If you are an online service provider, one of the most important parts of your business (especially if you are just starting out) is figuring out how to get clients. I remember that when I first started my own online business as a virtual assistant, it seemed like everybody else out there had some sort of magic mojo that attracted clients to them with the snap of a finger, and I was the only one who couldn’t figure it out.
Pretty quickly, I realized that there is not some sort of secret trick to getting clients. But, there is kind of a formula to it.
While I’ve got you here, let’s take a minute and go over the basics of how to get clients, using some strategies that I have picked up over time and used successfully myself.
How to Get Clients for Your First Business
Build Up Your Confidence
This may sound like kind of a bullshit answer, but honestly, this is probably the most crucial aspect of learning how to get clients for your business. In almost every circumstance, your goal is to convey to people that YOU are the best person for them to hire.
Allowing them to realize that they should hire you requires a buttload of self-confidence. But you also need to be humble about it. Just because you know what you’re doing does not mean that you’re the perfect fit for every job and every client.
Let’s be clear: I’m not exactly an expert when it comes to confidence and mindset. One tip I do have for you, though, is “fake it ’til you make it.”
Act confident, speak confidently, and think positive thoughts about yourself and your online business. Pretty soon it will start to turn into the truth.
That is how I started out, and it actually worked. Over time, my sort of nervous facade of confidence became actual confidence in myself and my abilities.
Just in case you need a little bit more help with this one, here’s a good read from Entrepreneur.com: 6 Actions You Can Take Every Day to Build Your Self-Confidence.
Act Like a Professional
Stemming from the previous tip, it’s important not only to act confidently, but to act like you are a professional. People want to feel trust towards who they are hiring. If you don’t come off as a professional person, it’s unlikely that they will be enthusiastic about hiring you.
There are a lot of layers to acting like and being a professional, but here are some of the biggies:
Speak in an Educated Manner
When you are in a professional atmosphere, which is most of the time when you are online (an interview, an email thread, a Facebook group, your Instagram page, etc.), make sure that you are speaking in a way that shows that you are an educated human being.
Depending on your brand, be very wary of doing things like using slang words or swearing. Also make sure that your spelling and grammar is on-point. (Pro tip: check out Grammarly, a free grammar-checking app, if this is something you struggle with).
In situations where you will be seen (such as your profile photos, headshots, video interviews, webinars, etc.), dress to impress! Make sure that you are wearing an outfit that implies you are a professional. So, maybe trade out your shorts and spaghetti straps for a nice pair of jeans and a cute blouse.
You don’t necessarily need to “cover yourself up,” but just think of it like a real-life job. Whatever you wouldn’t wear to an office job is probably not a great choice for your online business either.
Know Your Stuff
Ever seen the show Shark Tank? The sharks always freak out when the business owners don’t know their stuff (“client acquisition cost” always trips people up).
You don’t need to be a math genius to run a successful online business. (Trust me, numbers are my huge weakness!). Still, you need to make sure you know the answers to questions potential clients might ask you. Stuff like: your rates, your policies, your office hours, etc. Do they need to sign a contract? Are you available on weekends?
The last thing you want is to respond with a stuttering “uhhhh, I don’t know?” So make sure that you are prepared, and that you know your business inside and out! And if they ask a question you weren’t expected? Think on the fly, answer confidently, and be better prepared for next time.
Make Your Website a Priority
There are tons of people out there who preach that entrepreneurs don’t need websites. They are right! You don’t.
But you probably should have one anyway.
Not having a website isn’t a huge deal. There are other ways to get clients without sending them to your website. But if your goal is to really grow your business and ultimately go full-time with it, you are definitely going to want a website.
I think that a common misconception with websites is that they are (a) hard to create, and (b) expensive to have. But that is absolutely not the case.
Creating Your Website
First of all, you can set up a website on Squarespace for as little as $12/month. There are other cheaper, or even free, options out there too, like Wix, Weebly, Blogger, or free WordPress! But if you are not willing or able to invest $12/month in your business, that might be a whole other problem. If you are going to invest in anything, your website should be #1 on that list.
