#4: Zero to Client: Strategies for Successfully Finding Your First Customer 


This podcast episode focuses on strategies and insights for designers and creative professionals to find their first client when starting a business. Key topics covered include building a strong portfolio showcasing skills and range, putting yourself out there through networking events and online presence, finding a mentor, and leveraging personal connections. Tactics like freelance platforms, pro bono work, collaborations, speaking engagements are discussed along with the power of niche, value proposition and trusting your abilities. No explicit numerical data provided.


Starting Client Search with Strong Portfolio

The hosts emphasize the crucial importance of a strong portfolio showcasing skills and range to inspire trust and credibility with potential clients. Real world examples are valued over just school projects. Tactics to build portfolio like freelance sites, pro bono work, collaborations and events are covered.

Putting Yourself Out There Through Networking

Networking events, creative professional groups and speaking engagements are discussed as valuable avenues to meet potential clients and collaborators. Being visible and developing rapport builds trust and reputation. Personal connections can also yield client referrals.

Creating an Online Presence to Establish Authority

An online presence with a professional website and social media activity is considered essential to be taken seriously as a committed business owner in creative fields. Sharing knowledge for free builds authority and connections for potential work.

Finding a Mentor or Coach For Support

Finding an experienced mentor who believes in your abilities can help provide coaching to improve skills, as well as client referrals when they have overflow work not suitable for themselves.

Action Items

  • Build portfolio showcasing skills and range through real world examples, pro bono work, collaborations and events.
  • Put myself out there through networking events, creative professional groups and speaking engagements.
  • Create an online presence with professional website and social media activity.
  • Find an experienced mentor or coach for skills improvement and potential client referrals.


Jessica Valis 

Welcome to the Design Imposter podcast. In today’s episode, we’re diving into a topic that’s crucial for every aspiring designer finding that elusive first client.  

Jessica Valis: Whether you’re a designer or professional outside the realm of design, landing your first client is a significant milestone. We’ll share actual tips and insights to help you kickstart your journey and build a successful business.  

Jessica Valis: Monique, off the top of your head, what are just a few methods to find your first client and how did you find yours?  

Monique Jenkins: So I will say finding your first client seems like a bit of luck and some persistence. One of the first things that I suggest to designers is to build your portfolio. It needs to be strong because you’re going to be sending a potential client to your site to see whatever.  

Monique Jenkins: But you have to put yourself out there. You have to put your business out there networking, developing your online presence, joining freelance platforms, cold calling and emailing even though I hate it.  

Monique Jenkins: Doing some pro bono work for causes that you love, not for every single thing that someone could potentially ever send you that’s pro bono. And collaborating with other professionals in your space are some of the tactical things that I think that people should try.  

Monique Jenkins: I found my first client because I did a speaking engagement for ladies wanting design Baltimore, which is a not -for -profit that I run. And we ended up working on a website refresh for them for, I want to say it was like $30 ,000.  

Monique Jenkins: You were there, Jessica. But I find that at least for me, networking is the best way for me to find clients. So I suggest that people get out there and start to have conversations with people who are in your community and be an active part of contributing to design networks and community spaces.  

Monique Jenkins: What about you, Jessica? How did you find your first client?  

Jessica Valis: Mine wasn’t such a clean start. I had no connections outside the scope of Wells Fargo, and then I therefore had no place to start. I had no businesses, no vendors, nothing to go off of. And I’m sure a lot of imposters can relate to that where you have zero personal connections outside of your office, and it is absolutely crippling.  

Jessica Valis: But I decided to attend a local chamber of commerce networking event. It was a casual mixer with drinks and little bites, and I made my way around the restaurant slash bar, and I was trying to introduce myself.  

Jessica Valis: But it became very clear very quickly that as a newbie, nobody wanted to talk to me. They were all there to talk to their long life business partners and associates. And I was just this outsider who just moved to the area, and no, we’re cool with who we’re using right now.  

Jessica Valis: But while I was there, I met somebody who introduced me to B &I, which stands for Business Networking International. It’s a conglomerate of businesses that meet weekly, and only one person per industry is allowed to attend the weekly sessions.  

