How I actually get clients. A public self-audit.

Below I list the last 5 clients that have hired me, including why they hired me, who paid, and how they came to hire me. I’ve changed their names and leave out personally identifying details, so, the names are made up.

I am not writing this because I claim to be good at getting clients. I am doing it because I have never done a really honest self-audit of how I get my clients, which is a little crazy. Especially for someone who knows the importance of measuring things and feedback loops.

I thought I’d do it here in public since I imagine others could benefit. I’d love to see how other people answer this in the comments.

As context my areas of client service are leadership and career development and team/organizational dynamics.

Chad – individual client / self-paid

Objective: get a better job

How I got hired: Originally met through a friend. We drove to and from an event and talked for several hours in the car, openly and honestly about some of his challenges. This individual reached out to me several months later to inquire about working together.

Sam – Chief Marketing Officer at a VC-backed tech startup / team client / company paid

Objective: Resolve interpersonal/communication issues in the team

How I got hired: One of my other gigs is facilitating roundtable discussions for startup executives. This individual worked with me in that capacity for several months. At some point this individual was experiencing interpersonal issues on his team and wanted help somewhat urgently. Knowing me through this other relationship he reached out.

Sharon – executive at a VC-backed tech startup / individual client / company paid

Objective: Figure out next career steps

How I got hired: Met at a networking event hosted by this individual’s company, on a topic related to HR/team-building/benefits/recruiting. We hit it off and set an appointment to talk more.

Tim – CEO at a VC-backed tech startup / company client / company paid

Objective: Resolve interpersonal/communication conflicts

How I got hired: I hosted a workshop maybe 2 years prior, at which another individual, B.D., was present. When his CEO mentioned that he was seeking outside help, B.D. mentioned me. That set the conversation in motion.

Caroline – executive at a tech startup / individual client / self-paid

Objective: Various – personal/relationship drama, professional conflicts

How I got hired: Met at a personal development seminar open to the public and chatted during a snack break. Swapped info and followed up.

Notable observations:

  • NONE of these are referrals. I am sometimes in the habit of saying that I get a lot of clients through referrals. While I get some referrals, it's clearly not my core pipeline.

  • ALL of these came through old-fashioned in-person relationship building. Two of these in-person connections could be construed as having happened at “networking events”, one of which was hosted by me. One was through another working relationship. Two were pretty random. Key lessons there: I connect well in person and don't necessarily need to be on the podium, though I'd hypothesize that it helps.

TL;DR: What about you? How do you get clients, really?


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