You have set up your business – in my case as a freelance proofreader – and need to attract new clients. Maybe you need to attract new clients to an established business that has suffered a drop in trade recently. It is no use just sitting around waiting and expecting the telephone and e-mail enquiries to flood in. Chances are they will not. When I set up my business over 20 years ago the start was painfully slow and nowadays there is even more competition. There are several ways to entice new clients.
Get a website
This is a must for any business whether new or established. For a new business it is a way to make yourself known and for established ones to engage with existing clients, offering other services that they might not be aware you provide. The main options are:
- pay someone to set up, host, and maintain your site – the most expensive option, which is the one I started off with years ago;
- pay someone to host the site and then you set it up and maintain it, perhaps using templates that they provide – a less expensive option, which I progressed to as a second stage;
- buy a domain name, subject to a small annual renewal fee, from someone, such as WordPress or Weebly, and maintain it yourself either for no extra charge using free templates or by purchasing a themed template. This is the option I have progressed to with WordPress at http://www.yorkeditorial.com
Be aware though that it can take up to six months for search engines to find and index your site.
There are numerous online directories where you can get your website listed for free, with a link to your new website that will help to enhance your search engine rankings.
Open accounts with social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and LinkedIn, where you can promote your business and create relationships with existing and would-be clients.
Join a professional body with a directory of services
Most occupations have a professional members’ forum you can join and where you can gain training, interact with other members, and sometimes advertise in their online directory of services offered.
Start a blog
This is an excellent way to tell existing and prospective clients about what makes you tick, what you do, and what experience and specialist knowledge you have. Attached to your website a blog will help drive traffic to it and improve search engine rankings.
Mailshots and leaflets
This is perhaps not so important as it used to be before the internet boomed, but it is still useful where you are trading in a fairly tight geographical area (leaflet drop) or have a mailing list of clients that you can write to or e-mail (with their permission of course). That is something they can opt in to on your website.
Stationery and branding / business cards in wallet / purse
I do not use much stationery myself as most communications are digital, even invoicing. It is still good though to have letterheads and business cards prepared, complete with a logo, to promote your brand.
Attend networking meetings
There are usually networking groups that hold meetings you can attend in the more populated areas. You can meet and chat with other entrepreneurs in your area, both prospective clients and suppliers, to develop future trading relationships. Do not forget to take a good supply of business cards with you to hand out.
Finally, many of the above activities are free or relatively cheap (and tax deductible), so they are worth undertaking while you build up your business – and your workload!
Stephen York is a freelance proofreader with over 25 years' experience in book and journal publishing offering proofreading services to publishers, businesses, organizations, educational institutions, academics, students, and authors. He regularly proofreads in digital format a wide variety of media in an extensive range of specialist subject areas, including business, finance, economics, education, marketing, and real estate.