If you’ve been running your own business for years, you’ve already developed a strong reputation and a reliable list of clients—it can be easy to grow complacent. Understandably, you appreciate your current clients, you feel comfortable working with them, and you feel secure. But things can change in a minute; clients can go out of business, have a change of leadership, or simply decide to try something—or someone—new.
It’s important to always keep the door of your business open to new opportunities. Follow these actionable tactics to up your networking game and attract new clients. While this advice is geared towards established consultants, there are many useful learning tools for new independents just starting out as well.
1. Revisit Your Business Plan and Bill Rate
A valuable practice for staying on top of your game, is taking time once a year to revisit your business plan and bill rate. This exercise will give you the opportunity to update goals and ensure your rates are competitive. Take a look at your goals over the past year; do they still make sense for the work you’ve completed? How about your marketing strategy? Think about how your business might benefit or grow from a few small changes. Take a look at what your competitors are billing for similar services offered to make sure your rates are competitive in the marketplace.
2. Consider Expanding Your Services
The more experience you have, the better you’ll get at managing different types of clients and client problems. To grow your business, look outside of your core areas of expertise for expansion. This may mean a reach in your focus area or an expansion geographically. You may even take on a partner or team up to cover more ground. These decisions should not be made lightly; expand your business with care.
3. Take Time to Network
As you already know, word of mouth only goes so far. Due to your consistent business with long-time clients, you may not have had to attend meet-and-greet events, conferences, or seminars in a while. These events are where the deals are waiting. You’ve most likely attended conferences when you first started out, but they’ve changed since then. With the new and improved opportunities to market yourself these days, whether it’s through social media, email marketing, LinkedIn, etc., conferences have substantial potential when it comes to helping you expand your business. While you’re at it … have you updated your website lately?
4. Update Your Marketing Materials
You have a wealth of experience, so use it to your advantage. While you don’t need to go down a bulleted list of all of your success and accomplishments when pitching to a new client, explaining how you’ve positively impacted businesses can go a long way. Consider using case studies as part of your marketing collateral to help showcase your work with past clients.
5. Invest in Learning New Skills
Experience and age are valuable tools, and, for many clients, these attributes may prove to be advantageous. While clients will typically look to engage new consultants for a fresh and unique perspective, some may turn to other consultants for access to a particular skill or tech knowledge that you lack.
Keeping your skills up to date is an essential part of remaining competitive as an independent. That means regular professional development in your area of expertise, be it continued skills classes or pursuing professional certification. Consider using online tools like Lynda.com for skills-based learning, MediaBistro.com for marketing and digital skills, or platforms like Udemy and Coursera for broad-based online learning.