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Ten Ways to Find New Clients

Rob Einaudi writes for www.ework.com – a Ms.Money partner.

Finding new clients can be a challenging task, even for a seasoned eWorker. For someone just starting out, it can be downright daunting. But never fear! If you're good at what you do, with a little resourcefulness and a lot of persistence, you'll soon be booked. Here are some tips to get you started:

1. Poll your Network
It is often said that it's not what you know, it's who you know. A talented, resourceful independent professional can easily disprove this rule—but you should take full advantage of the connections you already have. Think you don't have any good contacts? Think again. Your parents' neighbor's son just started a new company. Your old boss at your last 9-to-5 job needs help with a new project. Your college roommate is working for a start-up with a big budget. Some opportunities may be too close or too obvious to see, but friends, relatives, and former coworkers are a great resource when it comes to finding work.

2. Reconnect with your Alma Mater
Your college or university alumni association can be a valuable resource for finding new clients. Many alumni associations have large databases containing a wealth of useful information and contacts. Also, keep an eye on your alumni news to find out who is working where, and get back in e-mail contact with your old school chums.

3. Leverage your Hobbies
Look for ways to combine your work with your other interests. For example, if you are an avid skier, perhaps a ski resort, tour company, or retailer you frequent could use your services. The fact that you already "speak their language" will make you a top candidate when projects come up in your area of expertise. And don't be afraid to contact people and pitch them your ideas. You might even get some free lift tickets or equipment out of the deal.

4. Ask for Referrals
Once you establish a good working relationship with a client, you shouldn't hesitate to ask them to refer you to new clients. Chances are, if they like the work you are doing for them they will be happy to spread the word (unless, of course, they want to keep you all to themselves).

5. Take Advantage of your Free eWork Profile
As job boards are to general employment, eWork.com is to the independent professional—only better. eWork offers powerful tools for matching your services with prospective employers—and as an independent, you can list and match for free. Take the time to create and update your Skills Profile, and be sure to search for job listings in your area of expertise at least once a week.

6. Surf
There is a lot to be said for random (and not-so-random) Web-surfing. You should be able to find plenty of Web sites devoted to your field of interest, and many will provide useful tips and even job leads. Also check out the sites of companies that interest you—these days, almost every company is looking for talent. Short, targeted e-mails will often generate positive results.

7. Expand Your Boundaries
While you may be accustomed to having face-to-face contact with your clients, many companies won't care if you live next door or in Timbuktu. So consider looking for work nationally, or even internationally. Modifying your eWork Profile to include "telecommuting, U.S." is a good place to start. And again, don't forget to use your established network—friends, relatives, and colleagues can be a valuable resource when it comes to establishing contacts outside your immediate area.

8. Create Your Own Web Site
Having a Web site is a great way to showcase your talent and experience, and building one in your spare time will help you learn new skills. If you are a marketing whiz, you may even be able to attract potential clients to your site. When you contact potential clients, include a link to your site. A good Web site will be a welcome addition to the standard cover-letter-and-resume package, and will give you an edge over the competition.

9. Polish your Approach
No amount of networking will help if you don't make the right impression or follow through on your leads with the utmost professionalism. Have offset-printed business cards and letterhead at the ready. Homemade cards just don't cut it, expensive laser printer, or no. Spend some time on your resume and make sure you have the necessary clips and references to back it up. And for creative professions especially, a solid, up-to-date portfolio is a must. These are your sales tools. Be sure to keep them polished so you'll be at your best when opportunity knocks.

10. Be Persistent
Don't give up too easily. If a potential client seems interested but doesn't have any work at the moment, ask if you can check back with them later—and do so. No matter how well qualified you are, there will always be an element of timing and luck when it comes to finding new work, so persistence will often pay off. One caveat, however: if you are being told, loud and clear, "don't call us, we'll call you," then you should probably take the hint. Handle the rejection with poise, and make sure they have your contact information, just in case.

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