How To Find Your First Client, or More Clients

A lot of people think, if they build a website, they will come, or if they put up their portfolio on Behance, clients are just going to magically show up. Well, I got a harsh business reality check for you. That’s not going to happen. People say, “I don’t want to be salesy. I don’t want to have to cold call. Reaching out to people makes me really uncomfortable, or they’re not going to want to hear from me.” Well, here’s another reality check. Businesses expect to be pitched. They expect to have people reach out to them for business. That’s how business works. So they’re not going to take it personally that you are reaching out to them for business. What really matters is how you’re reaching out to them and where you’re reaching out to them, how you’re going about it. So in this blog post, what I want to share with you are 11 ways to find your first or more clients. So whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, pushing your products and services on a stranger is not going to be your most favorite activity. It certainly is not mine. But there are two ways of going about it. Number one is you going out to them, you approach them. I like to call that active pursuit. Number two is getting them to come to you. What I like to call an active attraction. Now you’ll notice that the word passive doesn’t figure into this at all. There is no passivity in getting new business. You have to do something to get new business. And this blog post focuses on an active pursuit that can lead to attraction. 1: Reach out to family and friends.

If you want to reach out to your clients in a meaningful way. You don’t want to send a form letter. You don’t want to send something really impersonal. You want to include a personal note, and you want to describe the kind of work that you do, and also the type of work that you want to get, and the type of companies that you want to attract. You have to tell them and describe to them how they can help you. What do you want? Do you want referrals? Do you want them to share a message on social media? What it is that you want them to do for you. You have to make it easy for them to do it too. So if you can provide them with a little snippet of writing, or a little tweet, or whatever that is that they could share, they could send out in an email to their contacts, which will help them share your services to other people. And then always make sure to include a really sincere thank you. Examples of the type of people you can send it to our true family and friends, or you could send it to people you know from organizations you’re involved in, like a church, or an association, or a club, or a sports team you play on. You could send it to old coworkers, or old school alumni. There are all sorts of people that you can send this sort of personal email to. 2: Search Craigslist, or search local Facebook groups.

Don’t just list your services, but look for people who are looking for your types of services. You can also, on Craigslist, branch out. So just not looking in the city that you live in, but other cities as well. There should be no barriers to who you do business with. You can also look at neighborhood Facebook groups or the chamber of commerce websites. There’s a number of places that you can look for, for people who are looking for your types of services. 3: Send a LinkedIn message.

You can either send direct messages to people you’re connected with, or you can pay for InMail to connect with and send messages to people who aren’t in your connection circle. You want to make sure you keep it short and to the point, and you describe what it is that you do. You might want to also include a link of some sort of interesting comment or some sort of valuable information that could pique their interest. And then also, you always want to remember at the end to say, “If you aren’t interested, is there any way you could forward this to someone who you think might be or respond back with someone I might connect, who you think might be interested in my services?”. Always kind of try to extend the net in any kind of communication that you have. 4: Actively participate in online forums.

So this could be Facebook groups, or LinkedIn forums, or websites, or communities, or blogs. You don’t want to just be passive. You want to be active. You don’t want to be a lurker. You want to really get involved. You want to ask questions. You want to help answer other people’s questions. One of the things that I’ve found to be really effective is to offer up a freebie. Offer up a free website audit, or a free copywriting audit, or a free design audit of their brand identity. It gives people a reason to engage with you, and everyone wants something for free. When I was part of a very large online mastermind community, one of the first things I did in the forums to meet a lot of people and to get attention, honestly, was I offered up a free website audit, a free brand design audit. And a lot of people took me up on it. It gave me an opportunity to meet people, gave me an opportunity to learn more about their businesses. And it also gave me an opportunity to showcase my expertise on this larger kind of format forum. And, to tell you the truth, it brought me a lot of business. So this sort of thing can really help build your client list, either to get your first clients or to get new clients. 5: Use must-open email subject lines.

When you’re sending out emails, you want to pay really close attention to your subject line. You want to make sure you’re creating an openable subject line, something that’s really enticing. Like something you would use in the forum that I mentioned in number four was, “I’d like to give you a free website audit,” or, “Can I send you this cool PDF?” And then offer them up some sort of freebie, or lead magnet. It’s a conversation starter. It’s a way to start developing that relationship, and it’s a way to get them to engage with you. And the first engagement is just opening that email and possibly hitting reply. So making sure that you have openable subject email lines is really critical. 6: Give a free seminar or a mini-training course.

