Getting clients can feel friggin’ embarassing, tedious and HARD. At least, it was to me as I started up my second attempt at a business. It was an in-home private yoga service. Ugh, I know, I can’t even… so not me, but you live and you learn.
I remember starting from nothing, with 0 job prospects at studios, which wouldn’t have mattered anyway. Hellllllo—people who can afford and want private yoga won’t be seen in a sweaty, gross studio. The next place I started looking for clients was the Internet. I thought if I had a fancy blog with a great logo and layout that would really do the trick. I’d hit publish and they’d start pouring in, unable to resist the charm of pastel pink next to green with some watercolor swashes.
Finally, I started to gain some momentum when I inserted myself into the kinds of social situations my target audience enjoyed. Things like professional groups and social events where they could see and be seen with their fancy little purses.
It can be tricky finding your first paying clients. Most of us feel like we need to have everything already in place as a foundation for our business, so we start doing everything we can to make ourselves look like a legit, years-of-experience credible business. Namely, inserting random watercolor swashes. No, just me? *slowly lowers hand*
Stop making clients more complicated than they have to be. Launch your not-yet-perfect website (your clients won’t know the difference anyway, it’s not like they’re looking at the before and after like you are). Abandon the idea that you need a Facebook Ad, a sales funnel, and a perfectly curated Instagram feed. What you really need to be a legit business are clients. That’s it (at this point).
Getting your first 3-5 clients is the best way to validate your business. Not only does it give you the experience you need to feel confident, it also gives you talking points and case studies to build trust with future potential clients. Being able to provide real life examples of your amazing work speaks way louder than any fancy website can. People want to see results. The rest can come later.
So, if you’re finding it hard to find your starter clients, here are some ideas that can help you get some valuable leads:
If you are not hanging out with these people, they will never know who you are. If they don’t know who you are, they will never trust you. I see this all the time—someone is getting married and instead of looking for a wedding photographer, cousin Mary gets to them first and suggests her photographer. Unbeknownst to the bride, who isn’t all that interested in planning her wedding, she has just paid $4k+ for a crappy photographer, when she could have gotten a really great one (YOU!).
It’s not our clients’ job to find us. It’s our job to find them, insert ourselves into their lives and remind them we exist regularly.
Skip the obvious events—the bridal shows, marketing conventions and fluffy workshops—to seek out these clients BEFORE they even get to these places. If you can meet a client at a wine tasting before she starts looking for a provider of the services you sell, you win.
But, if you go to the obvious watering hole, you’re now one of many in the running for that clients’ affections. You’ve already lost because you’re now competing on charm and price (but really, I mean… just price).
Facebook groups can be a reliable source to find new clients. Do a quick search in 2-3 of your favorite, active groups every day for a keyword that is relevant to your business, and then go through and post helpful comments for the person asking. For example, if you’re a social media consultant, you could search “facebook ads coach” to see if anyone’s looking for you.
The key is to offer help and advice, not promote your services. Establish yourself as the “Go To” expert in the group for your niche. Keep answering questions and, after time, people might be curious enough to click on your profile and see what your business is all about.
Many of these groups also have periodic promotional threads where you can advertise your services. If it’s not against the group rules, you can post a promotional thread yourself and announce that you’re a new business owner looking to gain experience, so you’ll be offering your services at a small discount just for group members. Just be sure to put a limit on it, or you might be stuck with more work than you can handle. Consider creating an application or having some other kind of minimal filter to allow you to choose who you work with.
Find a few blogs to read that post regularly (<<hey, *cough* I know of one RIGHT HERE!). Comment, get us bloggers to notice you, and most importantly, don’t forget to comment on others’ comments! It’s how I met some really cool people online.
Remember, comments are not an op-ed section. Refrain from anonymously bashing or posting—the whole point is to gain visibility! Offering helpful ideas, articles, and even suggestions that are relevant to the topic are all welcome. Most bloggers will leave a question at the bottom of each post. Those aren’t just for us to look at and enjoy, they’re for you to have a conversation with us + others—use us!
I’d love to tell you guys I blog purely out of the kindness of my heart, but it costs a lot each month to run this puppy, and it’s even more work. You can bet that while I promise to always provide great content (no fluffy junk allowed here), I’m going to lean on my platform to showcase my expertise and sell my products. I’d say services too but until further notice I’ve halted all 1:1 work—ha!
If you don’t already have a blog (why on earth not?!!?), try to start with one post a month. A blog is a great way to establish yourself as an expert in your field. That’s old news. But, what if you hate writing? Do you like talking? Maybe a podcast is a better option for you!
By providing free, useful content to your readers or listeners, you’re already proving yourself helpful to them before you’ve even formed one of those old-fashioned face-to-face relationships.
Offering your services at a discount or having a competition for a giveaway is a surefire way to reel in some new leads. This is the last option on here for a reason though—because while helpful for a short term boost to your bottom line, promotions and giveaways are often not sustainable, and can sometimes encourage some less-than-ideal clients to come your way.
If you do run a promo, it’s best to come up with a “why” for your discount (e.g., “to celebrate the holiday weekend, I’m offering my premium social media package for the rate of my basic package for these three days only!”). It’s more enticing to your audience when there’s an end date. You probably wouldn’t feel compelled to hire someone who’s offering their services for 25% off with no explanation, right? You’d probably wonder why, and you’d probably guess that their business must not be doing so well. Much better to pick a special event and make it a celebration!