5 Unexpected Ways to Get Clients (In Your First Year In Business)

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 who exactly you want to work 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. 

Once you can answer those questions, it’s time to take action and start finding 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, so 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. 

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. If you’ve tried this method of finding clients before and it didn’t work, you may not have been as clear as you could have been on who you want to work with.

Here’s an example. Rather than telling someone, “I plan weddings,” be waymore specific, because otherwise, how will you stand apart from every other wedding planner they know? Instead, “I plan weddings for active military couples,” is much more specific and memorable. The person you’re talking to will remember and refer couples your way.

Don’t just tell others in your space — tell your friends and family, too! They can be some of your biggest supporters and offer 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, ask them if they know of anyone else in their industry who might be looking for your services. 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.

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.

Speaking 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. 

 (Psst...I shared some tips about speaking on The Rebel Speaker Podcast!)

4. Provide plenty of value to your potential future clients.

Social media, especially Facebook groups, is 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, comments on a blog, or starts a discussion on Instagram, help that person out and answer their question. That’s providing value to someone who’s not officially your customer yet! Bonus: you also build trust and credibility with your audience.

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? 

Hot tip: Do a keyword search within the Facebook group to find questions you can answer. 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 wait, aren’t these people my competition?”

You might be surprised at how much these connections will benefit both of you! There are times when we’re overbooked, and other times when some potential clients just aren’t a great fit. We’re able to refer these leads to our competition, and these leads nearly always remember that gesture of kindness. Our competition turns into collaborators, and the lead turns into a referral source, even though they didn’t end up working with us. It’s a win-win!

Know who you want to work with and start searching

Once you narrow down who you serve with your business, you can start searching for potential clients. And sometimes, the simplest ways of reaching out for new clients are the most effective!

Take advantage of your personal network and any current clients you’ve worked with. Put yourself out there on social media and in other opportunities like speaking engagements. Most importantly, add value wherever you go so you’ll be remembered for the right reasons. 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! And if you’re looking for a resource that covers everything you wanna know about finding, landing, and keeping your dream clients, check out our Clients On Tap® course 

6 Responses

Paula Schuck
Paula Schuck

October 10, 2019

Facebook groups are gold. Agree with that. Also this is a great resource. Thank you.


May 14, 2019

I’ve found asking my clients to refer me to some of their friends who may also use my services has been so successful! Now it just happens organically with my clients giving my details to each other without even asking me first! These are all brilliant tips, thank you!


October 11, 2018

Love these ideas! One other thing that’s helped me was to visit businesses near my office to introduce myself and let them know my business is new in town 🤗

Christina Scalera
Christina Scalera

March 30, 2018

Thank you so much, Amy-Lynn for the awesome feedback! I’m sure you already know ;) but in case anyone reading didn’t know… we have an affiliate program! You can apply here: http://bit.ly/tcsaffiliate


March 27, 2018

Great tips! I’m sharing this with my readers/mailing list and Facebook group for freelancing beginners. I think they’ll find it very helpful. Also, I’m loving this website design!

Marriah Tarango
Marriah Tarango

March 12, 2018

These are such great tips! I find #4 to be super useful. Facebook groups are where a majority of my clients find me as I’m often providing helpful information to other business owners in need in my groups.

Tarango Visual Studio

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