[thrive_headline_focus title=”Solopreneur FAQs: How to Find Clients & More” orientation=”center”]
One of the most common questions by those who desire to be self-employed is: “How do I find clients?” or “Where can I find clients?”
They’re not the only ones asking. Large companies want the same thing.
Finding clients is always a challenge whether you’re self-employed or a larger, more established business. It takes time to find clients and there certainly isn’t a “one size fits all” method for finding them.
That said, I thought it might be helpful to share a few ways I’ve found clients. I’ll also share my perception about client acquisition with a few other random thoughts.
How to find clients
So, let’s say you’re just starting your own business and need to find people who are willing to part with their money in exchange for your services or products.
I’m going to assume you’ve done a little market research to ensure there is a demand for your skills. The late, great copywriter, Gary Halbert, said this:
…One of the questions I like to ask my students is: “If you and I both owned a hamburger stand and we were in a contest to see who could sell the most hamburgers, what advantages would you most like to have on your side to help you win?”
The answers vary. Some of the students say they would like to have the advantage of having superior meat from which to make their burgers. Others say they want sesame seed buns. Others mention location. Someone usually wants to be able to offer the lowest prices.
And so on.
Whatever. In any case, after my students are finished telling me what advantages they would most like to have, I usually say to them something like this: “O.K., I’ll give you every single advantage you have asked for. I, myself, only want one advantage and, if you will give it to me, I will (when it comes to selling burgers) whip the pants off all of you!”
“What advantage do you want?” they ask.
“The only advantage I want,” I reply…
A Starving Crowd!”
So make sure you first find a crowd that is starving for what you have to offer.
After that, here are some ideas to find clients.
Acquaintances, Friends, and Family
Don’t keep your new business a secret from your friends and family. Once you plan to offer something, let you friends and family know and then ask them if they know anyone who would need your services.
You may be surprised. Sometimes the people you think will give you business, won’t… while those you barely know suddenly provide you with a golden opportunity.
The trick is to make your offering clear and explain how it can help someone. The clearer you can be about your target market, the better. It will help your acquaintances, friends and family pre-qualify the leads.
Being honest is usually the best approach:
“Hi, I’m just starting out with my pet photography business. I’m looking for clients who want artistic portraits of their pets. Do you know of anyone who loves their pet so much that they’d like such a portrait? May I tell them you referred me to them?”
Ask. Ask. Ask.
Ah, you probably never thought you’d hear me recommend job boards, especially after my infamous Elance blog post, but here it is.
When you’re first starting out, you need to learn how to deal with clients. One of the best (and quickest) ways to do this is from working with a job board such as Elance or Craigslist.
Yes, the projects often are at rock-bottom pricing. Yes, the clients usually don’t know what the heck they want. But what you’ll learn from the experience is how to handle questions, objections, requests for changes, etc.
You’re not only selling your services. You’re selling YOU. And you won’t be able to sell yourself to clients who will pay higher fees until you feel comfortable selling yourself and knowing exactly the value you can bring to the table.
Some of those clients may become repeat clients. Some of them may refer you to other clients. The important thing is that you’ll learn how to develop a relationship with a client by how you respond to their questions and requests.
You’ll also learn quickly what you don’t want in a client relationship. All valuable lessons.
Job boards can be a fast way to get paid for doing what you want to do. It also will build confidence in you that there is indeed a demand for what you can offer.
When I first started my copywriting business in 2012, one of the first things I did was email my entire LinkedIn network to let them know I had left my job to start my own copywriting business.
And because I was building my portfolio, I took the suggestion of copywriter coach Ed Gandia and offered to write a case study for the first three people who contacted me. For free.
I was taking Ed’s course on writing case studies and he suggested this approach for those starting out. It was one of the best marketing strategies I’ve ever implemented.
I was able to use those few case studies in my portfolio, proving my skill and as a result, get clients.
One connection ended up outsourcing her copywriting to me. Another connection referred me to one of his friends who had just been hired as a digital marketer within a medium-size company.
Throughout these interactions, I made every effort to prove myself as a reliable, knowledgeable service provider who delivered quality writing in a professional manner.
Building trust takes time. It didn’t happen within a week or even a month. It took months before I started to see results. Even then, it was well worth the time and effort invested because I received good projects that paid well.
Whenever someone asks to be connected to you, whether it’s on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter, try to follow up and thank them for the connection. Then offer your assistance if they need it.
You never know where these random connections will lead. Sometimes your most lucrative opportunities occur simply because you were being kind and showed good manners.
I cannot overstate how important it is for you to have some type of a regular, monthly newsletter to send to your list of contacts. No matter how small your list is now (or even if you have NO list), eNewsletters are one of the best marketing tools to use to get clients.
Create a report that highlights your expertise. Make it downloadable. Then create a form that allows people to download it in exchange for their email address.
Make that collection of emails your own house list.
As you consistently send out an eNewsletter (and “consistent” is the key word…), you’ll find that people will start to reach out to you when they need you.
If you’re a one-man shop, this is especially helpful. You don’t have a sales force available to make phone calls on your behalf. But you want your contacts to be thinking of you, especially when they need what you offer.
An eNewsletter is one of the best ways to do that with little oversight on your part. Just find an email service provider you like, use one of their email templates, and then create helpful content for your audience.
Continue to deliver that newsletter monthly or bi-monthly. Make it the highest quality product you can produce. It may take some time, but eventually, someone on your list is going to reach out to you for business.
It’s all about marketing yourself.
