Finding Clients Online

FACT: The majority of small businesses today are using the Internet to find the services they need. They may want a local bookkeeper, but they will use their web browser to find her!

So you may be wondering, “How can I find these new clients who are looking for bookkeeping services online?”

In essence, that's the question I was asked recently by a freelance bookkeeper who is looking to expand her client base. In particular, she asked about the viability of signing up for those project-based websites where people post jobs they need freelancers for, and freelancers bid on the jobs.

She had been perusing sites like Elance.com, Guru.com and Sologig.com. Does it make sense for us to prospect for new clients on these sites, with some of them even requiring you to pay a fee to participate?

It's certainly possible to pick up a few clients using these resources. But in my experience, treating bookkeeping services like a commodity will cause you to grossly underprice your services and set yourself up for business failure in a hurry.

The Right Kind of Clients

Clients who think bookkeeping is little more than mindless data entry go to these sites because they do not value what we can really do for them. They are more than happy to find someone overseas who will charge them $5/hour just to plow through the numbers. These are the clients who do not realize the importance of clean and accurate financial records and how this relates to business management.

If you want to build a prosperous business, you do not want to be competing for clients on price alone. You should provide more than data entry services and be charging a much higher rate for the value you provide your clients.

I honestly believe that these types of sites are helpful to the global economy. They provide a “cheap” alternative for businesses who do not realize that a qualified bookkeeper can be an invaluable business consultant and advisor. To each his own. I'm just suggesting that they are not your best choice for finding quality clients.

As freelance bookkeepers, we want to find clients who have different priorities. It's what they call in the marketing world, a product to market match.

So….how do you find the RIGHT kind of clients for your freelance bookkeeping services online?

A Great Place to Start

There are actuallyร‚ย  many places quality-minded business owners go online to find local services. One of the most popular – and free – places to find entrepreneurial folks is Craigslist.

Craigslist provides a couple ways to find new clients. First, you can scan the job postings for part-time bookkeepers. These folks are often looking for permanent, on-site bookkeeping services. If that's the type of service you offer, it's a great place to start.

Some of these clients may also be open to the idea of virtual bookkeeping, but you will need to demonstrate how it is in their best interests to provide that alternative method for getting the job done.

The other way you can find new clients on Craigslist is to post ads for your services, and let the clients come to you!

Keeping your ideal client's needs in mind, write a short ad that will speak to the benefits you provide for them – NOT just the functions you perform. You must answer the question, “What's in it for them?” Think of the problems they face, and how you are the solution.

Here's an example of a a benefits-focused ad:

“Get your books in order and take all the tax deductions your are legally entitled to this year. As a professional bookkeeper and tax preparer, I can work with you to streamline your financial records and meet your tax deadlines, without all the stress. Using QuickBooks software, I'll take care of the bookkeeping details, so you can run your business and maximize profits.”

Make it Easy to Say Yes

Because the Internet is a semi-passive form of communication, your ad should direct prospects to your website, if you have one. A website contact form will pull many more inquiries than a direct phone number will. Make it easy for shyer client prospects to give you their contact information. Then you can follow-up with them directly via either phone or email.

There are many other ways to find clients online, to be sure. But the best way to build your client base is using one strategy at a time. The learning and growing is in the doing.

So get into action now and check out Craigslist to see if it is a strategy that will help you find several new freelance bookkeeping clients this month.

If you are working on a virtual basis, you may also want to review my quick video on how to search Craiglist nationally using a neat little search tool I found.

Are you already using Craigslist to find new clients? Comment on your successes (or challenges) right here on the blog. I'd love to hear from you!

blank line here

Gabrielle

Sharing is caring!

About Gabrielle

Freelance bookkeeper, trainer and consultant who works with internet savvy business owners and bookkeeping professionals to maximize cash flow and support true win-win business success.
This entry was posted in Articles, Q & A and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Finding Clients Online

  1. Deb Frawley says:

    Hi Gabrielle,

    I agree with you that Craigslist is another way to find clients online. I answer ads for part-time bookkeepers on a regular basis. As of yet I haven’t gotten a client this way, but I have gotten alot of inquires. So I think it will only be a matter of time. Another suggestion that I’d like to make is social networking….Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter… for both local and national contacts. Let people get to know and trust you as a person and they may just turn into a client or refer you to someone that needs your services.

