It’s one thing to decide that you are going to start your own business. It’s quite another to actually find your first client. Yet finding new clients is crucial, because without them, you don’t have a business.
How I found my first client
It would be more accurate to say my first client found me, rather than the other way around.
Never underestimate the power of the grapevine. You see, when I was made redundant and decided to start my own business, I spread the word far and wide.
I posted on social media, sent emails to all my work contacts, made phone calls, arranged coffee catch-ups and lunch dates, and even attended a conference which I had booked long before I knew I would be jobless within days!
Maybe I have a big mouth, but I couldn’t stop telling everybody of my plans. It was as if by speaking the words, I could bring my dreams of my own business, to pass.
And in a way, that’s exactly what happened.
Within the very first week a connection sought me out, looking for help to take care of her business website and online presence.
Fortunately, she was much more experienced in the mechanics of the business world, and patiently walked me through the process of formulating our contractual agreement. Our contract addressed everything from the amount and type of work I would be doing, to compensation, confidentiality, and potential conflicts of interest.
I was in business!
However, I knew I needed to find more clients.
As the old saying goes, you should never put all your eggs in the one basket, and I was wary of relying too heavily on just one client for all my business.
Not to mention the fact that it would be difficult to convince the tax office that I was a solopreneur, rather than an employee, without more clients.
How I found my second client
Although Lady Luck had a hand in finding my first client, I took the initiative when it came to my second.
It was a business I’d already had some dealings with through my previous position. I’d noticed they had a distinct lack of social media presence, so contacted an acquaintance at the firm to find out if there were any plans afoot, and if she thought they might be open to outsourcing.
It was a case of being the right person, at the right time, in the right place. The decision had been made, the budget was in place – all it took was a phone call to the marketing manager to set up a meeting.
At this point I was able to pitch my services and provide an outline of a social media strategy for their new Facebook page. The fact that they’d worked with me previously definitely gave me an edge. It also helped that I was local, had some great connections in their industry and demonstrated my suitability through the preparation and planning I’d put into my pitch.
Landing that client was such an achievement, as I’d gone out and done it for myself!
From there, I found clients everywhere: at meetings and conferences, through word-of-mouth, and referrals.
Are you noticing a theme here? The majority of my clients have found me through personal connection, or networking.
Finding new clients 101
Whether you’re just starting your business, or looking to build your current client base, here are some of my best tips:
- Let everybody you know, know about your business. Heck, you could even have a launch party!
- Be prepared by ordering business cards and always having them on hand, as you never know when opportunity will knock.
- Include your business details in your email signature block.
- Establish your profile on LinkedIn if you haven’t already, and include the details of your new business.
- Go to networking functions.
- Include professional development opportunities in your business budget. It is amazing the connections, and the work, which can be generated as a result of attending seminars and conferences.
- Do the occasional freebie. When I created a website for a not for profit organisation, they shouted my praises from the rooftops!
- Start capturing names and email addresses of interested folk and potential clients for your database, so you can send out a regular newsletter.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a networking function to attend!