There's four areas where you can make a serious impact on your business right away: your website, getting leads, happiness, and the money. This part covers Getting Leads.
There’s a lot of advice on the internet on how to get your first client, but you should start with your existing network. Talk to your family and friends to find out if the place is that they work needs a website. Talk to your local Chamber of Commerce and find out if you could attend one of their meetings or give a presentation. (You may need to become a member in order to do that and if there's a fee involved I would wait.) You could also talk to any past employers as long as you still have a good relationship with them. Small businesses and family-owned stores are the types of clients that you're going to have the best results with if you're just starting out.
Small businesses and family-owned stores are the types of clients that you're going to have the best results with if you're just starting out.
Have Business Cards
While you shouldn't spend a lot of time on your website, you definitely do want to have business cards; particularly if you're going to be networking in person.This is another area where you don't want to spend a great deal of time or money. You can find a suitable business card template online for just a few dollars which you can use with an inexpensive printing service. Make sure your name, phone number, email address, and website are all on the card. Order a small batch and try to give them all away. Sometimes a friend of a friend, your favorite coffee shop, or the owner of the pet store you buy from needs your services. Get over your shyness and just ask, "how do you like your website?"
Know your Audience
As you’re networking and meeting people it's important to consider what type of business you want to do work with. If you're just getting experience in the industry, small businesses with small projects (and likely small budgets) are probably the type of customers that are looking for you. If you're fresh out of college with little work experience, a company like Coca-Cola is probably not your target audience. When you network to find your first customers, be sure you’re networking where you're likely to find your audience.
Know your Skills
When you're looking for your first few paying customers it's tempting to take on work that's outside of what you are in business to do. You want to build websites but somebody needs help with an issue on their computer and are willing to pay you to fix it. Don’t do it. Politely pass on that job in order to spend more time networking and finding a client that needs the services you're in business to provide. If you do decide to take that job on in order to pay your bills, make sure that client knows this isn’t what your business does and you're doing this as a personal (paid) favor. You don't want them recommending you to other customers for the same work you don't want.
Have a Sales Plan
When you've identified the places where you can find your potential customers, it's important to have a plan on how to get them on board. It can be a struggle to land a client on the first meeting. Chances are that they'll want some time to research you by looking at your website or talking to people in your portfolio before they decide to do business with you. They may also want to have more than one interaction with you - either via email phone or in person - before they're willing to give you money. This is why it's important to have a sales plan. What are the steps or phases that a lead goes through before you've satisfied all of their curiosity and questions and concerns and they're ready to do business with you? The more you can plan this process the easier it will be for you to repeat it, and make improvements over time. The better your sales plan, the more likely you are to land any lead that comes your way. Spend some time working on your sales plan.
What Comes Next?
Continue on to Part 3, Happiness.