Encouraging referrals is the best way to grow your business. However, as a new entrepreneur, to obtain referrals you have to have clients. Getting that first client can be one of the biggest challenges in getting your business off the ground. Fortunately, there are things you can do to entice new clients into hiring you.
1) Get hired by your former boss. While this doesn’t work in all cases, many small businesses get their start by turning their former employer into a client. The advantage for you is that your boss knows the quality of your work, and if it was good, he should be willing to hire you. The advantage to your former boss is that often, hiring a contractor is less expensive than hiring an employee.
2) Engage your network. Tell everyone you know about your business. While your friends, family and former colleagues may not need your service, they may know people who do and be willing to refer you.
3) Get involved in local and online business networks. When done right, with the attitude of helping others and delivering value, meeting people in your business community and through online networks, such as LinkedIn, you can get your business in front of people who will hire or refer you.
4) Collaborate with other businesses. If there is another industry that can collaborate with yours, make connections for the purpose of mutually beneficial referrals. For example, if you’re a wedding photographer, connect with caterers and bands that also work weddings. If you’re a copywriter, connect with graphic, web designers and printers.
5) Write for trade or association publications. Having your article appear where potential clients will read it increases your exposure and credibility. If you’re a virtual assistant for Realtors, write a piece for the local real estate association newsletter.
6) Speak or do trainings. Showing off what you know as an expert is a great way to build credibility and garner new clients. Find organizations that target your market and offer to do a training. For example, if you’re a copywriter, offer to do a program on writing great sales copy for your local Chamber of Commerce. Many who attend will decide they’d rather hire someone (you) than do it themselves. Plus, you can sometimes get paid for speaking, adding another revenue source.