Oh, that elusive first client. We desperately need them to get our neophyte business off the ground. Their referrals are the key to subsequent business… to sustaining our business. And, to be truthful, until you service them we don’t know if we really can pull it off.
Setting out with cold calls, advertising and networking at the local chamber of commerce can work – but it is a long road. I mean, even if you get that prospect meeting, they are going to want to know about your other clients and will surely make the request for the good ol’ three referrals. Alas, you have none.
To me, the first client is all about having a client, not the money. The first client brings something more important than quick cash – she brings legitimacy, credibility, and awareness (your own awareness to if you can actually do what you say you can do).
Enough of my preamble, here is what you need to do to land that first client today:
1. Family – So what if your first client is your uncle? A customer is a customer, especially when it comes to landing the next customer.
2. Volunteer – Ever visit a competitor’s website and were unpleasantly surprised by their list of big name clients? You can build just as impressive of a list too. Volunteer to work for non-profit business, and you can include The Red Cross, Museum of Modern Art, Yale University, or countless others on your list.
3. Almost Free – A cheap price is highly persuasive. While competing on price is usually a horrible long term strategy for small business, it is ideal for landing the first client. Offer prospects a bargain basement price, in exchange for them committing to refer clients if they find your service exceptional. If you don’t get referrals, you’ll know your service sucked.
4. Be A Sub-Contractor – Become a contractor for a vendor who already has clients, and you get in automatically.
5. Speak Up – Offer to be a free speaker at local business events. The exposure to prospects is nice, the credibility it brings is tremendous.
While they say you need money to make money (I vehemently disagree, by the way), I do argue that it takes a client to land a client. Now that you have the tools, get to work and land the first one tonight!