This is one of my favorite topics, and I get asked questions like this all the time. How do you get clients when you have a weak portfolio, or even no portfolio?
Well, as the saying goes… dress for the job you wish you had, not the one you have.
That’s right! I intentionally gave away the answer in the first paragraph of this post to make this as simple as possible. Let me give you a great example: If you’re trying to sell eCommerce websites, you’re going to have to prove that you can build eCommerce websites. There’s no trick or secret—it’s actually very, very basic.
When I created my agency, I got together with the founding partners and we picked a niche. We created two or three web site examples for that niche and went in with our sales guns blazin’ and started to build a name for ourselves.
Everything was great until we looked at each other and decided that we had created our own living hell. We were building websites that we didn’t like. We were in an industry we didn’t really enjoy. And we had stopped growing as designers and developers… in short, we were getting stale.
Don’t get me wrong, we loved our customers and we did the best we could for them. But, we had stopped trying to do more. The niche we were in didn’t have large website budgets, and they never needed online stores. However, my partners and I wanted to get going with some eCommerce builds. In short, we were sort of stuck with a weak portfolio.
I can remember pitching online store proposals to prospects and dreading that fateful question… “So, can I see some of your latest eCommerce work?” Ugh! I hated that question because we didn’t have any eCommerce work in our portfolio! We so desperately wanted to get into the eCommerce world that we forgot the basic of all basics. Dress for the job you want, not the one you have.
To finish my story, my partners and I went out and learned everything we could about online stores. We then created a fictitious company based on one of the leads we had for eCommerce, and we proceeded to build the best online store we could for that prospect. This gave us our first portfolio piece that didn’t look like every other site we’d ever built.
Next, we found a couple of companies that we wanted to work for and pitched them an idea… if they would let us take full control of the project (design, dev, etc.), we would, in return, build their online store for cost. To be honest, it was a pretty easy sell.
Fast-forward one month. We now had two online stores that we poured our hearts into so that we could prove to our prospects that we had the necessary skills to pull off an online store.
Here’s what we came away with:
- Two amazing new stores for our portfolio
- One in-depth case study
- Knowledge of how eCommerce works (and where to be careful on a build)
I mention the confidence part because that was huge. Now that we had some experience, I could truly speak the language of that world, and I wasn’t a fish out of water anymore. Project scopes and project proposals got easier. Everything just felt more natural.
If it worked for me, it can work for you.
So, what are you waiting for? If you’ve been trying to get into a certain niche or market—go out and prove you can do it. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.