If you’re super new to this whole “website” thing, I recommend reading this super comprehensive article that explains everything in beginner’s terms: 6 Steps to Building Your First Website.
Designing Your Website
Once you have the basics down, it’s time to actually design and build your site. Once again, I highly recommend making your site a top priority, because it’s usually your “first impression” for potential clients. So you really want to blow them away (or at least not actively turn them off!).
For my own site, I started off using a really easy-to-use and customizable WordPress theme called TweakMe (highly recommend for beginner/intermediate WordPress users!), and then eventually upleveled to Total, which includes a content builder so that I can easily create stuff like landing pages, sales pages, and a dynamic homepage.
Using one of the themes I just mentioned, it’s totally possible to create a gorgeous website on your own. Just look at this gorgeous one-page site that my student Linda Jones designed for herself over at www.dashlinnow.com:
It’s only one page (for now), but it has everything she needs: an about section, her services, a way to contact her, and links to her social media channels. Awesome job, Linda!!
If you are overwhelmed by just the thought of this (or don’t consider yourself to have a “good eye” when it comes to graphic design), you have a few options:
Purchase a “Done for You” WordPress Theme
Krista Rae and Kory Woodard have created some gorgeous options for you over at Coded Creative; I highly recommend choosing one of theirs. Other options are BluChic or (if you want lots of options) ThemeForest.
Hire a Website Designer
If you want something extremely personalized and also want to knock out your logo and branding, a web designer is an awesome choice. They have a reputation of being very expensive, but don’t brush this option aside without doing your research. There are affordable options out there. But you are probably looking at somewhere around $500-$2,500, depending on the designer’s quality and experience.
My team actually does website design if you are looking to hire someone!
Stay Away From WordPress
WordPress is my personal favorite platform because it is so customizable. But Squarespace might be a better option if you have trouble learning how to use tech and online software. It’s very easy to use and can help you build a functional not-ugly website very quickly.
Still, there is a learning curve with any software (for me, personally, I don’t find Squarespace’s design process to be that intuitive), so if you want Squarespace but can’t figure it out, check out Megan Minns’ killer course Website in a Box.
For those of you working on your websites now, you might like this other blog post I wrote: How to Make Your Site Stand Out to Potential Clients.
How to Get Clients with a Free Discovery Call
This is one of my favorite ways to feel out if a potential client is right for my business. There are kind of two ways to go about this:
The first way is to advertise it on your services page. Simply design it to be the “next step” for potential clients. Offer a free 20-30-minute call in order for you guys to see if you vibe well together. Use that time to talk about how you as a service provider will be able to help their business.
It’s good to go into this call with a bit of homework done. Research their website, social media channels, and business. Then come up with some talking points on how you think you can best improve their current situation.
As you can see in the example of the one-page website above, it’s great to use a scheduling service to book appointments. It helps you come across as more professional, and it’s just all-around a whole lot easier. I’ve tried quite a few of them, and my personal favorite is definitely Acuity (I’ve upgraded to their $10/month plan, but used their free version for the first 10 months I was in business!).
But if you are looking for more options, check out this blog post from Miss #GSD for an in-depth comparison between the different softwares: The Ultimate Guide to Scheduling and Booking Clients Online.
The second option is to create an incentive for random (or “cold”) people to sign up for a session with you. This tends to work especially well for the coaching industry, but can also work for a variety of different niches. The key is to come up with some type of bonus they’ll get for having a call with you.
For example, I recently hopped on one of these calls with a lady named Star Miller. She advertised in a Facebook group that she was looking to talk to people who are in the process of creating an ebook (one of my plans for 2017!), as part of her market research.
Basically, here’s how the format for this kind of call goes:
- I hopped on the call with her, and we talked for 20 minutes about my project
- She helped me brainstorm some title ideas and figure out a good topic for my business
- For the last 10 minutes, we talked about her and how she could help me. She provides a facilitation service for people who are interested in self-publishing, and I was interested in hearing more about that.
