How to get clients is the big sleep-disturbing question for anyone thinking of starting a service-oriented business. Our industry sector may be "hot" and our personal credentials and skills superb, but neither of those things guarantees that clients will constantly be calling, texting or emailing us with requests for work.
Instead of sitting back and hoping some will show up, you need to be proactive, get out there and get the clients you need.
How to Get Clients
1) Find clients through your workplace.
Countless small businesses have been started by working professionals who a) moved from being employees of a company to being contractors or b) found a worthy client or two and absconded with them to form their own business.
So if you are currently a working professional, you may want to explore one or both of these scenarios. If you are thinking of becoming a contractor, though, be sure that you are clear about the differences between a contractor and an employee from a tax point of view.
2) Find clients through business organizations.
Especially for people just starting a service-oriented business, this is my number one piece of advice about how to get clients; join and participate in business and social organizations. You will pick up more business this way than through any other method except perhaps referrals once you get known.
Remember that this is not about the number of organizations you belong to; it's about what you do within the organizations you belong to and how other members perceive you. So don’t rush out and join ten groups and expect calls from new clients to pour in; choose a few only and participate in their work freely and fully. And be patient; people need to get to know you before they'll start sending work your way.
3) Tell friends and family you'd like more clients.
If you are blessed with many friends and family that are always in your corner and ready to help if they can, let them. Tell them about what you’re doing and that you're looking for clients – and be sure to tell them exactly what those ideal clients would be like, too.
Even if your family and friends can't use your services themselves, you'll at least then have a reliable scouting team that will continue to spread the word about your business.
4) Advertise for clients.
Traditional advertising, such as these 17 Advertising Ideas for Small Businesses, still work very well for small businesses.
It's equally important now for every small business to have a website, if for no other reason than the fact that so many people now use their phones, tablets, etc. to look for businesses that are close to them and/or to look up addresses on the web. The days of the phone book, like those of the phone booth, are over.
For this same reason, it's important to get the full force of internet directories working for you. Do a search for your business in any search engine and make sure that your listing is complete and accurate in all the local directory listings you can find.
5) Get clients through your personal activities.
All the group things you and your family do are opportunities to find clients. Take the time to converse with the other parents when you’re taking your kids to soccer or dance. Be friendly when you're at the gym. Try to get to know other people and learn what their interests and concerns are.
Remember, when you are in a service-oriented business, you are your business and whether you’re at a grocery store or a pub, your business is always on display. It Pays to PAK Your Business Image explains how to be the kind of person that other people are going to want to do business with.
6) Get clients through referrals.
When someone calls you and says, "I'm wondering if you could __________________ because _________________ told me you did such a great job," it's a magical, perfect moment. Hopefully it will happen to you many times over the course of your business; it is truly the best and easiest way to get clients.
Unfortunately, it's only something that can happen once you already have at least some clients.
But you can at least speed up the referral train and get more referrals than you would have gotten otherwise. Read How to Ask for Referrals to see how.
7) Get clients through social media.
The best use of social media to find clients is through being seen to be knowledgeable and helpful. Historically, LinkedIn is the social network designed for professionals to connect with one another. It's easy to find groups related to your industry and/or professional interests that you can participate in there.
But that doesn't mean that there's no point to participating in other social networks. In fact, some social platforms might be more suitable for your business than others. A yoga teacher, for instance, might find Pinterest or Instagram more suitable. How to Create a Social Media Plan, explains how to tell which social media is the best fit for your business.
Once again, just as with real-life groups, thoughtful participation is the key to getting people to want to do business with you; you want to engage with your audience.
How to Get Clients: Two Things to Remember
Two points in closing:
First, the most important thing in finding clients is your mindset. You need to realize that every place you go is a chance to find clients and act accordingly.
You don't need to be pushy or obnoxious; you just need to be friendly, open, and aware when you're presented with an opportunity. How to Tell Prospective Clients What You Do can be helpful if you are not comfortable telling strangers about your business.
Second, none of the above is instant. Getting new clients is a process and how long you have to work at the process varies. But knowing where to look and how to get clients to look at you will at least make the process easier.
Read more on how to get clients: