Find Your Ideal Client
Have you ever gone on a trip and stayed in accommodations where you felt uncomfortable with the host? Maybe you could tell something was wrong as soon as you arrived. Maybe red flags went up the moment you started unpacking your suitcase in your hotel room. Or maybe a few days into your stay, you realized you would need to find new accommodations as soon as possible.
A proper host is similar to an ideal client. They can make or break the experience you have on your freelance journey. In this chapter, we’ll discuss strategies to find the RIGHT client for you and your business.
Preparing to Meet Your First Client
Before you meet your first client, ensure you have a good idea of your niche and target audience, along with a brand name and tagline. Have a solid website, organized back-end business systems, and a social media presence with a LinkedIn profile. Also, be sure you have a good idea of your services and rates.
Always remember that you bring TONS of skills and life experience to this client relationship. So, be confident in who you are and what you bring to the table. Your client NEEDS you more than you think, in fact, maybe more than they realize. They are NOT doing you a favor; you are liberating them by filling a skill gap that benefits their business.
The BEST Ways to Find Great Clients
Let’s explore the four core ways of finding your ideal clients.
1. Referral Marketing
Referral marketing is one of the best ways to have a steady stream of clients coming into your business. As Mark Zuckerburg, the founder of Facebook, said, “Nothing influences people more than a recommendation from a trusted friend. A trusted referral influences people more than the best broadcast message.”
Furthermore, according to a Neilsen survey, 83% of people trust recommendations from friends, family, and colleagues. So, it’s a big deal to get a referral from someone.
There are two types of referrals:
Indirect Referrals (Facebook Page reviews, Linkedin Recommendations, website testimonials, and video case studies)
Direct Referrals (Someone directly passes your name on to another relevant contact via a social media message, email, phone call, or in person.)
Although indirect referrals are valuable, direct referrals are the best type to pursue. So, in this chapter, we’ll focus on three steps to getting great client referrals:
Step One: Determine Your Ideal Client Referral
Start by visualizing your ideal client so you can clearly articulate to your network the types of people you’d like to work with. For example, you might want to work with health professionals, authors, speakers, coaches, real estate agents, women solopreneurs, course creators, software/app developers, local service businesses, non-profit organizations, or marketing agencies.
Step Two: Identify Your Best Referral Sources
Here you’ll tap into five circles of influence in your life. Make a list of people who could be ideal referral sources for you:
- Current and past clients
- Family and friends
- Past employers and colleagues
- Local connections
- Other freelancers or VAs
Step Three: Build Your Referral System
Finally, answer these 5 Ws to simplify the process of asking for a referral:
WHY are you asking for a referral?
- 83% of people trust recommendations from friends, family, and colleagues.
- People are 4 times more likely to enlist your services when referred by a colleague.
- Referrals are the best and easiest way to build your business.
- You offer amazing services that would greatly benefit your client’s or friend’s referrals!
WHO are you asking? Review the FIVE types of referral sources and build a list of 5-10 names to start with. (Track contacts using a CRM like Google Contacts or HubSpot.)
- Current or past clients
- Family and friends
- Past employers and colleagues
- Local connections
- Other freelancers
WHERE are you asking? Consider the best medium to reach out to your referrers:
- Phone or video conference
- Direct message in social media
- Final survey after service
- Include a place to post testimonials and share names of other potential clients.
WHEN are you asking (your client)?
- Ask for a referral ONCE you have established trust and credibility with a client.
- Pick the right time AFTER you have had some success with them.
- Ask after the completion of a successful project OR after 2-3 months of ongoing work.
- Be careful not to ask prematurely.
WHAT are you asking? Include the following in your ASK:
- Acknowledge your appreciation for your client or friend.
- Be clear that you have some “open spots” for new clients
- Be specific on who your ideal audience is and the services you can provide.
- Include incentive (if you are using one)
- Thank them for their support.
Networking can be challenging for some freelancers who struggle with shyness, so here we’ll share strategies to help you network effectively to find great clients both online and in person. The goal is to build strategic and authentic relationships with people who can turn into referral sources or potential clients.
So, first of all, avoid common networking fails like not being yourself, not being prepared, monopolizing the conversation, or staying too focused on selling yourself. Remember to stay focused on getting to know people, and don’t forget to follow up with the people you meet.
Consistent networking will benefit your business by increasing your professional exposure, building relationships with prospects, bringing referrals, creating opportunities, and providing advice and support. The more you network, the more it will boost your confidence.
