If I wasn’t a freelance website designer, I’d be a cave-hermit. If that was a profession, anyway. See, I’m a major introvert. So when I became self-employed, it was pretty terrifying because so many people told me I had to “network” in order to grow my business.
Even though every cell in my body said, “Don’t do it,” I tried to network. I nervous sweated. My face was a perpetual shade of scarlet. I stood in corners, ate cheese and crackers, and counted the minutes until I could leave. Un-shockingly, this was not a great way for me to grow my business.
Alas, with my priorities involving not networking and staying in my home as much as humanly possible, I still had to find ways to grow my business. And guess what? I did! That’s why 15 years later, I’m still here, and my business continues to grow.
Today, I’m going to share seven ways to grow your business as an introvert.
Do awesome work.
If you’re just starting out, you won’t want to miss the possibility of getting referrals. In order for clients to want to refer you, they have to happy. That means you should always do great work. This is never a place to compromise, but in the beginning, it may be tempting to focus more on growing your business than on doing great work. Resist the temptation. To provide a good client experience, it’s not just about the work, but also the process of working together—so you’ll want to make sure that your client intake process is awesome too.
Have a niche.
When you have a specific thing you do, for specific people, it will be easier for people to refer good clients your way. You will become known for your specialty among your connections—and that creates a snowball effect.
Shape services based on recurring needs.
Define your services and packages so clients can use you again and again. This is partly about finding clients who need ongoing work from you, and partly about knowing your clients and understanding their recurring needs. For example, if you’re a web designer, clients who are designers may need your services again and again. People with websites need ongoing website maintenance. Nonprofits needs ongoing publications, event collateral and annual reports. Manufacturers regularly need new labels. If you can create services that solve a recurring need, you’ll have client relationships that keep on giving.
Collect and share testimonials and projects.
New potential clients love to see your work and hear from other clients who’ve had a positive experience. At the end of the project, ask for a testimonial to put on your website and share on social media. Plus, start building your online portfolio so clients can see the work you’ve done, and don’t forget to update both regularly.
Send a newsletter.
A newsletter is the best way for hermits like me to continuously stay in touch without ever having to talk face-to-face. Make sure clients get added to your newsletter list, and have a place on your website where prospects can sign up. The whole idea of a newsletter is to show up in someone’s inbox so they can keep remembering you; this means you’ve got to send a newsletter regularly! It can be short and sweet, but it should be consistent. Plus, be sure to keep in touch with contacts from your previous life. (I used to work for Barnes & Noble Publishing and they became one of my first clients.)
Put Google to work for you.
Good SEO rankings will help people find you without you ever having to step outside your office. Make sure to add relevant page titles and descriptions to each page of your website based on what folks might be searching for when they’re looking for someone like you. A good way to do this is to include your specialty and location. For example, I rank highly on Google’s first page for “Atlanta WordPress Developer” and other terms related to my niche. Really want to harness the power of SEO? Incorporate a blog into your website. (Here’s how I blog.) A blog isn’t just a great way to share expertise; it’s also fresh content that Google loves.
When you know what you do, and who you do it for, finding groups of potential clients on LinkedIn will be much easier. Start to participate in groups where your prospects are members. You can pinpoint specific people who look like potential clients; then you can reach out via email and introduce yourself. Once the conversation gets going, ask if you can add them to your newsletter list to keep in touch.
These tips worked for me! And they can work for you, too.
Remember, you don’t have to be extroverted to be a successful freelancer, and you don’t have to make yourself uncomfortable doing “networking” just because it’s right for other people. Do what works for you, and be consistent.
Eventually you’ll start to feel more brave and confident.
Surprisingly, over the years, I began wanting to push myself outside my comfort zone.
I started to attend WordCamp and other industry events. I even spoke at a few! But it’s because I wanted to—not because I had to. Plus, web designers are my people. They don’t make me as nervous as say, groups of Toastmasters or Chamber of Commerce members. Yikes!
Here’s to you growing your business like yourself!