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From contact to contract – How can you win clients as an independent professional?

By Humaira

From contact to contractHow can you win clients as an independent professional?

Taking the leap into independent contracting or consulting is both exhilarating and terrifying. Becoming your own boss offers many benefits, such as higher earning potential and more flexibility and control. However, it also means you must win your own clients and build stability without an employer’s guidance.

In this article, we explore how independent talent can win their first few clients and ensure consistent growth in their field.

How can you win clients as an independent professional?

Building your network: How to leverage your experience and connections

The best place to find your first customers is within your own network. As an experienced professional, you likely have a list of friends, colleagues, and work contacts who understand your industry and know your skill sets.

While these people may not directly hand you a client, they are valuable connections as you build your business. Your network can provide advice, references, and potential leads.

Step 1: Engage 

Leverage your network

To properly leverage your network, start by engaging with contacts within your former company. Use your deep understanding of their market challenges and pain points to build a relationship. Don’t forget to let them know you are looking for clients. 

Use referrals to grow your business

Reach out to former clients, leaders, and co-workers, and take advantage of any opportunity to connect with their industry peers. Most new ventures start with referrals and industry connections. Establish trust early on and nurture these relationships through open, authentic communication that highlights your expertise.

Grow your network

Join professional communities in your field to expand your network and connect with industry experts. LinkedIn is a particularly useful tool, as are virtual and in-person networking events. These platforms allow you to engage with key industry contacts while learning from those who have already achieved success as independent professionals.

Step 2: Turn leads into contracts

Once you’ve secured meetings with key connections, it’s crucial to leverage your experience and market knowledge. Ensure you:

Customise solutions to the contact’s unique challenges

This is a key differentiator in any field. When meeting with potential clients, focus on how you can offer solutions specific to their pain points. For example, as an experienced data analyst meeting a potential client struggling with inventory management, you could propose developing a predictive inventory management system using machine learning algorithms, citing past successful initiatives.

Be clear on deliverables

When discussing the scope of work, have pricing details and timelines ready. Transparency is imperative. For instance, if you’re a technology implementation professional meeting a lead about implementing a new CRM system in four weeks, instead of agreeing to an unrealistic deadline, explain why it’s not feasible and suggest a more realistic timeline. This approach avoids future disappointments and strengthens your credibility.

Follow up promptly

Staying in touch with your network is vital, especially after meeting a potential client. Send personalised messages thanking them for their time, sharing any relevant industry news, and addressing any concerns or comments mentioned in the meeting.

Step 3: Value first

Networking is a two-way street. When reaching out to your contacts, ensure you offer value before asking for advice or inquiring about a project or contract. Value can take many forms. Here are some ideas: 

Case studies

Showcase how you handled unique industry challenges and pain points relevant to your network.

Industry reports, white papers, and articles

Share insightful content you’ve written that highlights key market trends and provides interesting statistics.

Connections and referrals

Offer introductions to valuable contacts within your network. This demonstrates the strength of your connections and fosters collaboration.

By following these steps, you can effectively win clients as an independent professional and build strong, value-driven relationships in your network.

Here’s how to ensure your pitch or proposal really stands out: winning strategies for freelancers

Building your LinkedIn presence

LinkedIn is a powerful tool for growing your network and connecting with potential clients. Here’s how to leverage this platform effectively:

Optimise your profile

Your LinkedIn profile is a crucial touchpoint. Make sure it reflects your experience, achievements, and value proposition:

  • Banner: Showcase your brand with a catchy copy explaining your value.
  • Tagline: This should be short, clear, and explain your value proposition, as it is one of the first things potential leads see.
  • Profile picture: Use a professional, current picture that properly represents you.
  • Resume: Keep it up to date, highlighting your unique accomplishments and experience.
  • About section: Grab your audience’s attention by explaining who you are and how you solve their pain points.
  • Featured posts: Establish yourself as a thought leader by featuring posts with high engagement rates and insightful points about your industry. If you have a website or a services guide, this is a great place to put it. 
  • Recommendations: Ask for as many recommendations as you can and add them to your profile under the recommendation section. 

Create a consistent posting schedule

Consistency is key to building your audience on LinkedIn. Industry leaders often post at least three times a week to build credibility and connections. Share your industry knowledge and personal journey to build trust. This is an effective inbound marketing technique that encourages leads to contact you based on your content.

Engage with your network

Engagement is just as important as posting. Commenting on other posts can sometimes be more effective than posting yourself, allowing you to join key conversations and build relationships. Always answer comments on your own posts to maintain engagement.

Reach out to the right people in the right way

Sending connection requests and direct messages can effectively build relationships and find leads. If you have the funds to invest, LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator is a great tool that allows you to filter potential leads by industry, company size, job title, and more. Write unique, personalised messages and remember not to ‘pitch slap’ your prospects from the start. Focus on building relationships and starting genuine conversations about the industry and personal journeys.

Learn how to optimise your profile, engage successfully, and broaden your network with our comprehensive guide on elevating your LinkedIn presence.

Free tools for growth

Need a little help managing and automating your LinkedIn efforts? There’s a tool for that! 

  • Dripify: A marketing automation platform that helps schedule, create, and send personalised email drip campaigns to potential leads. It streamlines communication and provides analytics to track performance and nurture leads effectively.
  • Apollo: A lead generation tool that allows users to find qualified leads based on criteria like company size, industry, and location. It offers personalised email campaigns and detailed analytics to help track progress.

Navigating a challenging market

Gaining new clients comes with unique challenges. As you win your first few clients as an independent professional, continue your lead generation efforts to create a robust pipeline of qualified leads to support long-term growth.

By optimising your LinkedIn profile, posting consistently, engaging with your network, reaching out strategically, and utilising growth tools, you can build a strong presence and attract potential clients effectively. Discover how you can enhance your online presence with our detailed guide on personal branding.

About the author

Humaira Parveen is the Community Manager at Outsized, leading the team that is responsible for engaging with our independent talent platform members. Humaira has been instrumental in the launch of the Community, as well as in the development of curated perks and value-add services for our talent.