Although I didn’t end up hiring her on the spot, getting me on that call with her was a great win for Star. Not only did she give off an amazing impression by being so generous with her free advice, she also got to talk to me all about how she helps people and what her strengths are.
In fact, just yesterday, I saw that someone in a different Facebook group was looking for help in this exact area. So what did I do? I left a comment recommending her services, because I knew that she’d be a great fit!
This just goes to show you that, when you’re wondering about how to get clients, how important exposure is. The key to booking clients is not all about actually booking those clients, it’s more about getting yourself out there and doing a good job marketing yourself as a service provider in a specific niche.
How to Get Clients in Facebook Groups
Once you are feeling confident and professional, and have your very own website, it’s time to start reaching out to potential clients! Social media is one of the best places to find the people who might be interested in your services. This is because they usually hang out together! And social media channels are like big awesome places to hang out. So you can usually find your audience by doing things like:
- Scrolling through a hashtag on Instagram
- Participating in a Twitter chat
- Joining a Pinterest group board
- Searching in Facebook groups
Personally, Facebook groups are my
drug marketing location of choice. Simply by joining one group, you can get access to hundreds (if not thousands!) of potential clients.
Once you’re in the group and have successfully introduced yourself, it’s time to start marketing.
Marketing can be a scary-sounding word. But, really, all it means is representing yourself in a way that will attract clients.
One really easy way to get started is to participate in promo threads. Pretty much all Facebook groups have them! Basically, they are (typically) weekly posts from the admin that allow you to share a link. Usually the link has to be to a blog post of yours, but sometimes they let you post links to other stuff, like social media channels or your lead magnets.
The key? Post in these threads strategically. Craft a blog post that is perfect for your ideal client, and post it in the thread. Hopefully some of the people who click on the link will be your intended audience. And once they get all the way to your website, they are virtual putty in your hand!
A Case Study Example
For example, I was just chatting the other day with a woman named Casey. She was interested in using Facebook groups to get clients for her new online business. Her main offer is coaching packages for mothers and families that are dealing with chronic health issues.
First of all, this is an awesome niche. It’s super specific and targeted! This means that Casey has a great chance of being able to market herself in a way that will make her known as the go-to health coach for that specific audience.
The first step is to find Facebook groups that she can join which will include her target market, so that will probably mean finding groups that are specific to moms. I would recommend targeting her search even more specifically, and joining groups specifically for mom bloggers.
I say this for a few reasons:
- As an online coach, the best type of client for you is someone who is familiar with what online coaching is, but has not actually come across many coaches. (This post is too long to go into further detail about that, but I think it’s true!)
- A lot of moms/families who are struggling with chronic health issues actually have blogs about this topic. That could be its own tiny niche all by itself! It will be easier to identify her target market if all she has to do is find mom bloggers who talk about their family’s health problems (vs. trying to find someone who is struggling with this, but is not necessarily outspoken about it).
- Bloggers have an audience. All Casey has to do is find one mom blogger to work with her. Then, once she does an amazing job, that mom blogger is extremely likely to recommend Casey to her friends. (And her friends are most likely also in Casey’s target market!) Once again, the goal is exposure. Targeting bloggers can be a great way to achieve that.
In this guest post on Moms Make Cents, I detail the exact process for how to find Facebook groups in your niche: How to Conquer Facebook Groups and Attract New Clients.
Once Casey is in a few mom blogger groups, she can start posting in those promo threads. The best thing for her to put in those are blog posts specifically geared towards her target market. Maybe something like “An Effective Morning Routine for Families with Chronic Health Issues.”
Casey’s goals by posting a blog post like this are:
- Get exposure. You want a bunch of people clicking on that link, especially your target audience.
- Highlight her expertise. Especially as a coach, you really need to show people that you know what the heck you’re doing. A great way to do this is write an amazing blog post that solves a problem her ideal clients have.
- Encourage readers to take action. Once those potential clients are reading her blog post, her goal should be either to (a) get them to sign up for a freebie and join her email list, or (b) have them book a free call.