Undoubtedly there are continuing education places in your vicinity. So that could be a school, or a university, or some sort of learning center, or even coworking spaces sometimes host these things. Offer to give a free seminar, or free training course, or extremely low-cost one, and then talk about something that you know about, something that you can offer up as a service when you offer your goods and services to people. That could be how to improve your Facebook page, or how to write better tweets, or how to use color better on your website, or how to take better photographs. 7: Give a mini-training course.

People will come, you’ll be able to expand your network, meet new people who might be interested in that thing, and you’re given the opportunity to kind of exhibit your expertise in that. The great thing about it is that a lot of people will learn about it, but they’ll eventually really not want to do it for themselves, and they’ll want to hire you to do it. So it’s an awesome way to develop new business. 8: Guest post on websites where your clients hang out.

Websites are always looking for more content, so it gives you the opportunity to exhibit your expertise, and it also, you’re showing up in a place where people are not usually coming in contact with you. So you just want to reach out via email from the contact page of whatever the website is to the person who manages that website and then pitch them on doing some guest posting. Keep it really short. Possibly give them examples of the types of articles that you would write or articles you’ve written in the past. And I guarantee you, it’s a great way to get out there to a whole new range of people and potential clients. 9: Twitter.

A lot of people don’t take advantage of the search capabilities of Twitter. But if you search for phrases that people would be using, who are the type of people who would be wanting your goods and services, you can locate people to start relationships and conversations with. For instance, if you’re a business consultant, you might search for a phrase like, I need to start my own business, or even, I hate my job, whatever that is. You can search and you’ll come up with people’s tweets who are posting these questions, and then you can reach out to them with direct messages, and either offer help, offer answers to their questions or pitch them with your services. Designers might look for phrases like, I need a logo. Before I did this blog post, I actually just did that. I searched for it, just to see what would come up, and there was a whole range of people who were looking for new logos. You can reach out to them directly and offer your services. One thing I would recommend, though, is before you reach out to them directly, just check out their profile, see if they’re legit, vet them a little bit, look at their website to make sure they’re someone you would actually want to be reaching out to. 10: Share something of value that’s easy for other people to share.

So for instance, you might want to share an infographic, or a mini ebook PDF, or a listicle, or something like that. You want to make it easy for people to share it. You want to share it on social and then invite other people to share it more broadly. Things like infographics have a tendency to get shared very widely. When you create something like that and put it out into the world, you want to make sure that you brand it. You want to make sure that you put your name, your business name, your contact information on the JPEG itself. So as it gets shared around the web, people are going to know who to contact, or who was the smart person who came up with that thing, and that’s a great way to do business development. 11: Advertising.

Advertising still works. And really, when it comes down to it, you have to spend money to make money. The good news is that you don’t have to spend $5,000 for a full-page magazine ad anymore these days. You can spend $5 a day on Facebook and make an impact on your advertising. You can advertise on Google AdWords. Spend as much or as little as you want. You can advertise on Craigslist. You can advertise on online magazines, or on blogs, or websites. Also, locally, you can advertise on local chamber of commerce websites. It’s really cheap to do that and they really welcome it. And then you can do the physical stuff, right? You can do flyers. You can leave your business cards in businesses around where you live. You can create swag. You can do key chains and fridge magnets and koozies with your brand name on it. Whatever it is, you can create advertising and should create advertising, and take that active role in pursuing new business. And finally, I’d like to ask you a favor. If you could, down in the comments below, leave any ideas that you use for active pursuit of new business that I might not have covered in this blog post. I’d really appreciate it, and I know the rest of the subscribers and tribe and community that follow my blog post would really appreciate it too.

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SEO Checklist How to Get More Organic Traffic (Step-by-Step)

In this blog post, I’m going to talk about a detailed SEO checklist that helped us grow organic traffic to our blog from 50,000 monthly search visits to over 230,000.

