I could use some advice. I have a full-time job as a web developer and I do some consulting on the side. I would like to transition to doing consulting full-time, but I'm having trouble finding more clients. The one (and only) client I have now was a referral from a friend.
I read on your blog that you have done some consulting. How did you find clients?
Four points -
1. Solicit people contacting you
2. Work for free
3. Ask for referrals
4. Keep future desired clients in the loop of your successes
1. Make it very easy for people to get in touch with you for any reason. Most people don't do this, which is crazy. 95% of people who drop a line you'll never work with at all, but that's fine. The remaining 5% is more than enough to have tons of work and connections. This can be done anywhere. If you're in a mainstream job, just walk around every department over the next month and ask how they're doing, introduce yourself, and ask them to call or email you if you can help with anything for work or otherwise. (Do this after talking some, getting to know them/etc)
2. Work for free. You don't even need to say you're "working" or make it formal. Just solve problems for people, make them money. I had a guy I was friendly with who I spent five hours really excited in a cafe with drawing up plans for his business to grow much faster. I just liked the guy and wanted him to be successful. The next day, I had more ideas, and then I just asked him - "hey, you want a minority partner?" He brought me on at a 22% stake in the company for a very cheap rate, plus labor. I doubled his revenues and made his business more pleasurable to work in. It's going to make both of us a lot of money. But it all started with me just being excited and helping him out, which I do for a lot of people. (Again, most of the time nothing comes of it. That's not a bad thing.)
3. If you're doing good work, say, "I'm looking for more clients like you - reliable, hard working, implement well, recognize the value of the service I offer, etc, etc, etc." (describe the specific attributes you're looking to work for, and only ask good clients for referrals). Even better is to ask for referrals beforehand if you deliver. "So, I can do X. If I deliver on X, would you refer me to other people who would benefit from my services?" In full disclosure, I don't do this anywhere near as much as I should. Whenever I do do it, it works well. It works well for lots of other people. You should do it, and I should do it more too.
4. Some people there's a long lead time on signing on with them. Sadly, this is often true with the most effective people. For someone who isn't maxed out, bringing on someone on performance or fixed rate project isn't such a difficult thing to sell. But for someone who is maxed out, that means you're bumping other things out of their life, which can be a much bigger risk than the actual fees you make. If you stay in touch with someone for a year though, you can show them that you execute and don't waste time. Just ping them as you accomplish things or when you start something interesting, ping them again when you finish. Y'know, just basic stay-in-touch stuff. After a year or two of 10-minutes-of-email-corresponding per month plus a few calls, they know who you are and it's a much lower perceived risk to work with you. Again, this is something I'm nowhere near as systematic as I should be, though I've been screwing around with all sorts of systems and CRMs and PIMs and whatever to try to get better at it lately. This point is really important for working with people who are doing amazing stuff - under normal circumstances, they just won't work with you until you've shown you're quite good for quite a while.
Hope that helps,