How To Establish & Grow Your Client Base

I was asked by Solent Creatives if I would give a talk to Solent students on building their brand and establishing themselves as freelancers.

I really enjoyed sharing what I’ve learned over the years I’ve been running my business and thought, why not turn part of that talk into a blog and share it with you.

Lots of my clients are already well established in their industry but some of you are just starting out (how exciting!!) and may be wondering how to start finding clients and building your business.

In this blog I’ll share four steps to finding, winning and nurturing your clients so you can build your reputation and establish yourself.

4 steps to building your reputation and establishing yourself.

Finding, winning and keeping clients is how you’ll build your reputation and establish your business.

Step 1 – Finding clients

In my opinion, finding clients is the most daunting bit of running a business. I want to share some of the ways I’ve found clients, to help inspire and motivate you to get yourself out there!

  • Contact people you know and don’t be afraid of being ignored/rejected. The worst that can happen is they say no and if you don’t ask, it’s a no anyway.
  • Write a list of everyone you know who might want your services and speak to them. Don’t forget, even if they don’t need you, they might know someone who does.
  • Be creative about where you look for opportunities.
  • Places I’ve found work – companies advertising jobs (they may consider a freelancer instead or during the interim whilst they’re recruiting), my own personal network (LinkedIn, friends, family etc), businesses in my local area (yes I cold emailed them. Yes I got work from it).
  • Go to networking (consistently) – when you meet someone for the first time you don’t necessarily feel comfortable recommending them to someone else straight away. Once you get to know that person, even if you haven’t worked with them, chances are you build trust in them and would then recommend them to others. The same goes for people recommending you. So showing up once to a networking event isn’t going to change your world. You need to be consistent and regularly attend a group that you enjoy.

Also remember. you’re not just selling to the people in the room. You’re selling to everyone they know.

Step 2 – Winning over new clients

In my experience, finding clients is the hardest part, winning them over is easier.

These are my tips for winning clients and convincing people to work with you…

  • Always be open and honest (but polite and professional)
  • Be realistic – offering to do something that should take 2 weeks in 3 days isn’t going to end well. Sure, you might be able to deliver but is it your best work? Better to be realistic and deliver a great experience than disappoint someone.
  • Portfolio – often people will want to see examples of what you’ve done. I’ve never shown people a massive portfolio. A few examples of your work should be enough.
  • Communication – it’s SO important. ESPECIALLY if someone hasn’t worked with you before. Make sure you communicate clearly and promptly. It’ll give people confidence in you.
  • Professionalism – everyone should be professional in a work environment, freelancing is no different.
  • Quotes – even if you speak to a prospect on the phone and agree the costs, I would always follow up with an email confirming the details of what you discussed. Written emails like this can form a contract of sorts too.
  • Contracts – ALWAYS have a contract. It doesn’t have to be huge but it needs to cover the basics: who it’s between, what you’re going to do, payments terms, expenses and industry specific elements too.
  • Money – it might feel weird charging people before you’ve done anything but you MUST. I’d suggest at least a 50/50 split – 50% payment upfront, 50% on completion. This means half the risk is theirs (if they pay 50% and you don’t deliver) and half the risk is yours (you do the work and they don’t pay). In some cases, it’s easy to withhold delverables until they’ve paid but sometimes it doesn’t work like that.

If you’re working with large/corporate organisations it works a bit differently so make sure there’s a good contract in place to ensure you’re going to get paid. For corporate clients, always ask up front (once the project is agreed), what their payment terms are, who you need to address the invoice to and where you should send it.

Step 3 – Keeping clients happy

It’s cheaper and easier to retain existing clients than it is to find new ones.

You’ll need to develop your own ways of nurturing your clients but here’s a few things I would recommend:

  • Do what you said you would do, on time and to budget.
  • Keep up good communication throughout your work with them.
  • If a client isn’t happy with your work, find a resolution. Sometimes things can be rectified, others they can’t. Whatever happens, try not to leave things on bad terms. If someone doesn’t like your work, that’s one thing, if they say YOU are terrible, that’s another. So don’t be terrible.
  • Show you appreciate them – thank them however you feel fits with your business.
  • Check in with them from time to time, see how they’re doing and if they need anything.

Step 4 – Getting referrals and growing your business

It’s amazing to work on referrals because your clients are doing your marketing for you! Plus, I find that my clients refer the nicest people. It’s a win win.

I always ask my clients to leave a review or write a testimonial after working with me. Not only is this a great way of capturing positive feedback (great for when you’re having a bad day), it’s also great for potential clients to build trust in you.

If a client makes a referral, it’s always nice to make the effort to thank them if you can. Afterall, getting a referral skips step 1 of this process and you can get stuck into step 2!

Think of it this way, the more happy clients you have, the more people there are out there telling others about your amazing work/support and the more your business grows.

Do you enjoy finding and winning over new clients? Is there something you could do differently to wow them? If you’d like to chat about your client experience and how your marketing and brand touch points could be enhanced to improve their journey, send me a message or book a call.

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