The first thing you should do is create a sitemap. Sitemaps tell search engines of where to find important content on your site so they can easily crawl and index your pages. Here’s what the site map for our blog looks like, which was created automatically with the Yoast SEO plugin. Now, if you don’t use WordPress or prefer not to use Yoast, there are tons of free site map generators you can find from all over the web. The next thing to check for is a robots.txt file. A robots.txt file is important because it gives instructions to search engines on where they can and cannot go on your site. For example, you may not want them to crawl certain pages or directories like a cart for an eCommerce store or RSS feeds, so you’d add that to your robots.txt file. If you’re unsure if you have a robots.txt file, just go to yourdomain.com/robots.txt. If you see a plain text file like this, then you’re good to go. If you see anything else, then Google “Robots.txt generator” and create one.

The last couple of things you should do is set up Google Analytics and Google Search Console. Google Analytics can give you insightful data on how your visitors interact with your website. For example, analyzing bounce rates and time on page can give you an idea of user experience and engagement. Google Search Console, on the other hand, is a must-have tool for all webmasters. You can track your performance in search and see the keywords that you’re ranking for.

While there are a lot of ways to approach keyword research, there are certain fundamentals that I think every page should follow. The first being to find a primary keyword target for your page. Every blog post we create has one main primary target. Just look at any of our titles and you can tell right away which keywords we’re targeting. “Long-Tail Keywords: The ‘Secret’ to Getting TONS of Search Traffic,” “YouTube SEO: How to Rank Your Videos From Start to Finish.” To find the right primary keyword, you’ll need a keyword research tool. For example, by searching for “SEO tips” in Ahrefs keywords explorer, you’ll see things like keyword difficulty score, search volume, as well as various SEO metrics on the top-10 ranking pages for the keyword.

Now, the second thing you’ll want to do is assess search intent. Search intent means the reason behind the search query, and Google is good at helping you do this. Just search for the primary keyword phrase you want to rank for, then look at the top-ranking results. To assess search intent, you’ll want to look at the types of pages that are ranking and the format they’re using. As you can see here, the types of pages that are ranking for the keyword “SEO checklist” are blog posts. As for the format, they mostly seem like a hybrid between list posts and tutorials, which you can infer by the titles.

Now, if you were to create a product page selling an SEO checklist, then you probably won’t rank because you won’t be matching search intent. Once you have search intent down, you’ll want to look at related queries to your topic. The first place you can look at is Google’s autocomplete. Just type your primary keyword in the Google search bar and take note of other relevant search queries. Two other places to look are in the “People also ask” box in the search results as well as the related searches at the bottom of the page. In this case, queries and questions related to the side effects of apple cider vinegar show up in both places, so this is something we would want to include in our post.

To find even more related queries and questions people are asking, you can check the search suggestions and questions report in Ahrefs keywords explorer. Across these two reports, you’ll find over 28,000 keyword ideas along with keyword metrics like keyword difficulty, search volume and more. If you’ve done all of these checkpoints, then you should have a strong idea of what your content should be about and the questions you should address throughout your post.

The next step is to find the relevant keywords and subtopics for your posts. In our study of three-million searches, we found that, on average, the top-ranking page also ranks for nearly a thousand other relevant keywords in the top-10. One of the main ingredients to ranking high for numerous keywords are links, but an equally important part is content. Fortunately, you can find subtopics to cover by looking at the keywords that the top-ranking pages are already ranking for, then make sure you cover those points on your page. To do this, go to Ahrefs keywords explorer and enter your primary keyword target. Now, scroll to the bottom of the page where you’ll see the top-10 ranking pages. The main column you want to look at here is keywords. This one seems to be getting a lot of search traffic. They rank for a ton of keywords and the page is relevant to the one I’m creating. Let’s click on the number under the organic keywords column to see which keywords they rank for.

To keep things super relevant, let’s set a position filter to only show keywords that rank in positions one through five. Some interesting sub-topics to cover here might be the benefits of apple cider vinegar. We might want to talk about organic versus nonorganic products. And something even more fascinating to me is the part of Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar, which is a branded product. Then there’s an attribute here with mother, which is a health term often used with apple cider vinegar that I would have otherwise never thought of on my own. Sprinkle some of these terms in sheer content, use other parts as subtopics and do your best to cover the topic using data.

