How to Reach Out to Find Consulting Clients

If you've followed the entire First Client Checklist, then the last step is to actually reach out to prospective clients!  

This is (of course!) easier said than done.  The most important part of the all of the first steps in the checklist is to get you to meet people, to help you define your story and to set yourself up as an expert in your field.

Now is when all of that comes together, and you can start to take advantage of all of the work you've put in so far.

Finding People to Talk To

Before you can talk to prospective clients, you first have to find perspective clients to talk to.  As you've been going to meetups (How to Make the most of a meetup), hopefully you've been able to connect with people related to your industry.  Now is the time to start reaching out to them.  

Send an email to at least 5 people that you have met recently.  You can make "the ask" directly in an email (like below), or you could invite them to lunch or coffee and do it in person - but either way, the approach is the same.

Asking for Work

When you ask for work, it should be simple, and to the point.  Your email could read something like this:

Hello [Name],

It was good to see you last week!

As you know, I'm just starting to get into consulting.  Does your company have any need for a consultant in [my area of expertise]? If not, do you know anyone else I could talk to?

[Your Name]

It's a straight forward email, and it gets to the point.  If you have been telling people that you are a new consultant, then the contact should have enough information after meeting you the first time to know what you do, and that you are looking for work - but make sure to remind them in the email.  Then, ask directly if their company has any need for consultants in your area.

Getting Referrals

Just as important as asking for work, is asking for referrals to other people.  Asking a single person directly is (at best) a short in the dark - but people in the tech community talk a lot; so if there is a company looking for work in your area, then chances are good that someone will know about it. 

If your email doesn't result in any referrals right now, at least that person now knows that you're looking for work.  I've often had people email me weeks or months later - saying that they now knew of someone who needs a consultant; so just keep planting seeds with people.

Job Postings

It can be frustrating to do all the work and get nowhere with your local network, so if you feel like you're in that position, you can start looking on online job postings.  I would give two words of caution though:

1. There are benefits to local jobs:  I didn't suggest looking at job postings from the start, because I don't think it's a great choice for a first consulting gig.  It's generally better to find someone in your local network, because there are numerous benefits to knowing someone before you start working with them.

2. Expect a lot of rejection at first: Applying to job postings for consulting jobs can be demoralizing, and a lot of work. Since you don't know the person on the other end (like you would with a referral from your local network), expect to hear "no" a lot more - or (even worse) - expect no response at all.

That said - job postings can be a rich source of consulting leads, because you know those companies are looking to hire people.  Many companies won't consider anything but a full time hire, but it doesn't hurt to reach out and ask.

The Work Isn't Over

After you've gone through the entire First Client Checklist, and start to see responses from your reaching out - the work is really just beginning.  Continue to write blog posts, continue to give meetup talks, and continue to expand your network.  With every step, you'll be more confident in your abilities, and you'll have more places you can point to and say "I'm an expert" - which is really why companies are hiring you.

Get Your First Client

I made a guide just for you! Learn how to get started with this 5 step checklist.