Sandy and I talk a lot about being small business owners and making money on our own terms. Having your own business is great, but trust me when I say it’s not all glitz and glamour – not at the beginning anyways. It takes time to establish your reputation as the go-to-person, build trust so clients keep on coming back and it’s a lot of hard work to get your first client.
One of the most common questions aspiring small business owners ask is “How did you get started?” The answer is not always simple. Depending on what type of business you run your client acquisition strategy will be different.
I run a part time content and social media consulting service for small business owners, mostly in the personal finance niche. In the spirit of full disclosure I should also mention that in addition to my side hustle I also have a full time day job with an international insurance and investment firm.
How to get your first client
I got my first client by responding to ad on Craigslist, but that was back in 2009. Nowadays I find new clients in a variety of ways including referrals from existing clients. That’s the great thing about working in a niche – everyone talks to each other.
I also look for new clients at conferences and expo events. Attending conferences is a great way to enhance your skills and network with colleagues, but it’s also a fantastic way to discover new brands and potentially new clients. I just attended a local food and wine expo with my mom. While we were sipping and tasting I chatted with a few exhibitors about working together. When you have your own business, new clients can be anywhere.
The number one way to keep clients happy
Never say NO. I don’t care if someone gives you a three hour deadline or you have to work through all hours of the night, the second you say no to a client you stop being their number one person and that’s bad for your business.
I have done some pretty unconventional things throughout my career including driving my client’s trophy wife to New York City from Montreal, but I did it and I’ve reaped the rewards of that relationship ever since. Being your own boss isn’t always champagne and caviar, sometimes it’s sweatpants in your living room and a road trip to a foreign country, but at least it’s on your own terms. I like the feeling of working for a purpose and right now my sole purpose is to grow my business to be as big as it can be. (that’s cheesy I know)
Good communication keeps clients coming back
There is nothing worse than a surprise when it comes to daily business operations and especially when it comes to money. I still have one of my very first clients today that I had nine years ago – yes from the Craigslist ad. The scope of work has changed, but the relationship is still going strong. I truly believe this is because of my (sometimes brutal) honesty and open communication.
I wouldn’t like it if one of my vendors surprised me with a change, so I try not to do it to others. Of course prices can go up and services change, but if you give clients advance notice instead of surprise them I find they appreciate the relationship much more.
Do you have your own business?
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