Personal Projects – The Secret to Getting Dream Clients

May 19, 2020

The question that every designer wants to ask – how do you get clients? It’s a tough question because the right answer looks different for everyone. For me, it’s sort of been a mix of everything. Social media, joining online communities, building relationships, getting referrals, marketing myself… all of these approaches are great, well-known ways to attract dream clients and you can read more about how I get clients in another blog post. But there’s one strategy that I don’t think is talked about or praised enough – personal projects.

Maybe it’s because people think working for free on a personal project is a waste of time or isn’t productive when you could be working with a client. Which I totally understand! But I’m here to help you embrace all the wonderful things that personal projects can do for your business!

First, let’s clarify what a personal project could be. Simply put… anything you want it to be! It’s a project that you create on your own, not for a client.

Next, let’s go over some of the general reasons why personal projects are so great:

  • You have full creative control. Nobody else is giving you their input. Just you doing what you want. (Isn’t that the dream?)
  •  Opportunity to explore different mediums or styles.
  • Strengthen your portfolio with more work that you love.
  • There’s no hard deadline so you can work at your own pace. No stress.

So, we know that personal projects can be beneficial to keep us inspired and create a portfolio with more projects that we genuinely love, but how do they attract dream clients?

During my first 6 months of freelancing, there were a couple of dream clients that I almost worked with, but they decided to go with another designer because they didn’t think that I had enough experience working on projects in their industry. This was super frustrating. How was I ever supposed to gain the experience that they were looking for if nobody would give me a chance first?

I knew that I had the talent and skill to create something amazing for them, but my portfolio wasn’t reflecting that very well because it was filled with projects that weren’t at all related to their line of work.

So I came up with a solution. For every dream client that I didn’t get, I would create a personal project based on them. That way, I could have it in my portfolio to attract more dream clients in that industry and they would be less likely to turn me down for lack of experience. And guess what – those personal projects have been some of my best work and got more attention than other things in my portfolio! I’ve had so many great clients who, on our first phone call, have said that they reached out to me because they saw one of the personal projects I’ve done. Some didn’t even realize that it was a personal project! If I had never taken the time to do those fake, conceptual projects, some of those clients might not have come to me at all.

You don’t need to wait around for dream clients to show up and give you those exciting, fulfilling projects you’ve always wanted to do. Instead, create them yourself!

It’ll be some of the most inspired work you do and people will notice because all that passion is bound to make it stand out. And before you know it, another dream client will come across it and be so much more eager to work with you.

So now you’re like, “Ok Abbey, I’m sold! Personal projects are amazing and I’m excited to start one, but I can’t think of a good idea.” No worries, I’ve created a free worksheet to help you find what’s currently inspiring you and brainstorm how to turn it into a project! 

So what are you waiting for?! Pick a personal project that lights you up and get started! I promise it’ll be worth it! I’ve done quite a few personal projects and they’ve been so beneficial to my business. They set a fire in me, they give me more confidence in my work because it’s work I’m proud of, they give my audience a better understanding of my skills, the type of work I love to do, and in turn, attract more of those dream clients. If you want to check out some of the personal projects I’ve done, here are my favorites:

Juicé – a colorful, modern wine brand
Sculpted – a custom jewelry brand
White Space – a home decor brand for stylish minimalists

What are your personal project ideas? I’d love to hear them!

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