One of the secrets to success as a solopreneur, and to building a business that is competition-proof, is to make sure you are fishing for clients in the right pond. The sweetest words out of the mouth of a prospective client are “I had no idea there were people out there like you!” I can offer these clients a service they may not have realized they need, and for which they don’t know where else to turn.
What pond you go fishing in will depend on your specialization, background, existing network, and interest, of course. One way to develop good, on-going clients is to look for people in the revenue-generating aspects of their organization, people who are taking a risk, or people who are making strategic decisions. It can be challenging to find these folks; they don’t respond to direct mail or sales calls, and they won’t find you by surfing the web… they don’t have the time and are not likely to find professional services from a web search.
The best way to cultivate the kinds of clients who will sustain your business is to take the long view with your marketing. Identify the professional organizations your clients belong to, and volunteer to serve on the board of directors or on a high-profile committee. Go to the local – or national – meetings that your clients attend for professional development.
And, perhaps most importantly, listen and pay attention. When I ask a new acquaintance about his or her job, I will often identify a way that I can provide a service, even if my contact doesn’t see the need yet. Just as the serious anglers would never dream of telling you their favorite fishing hole, don’t expect prospective clients to tell you exactly how to pitch to them. You will discover this by establishing trust, asking questions and watching for clues. Your reward may be a pond that supports you well.