Jessica Valis: So there can only be, for example, like one realtor, one banker, one designer, one health coach, kind of a thing. And the concept there is givers gain. You give referrals, you get referrals. You know, someone who wants to sell a house, you refer the realtor.  

Jessica Valis: You know, someone who isn’t satisfied with their online presence. You refer the website designer. And while I was there, I signed my first clients, who were all members of that chapter. And it was a great starting point for me, but after about a year, I found my agency had outgrown the group.  

Jessica Valis: And at that point, I was able to stand on my own two feet and find more clients. One of the best ways to find your first client is by defining your niche. So I have to ask you, as someone who jumped industry so many times, how did you determine your niche?  

Jessica Valis: And how does having one impact your business?  

Monique Jenkins: So I think my niche is less about industry and more about people. When I started my business, I knew I wanted to help Black women and I felt a strong connection to that audience segment and I’d had so many experiences throughout my career where Black women showed up for me in a multitude of ways because I’m not going to lie, I was reckless and I was like, I’m going to burn all the bridges that I have at this company when I really did not need to do that and they were like, slow your roll girl.  

Monique Jenkins: So when I think about clients, I think about how an organization contributes to people of color holistically. So for my first client project was with this organization that did revenue -based funding for businesses that don’t get traditional funding opportunities.  

Monique Jenkins: So I aligned with their overall mission of helping minority business owners in general. So not necessarily a niche in the way that I think that people think about it sometimes.  

Jessica Valis: So I think after you find that perfect niche, you need to start practicing your elevator pitch a little bit. You identify your client, your client’s problem, and you offer a solution. My elevator pitch is I offer website design and fractional CMO services for financial advisors so they can get out of marketing meetings and back to market analysis.  

Jessica Valis: What about you? What’s your quick elevator pitch?  

Monique Jenkins: I don’t really have an elevator pitch, so much as words that I say to people sometimes. But generally what I say is that Jenkins Creative aims to bolster the successes of black and brown entrepreneurs by creating holistic brand identities with thought leaders who deserve to leave their mark on the world.  

Monique Jenkins: And that’s about 10 seconds spiel.  

Jessica Valis: Yeah, that’s a mouthful. The elevator pitch isn’t so much for your client and like getting up in front of a room, I think. I think a lot of people think it is. It’s more for yourself than kind of like your business mantra.  

Jessica Valis: So you always just keep that in mind and make sure that it aligns with what you want. All right, that’s all right. Not a lot of people do. But you can’t go up and say, oh, I will be anybody’s designer.  

Jessica Valis: Anybody can be my client. That’s not a niche. So you need to know and have kind of like your pitch in your head.  

Monique Jenkins: I’m probably never, I’m gonna be never, I’m gonna be one of those people who never has a niche. I’m just like, I’m here for whoever’s here to support people who look like me. Although, but I will say the slight difference is I’ve worked in enough industries to feel comfortable jumping into sectors that I don’t think that people would normally feel comfortable in.  

Monique Jenkins: And I think there’s some like moral things that I probably wouldn’t get into. And there’s probably some client work that I would turn down as a result of being like, I don’t think this aligns to like who I am, like what my core values are, but by and large, I should probably define my niche a little bit more.  

Monique Jenkins: My business manager, our business coach would be so sad to hear me say these words.  

Jessica Valis: I think your niche is perfect as someone who empowers black and brown entrepreneurs and business owners. That is your niche. You identify with it. It doesn’t necessarily have to matter so much what the industry is.  

Jessica Valis: You can always refine it and be like, I’m working with black and brown entrepreneurs in the financial sector. Now, you get really specific and you can… The more specific you get, I think the better.  

Jessica Valis: But, I mean, if you’re going to get clients and you enjoy those clients regardless of the industry, then take the money, right?  

Monique Jenkins: Yeah, I’ll turn you down if I don’t like you. I do do a vibe check. You do something similar, but yours is like super formal where you’re like, I don’t want, you know, I want to work with them, but you like have a conversation.  

Monique Jenkins: I’m like, I check to see if your vibe and my vibe are going to align. And if they’re not, then I’m like, I’m out of here. I don’t want to do this. Regardless of industry, I’m like, I don’t think that I would get along with this person.  

