One of the most intimidating aspects of becoming an independent professional is that big question: How do you land your first clients? With the specter of cold calling and repeated rejection before the mind's eye, worries about being able to find any clients at all can sometimes be paralyzing, scaring potentially successful independent professionals away from venturing out on their own.
But the process of finding clients doesn't have to be off-putting. We've assembled a guide to landing those first clients in the most pain-free ways possible.
1. Network, network, network. There's no way around the fact that networking is a necessary part of landing your first clients as an independent professional. But the good news is that you don't have to attend those awkward early morning networking breakfasts to hand out business cards if you don't want to. Networking can mean many different things. Sure, you can go to events specifically designed for meeting other businesspeople, but you can also try joining a professional association and attending those meetings, or volunteering for a good cause, and meeting new people along the way. Networking simply means getting to know others who could be potential clients—it doesn't matter how you go about doing it.
2. Build your online presence. Another vital component of landing your first clients as an independent professional is building your online presence. This means creating a professional-looking website that can easily be found by search engines, as well as starting social media pages to reach out to an online audience. There are only so many hours in a day for networking, and only so many people you can meet in person, but an online presence continually works for you, attracting potential clients even while you sleep. And some independent professionals have experienced so much success with this type of inbound marketing that they've been able to land all their clients solely through their online marketing activities—an exciting goal to strive towards.
3. Partner with an influencer. When you are first starting out as an independent professional, you don't yet have your own audience to market to. But you can borrow someone else's audience. Find an influencer who is not a direct competitor, but whose audience has interests that intersect with your ideal audience's. Ask that influencer if you can write a guest blog for their website, or if you could set up a display in their store. The fact that an established business thinks enough of you to partner with you will give their customers the sense that they can trust you, too, and will boost your prospecting efforts.
4. Don't give up! One of the worst—but also most common—mistakes that new independent professionals make is to give up too soon. Finding those first clients takes time. Part of the prospecting process is being patient, and waiting for the fruits of your efforts to appear.
Think of every hour you spend networking, building your online presence, and partnering with influencers, as an investment in your business. Just as every no brings you closer to your first yes, every ounce of effort you put into marketing yourself will pay off eventually. You just have to have the patience to see it through.
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