Friday, April 20th, 2018
The question that I’m asked the most – How do you get clients? There are so many different ways to approach it and since every business is unique, I know that there will never be a one size fits all solution. But after nearly 2 years of trying to figure this out, there are a few things that seem to have worked really well for me (someone who had zero business experience and absolutely hates marketing/networking). So I’m gonna spill all that I’ve learned and hopefully you can take something away from it!
Share + Engage
By far one of my biggest tools for getting my name and my work out there is social media. As a traveling entrepreneur who often lives in countries where I’m not fluent in the language, it can be difficult for me to network with potential clients at a local level. So I had to embrace social media as my main form of advertisement pretty much from day one. Through social media, I’m able to get my work in front of people from all over the world who would never see it otherwise. It’s seriously incredible how many people have found me through hashtags or random searches! Now curating a strong social media presence can be a job in itself and I definitely am not an expert on this, but here are some of my best quick tips:
No. 1 – Find One Platform That You Love and Run with It
One problem with using social media for your business is that there are just so many darn platforms and it can be easy to feel pressured to be active on all of them. I’ve always loved Instagram and sharing there feels very natural for me, but Facebook and Pinterest are a struggle. When I started Wayfarer, I was convinced that I needed to be posting on all 3 to gain the most followers. Eventually I realized that the things I was sharing on Facebook and Pinterest weren’t getting much engagement, but my Instagram was growing really well. It was frustrating because for a while I felt like I was just bad at Facebook and Pinterest, but really it was more about those platforms just not fitting my style of sharing. So I started to put all my focus on Instagram, stopped worrying about the others and gosh, it’s been so relieving! Being able to put all my effort in one place has allowed me to share better content and build a better social presence for myself. So if you enjoy using multiple platforms, that’s great. But if you only vibe with one, that’s fine too and you shouldn’t feel bad for it. Find the platform that feels the most natural to you and run with it.
“Being able to put all my effort in one place has allowed me to share better content and build a better social presence for myself.”
No. 2 – Don’t Be Afraid to Interact
Although some parts of social media can feel fake, it can still be an amazing tool to build genuine relationships with like-minded people. I’ve seen firsthand how even the smallest interactions on social media can turn into connections and even new clients! If someone posts something that you love or resonate with, don’t be afraid to leave a comment and let them know. If you’ve been wishing that you could ask someone in your industry that you admire some questions, send them a message! I’ve been surprised by how many people are more than happy to have real conversations through social media. Think of it as one big networking event with everyone that you’ve ever wanted to talk to. And if there are any brands or businesses that you would love to work with one day, try engaging with them through social media to let them know that you care about what they’re doing! Businesses will be so much more likely to hire you if they already know that you value what they do. Be kind, be encouraging and I promise that something wonderful will come from simply putting yourself out there.
No. 3 – Quality Over Quantity
The number of followers that you have really isn’t that important. I know, I know, you’ve heard that before and you get it, but it’s nice to be reminded every know and then. I still get stuck in the trap of looking a someone’s profile, noticing that they have more followers than me and feeling a little bummed. But one thing that I’ve found to be helpful is instead of just looking at their follow count, look at how many people actually engage in conversations with them through their comments. That’s where the real value is and you’ll be surprised at how some people might have tons of followers but don’t actually get that much interaction with them. Just keep that in mind. Social media only works well if you’re attracting the right kind of followers who value your work, not just random people who are following for the sake of following.
Something You Can Do Right Now:
- Find 3 people on your social media platform of choice who you either would love to work with or learn from. Leave a meaningful comment on 2 of their posts or send them a quick message to simply let them know how much you enjoy following them and see where that interaction leads.
Turn Connections into Referrals
I learned early on the value of community and how it can help you attract clients through referrals. I joined a few online groups for graphic designers, figuring that I would just introduce myself and ask some of the questions that I had about running a business. I was amazed at how quickly people responded and gave me advice, but then I was even more surprised when they started referring clients to me! It was as simple as me engaging in a conversation on a Facebook group, someone seeing my comment, looking at my portfolio and thinking, “Hmm, I like her stuff. I’ll keep her in mind in case a client comes along who I can’t take.” There are so many entrepreneurs out there with full plates looking to pass work on to someone else and it’s really easy to use that to your advantage with a little interaction. Some of my biggest clients have come to me through referrals and I’m always grateful for the other designers who are kind enough to send them my way.
