By guest expert, Zac Choi
Taking the leap and working for yourself can be a daunting experience.
Where do you begin? What tools do you need (or not need) to get things going?
While my expertise as a business consultant is revenue growth and workflow science (basically how to increase income and decrease cost), my passion is to build tools for and to share best practices with those who want to work for themselves.
In the last year, I studied what successful, modern solo professionals – from insurance to beauty to design to IT to real estate and beyond – did to prepare for their first clients, and what they wish they didn’t spend as much time doing.
Across the thousands of solo professionals I’ve interviewed, I discovered 3 common steps that served as a “starter kit” for everyone’s success:
1. Separate your professional contact info.
Before reaching out to potential clients, make sure you have a work phone number and email. Even if you don’t have your first client yet, you’ll thank yourself later for setting up communication channels that are separate from your personal ones.
a. You’ll end up registering for things (tools, newsletter, groups) or promotional outlets (marketplaces, Yelp, Craigslist) within the next few weeks or months. It’s better to keep your personal information private and ensure that work-related inquiries are all sent to the same place.
b. You’ll want to know what messages or calls are related to work and which ones are personal so you can respond accordingly. Is that 3am call a client who saw an ad or a personal emergency? Separating work and life will not only give you peace of mind, but will also make you more productive in everything you do!
c. You’ll look more polished and professional. Just because you aren’t running a multi-person company, doesn’t mean you can’t focus on your image. How you are perceived is everything in your line of work. Showing that you’ve put thought and effort into creating a specific channel for clients to connect with you sends a professional message.
It’s easy to add a second email address on your current email provider (e.g., Gmail or Yahoo).
It’s also just as easy to add a free second number to your phone. Services like Google Voice or my personal favorite, Hello Chava, allow you to pick your area code as well as talk and text with clients just like a regular phone number.
Many people are surprised to learn you don’t have to buy a new phone to get a separate business or work line. Just add one to your existing smartphone! More and more clients expect to interact with service professionals by text message, so it’s a plus to get a dedicated work number right away.
Key takeaway: It may seem easier to give away your personal email or number to potential clients but we’ve spoken to way too many professionals who wish they spent the extra few minutes to set up their contact info appropriately from the beginning to avoid the chaos and look more professional.
2. Setup a simple web presence.
Your web presence is anywhere and everywhere people might be able to find you online or on social media. But when you’re starting out, less is more – the days of spending hours setting up a complex website and online personas are over.
Focus on being focused.
Many starting independents spend too much time trying to get their web presence right, but most successful solo professionals recommend NOT overcomplicating things – especially your brand. Remember, as you acquire your first few clients, they generally only care about your name, what you do, and how to reach you.
Since we’re talking about the basics here, set up a personal site with a few key elements:
- A single page at a personalized domain (no one wants to navigate a menu)
- A clear description of what you do and what services you offer (and yes, leave out personal things that can be distracting)
- ONE action you’d like for your visitors to do (e.g., book with you, follow you on instagram, text you).
Key takeaway: Your brand and digital reach WILL evolve over time, so don’t spend too much time at the beginning overthinking what you’re going to say. Rule of thumb: imagine your visitors are on your page or social media for 5 seconds — what do you want them to see and do?
3. Make it easy for people to refer you.
Referrals are a large part, if not the most important part, of how top performing solo professionals get new business. This means that hustling and getting your name out among people that already know you is key for early growth.
That said, no matter how well-intended your network is – memorizing your services and your contact information can be tough.
When a potential client asks someone from your network who they worked with (that’s you!), make sure it’s easy to pass your info along. Make it a point to give them a simple way to reach you. Double check to make sure they got your link and phone number correct.
If you have a presence on social media, ask them to follow you and add a review or comment (oh, and follow them back).
Let them know that it’s okay to pass along your contact information without asking you. That way, when your services come up in their conversations – you’re not relying on your clients’ memory. They simply copy-paste – and voila! – another potential client in your inbox.
Key takeaway: Your referral network will be the top source for new clients, so make sure you reduce the amount of work for others to share your details because you never know when those moments might occur!
Being great at what you do and delivering great work most certainly is a major component of getting referrals and returning clients. As you grow, you’ll develop your own style, brand, and methods for acquiring, qualifying, and nurturing client relationships – but when you’re just starting out, don’t forget to KISS: Keep It Simple, Solopreneurs.
Deploy these “starter kit” concepts early on; you’ll be surprised that these basic elements are enough to take with you on the path to your first ten clients.