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Top 5 Ways to Get Clients for a Service Provider

getting startedThe one question I get asked all the time is: “How do you find your clients?” It’s a loaded question for me, because I can’t answer it in one sentence (or even a few sentences!). I could talk about the ways I find clients literally for hours. If it were that easy to find new clients, everyone would have a booming business. There isn’t one extra super-special thing to say that will bring in a new client immediately.

A lot of small business owners or freelancers will start looking for work on their own, and when they have trouble finding clients immediately, they simply give up.

Sales is a process. Getting new clients is a process, and you have to be patient. You are planting seeds. A lot of times, I’ll talk to a new potential client and they may not be ready to hire me right away, but a year later, they’ll call me telling me they’re ready for my services. Sometimes, the people I talk to already have a transcriptionist, but when they’re looking for someone to replace that person, they’ll call me. Most of the time, my new clients come from seeds I planted several months (or even a year or more) prior.

If you’re constantly planting new seeds, then new clients will constantly come in. It’s not often I make a call to someone and they hire me on the spot. In fact, I can’t recall a time that has ever happened. But if you keep at it, eventually you’ll have a steady stream of new clients coming in ready to be served.

Personally, I prefer active marketing to passive marketing. I like to put myself in front of the client rather than throw up an ad. Not only does it work better, but most active marketing is free.

So, where do I find my new clients?

  1. In-person networking

I figure out where my ideal clients hang out and I put myself in that location. People are more likely to work with someone they have met and can put a face to the name. If you live in a small town, you may have to travel. However, I find most small towns even have networking groups. Not only is it a great place to find potential clients, but it’s a great place to meet new people and get business ideas in general.

A lot of people will say that the networking and meet-up groups in their area don’t have anybody in them who could be a client. Don’t discount it. Sometimes the people in these groups aren’t target clients for you, but their friends are. The more people you know, the bigger your sphere of influence is.

  1. Online networking

Join online forums and groups and interact there with the people. LinkedIn and Facebook are great places to start. There are also other online forums you can join if you look for places your clients hang out.

However, don’t join these groups and immediately start promoting your business. People need to know you and like you before they trust you. They’ll be very weary of the person who comes into their group and immediately starts selling. You can put in your signature what you do and a link to your website, so when you’re participating in conversation and people like what you have to say, they’ll definitely click on those links to find out more about you.

This is a process. Don’t expect to join a group and have people start hiring you after a week. You have to commit to visiting the group on a regular basis and participating. Eventually, people will notice you and you’ll get business as a result.

  1. E-mail

E-mail is another one of those methods you have to do correctly and follow the process. You can’t just blindly spam people with an ad for your business. You have to spark interest with people within the first two sentences and try to develop rapport, which is very tricky.

Do not send a canned e-mail to random people. Find common ground first. For example, if you are a bookkeeper looking for new clients, look for clients who you have something in common with. If, before you were a bookkeeper, you were a real estate agent, then e-mail real estate agents or brokers who may need a bookkeeper. If I were a real estate agent who needed a bookkeeper, I’d be more inclined to hire one who knows the business.

Don’t get frustrated with this process. Most people you e-mail will not e-mail you back or even read your e-mail in the first place. Some people will e-mail back thanking you for your e-mail, but tell you they’re not interested right now. Less than 1% will become a client almost immediately. However, what I have found is that another small fraction of people won’t respond to you immediately, but they actually do save your e-mail and when they have a need for what you do in the future, they’ll call or e-mail you back. I’ve had people call or e-mail me a year after I sent the e-mail.

As I said, you’re planting seeds. The results aren’t immediate, but if you keep at it consistently, you’ll eventually start getting in a steady stream of clients.

  1. Referrals

At first glance, this may seem obvious. The issue is people assume that if they do good work, people will refer them.  While that may be true in some cases, in more cases, you’re able to get more clients by literally asking for a referral.

When a client tells you that you did great work for them, that’s your opportunity to ask for a referral. For example, if you do web design and the client voices that they are very satisfied with your work, you could say something like, “Great! Thanks so much! It always makes me happy when a client takes time out of their day to let me know they’re happy. Like most business owners, most of my new business comes from referrals. Do you know anyone who could use a website redesign?”