Monique Jenkins: So I’m not going to do this with you as opposed to like, you know, tell me, tell me more about your business, which I am, I derive value in having people explain to me what their business is. Cause I think that that helps me to like, I don’t know, get aligned with like what we’re about to do.  

Jessica Valis: There have been times where I worked with individuals outside of my niche because I was like, oh, it’s a local business, I’m a patron, I would love to do this. And we did not mesh. And the project went horribly, relationships ended horribly.  

Jessica Valis: So you have to go with your gut with this and stick with it.  

Monique Jenkins: with your niche a little bit. Now it’s my turn to ask, as someone who has left an employer that didn’t permit you to use their work in your portfolio, how important is the portfolio in finding your first client?  

Jessica Valis: It is so important, crazy important. So the point where I tell my interns to take screenshots of what they do at Hartford Designs because employers will want to see real world work, not schoolwork. And that’s basically all I had when I started my business because I couldn’t bring anything from as far ago.  

Jessica Valis: I had schoolwork and a few odd and ends projects. The nice thing about us going to the University of Baltimore and their publication design master’s program was that professionally we had to print a lot of our work depending on the class.  

Jessica Valis: And the topics weren’t just fluff, like you would have for a bachelor’s program when it’s like, oh, make up a company and do this. Like we often had things where we had to reinvent a current company or we had to, I don’t know, just make it more applicable to the real world.  

Jessica Valis: And I did something like that. And it was like a restaurant brochure for different restaurants down in Baltimore that I would go to at Wells Fargo. Some of them were like the buffets and the Chinese place.  

Jessica Valis: And they were just like, there were places nobody would go to unless you worked downtown. But I made a little brochure about it. It was like a 10 page book. And at one of the networking events I went to, I had somebody just like walking around showing everybody my little pamphlet that I made.  

Jessica Valis: So they’re like, oh my God, look at the work that Jessica did. I don’t think they realized that it was just schoolwork. So I mean, schoolwork’s important and it’s gotta be really top class, but real world experience and having a portfolio based on that is crazy important.  

Monique Jenkins: Now I want to double tap on something you said. You should be taking process shots of your work as you were working in corporations. Like you should have some of, like if you’re hosting, you know, design exercises and things like that, you should be taking pictures.  

Monique Jenkins: You should be like getting process shots, because those are things that you can add to your portfolio later in order to make it a little bit more fun and that people can see the process of how whatever the piece is kind of evolves over time.  

Monique Jenkins: But now that you’ve been in business for a while, how do you build and present your portfolio?  

Jessica Valis: A good portfolio should highlight your best work and showcase your range of skills. If you visit harforddesigns .com, for example, I have my portfolio broken into different segments. There’s financial services, attorneys, professional services, branding and websites.  

Jessica Valis: So when someone comes and asks for examples of websites for legal services, I have that portfolio set aside so that they can automatically see my best work, or if they just want to see all websites that I’ve done.  

Jessica Valis: Then I can send them that specific portfolio, but kind of how you were saying to take photos of the process. My portfolios are more than just pictures. Of course, I’m going to do before and afters, but there’s usually also a little write -up of the project goals, obstacles, the process.  

Jessica Valis: And then you end it with a glowing testimonial from the previous client. And if you’ve got some numbers, put those in there. Show them that, you know, the return on revenue or the return on investment.  

Jessica Valis: Yeah, I agree. 100%. How do you feel? How do you feel about freelance platforms like Upwork, Fiverr and Behance for finding clients and building a portfolio?  

Monique Jenkins: So I have different emotions. The way that I feel about up work and fiber is probably a little bit lower than I think about behance or maybe dribble. Is it dribble or dribble? Dribble, dribble, dribble.  

Monique Jenkins: Dribble? Dribble. Dribble?  

Jessica Valis: I get a low. That shows you how frequently or infrequently or not at all we use these services.  

Monique Jenkins: you know. So if you’re, I think that a pretty common tactic that clients will use is like, oh, I could get that on Fiverr for this amount of money. I’d be like, okay, well, you should go ahead and make that happen for yourself.  

