Freelance bookkeepers are always looking for ways to find bookkeeping clients. But that seems to be a constant struggle for most.
Others who haven’t started their freelance bookkeeping business yet, but are serious about getting their business off the ground are trying to figure out the best way to find new clients too.
How about you?
Do you feel like the person who sent me this email recently…
“Hi Gabrielle,…I am struggling to get a business up and running. I am a degreed accountant and very good at what I do, but I am not much of a “go out and find the client” kind of guy. I don’t know if you have any suggestions … on how to get the attention of prospective clients if you are of my temperament. Are there ways to find new start-ups online so I can contact them via email? Do you think this is a good way to go about finding clients? Thanks again.”
If you can identify with the struggle of not being an extrovert, but know that you need to take action to find new clients for your bookkeeping business, you are not alone!
Most accountants / bookkeepers are not outgoing (we tend to be introverts and prefer to associate with numbers more than with people, especially if we need to take the initiative to start the conversation!). Marketing is perceived as a hard hurdle to get over by most of us.
And times have changed, too. Years ago, accountants and bookkeepers just needed a Yellow Pages (phone directory) ad, and maybe a newspaper classified ad every now and then. It was easy. Slap down your money and new clients come to you. And once you get a few good clients, then word of mouth takes over.
Now, that is NOT the most effective way to find new clients.
Today, relationships and reputation are more important than ever, and “old fashioned” advertising is MUCH less effective. So, the idea of contacting new start-ups and soliciting their business may yield a client or two, simply because of timing. You would be approaching them when they are more likely to feel they need help.
Here’s why I don’t think it is necessarily the best way to build a successful business though:
- Start-ups usually do not have much money and are generally price sensitive. Especially if you are very good at what you do and provide high quality service, they will not recognize that value and be more focused on cost. Well-funded start-ups are rare in my experience.
- You should be targeting your clients based on a specialty. You could specialize in helping start-ups, but that really is still too general. You likely are not an expert at all the different types of start-up businesses that may come your way. So, you still would not be able to easily differentiate yourself from other bookkeepers in their eyes. So you’re still a commodity that they want at the lowest possible price. Not good.
- Contacting people by email to offer (sell) your services when they don’t know you and did not ask you to contact them is considered spam and is against the law.
All that being said, you could use “old fashioned” direct (postal) mail to contact new businesses with a letter of introduction. Sending unsolicited promotional postal mail is not against the law. But on average you can expect a 1% response from these kinds of mailings. For best results you would need to contact the people on your list repeatedly, and try to follow up with a phone call.
This is not an easy, quick or inexpensive marketing method.
You can usually get listings of newly incorporated businesses from your State government’s website, and you may also be able to get listings of newly registered business licenses from local City Halls in your area. Some may or may not charge a fee for these listings.
Of course, you may find direct mail marketing effective if you have the time, budget and chutzpah to do it, since fewer businesses are using it now because of the cost (hence the popularity of online advertising). Quite honestly, direct mail marketing may make sense as part of your regular monthly marketing mix, but it certainly should not be your main marketing method. That, of course, is my opinion. (If you’ve had great results finding new clients this way, please let us know about it in the comments section of this article below!)
Personally, I find attracting clients much easier than going out to chase them down. One way to do this (perfect for introverts) is by writing articles for your local paper or chamber of commerce (or online business blogs – and of course, you should do so for your own website so that new prospective client can find you via search engines)
You could also teach free or low-cost classes for small business owners through the Chamber of Commerce, Small Business Development Center or online using telephone conference lines or with webinars. This is a VERY effective way to build visibility, a good reputation and attract high quality clients.
Bottom line: the BEST way to get people talking about your services is to GIVE them value first.
Here are a few ways to do that:
- You could do pro-bono work in return for testimonials and/or letter of recommendation to small business associations (surrounding your specialty)
- Provide helpful information with no strings attached (tax class, small business cash flow tips, one hour free consultation)
- Reward those who send you referrals (Starbucks coffee card, free lunch, if from existing clients, discount on service they use regularly)
- Network face-to-face or online with colleagues (CPAs and fellow bookkeepers) or complementing service providers who are already serving your ideal clients
That is how you get word of mouth going and get the attention of potential clients. Thereafter, it’s just a matter of building a friendly relationship (not hard selling) with the people you meet and/or already know. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is and what great connections you’ll make, along with the opportunities that will open up to bring you new clients!
Using just one method of marketing will not build a thriving bookkeeping practice, but you’ve got to start somewhere. Pick one and run with it!
If you have been considering offering your bookkeeping services online, or you want to find out how to leverage free marketing methods to attract high quality clients, then you’ll want to get your copy of the new Special Report I just released called…
“How to Get Started as a Freelance Virtual Bookkeeper & Market Your Services Online”
What marketing methods have you tried so far?