Part of the fun of being a freelancer, or a small service provider, is finding leads, and turning those leads into new customers. The best way, of course, is having new customers find you, as you are so good, that people are constantly pointing new business in your direction, but we can’t all be that lucky, at least not in the beginning.

(After a while, by the way, you will find that you ARE getting new customers through word of mouth, but it isn’t easy)

So the big question is, ‘how do I get customers’?

Now, there’s no easy way to do it, no matter what anyone says. It’s a matter of hard work, dedication, and trial and error – but here are three ways that can certainly help:

Reach out to them

It’s very simple. All around you are people who need your services, but haven’t heard of you.

Let me give you an example – before working with Traxmo, I used to be a social media consultant for startups. Want to know how I found customers? I went to sites that list startup companies (like www.ziipa.com), and reached out to people who looked like they had something exciting or new to offer. And more often than not, they would answer, and listen to what I have to offer. Yes, this is something that needs to be done on a daily basis – I never said it was easy, right?

By the way, this applies to any business. Are you a web designer? Look for websites that need work done on them, and reach out. Do you supply restaurants with food? Find them on www.manta.com, and reach out to them there.

Reaching out (personally!), and giving a few details about yourself, is an excellent way of making new customers.

Answer questions

Answering questions gives you a number of benefits. One, it puts your name in front of people that are potential customers. Two, it shows that you know what you are talking about. And three, it helps you keep up to date with your industry.

Again, I’ll give you an example from my personal experience – in this case, LinkedIn Answers. Know LinkedIn? It’s a professional social network, with a much heavier emphasis on business and business development than Facebook. Now, in LinkedIn, you can go to the Q&A section, and answer any question that anyone asks there – this is what I’ve just found today:

Do you know any iOS and Android apps that allow screen / app recording?
Do you think a CS degree is necessary if you’re a technical Sales Engineer?
Is there a cure for neuropathy?

Answering these questions shows your level of expertise. Know enough, and explain well enough, and your next customer will find you.

Get referrals

We all know that the easiest way to get new customers is through our existing ones. They come to us when they a) already need work done, and b) have heard good things about us. So it constantly amazes me that most people either don’t want ask their existing customers for referrals, or don’t do it enough.

Ask for referrals. Don’t do this on a daily basis, of course, but once every few months, it’s perfectly OK to ping your customers and see if anything new has popped up.

If nothing else, at least get them to recommend you on LinkedIn!

What about you? When you ask yourself ‘how do I get customers’, what’s YOUR answer?