Business

How to build your client list by @_lauramclo

by Laura McLoughlin | Featured Contributor 

You may assume that all entrepreneurs are run off their feet, juggling meetings, managing staff and squeezing in just enough time to take a snap of their all-vegan lunch choice. However, the reality for many freelancers and business owners, whether they are starting out or are reasonably seasoned, is that there will be quiet periods – a loss of a client, a missed connection, a project put on hold.

And when you and your alone are in control of your pay check (and perhaps even others’), those quiet periods can be a little worrying. What did you do wrong? Are you just not as good as you thought you were, or did you make the leap too soon

Take comfort in the fact that every entrepreneur feels like this at some point, and instead of stressing, focus your energy into building your client list back up and winning work. 

Network

Networking is one of those vague phrases which can be both terrifying and confusing, and yet it is mentioned again and again as the one of the best ways to meet new people and land new jobs. So, does that mean you need to sign up to every industry event and ‘meet up’ hosted in your city for the next month, and collect hundreds of emails and business cards from the strangers you meet there?

Well, if you want to, maybe, but to start off, you might think about making the most of the connections you already have.

Start with your own circle, emailing and messaging family and friends about your new venture, and ask them to pass on your details to anyone they think may want to work with you or be in need of your services. It can be surprising just who knows who even within these personal connections.

Similarly, take to your personal social media and write a post about your career change. You might even ask your followers to share your post or include a hashtag or two to help your news travel further. Naturally, you should update all of your social media profiles to reflect what you do now.

You might go further then, and contact those you have worked with before, or even trusted fellow freelancers. Explain to them what you’re doing now, and give examples of work you have done in the past, or even your portfolio if you have one. Be specific about about what kind of clients you are hoping to find, whether that means picking an industry or type of business, such as SMEs or startups. Ideally, they’ll be able to point you in the right direction, whether that means hiring you themselves or suggesting you to someone else.

Create content

Everyone and anyone today has a blog, and for good reason. Having your own URL to pop into social media profiles and hand out on business cards, allows anyone that comes into contact with you online or in real life to access a wealth of info about you and have a look at work you’ve already done.

Better yet, it also allows you to showcase your expertise by publishing your own content. An example of this, is NZ marketer Leanne Ross who runs highly commended blog A Cup of Lee and blogs about all things PR. She shares her experiences in the field, whether it’s 10 weeks in a digital agency, or her favourite industry reads of the year, showcasing her talents for both writing and marketing.

Try to publish content regularly – perhaps an article once every week or two weeks – and remember to post it on social media.

Be careful about the kind of content you publish, of course. You want it to be well-written, thoughtful and demonstrate just why someone would want you to hire you or your services. It should not be a hard sell, or a thinly veiled piece of advertising for yourself. Overly promotional articles can turn off possible clients, but genuine, helpful articles only speak of a high value professional.

Use job boards and apps

Online job boards like People Per Hour and Upwork have drawn criticisms from many freelancers, for driving down prices for work, and so may not be ideal for an experienced freelancer. For beginners, however, or those planning on going into a new industry or field, it may be the perfect method to get you some entry-level work and build up your name and experience. The testimonials and connections from these starter projects may be the ideal stepping stone to your next gig.

There are more catch-all websites, such as those already mentioned, or those which are industry-specific, such as those for pharmacists, personal trainers, and babysitters, which may help you find more focused work, or clients who truly appreciate your craft.

Co-working spaces

You won’t meet anyone new in your home office, so why not spend a day or two a week in a co-working space in town?

Being surrounded by other busy professionals and entrepreneurs is not only good for your motivation and alleviating the loneliness of freelance life, but gives you the opportunity to meet potential clients (or those who might introduce you to a potential client). 

Just try searching for your nearest co-work space online and pop in for a visit.

Of course, there is no definite science to meeting new people and making connections. The very best you can do is put yourself on their maps, and you certainly have the tools to be able to do that. Shirk the Shrinking Violet blooming inside you, and go into each introduction with poise, positivity and the unwavering confidence in both yourself and what you’re doing. You’ll be sure to see that inbox and schedule fill up again.

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