The last thing on the keyword research and analysis side is to assess your chances of ranking in Google. To understand your chances of ranking, you need SEO metrics of the top-ranking pages. Otherwise, you’ll just be guessing. As a very general estimate, you can use the keyword difficulty scores in keywords explorer to get a very rough sense of that, but I wouldn’t recommend relying on it alone.

So, here’s what the final section of our keyword research checklist should look like. The first point here is to use short, yet descriptive URLs. We studied two-million keywords and found that pages with shorter URLs rank better than those with long URLs. Now, while there’s a clear correlation, it doesn’t mean causation. A simple way to choose your URL is to set it as your primary keyword target. For example, a blog post on 75 actionable SEO tips could be domain.com/seotips. It’s short and anyone can tell from the URL what the topic is on.

Next, ensure you have a compelling title tag and meta-description. Old SEO advice will tell you to include your target keyword in your title and meta-description, but our data shows that exact match keywords in the title and description do not correlate with the ranking position. So, should you use your keyword in your title and description? The answer is, it depends. The most important thing about the title is that it entices a click. After all, clicks translate into traffic, but if you find that you’re stuffing the keyword for the sake of inclusion, then I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

The next thing you should do is add relevant internal and external resources. In the same on-page SEO correlation study, we found web pages that link out to high DR external resources rank higher than those that don’t. Second, you should add internal links from relevant pages to your new post. A quick way to find these pages is to go to Google and search for something like “Site:yourdomain.com” and then add a keyword related to your topic. You’ll then see all posts from your domain that include your keyword. Just visit these pages and add internal links to relevant anchor text. A nice little bonus tip would be to pair the search results with Ahrefs’ SEO toolbar. Look at the URL rating to identify relevant pages that will likely have the greatest impact on your new post. In general, the higher the number, the more authoritative the page.

When you do this properly, you can pass link equity to your new page and possibly increase the speed that Google discovers your page. And that about does it for the on-page SEO checklist section. Here it is in all its glory, so take a screenshot and let’s move onto the next section, which is all about content.

Choosing a topic with high search traffic potential and doing some basic on-page SEO is important, but all of your efforts will be in vain if your content isn’t up to par. Here are a few things you can add to your to-do list when creating your content. The first thing is to write an engaging introduction. The purpose of the intro is to let your readers know they’re in the right place and that your page will solve the reason for them being there. Fail to do so, and your readers will be gone fast.

Start with something that resonates with the reader. Build trust or credibility and promise a solution to the user’s problem. Second, focus on readability. Let’s talk about readability in two categories. The first is visual comprehension. When a reader lands on your page, the first thing they’re going to process is how your page looks. And if they land on a big wall of text in 10-point font, they’ll likely get overwhelmed and leave. Instead, break your content into pieces by writing in short sentences and short paragraphs. Other visual assets you can add are images to separate paragraphs but don’t just throw in stock photos for the sake of faking visual appeal. Put some effort into creating or finding images that will enhance the reader’s experience. For example, on the CloudBooks blog, we often use graphs, charts, or screenshots that help illustrate a point or lighten the read.

These tips will help increase your chances of turning visitors into readers. Now, the other category in readability is reading comprehension. According to a study, 50% of the US population reads below an eighth-grader level, which means that if you’re writing at a higher level, you’re alienating half the population as well as non-native speakers. There’s a free tool called Hemingway Editor. Just paste your content in there and it’ll give you a readability score. If you’re the type to write academically and struggle to lower your readability score, a great tip you can use is to write as you speak. The last part of the content checklist is to ensure your content solves the reason for the searcher’s query. Great content is content that solves a user’s problem. For example, if you have a post on productivity tips, try and go beyond things like sleeplessness and hustle.

Someone searching for productivity tips probably wants practical and actionable information they can try right away. They want to know how they can measure whether their productivity levels are increasing. If your content solves their original problem and answers the questions that might come to mind as they’re reading, then you probably have some decent content.

When it comes to white-hat link building, you’ll have to pony up and do some email outreach. Now, outreach isn’t about begging for links. In the words of the late Eric Ward, “Links aren’t things. A link represents something somebody finds valuable. A link represents something someone wants to share. A link represents the human manifestation of a desire to let someone else know about something useful.” And there are a few strategies you can use to promote your valuable, shareworthy, and useful content.