If you’re young, you might also want to think about seeing if any experienced entrepreneurs in your industry are hiring junior freelancers for extra work. I did this for a little while with a designer that I admired (we connected through Instagram, of all places) and it was great to learn from her and see how she works. I actually know quite a few young freelancers who have done this and it can be a great opportunity to have a more consistent stream of projects through being on a team!
Something You Can Do Right Now:
- Join an online community for entrepreneurs, introduce yourself, ask a question and start trying to connect with some people, both more experienced than you and at the same level. A few of my favorite groups are Elevate & Cultivate, Creative Lady Collective and Rising Tide Society. (See if RTS has a local Tuesday Together group wherever you’re located.)
Create, Create, Create
As an entrepreneur, you’re going to dread slow seasons, but at some point or another you’re going to have them. All of a sudden you’ll realize that you don’t have enough clients lined up and you’ll freak out about what to do. If you’ve been following me for a while then you probably know that I preach this often, but I’m a firm believer that personal projects are one of the absolute best ways to attract your dream clients. Especially when you’re in a rut and having trouble getting a steady stream of work! I wrote an entire post on why I love personal projects so much, so feel free to read that for more of my thoughts on them. But for now, I’ll try to summarize – The work that you show in your portfolio is the type of work that you’re going to continue to attract. So if there’s a certain type of client or industry that you’re dreaming of working with, you can either wait for them to eventually notice you OR create a personal project that’s inspired by them and more likely to draw their attention. Seriously, I swear by this. It doesn’t always happen overnight, but it works. I just started a project with a skincare brand, an absolute dream client of mine, and what do ya know, they reached out to me because they saw a personal project that I did last year where I made up my own skincare brand! Couldn’t have worked out any better and it just made me believe even more in the value of personal projects. So even in the slow seasons, create, create, create!
“If there’s a certain type of client or industry that you’re dreaming of working with, you can either wait for them to eventually notice you OR create a personal project that’s inspired by them and more likely to draw their attention.”
Something You Can Do Right Now:
- Pick a type of client or industry that you want to work with and make up your own personal project that is inspired by them! It doesn’t need to have a strict deadline, just create freely and get excited about it. Then once it’s done, share it like crazy!
What Not To Do
While there are many strategies for getting clients, there are also many ways NOT to get clients (or at least not the right ones) and I felt like those were important for me to share with you as well. Here are a couple of things that I have learned should be avoided:
No.1 – Don’t lower your prices to attract more clients.
It can be tempting to lower your prices so that clients will be more drawn to you over your competition, but if you can, please please please don’t do it! I made this mistake early on and it’s one of my biggest regrets. Charging less than what you’re worth will naturally attract clients who value your work as less. So stick to your guns. Charge what you know you deserve and own it. The clients that you really want to work with are going to be more than willing to pay.
“Stick to your guns. Charge what you know you deserve and own it. The clients that you really want to work with are going to be more than willing to pay.”
No. 2 – Don’t take on work that you know you don’t want to do.
Random clients that aren’t part of your target market are going to come along and you’ll consider working with them solely because you need the work. This can be so hard to manage and I still struggle with it, but if you have a bad feeling about a potential project, listen to your gut and say no. You didn’t become an entrepreneur to take on projects that you don’t love. If you say yes to projects that you aren’t passionate about, you’re going to hate working on them and your business will likely suffer. As an entrepreneur, it’s your job to make sure that you are in a good mental and emotional place so that you can produce your best work. So if you can, try to be patient and know that better projects will come along.
So there you have it! Finding clients can be stressful and frustrating, but these are the things that I’ve found have helped me the most over the past 2 years. They may work well for you, they may not. It’s all about finding what feels natural and fits your style of communicating! If you have questions or have your own strategies to share, I would love to hear them!