In a perfect world, we would just need to hang out a shingle to let others know we’re in business. But the “build it and they will come” approach only works in the movies.
You have to let people know you exist and you’re available for work.
Try one or two of these methods for getting business and then give it some time. Sure and steady will win the race.
How to find clients with higher-fee projects:
A few quick thoughts:
- Check out Ed Gandia’s podcast, “High Income Business Writing.” He has some great episodes on getting higher-paid work. He’s also a copywriting coach and I believe is in the midst of open enrollment for his coaching program. It’s pricey, but from the testimonials I’ve seen, very effective.
- Chose a specific industry such as healthcare or tech. That will help narrow your prospecting. Once you have an industry, you can position yourself as an “expert” for that particular industry. Start learning as much as you can about the pain points in their marketing. If you already have experience with a particular industry, I’d start there.
- Network in your own town and let people know you’re looking for those specific people in that industry… marketing managers, CMOs. Start having more conversations to learn what their needs are and where the holes exist for finding new business. Also ask about repeat business because you might be able to help them with customer retention, too.
Check out your local library to see if you can create your own list of potential companies who could hire you. Prospecting and selling is something we all have to learn how to do (and few of us have been trained in sales skills).
Good book: “Pitch Anything” by Oren Klaff. Frame yourself as the prize… clients would be lucky to work with you!
Put some high-priced package services on your website so prospects realize you’re not going to write a blog post for $100. In fact, if you do write blog posts… I’d create a package of them. (Not just one.)
More like “Here are the three most popular blog packages I offer: Silver (4 posts per month – $1,400) Gold (8 blog posts a month – $2,800) Platinum (12 blog posts a month $4,200) I’d even tack on a few extra services to those packages to deliver even more value.
Check out Ed Gandia’s podcast Episode #93, “10 Strategies for Developing a Moneymaking Mindset.” http://b2blauncher.com/episode93/ Hope some of this helps!
I have spent a considerable amount of time trying to figure it out. There is a LOT that goes into pricing.
Here are a few considerations:
- How complex is the writing project? The more research needed (and the more you’re responsible for digging it up), the higher the fee.
- How quickly does the client need it? If they need it yesterday (rush projects), double your rates.
- Charge per project, not per word. Most copywriters charge a flat fee for projects and not per word or per hour. The reasoning goes like this: over time you’ll get faster with your deliverables but if you’re charging per hour, your profit will decrease, not increase.
- Is there a large revision team that will sift through your copy? If so, factor in that into your fee. The more people involved in vetting copy, the longer it will take to complete.
One of my favorite mottos: Fast, Cheap, Good – Pick Two. ;-)
Finally, confidence is a HUGE factor in asking for (and getting) higher-paid projects. When you know your copy is bringing great value to the client and will help them reach their business goals, you’ll feel more confident about asking for fair compensation. Check out the podcast by Ed Gandia, “High-Income Business Writing.” (Episode #109 is an excellent one.)
Start with the very first episode. You will learn a LOT and discover some great experts who have excellent advice to share on this topic.
Also, most writers will ask for a 50% deposit before starting a writing project and then invoice for the final 50% upon delivery of the first draft. Some will accept a net 15 or net 30 from the client. But be careful. Net 30 is often net 60 in disguise.
Read the fine print. Many large clients only accept an invoice at the end of the month for the entire month’s work. Thus, if you submit on the first of the month, you can’t invoice until the 30th/31st. And THEN the net 30 kicks in. Voila! Net 30 turns into a fully legal, by-the-books net 60.
The larger fee projects are often with larger companies but you can still get some decent project work with small to medium-sized companies.
Some clients will be a good prospect for a retainer model. This is when you agree upon a certain flat fee per month (like $3000 or $5000) and you give them copy for whatever they need. It could be for case studies, blog posts, a special report or white paper, social media updates, etc. If they need copy on a monthly basis, suggest the retainer model. Figure out how much the projects would cost separately and then see if you can work out a slight discount if they purchase your services on a monthly basis.
Packages are also popular. This is when a client might need a series of articles and you discount the total fee based on the quantity. Anywhere from a 15% – 25% discount is an average discount.
Something that I am finally starting to do (and believe me, this will save you a LOT of grief), is to simply ask about a budget. If you enter into a casual conversation with a prospect and they start to talk about a specific project, just ask, “Do you have a budget for this?”
I’ve lost on some proposals because I didn’t ask that question and the prospect thought they’d get copy for around $100. Asking is smart because if they say, “No,” then you know they haven’t thought through the investment.
Ed Gandia is an excellent coach for copywriters. He offered at one point his fee schedule (for B2B copywriting) as a free download.
Another person to check out is Chris Marlow. She’s a copywriting coach and has several inexpensive Kindle books online.
I learned a lot by researching the Internet constantly for fees. I found a few good resources that at least gave me an idea of “ballpark” fee ranges.
One is from the Writers Market, “How Much Should I Charge?” It’s a free PDF that you can immediately download from this link.
Here are a few more:
These are just a few of the resources I’ve found online. I’m sure you’ll be able to find even more.
The good news is that there are other entrepreneurs who have gone before you, fought the battles, and are willing to share their winning strategies.
A marketer once said, “There are more of them than there are of you.”
Meaning: if you’re marketing a service, and if you’re really good at what you do, that gives you an advantage. I’ve now been an independent creative contractor for over six years and I continue to hear a similar comment from many who are searching for talented people.
“It’s harder to find decent people than I thought it would be.”
Conduct yourself well, respect others, over-deliver, and deliver high-quality work and you’ll always be in demand.