The first thing you can do is look at who’s linking to the top-ranking pages for your target keyword. These will likely be the most relevant prospects seeing as they’ve already linked to a competing article on the same topic. The easiest way to find these people is to go to Ahrefs’ keywords explorer and enter your primary keyword. Next, scroll to the bottom of the page where you’ll see the top-10 ranking pages along with their SEO metrics. The parts we want to pay attention to are the backlinks and referring domains column. If there are a decent number of referring domains, meaning unique websites linking to the page, then click on the number in the backlinks column to find out who’s linking to them. You can now skim through the backlink support and look for relevant prospects.

After you’ve depleted your list, expand your list of prospects using Content Explorer. Content Explorer has a database of over a billion pages along with its social and SEO metrics. You can start by entering your primary keyword, and I’ll also set the search type to a title search since a lot of people include their primary keyword in the title. Next, I’ll set a referring domain filter to only show pages that have at least 20 links from unique websites. Now, skim through the pages and if anything pops out to you, click on the number of the referring domain to see if the websites linking to the page are worth investigating further. If they are, then you can click on the carrot here, open the backlink support and add relevant prospects to your outreach list.

The final link building tactic that works well is guest posting. I’m not going to expand on this here, but check out our video on scaling guest posting, which will give you the full details on doing it successfully. Now, these three techniques are great to use for new and existing content, but there are a couple of other link building strategies that work more effectively if you do the prospecting beforehand, and these are the skyscraper technique and broken link building. Prospecting before you create content guarantees you’ll have a list of people to promote your new piece too. Again, I’ll leave links to full tutorials on these two strategies. Here’s your final link building checklist you should go through, take a screenshot and let’s move on to technical SEO.

At this point, you should have a solid SEO checklist you can rinse and repeat for each new page you create, but as you create more pages, there will likely be technical SEO issues that go unnoticed. So, I want to focus more on the domain level here to find and fix these issues. You can find these issues by running a crawl with a tool like Ahrefs’ Site Audit. The tool will then crawl your pages and search for over 100 predefined technical SEO issues. After the crawl is completed, you’ll see a list of issues we found on your site. Now, Site Audit is great for finding the issues on autopilot, but you’re still going to have to fix them. Let’s go through a few important ones you should fix.

The first is page speed. Slow loading pages are annoying for the user experience, and as a result, Google has said that page speed is a ranking factor. You can use tools like Pingdom, GTmetrix, or Google PageSpeed Insights to measure the speed of a single page. So, let’s go back to the Site Audit and click on the slow loading pages issue. Next, I’ll copy one of the URLs from our list and put it into PageSpeed Insights. And as you scroll through the list, you’ll get suggestions on what to fix and the time savings you can get by fixing it.

Next, we want to make sure that your website is mobile-friendly. Google has a mobile-friendly test tool you can use. Just enter the URL you want to investigate and they’ll tell you whether your page is mobile-friendly. Next, you’ll want to ensure that you don’t have any external or internal broken links. If someone clicks on a link and ends up on a broken page, then that’s a bad user experience. On top of that, you’ll want to fix these because linking to broken pages is a waste of link equity. If you’re linking to any broken pages, then you’ll be able to find that in Ahrefs’ Site Audit tool under “Page has links to a broken page.” Just click on the number of affected URLs and you’ll see a list of pages that are linking to broken pages as well as the broken pages that are being linked to.

Since every site will have different technical SEO issues, I recommend using a tool to help you identify these issues and then tackle them one by one.

How to avoid unpaid invoices and the best ways to deal with clients who pay you late

In today’s blog post, I’ll explain how to avoid unpaid invoices and the best ways to deal with clients who pay you late, or even worse, don’t pay you at all.

Unpaid invoices and late payments regularly plague freelancers, consultants, and small business owners. If this problem is hurting your business’s bottom line, you’ll be glad to know that there are some ways to deal with habitual late payers that really work. I’m going to cover five ways to handle those pesky unpaid invoices and late payments, proven to work by real small business owners like you.