Monique Jenkins: Like I’m not going to get into a battle with someone on Fiverr about the quality of work that I am providing. If you think that you can get what you are going to get from my business from someone on Fiverr, then you should go ahead and fully take advantage of that.  

Monique Jenkins: I’m just not going to do that with you. I think that those freelance platforms are amazing if you are a junior designer and you just want to get work and you just want to get experience under your belt, but I don’t think it’s a place that you should sit for too long.  

Monique Jenkins: So if you’re going to use that to kind of rev up your portfolio, because you want to get client work, then like, you know, kind of is what it is. But I think that you can get the same thing from sourcing, sourcing work in your circle.  

Monique Jenkins: So you can build flyers for your local church or for baby showers or for house warmings or whatever else in your environment without having to go to these platforms in order to build a portfolio that you want to showcase to a client.  

Monique Jenkins: Or you can just do freelance work at Blit like you can say, Oh, I really love the Apple site, but I really hate this section of it. This is how I would redo it if I had an opportunity to. And I think that that’s strong because that shows like where your passion is to someone who’s looking at your portfolio.  

Monique Jenkins: They saw a need for something to be changed, and they went ahead and they applied their skills in order to make that change. And I can look at that and be like, Oh, that’s super awesome. So I think that those sites can be good.  

Monique Jenkins: But I’m not going to get as a business owner, I’m not going to get into a back and forth with a client about the fact that they can get something cheaper on vibra. You should definitely go ahead and make that happen for yourself.  

Monique Jenkins: And then come back to me in six months when that didn’t work out the way that you thought it was going to work out, because I am going to charge you more for the convenience of me having to have this conversation with you again, and a slight annoyance tax depending on, you know, what’s happening in my work.  

Jessica Valis: world right now. I think if you’re just getting started using something like Upwork and Fiber and Behance, I think it’s fine if you don’t have a portfolio to go off of or maybe you’re trying to pivot between careers, maybe you did accounting and you’re like, actually, I hate numbers.  

Jessica Valis: Let’s go into design instead. These are great places to practice and not feel like you’re taking advantage of anybody and their money and it, but they still set limitations like X number of revisions and whatnot.  

Jessica Valis: I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing as a place to start, but also you and I are extroverts and there are a lot of introverts out there who might not be comfortable having that one -on -one, let’s hop on a call and talk with our client kind of business mindset.  

Jessica Valis: For an introvert, it might work for you to get the description of the project and then just be able to execute it within the timeframe and not have to put themselves out there necessarily. That being said, if you want a client, you do have to put yourself out there.  

Jessica Valis: You have to convince somebody that you are worth it instead of the other five people on Fiber who are offering the same thing around the same price point. And again, it also goes back to the portfolio because I have hopped on Fiber for some really, really cheap stuff and when I’m looking at, okay, they offer this for $25.  

Jessica Valis: I’m looking at four people and I’m going to see who’s working lines with my style. I won’t tell you what I used it for, but I did use it once or twice. So I do think it’s a good place to start. It’s a good place to build the portfolio.  

Jessica Valis: And if interacting with individuals makes you uncomfortable, then go ahead. There is one other thing that Monique and I did over the summer. And if you’re a designer in the Baltimore area, we participated in Micah’s Grassroots Design Fest and you work with a bunch of nonprofits in the Baltimore area.  

Jessica Valis: And for either three days or one day or I think mine was over the course of two weeks, you tackle a design project for a nonprofit and that is a great real world portfolio piece for you. You help the nonprofit, it was pro bono and your nonprofit is going to be using this in their future projects that they put up.  

Jessica Valis: So I worked this past year, this is my first year doing it and I did a logo for a nonprofit for their summer program. And that was a lot of fun. I don’t have that on my portfolio. I just don’t necessarily think it’s relevant to what I’m doing.  

Jessica Valis: But if I were to get in touch with other nonprofits or I decided to do work in that area, then yeah, I might, I might shoot them over to that. What project did you work on Monique for Design Fest?  

