Lessons: 12 Months In Business

How to get new clients for your service business

Neil Sheth

3 December 2020

Getting new clients is every business’ main focus area. Without new clients coming in, you won’t be able to grow your business. Not to mention, if you’re starting a brand new business (like I did) you’ll be starting at 0 clients – so without new clients to get the ball rolling, you won’t have a business at all.

Here’s what I did in my first 12 months to get new clients.

Traditional advice for getting new clients

One of the first things that aspiring entrepreneurs do when embarking on their new business venture is to seek advice from already established business owners or self-styled business “gurus”. It’s not a bad place to start, but you can get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of advice people want to give you, especially when it comes to getting new clients.

I’ve received so much advice on how to get new clients, including:

  • Networking
  • Digital marketing
  • Partnerships
  • Cold calling
  • Cold emailing
  • Attending conferences
  • Hiring space at conferences
  • Public speaking

You’re probably familiar with a lot of this advice, it’s traditional advice for a reason, and all the above activities will work to a certain extent. However, every approach to getting new clients will work differently for different kinds of businesses, and for different types of entrepreneurs. The secret to sorting through all this advice and finding something that works to help you get new clients is to work to your strengths.

What I did to get new clients in the first 12 months

As a brand new business, I wasn’t about to shovel tonnes of money into paid advertising, especially as I was still learning. Instead, I played to my personal strengths. The best thing you can do to get new clients is to work at what you’re good at, as that will help you to come across as a comfortable and authentic version of yourself.

Personally, I know that I’m good at building rapport and that people are generally interested in working collaboratively with me. The fastest way for me to build rapport is to meet a potential new client in person.

With this in mind, I attended a few networking events and noticed how I always came back having had a handful of promising conversations. (I did this before I quit my job, to get the ball rolling before taking the plunge.)

I knew that if I could just keep getting myself out there, it would only be a matter of time until at least one of these good quality leads turned into a customer. That’s why I attended as many events as possible in the following weeks and months. (I also did the online equivalent by joining Facebook groups and helping the members there.)

With this approach, I was able to secure my first 12 clients. And my business was officially up and running!

What I would do differently

Although I’m pleased overall with my approach to getting clients, there are a few things I would do differently if I was going to start my business all over again.

Events & Networking

Although I found events to be quite fruitful, I learned to avoid free networking events. If I was able to do everything all over again, I wouldn’t have wasted my time attending these events filled with low quality conversations, people trying to sell to you, and entrepreneurs with nothing but ideas (and no action).

While attending free events is fun, and gives you a good opportunity to stretch your networking muscles, overall they were a waste of my time during such a critical period for my business.

I’d also try to speak at as many opportunities as possible – though this is something I should still be doing as much as possible today too.

I wish I’d spent less time in endless 1:1s and meetings over coffee. While this is a nice way to spend an afternoon, it rarely led to more business for me.

Similarly, I spent way too much time attending one networking event in particular that I knew wasn’t working for me. If your intuition tells you something isn’t right, then listen to that gut feeling and leave.

Partnerships

Lastly, the partnerships I’ve made along the way have been pivotal for my business. A good partnership can open up so many doors to a whole bunch of customers. To find good partnerships, you should find businesses who help the same type of customers as your business does, but in a different way.

For example, an accountant might begin working with a lawyer to help the same clients in different ways.

Go ahead and draw up a list of the types of companies you could partner with, and try to meet with as many of these companies as possible. There’s no time like the present to get started.

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