So, with that being said, let’s outline six steps to building your networking plan:
Step One: Identify Your WHY
First of all, determine your driving motivation behind networking:
- Finding client opportunities
- Raising your profile
- Developing in-person professional friendships
- Gaining support and advice
- Learning new skills
- Getting out of the house
Step Two: Define Your Target Networking Audience
Here you’ll be looking for a new network made up of people you’d like to meet but don’t yet have a relationship with. These people will become prospects.
Some examples of your target networking audience could be entrepreneurs, VAs or freelancers, local brick and mortar businesses, niche groups (e.g. authors, coaches), or gender-specific groups (e.g. Women Business Network).
Step Three: Select the Right Types of Networking Opportunities
In the previous chapter, we discussed local events, groups, and locations you could attend to combat virtual loneliness. These correspond to three types of networking opportunities you can pursue:
- Networking mixers
- Monthly workshops
- Local seminars
- Small mastermind groups
- Regular meetup groups
- Business groups (e.g. Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce, Business Networking International)
- Local Chapters (e.g. eWomenNetwork.com)
- Remote coworking spaces (popular)
- Coffee shops where entrepreneurs hang out
- Community library
Step Four: Research and Source Networking Events and Groups
You can find specific events and workshops on sites like Eventbrite, Facebook, Meetup, and Google. Do some research and make a list of potential groups or events you could participate in. You can search for coworking spaces on Coworker.com.
Step Five: Determine Required Marketing Materials
Here you’ll figure out what you need to bring to a networking event. The four things to remember are a business card, information about your website and social media, an elevator speech (on cue cards), and an iPad to showcase your portfolio or website.
Be sure to purchase quality business cards from sites like Moo.com or Vistaprint.com.
Step Six: Create Networking Goals
Once you’ve put the first five steps in place, decide what goals you want to accomplish. For example, maybe you’ll aim to attend 3 networking events and 5 group meetings, have 30 great conversations with client prospects, follow up with 30 emails to promising prospects, and land 3 new clients.
3. Content Marketing
Content marketing is a long game, an ongoing activity that builds credibility and trust so you can build your email list and ultimately build an ideal client base.
The Content Marketing Institute defines it this way:
“Content Marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”
The key is to be consistent, and as you think about your content marketing strategy, consider the CCTC Formula:
- Consistently create relevant, high-value content for your target client audience.
- Establish yourself as a credible and trusted adviser.
- Ignite targeted traffic as more people connect with your content.
- Generate a wave of new client leads and income opportunities.
Now, with that in mind, let’s outline three steps to building your content marketing platform:
Step One: Create Your Content Marketing Plan
The way you do this is by asking yourself five strategic questions to define your content marketing plan:
1. Why do you want to create content?
Maybe you want to increase awareness of your brand, generate email leads, or drive more client sales. For example, the goal of the Freelance University Blog is lead generation, and the goal of FreeU’s Facebook Live is brand awareness.
2. Who is your target client audience?
Identify who they are and ask yourself these four questions:
- Who are they (demographics)?
- Where do they hang out?
- What are their problems and needs?
- What do they watch, read, and listen to?
3. What content channels would fit you (and your audience)?
First of all, based on your personality, what would be the best and easiest channel for you to create? And, secondly, what type of content would resonate with your audience? You might choose to do a blog, podcast, videos on YouTube or Facebook, online presentations, social media posts, webinars, livestream events, courses, infographics, newsletters, ebooks, and guides…. The list goes on.
4. How often will you create and distribute content?
Put a schedule together that’s manageable so you can be consistent. For example, you might publish a blog post once a week or send out a newsletter once a month. If you’re on social media, you might share Facebook posts once or twice a day and Twitter posts four times a day.
5. How will you determine success?
The Content Marketing Institute outlines the following common content marketing goals and associated metrics in The Complete Guide to Influencer Marketing Strategies, Templates and Tools.
Brand awareness: website traffic, page views, video views, document views, downloads, social chatter, referral links
Engagement: blog comments, likes, shares, tweets, pins, forwards, inbound links
Lead generation: form completions and downloads, email subscriptions, blog subscriptions, conversion rate
Sales: Online sales, offline sales, manual reporting and anecdotes
Customer retention/loyalty: percentage of content consumed by existing customers, retention/renewal rates
Upsell / cross-sell: Sales for new products / services
You may want to track these in your own content marketing efforts.
Step Two: Create and Publish Content
Five main steps are involved in the content creation process:
- Research content
- Create content
- Edit content
- Publish content
- Distribute content
When you’re going through these steps, you could use tools like Evernote to brainstorm your content ideas. The content itself could be created in Google Docs or a Word Document. And you can organize your content calendar in tools like Asana or Trello.
Here are some quick content creation tips:
- Only create content the market wants and needs!
