Are You the New Kid on the Block?

How do you get new business when you’re new to running a business?

You started your own small business, you have a great product, and you know how to solve your customer’s problem but now what?

The first time I asked myself this question was the first moment I doubted. What was I thinking? I can’t run my own business! I don’t even know how to start getting clients! Sound familiar?

Before you update your resume and convince yourself you’ll work for anyone that will take you, take a deep breath and consider these three strategies to get you started.

Ask for referrals   This is an incredibly powerful way to generate new business but is a strategy that is ignored, probably in large part because it feels uncomfortable to ask for help.

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Apparently as humans we have an intricate web of rules that dictate when we can acceptably ask for help. Moving is a perfect example. We are only comfortable asking for help moving if we have already helped that person move.

The same is true of asking for referrals, or introductions. You only ask the people that already think highly of you because you have demonstrated your skills to them in the past. Those people want to help you.

There is science to asking for a referral. Get started by naturally introducing into conversations that you have started your own business. My first client came from an email about a different subject.  Knowing I had given the sender sound business advice in the past, I ended my reply with “in other news I started my own business (with a brief description). If you know anyone that you’d feel comfortable introducing me to I’d love to meet them.”  That led to my first client.

More on this strategy in Ask and Ye Shall Receive.

Update your LinkedIn profile   Let’s be blunt, if you are not actively engaged on LinkedIn then you need to be! Update your profile with your activity alerts turned on in your privacy settings and your new venture will be broadcasted to your contacts.

This is important because all those people now have the chance to know that you are doing something new. Many will congratulate you and some may ask how they can help. Don’t be shy. They are offering and it’s up to you to take them seriously.

When I updated my current position to reflect my own business, three contacts reached out within in a couple of days with offers of introductions to others that might find my skills relevant. This is how you build your business network. Speaking of which…

Network   Seek out opportunities to meet others, regardless of setting. I was recently invited to a networking event that included an afternoon of fly fishing. Without any previous fly fishing experience I cast my line, met several really knowledgeable people, and forged a potential new business relationship. And I caught three fish!

Forget about selling your business at networking or social events and be yourself. Your intelligence and industry knowledge are what will be remembered when people need your solution. Networking isn’t natural so the greater your ability to take the inherent stress out of the situation, the better future clients will remember you.

Remember that you won’t do business with everyone you are referred to, connected with, or meet but each of these people can talk about your business. Before long you won’t feel so new and these strategies will be embedded in growing your business.

Photo courtesy of John Wiechecki  (CC)

Photo courtesy of John Wiechecki (CC)

How have you been awarded new business that might be helpful to those getting started? Please share your stories in the Comments section below.

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