In an upcoming post, I’ll be talking about the selling power of hand lettering. Of course, you need clients first in order to sell.

There’s two basic ways of getting clients:

  1. Chasing them.
  2. Attracting them.

First, I’m going to make a case for the latter and explain why chasing clients is the worst thing you can do for your business.

Attract Clients—Don’t Chase Them

Attracting clients is the key to getting the clients you want. Here’s the difference between chasing clients and attracting them:

  1. Chasing clients means going around cold-calling or cold-emailing people and asking them to be your client.
  2. Attracting client means your work is so compelling that a client approaches you and asks if you will do work for them.

The two approaches are so fundamentally different that they shape the entire project and relationship you have with the client.

When you chase a client, it sets the entire project off on the wrong foot. It reads as desperation. However, when the client is the one to approach you, they are in a more deferential position and are more willing to come under your process.

The Rule of Reciprocity

Asking a client to work with you is akin to seeking a favor. You’re essentially requesting that they do you the favor of working with you. The clients you get with this method are much more likely to be the ones who request changes, don’t pay on time, and generally give you the most headaches.

There’s a psychological reason for this. In his book, Influence, Robert Cialdini talks about The Rule of Reciprocity. When you give someone a gift, the recipient feels obligated to return the favor. Therefore when you ask, you owe, when you give, you are owed.

You don’t want to owe your prospective client. This puts you in debt and the client will intrinsically seek to “cash in” on that debt by requesting changes, usurping your process, or worst of all: haggling with you over your price and trying to get a discount.

Never discount. Discounts are always a devaluation. There are two prices that acknowledge the full value of something: Full Price or Free. Click that link and go learn about pricing and pro-bono.

Familiarize yourself with The Overlap Technique and get a day job to prevent falling into Scarcity Mindset. When transitioning to making a living as a hand lettering artist, you must first cover your bills with a day job.

The most common mistake is taking on whatever work you can get just to make money. You must be in a place where you can afford to not work with bad clients. The clients you want to work with are the ones who approach you, not the ones you chase.

Common advice says you have to take on whatever work you can get in the beginning. This is the worst advice you’ll ever hear.

There’s no such thing as clients from hell because only designers from hell take on those types of clients.

Bad clients will only lead to more of the same. There is no magic point where you’re able to be selective with clients. You’re able to be selective when you choose to practice selectivity. This means starting from a place of confidence.

You need to attract clients to you. Let them make the first move. In line with The Rule of Reciprocity, they need to be the ones to make the first “ask.” This establishes you as the professional. Imagine if a doctor were to knock at your door? There’s a reason it seems wrong. Yet, designers do it all the time and then wonder why they’re pushed around and have all of these problems. It’s your own responsibility.

This presents the question: how in the world do I get the attention of clients for hand lettering and attract them to me?

How to Attract Clients & Get Paid

We’ve established that you should not chase clients because of The Rule of Reciprocity, however we still need to do the work of attracting clients.

Getting someone to approach you is difficult. I don’t write as much as I do to tell people the quick and easy way. I tell people the hard way, and the long way, and the smart way that actually works—the way that actually brings you client who will pay you what you’re worth and allow you to enjoy the work that you do professionally.

Build Up a Body of Work

To attract clients, you need content. You need examples of your work. Now don’t lose me here: I know this sounds like a chicken and the egg problem, but it’s not.

I know you’re thinking, “How can I show work to get clients if I don’t have clients to do work that I can show?!”

The good news is you don’t need client work to attract clients. There are two ways to create work to fill your portfolio and attract clients:

  1. Personal Projects.
  2. Pro-bono Projects.

We’re going to talk about personal projects here in a moment. Pro-bono projects are very powerful, but it’s a huge topic in and of itself. I highly recommend you go check out the link above on Full Price or Free, but also check out #5 on 10 Mistakes You’re Making With Clients That Cost You for more on pro-bono projects.

Personal projects are a fantastic way to draw attention to your work. Certainly you can share a one-off self initiated project, but if you can get a consistent personal project going with a regularly scheduled output, you will significantly improve your exposure.

An example might be to do an ornate letter-a-day project. Or a hand lettering quote a week. Something consistent is going to keep you on people’s radar.

As you show up every day, people will increasingly begin to notice you. Your work will gradually get shared more and more and a result, prospective clients will notice your work.

Write, Write, Write

If you want to make a name for yourself, write daily. Writing is how you establish yourself as an authority. You don’t have to be an expert to teach—you’ll be seen as an expert because you teach.

There are many things you can write about. Though your goal is attracting clients, teaching others is a great way to accomplish this indirectly. No, the client isn’t interested in learning hand lettering, but they will notice that you are teaching others and you’ll be seen as an expert because you teach.

Share your hand lettering process. Show step by step how you work. Exemplify your process through case studies. It’s one thing to say how you work and another thing entirely to show it. Case studies are real-life examples of work that you’ve done in the past.

If you want to get noticed and you’ve been working hard and not getting any traction, writing is the missing key. Everything will change when you start to write. Suddenly, you have a voice. Suddenly, people will start to notice.

One of the first things people think of when they hear “writing” is blogging. Blogging is great, but you’re not limited to one medium. It all start with writing—that is to say, whatever project you could possibly want to start begins with writing.

Repurpose your writing in new mediums. Take what you’ve written and record audio. Maybe do a podcast. You can use your writing as a script for a video. You could start a newsletter. This could be the beginning of a course. The possibilities are endless, but it all starts with writing.

Lastly, start with a commitment. The greatest disservice you could do to yourself is to get inspired by this article, write a blog post, and then never write again. Don’t start with the motivation, start with a commitment.

Commit to writing every day as the first thing you do when you wake up. Start with the commitment and the motivation will come. If you write daily, this will change absolutely everything for you—especially in terms of attracting clients.

Did you enjoy this post? Subscribe below! It’s a part of a 30-day series on hand lettering leading up to the launch of the new Learn Lettering 2.0.