Building a small business is a challenge at any time but today it can be more difficult than in recent years. One of the biggest challenges for new businesses is how to attract new clients and how to encourage them to continue to work with you past that first project.
Whether you lack the funds to pay for shiny new marketing software or the person-power to churn out content like you’re a multi-million dollar company, you’re likely strapped for marketing solutions that actually bring in a return on the time investment.
In this post, I’ll share some of the most successful and low-budget ways to get and retain new clients while building your business from the ground up. The tasks are simple but take some time, so plan to set aside a minimum of an hour or two per week for them. If you want to see results sooner, add more time to the tasks rather than choosing to get more aggressive in your marketing.
The One Nobody Wants to Do
I have had just a few people actually jump into this task in my years of working with small businesses, and with good reason: it can be scary.
The first step is to tap into your existing network by reaching out to your contacts. Sounds simple: just text, call, or email them asking them to be your clients. Except that this task isn’t asking them to be your clients and is instead asking them to help you by sending qualified leads your way.
Asking for help rather than asking them to be your next client flips the script on this type of email in a way that gives your connections a no-cost way to help you AND help your ideal clients since they need to work with you. In this framing of an email, there’s no pushy marketing going on so the fear of rejection is nearly nonexistent.
Take a few minutes to send emails to everyone on your list of connections to share what you do, who you work with, and the results you get for them (summarized in what I call your opening statement – more on that here). Then, if you have a PDF of your current offerings you can add that to the mail as an attachment or a link to it on your site.
The One Everybody Wants to Do
Everyone running a business wants to do the work of that business. Whether it is your soul’s calling or work that simply lights you up, you started a business to do that work! And, you need new clients to get that work done. To do that you’ll need to have some way of sharing what you do and how it helps your ideal clients.
If you’ve created a website you can add this to your site as your offerings page, often named something like Work With Me to keep the navigation simple. For more on what to include on any offering page whether it is on your site or in a PDF, check out this post: What Does My Offer Need So It Sells?
If you haven’t launched your website yet or if you don’t have the page ready yet, you may expect that you can’t share your offerings with prospects. That’s not actually the case! You could add all of the information to a PDF and share that PDF with your connections in your email. Accept payment in any way that works for you and you’re good to start accepting your first clients!*
For more on what this type of PDF needs to include, check out this post Offer Without a Website.
Website vs Social Media
Nearly everyone I’ve met with who is starting a business believes they need to create social media accounts and post to them like they’re a multi-million dollar business with a team of content creators.
The truth is simpler than that: what you need to do for an online presence is to create something that you can maintain and then dedicate your attention to it regularly enough to make it work for you. That sounds vague, so let’s look at how this might work for you.
If you’re on Instagram already, consider creating a business account there for your business as your first social media account. If you’re on Facebook and not Instagram, start there. Twitter only? Start there. In short, start where you are for social media already and go from there after you’ve mastered it. Do not add another account until you can consistently post content and interact with followers there, and you have time to dedicate to more social media. Most social media accounts are free but the management of it takes time, which means the management of it takes away from the time you can dedicate to working with clients to make money.
I will always suggest creating a website for your business. It can be a simple landing page with your contact information and social media link to start, then add each page as you’re ready to launch them. Hosting a website usually costs something but typically doesn’t need to be an overwhelming expense to small businesses. The bigger expenses tend to come with hiring professionals to write the copy and design the website, which can be thousands of dollars and many months of time to create and then adjust to suit your needs.
If that’s not in your marketing budget right now, focus on creating that first page with your contact information and link to your social media. I’d suggest working on the additional pages in this order:
- Sales/ Work With Me
Once you have your copy ready for your Sales/Work With Me page, you will probably know what needs to go onto your Home page. When that’s done, you can begin to build out your About page.
For most small businesses, you can launch the first pages of your site before the rest are done as long as you have the overall look ready for your website. In WordPress, you’ll want to have your theme chosen and activated before you publish anything.
An email marketing software that you’re familiar with and can use without much time to create a simple regular newsletter can go a long way to engaging an established audience. Once you already have a few clients, you will want to have a way to keep in touch with them. Your email marketing system will be a simple way to continue to show up in their inbox so they frequently remember the good work you did with them.
Reviews, also called social proof in the marketing world, are an important component of any marketing. You’ll want to share them often in any sales piece you share with the world so they can act as proof of the work you do. If you need to offer some free sessions in exchange for reviews before you start marketing your business, go for it but limit it to five or fewer so you’re not dedicating time to freebies that you could be spending on attracting new clients.
If you’re looking for software that I recommend for business-building, check out the Tools of the Trade section at the bottom of this page Free Resources. It is my curated list of recommendations based on my experience running businesses since 2014.
*Follow all of the laws and regulations about starting a business in your area, too. I don’t specialize in that, nor am I a lawyer or tax specialist so I can’t speak to what you need to do before accepting clients. You’ll want to look it up and do your own research to be sure you’re actually ready to accept clients.