When I graduated from law school, I got a job working for a big law firm, making great money. Little did I know that they were paying me well for a reason — the job stunk. I spent all day, every day, alone in the law library, reading case law and drafting motions.
So it is probably no wonder that within a year I was already plotting my escape. While still working at this unsatisfactory job, I began to interview every lawyer I knew who had successfully made the leap from employee to entrepreneur. The question I asked every one of them was: "Where do I get clients?" Here is what they told me (and what I have learned along the way):
This was some of the best advice I received. You can't just rely on one idea. The guy who explained this to me told me to make a list of 25 people that I knew that I could send a brochure to. That was one source. Did I have any clients from the firm who might want to hire me? That was two. Did I know any lawyers who could refer business to me? That's three. The idea is to think creatively and pursue all of your contacts.
It amazes me that many people open up shop without an advertising budget, assuming their great location (or great product or idea) would send clients their way. Not advertising is a major reason why businesses fail. Besides newspaper ads, try radio and the Yellow Pages. Lots of advertising, is usually key.
People love a bargain, and a job well done for a fair price can go a long way in securing a client base. Once you are established you can raise your fees, but not until then.
When I started my own law firm I found that I needed a hook that made me stand out. I began to put on free seminars for the public — bankruptcy seminars, living trusts, and so on. I would rent a room at the local Holiday Inn, advertise the seminar extensively, and people came, mostly because it was free. Many would later hire me to do their legal work. Develop a hook like this.
Customer service is key. In fact, Amazon.com bases much of its success on good customer service. If your customers are happy with the way you treat them, they're sure to come back.
Good luck. Although finding customers seems like the hardest part, if you offer your services/goods for a fair price, let people know you are out there (advertise!), and treat them well, you should have more customers than you can handle.