My secret weapon to attract high-paying clients is passion projects! I know it may seem silly, but creating fake projects for yourself will only attract dream clients. Seriously. When I started my freelance business back in 2014 I was struggling. I had no idea how to get my work in front of the right people. I knew I wanted to design for the beauty industry and wondered why I had no inquiries with the type of work I desperately wanted to do. After many months waiting around and trying to find any work on different freelance sites, I decided to take matters into my own hands. Enter: Beauty Bar. I really needed to vent out my creative frustrations and so I decided to create a design project for myself. I was going to design for a fake beauty brand that I dubbed: Beauty Bar. Too on the nose if you ask me! But it was my start. I remember going to Whole Foods and buying the very expensive soaps so that I could print my designed labels and document my project. Looking back, it would have been much faster if I had used mockups, but at the time I was desperate for work and needing to get my hands dirty. You can actually see the whole project here.
Why Passion Projects Are Worth The Time
I know sometimes the motivation to start a new project that is purely personal is a struggle. You need to get inspired and brainstorm a totally fake business and that in itself can be challenging. But here’s the thing, when you create passion projects you have the opportunity to not only showcase your incredible talent, but to cater to the niche or market that you want to work for. For example, I knew I wanted to design for the beauty industry but my portfolio did not reflect this. If I wanted to attract dream clients who had beauty projects, I needed to look the part. Not to mention that passion projects can be a wonderful way to keep your portfolio looking fresh and maybe even replace some work you’re not that proud of. Win/win.
Brainstorming Passion Projects
Convinced that passion projects are worth it yet?! Well if you aren’t already, I have a formula that will help you create as many passion projects as you can imagine! It’s a very simple 4 step process and all you need is a piece of paper, your fav music and some coffee. Each step builds upon the next and goes from very general to very specific:
First, write down your top 3-4 markets that you would love to work or design for. Think about the type of work that you could be doing for them and if you would like to take on those type of projects. Markets like… Food + Beverage, Beauty, Wellness, Cars + Transportation, etc etc… Write all the ones you’d like to be a part of.
Next, select your favorite niche from your choices on number one and write it at the top of a piece of paper. Brainstorm all the possible projects you could be creating for this. For example if you chose the Food + Beverage niche you could jot down: An organic pizza place, a cool urban bar, a new vegan cheese brand. Go wild, write as many general project ideas as you can.
Make it personal! Think of things that you LOVE, things that you are passionate about. Maybe it’s a quirk you have, your favorite food, a cause you’re super into and see if it naturally fits in with any of the projects that you listed above. This step is technically optional, but I like to think that adding in a sprinkle of your personality makes you stand out even more. For example, at one point I really wanted to design branding for a bar and during a brainstorm I came up with the Villains Tavern. I merged my love of Disney with design and it even evolved into a second personal project, the Heroes bar.
Give it a name! If you’re designing you need to have a brand business name. You can do this by pairing adjectives together or gathering inspiration online. At this stage you can go crazy or super simple like my Beauty Bar project. It all depend son where your brainstorm is at this stage.
Passion Projects Gave Me My Big Break
It’s no secret that one of my biggest clients is Anthropologie Beauty. I have been working with them for over three years now and to this day I still pinch myself. Guess how they found me? That’s right, my Beauty Bar passion project! Someone on the beauty team was souring for inspo on Pinterest and found my little side-project, the rest as they say… is history! If I hadn’t taken charge and invested my time in my own personal projects, who know’s where I would be now. What I am saying is… passion projects are magical tools that help attract dream clients!
Attracting Dream Clients With Your Passion Projects
I always say that 99.9% of my dream clients find me on Pinterest. That’s where Anthropologie found me and also other clients like Katie Mitchell — who by the way, found me though my personal project Heroes Bar! I’m telling you… this simply works! Not only are you creating work that you can be proud of and love, but when you put a social media strategy behind it, it will attract dream clients who have the kind of projects you want to work on! Creative work attracts more creative work. All you have to do is invest a little time on it.
What do you think?! Willing to give passion projects a shot?