1: Send your invoice to your client right away. One of the best ways to get paid right away by a client is to send your invoice immediately after providing the good or service that you’re charging for. Ryan Holden is the director of Progressive Heating and Air, an HVAC company based in San Diego, California. He says that he has seen a 70% reduction in overdue invoices by sending his invoices early. By sending your invoices right after you finish a job, you’re top of mind for the client and they don’t have a reason to forget you. Invoicing software also makes it easy to get your invoices to your clients ASAP and reduce the friction around payments. For example, CloudBooks lets you schedule and send recurring invoices to clients that you regularly work with. You can even send invoices on the go from their mobile app.

2: Let your clients pay you online. The easier you make it for your clients to pay you, the sooner you’ll see their payment hit your bank account. Matt Woodley, a freelance digital marketer based in San Francisco and founder of MoverFocus.com, has seen a 10% increase in on-time payments since he’s expanded payment options for clients. Now Matt’s clients can pay by credit card, bank transfer, or PayPal. Payment processors like CloudBooks will integrate with your invoicing and accounting software and let customers pay an invoice online.

3: Ask your clients for an upfront deposit. Even asking for a small deposit upfront gets your client psychologically and financially invested in the work that you’ve done for them. For example, if you’re doing a thousand dollar job for a client, consider asking for a 25% payment up front and the rest after you complete the job. Dylan Sprouse, the co-founder of eco-friendly transportation site, SprouseBros.com, says that asking for upfront payment along with some other strategies has resulted in 80% of their clients paying them on time. Sprouse says requesting a deposit is a good way to gauge the professionalism of a client before you even start working with them, and you’re already setting the tone that being paid for your goods or services is an important part of the professional relationship.

4: Offer early payment discounts and charge late fees as needed. Many small business owners have luck with offering early payment discounts to their clients. As the name suggests, this simply means offering a 3% or 4% discount on pricing when clients pay within a certain timeframe, such as within 10 days of receiving an invoice. Many budget-conscious clients will bite and pay you on time to earn the discounts and this is great for your cash flow. Matthew Ross, co-owner and COO of The Slumber Yard, a mattress review site, says that about 40% of their customers take advantage of the early payment discounts, which gets them the cash sooner that they can then use for operating and other business expenses. On the flip side to early payment discounts, it can be a good idea to set and enforce late payment penalties. If the client’s known advance that you’ll charge, for example, 10% for an invoice that’s one week late and successively higher penalties for even later invoices, they’re more likely to get things in gear sooner.

5: Create a drip campaign for reminders. This is actually a tip from Brian Cairnes, CEO of ProStrategix Consulting. Drip campaigns are email marketing campaigns which automatically go out to customers on a set schedule. Normally, drip campaigns are used to nurture clients through a sales funnel, but Cairnes adopted the strategy for invoice payments. He ensures that email reminders to make a payment go out two days before the payment is due, the day that payment is due, and then plus two days, plus five days, plus seven days, plus 10 days, plus 14 days, and plus 21 days. After the invoice ages 28 days, it goes to collections with a penalty. Once payment is made, the client exits the drip campaign, and payment options are embedded in every email. According to Cairnes, this system decreases its late payments by 45% and collections by 72%. You can use email marketing software such as MailChimp to set up a branded drip campaign to your clients. Invoicing software also lets you send recurring email reminders.

6: To do homework on your clients. Doing a bit of research on a prospective client can go a long way towards reducing unpaid invoices in the future. Here are some tips for researching clients. First, look up their business credit report. Any business can look up the business credit report for another company and see how many accounts that the company currently has that are past due. Several overdue accounts should immediately send up a red flag. You should also ask other vendors. If you know that the business works with other vendors or fellow business owners, ask them if the client paid on time. And ask about their payment process. Before working with the client, ask about their payment process. If they have accounts payable department or dedicated staff for paying vendors, that’s a good sign.

7: Escalate the issue if needed. As a last resort, you can always escalate a late or unpaid invoice. This is most helpful when an invoice is overdue 90 days or more. You can retain a lawyer to write a demand letter on your behalf, which states that payment is due and that you’ll take legal action within a certain timeframe. Now, actually suing the client in court could be a waste of your time and resources, particularly for smaller invoices, but just sending a letter can incentivize many clients to pay. You can also hire a debt collector to chase down unpaid invoices. Just make sure that if things reach this point, don’t work with that client again.

Those are seven proven ways to deal with unpaid invoices and late payments. Following these strategies should help you improve your business’s cash flow.