How to Find your First Client“Who are you?” Even before you network, you should ask yourself a few questions. Why should the client hire me? What are my areas of expertise? What do I bring to the table (that really makes me stand out)? Once you know what you’re all about, you’ll find it a lot easier to tell other people. Securing your first client is paramount to securing your future as a self-employed consultant. It might take days to find a project, or it might take weeks; but either way, there are some tried and tested methods to help you land that first job and start building up a successful portfolio.
NetworkingNever has it been more essential to find clients through friends, associates and colleagues. The saying 'it's not what you know, but who you know' is golden when you set out to acquire your first client - there's always going to be someone who knows someone who might be able to help you. It’s important to nurture these contacts to get them on your side and keen to help you out. Ask questions, enquire after businesses and attend as many conferences, networking events and business dinners as you can. If your previous employer isn't a competitor, you can always use them as a starting point.
Locating your clientsOnce you've exhausted your network of contacts, it's time to branch out. Identify where your potential clients are, and set your targets there. Is there a heavy blogging scene? Are forums important? Decide what marketing channels will work best – digital, content or face-to-face – and explore these.
Who are you?Whether you're going to a networking event or walking into a meeting, you need to have an elevator pitch that can't be turned down. You need to tell prospective clients who you are, why you're the best and why they should work with you - often in less than a minute. Get this honed, and you're on the home stretch.
Who knows you?It's all well and good talking about yourself, but a client is more likely to go with you if someone else is spreading the word. People trust people, and word of mouth recommendations will always have more sway than an advert. Ask people you've worked with or who know you professionally to write testimonials and recommend you to their friends.
Act like the expertGet online: write articles, comment on forums, create content, and offer (free!) advice. It’s a great way to make sure people are seeing your name and what you can do. Specialising in one niche is the ideal way to attract customers – not to mention it’ll help you do a good job. Speaking engagements are also a great way of raising your profile.
Be confidentPeople can smell desperation and anxiety, so act as if this is your 21st client, not your first. Approach prospects with confidence and self-belief, and put your elevator pitch to the test. Just remember – practice does make perfect. While it's tempting to compete on price, try to refrain. Clients should hire you based on your skill-set and values, not your fees. Don't set unrealistic rates for a first-timer, but don't end up struggling financially.
Success? Here’s 5 Things to Do Immediately After Landing your First ClientOnce the celebrations are over, and you've settled back to business mode, there are five key things you need to do as soon as you can. 1. Get the contract in writing. This should include your fee structure, the key questions you’re answering, timing (length of project/engagement) and key project deliverables. Having something in print will always make deals and agreements more formal. It’s a good idea to keep a prepared document ready that you can personalise for each client. 2. Prepare a list of what you need to know in order to deliver on the project. It’s good to get some clarification up front. 3. Arrange a kick-off meeting with the client to go over your list, identify people to interview (if applicable) and data required, and to set expectations. 4. Put together a detailed work plan on how you will tackle the project, key milestones etc. Share this with the client to ensure everyone is on the same page. 5. And get to it!