As business owners, we all have fantasies of what our work could look like.
We know the kinds of projects we want to work on, the types of products we’d like to produce; we have ideas about what will come next and dreams about where our business will be in a couple years.
When you’re running a business, there is sometimes a little hiccup that can make pursuing these things difficult – a lack of clients. For some of us it’s just part of the infamous “feast and famine” cycle of business, and for others, it’s a hunt for the first lucky person.
There are some things we can do to make ourselves more visible and appealing to potential clients, increasing the odds of being found and hired. Some of them are easy, with something small to fix or to change. Others are hard and time consuming, and won’t happen overnight. Keep an open mind as you read ahead, and if you start to feel overwhelmed, fight it! You’re in your field for a reason, and you are capable of growing your business – take it in bite-sized pieces, and that momentum will carry you until you realize you’ve finished a daunting task.
And so, without further ado, here are some tips on how to find and appeal to future clients.
Create a strong portfolio.
The portfolio is the window to the soul.
Not your whole soul, exactly, more like the professional part of your soul that is wearing jeans because it’s casual Friday but still has the perfect tie picked out for Monday morning.
The point of the weird metaphor is that your portfolio does two things: it showcases who you are, and it tells your potential clients what you are capable of. To tell both of those stories, you need to have plenty of content in your portfolio.
Before you can show the entire world that you’ve got the stuff (and you’ve totally got this!), you need to do what you need to do to get that killer portfolio! Depending on your field, you don’t need to wait for projects to come to you – do something for yourself, something fun that inspires you and that you feel proud of enough that you can let it represent you in your portfolio.
Be visible online.
You have your portfolio set up – great job! It’s looking good, but now what?
Your portfolio can be set up to be sent out when people inquire about you, but it’s important that you put yourself out there. Use it as something to make you visible online. When people start looking for businesses in your field, you want to be one of the first things that pops up.
There’s a few ways you can make that happen. One of the most crucial strategies is to understand Search Engine Optimization (generally known as SEO). As you compete with the other businesses around you, stand out by making your website relevant and distinct (this can be done by showcasing strictly your best work, as well as publishing other content that will help others, such as blog or video tutorials). SEO can be complicated, but learning how to use it to your advantage will make a world of difference.
Social media is also an important way of making yourself visible. I know, I know, I’ve wondered too, what’s the point of showing Mom and all of your muted politically vocal friends what you’re up to professionally? Social media can reach out far beyond your immediate sphere of influence if you’re prepared to make some changes and enable your posts to be shared farther than the people you know, you might find that Mom propensity for sharing everything her children do works in your favor.
There is more to social media than Facebook and Twitter, Tumblr. Things that might not immediately look like social media can very easily serve that function and work heavily in your favor. If you’re a videographer, Vimeo can be an enormous asset to you, connecting you with other content creators who do things in similar genres, while also making your videos easy to find and giving you an avenue to interact with viewers. If you’re a graphic designer, consider joining Behance or Dribble, which will give you opportunities to see the styles others are coming up with and find inspiration. The neat things about these websites is that they can also host your portfolio, if you’re looking for something to upload onto.
Share what you’re creating, and don’t underestimate the power of the internet! It may be hard to remember, but people love seeing your work.
Talk to people and be yourself.
Word of mouth works the best and spreads the farthest. The internet is a wonderful, amazing tool, but it’s also enormous and has a way of hiding our personality.
I’m writing this blog right now and hoping that my voice sounds both knowledgeable and amiable. But do you know what I wasn’t communicating? I had chocolate pie for breakfast today. I’m still wearing my PJs (and I probably will ’til noon), and I stayed up way too late playing a video game with my friends last night. Those things (I hope) make me more interesting than someone who can slap together some helpful words.
It’s the same for you! You are more than a business owner, you are a person. The people who see you that way are your biggest assets. They’re your dream clients! If someone can see the value of you as a person and wants to hire you, then chances are you are in for a great working experience.
So spread the word to your friends, your family, and your mentors. Their help is one of the things most likely to help you make professional strides.
One last important thing to remember – when you do meet clients, be confident! You are capable of doing great work, don’t let yourself forget that. As business owners, I think we often look for our weaknesses before our strengths, but it’s important to remember that you are an asset right now. The client you’re meeting with isn’t hiring you because they don’t want to degrade themselves to do the job, they’re hiring you because you have the unique skills that they need. Keep that in mind! Develop the equivalent of a bedside manner and don’t be afraid to give it to ‘em straight. It’s one of the things that makes you valuable, and if you believe that, then so will they.
All of these things will help you find clients. Creating a portfolio and having an online presence are incredibly important, but remember, the people around you are just as good a resource. Finally, once your dream clients start flooding your inbox, stand tall and tell them truthfully that you can provide the solution to their problems.
Go forth, and find clients!