- Ensure the content type is the right match for the market.
- Sharpen the Saw (Research, brainstorm, organize, and document ideas before creation.)
- Start small and build from there.
- Remove all distractions and mark off blocks of time during the week for “Creative Content Brainstorming and Creation.”
- Establish your “unique voice” (your own style and persona).
Step Three: Track Content Marketing Results
Once you’ve laid out the plan, created, and distributed the content, you want to ask whether the content is hitting the mark and resonating with your audience. Here are four primary content marketing metrics you can check:
- How many people consumed your content (page views, attendees, downloads, video views)?
- How often does your content get shared (retweets, shares, likes)?
Lead Generation Metrics
- How often do your content views result in email leads?
- How often do your content views and leads result in sales conversions?
4. Strategic Cold Calling
Here we’ll discuss a new, more relational, strategic way to find new clients. With the onset of social media, today’s “Cold Calling” is no longer an impersonal, direct sales approach, but rather an opportunity to make a meaningful connection with your target client prospect.
This new type of cold calling falls into the realm of relationship marketing — activities aimed at making meaningful connections and building strategic relationships with your target client audience!
So, why do cold calling? First of all, it allows you to research, vet, and pursue your ideal client prospect. It also gives you control so you can actively pursue the types of people and businesses YOU want to work with. At the same time, it ignites exposure for your business and services, eliminating the online noise so you can make a direct one-to-one contact.
With that in mind, here are seven steps to connecting with your “ideal client” prospect:
Step One: Profile Your Ideal Client Audience
Ask yourself the following questions so you understand and know your audience:
- Who are the types of clients you would be interested in pursuing?
- What are their demographics?
- What are their specific problems to solve?
- What are their passions or interests?
- Where do they hang out?
- What type of content do they post/share?
Step Two: Source Your Ideal Client
The best places to source your ideal client are social networks, online communities, and blogs. For example, you could do a search on Twitter or connect with 2nd degree connections on LinkedIn by sending a customized introduction. You could join Facebook groups and interact with your prospective clients. You could also research their blogs, comment, and build a rapport with them.
Step Three: Screen Your Ideal Client
Here are some screening questions for your ideal clients to determine whether they’re a good fit for your business:
- Do they currently have an established social media presence (>1000 likes in Facebook or followers in Twitter)?
- Do they regularly publish valuable content (blog or social media posts)?
- Do they have active revenue streams?
- Does their “voice” or persona resonate with you?
- Do you see potential gaps that you may be able to fill with your services?
Step Four: Build a Targeted List of Prospects
As you come up with a list, note your prospects’ name, website, email address, and social media URLs on an Excel spreadsheet or Google Sheets. The other option is to add their contact information and notes in a customer relationship management (CRM) system like Zoho CRM, HubSpot CRM, or Google Contacts.
Step 5: Warm Your Prospect
Here some some ways you can warm your prospects genuinely and effectively, making an indirect or smaller connection with them:
- Follow or connect with prospects on social media.
- Retweet, like, or share their posts.
- Put your prospects in a “Twitter List” so you can better follow their posts.
- Read and comment on their blog.
- Subscribe to their newsletters or free offers.
- Contribute to conversations in Facebook Groups.
- Attend live events (Facebook Live or webinar).
IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER
Take some time (2-3 weeks) to follow a prospect and make multiple pre-touches before you proceed with a LinkedIn connection, direct message, or email.
Step Six: Contact Prospect Directly
Here is where you’ll tell prospects what you do and how you might be able to help them. For this step, define your purpose statement and know it clearly before you communicate it:
I help TARGET AUDIENCE with NAME OF SERVICE AREA in order to ACHIEVE RESULT OR OVERCOME PROBLEM.
For example, someone might say, “I help mom entrepreneurs set up and manage product launches so they can be freed to spend more time in the areas that matter!”
Be sure to include the following in the first direct contact:
Unique Connection Point
- How did you specifically hear about this client?
- Any relevant and specific connecting point?
- Talk about yourself in relation to the potential client or project’s needs.
- Share your purpose!
Next Step (Call to Action)
- Determine the next steps.
- Let them know that you look forward to connecting further.
Step Seven: Follow Up with Your Prospect
Send just ONE follow-up email 48-72 hours after the first direct contact.
If the client responds to your initial contact, your #1 priority is to shift the initial email exchange to a phone, Skype, or Zoom call. Make sure you have a time scheduler tool like Calendly.com or YouCanBook.me so you can send them a link to your schedule. And prepare for a short 20-30 minute discovery call so you can find out what their needs are and how you can best serve them.
Now let’s move on to the final step in your success road map!
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