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A friend of mine is an information technology consultant. He's been an independent contractor for the 20-plus years I have known him, and gets all his consulting contracts through AGENCIES. Even when he works a year or two for the same client, the agency takes 15-20% of what the client is paying for his services. I once asked him why he didn't find his OWN clients, and he said he didn't know where to look. I was puzzled by this answer.
KNOWING HOW TO FIND THEM
After more than 20 years in the business, you would think he knew who his clients were. But then I listened more closely. He wasn't telling me he didn't know WHO they were; he was saying he didn't know WHERE they were. Since then, I've noticed this query come up over and over. Whenever an independent professional meets a successful person in his or her field, the professional inevitably asks, "Where do you find your clients?" It seems that where the clients are is a bit of a mystery.
ALL THE POSSIBLE LOCATIONS
But in fact, clients are just PEOPLE like you and me. They do all the things that people normally do and can be found wherever people are. Let's suppose for a moment that your clients are professionals or managers who work for a corporation. Where are they at any given moment?
TRIMMING THE LIST
Look at how many POSSIBILITIES this gives you to find them! Your prospective clients spend a significant percentage of their time either talking to other people or gathering in public places. When they are not doing one of those things, they are usually at their home or office -- also places they can be "found" with a little detective work. When you look at it this way, finding clients really boils down to three possible ACTIVITIES:
WHO ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?
Start the process with a simple description of who your IDEAL clients are. The more specific you can get, the better. For example:
MAKING IT HAPPEN
Just keep talking to people and going to places where clients gather. As long as you keep asking the same three questions of every person you meet, your prospect list will continue to GROW. To expand your list even further and faster, you can look your clients up. Business clients are listed in hundreds of directories, in print and on the web. Consult the Yellow Pages, association membership lists, or your favorite search engine. Individuals can be found in alumni directories, club rosters, and online communities. Start with the groups you already BELONG to. Although direct solicitation from these sources is not advisable, they are excellent for finding people to ask your three network-expanding questions.
LETTING SOMEONE ELSE DO THE WORK
You don't even have to do the list-building work yourself. If you want to reach your clients by mail and phone, you can purchase names of businesses or consumers from list brokers like Dun and Bradstreet or Namefinders. Finding clients is really a bit of a paradox. They are everywhere, but you have to LOOK in order to see them. Don't be so overwhelmed by the forest that you forget to notice the trees.
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