How do you find clients when you are new?
I got so many good responds on my last question, so I feel I can ask this here as well.
Is there a good way to find clients when you just starting out? I am active on social media, but maybe there is other ways as well.
How did you land your first clients?
Today I've opened a account on ODesk as a freelancer, so I can start bid on jobs there.
I've read on Facebook that "cold emails" can be a way too. Not promote your services straight away, but contact and tell who you are and what you do.
Has anyone here done it?
Be pro-active. Go find them. While there have been several answers about networking online, there is a short cut. Its called internet sourcing. Places like LinkedIn and MosaicHub are searchable by any criteria you choose. You find the people and businesses and then you research and contact then by appropriate means.
If bidding as a freelancer gives you flexibility to provide cover letter introductions with your bids, do your homework on the prospect bidders (if you are able to identify who the bidder is). Look into those prospect bidders to try to identify challenges they are facing as a business that could be woven into your introduction &/or your bid-pitch ...which would help demonstrate you're going the extra mile to try to have differentiated understanding of the bidders so that your bid is then that much more insightful at problem solving. Besides visiting bidders' websites, how else can you look into their businesses? Set up daily Google Alerts on each bidder prospect and/or their leadership and watch for any possible news on them that may hint of challenges they face that you could leverage in your intros &/or bids. If possible, attend any industry events and/or listen to any webinars, interviews (etc.) where prospect bidders may speak. Think about other ways the prospect bidders may reveal their needs - maybe via commentary in industry publications, of course in social media posts, etc. Differentiated listening can identify nuggets of invaluable information that could be leveraged into even a carefully crafted subject line and/or opening line in a cold email (i.e.: a congratulatory mention for a newsworthy achievement). Put yourself in their shoes. What would you be more likely to notice - generic solicitation mail or a customized outreach that demonstrates you have real time insight into their challenges and/or are smartly flattering - and in either scenario, then segway into brief story telling about why there is value-add opportunity to pay attention to you.
Networking is normally best when you are just getting started. Social media is good but don't get bogged down on those platforms unless they are providing you a good ROI. I've seen far too many professionals marketing their services on Facebook. Facebook is a great social medial platform but before you starting using ANY social media, ask yourself "what type of population uses this platform?". If you are seeking B2B leads, Facebook may not be the best opportunity. If you are seeking B2C for merchandise, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. would be good.
Great question! My suggestion to look for local networking groups in your area. This will offer you a chance to get clear on your message (since you will be saying it over and over again to people you meet) as well as give you an idea of what kind of questions you need to answer up front for people looking to hire you. One more suggestion is talk about what you are working on with everyone you come into contact with, instead of the same old answer to "how are you," take the opportunity to share something about what you are currently working on.
Getting your first client may be quite difficult or a piece of cake depending on how you approach it.
1) Your first few clients should be those from your existing network of friends, family or people you have ever worked with. Business requires relationship, because you already have them, encash it. Educate your contacts about your service/product and that you would like to know if they or someone they know might be interested and if they can offer to introduce.
2) Find community websites that talk about your services/product and create your profile there.
3) Share your work/examples of social media
4) Build a portfolio. Use from the available free web services to start with or contact seasoned web consultants like me to create you a completely custom website that can reflect your offerings and educate your target audience.
5) Bring organic traffic on your website...learn SEO or hire a seasoned consultant.
Hope this helps.
I must agree with Kevin, from all the great ideas you get here you should build your marketing plan. You must decide which social media platforms are good for your business. Pinterest should be one of them.
To continue Carsten suggestions, you should build your network IRL as well.
Register to meet.com. SME, freelance and startup groups are very popular in Europe nowdays. There is a Startup Monday Meetup in Gothenburg, once a week it might worth the trouble.
There could be two approaches to start freelancing based on your skills, market and demand.
1. Independent Freelancing (Direct)
2. Assisted Freelancing (Subcontracting)
Independent freelancing greatly relies on your relationship and network that can help you get leads either within or extended network aligning with your skills and interest. Another option is cold calling but immediate success might not be guaranteed unless you are a established name in business.
Other option could be to contact headhunting organizations like Randstad who can help you position your self for their clientele that might be interested in your skills for their short and long term projects.
Irrespective of the approach you want to pursue, you should also run through STP (Segmentation, Targeting & Positioning) cycle specific to your skills and portfolio. This would help you focus your synergies and align matching your prospective clients better and gain relevant leads.
Once you know whom you have to go after, next thing would be to let your presence felt, that your are in business. A search optimized website along with professional LinkedIn, FB, Twitter presence showcasing about yourself, your offerings and value would establish your online identity to connect with larger market. Your prospects would need some reference aligning with their interest to digest before igniting their interest to get into business and your online content would feed into that.
At a personal level, it would be a good practice to use some project management tool to track your projects and deliveries for self reference. Trello could be a good tool to start for tracking purpose. If you have project management piece also embedded into your services than this won't be needed as you would already be following organization mandate to use their tool and flavor for project management purpose.
