But.. how do I get my initial clients? I get this a lot! The first question that pops into people’s minds when they are thinking of starting a business is how to find their first clients. And I know that feeling all too well, ‘cuz I was there an year ago.
A bit of a back story here.
I started an Etsy shop in February 2015 to test the waters for my design business. Once I was sure I could make this work, I quit my job in August to pursue my design business full time. And when I quit my job, I did a couple of things:
One, I launched the design services on my website:
Until August, my main income came from selling design templates on Etsy and doing custom design work on the side. When I decided to go full time, I knew I had to create concrete design services that helped business owners build a serious online presence. So while I continued to sell design templates on Etsy, I launched my custom offerings on my own website. I clearly defined my services, my design process and created systems to effectively manage my business. Having a website that talks about your services not only looks professional than a custom listing on Etsy, but also helps you to be seen as a serious business owner.
Second, I 10x - d my prices:
When I was doing custom design work through Etsy, I did complete web designs for $60- $100. There, I said it. For six months, I worked long hours for just pennies. I don’t know what I was thinking but since I had a full time job then, money wasn’t my priority. Instead, I concentrated on refining my skills and learning about running a business. But when I decided to pursue this full time, there was no way I could continue working for the same prices, so I raised my prices 12 times. Overnight, I went from charging $100 to prices ranging from $1200 - $2000.
Was I crazy? Probably yes.
But my logic was this. If I was going to be serious about building this business, I had to charge what I deserve for the value I was going to offer. Agree? Also, raising my prices meant that the clients I would work with would be invested in their blogs and businesses and would take my work more seriously. So I told myself that even if I book one client that takes my work seriously in the next 3 months, its better than working on 10 projects that are less than ideal. And so, I launched.
Honestly, I was terrified - would anyone book me at all?
I least expected it, but I booked 3 dream projects the very first month and thankfully, I haven’t looked back ever since. Not only that, but I have also been consistently booked out 4-6 months in advance starting then. Looking back, as nerve-wracking as it was to start the business full-time, it has also been insanely gratifying. Over time, I 've definitely learnt a thing or two about how to get clients to keep your business steady and today, I want to share some tips on how you can, too! So here are my (not-so) secret ways of gaining clients for any service-based business:
'Cuz, first impressions matter. If you want to be taken seriously as a business owner, you need to have a professional online presence in place. Strong and consistent branding coupled with an effective website is a must for any online business because that is what customers see when they come into your "Store". You need to be not only legit, but also need to look trust worthy. Its easy to throw in some fonts and colors in Picmonkey and create a logo, but investing in professional branding and website development makes a huge difference in effectively communicating your brand values and attracting your ideal client. Also, make sure to use high-quality photography, it gives an instant boost to your website.
My blog is the biggest marketing tool for my business. How? By writing content that attracts my ideal client or customer. Content marketing is one of the best ways to grow your business for free! Write content that connects with your ideal client. So for example. if you are a business coach, share content related to growing a business. If you are a web designer, share design and blogging tips. This not only attracts your customer to your website, but also positions you as an expert in your industry.
Your blog is also the best way to stay connected with your potential clients, get them to know you as well as trust you. When I launched my Etsy shop, I had already been writing this blog for an year. So on the very first day of the launch, I sold 2 design templates and had custom design enquiries. And the entire credit goes to this blog. Since I had built an audience who trusted me and were interested in my topic, I had ready clients who wanted to buy from me.
Just a few days ago, I got this email from a potential client. She had found me via Pinterest..
And she ended up becoming one of my biggest clients till date. Writing a blog is one thing, but driving traffic and letting people know about your website is just as important. And this is where Pinterest comes in. In the past six months, I have been able to exponentially grow my traffic and book a steady stream of clients, thanks to Pinterest.
I ve told this time and again, but something that makes the entrepreneurial journey absolutely worthwhile for me is my people, my community. I love collaborating on projects with like-minded creatives in the industry. Collaborations are not only fun but can result in opportunities that can transform your business in ways that you can’t imagine. The people who you collaborate with may fall in love with your process and recommend you to their friends in the industry and their audience. And trust me, there is no better marketing than word-of-mouth. 9 out of 10 times, an enquiry that comes through a referral is going to book you.
So keep in touch with people whose work you truly appreciate and look up to in your niche and collaborate with them when the opportunity comes. You will love it!
One thing you should always do is get a testimonial from your client once you finish the project and use it on your website. I ll tell you why! Let’s say you want to find a restaurant for dinner and you pull out the yelp app on your phone. There are 10 Italian restaurants that you can choose from. What do you do? You read the reviews before you decide where you want to go. Don’t ya?
Similarly a potential client who has landed on your website needs to be assured that they will be in good hands if they book your services. And testimonials are a great way to instill that trust and confidence in them. Also, one of the main reasons my Etsy shop grew pretty fast was because of the good reviews that my customers left on my shop. When 90 people have bought from you and are happy with the experience, a new customer is more likely to trust and purchase from you. So get going on those testimonials!
I don’t know about you, but if I am bowled over by the service and quality of food at a restaurant, I am more likely to visit that place again, and again. By providing amazing service to your current clients, you will make a permanent place in their minds as a service to come back to. When they need help again with your services, they will not think twice before booking you again. So how do you offer great service?
High quality work: First and obvious thing is to deliver the work your promised on. Do you best, go over and beyond to make sure you give the client what they want.
Simple client process: Create a simple, fuss-free process for working with your clients.
Effective communication: Sure, sometimes life gets in the way and you may fall behind on work. But keep the communication strong and alive. Instead of disappearing for months together and have your client wondering about you, let them know that you are there and have been delayed a bit. I am sure they ‘ll understand. The key to any project is effective client communication, you just can’t skip that!
Not only will your customers come back to you again and again, but they ‘ll make sure to tell their peeps about how awesome it is to work with you!
When I say being present on social media, I don’t mean spending hours on it, or tweeting about your cat, weather and everything in between. Here are a couple of things you can do instead:
Participate in twitter chats: Twitter chats have been huge for growing my blog and community. Hop onto chats when you have the time and genuinely answer and ask questions. Help others out if you have a solution to the problem they are facing. A little help goes a long way. The next time they need a professional for hire, you are the first one they are going to think of.
Interact in Facebook groups: There are so many opportunities in Facebook groups to network authentically and find new clients. Its just all about giving and taking. The more you share your knowledge and help people out, the more they will look up to you as an expert and come to you for your services.
Overall, I think when it comes to social media, its all about one word : Authentic. Be genuine, speak your mind, help others and talk about your services in a non-salesy way - and you should be golden!
This is probably the most useful marketing strategy to land clients for your business, but I am mentioning this last as I haven't used this method directly for my design business. I have, however, used it for my photography business and it works magic! Plus, I 've had people on my email list find my website and book my design services (although they initially came into the list for photography!). Start an email list to build a list of prospects to whom you can then market your services. And trust me, the people on your email list will turn out to be some of your best clients 'cuz if they are giving you access to their inbox, they genuinely love and are interested in what you have to offer.
After this super long post, you must be thinking - phew! this sounds difficult. But trust me, its not. Its just a system that you need to implement. If I can do it, you can do it!