When I was in law school, I took a class on how to run your own law office, and the topic on everyone’s mind was: where in the heck will we get clients?
A few years later, as I started my own business, the question was the same: where would I get clients? I began to interview every successful solopreneur I knew, and essentially, their ideas boiled down to:
- Advertising, and
- Networking some more
While that might seem like pretty thin advice, back then, those truly were the options. And somehow I made it.
The good news is that these days there is no shortage of places to get viable leads, and most are highly effective andquite affordable. You know the drill: Google ads, e-newsletters, Facebook ads and campaigns, tweets and blog specials, yadda, yadda, yadda.
Is there anything new under the sun? Yes. If I was to give a new entrepreneur advice today on where to get leads and find clients, I would point to three very viable, but a tad under-the-radar options:
1. Craigslist: Sure we all know, love, and use Craigslist to get rid of the old stuff in the garage (or buy new old stuff for the garage) but you make a mistake if you discount what a great resource the site is for business leads.
First of all, the Jobs listings are a virtual cornucopia of business leads. Yes, of course, jobs are listed, but so too are part-time gigs, contract positions, requests for proposals and the like. Beyond that, there is also, in fact, a listing called “Gigs,” and then, beyond that, an area listing for “Services.” And if you sell a product, and list it for sale in the right area, it will prompt more leads and potential customers.
Best of all: It’s free.
2. Project bidding sites: I would have loved these sorts of sites if they were around when I was still practicing law: Sites like Upwork,Guru,Freelancer, etc. These sites are amazing, listing tens of thousands of contract opportunities a day for the self-employed and other small business people to bid on.
Let’s take Upwork for example. Upwork is a fantastic all-in-one solution for corporations and contractors. Corporate clients list projects through the platform, and the contractors then bid on those projects and use the Upwork virtual workplace and guaranteed payment system to complete the work. Pretty cool.
Bottom line: There are thousands of companies who not only need your help but are actively seeking it out on these sites. It is your job to get on these platforms, let them know you are out there and get some of this available work.
3. LinkedIn: Sure you have a LinkedIn account and maybe you even have a couple of hundred contacts. But do you use them? Have you ever really considered what an incredible resource and opportunity LinkedIn is?
Consider my pal, a San Francisco entrepreneur who gets all of his business through LinkedIn: He scours the site looking for potential partners and other people with whom he would either like to do business with or to whom he would like to sell his services. He then finds out who he knows on the site who knows these folks and gets personal introductions. He then meets these leads and closes the deal, or not, but he sure does save time and money.
And that is the beauty of LinkedIn. What is the point of having all of these contacts if you don’t use them? So use them. Here’s how:
LinkedIn has a very powerful feature that lets you search for people by name, industry, title, keyword, region, company and more. Do that, and not only do you get a list of viable leads, but you also get a list of people you know who know these people. And since nothing beats a word-of-mouth introduction, a LinkedIn lead is often a hot lead. And away you go.
So happily, gone are the days when you had to either network (the old fashioned way), or advertise your way to success. These days, there are a lot more and better, options available.
- Steve Strauss’ Three Powerful Ways to Attract New Customers (podcast)
- How to Revamp Your LinkedIn Page by Steve Strauss
About Steve Strauss
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success.© Steven D. Strauss
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