Have you recently started a new business or begun a new line of work as a freelancer, but are struggling to get your first few clients? Perhaps you feel like you’re putting yourself out there, engaging on social media, networking, even paying for some advertising, but not closing many leads. How do you get customers to choose YOU?
The fact is, people are hiring professionals in your area of expertise every day. Whatever you do, if you know of other people making a living with similar offerings, then you know there is a market for it. Potential customers are turning into paying customers of editors, VA’s, web designers, music teachers, photographers — any and every field! So the question is: how do you get them to hire YOU over your competition.
There are honestly only three real reasons why potential customers might choose you (or anyone else): either you’re cheaper, better, or more specifically what they need.
As a general rule, it’s never a good idea to compete on price. Why? Not only will you be selling yourself short (literally), but you’ll attract customers who want discount work. These aren’t your ideal customers. They just aren’t! You want customers who value the work you do and will really appreciate the results. Sure, everyone would like to pay a little less, but you don’t want to attract customers who use that as their primary hiring qualification.
If you did try to compete on price, you’d soon discover that there’s no way to win at that game. No matter how cheap you went, there would always be someone offering to do the work for five dollars, or even free! Of course, you’re probably a WAY better designer than those people are: so you need to show that to your leads!
What’s left is for you to be either better than your competition, more specifically fit to your potential customers’ needs, or both. Establishing credibility has a positive effect on both of these factors, so it’s one of the most important things you can focus on when you’re trying to close more leads.
How you brand yourself determines who will see you as a perfect, unique fit for their specific needs. To learn more about branding, read my recent article, “Foundational Principles for a Strong Personal Brand” or download my free ebook, “The Ultimate Guide to Beautiful Branding.” Both of these are valuable resources for learning how to really set yourself apart from others in your industry, so that rather than “competing” for customers, you’re attracting the customers who are the best fit for you.
Once you’re attracting your ideal clients who are really a great match for your business, you don’t need nearly as much credibility as you would if you were competing against everyone else in your industry. For example, imagine you are a graphic designer. You wouldn’t stand a chance, if you were competing against every other graphic designer online! It would be impossible to match the years of experience, studded portfolios, and video testimonials that some designers have.
Since we’ve already established that competing on price is no bueno, here’s the plan: set your rates at a place that is at least a fair compensation for your time AND is a reflection of the value you are providing to your customers. How much is your work WORTH to them?
Branding will ensure that the clients who do come your way are those you are truly the ideal match for. With a fair price set and an ideal match made, the only piece left to close this deal is to convince the potential customer that you are qualified enough to do good work for them.
Your qualifications could include several different components, such as a degree or certification, your portfolio, or reviews and testimonials. A combination of these factors will generally paint the most persuasive image of your credibility.
Credibility is simply the quality of being trusted and believed in. While degrees and certifications can be great indicators that you’ve gone through extensive training, we all know that just because someone went to school for something doesn’t necessarily mean they are good at it. Of course, for some professions, certain certification is necessary, and that should never be overlooked.
So, if you have a degree or certification, of course, use it to it’s full advantage towards establishing your credibility. Also, if you need significant additional training to be honestly good at what you do, then you will, of course, want to consider your options between the many different ways to become highly skilled, many of which might lead to some sort of certification.
However, if you aren’t required by law to be certified, you are already great at what you do, and you don’t already have a degree/certification, understand that it’s not going to be the most efficient way to become “qualified” at what you do. That is: if you don’t need the piece of paper or the additional training, spending 4+ years and tens of thousands of dollars to get it isn’t worth it.
So, use what you have, but focus on increasing your credibility primarily through testimonials and portfolio work.
Doing a few free or barter projects when you’re first starting out can be key for attaining some quality testimonials, references, and public work in your portfolio. (Because, while your portfolio certainly can be full of sample work at first, being able to show off real work that you did for actual customers is always better.)
For a complete breakdown of how to use free or barter work to gain credibility, check out my free guide, “Establishing Credibility from Scratch: How to Score Testimonials with No Experience.” In the guide, you’ll learn the step-by-step process I use with clients to help them gather high-quality testimonials and references with minimal work. Using this process, clients often even score paying customers without trying!
Aside from testimonials, your portfolio is your greatest asset for showing off your qualifications to potential customers. If you produce visual work, this is fairly straightforward, however professionals in any industry can have a “portfolio” of sorts: a blog, or even a book can show off your skills and establish you as an expert in your line of work. (If you think writing a book is way to big of a challenge then check out this article: “Write Your First Book in a Month” It’s much easier than you might think!)
That’s all there is to it! To get more customers to choose YOU and not your competition, you simply must:
- Price Fairly: set a price reflective of your time and effort, and of the results you’re providing
- Differentiate: use branding to show why you’re the best fit
- Qualify Yourself: show that you know your stuff, can do high quality work, and you’re not the only person who thinks so
Of course, there are endless other pieces to the puzzle of growing your clientele, such as: getting more traffic to your website (so you have more leads to close), and high-quality, persuasive copy writing (smooth sales pitches). But, that being said, these are the three primary components that will create a stable foundation for turning leads into paying customers.