Find a need and fill it.’”

Cold contacting potential web design clients

When you first start a business you generally don’t have customers beating a path to your door… you must go find them. The best piece of business advice that I ever received was from my father: “Find a need and fill it.” I know he didn’t say it first, but he was the first to say it to me.  

So, I was filling needs by trying to find local businesses with the worst websites and reaching out to them to help with their online presence. I had mixed success with this technique.

The failures generally boiled down to lack of liquid funds for my customers. Much like today, it was an economically uncertain time, and many just weren’t able or willing to spend money on a website. 

“That was my “Eureka” moment. I had a need.”

How a barbecue sparked an idea

As I sat pondering my financial future, and how “finding a need and filling it” was hit and miss, I happened to look out my window into my backyard. A backyard that was taken over mostly by an 18-foot-long cement monstrosity of a barbecue countertop. Not only was it an eyesore that spanned half the back yard, it was completely unusable.

I was tempted to take a sledgehammer to it, but I knew that it would require a jackhammer and a dump truck to be removed. I thought to myself, “I need a demolition company for that thing”.  

That was my “Eureka” moment.  I had a need. I had things that needed to be done, and there were professionals out there that could do them. And, not all of those professionals were being served by their current online presence.  

Finding my first website bartering partner

I turned back to my computer and started looking for local demolition companies. The first few had nice websites but then I ran across one that wasn’t so good. “Find a need and fill it.”   

I gave them a call and after a bit of back and forth we agreed that we would trade services. 

“… this was the first time I realized that I could flip the “find a need and fill it” concept …”

Trade in kind

And thus, my journey began. I started trading websites for all kinds of other home improvements:

  • Pavers in my back yard
  • New shower, countertops, and sinks
  • House painting

I very rarely found a company that wasn’t at least willing to discuss a trade in kind arrangement.

I know bartering isn’t a “new” concept. It’s been around longer than money. But, this was the first time I realized that I could flip the “find a need and fill it” concept and find needs of my own and then find someone who had a need I could fill.

If you’re tired of cold contacts, try looking for a need you have. You might just find your next client.

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