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Resourceful Designer podcast: Offering tips, tricks and advice for starting and growing your graphic or web design business.

Referral Partners 10 People to get Design Referrals From

It’s confusing for wannabe entrepreneurs to start a business. Their confusion creates an excellent opportunity for you, as a designer to team up with referral partners and not only help these entrepreneurs get started, but it also helps grow your and your referral partners’ businesses.

Starting a business is a daunting task. You don’t just get out of bed one morning and think to yourself “What should I do today? I know, I’ll start a business.” That’s not how it works. There are so many steps involved in starting a business that it’s difficult to know where to start. That’s why most people wanting to start a new business seek guidance, help and advice in their endeavour.

Since there’s no Start Here button to push whenever someone wants to start a business, that guidance, help and advice they seek out can come from anywhere and anyone, including you, their designer. If you want to help these new entrepreneurs to the best of your ability you should have referral partners that can lend a hand.

What is a referral partner?

A Referral Partner is as simple as it sounds. It’s partners that refer to each other. If someone comes to you for advice on starting a business, you refer them to the partner that would best help them, and vice versa, whenever someone goes to one of your partners, and they require design services, your partner refers them to you. That’s all there is to it.

Choosing your referral partners.

A referral partner should be someone integral in the development of new businesses that complement what you do as a designer. Here is a list of 10 people you should approach to become referral partners.

Industry suppliers

Industry suppliers include printers, sign makers, vehicle wrappers, and anyone else within your industry but who don’t compete with you for design. When a new startup hires you to design their new logo, you can refer them to these people to get the rest of their branding and marketing material produced.

When a client contacts one of these partners asking about their services, the partner can send the client your way for design and web work.


A lawyer may be the first person contacted when someone is thinking of starting a business. Partner with them and they can refer these new business people your way. When a new client comes to you at the start of their business journey you could recommend them to the lawyer.


Just like a lawyer, some people will talk to their accountants before deciding on a course of action for their business. Team up with one and send clients both ways.

Financial Institutions

Financial institutions include banks, credit unions, financial advisors, money lenders, venture capitalists or anyone involved with financing business. Financial institutions make great partners.

Local business offices

Most places require businesses to register their name, obtain a license, submit a business plan etc. Partner with these places to get more clients.

Chamber of Commerce

Most communities have a Chamber of Commerce. They make great referral partners. You may have to become a member to partner with them, but it’s well worth the cost to gain more clients.

Local business groups

Municipalities often have private business groups made up of local business people that handle specific areas of a community. For example, a Downtown Business Group, or Waterfront Business Group. Contact these groups and ask them to refer any new businesses in their area to you.

Commercial real estate agents

Partner up with commercial real estate agents and send growing clients their way when they need to expand and ask them to refer similar businesses back to you.

Business schools

Contact local schools to see if they offer business classes or workshops for new entrepreneurs. Ask to speak to the class about the importance of good branding. You can also ask them to refer students your way.


Approach Union offices and ask them to refer any union members who are thinking of starting a business.

How to reach out to referral partners

Becoming a referral partner with someone is easy. Send them an email or better yet drop in and talk to them. Explain the mutual benefit. How from time to time your clients ask for advice that they would be better-suited providing and you could refer your clients to them. In exchange, when they have a client that is in need of design services you would appreciate them giving out your name. It’s that easy.

You can have more than one referral partner in an industry

It’s ok to be referral partners with multiple people in the same industry. Give your clients various options when referring them to someone. Be sure to tell your client to mention you, so your referral partner knows the client came from you.

You should also send an email to your referral partner letting them know that you gave their name to someone. That way your partner will know you are helping them out even if the client never contacts them.

Have you ever partnered with someone for referrals?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

This week’s question comes from Joshua

Hey Mark, I have recently found your podcast, and love listening to it, it awnsers any and all questions that I thought I had and didn’t even know I had. However I have yet to start freelancing, for I am still in school, I’m a junior in a graphic design program In the states, and am very weary on how I should start freelancing. In your opinion should I wait to finish school to start freelancing, or should I just go ahead and start? This is something I have thought about for a while, but still am 50/50 on wether or not I should.

To find out what I told Joshua you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

Resource of the week 4-Week Marketing Boost

I put this guide together in the hopes to encourage you to look at your brand and image. The daily tasks in my guide require only 15-30 minute of your time and focus on the parts of your marketing material that are often overlooked or neglected. After completing this four-week plan you will be in a better position to present yourself to, and win over new clients.

You can download the Four Week Marketing Boost by visiting marketingboost.net. Or, if you are in the U.S.A., you can text the word MARKETINGBOOST to 44222.

Improve your business’ image and create the best first impression possible to attract more clients.

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I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn’t easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I’ll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com