Being a freelancer or entrepreneur can provide you with the freedom from the 9 – 5 grind that you've been hoping for but it's up to you to make your business a success. Getting started and finding your dream clients can be the road or roadblock to your success. I'd like to share ten essential strategies to find your dream clients and with a lot of hard work and passion, you can make a living as an entrepreneur.
Build your own dreams, or someone else will hire you to build theirs.– Farrah Gray Click To Tweet
Step 1 Who is your dream client?
After you've created your business plan, knowing who you want to work with is step one. You need to decide who your ideal client is and how you can help them by creating your ideal client persona.
Broad ideas like “I just want clients” aren't going to make it easy for them to find you or for you to try to market to them. You don't want to try to be everything to everyone – creating your dream client persona will help attract the right clients to you. Taking the time to attract your ideal clients will save you time and effort down the road.
Ask yourself the following:
- What age is my ideal client?
- Are my clients other entrepreneurs? CEOs? Middle managers?
- Do they control a large budget? Or are they bootstrapping?
Hubspot designed a fantastic template Creating Buyer Personas for your Business – use this and create something valuable. If you market with buyer personas, you are marketing smarter.
With this template, you can learn best practices for persona research and create beautiful, well-formatted buyer personas that you can share with your entire company.
This offer includes tips and tricks for:
- Asking the right questions during your buyer persona interviews and surveys
- Formatting your buyer persona research in a compelling way
- Presenting your new, finalized buyer personas to your company
- Using your buyer personas for segmentation, content mapping, and lead nurturing”
Step 2 Set the stage
You'll need to create a home base for your business: your blog. Thankfully today it's as easy as building a WordPress blog. I recommend a self-hosted blog built on the Genesis framework.
My blog is a customized StudioPress Theme for WordPress.
Setting the stage on your new digital home will take time and every second that it takes to prepare is work the effort. If you don't have any skills or interest in building your own blog, this is a great place to work a professional. The beauty of a WordPress blog is that you can update your blog pages and add your own blog content independently.Creating your dream client persona will help attract the right clients. Click To Tweet
Step 3 Build your visual brand
You'll need to have a great name for your company, a logo, and a brand style guide as part of your new venture.
A solid visual brand ties all of your content together across social media platforms and helps people recognize your brand. You can work on a designer to create a brand, logo, and style guide for you. Working with a pro is great but your brand needs to capture the essence and spirit of your project.
Everything you do will be branded with your logo and brand colors which include on and offline assets such as marketing materials, invoices, and business cards.
This is a good step to get a series of professional headshots done. Yes, this seems scary but you can do it!
Step 4 Set your services and prices
Working with clients is hard work and working with jerky clients is frankly not fun at all. While you need to be prepared to handle the challenges and demands of your client work, being clear in your initial goals will help everyone be on the same page from the beginning. Creating a list of your services and what you'll charge as a baseline for negotiations is key.
Some people like having everything out there on their website and others like to create proposals for their prospective clients after they've had an initial call. Prepare contracts for services you'll offer and customize them after you've nailed down your offerings.
Being 100% clear on what you're going to do and how much it costs is very important. The boundaries and expectations are set in the contract and it's your job to fulfill them as well as stick to them when people ask for more changes that weren't included or decide to change everything and start from scratch. People change their minds but a complete re-do might be a whole new proposal. Entrepreneurs like to change their minds and rethink their plans, but you already knew that, right?
Step 5 Build thought leadership
Since you've already established your web presence, keeping it up-to-date with fresh articles is essential for attracting your ideal clients. Quality will trump quantity every time so write content that will add value to your field and that will help build your expertise. Continue building on your main themes and in time you'll be asked to be a guest on podcasts and other interviews as people seek your opinion.
There's no shortcut here. Roll up your sleeves and dig in. You want to be independent, right? That means hard work is in order.
Join LinkedIn Groups, Facebook Groups, or other communities in your area of expertise. Make sure that you're spending time building relationships with future clients or referrals – not wasting time. If you decide to start a community or group, understand that it will be a very big time commitment to manage it. I like to say it's like getting a puppy, it's cute and you love it but there's a ton of feeding and clean up.
Step 6 Cast your net
Once you have you're general plan mapped out, you'll need to update your professional and social media bios to reflect the fact that you're looking for clients.
Keeping in mind that some people are on social media for purely social reasons and some for purely business, share your new business venture but don't only share this. You don't want to be that guy or girl that only talks about their services or tries to sell something to you. You don't like that, right? Neither does anyone else.
A few places you can cast the net:
- Your email signature
- LinkedIn profile
- Blog posts
- Guest blogging
- Guest on podcasts and Twitter chats
- Social media posts
If there's a possibility to offer your services to someone, take the time to connect thoughtfully on LinkedIn and send them a nice note. Send a personalized email that says hey, I do XYZ and if you ever have the need for my services, I'd love to talk with you about it. This effort can go a long way. Don't be pushy but be available. They might not need you now but in three months they might.
Building your network takes a long time and helping people grow through your connections can also help.
Step 7 Write a press release
Creating a press release for your announcement for your official launch gets the ball rolling. Press releases are different than a blog post so it's important to do your research. If you have money in your budget, hiring a PR pro to write and execute your press release can get it in the hands of the right people. PR pros have connections and follow up on them.
Step 8 Send out personal communication
Do not, I repeat, do not send out a generic email blast to your whole contact list. This is the worst possible way to get the message out to your important contacts.
There's an art to writing an email and you're going to need to master it. The subject line is the most crucial part of your email. I learned a lot of valuable tips in Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki for how to send email to get results. I highly recommend Enchantment for all entrepreneurs.
- Use a smart, compelling subject line
- Keep your email short
- Don't send an email asking if you can ask someone something. Duh.
- Be clear
If you're going to offer consulting calls or intro calls to explain your services, try an online company like Calend.ly to help stay organized and cut down on the back and forth email.
Step 9 Help people for free
Yes, you read that correctly. If you're just starting out, you may need to do some pro bono work to get experience and figure out the steps for working with your ideal clients.
I worked on many projects without compensation that helped build my reputation and learn more about my job. Don't listen to people who say you need to charge for every single thing – building relationships takes time and trust. These are built with sweat equity.
I'm not advocating saying yes to every request to pick your brain but when you're just getting started don't let arrogance be the end of your new career before it starts.
You can qualify this as a one-time project that you'd be happy to assist with but let them know that all future projects will be under contract.
Step 10 Ask for referrals
You'll need to have a referral list to nudge people along in their decision to hire you. Ask for referrals for LinkedIn for former bosses, clients, co-workers, and some of the people that you helped for free. Use these quotes on your About Page on your website and keep it current.
After you've finished a project with a new client, asking them for a referral will help you get more clients down the line. If I work with a contractor that did a great job, I'm more than happy to refer them and add a reference on LinkedIn. If you screw me over in some way, whether it's over-charging, not completing the job, or something else, I won't give a reference when asked. Referrals are your bread and butter and they can go both ways.
Giving a referral is giving your word that you've worked with this person and that you'd recommend them. Only ask for referrals from people you've actually worked with so they can accurately describe your work.
Building a squad of entrepreneurs that provide complementary services or do the same thing as you but at different price points can also help build your referrals. Nurture relationships with other entrepreneurs to grow your referral network.
I hope that these ten steps have helped to outline the ways that you can leverage your connections and find clients for your new company. I'd love to hear how you've found clients for your company or things that didn't work for you too.