How to Make a Good First Impression as a Freelance Designer

by . September 6th, 2011

We freelance designers have it rough sometimes. We’re not only expected to be excellent designers, but we also are required to manage our business, find new clients, control finances, and more.

If you ever plan to make it in the world of freelance design, you have got to master your first impression. Many clients will hire a designer based on first impression and – as they say – sometimes the first impression is all you get.

So how can you make a good first impression as a freelance designer? Today, we’ll discuss two aspects of good first impressions: the first impression in person, and the first impression online.

First impressions in person

When meeting a client for the first time in person, it’s important that you be:


No one wants to work with a grumpy designer. The design process can be stressful enough for both client and designer – don’t make it worse by being in a bad mood all the time.

Remember, when you’re meeting your client for the first time, to be friendly, personable and amiable. They’re not just looking for a monkey with a mouse, they’re looking for someone who can help them achieve their business goals.


Even though you may brag to your cubicle-dwelling buddies about working in your pajamas, never shaving, and only showering every Tuesday, these sorts of tactics can screw up your first impression with a client very quickly.

Dress and act professionally when meeting your client for the first time in person. You don’t have to wear a tuxedo or a bow-tie, but throw on a pair of slacks instead of jeans with holes in the knee.

Then act the part. Present yourself well. Speak professionally, act professionally, and treat your potential client as a fellow professional.


When you meet your potential client in person, have your work well-organized so you can avoid looking unprepared or irresponsible. Do some research about the potential client and bring all the necessary work samples, paperwork, and anything you plan to leave behind.

Rehearse your small meeting and presentation before meeting with them. Being organized means you’re prepared for the meeting – which can be one of the most impressive attributes of a potential designer.


First impressions online

Sometimes you don’t have the chance to meet your client in person before starting a project with them (or ever).

It’s also important that you’re ready for a good online first impression. And since you never know when your online first impression will come (since potential clients can access your site whenever and wherever they want to), it’s important to always be ready for them.

To make a great first impression online, any freelance designer should be:


Similar to being friendly in your in-person contact, make sure your personable online too. It’s easy to use your web site or online portfolio as a place to hide behind. Many designers think they can show their work and that’s enough to get hired.

The better approach is to be personable. Clients who feel like they can connect to the designer as a person are more likely to hire that designer. Be more personable online by including links to your social media avenues, including information about you and your work, and maybe even including a video that will introduce you and your work to any site visitors.


One of the most common mistakes I see designers make is to not update their online portfolio. A client wants to see that you are up-to-date and current in your design skills.

Holding pages and incomplete portfolios are a definite no-no. Imagine the web client who visits your site hoping to find a designer who can finish a project in a significantly short amount of time.

If you can’t even update your own web site, how can they expect you to work on and complete their site in a timely manner?


A potential client wants you to practice what you preach. If you’re a web designer who’s an advocate for validating design, but your site doesn’t validate, you’re in trouble.

If your site’s blog talks about what makes a good logo and your freelance design logo only follows 2 of the 10 tips you share, you’re in trouble again.

If you can’t follow the rules you know to make design successful on your own site, how can a client hope that you will with their work?

Plan today so you’re not caught off-guard

Make plans today so that you’re not caught off guard when making the first impression with a potential design client really matters.

What are you going to do to prepare today? Share your ideas with me in the comments.