Monique Jenkins: I worked on the great, I think it was called the Great Wax and Blacks, or Great Blacks and Wax, listen, the Great Blacks and Wax Museum, which is a pretty big museum in Baltimore. They’re in the process of doing a redoing their building structure and they needed some branding work as well as some design work for their website as they’re going through this like rebranding and phase.  

Monique Jenkins: I will say that I found it incredibly valuable. I also got a $200 ,000 RSP from another company from one of the other designers who was at my table who needed some design work for the company he worked for.  

Monique Jenkins: So as far as networking concern, I’m gonna be doing that next year as well, because I think that it brought a new business to my purview that I didn’t have ordinarily, but I also found it incredibly valuable to network with the other designers who were at my table.  

Monique Jenkins: And to potentially use their services later for white labeling purposes, because I think that almost every designer that I talked to had a business of some sort, but like wasn’t able to gain traction with their business and like needed some support in one area or another.  

Monique Jenkins: And it was just nice to be able to, you know, get out of the designing for your business or designing for your corporation and designed for something that you potentially see as being incredibly valuable out there in the world.  

Monique Jenkins: And it’s a great presentation piece. I truly enjoyed it. So I would do it again. And it was a fun time. Also, there was lunch. So I like all events with free food. Sorry, I have to go there for the series of times.  

Jessica Valis: This is a great segue into the next section about how to get that first client and it’s all about networking. I kind of touched briefly on my experience with networking, but you are a pro on this. So tell us about the power of networking within the design community.  

Monique Jenkins: So I did not use CB, a pro at networking. I hate networking, TV, W, all the acronyms. I don’t like networking, but I have found it to be a valuable skill as a result of my husband. He is the type of person who could have a conversation with just about anybody, about just about anything, and I hate it.  

Monique Jenkins: It is the bane of our relationship. I absolutely hate getting into conversations with people because he does not know when to wrap it up, but over the course of our 12 years together, he has had a multitude of conversations that I wanted to exit stage left on, and that has forced me to have to be more social as a result.  

Monique Jenkins: So in the vein of trying to be more social, I was like, I was working at a company, and I was like, hey, I really want to be able to connect with other designers. I feel like I’m missing something, or I just don’t have the secret sauce, and I’m not sure what it is.  

Monique Jenkins: So I joined AIGA Baltimore, and I sat on their board on the programming team for a couple of years, and that was really in service to meet in other designers, to seeing other people’s work, to being able to talk to them and understand their pricing and do all of that, and that really served me.  

Monique Jenkins: And then I think after a little bit of time, I realized that I wanted to change the type of events that I was programming for to specifically focus around events that dealt with women in general. I just felt like a lot of our programming wasn’t specific towards women, and I wanted to make sure that we had a voice at the table, because as we talked about in previous podcast episodes, women are notoriously undercut as far as pay is concerned, and I wanted to have those conversations on a little bit more of an open stage.  

Monique Jenkins: So I joined AIGA, and that did amazing things for me. And then after AIGA, myself and my friend Davia, we started Ladies Wine and Design Baltimore, which is a non -for -profit as well that focuses on women and non -binary creatives getting into executive leadership roles, and we started to create and program events around those things.  

Monique Jenkins: So those two clubs that I was a part of, or activities that I was a part of, helped me to get out there in Baltimore in a way that I had not previously, and then I started to force myself to go to events.  

Monique Jenkins: Anytime I say no to myself, I have to do the thing I just said no to. That includes everything. I’m like, oh, you’re supposed to work out today, no, I don’t wanna do that. I gotta get up and do it right in that moment.  

Monique Jenkins: Like, it just doesn’t, I don’t care what you want. You gotta get up and make it happen. So I just started putting myself out there. I would attend every networking event that I could find, or the ones that at least interested me in Baltimore and DC and PA if necessary or Virginia or whatever the case is.  

Monique Jenkins: And I just forced myself to go there, and I would force myself to have to interact with at least two to three people. You gonna be here, you gonna talk to at least two to three people, I don’t care what you like, girl.  

Monique Jenkins: And then I also started to make myself sit in on, like to start presenting as a speaker. So making sure my face was out there, making sure my business was out there, and just staying committed to being in those spaces and those circles.  

