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October 20, 2017

How do you get clients? Salt Lake Design Week recap

How do you get clients? We’ve been on both sides of that question many times. Early in our careers we asked it in utter bewilderment. We learned from others, we honed our own methods. We’ve answered the question for ourselves and others.

This article is about supporting and being part of the Salt Lake City design community. If you want to skip to the list of how to get clients, click here.

We’ve made pivots in our company over the last 10 years. We’ve done it four times now. We do it so that we aren’t building the same websites we were in the early 2000s. We do it to make sure we are leading edge with our skills and client solutions. We do it because we take calculated risks with the business to ensure longevity.

Early in our business we needed to make every single hour count in our favor. We had to focus on attending networking events where people needed to hire website developers and UX designers. Somewhere along the way we stopped going to industry events. 

This year has brought a lot of change to Sawaya Consulting. We’ve grown to a larger team with even larger projects. We made several client changes and helped transition some clients to new agencies. We relaunched our website.

Part of that relaunch was honing our Ethical Statement. One of the sections is about community:

Made in the USA

We support the American Dream, diversity, and freedom. We think that work, ideas, and revenue should stay in local economies. We choose to support the community we live in and we do not hire offshore developers to save a buck. We get coffee from our local coffee shop. We attend local tech and design events. 

Community means patronizing local businesses and supporting nonprofits we believe in. It also means showing up for our community. The designers and the developers. Most of our clients are out of state and we realized we’ve lost touch with what’s going on right here in Salt Lake City.

We were thinking about that when we received the AIGA|SLC email about Salt Lake Design Week. The first night one of the partners stepped in dog shit and we had to drive home with the windows down. POO SHOE. The second night a consultant (accidentally?) threw a drink on another partner. It’s been an adventure!

The Salt Lake design community has changed drastically during our hiatus. This shouldn’t really be a surprise—Salt Lake City has changed drastically in that time as well. We’ve been so involved in the growth of the tech industry that we missed that the design community grew up as well.

We had a great time at Prints & Pints at The Mandate Press. Letterpress is one of the great artistic mediums of graphic designers. We work in typography and there is no better medium to make typography an artistic expression than to press it into a nice paper with a high cotton feel. 

The 20 slides at 20 seconds per slide format of PechaKucha ranged from portfolio reviews to great ideas to a tear jerking final presentation showing the mission of Red Fred Project. One presentation was how to be a good creative director and included a slide about hovering over your designers. The phrase, “he said that ironically” was delivered in the office this week when someone got too close.

There was a last minute change to speakers one night and we got to see Dan Christofferson of Beeteeth / Young Jerks. I think of Dan like my cool, slightly older cousin. We grew up seeing each other at family gatherings (AIGA events) and I got a few of his hand-me-downs (a job one time and a couple logos to rebuild another time).

Someone asked Dan, “how do you get clients?” He listed off what he does and we nodded along. Same. It’s like we both have this figured out after all these years. 

And that’s when we realized that our place in the design community has changed. We can still attend events and be inspired, but we also owe it to ourselves and the community to show up and share some knowledge. We know how to get clients. We know how to build websites and get paid for the work. We know how to transition into UX design.

There are a few more events going on this week, you can check it out at Salt Lake Design Week.

If you are a designer and have questions for us, want to see a copy of our contract, have an honest conversation about our rates and what yours should be, please reach out to Amber.

How do you get clients?

  1. Have your business cards on you at all times. Yes, business cards seem dated, but seriously, have them on you. It’s still the easiest ways to have a conversation about something and say to someone, “hey, let me give you a card”. Order nice cards, like the higher end options from or
  2. Your work needs to be online. Build a website if you are in the business of websites. If you aren’t, or don’t have time for your own project, use Behance, Semplice or another portfolio theme or service. Hell, use Tumblr. Showing your work in the best light is more important than being the designer of the container of that site. Let the work speak for itself.
  3. Put stuff out there often. This means blog posts, posting new work or work in progress, sharing ideas and work on social media. Help people remember you so that when someone asks one of your acquaintances “do you know anyone that can build a website for me?” your name comes to mind.
  4. Contact previous clients. Let them know about your new projects and new skills.
  5. Go to events, industry and outside of your industry, talk to people. Get out and meet people. Yes, it’s like dating.
  6. Go looking for the work. This is the hardest one. To be completely honest, we haven’t done it in years (see that part about how work will keep coming to you at a certain point). When we’ve needed to sure up our position after a pivot we’ve done some of this. We comb social media (searching terms like “looking for a web designer”), we contact companies that we think we can help, we look at job/project posting boards. The sell is harder when you approach companies vs when they approach you. You should still do it, but be prepared to cast a wide net to catch a few fish.

If you are just starting out you have to work the list backwards, from 6–1. Be prepared, stay positive, stay organized.

About the author

Amber Sawaya

Amber Sawaya is a creative director, best-selling author and business owner. She designs and oversees UI, UX, app, and website projects.