In order to develop and sustain a successful career or business, you must first build a strong client base. Starting a network, growing relationships, and tapping into those connections before, during, and even after a job or contract is over will keep your company strong. And, of course, keep you in business (aka: making money).
When it comes to growing a strong client base, everything starts with your approach. Not only is it important to establish yourself and your brand, but it’s crucial to build relationships. You don’t want to be too ‘salesy’ or impersonal in your approach! Whether you’re a freelancer, business owner, or somewhere in-between, focus on connections. Creating these connections will lay the foundation for your business and give you a loyal and engaged following—essential for growth and success.
It’s important, especially when you’re starting out, to remember that your clients will be clients. There’s no reason to be fake, overly friendly, or cross the line between professional and personal. However, forming genuine bonds will directly impact the future of your business, so don’t be afraid to be your most authentic self.
Whether you’re curious about how to build a strong client base or looking to change your approach, here are some tips to get you on the right track.
Just get started.
In all honesty, one of the biggest (and silliest) things that hold us back from finding clients is our own fear. Regardless of where we are in the journey of building a business or career, we can (and will) find ourselves being held back by a nervousness. It’s when we take that first step, however, that we find ourselves making the biggest growth.
If you find yourself stuck or struggling to get your business off the ground, just start by reaching out. It doesn’t matter if you get rejected, if they’re not interested, or if they leave your message on read. The most important thing is that you’re taking strides forward into growing your business. The success will come.
Tap into your local + personal connections.
As silly as it may seem, the people around and close to you are (and will be) a great part of your initial client base. When you’re just getting started, people might not know about you and your business. Start with the people you’re related to, or individuals in your local area. These individuals/companies can advocate for you, as well as share about you in their network circles, thus broadening your reach with a simple social media post or share.
Even though it might not feel ‘professional,’ every client—from your mom’s friend to your great aunt Sylvia—is a client.
Network. And keep networking.
This is the obvious step, but one definitely worth mentioning. In order to grow your career or business, you have to network. As much help as Aunt Sylvia was with sharing about your work on her personal Facebook page, you’re going to have to reach out and tap into people outside of your comfort zone. There are a plethora of resources to help you network, such as LinkedIn, career websites like Upwork, or even Facebook groups, to name a few.
Use social media to your advantage.
Social media is a great networking tool, especially as you grow your following and engage with accounts outside your own. Use the search bar, relevant hashtags, groups, or other pages in your industry. Through those avenues you will see places that may be hiring, learn more about potential companies/clients and what they’re looking for, or reach out directly. You’ll be surprised how many jobs come from those simple social connections!
Solicit opportunities + self-advocate.
This goes without saying, and directly correlates to the above two points, but you can’t expect opportunities to just fall in to your lap. If you want to build a strong client base, you have to self-advocate. Reach out to companies (even ones that might not post about hiring!) and see if they’re interested in your work/expertise. Become comfortable sending pitches and speaking on your own behalf.
Pitch, propose + cold message (productively).
To continue the thought from above, sending pitches or proposals are great ways to show potential clients why they need to hire you or use your services. (Especially the ones you don’t have direct connections to.) Though it’s intimidating to reach out and send a cold message, it’s super productive. And, in the very least, this gets your name out there!
Just remember in cold pitching to be short, to the point, and specific to the editor/magazine/company you are reaching out to. Generic is bad, here! Companies and journals receive many cold pitches. Think about what can set yours apart. Also make sure you’re coming off authentic, professional, and invested.
When you land your first client, and of course all the successful clients after that, make sure to use referrals to your advantage. Asking someone to review your page, send a recommendation, or speak positively on your behalf to another organization or company is not asking too much. Don’t be afraid to request those sorts of things from employers/clients. They are invaluable for growing your business, helping you build an even stronger client base, networking, and overall success.
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