Monique Jenkins: And I just kept meeting more people who were, in those spaces, in those circles. They brought additional information to the table, and it just kind of expanded from there. But I’m most certainly not a very, I’m a networking person, because I have to be, but not because I want to be, because I would rather be sitting at all eating Cheetos, watching Netflix.  

Monique Jenkins: But I think that forcing yourself to get out there in this space that you’re not normally comfortable in is incredibly important. And I did that because my husband is the worst, and just likes to talk to too many people.  

Jessica Valis: I think when it comes to conferences too, obviously the subject matter, it matters. So if I’m going to go attend financial conferences, then I’m going to feel more comfortable talking to people there because that’s what my background is.  

Jessica Valis: But if I go to a conference with mechanics, that’s not my niche. I am not going to connect with people on that level. So you have to kind of attend the conferences or go to the networking events that resonate with you.  

Jessica Valis: And it just makes it a little bit more natural. You feel more at home and you actually start to run into the same people. And when you do that, you start to build that trust factor. I mentioned at the beginning of the episode that I went to a Chamber of Commerce event and I was the new person and nobody wanted to talk to me.  

Jessica Valis: Nobody trusted me. So the more I went to these things, I started to run into the same people who became clients or who would ask me to white label under them. And then I would go to speaking engagements and you do the whole business card exchange.  

Jessica Valis: And then you start to see, oh, you work for this company. I think I white labeled under this person and I worked on this project with you. And they’re like, oh, my God, yeah, you’re you’re that Jessica.  

Jessica Valis: Like, yeah, that was me. So going to these events and they just reinforce your presence. And you might not get your first client from the first time you go, as was evident with me. But the more you go, the more of a reputation you build.  

Monique Jenkins: Yeah, I will say like every time I talk to someone, they’re like, oh Monique, you know everyone. I’m like, I don’t know nobody. I don’t know nobody don’t know my know me either. We’ll know nothing about nothing.  

Monique Jenkins: Um, it’s not my, uh, it’s not my thing, but I think that I’ve been to enough events at this particular junction that like people have at least seen my face and could correlate me back to something that they’ve probably been a part of or seen.  

Monique Jenkins: And then like you said, you start to meet other people who run other not for profits or who attend a lot of the same events and things like that. And you just kind of develop a rhythm and people get to know you, you get to know them and there, there’s a sense of trust that’s built there.  

Monique Jenkins: And you know, from there, you can start to derive work from those people. That wasn’t necessarily the intention for me. The intention was really to just get out of my jamas and go outside and be like a normal human, but like that is, that was, that is what happened as a result.  

Monique Jenkins: So that was pretty good.  

Jessica Valis: Alright, so one other thing you can do to find that first client and it again kind of goes back to your portfolio is to create an online presence. You can and you should have a professional website because and I run into this all the time with my clients.  

Jessica Valis: If I cannot find you on Google, I do not trust you. I think you are putting bare bone expenses into your business. You are not committed to it. You are working on this business on the side and it’s not that important to you.  

Jessica Valis: If you have a website that wows me and you’re a designer, I’m going to trust you. But then there’s also the aspect of social media as well and just starting to form those connections kind of just like going to networking events.  

Jessica Valis: And again, you just start interacting with the same people and you develop that rapport and you know, you can show off examples of your website or you know, share your knowledge information for free and then that develops your authority in the field.  

Jessica Valis: Now Monique, I know you don’t use social media.  

Monique Jenkins: It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just that I’m not there, guys. Um, I’m gonna work on it. Yasha hold me accountable. Just everyone messaged me and be like, money, did you post on social media today?  

Monique Jenkins: I’m gonna say no, I’m saying no tomorrow too, but I will eventually get to that place. But one of the things I was going to say is that I think one of the important things that even I don’t do on a regular consistent basis, I think you do, Jessica, is putting yourself out there with your network.  

Monique Jenkins: So like if you have a Facebook and it’s just family and friends, like saying, like, Hey, I’m offering these services, they might know someone who is looking for those type of services, but because you’re so afraid to talk about your business and because you’re afraid of failure, you aren’t getting, you aren’t tapping into the markets that are in your immediate circle because you’re not talking about your business to the people who are immediate connections to you and could potentially, you know, bring you in some type of work or something like that.  