My 2 cents. Hope this helps. Best of luck and success with all your endeavors.
With most people giving great advise when it comes to online tools that you can use, I think it's time to provide some old fashioned ways to get clients.
Of course it depends entirely on your target market but even though the VA business can be taken anywhere in the world from the comfort of your own home, do not underestimate your local (national) market.
Here is a few things you can do that will provide you with instant hot leads:
Go to local networking events - Many large corporations hold regular networking events for SME's.
Join the chamber of commerce and use the membership to your advantage - The chamber is a great source of contacts and can put you even in contact with companies further away or overseas. Talk to them to see if it's worth your while but I can assure you right now, if you work the chamber, you will benefit. See it like a gym membership. Just because you signed up and paid doesn't mean you get fit. It's the same with business. When you become a member of your local/ national chamber of commerce you need to put the time and effort in and work it all the way.
Join a networking group - The most famous one is BNI (Business Network International) and it might be the best one for you. However there is many other networking groups of local businesses that are less costly and have the same benefit, networking to get referrals.
Ask your current clients for referrals. If they like you and the work you've done for them, ask them to refer you on to 3 - 5 businesses. In fact, I would make that part of your deal. If you implement the referral question to clients early enough in the sales process, you will get referrals, not from everybody, but 3 out of 10 will give you at least 1 or 2 referrals if not even more.
If there is no BNI or related Business networking group, create one. It requires again a lot of work but if you get local businesses to meet with you once a week to exchange referrals, provide business support and do business with each other, you are on a winning road.
Invite business owners to a 1-to-1 network meeting. This is simply to see if you can help each other. A lot of times you can even do business with each other, but don't see it as a sales call (not the first meeting anyway) but a get to know each other and their/ your business.
You can invite business owners by letter or email. I personally prefer the physical letter as it's a bit more formal but also much more personal and inviting rather than getting an email that is most likely to land in their spam folder. A personal letter will always be read and if you can make it interesting enough for them to keep reading, I think you will get some good meetings out of this.
No matter what, do not expect anybody to pick up the phone and call you. Make sure that you have an inactive and pro-active call to action in your email or letter. (Inactive is when you ask the prospect to call you or send you and email/ pro-active means you tell them that you will call them on date x.) Be creative and if all fails:
Go knock on business doors...it's the hardest way but if you are stuck and want to do something rather than waiting until somebody clicks like on your facebook page then this is a more pro-active way to get some new clients. If you drill down on your target market, you will find that you can create a list of at least 100 companies in your local area that could be good for you to target. My favourite approach is to send a letter upfront and then give them a ring but in some cases it might also be good to just drop in and talk to them.
Ask your current clients for testimonials.
Any of the above will work, 100% but it's always good to know who your target market and audience is. Somebody said to have a marketing plan, this is important, but first (if you haven't done it yet) create a business plan, then a marketing strategy, then a sales strategy, then a customer service strategy and finally a customer loyalty strategy. Each of those builds on the other and vice versa but they are equally important. Without the right strategy, you are drifting aimless throughout the sea of business and most likely will try to do everything at once. Many VA's have the attitude that their target market is any SME out there or any CEO...I dare you to drill down further and success will come your way.
Good luck in your venture and I hope this is a bit helpful.
I wouldn't use corwdsourcing websites ODesk. They downgrade a clients perception of your value and in general they lower the income levels and work quality of every employment sector they touch. As an independent in a service industry, it's not how many clients you have, it's the quality of clients you have that brings success. I'm sure there are exceptions, but Crowdsourcing clients are typically bottom feeders who just want the lowest price with little respect for the difference you can bring with knowledge or skill. And in a supply and demand talent pool, one could only assume the talent offered is the least in demand, least qualified and most desperate. Of course that isn't necessarily always the case - I know some very good people who have tried it, but they don't do it for very long because the pay wasn't worth it and it didn't, as they hoped, lead to any quality long-term clients.
But to the main question, I don't think landing new clients is that different for a startup company. New clients are tough to find and land no matter who you are. Getting referrals from your social network and advertising are the two main sources. Both take time and money, but they are essential. Volunteering for good causes can also look good in your client portfolio and open doors to other businesses who can hire you. Within your close family and friends network, you may want to offer a referral bonus for leads that turn into work, or make sure you gift them with a bottle of wine, dinner or something appropriate.
Ok, from your question I can tell that you are thinking Tactical, when you should be more STRATEGIC.
You need to sit down and develop a MARKETING PLAN, instead of going from tactic to tactic without an overall plan. If I got 20 bucks every time I gave this advice I could retire. :)
You need to ask yourself several questions that will help you develop your marketing plan. Watch this video: https://youtu.be/IRpgIc7B-VU
Good luck with your new business.
"the Marketign Coach"