By asking a question, the client feels like they should respond. I always outright ask instead of saying, “If you hear of anyone looking for website design, please refer them to me.” That’s not a question, so it doesn’t require a response. Actually ask the question.

When you literally ask the question, people start going through their mental rolodex of who they can refer you to. They may say to themselves, “Hmmm . . . John mentioned a few weeks ago he had some issues with his website. I could fire off an e-mail to him.” They may not have thought of this if you didn’t ask.

Once I transcribed a telesummit for a client who told me they were very pleased with my work, so I asked if she knew anyone who had a summit coming up who could benefit from my work. Within ten minutes, she e-mailed me back the names of THREE people who had summits coming up. It’s highly unlikely she would have done that if I didn’t ask. I looked up those three people, called them and ended up securing one of those referrals.

This is the low-hanging fruit and many people don’t bother to reach for it.

  1. Freelance sites

Many people discount freelance sites because they assume clients who go to these sites are looking for people to work extremely cheap. While that may be the case for a lot of people, there are people who use these sites who are willing to pay a fair rate. Sure, you’re competing against potentially 30+ people, but remember you’re not just competing on price. I am one of the highest bidders on freelance sites and I still get jobs. No, I don’t get all of the jobs I put proposals on, but I am able to attain some.

I said above one of my methods was direct e-mail and I only get less than 1% of the people I e-mail to respond. I can tell you for sure I get more than 1% of the jobs I bid on. When you e-mail potential clients, you don’t know if they’re looking for the service you provide. However, if you go on a freelance site, you know for sure they are.

Yes, there are drawbacks with freelance sites. One of the drawbacks is the incredibly high percentage they take from the money you make. However, it’s the price you have to pay for them bringing you clients who are ready to buy. I’m happy to pay it.

Cheap, Fast, Good — Pick Two

 cheap fast good

  1. Fast & Good: Not going to be cheap
  2. Good & Cheap: It’s going to take longer
  3. Fast & Cheap: Won’t be good
  4. Good, Fast, & Cheap: Won’t happen

When I first started my transcription business, I had it in my mind that I was going to offer a superior transcription service for amazing prices (aka cheap) and send the transcript to my clients quickly (within 24-48 hours).

Needless to say, that didn’t last very long.

At first, I didn’t have many clients, so when something came in for transcription, I did have the time to go ahead and work on it immediately. I was able to send the final transcript along within hours. It was of extreme high-quality and my clients loved me for it, of course.

As I got busier, I realized there were a few things I didn’t take into consideration. Like most new entrepreneurs, I didn’t take into consideration the time I would spend on my business that I wasn’t actively getting paid for (e-mail communication with clients, bookkeeping, writing copy, etc.) or thinking about the money I would have to deduct from my hourly rate to buy things I needed for it.

Clients kept pouring in, because they were able to get good work done quickly and cheaply. In part, I was really happy because I was making more money than I ever had. I was finally able to pay my bills. However, I was literally working 100 hours a week . . . Lucky if I made $1000. And while $1000/week was a lot for me at the time, it came at the cost of me being exhausted all the time, not having any sort of life, and gaining weight and being unhealthy because I was sitting at the computer sometimes for 20+ hours at a time typing away. I typed so much, I would have to ice my wrists. It couldn’t go on like that.

If you’re someone who has been able to find great work done cheaply and quickly, chances are, it’s not going to last very long, because inevitably, things like this happen to the company or entrepreneur.

I got to the point where there weren’t enough hours in the day to handle the workflow that was coming in, and I wasn’t charging enough to hire anybody else for help. I tried getting people to help, but for what I was able to pay them, the work wasn’t anywhere near good and I found myself taking the same amount of time to “fix” the transcript so it was suitable for a client than if I did it myself.

I realized quickly that offering a quick, good, and cheap transcription service wasn’t going to be possible, unless I limited the amount of clients I worked for . . . And that wasn’t going to happen, because I literally couldn’t live my life that way.  I wasn’t charging enough to begin with, so limiting the amount of clients I worked with would have put me back in a situation where I wasn’t making enough money.

I knew I wasn’t going to sacrifice the quality of my work, so that was off the table. I decided to get a high-quality transcript from me, you could get it done cheap, but it would take longer.  The more time-sensitive your transcription project is, the more it’s going to cost.