    By the way, love your name, its the same as my daughters ๐Ÿ™‚

    Deb

  2. Alex says:

    Hi Gabrielle,

    I have been using Craigslist since early last year, and I get great response. I stopped contacting employment ads because I did not get anywhere with this, but my own ad gets at least one inquiry a week. Most of my clients came from Craigslist.

    One tip I would like to share: Because Craigslist allows you to post only every other day, create 2 acounts (you’ll need 2 email addresses) and submit ads every day, alternating between the two accounts. This way you have daily coverage.

    Your blog is great, btw.

  3. Gabrielle says:

    Thanks Deb, I appreciate you adding the tip for using social networks. They take some time to get results, but they will yield solid referrals; can’t beat word of mouth! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thank you, too, Alex for sharing your posting system for ads. Great idea!

    I appreciate the positive feedback too! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Gabrielle

  4. Sheila Bodford says:

    Gabrielle, this is my second time reading this blog and I was able to check out the video on how to use Craig list. I’m going to try it out right now. Thanks!
    Sheila

  5. Crystal says:

    Gabrielle, this is a great blog. My friend and I have decided to start our own bookkeeping company and don’t know where to start. This blog was very helpful and we will be taking your advice.

  6. Adriene says:

    Hi Gabrielle,

    Your timing is absolutely the best! On Monday, I will be doing a “dry-run” working from home for my employer. I went to my first networking meeting yesterday hosted by one of my friends who is also self employed. My employer will become my first client soon as I will transition into my new role and I have a couple of prospects that he has recommended me for. Things are lining up! I need more training, however, and do plan to pursue that so that I can have the confidence that will be needed for my success. Thank you so much for your encouragement and support!

  7. Gabrielle says:

    Crystal and Adriene,

    Your plans sound exciting, and this is a GREAT time to start your freelance business. So many potential clients really need help with their books and to watch their pennies…with your help.

    Always think win-win and you’ll always have clients and a business that you love!

    Stay in touch and let us know how it goes. We’re all cheering for you!

  8. Hi Gabrielle, i 100% agree with you that Craigslist is another way to find clients online.Internet is way to find online client.Forum discussion is also best way.Thanks.

  9. ken says:

    great suggestion but sad craiglist.org is limmitting by country location. Any other sites you may help with pls?

    • Gabrielle says:

      Hi Ken,

      For providing bookkeeping services, I’ve found it’s generally best to stay with in your own country with your marketing, at least when you’re starting out.part of that reason is because your expertise should be in your own countries financial laws/tax requirements. Most bookkeepers are not familiar with what is required for businesses outside their own country. However, that being said, once you do have an effective online presence, you will attract potential clients outside your area and eventually your country. But that is not the place to start.

    • Connor says:

      Personally, I’d still prefer an outsourced bookkeeper since you’ll be able to hire him as a part timer. Good for large companies, better for small businesses. It’s very cost effective because you can find someone who’s an expert on this field on some lower income countries like the Philippines.
      However, I understand that it is scary to hire someone offshore. One disadvantage is communication. But I can suggest to you this great freelance site that can help you to get set up with a variety of communication tools for you to be able to communicate with your remote team.

      • Gabrielle says:

        Hi Connor,

        You bring up a GREAT point here. Many freelance virtual bookkeepers who are just starting their bookkeeping business often feel they need to compete with overseas outsourced bookkeeping services. This is simply not so! But the way that overseas “cheap” workers and domestic professionals can work together in a complementary way to ultimately create a winning situation for everyone involved is to do what you have suggested. Our services should be focused on high quality, professionalism and moving toward a consulting / management relationship with our clients. At that level we are not competing on price. However, if you are working solo, you will very quickly become overloaded with far more bookkeeping work than you can handle. In a future article, I will address this situation and how we can effectively “make everyone happy” and prosper in the process. Thank you for the comment and the link. ๐Ÿ™‚

Comments are closed.