5 Unexpected Ways to Get Clients (In Your First Year In Business)
When you’re first starting out in your business, it can feel like there are a million roadblocks in front of you, especially the biggie: getting clients who pay. How do you land that first (or second, or third) client?
Before we delve into some surprising ways you can snag new clients, make sure you’re crystal-clear about exactly who you want to be working with. How do you find them? Where do they hang out? If you want to use your time and efforts productively (and I know you do!) you won’t want to be guessing on these things. (Read more on Why the Phrase "Ideal Client" Makes Me Want to Vomit.)
Once you can answer those questions, it’s time to take action and make some key connections.
How to find clients for your business:
1. Reach out to family, friends, former work contacts and everyone else in your personal network.
I know, I know, it’s cliche but true. Friends and family are an oft-overlooked source of new business — don’t ignore this gold mine! Hop on social media, craft a personal email, or set up a few coffee dates with friends and acquaintances. If you've tried this method before and it didn't work, did you tell them exactly who you want to work with (in a way they would understand?)
You need to go into these coffee dates with a strategy. First, let them know about the business you’ve created and the types of services you offer. Then, ask them directly if they know anyone who could benefit from working with you. This is the key though — you MUST know exactly who you serve.
It’s basically worthless to tell someone “I plan weddings.” Great, so do 823 other people they know. If you instead tell them, “I plan weddings for active military couples,” now you’ve specified exactly who you’re looking to help, and in turn, the person you’re talking to will remember and refer couples your way.
The best part is, research shows we want to share something helpful and novel (for more read Contagious by Jonah Berger), which means that you’re likely to start seeing referrals once you name the exact population you serve in relation to what you do.
If the thought of announcing your baby business to those closest to you makes you want to curl up under a duvet for all eternity — I totally get it.
It’s scary to put yourself out there, especially when a family member just doesn’t understand what you’re building or why you aren’t happy with your former/current/side gig (you know, that “real job”). If you know a particular person is going to go down this route with you when you talk about your business, try to meet them where they’re at. Recognize that their reservations come from a place of concern for your well being. Show them why your business is important to you, and that it’s a legit business (not a hobby) by revealing a little about your plan.
Your friends and family can be some of your biggest supporters and a foot in the door to new opportunities. They genuinely want to see you succeed. They’ll appreciate knowing that they’ve had an impact on the growth of your newbie business… so let them into your inner circle!
2. Ask your current clients for a referral.
Got clients already? Perfect! Even if they’re not paying clients, it’s time to ask them if they know of anyone else in their industry who might be looking for your services.
Here’s a useful little tidbit that will likely forever impact the way you conduct your relationships with clients: social psychology research has shown that one of the best ways to enhance someone’s positive feelings toward you is to ask them for a favor. It’s true! There’s just something about the act of helping you that makes them feel deeply invested in your future. Your very best clients love working with you and will go the extra mile — you just need to ask.
3. Book a speaking engagement.
This is a fantastic way to get visible and position yourself as an expert and authority in your field. Take a look at local events happening in your area and find ways to insert yourself. And if you can't find an event that's a good fit, host your own! There are small businesses willing to share their retail space with another small business owner, especially if it brings new traffic to their store.
Hosting your own event doesn’t have to be intimidating. It can be a small, casual gathering or a more formal affair. Choose a topic that you’re familiar with and that will help your audience (i.e., potential future clients!) and get yourself out there. Nothing says “expert” quite like hosting your own workshop or presentation — and it’s an effective way to seriously elevate your brand.
Make sure you let people know how to contact you once the workshop is over and watch those leads roll in.
4. Provide plenty of value to your potential future clients.
Facebook groups & social media can be a great way to connect to people searching for services, even if they aren’t ready to pull the trigger on hiring help. The best part is that you’re able to instantly check in on what’s being discussed and the exact problems your audience is facing.
If someone submits a question in a Facebook group (or comments on a blog, IG, etc.) and you can help answer that person's question... do it!
Taking the “give, give, get” approach is a good business (and life) habit that will cement your reputation as a valuable contributor. Even if the original poster isn't ready for your services, someone else may be interested in that same topic later and stumble upon the conversation months down the line. Don't you want your response to be the most helpful one in the replies, so they come to you for more?
Want a quick tip? Simply do a keyword search within the Facebook group. If you're a graphic designer, for example, search that keyword within the group and you'll find all the members posting their questions about graphic design. Jump in and answer the original poster's questions and be helpful (not salesy!). Eventually, members will start to see you as an authority in your field and as a go-to person for the service you’re providing.
5. Cultivate relationships with other service providers in your field.
Forming relationships with business owners who offer similar or adjacent services is a great way to create a sense of community where you can bounce ideas off of each other, share stories and tips, and ask for general advice.
“But Christina, aren’t these people my competition?”
You might be surprised at how much these connections will benefit both of you. There are times when I’m overbooked, and other times when some potential clients aren’t a great fit. I’m able to refer these leads to my “competition,” and these leads nearly always remember the kindness I served them with. My competition turns into collaborators, and the lead turns into a referral source, even though they didn’t end up working with me. It’s a win-win!
Sometimes, the simplest ways of reaching out for new clients are the most effective. Get ready to explain what you do, ask directly for referrals, and most importantly, add value wherever you go. Before you know it, you’ll be raising your prices due to demand!
What's been the most effective way of getting new clients in your business? Hop to the comments and let me know.
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