If you’re still in the planning stages of starting up your entrepreneurial venture, it might seem hard to believe, but the first 90 days will fly by incredibly quickly once you begin. Once you’ve gotten your bearings, created a workable routine and gotten most of your ducks in a row, you’ll need to take time to concentrate on really building your business. So, what’s next? Now’s your chance to get off on the right foot by finding clients, making a great impression, and maintaining professional relationships. Finding Clients This is probably the hardest part of a freelancing venture, and it’s continual. Even when you have all of the clients that you can handle, you still need to be proactive in promoting and marketing your business. You need to do some networking in order to get the word out about your new company. Keep business cards handy so that when the topic comes up in conversation, you can hand new contacts a few cards (one to keep, plus one or two to pass along to others). Joining industry-related web forums and social/professional sites like commonfig will put you in contact with more people. Build a website, or hire someone to do it for you, and keep it updated with timely, relevant content. As your business grows, expand your client base by asking for referrals from your existing clients. Learn about some high-tech ways to find and build leads at Entrepreneur.com. One caveat: Although finding your clients may be the most difficult part of the service provider-service seeker relationship, don’t get stuck here! Review our post about the differences between networking and relationship-building. Making a Good Impression When you’re an entrepreneur, you need to always present yourself professionally and appropriately. In today’s world of search engines and social media, the lines between your professional and your personal lives have blurred. Conduct yourself well in all Internet correspondence and conversations. If you have a personal social media presence, add contacts with caution, and even if you have it set to only allow personal friends, be careful of what you post online; the Internet never forgets. Set up a voicemail with a professional-sounding greeting. If you are working from home, have a line dedicated to your business or set up a Google Voice account or something similar to answer calls for you when you’re unable to. Respond to client concerns quickly and effectively; if something goes wrong, make it right. Ask for testimonials from happy clients, and ask if they will serve as references. In short, strive to show professionalism in all aspects of your life, not only those related to your business. Chron.com offers tips on other ways that you can make a good impression on your customers. Maintaining Good Relationships Commonfig’s philosophy is that business relationships go far beyond networking and “clinching the deal.” A base of repeat customers is much less stressful than a continuously revolving set of clients. You know what they expect, they know what you can offer and you can work on maintaining a good relationship. Business alliances also can help you fulfill your need for connection with other individuals, and you may even end up with a new personal friend. Keeping the lines of communication open, sticking to your word, building trust and taking a personal interest in each client are ways that you can take your business relationships to the next level and create client loyalty. Read more about how to connect with people and build good business relationships at Leading Insight. Also, see this blog entry here on commonfig: Quality Relationships: They’re a Two-Way Street. As with anything else, business-building relies on trial and error. You will make some mistakes during the first 90 days of being an entrepreneur, so take them in stride and learn from them. Commonfig readers can also learn from each other; what are some mistakes that you made during the first few months of your entrepreneurial venture that you would like to share with others?
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