Starting A Business With 0 Clients, $0, and 0 Referral Partners? Here’s How To Gain Momentum and Acquire Your First 10 Clients
Setting up a business is an exciting but daunting task. And if you’ve little to no money to kickstart the venture, it makes the process even trickier. But it’s not impossible. There are thousands of people out there who’ve successfully managed it.
And guess what?
You can too.
There’s no doubt that every person who’s started a business will have found themselves mulling over the same questions:
- Where should I base my premises?
- What services should I offer to bring in the most clients?
How many hours a week do I need to work?
And, of course, the million dollar question: What if I don’t get any clients?
Yep, living the self-employed dream is challenging at the start. But it’s not all doom and gloom.
Escaping the clutches of the traditional employee role and becoming your own boss is possible with effort, diligence, and determination.
Know your strengths and play on them
Service-based businesses cover a vast range of expertise. There’s also a huge array of different specialisms within each type of service. And this offers up the perfect situation for niching down further.
As a solopreneur, it’s not possible to offer everything. It’s just not practical to try to cover every aspect of the profession. For example, law firms don’t cover every single type of legal situation. And beauticians don’t offer every beauty treatment available on the market. It’s much easier to specialize in a few specific areas.
So when setting up your business, spend some time thinking about where your strengths lie. Which services do you feel confident about when it comes to providing the very best experience for the client? Where do you 100% know your success rate lies?
Meanwhile, it’s also important to take into account the location of your business. Dig deep into the local area. Check out whether any competitors offer similar services? If they do, you’ll need to differentiate your business from theirs. Or switch your thinking to offer a service they don’t provide.
Demographics also influence decision-making in business. For example, if divorce rates are high in the area, specializing in family law may generate more work. In addition, finding out about the average age, profession, and interests of those living in the local area will help you determine how to market your business.
Being self-aware and knowing your strengths means choosing an area of expertise in which you can excel. And excellent service brings in clients and increases revenue quickly.
Focus on your marketing strategy
There are 2 main ways to build a client base.
- Outbound marketing – you go out and find clients through networking and cold pitching.
- Inbound marketing – you make sure your clients can find you through marketing online and advertising.
Networking is an essential aspect of outbound marketing. Try to network around the location your business is based. And don’t avoid your competitors. They’re not always the enemy. Competitors have the potential to be your strongest support network.
Network with those in the same profession but focus more on those who offer different specialisms to you. Building connections this way opens doors to referrals in the future. You refer to them for service specialisms you don’t provide, and they’ll do the same for you.
When it comes to inbound marketing, writing articles for local magazines and newspapers as well as blog posts online helps get you noticed.
Social media platforms are free to use, and with relevant content, you can build up a following quickly. It can be as simple as writing a weekly blog post and linking it to your social media account – a cost-free way to build your credibility and authority.
Even better, tap into YouTube. Video is quickly becoming the number 1 marketing tool. Educational videos are one of the best ways to pass on information to potential clients.
Decide what expenses are essential and what you can live without
If you don’t have much money to start with, you need to stick to a budget. As tempting as it is to splash out on a top-of-the-range office desk and chair, do you really need them? Or can you get by with the basics to start with?
There’s no need to apply big-firm principles to small firm practices. When starting, the basics will be enough.
Ask yourself whether you even need an office. Can you start from home, to begin with, and save on office rent? Another alternative is to run your business online – a virtual practice. Online services are becoming more common and offer convenience to potential clients.
Meanwhile, don’t get sucked into borrowing money to buy what you don’t need. At the end of the day, clients want the best possible service at the most affordable price.
They aren’t going to worry about whether you have a fancy coffee machine. So spend little, which will help when it comes to keeping client costs low compared to competitors. That way, clients are more likely to use your services.
Find a business mentor
You may feel experienced enough to go it alone. But compared to others out who’ve been running their own business for years, you’re a small fish in a big pond.
Getting a business mentor should be one of the top priorities for new entrepreneurs. Find someone who’s a few years ahead of you and running a successful business. Then, reach out and ask if they’ll act as a mentor.
You’ll benefit from the experience of somebody who remembers the early days of setting up a business and the challenges it brings.
Mentoring doesn’t need to take place in person. If you’d rather not ask anyone in the local area, look for a mentor online.
However, remember that keeping it local may have its advantages. An excellent mentor always wants the best for their mentees, and they could end up sending some work your way.
Start small by working for family and friends
New service businesses often start by offering to work for family and friends. There’s nothing wrong with this approach, which can lead to valuable testimonials and social proof.
But don’t be afraid to branch out, even in the early days. Think of your wider network. Carry business cards and mention your business at every opportunity you get (without being annoying).
Offering a slightly lower rate when starting a business isn’t unusual either. But that’s not a bad thing. “Mates rates” encourage friends to tell their friends and so on. It’s an excellent way to get your name out there.
Create a portfolio and email it out to potential clients
Cold-pitching may seem a scary prospect, but get your pitch right, and it can bring in clients. First, create an impressive portfolio of all your past work, then search online or LinkedIn for email addresses of potential clients.
Send them an email but don’t copy and paste the entire email to each prospect. Instead, try to include 1 or 2 points that refer personally to them. And use an engaging subject line. Inboxes are full of cold pitches. The trick is to make yours stand out by offering something different.
Use an introductory offer
Potential clients are generally curious about a new business. Particularly if they aren’t very happy with their current service provider. An introductory offer is a great way to encourage people to try out your service.
Research your target audience and determine what might appeal to them the most – discounts, free gifts, or vouchers are some of the more common offers.
Demonstrate value and show your worth
Throughout all your marketing efforts, push the benefits of your service over the features. Rather than focusing on how your business works, draw in potential clients by showing them what they’ll gain from working with you. For example, a feature of a law firm might be weekend working hours.
This benefit for busy working parents is knowing they don’t have to take time off work or find childcare to attend an appointment. Tap into the emotional side of the benefits. For service businesses, offering a caring, supportive and empathic approach is essential.
Create a referral program
So, you’ve got your first few clients. That’s brilliant, but don’t let them walk out the door without asking for a referral. It might feel cheeky, but setting up a referral system is a no-brainer for business.
There are few ways to set up a system. You could offer a discount on the next visit if a friend uses your business or offer a small financial or gift incentive.
Make it easy for others to refer by setting up a referral template on your website. Or use social media tagging. The easier it is, the more likely it’ll happen. But remember to keep a record so you can check if the referred client turns up.
Stick to it, and your client list will grow
Working for friends and family may seem like small potatoes, but others will get in contact once word gets out. So stick to it, be diligent and remember…mighty oaks from little acorns grow.
About the Author!
Maxwell Hills is the founder of Hills Law Group, a premier Orange County family law firm with a concentration on high net worth divorces. Max’s entrepreneurial career stretches back to his teenage days when he had his music used in Grey’s Anatomy and ESPN. Today, Max has used that experience to build Hills Law Group with 0 customers and $0 in revenue to a respected firm in the industry.