Whether you’re self-employed or starting a company, acquiring clients is a must-have skill. New business can come from all kind of places – most unexpected! But, to get regular work you need to have a bit of a strategy in place. Even if you’re only starting to transition from being employed by someone else to becoming your own boss it’s never too early to get started, side projects and freelancing can help you develop a portfolio and collect a few glowing testimonials along the way.

We’ve put together some ideas to help you connect with new clients…

The online approach…

1. Use freelancing sites
Many businesses get started by hitting freelancing networks like Upwork. These match-making services can help you get your first clients based on their needs and your skills, and can help you make connections you might not have found. How does it work? Well, prospective customers upload their jobs and choose an available freelancer who offers the best fit. It can be competitive, as there are many freelancing vying for jobs and the site will keep a small percentage of what you get paid but, it’s a way to get yourself started, gain experience and reviews.

2. Encourage referrals
If a client is happy with your work, encourage them to shout about it on their social channels and recommend you to their contacts. You can ask for direct referrals too – let them know you’re looking to build your customer base and ask if they know any other individuals or businesses who could use your services – make sure they known that even if you do get more clients their service level won’t drop.

3. Explore your online network
Prospective customers are everywhere, and you probably already have a few in your online network. Take some time to go through your list on LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook and draw up a list of potential customers. Look in less-obvious places too, such as your email address nook and phone contacts. Chances are there’s at least a couple of people who might be relevant to your client search, so make some calls to see if your friends or contacts know of any new businesses who might need your services.

4. Ace your digital marketing
One of the many benefits of the internet is the fact that there’s a low barrier for getting in touch with people. Potential customers who see your digital marketing can easily drop you an email or reply to your post, sparking the beginning of a business relationship. So, polish up your online presence and make sure there are strong calls to action on your website, social profiles and emails.

5. Be a problem-solver on social media
Social Media is a great place to find leads and build your brand. To get your name known, be active on sites such as Quora and LinkedIn, check Twitter and Facebook for questions you can answer. This is a simple, neat way to showcase your expertise to potential clients. For the best results, make sure your social profiles include a link to your website or online portfolio so it’s really easy for your potential clients to find our more about you.

The offline approach…

1. Pitch in person
Networking can be scary but, its benefits are endless. Practise your elevator pitch before you go, that way if anyone asks you’re ready. Don’t be afraid to walk up to people who you think could becoming a client and introduce yourself. Make sure you take enough business cards – better to have them and not need them instead of needing them and not having them.

2. Join a co-working space
Co-working spaces are fertile ground for all sorts of business opportunities, not least finding new clients. Join a co-working space and get to know the other members, you’re highly likely to either find new a client or be referred to one. You may also find ways to collaborate with other co-working members on joint projects combine your skills and theirs.

3. Attend a trade show
Grab your business cards, dust off the stack of flyers and get on the events circuit in your area. You can find listings for events online, using sites like Eventbrite and Expodatabase, or follow the trail on Twitter and Instagram using hashtags like #tradesshows, #eventmarketing and #exhibitions. Once you’re there put your networking skills to the test and stat making those all-important connections.

4. Use your personal network
Asking for referrals doesn’t just apply to your current clients. Family and friends, former colleagues and any new person you meet could all lead you to your next client. Getting into mentioning what you do for a living or that you’re looking for new opportunities is a good habit to get into when having a conversation with someone. Doesn’t have to be a long conversation, but mentioning your work to people sows seeds that could come back to you in the form for a new business opportunity.

5. Partner with a related business
Were big fans for the referral network – partnering with a related business and promoting one another to your shared target audience is a great system. For example, a graphic designer might team up with a copywriter who agrees to refer their clients who want illustrations to go with an article. In turn, the designer recommends the copywriter to their clients who are creating a website or some offline marketing that needs compelling wording. Both referral partners can provide small discounts to referred customers as a way of sweetening the deal.

If your looking to start, run or grow a business contact us on 01604 892328 or email us at: business_support@northampton.ac.uk

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