At first, I thought it was a sales pitch or a lead generation thing. But once I dug a little deeper, I realized the person really was looking for help to get their new business off the ground.
And when I thought about it, I was a little horrified that we’ve never really written anything specific about where to find clients when you’re self-employed.
Today, I am going to rectify that.
Obviously, I can’t speak to every industry or field, but I can share my three favorite tried-and-true tips you can apply to your own consulting business.
1. Identify who your ideal client is and figure out where they hang out.
I write about this all the time. One of the biggest mistakes new business owners make is saying that anyone or everyone is a potential client. That’s a recipe for failure.
You can’t be everything to everyone.
Even large firms with deep pockets market their services to specific niches. Not only is this the best way to target your potential clients, it’s also an area where you have an advantage over your bigger competitors. So before you do anything else, sit down and create an avatar of your ideal client and make a note of the type of places you can find them. — Are they on Instagram or another social media platform? Or are they more likely to be found at a country club, professional business group, or charity event?
2. Start local
Consulting is a personal service. You’re selling your knowledge, your experience, and your personality. The best way to build a reputation and make those first sales is to connect with people in the real world.
The easiest way to do this is to join local business and networking groups. The groups you choose depend on your niche and specialty.
For example: If you’re trying to reach women-owned start-ups, consider reaching out to groups that cater to the needs of women-owned small businesses. Here in New Hampshire, that would be the Center for Women and Enterprise. If you want to meet human resource professionals, talk to your local Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) chapter.
These kinds of groups are always looking for people to share their expertise with their members. Offering to give a presentation or teach a class is a fabulous way to get in front of your target audience. Just be sure your presentation is relevant and informative. — This is not the time to break out your sales deck.
Besides the obvious benefit of giving you an opportunity to show your industry knowledge, these activities will help you establish the know, like, and trust people need before they hire you or refer business.
3. Talk to former employers, co-workers, and people in your network
The advantage of reaching out to people in your network is that they already know you. Even if they don’t know what you’re doing right now, chances are good they are interested in hearing what’s new and have a genuine interest in helping you out.
With that in mind, invite someone for coffee, send a direct message on social media, or pick up the phone.
It’s amazing how often a casual conversation results in a lead, referral, or client.
My dentist was my first client when I started my web design business. I went to her office for a regular cleaning, not to solicit business. But when she asked what was new, I told her about finishing school and the next thing I knew; I had a paying client.
I’ve also had people refer clients just because I was the only person they knew in the real world who did whatever service their friends or colleagues were looking for.
It’s why we network. And if you’re not taking advantage of your carefully curated group of family, friends, and colleagues, you’re missing out on a prime opportunity to connect with potential clients.
Remember, the easiest solution is often the right solution. If you’re struggling to find your first, or even fiftieth, client, review these tips and apply them to your weekly marketing routine.