How to Find Consulting Clients

Jul. 14, 2020 by

Welcome to the 6th lesson in the Consulting Crash Course


In this section we're going to cover: 

  • ideal vs non-ideal clients
  • understanding your ideal client
  • how to find potential clients and work
  • closing a client



Ideal vs Non-Ideal Clients

This is very, very important. 

The clients that you work with will literally make or break your consulting business. 

If you consistently take bad projects with not enough money you won't be motivated to continue working on your business and will struggle to make ends meet. You want to work with people that you enjoy working with and have the money to pay you.

Let's take a look at the differences between ideal and non-ideal clients. 

Ideal clients:

  • have enough money to actually pay you 
  • respect your time 
  • develop a sense of trust


Non-ideal clients: 

  • scrutinize your hours and invoices
  • want as much of your time for as little as possible
  • it feels like they're looking over your shoulder as you work


A lot of this can be based on your gut feelings from your first couple interactions with the client. How much work do they ask you to do for free in the beginning? Do you know their budget or how much they're willing to spend? Do they have good communication on phone calls and email? These are the types of questions you want to be asking yourself during your first interactions with a potential client.



Clear Understanding of Ideal Client

To go looking for the right client, you need a clear understanding of the ideal client.

You'll have to answer these questions:

  • What problem do they have? 
  • What solution do you provide? 
  • Where do your clients hang out? in person and online? 
  • What will you say to them when you meet them?


For example, in my case I do software development.

What problem do they have?
Businesses I talk to want to build or maintain an app using Ruby on Rails, React, or other web technologies, but don’t have the resources to get it done.

What solution do you provide?
I provide extra hands and experience to help get these projects done on time and under budget.

Where do your clients hang out? In person and online?
Lots of the clients I talk to find a project are usually a CTO or involved in the development process. Therefore lots of them hang out at technology meetups and online groups. Lots of tech jobs are on job boards too.

What will you say to them when you meet them?
The first time I talk with them I don't necessarily try to sell them on my development skills.

I introduce myself and try to have a good interaction. I ask questions about what they do and try to learn more about their business. I try to qualify them to make sure they need help, work in the technologies I have experience in, and have the budget to hire me. After that I try to get their contact info and follow up again later.


I put together a worksheet so you have a place to answer these questions yourself. I find it really helps to have these things literally written down so that way when you meet with potential clients you know exactly what to say.



Finding Clients & Work

So how do we actually find potential clients? 


Networking

The more people you know in the industry, the more likely it is that you'll get a referral from a friend that can't take the work. Referrals are the best leads because they're typically easy to close since they come from someone you know. The problem with referrals from your network is it's hard to automate that process.

Action item: Find 2-3 networking events and add them to your calendar. Check Meetup or search “[your city] [your industry] events” 


Automated Online Postings

There are multiple online job boards that you can use to set notifications based on certain filters. There's Google jobs, LinkedIn, Indeed and other platforms. I really like using Google Jobs. If you search for "jobs" in Google, you'll see a section labeled jobs that pulls up relevant listings based on your search criteria. From here you can set up filters so that you get emails as new jobs become available.


For example, I set up a filter for Ruby on Rails contract and react JS contract and get emails every couple of days of new results that fit that criteria. These types of leads are usually harder to close, but it's a good way to get some potential contracts coming through your pipeline. The idea is you want to get in contact with somebody first and then try to sell them on your skills and price. 

Action item: Set up job alerts on 3 different sites. 


Work with a Recruiter

This can be a good option depending on your industry. In software, recruiters are always looking for talented developers. So getting in contact with a good recruiter can help you find projects where companies are already looking. It can be hard to negotiate the price you want using this method because the recruiter is essentially a middleman but it's a good way that qualifies clients before you speak with anyone. Normally companies that work with recruiters have the budget to pay your industry rate.

Action item: Research “[your city] [your industry] recruiters” and email or send a LinkedIn message to 3 recruiters stating that you’re looking for contract work.


