This article first appeared at Flying Solo.
Ask any solopreneur or freelancer their number one problem, and they will ashamedly mutter, “I am not great at getting a steady stream of clients. The stress of constantly seeking out new clients is almost overwhelming.”
As you stare into your nearly empty calendar during the silly season and as it stretches into the long hot summer, the vision of a stream of clients can seem more like a heat mirage, and you rapidly lose confidence in yourself and your ability to do this whole “business thing.”
You gaze wistfully as your friends get dressed ready for their j-o-b after the Christmas break, and start to blow the virtual dust off your CV while idly browsing SEEK job ads.
It doesn’t have to be that way!
To write a different story for yourself this year, here are three easy ways to attract more clients over summer:
1. Contact past clients
Reconnecting with past clients is low-hanging fruit in terms of getting clients over the summer period. It is cheaper and easier to sell to people who have already bought from you.
Use the lead up to Christmas to touch base with past clients via email, a card or a phone call.
Remember, getting in touch doesn’t have to feel “icky.” Your contact with your past client can be useful, practical and offer some great information as a gentle reconnection.
Here’s an idea for an email:
“How are things with you? On the lead up to Christmas, I was looking back over the wonderful clients I worked with this year and creating your (logo/website/copy/widget) was one of my highlights. I really enjoyed (something memorable/funny/specific about the project or the client).
It has been six months since we worked together on that project, and what many of my clients find is that about this time they are ready to tackle the next piece of their (branding/marketing/IT).
I was thinking about your business, and what may be a useful next step for you. I suggest (sensible next step for the client). I will give you a call in the next few days to touch base and explore this a bit more with you. I look forward to talking with you then.”
Make sure you give them a call as you promised, and do more listening rather than selling. You want to genuinely find out how your past clients have been going this year, and what is happening in their world before you try to see if you can help them again.
Value-added Christmas cards:
Another idea is to send your client a handwritten Christmas card. However, add value by including a copy of a recent blog post or article you have written that you think the client may be interested in, with a post-it note explaining why you thought of them with the article.
You could include a voucher with your Christmas cards that provides past clients with an exclusive offer to book in their work with you in January which grants them priority access to your diary, faster turnarounds for their project, and a re-booking discount.
Mail your list reminding them what you do:
As much as we want to believe our clients and mailing list hang out for our emails each week, the truth is that most people don’t open or read newsletter emails. This means that many of your clients have no idea of all the different products or services that you offer.
On the lead up to Christmas, profile different products or services in your newsletter, highlighting the range of what you do.
You can extend this specifically to your past clients: If they had bought XYZ from you, send them a note saying, “Did you know we also do ABC?”
2. Do more of what worked in the past
When we first start our businesses, we do a range of things to get our first customers. As the months progress, we forget what we did and move onto other things.
What if you went back to basics? What did you do in the first few months of your new business to get clients? Did you ask friends and relatives? Did you letterbox drop? Did you put posts up on Facebook letting people know you had two gaps this week? What specifically did you do? What marketing tweaks did you try in the early days? Do at least one of those things again.
3. Form more alliances
Some of the best sources of leads and new customers come from strong business alliances from businesses that sell to your ideal clients, or from “competing businesses” who refer on clients that are not a good match for them.
Rather than looking at all the Christmas networking events or parties as a way to desperately force business cards into the hands of people only there for the booze, look at events as a way to make new alliances.
Deliberately search out people in the same or similar businesses to you and have a relaxed chat over a few wines. (Using networking events to connect with alliance partners rather than going the hard sell is one of our networking power strategies.)
Find businesses in the same supply chain as you and chat about business overlaps (e.g. printers/graphic designers/PR/marketers/web designers; web designers/computer repairers/ IT support; business coaches/accountants/HR consultants).
Use the quieter time of year to catch up for coffee or lunch with potential alliance partners to make sure you are both a good fit, have similar business values and to discuss your expectations about how the alliance will work for both of you.
You will then both be in a solid position to kick off the new year by having each other’s back and with the confidence of a new client pipeline source.
Bonus tip: Reconnect with your “why” and your hidden strengths
Each freelancer or solopreneur has their reasons for being out of the j-o-b treadmill. Take some time over summer to remember why you do what you do.
- Jot down a list of things you love about running your own business.
- Go back and re-read any testimonials you have about you and your service.
- Create a list of 20 things you are good at doing and look at where they overlap with client needs to find your business sweet spot.
- Pretend you are a client of your business and take yourself through your own intake process to allow you to see your business through fresh eyes. Your brand can often become muddied over time as you add bits and pieces onto your goods and services.
- Remember to drink water, eat food that loves you back and get enough sleep.
- Take a few online personality profile tests to remind you of your strengths (the decent ones like Myers Briggs, DISC, Wealth Profile, Fascination Advantage, Cerries Mooney’s Primary Archetype test and not the Facebook ones). You can also ask your friends and clients to help you identify your hidden strengths.
In life, if you have a big enough “why”, and even just a smidgen of confidence in yourself, the how’s seemingly magically fall into place. Use summer to reconnect with your “why” and to rediscover your belief in yourself and your skills, and the clients will take care of themselves.