Most of my clients are located thousands of miles away from me.
I’m lucky in that I usually get to meet with them in person once or twice a year (with the past two years being the exception, of course). Those face-to-face meetings have been priceless. They’ve deepened business relationships into friendships… yielded epic brainstorming sessions that led to lots of exciting and challenging work… and have built bonds of trust.
I’ve come to understand the value of meeting in person, because it’s had such a positive effect on my business. Due to that, I never hesitate to recommend to new writers that they consider pursuing local clients. You could build your entire client roster from local businesses, or you could maybe land one or two clients who are nearby.
Either way, these local relationships are special.
At Work in Your Community
One of the reasons local relationships are special, I already mentioned… you get to meet with those clients face-to-face on a regular basis. You can invite them out to coffee or lunch, whenever you kick off a new project. Or, even just to catch up and have a little fun.
Beyond that, though, you get to see your work in action in a different way.
My husband is a web designer, but he also does logo design. Earlier this year, he created a logo for a local client. Several months later, we were driving to a favorite breakfast spot, and we went past a building site displaying the logo he had created. It was different than seeing work in the digital space. It really hit home that the work he’d done for that client was something they liked and were using in the community.
When you do writing work for a local credit union or dentist or med spa, you get to see that work in your community. It’s an uplifting feeling, one I highly recommend.
And, seeing your work at work within your community makes you feel more a part of your community. It leads to new connections, opportunities, and referrals. For me, it builds a sense of belonging to the place I’ve chosen to live. It helps deepen your roots, I guess you might say.
If you’re sold on pursuing local clients, your next question might be, “How? How do I land these special nearby people as clients?”
That’s a good question. I have three suggestions… and this is, by no means, an exhaustive list.
Marketing Locally Opens Up New Options… and Can Be Really Fun
Before I get into my three marketing suggestions, I want to recommend you do one very important thing first…
Get really clear on one or two services you want to offer initially to your clients. You don’t have to limit yourself to these services, but having one or two well-defined services you can talk about fluently and enthusiastically helps to make you referrable.
When you can clearly state how you help businesses — the service you offer and the result it delivers — it becomes easy for people to remember what you do. That means, if they need your service, you’ll be the person who comes to mind. And, if they don’t need your service, they’ll still remember what you do, and can recommend you to others who may be a good fit.
Once that’s taken care of, the next step is to start getting to know your local business community. And from there, getting involved in it. Often the clients will follow naturally… but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to put some proactive effort into it.
1. Attend More Events
If you live in any sort of population center — from small town to sprawling metropolis — there’s an existing business community. And, where there is an existing business community, there are going to be business events.
You’ll find chamber of commerce networking events, local trade shows and conferences, lunch-and-learns, and more.
A few places to look for events to attend include:
- Your local newspaper’s business section
- Your local chamber of commerce website
- Local event centers
- Local business associations
You could even host your own!
When attending local events, whether they’re virtual or in person, go into the event prepared. Set a goal for how many meaningful conversations you’ll have. Come equipped with questions you can ask that will get a conversation started. Don’t try to sell your services. Try to get to know a few people well enough to follow up with them — and make sure you collect their contact information.
Have a follow-up plan for after the event. It’s a good idea to send each of your new connections an email the next day to tell them you enjoyed meeting them. This is also a time to ask one or two additional questions about what they do and to let them know what you do.
After that, plan to reach out to them once a week for the next month or so. Make each connection valuable for them. This isn’t about pitching your services, it’s about earning name recognition so that, when they see a message from you, they open it with a smile.
Also, after the event, think about each person you talked to and what challenges they’re facing. What kind of resources do they need to overcome their challenges? Is there anyone in your network you could introduce them to who might be helpful to them? If you give them a good introduction, you’ll become a trusted resource for life.
2. Be Strategic About Social Media
Even though you’re pursuing local clients, that doesn’t mean you can’t use a little social media to make connections and gain some traction.
Look on Facebook and LinkedIn for social media groups that cater to businesses in your city or region. Follow hashtags for your town on Instagram and Twitter.
For example, I live in Boise. In just five minutes of searching, I found:
- Boise Small Business – a group on LinkedIn
- Boise Metro Chamber – another LinkedIn group
- Idaho Business Networking – a Facebook group
- Treasure Valley Small Business Owners – another Facebook group
- More than 40,000 Instagram posts with #BoiseBusiness
Once you find your local, social media business community, start being helpful where you can. Offer ideas, advice, resources, and referrals to help those in your business community. When your generosity leads to a connection, have a plan to nurture it — this plan can look a lot like your event follow-up plan.
It’s also helpful to go into your social media efforts knowing which kinds of businesses you’d like to work with. Then you can focus your generosity on businesses you think would make great clients.
One more thing… combine social media with your event attendance. If you’re planning to attend an event, let people in your local social groups know. Dollars to donuts, some of them will be attending to. That gives you an opportunity to meet with people you already kind of know.
During the event, post about your favorite moments.
And then after the event, if you’re publishing anything about what you learned while attending, be sure to share it with the event’s hashtag.
3. Offer to Write a Column or Be Featured on a Radio Show
Another great way of pursuing local clients is to become a familiar expert voice within your community.
How do you do that?
Consider writing a column in one of your local newspapers or magazines or becoming a regular contributor to a local, business-oriented talk radio show.
To do this, put together a package with a cover letter, an outline of your areas of expertise and how they can benefit local businesses, samples, a list of clients you’ve helped, and a few testimonials. Be clear about what you’re suggesting — whether it’s a column or a regular spot on a radio show.
Next, gather a list of local newspapers, magazines, business publications, and radio stations. Google is a big help here. A quick search on “Boise Talk Radio Stations” yields a featured list that’s very useful, for example:
Do some research to learn more about the specific audience for each. And, think about how you might serve the needs of each audience. Tailor your cover letter to reflect your research and then mail your package to the section editor, managing editor, or program director.
Follow up diligently. I’d suggest five to seven follow-up messages or calls.
Publishing a column or contributing to a radio show will build your confidence, name recognition, connections, portfolio, and ultimately, your client base.
Pursuing local clients can be fun, rewarding, and lucrative. Start building connections using the methods you learned here, and before long, you’ll likely find yourself with a local client or two… and then your business may very well skyrocket from there.