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Finding clients online - a software consulting roadmap

Consulting is a great gig. It let's you be flexible, work on different projects, and with different people. It allows you the freedom to work on what you want and if you're great, you can pick and chose the clients you work with.

But how do you find those clients? Where do they come from?

To understand this you must put yourself in the shoes of the person looking to hire someone like you. What is the problem they're facing? Why are they hiring someone like you? What is the pain they are experiencing and how do they hope to solve it?

To find these people who have the pains, you have a few options:

Shortest term

In the short term, you can look at freelancing sites, reddit and craigslist. They are full of job postings looking for people to help them with software, writing, and web design needs. Throughout this plethora of postings, you'll recognize one common denominator: it's a race to the bottom. You'll be competing against people who live in less expensive places. They are charging dirt cheap prices. I avoid these places like the plague. I value my time much more than these places offer, but everyone has to start somewhere.

Short Term

Ask your friends, family, and your network. Your network is a great place to start. People have a built in trust with friends and people in their network and you'll have your foot in the door because you know them.

There are some downsides:

  1. They might expect a discount because you're a friend.
  2. You might put in a lot of effort and time without any project or paid work coming out of it.
  3. They'll expect free stuff like phone calls, opinions, etc.
  4. If you hang out with these people (like at a bbq, out at the bar, or during a hobby), it'll be hard to escape work. They'll frequently bring up work.

While there are downsides, and I've experienced all of them, there are some upsides:

  1. You know who you're working with. This eliminates most of the screening process.
  2. A report already exists between you and them.
  3. They'll be much more likely to trust you and your opinions.

One word of advice: Don't come across as a used car salesman.

Long Term - this takes effort and time

So now that you've read the above two options, it's time for the long tail: winning clients over the long term.

You won't want to follow this advice if you need to make money right this very second. But, you will want to if you're looking to find clients in a few weeks/months/years.

  1. Blogging. You'll want to setup a blog and talk about things. Share your knowledge, show that you're an expert, etc.
  2. You need a good CRM to keep on top of things. I use Pickle (because I built it to scratch my own itch). I use reminders in Pickle to keep me in the loop. Pickle's Zapier app to keep up to date on new things like newsletter signups, anniversaries, birthdays. It automates a lot for me. It helps me follow to follow up about something someone once said or a future project they're interested in. Allowing me to keep building my network while also staying on top of things.
  3. Frequent communication with people. It's nice meeting someone, but if you build a report with them, they'll remember you forever. Plus, they'll come to you when they or a colleague has a need you can solve. I can't stress how important this is. It's the biggest reason I get consulting work.
  4. Sell yourself less. As counter intuitive as this may sound, if you're always out there pushing how great you are, then you might come off as pushy and desperate.

Over time, you'll build better leads through the relionships you've cultivated. This has been the biggest source of income/work for me. It's the number one reason why I built Pickle. It helps me stay on top of things without pulling my hair out and keeps everything in one place.

Ultimately, put yourself in their shoes. If you were them, why are you hiring someone? What pain points are you trying to solve? Where do they look to find someone who solves this pain point, and why?

P.S. If you're intersted in how I'm using Pickle to build better relationships, let me know. It's the biggest conversion funnel I've had for new and repeat consulting work.

Finding clients online - a software consulting roadmap
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