Monique Jenkins: So everyone’s, you know, grandmother, uncle, cousin, niece, nephew, whoever knows someone who has a business who needs a designer to be on staff or attends a church program. And you know, they need, you know, pamphlets for the first, the first Sunday of the month or they’re having a car wash to raise money for something.  

Monique Jenkins: All of those things are opportunities for you to get your work out there and to a bigger audience than you normally interact with on a daily basis. And you should leverage your personal social media in order to do that.  

Monique Jenkins: And I know that we distinguish between personal and professional and there will become a point where the lines will become very clear in the sand. And you might not post on your personal Instagram or personal Facebook about your business, but you’re not there.  

Monique Jenkins: We’re not there yet. I’m not there. It is valuable for you to have those conversations with your immediate network because they can probably bring you business quicker than you going to a network event and talking to someone and hoping that they remember your name and your information and all the other stuff in between.  

Monique Jenkins: So leverage your own network. Don’t expect that like going to a networking event will allow you an opportunity to work on a project that you wouldn’t have otherwise worked on.  

Jessica Valis: I had an example of this actually today. I am getting involved in local politics and I went over to a buddy’s business. He had a photocopier and I need to use it and we’re both gonna run in the November election.  

Jessica Valis: And he’s like, yeah, I printed off some business cards and he showed me and I looked at the back. I was like, oh, I really love the back. It was like an American flag mixed with the Pennsylvania flag.  

Jessica Valis: And it was just kind of like, I don’t know, political cool. But then I turned it on the front and there was like three different type of font sizes and nothing was aligned. And I was like, you know, I could have done this for you, right?  

Jessica Valis: And he’s like, I know, I know. I like to support local businesses too. And in my mind, I’m like, I would have done it for free because we’re both running on the same platform and I want you to win. But then I was like, well, I mean, if he’s gonna pay me then maybe, but no, I’m not gonna do that because otherwise he’s gotta report it.  

Jessica Valis: So a donation in kind will do.  

Monique Jenkins: Yeah, I mean like finding your first client. I think is as easy as hard or as hard as putting yourself out there And sometimes I think that putting yourself out there could be uncomfortable Like it is for me and networking if you heard other people like be like, oh, I know Monique She’s super like cool or something.  

Monique Jenkins: That’s a lie first of all, but like she is a person. No, it’s not. No, it’s not I’m not cool. I’m definitely a nerd y ‘all But if you just like if you if you came up to myself or Jessica for that matter and said like hey I just want to have a conversation with you about finding my first client I think that we would take the time to help, you know Help you have that conversation and to help you pitch yourself or to at least give you some tips and things like that So sometimes it’s just as easy as being like let me try to reach out to this person and see if they have the capacity That’s not an expectation But if they have the capacity and they want to help they can sit down with you and say like hey This is how I would change your messaging In order to align yourself so that you can get the client or you need to be more specific with your niche or You know, this is your elevator pitch or this is what it should be or you sure we’re finding it a little bit I think that even those things will help you to gain access and I have had Other designers who did not want work Be like hey Monique.  

Monique Jenkins: I have a client. They’re at $20 ,000 that’s not enough for me to do this work Would you like it and I’d be like $20 ,000 is certainly enough for me to get this doing so let’s go ahead and pass it over to me But like there are other designers that you’re gonna know that sometimes they’re like hey This isn’t really worth it for me and my business and in the place that I’m at this person is that 200 ,000 dollars a project So like it very well might be someone who is also a business owner that says like hey I have smaller work that I can’t accomplish I’m gonna pass that over to Monique and I confident in her abilities in order to get that done and sometimes That’s how you gain your first client It’s just being like is white labeling yourself under someone else’s business and saying I will provide design support or You know support in a different way so that I can gain a client or a steady stream of clients as opposed to trying to find Someone on your own and hoping that you can serve them in all the ways they need you to  

Jessica Valis: I would end with this last thing, which is finding a mentor or finding somebody who will help coach you kind of like Monique said, where you could just come up to us and we will tell you. I mean, we’re telling you on this podcast.  

