So you’ve chosen your side hustle and your website’s up. Woo-hoo!
The clients will now appear, right?
It’s time to get a plate of cookies ready and have a smile at the ready for the rush of customers.
Um, yeah, I wish. Then I wouldn’t have eaten all of my cookies. 😊
However, don’t despair. You absolutely do need that website that you just built, and it will eventually bring in clients, but you also need multiple ways of finding them.
Think of it this way – when you’re throwing a party, how many different ways do you invite people?
- When you bump into them at the store
Getting clients works the same way. You want to find multiple ways to find and tell people what you do, and invite them to work with you.
So, drumroll please – here are 10 ways to get clients (in random order) –
Ah, the dreaded networking. Talking with strangers in the hopes that you will find someone who needs your offering, either now or in the future.
Depending on your personality, this can be fun, or meh, or geez, I’d rather go to the dentist and get my teeth cleaned.
The easiest, most low-key way to start networking is with the people you already know.
Tell your friends and family about your side hustle. You don’t have to sell them – instead, just mention what you’re doing in the same way that you’d tell them that you got a new job or a promotion.
You’ll get anything from “that’s great”, to “that’s interesting, tell me more”, to “hey, I know someone who needs help with that!”. Of course, it’s really great when that last one happens.
The next networking-type-thingie is to go to meetups.
Search meetup.com for groups that your clients are likely to attend. For example, if you offer editing services for writers, then find a writer’s group in your area.
The important part to remember with these meetups is that you don’t want to go in there and “work the room” and hand out business cards.
Instead, just be friendly and helpful.
And, some of these groups will actually offer opportunities for presentations. For example, that writer’s group might be very open to hearing any tips you can offer on editing, and that can lead to people wanting to pay for your services.
Another option, depending on what you provide, is to try your local business chamber (chamber of commerce). They usually offer the more traditional type of networking, where you trade cards with everyone in the room (ack – speed dating for businesses!), or even let you talk about your business for five minutes in front of everyone (dun dun dunnnnn).
Freelance Sites – Upwork, Freelancer, People Per Hour
These sites act as a matchmaker – for a fee – for clients and freelancers. For a lot of freelancers, this can quickly lead to a race to the bottom for what they charge.
However, if you’re just starting out, this can be a good way to get your feet wet. Even if you get paid a small amount, you’ll get some experience with working with clients, communicating with them, and delivering the end result.
It can be a good way to start out.
And, some freelancers do manage to make a great living with these sites. For example, Danny Marguiles earns over $100,000 a year using Upwork (formerly Elance).
So look into each of those sites – including their rules – and consider them.
Ah, back to the scary. This involves finding potential clients, calling them, and pitching them. If you’re outgoing and love talking on the phone, then this might be great for you!
Even if you love talking with strangers, I highly recommend that you research the company and your prospect ahead of time. It’s more effective to ask to talk with “Jane Smith”, or ask for an appointment with “John Example”, than to ask to speak with “the Marketing Manager”.
It’s also incredibly helpful to prepare a script ahead of time. Write it out, and then practice it until you remember everything easily. If you can, set up a few mock phone calls with one of your friends.
The idea here is to work out some of your nervousness, so that you can sound warm and friendly when you’re talking with your prospect. And remember, it’s okay if you deviate from your script – your prospect won’t know.
Beware – this can gobble up money like the Cookie Monster eats cookies! Nom nom nom!
Facebook has over 1 billion active users at this point, and there are a lot of options to target your audience. Facebook ads can be highly effective at getting you exposure, and clients.
However, running an effective campaign for a reasonable amount of money is definitely a skill.
If you can, hire someone to create and run these campaigns for you. If you’d prefer to create and run them yourself, then read everything that you can about it, and start slowly with a small amount of money.
This is slightly less nerve wracking then a cold phone call, but the concept is the same. You find a prospect and contact them through email.
To get started, write a couple of different emails and run them past your friends.
Then research your prospects and customize the email to that prospect and what you can offer them.
Be sure to include one specific call to action that you would like them to make.
Then hold your breath and click on send!
LinkedIn is a social media site for business contacts, so it’s an incredibly appropriate place to find potential clients.
You will definitely want to wait to use this option until you’ve left your fulltime job, or until you’ve told them that you have a side hustle.
With LinkedIn, you can showcase your skills. You can also join LinkedIn groups, and find and talk with people who might hire you or refer you to someone else.
Forums or Facebook Groups
In a way, this is the online version of going to meetups. The goal is to find online forums and/or Facebook groups where your potential clients would hang out.
Then, you join and become a regular, and helpful, contributor. Don’t just spam the group with what you do. Instead, be helpful and friendly.
Check the rules of the forum or the Facebook group. Some forums will let you add a link to your website in your signature – that can be a low-key way to offer your services without being obnoxious.
And some Facebook groups offer similar low-key selling options – such as days when you can announce your offerings to the groups, or days when you can give discounts to the groups.
And yes, this usually isn’t a quick way to get clients, but if you’re in this for the long term, then this is an easy, low cost way to build your business.
If you’re offering a service, then usually there are other people that offer that same service. Instead of seeing them as competitors, see them as mentors, friends, and people that can help you expand your business.
This works two ways:
1 – Starting Out
When you first start out, if you can find other people that are already successfully doing what you want to do, then they might be able to send their overflow work your way.
Don’t expect this to be the high level stuff – expect this to be more of the routine or junior level work. But this is a good way to get experience and gain confidence.
Be sure to put in 110%. And, definitely try to build a relationship with this person first – they’re going to want to know you and trust you before they involve you in something that impacts their business.
2 – Paying it Forward
Once you’ve grown your business, then hire subcontractors yourself.
Not only is it good to help someone else just like someone helped you, but when a client offers you an incredible project that you can’t do on your own, then you’re going to feel great when you can accept that job by subcontracting out part of that work to someone else.
There are a lot of organizations that would love your help – they just can’t afford it. Obviously you can’t afford to do this all of the time. However, you can gain valuable experience and a reference.
There’s also another option for this idea.
Instead of offering this to a non-profit, you could offer this to someone that would ordinarily be a prospect.
In this case, be sure to mention your regular rates, and say that you’re offering an introductory offer to help you build a referral list (be sure to mention that future projects would be at your regular rate).
Make sure that you only do this only a couple of times at most.
There are three different ways you can use Craigslist:
1 – Look for part-time jobs
I know – you don’t want a job, you want a side hustle or a business. But, when you’re first starting out, this can help bring in cash and help you gain experience.
2 – Try to find gigs
Odds are these will be low-paying, but just like the part-time jobs, it will bring in money and experience. And hey, you never know what it could grow into.
3 – Advertise your services
Post an ad for your services in the “Services” section.
Your Action Items
- Pick one method to start with
- Make a plan for using that method
- Implement that plan for two weeks
- Review this method:
- What do you like about it?
- What do you dislike about it?
- Are you starting to gain traction with this method?
- If yes, keep going for another 2 weeks
- If no, and you hate this method, then move on to another method
- If no, but you like this method, then give it another 2 weeks
- Repeat these steps for each method