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Hands up if you’re new to this whole creative entrepreneurship thing. Well, hello there! It’s an exciting yet challenging time isn’t it? Your entrepreneurship journey may have started from a hobby, a corporate job layoff (this is me!), or you simply had an epiphany one day that you wanted to change your life. However you got here, you’re probably tired of the planning phase and are ready to land your first client.
Trying to land your first client can leave you paralyzed by fear, doubt, and thoughts of what the heck do I do next?
In my past life, I was in sales for 16 years, so I know a thing or two about finding clients, building a customer base, and keeping loyal clients. I started right from the very beginning with cold calling, pitching, and building a territory from scratch. Although nerve-wracking (for my introverted brain), it led me to a six-figure sales career and has given me the foundational knowledge to start my own creative entrepreneurship journey.
Now, you may be starting from a different place – you may or may not have the years of sales experience behind you – so how do you start finding clients in a non-icky way?
Since I’m new to creative entrepreneurship, I thought why not document my journey from start to thriving biz to help other creatives out. So here we are…right at the beginning. Well, almost. There’s been a lot of procrastinating, waffling, self-doubt, fear busting and sleepless nights but we’ll talk about that another day.
Ready? Let’s get on with it. You’ve decided to launch your own creative biz, you’ve got your logo, branding, website design and you’re ready to shout to the world, “hey I’m here and I’ve got something to share with the world!”. So you launch your website and…crickets. Sadly, there’s no Field of Dreams “if you build it they will come” moment here.
It’s not that easy. In fact, it’s hard. It will require hours of networking, cold-calling, and pitching.
You need to go out and actively find clients.
How’s that for honesty?
The hard work is not over, it’s only just begun. So gird your loins and get ready for building your creative client base.
Land Your First Client – Where do you start?
Well if you haven’t already you’ll need to get a few things organized before you call or email your first prospective client:
Get your elevator pitch down cold. Figure out your messaging, your elevator pitch. This is how you’ll let people know what it is you do, what you’re passionate about, why you do it and how it’s important to them. The key to being non-icky: focus on the why and how it’s important to your client – show that you understand their biz and what they need.
Note: this may require researching your prospective clients ahead of time. No, scratch that – it WILL require you to research clients.
Your messaging needs to be empathy based. An understanding of your clients needs and wants will get you further than you think. Being able to empathize with your clients problems and understanding how your offering provides a solution will bring in your first client.
Ask yourself: Why should my clients hire me? What am I offering that solves a problem for them? How can I best relate my solution to their problem?
Put systems in place. You’ll need a way to keep track of your pitching efforts. The last thing you want to do is pitch the same person twice by accident. If you’re starting out, start by setting up a Pitch tracker/Sales Funnel spreadsheet and a Customer List.
Essentially what you’re doing here is creating a mini Customer Relationship Management database of your own – similar to a tool like Salesforce but on the cheap.
These don’t need to be complex and you don’t need to waste money (when you may not have any) on a fancy tool yet.
Your Pitch Tracker should include:
- Date pitched
- Client Name
- Contact Name (may be different than the Client/Company name)
- What product/service you pitched
- Date to Follow-Up
- Number of times Followed-Up
- Stage of Funnel: Prospect or Client
Your Customer List should include:
- Client/Company Name
- Contact Name
- Contact Phone
- Contact Email
- Department (if necessary)
- Size of Client/Company
Saying hello to the world
Next up, you’ll want to introduce yourself to the world. Simply because you put a website up does not mean everyone knows you’re in business and ready for clients. Using your messaging, it’s time to let the world know you’re ready to share your product and/or services with the world.
- Introduce yourself to your target audience/client base.
- Talk to family and friends and find out if they know of anyone who may be interested in your product and/or service.
- Email everyone you know and let them know.
- Put it on every social media network you’ve decided to use that you’re in business and ready to help.
Marketing, schmarketing who has time to do that?
If you believe marketing is a waste, or in some way sleazy, I hate to say it, but you’ve already lost. Without promoting your business, you cannot create awareness. Marketing yourself does not have to be gross and icky – simply be honest. Use empathy. Share why you’re doing what you’re doing and how you believe you can help.
You can market your biz in multiple ways – Facebook ads, Twitter ads, word of mouth, referrals, pounding the pavement (cold calling), putting it out on your Linkedin profile, announcing and letting people know that you’re in the freelance biz (photographer, writer, or artist), or hit up your email list (if you’ve started one), and advertise it on your blog.
Go get ‘em girl – Pitch, pitch, pitch
Next, you need to pitch. Pitching will take up the majority of your time in the beginning. If you haven’t already, take time to establish who your target clients are and/or what businesses you could target and contact that may be interested in hiring you or buying your product.
This is where your Pitch tracker/sales funnel comes in. Be sure to keep track of everyone you contact.
Recently, I took Gina Horkey’s 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success and she recommends pitching 10X per day at a minimum.
If you happen to have set your heart on becoming a freelance writer, I highly recommend Gina’s freelance writing course. It helped fill in the gaps for me on how to get the online business side of things started. You know – templates, contracts, dealing with taxes, profit and loss – all that confusing stuff.
Follow up buttercup!
Lastly, always, always follow up.
Following up is a whole other topic and we’ll have a blogger that specializes in blog and business strategy guest posting here next Friday to walk you through following up. Be sure to watch for that post!
After 16 years in sales, I still get nervous contacting a new client. It’s something that never goes away. After all, you want to represent your biz in its best light to your clients. You want your passion and message to shine. The key is – never let your nervousness get in the way of the beauty and greatness you have to offer the world. And remember, everyone is new at something or other all the time.
So go out, get out of your comfort zone, and land that first client!
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