You’ve left that job at last! You registered as a sole trader or company. Your business has a name, an office and a new computer. But there’s just one thing missing. How can you find clients?
Twenty years ago, I accidentally started my business. I’d been looking for a job and was upset about being knocked back. My head was in my hands. Was it ever going to happen?
But there was good news. A person who knocked me back recommended me to my first client. All the reasons I wasn’t suitable to be her publicist, made me perfect for him. I was in business.
But when that client work was completed six months later, how did I find more clients?
Keep in mind that my business began before MailChimp or social media. There were no mobile phones or text messages. We had just begun using email and internet was dial up.
It’s fun to look back at those early days and see that a few of these ideas about how to find clients are still relevant.
- Once or twice a year I sent an email to 50 people explaining the work I did and that I was looking for new clients. It was nothing fancy, just a letter in the email body. I sent it to friends, work colleagues and peers. And I asked them to share it with their networks. It didn’t exactly go viral (and it didn’t need to) but it worked.
- I progressed to asking a designer to make me a one page PDF flyer. My humble PDF promotional page went out on email as an attachment.
- It was quite a few years before I even had a website. Yes, I made do with email and phone.
Today we have many more options but the principles and values remain the same: be clear about what you do and spread the word among people who already know you. Three years ago, I changed my business completely and had to – you guessed it – find my first client all over again.
Here’s what I did to find clients:
- Email: Write a newsletter and send to recent colleagues, friends and even family. The newsletter should have your photo, business name– and logo if you have one already. Share the news about your business and how you will help people. I send a newsletter every few months. It displays my branding and always tells the stories of my business.
- Phone: People who have worked with you and whom you have worked for can become great referrers. In fact, past employers often become first clients.Call them up. Find out what they need and see if you can solve it.
- Online business media: Where are you reading this? On Flying Solo right? Create a Flying Solo profile. You can write stories or contribute to forums. This is your community. And yes, I’ve received clients over the years who I met through the Flying Solo community.
- Social media: Let your friends know. Just because it’s Facebook doesn’t mean you can’t talk work. I shared my business relaunch journey on Facebook. A person I’d never met read my posts and became a client.
- Love and support: Ask people who already know and love you to refer and recommend you. They can vouch for you as experienced and reliable even if they have not received your new service. Collect and use testimonials from your last job. Even though I’d never provided my whole new service before, previous testimonials were valuable.
First clients do matter. Once you have that first client, earn their respect and gratitude. More testimonial and referrals will follow, as will many more clients.
One day you’ll look back and count the hundreds or thousands you’ve helped over many years.
This post originally appeared on Flying Solo on July 26 2017 and was updated on December 21 2021.
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