When I started charging by turnaround time, an interesting thing happened. All of a sudden, clients who needed things within 24 hours could wait a week or two to get it done, knowing they would save a lot of money if they did so.

I did have a few clients leave, but the vast majority of them came back when they realized they couldn’t get it done cheap, fast, and good elsewhere. As a result, they either waited to get their transcript done by me, or they paid the premium to get it done fast if they really needed it soon.

There are clients who don’t care if it’s a high-quality transcript. They just want the shell of it done quick and cheap, and are willing to make the investment of time themselves to “fix” it the way it’s supposed to be done. This used to really upset me. Why were people not willing to pay for high-quality work?

Then I realized that I wasting time and energy being pissed off about it. If fixing a transcript is something they consider an effective use of their time, then that’s where they are in their business right now. Or if they don’t care they are presenting a low-quality transcript, that’s completely their decision.  There are many transcriptionists who will deliver something not-so-great quickly and cheaply. I am not one of those people.

Humble Beginnings: How I Started Working From Home

The following post tells my story of how I discovered how to make money online, and very soon after started a business. Knowing what I know now, I would have gone about things a different way and started making more money sooner.

Sometimes I can’t believe how little money I worked for years ago, but I have absolutely no regrets. It’s my story, my journey . . . And it’s what got me to where I am today. If I had given up at the very beginning thinking there was no way to make a good wage working from home, it’s likely I wouldn’t be making as much money as I am now. This year, I’m set to generate over ten times the amount I made working from home in 2009.

Most people don’t know this, but I dabbled in a few other things before I settled on transcription as my work-at-home money-making method. I started at an extremely low rate of pay doing various things. But I did TONS of research about working from home, figured out what I liked doing best, and eventually found that transcription fit me best and ran with it.

Here’s my story:

The very first thing I did was work with Amazon Mechanical Turk, which is a crowdsourcing platform where you do various tasks that may take anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes to complete for a little bit of money.

This intrigued me, because I was desperately seeking to make more money in my spare time and I really liked how I could do it while watching TV and otherwise lounging around my apartment. I was probably making only $2 or $3 per hour, but it worked for me since I could do it from anywhere, at any time, whenever I wanted. I figured making $2 or $3 an hour sitting in front of my TV was better than $0 an hour doing the same thing.

It really only took a few weeks and I began looking for other avenues. I knew there had to be ways to make more than I was making. I found the Knowledge Generation Bureau in my search (KGB), which was a company that answered any question people would text to them. I received the questions and would do Internet searches to answer, and they would receive a text back. It still didn’t pay much, but the work was interesting.

I also found article submission sites and wrote articles where I would get paid a few pennies every time someone clicked on my article. There were three sites I did articles for. After I wrote them, I could see how much they earned every month. Some of my articles only made $0.01 a month, but others earned $60/month. But there came a time when the Google algorithms changed and I wasn’t able to generate much, and these sites eventually got bought by another company or the payments changed and I didn’t do it anymore.

I was also doing transcription at the same time I was doing all these other things. I had my hands in many pockets, but decided I liked transcription the best and went with that. It was only about three or four months into it that I decided to search for private clients and see how much I could actually make doing it. Within six months, the money I was bringing in from transcription was about equal to what I was making in my job, so I quit my job and put all my effort into my transcription business.

If you really want to make some money from home in your spare time as a stay-at-home, I suggest starting small, doing some research and going from there. There are a lot of things you can do from your living room that require no experience, but before you do anything, do some digging to find out what other people’s experience was in that field or with that company.

It’s extremely easy to start a home-based business with little to no money. That’s exactly how I started. Trust me, I was completely broke when I started. Around that time, I even pawned jewelry to pay rent. But step by step, little by little, more money will start to seep into your bank account every month . . . As long as you’re putting in time and effort. It can be very overwhelming, but eventually you learn how to make it work for you.

Every year I’m in business, my transcription company makes more money . . . And I didn’t do it by popping up a website, and then sitting and waiting for people to buy. I did the work and it paid off.

Five years ago, I didn’t know what Internet marketing was. I had never heard of Google Analytics and had no clue what a teleseminar or webinar was. If you asked me what a joint venture was, I would’ve shrugged my shoulders.  And if you don’t know what they are, it’s okay!