Jessica Valis: But to find a mentor who believes in you will help strengthen your design skills or whatever skill it is that you’re trying to develop. For me, I’ve had a couple interns that I really really believe in.  

Jessica Valis: And when they have come to me or when a client has come to me and said, Hey, Jessica, I have something. It’s not necessarily what you would normally work on. Do you have somebody? I passed that work on to my former interns who are usually in transition between either they’re in their senior year and they’re looking for relevant work or they’re in that transition between graduation and the first salaried position.  

Jessica Valis: So it kind of like Monique said, where people pass off the work that they don’t want or can’t handle. If you find a mentor even through an internship that trusts in you enough, you could maybe land your first client that way.  

Monique Jenkins: Yeah, I do offer chit chats on my like Cal and Lee. You can book like 15 minutes with me and just do like a quick one on one. But if it’s like a pick my brain session, I’m gonna charge you, it’s $500 BTDubs, just in case you wanna get into the details.  

Monique Jenkins: Well, include our chat.  

Jessica Valis: links in the description of the episode.  

Monique Jenkins: I get way too involved in these conversations. Every 15 minute chat that I’ve ever had with another designer is 17 hours later. Like I’m texting you after, like I literally set 15 minute chats and then Brian comes in here and he’s like, are you gonna eat dinner tonight?  

Monique Jenkins: Cause like you’ve been on this call for four hours. And I was like, I know, and it was supposed to be 15 minutes, but I get so much from these conversations that I’m like, oh, I never thought about that.  

Monique Jenkins: Ooh, I’m challenged.  

Jessica Valis: You always talk about how you don’t like to, you’re kind of like a set it, forget it. We have a one -time relationship, you’re gone. And I build those relationships where maybe we start off with our conversation and then I’m gonna be texting you examples like, I’m gonna have your cell phone number and we’re about to become best friends.  

Jessica Valis: So if you don’t like me, you better tell me and then block me, otherwise I’m gonna be sending you links, articles, podcasts to everything relevant that we just talked about to help you improve your business.  

Monique Jenkins: Yeah, I think I have a bookmark tab on my thing. This is like links Jessica sent me that I need to go back and read that I never looked at.  

Jessica Valis: Well, I think this is a really good spot to end the episode. There’s obviously so many different ways to find your first client. You just have to put yourself out there and trust in your abilities, build your portfolio and see how it goes.  

Jessica Valis: It’s kind of is all chance. You have to find out what works for you and go for it. Any other comments for this, Monique? Nope.  

Monique Jenkins: almost end, I’m on cruise. All right.  

Jessica Valis: All right. Well, thank you all for joining us today. We’ll see you on the next episode.  

Monique Jenkins: Hey there, Design Enthusiasts, and welcome to the backstage pass of the Design Imposter podcast. I’m Monique, and me and Jessica thought it would be great to have you guys listen to some of the bloopers that we have had as we have been filming.  

Monique Jenkins: These you will be able to find at the end of every single episode of the Design Imposter podcast. So, stay tuned and listen up. Yeah  

Jessica Valis: Go ahead.  

Monique Jenkins: head.  

Jessica Valis: I mentioned at the beginning of the episode, I went to a business of commerce event. I, er, no, I went to a commerce of business event. Is that chamber of commerce event? All right.  

Monique Jenkins: Mine? Damn, I was supposed to ask you a question. That’s fine. Sorry, I was like.  

Jessica Valis: Look it back at the beginning to make sure that I’m talking about everything.  

Monique Jenkins: Self -doubt may be a universal experience, but it should never define your worth or potential.  

Jessica Valis: Embrace the power of your unique voice, trust in your intuition and abilities, and continue creating fearlessly.  

Monique Jenkins: Remember, you belong in this space and your contributions are immense.  

Jessica Valis: valuable. Know that you are never alone on this journey. We stand by your side ready to support and celebrate you and your business every step of the way. Thank you for joining us.  

Monique Jenkins: today and being an essential part of the Design Imposter community.  

Jessica Valis: Don’t forget to subscribe, follow us at Design Imposter Podcast on Instagram and Facebook, and leave a review to help other imposters find us. Until we meet again, keep those headphones ready.