As a freelance graphic designer I will tell you the secret to the success I've had so far: REPEAT BUSINESS AND REFERRALS.
Plain and simple.
I have been freelancing for almost three years and have not really spent money on marketing or even investing in much promotion because I have been blessed to get a steady flow of clients or at least enough to even call myself a designer.
Every project (with the exception of two) have been referrals and repeat business. I did a good job for someone and they told a friend or family member who called me. Or I did a good job for someone and the next time they had a project, they called me. I'm humbled by it and I really appreciate the business. For me it boils down to these simple principles when approaching a project for a client.
1. I put myself in their shoes. (How would I want someone to treat me. I'm patient, I listen and I offer solutions.)
2. I charge a fair and reasonable price. (I make money by offering discounts which leads to additional work. I once did a logo, stationery, business cards, flyers, and postcards for someone who initially only wanted a logo.)
3. I collaborate every step of the way. (Feedback is critical. It's THEIR brand!)
4. I guarantee their satisfaction. (The project isn't done until they like it and start using it.)
5. I keep in touch. (6 months later: How's that site/design working for you?)
In other words, I treat my clients as people, colleagues and some have even become friends. I look at the people and project first and the money always follows.
Writer. Reader. Designer. Creative Spirit.
“I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.”