There’s a lot of money to be made from home, but it’s a process. Don’t let lack of knowledge hold you back. If you don’t know where to start, then let’s have a conversation.

How to Save Money at the Grocery Store Without Extreme Couponing

I used to do a lot of couponing. It saved me hundreds of dollars every month. Even though I still use coupons, I’m less extreme about it. It was easier without a child. But now to take the time to clip, sort, organize and the extra time at the grocery store to do sale-coupon matchups, it’s really just not worth the time.

With me and hubby both searching, clipping, printing and shopping, it took about four hours of each of our time for a total of eight hours. We would save about $100 per trip, but would end up with a lot of things we didn’t need or want that we just bought because it was cheap (or free). Plus, we ended up with a lot of junk food that I wouldn’t normally buy, and if I have junk in the house, I’m going to eat the junk. Don’t need it. Don’t want it.

However, I still find ways to save money at the grocery store for things I would normally buy full price WITHOUT extreme couponing. Here are a few things you can do that won’t eat up your time.

  • Only clip coupons you will actually use

I do go through the paper, but instead of clipping every coupon, I skip the junk food and only clip the coupons for things I know I’m going to buy without them.

  • Get on your grocery store’s mailing list

My favorite grocery store tracks what I buy using my store card and sends me relevant coupons. I’ll even get general coupons such as $5 off a $100 purchase, $2 off a $10 purchase in the produce department, or $2 off the meat department. I am going to buy those things anyway, so I clip the coupon.

  • Digital coupons

Most stores have digital coupons you can load onto your card by going to their website. I quickly browse every week or so to see if there’s anything I can use. My favorite store also has a “Free Friday Download’ where I can get an item completely free. Most of the time, it’s worth a click.

  • Gas points

Most grocery stores will give gas rewards for shopping at their store. I think most people don’t really pay much attention to this. We save a lot on gas using the points. My store will give $0.10 gas points for every $100 spent. That means I get $0.10 off each gallon when I fill up, which on a 15-gallon fill-up will equal $1.50 saved.

Every week they’ll have different items that you can earn extra points from, and I’ll buy those items if I’ll use them. If you really think about it, if they’re offering $0.05 gas points for buying a $3 product, if your tank holds 15 gallons, it’s $0.75 saved. However, I only buy the item if it’s worth it.

Points do add up. A lot of times we’re able to save $0.50 or more per gallon every time we fill up. Since I work from home, I don’t have to drive to work, so I fill up less often than the average person and can save those gas points, so that when I do fill up, it’s a lot less expensive.

My store also has a promotion a few times a year where they give you 4x fuel points for buying gift cards. I’ll buy a few $100 gift cards for things I’ll use anyway, usually a gift card for the store itself. That translates to $0.40 off per gallon, saving $6 per fill-up on a 15-gallon tank.

  • Stock up when items are cheap

We invested in a freezer, because we knew it would be worth it. Every now and again, something like chicken breast will go on super-sale. I’ll literally buy $50 or $100 worth and put it in the freezer. Then I’ll stock up again when it goes on sale again, making it so I never pay full price for meat. If you have room for a freezer, it’s definitely worth the investment. Eventually, it will pay for itself.

  • Costco is my friend

I save a ton of money at Costco. Sure, when I go, my bill is higher than at the grocery store, but buying in bulk saves. Plus, the fruits and vegetables they have are much fresher and last longer. I could (and probably will) write an entire post about why I love Costco.

  • Plan meals around what’s on sale

Since I stock up when items are on sale, I usually have things like pasta, rice, and other staples handy all the time. If you go to a site such as MyFridgeFood.com where you can enter in ingredients you have and will give you recipes, it’s pretty simple to find something to make for dinner without having to spend money on that one ingredient you need that’s not on sale that week.  Also, the fruits and vegetables we eat are what’s in season and on sale that week.

We spend roughly $150 per week on groceries, not including formula and diapers. It still may seem like a lot for just two adults, but keep in mind, a lot of the food that we buy is healthy and/or organic and we always have stockpile. I could literally not go to the grocery store for two weeks and feed us without going out to dinner.