When it comes to starting a consulting business, I admit the most difficult part by far is to get your first consulting client. When you have no experience, no established name, no clientele etc. it just seems impossible to get that very first client who is willing to pay for your services.
But simply following these next 6 steps you can really get your first consulting client even if nobody’s heard of you. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, but this is a proven way. In fact these were the exact steps I followed as an SEO and online marketing consultant when I started out my own consulting business.
Why Nobody Is Willing To Work With You
First let’s recap shortly the main reasons why it seems so impossible to get your first consulting client.
- Consulting is about trust. When nobody has even heard of you, no wonder they don’t trust you.
- You have no references. Simply another reason not to trust you.
- Even your self esteem might be very low at this stage, partly because you have no experience. But if you don’t believe in yourself or in your services, it’s almost impossible to sell.
- You might have no clue as per how to set your prices. This again sets instability.
Therefore it is not only vital to get your first consulting client so that you could make some income as soon as possible, but also in order to get references, experience and get rid of the barrier in your mind that says “I can’t sell until I’ve had a few clients”.
Let’s see what are the steps you should follow when trying to find the answer to the everlasting question, how to get your first consulting client.
Getting Your First Consulting Client Step 1: Ask People About Their Biggest Problems
Effective consulting is about solving your client’s real problems. Most unsuccessful consultants fail to even realize what their client’s real problems are, thus never even having the chance to solve them or providing any help whatsoever.
So my very first advice is to just talk to some people. Tell them what your new consulting business is going to be, and ask them about their biggest obstacles, problems they really can’t solve in that area. Be very interested and don’t try to sell at this point. You really want to hear and understand their problems.
Who should you ask? As a first step I would say find anybody who you can reach and who could be theoretically interested in buying your services. As long as they see that you are genuinely interested in hearing their problems, they will be willing to help you with their answers.
They can be your family, friends, colleagues or even some acquaintances. It’s important though not to ask their opinion about your new business, but specifically their problems in that area.
Getting Your First Consulting Client Step 2: Be your first client
You need to believe that what you’re offering is working, and you also need to have some evidence of that. This seems like a catch 22 if you have no clients, and it is in fact the obstacle that’s most difficult to overcome, and the reason why it is so painful to get your fist consulting client.
But there is a great way to handle this situation, an it is to make yourself (or maybe one of your family members or friends) your very first consulting client.
What I mean here is that simply start applying what you teach as a consultant to yourself, your life, your business or someone close to you. Later you can use this project as a case study or reference – see step 5.
Let me give you a few examples to better understand how you can use this technique.
- As an online marketing / SEO consultant, I had my own websites rank in Google before having any clients, so I could use them as a reference.
- If you’re a business consultant, find a friend with a business and help them solve a problem or reach new heights.
- If you want to be a diet or weight loss consultant, apply yourself what you’re teaching and have a proven record of you losing weight.
- For a marriage counselor, it would be ideal to handle the problems of their own marriage before even trying to find their first client.
Getting Your First Consulting Client Step 3: Set a very low price
When it comes to setting your prices as a consultant, I find most people only hear one advice. And that’s never set your prices too low because that is the depreciation of your services and results.
Although this might be true in the long term, in reality loads of consulting businesses never get through the initial stage just because setting their prices too high at the beginning and being unable to sell to anyone as a result.
Remember that consulting is about trust. And until you have proven results, one way to build trust is to set your prices low so that they won’t serve as a barrier between you and your first clients. Please refer to step 5 below to understand why and how low prices can work as a trust building method.
When getting your first consulting client it doesn’t even matter what price you charge. You can set your prices so low for your first couple of clients that nobody would resist to work with you. You need a client so that you can have results, references, experience etc. That’s above everything else in this stage.
So don’t be dumb. Just think about what’s a better scenario for your consulting business: struggling to get any clients and income for months or even years but be proud and never lower your prices; or get a few clients with extremely low prices, start working, getting real life experience, building a clientele and real-world references. I leave it up to you to decide.
Getting Your First Consulting Client Step 4: Offer 50% to your friends and acquaintances
Yes, you should even halve that price in the beginning and offer a great opportunity to the people you already know.
Remember, the most important aspect is to get your first client and start working. And they already have trust in you (or at least they know you), so if you offer them a 50% special discount for a limited time, I guarantee there will be someone who will take the bait.
Also this is a great way to start promoting yourself. Even if your friends or acquaintances will not be interested in your services, they might know someone who is. Or they just take note of your new profession, and maybe come back to you later.
Getting Your First Consulting Client Step 5: Be honest
This is not really a step, but a good advice. Simply be honest about your situation, that is that you don’t have any experience with real clients.
Your own experience (see step #2) comes in very handy here, and people appreciate honesty. You might loose some potential customers of course, but believe me, if you follow my advice up to this point (including low prices), you’ll find your first consulting client.
And what better starting point would you want to build trust towards your new consulting business than honesty?
Getting Your First Consulting Client Step 6: Find more ways to further spread out your services
If you’ve reached up to this point and still haven’t found your first consulting client, don’t despair. You’re on the right way, you just need to reach out to more people.
Just keep on doing that. Joining business networking organizations such as BNI or finding and attending business meetups (see meetup.com) in your neighborhood is a great way to find your first consulting client.