Email Decision Makers

Through networking and online search, you will can get people's emails. You can send these contacts a well written email that includes your services and contact info. Here is an example of what I would send a potential client.


Action item: Make a spreadsheet or document to list all the contacts you’ve found through networking or online sites. Reach out one by one and see if there is any way you can help.

Teaching and Public Speaking

Teaching and public speaking is another good way to land clients. This is more of a long-term play and falls into the networking category but it is definitely helpful and helps frame you as an expert in your industry. 

Action item: Find an event that is likely to have potential clients or referrals to potential clients. Reach out to an organizer and ask if you can speak on an interesting topic.


LinkedIn

LinkedIn is still one of the top website for professionals. Make sure your profile is up-to-date and try to get recommendations from your colleagues. Then, look for companies that commonly hire your skill set and try to connect with somebody at the company to get a conversation going.

Action item: Verify your LinkedIn is up-to-date. Find 5-10 potential businesses you could work for and reach out to someone. If you don't have any connections at these companies, you can use LinkedIn Premium


Craigslist

Another interesting idea that I've heard is creating a well-written post on craigslist. Most posts on Craigslist aren’t well done. If you have a detailed, well-written post for your services, it’s easy to stand out. Again this can be dependent on your industry and who's looking for the services you're providing.

Action item: Make a detailed Craigslist post. 


Create Content

My last piece of advice for finding clients is creating content that they are already looking for. The only reason clients come to you is because they get stuck and don't know how to move forward. If you can create content that targets specific questions on where they're getting stuck, clients can find you before you even need to reach out to them. This is one of the best ways to get consistent leads coming in. However it's also one of the hardest to set up and do correctly. 

Action item: Identity a topic that people consistently ask you for help on. Explain the topic in a blog post, infographic, or video. Post the content to your website or social platforms and use it to generate traffic or collect emails.


Here are some links for more ideas on finding clients.
https://briandownard.com/get-more-consulting-clients/
https://tiiny.host/75-ideas-freelancers-agencies/
https://foundr.com/how-to-get-consulting-clients



Contract Types

When searching for work, there are a few different options you’ll see.

Contract C2C - C2C stands for “corp to corp”. It means that the contract is between 2 businesses working with each other. This is the option you want as an independent contractor.

Contract W2 - Contact W2 means your a temporary employee for a company. Under a W2 contact, you’ll receive employment benefits but they usually aren’t as good as benefits for regular employees.

Full-time - This is full time employment.

You want to be clear with decision makers and recruiters that you are looking for C2C Contract work.



Know > Like > Trust > Client

All clients go through a process that starts with learning who you are to trusting/paying you. I’ve seen this simplified as know > like > trust > client. The idea is these are the steps you take someone through until they decide to work with you. 

  • Know - this is the first step, they have to meet you. This can happen through an ad, referral, or just general networking.
  • Like - this means you had a good interaction. So when you met them things went well and generally they felt good about you.
  • Trust -  when you are interacting with them you're always prepared and even impressed them. In consulting your success depends on your ability to create trust and sell yourself.
  • Trust - Once someone trusts you then you want to negotiate price and get a contract signed.


Whether you realize it or not this is generally how humans work with each other.

Remember that you don’t always have to try and sell to potential clients the first time you meet them. Focus on multiple interactions that build trust, then try to sell your services.

Also, just because someone doesn’t need your help today, doesn’t mean they don’t need it in the future.  Keep people’s contact info and follow up again later.



Closing the Client

Nothing is official until a contract is signed and you have a start date.

Once you understand the project and client’s needs, it’s time to close them. You could say something like, “Great. I think I have everything I need. The next step to move forward is to get a contract signed, then I can start work. I can send it over today. Does that work for you?”

Here are a few other phrase to help you close clients - 
HubSpot.

If you get a “yes”, awesome. If not, it’s time to switch to handling objections. We discuss handling objections and talking about price in Consulting Pricing Strategies.



That's all for this lesson. In Managing Consulting Projects we'll cover how to start, manage, and finish projects.


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