Landing Your First Client, Customer or Patient

For those in consultative roles, clients are everything. As consultants consider the launch of their businesses, obviously one of the first questions is: “where will my first client come from?” My answer, based on my own experience, as well as discussions with consultants in a variety of fields is: from those you know. Many consultants and freelancers have launched their businesses, initially, by reaching an agreement with a current employer to take on work on a contract basis and that can be a great starting point. If that isn’t possible, another channel to pursueis the people you know or have done work with or for in the past. These are people who know you, they know your work and, assuming you’ve made a good impression in the past, they’re a rich source of clients.
Face it: developing clients is primarily about building relationships. While traditional advertising, or engagement through social media sites like LinkedIn have their place, generating initial clients through these routes is much less likely–and much more time-consuming–than finding them within your circle of current professional acquaintances.
So, if you’re just striking out on your own, or thinking about striking out on your own, here are some initial steps to take:
  • Connect with current managers or colleagues to see how you might be able to meet their needs once you start your business.
  • Cast a wider net through connections from your past: school, early jobs, associations, etc.
  • Don’t overlook building up your presence on social media (just don’t expect early results).
  • Commit to doing exceptional work to ensure repeat business and referrals: in service industries, that’s where the majority of your work will come from.
  • Pay it forward: reach out to help others whenever possible–despite a weak economy, there is still plenty of work to go around!

One of my first clients when I launched my company back in 2008 was a woman who I’d met 20+ years ago through her sister who was a colleague at the time. She’s still a client and continues to refer me to others. You just never know where the next client will come from; don’t overlook any possibilities.

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