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 actuallyÂ 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!
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