For new service-based entrepreneurs, one of the greatest challenges is finding, attracting, and booking clients.
You may not have a large portfolio, a large audience, or client testimonials. You may not have much experience or expertise. And chances are, you’re probably in a very saturated, competitive industry.
I remember being in that position. And in less than a year and a half, I’ve been able to grow my client waiting list to well over 250 prospective clients.
If that sounds crazy to you, than this will be even more shocking: I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary to build my waiting list. All the steps I implemented can be executed by you, too.
1 | I developed a one-of-a-kind process
It can be extremely hard to stand out in a saturated industry, especially when you’re first getting started.
And while I tried to differentiate business through my own clean, feminine design aesthetic, I took it one step further and focused on how I could differentiate my process.
I took a look at the needs and frustrations of people in my industry, both from a designer standpoint and a client standpoint. And here’s what I saw:
- Timelines were hard to nail down and stick to
- Client projects had to be juggled
- Deadlines were often pushed back
- And as a result, freelance income was unpredictable
So I came up with a unique process that not only worked best for me, but helped alleviate the frustrations of potential clients. I resolved to with 1 client at a time and finish their project over a 2-week timeframe.
It allowed me to stabilize my income, it cut back on the stress of juggling projects, it gave my clients a set start and end date, and it allowed me to know exactly how many clients I could take on throughout the year without having to play a guessing game.
Because this idea was unique and hadn’t been seen before in the design industry, it helped me stand out (even though my business was just getting started).
Takeaway: If you’re just getting started and you’re still developing your aesthetic, consider how you can set your process apart. Think about the current frustrations and hangups in your industry and come up with a creative way to solve them through your services.
2 | I simplified my design package
In an effort to appeal to the greatest number of people possible, it’s easy for service-based entrepreneurs to fall into the trap of providing too many options.
Too many options aren’t only overwhelming for prospective clients, but they make it hard for people to remember exactly what you offer and sum up what you do.
From my previous freelance work, I saw firsthand how a large number of options hurt my business. It also made it hard for me to stick to timelines and keep up with projects when each one of them looked different.
So I simplified my offerings and settled on one design package. Just one.
I considered the needs of my clients and my own capabilities and decided to offer an all-inclusive brand and website design package with 4 collateral items.
Not only did it help me say no to smaller projects that I really wasn’t interested in and set boundaries, but it allowed me to streamline my process so that I could get everything done within a 2-week timeframe.
And even more importantly, it helped potential clients understand exactly what they were going to get.
Takeaway: Less is more. Consider the needs of your potential clients and come up with 1 or 2 service packages that would best accommodate them. Not only will this make things easier to manage on your end, but it will help potential clients have a clear understanding of what you offer and what they can expect.
3 | I transparently shared my process
In order for people to even begin to think about working with you, they have to trust you.
While most service-based entrepreneurs build trust through their portfolio and testimonials on their website, I decided to take it a step further by transparently sharing my process on the Elle & Company blog.
Each time I launched a new client brand and website, I created a new, detailed blog post that walked through the entire design process from start to finish.
Not only did this give my audience a behind-the-scenes look at my process, but it showed the intention behind every design decision and helped demonstrate my expertise. It also gave prospective clients an inside look at what they could expect if they chose to work with me.
I also invited my audience to follow along with each project by sharing bits and pieces of the process on social media, from the original inspiration board to the finished brand design. This created a little more interest in each project and raised excitement to see the final project.
Not to mention that my clients appreciate the extra exposure their business received every time I shared their brand and linked to them on my blog social media accounts. A win-win!
Takeaway: How are you building trust with those in your audience who could potentially book your services? Consider ways that you can share your process and position yourself as an expert through your blog, newsletter, or social media accounts.
4 | I established expertise on the blog
You can establish trust and expertise outside of portfolio-based posts, too.
The more and more I posted about design and brand-related topics on the Elle & Company blog, the more I was able to establish credibility among my audience.
I shared a series on my creative process, I designed infographics about typography and color psychology, I wrote about the do’s and don’ts of logo design. I paid attention to the things I encountered in my business on a regular basis and started writing blog posts about them.
I didn’t always feel like an expert in the topics, either. And I still don’t - there are always new things to learn.
But as I learned, I shared. And the more I shared, the more I booked.
Takeaway: Share what you know. Utilize your blog to share about topics that relate to your services so you can gain credibility with potential clients and build their trust.
5 | I steered clear of bias
There are many established business owners out there who advise you to pick and choose your clients in order to work with and attract the kind of people you want to work with.
I’m not so fond of that theory for several reasons (which I covered in this post), so I took the opposite approach.
I booked anyone who was willing to pay the cost of my design package during the dates I had available. First come, first serve.
I believe that’s one of the largest reasons I booked out so quickly and have been able to grow a large waiting list.
By not showing bias, I was able to demonstrate that I could accommodate different styles and types of businesses. I found out that some of the clients who I thought would be amazing to work with weren’t so ideal, and those I wasn’t as thrilled to work with I ended up really enjoying.
Takeaway: When you’re offering a service, be leery of being choosy. And if you’re just starting out or struggling to book clients, you can’t afford to be choosy. If someone is willing to pay for your services and work with you, give them a chance and jump at the opportunity. You might be pleasantly surprised!
6 | I put in the hard work
Booking clients is only the beginning.
Once I had a client in the books, I wanted to go above and beyond and exceed their expectations to give them the best experience possible.
Not only because they paid me to do so and I wanted to do right by them, but because I knew that if they had a great experience, they would spread the word about my business and refer my services to others.
And that’s exactly what happened. The more clients I started to work with, the more referrals I received.
Takeaway: The victory isn’t in the booking; the victory is in a positive client experience. So put in the hard work and think through how you can provide your very best to your clients. Under promise and over deliver.
How have you brought in new clients for your service-based business? What are your biggest struggles for growing your waiting list?