10 Practical Tips for Finding Clients (and Keeping Them)

Whether you’re launching a startup or working in business, finding clients is crucial to success. But the search isn’t so simple. Even when you find clients, there’s no guarantee they’ll be the right fit for your business or that they’ll stick around.

So, how do you attract the right people? And how can you build mutually beneficial, lasting relationships?

In this blog post, I’ll provide ten tips to guide your search, retain good clients, and weed out the not-so-good ones. 


1. Be discerning

Any business owner knows that clients are the lifeblood of a company.

However, not every client is a good fit for every business. And some are more trouble than they’re worth. 

At my last job, we had multiple prospects that fell into the “trouble” category.

My job was to set up meetings between our sales team and potential clients. Sometimes the client would be reluctant to meet with the sales team (and would be very vocal about it).

Or they’d agree to the meeting but wouldn’t hesitate to tell us all the negative reviews they had seen.

If I were to put these prospects on our schedule, I’d be setting my coworkers up for failure. Sure, it’s possible these meetings could convert to sales—but you can almost always tell by someone’s tone whether or not they’ll be receptive. 

Just because someone agrees to a meeting doesn’t mean you should automatically accept them as a client.

Be selective. Here are a few things to look for when evaluating potential clients:

  • Do they know what they want? If they’re vague or constantly changing their mind, it may be difficult to please them.
  • Are they willing to pay what you’re worth? If they try to lowball you or haggle over price, they will likely not pay what you deserve.
  • Look out for red flags when it comes to working style and expectations. If they seem demanding or unreasonable, it’s probably best to pass on them.

Remember, you decide who you work with. Only take on clients you feel confident about.


2. Do your research

Before agreeing to work with someone, learn everything you can about their reputation, values, and expertise. Carefully consider what you’re looking for and how well they match up:

  • Google them and look at reviews or testimonials.
  • Check out their social media accounts to learn more about them. 
  • Ask connections in your network if they’ve worked with the client before.
  • Take a look at their website. If you’re a web designer, for example, and they have a very outdated site, that could be a bad sign. A lack of investment in their own business could mean they’re unwilling or unable to afford your rates.
  • Pay attention to how clients communicate. Are they responsive, professional, and knowledgeable when you first reach out? 

The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be to make a decision.

Next, make sure you are a good fit for their needs.

Are you able to meet the deadlines? Do you have the necessary skills? Is the project within your area of expertise? Asking these questions upfront can help you avoid taking on a project that’s not a match. 


3. Set clear expectations

Setting expectations is essential in any relationship—whether with your boss, friends, or significant other. 

Here’s how to navigate establishing a healthy working relationship from the get-go:


Be direct 

Be clear about what you want and expect from the client.

For instance, when setting up appointments at my previous job, I made sure the client knew they needed to be home to walk around the property with our salesman for about an hour. If I ever forgot to communicate this, there would be confusion for both parties, and the consultation would usually not result in a sale.


Communicate early and often 

The sooner you set expectations, the better. And check in regularly. Over-communicating beats under-communicating every time.


Be flexible 

Be willing to compromise. If something isn’t working out, be open to making adjustments.


4. Negotiate

Many people view negotiation as something to be avoided at all costs. In reality, negotiation is a valuable tool in business and in life

Let’s break down how to successfully navigate negotiation:


Be clear about what you want 

Before entering into any negotiation, have a clear understanding of your goals. What are you hoping to achieve? What’s your bottom line? Once you know what you want, you’ll be better positioned to negotiate.


Listen more than you talk 

It’s tempting to do all the talking in a negotiation, but this is seldom effective. Listening helps you better understand the other party’s position and find common ground.


Be willing to give and take

In any negotiation, compromise is required from both sides. This will increase the chances of reaching an acceptable agreement for both parties.


Stay calm and collected

One of the easiest ways to lose a negotiation is to let your emotions take over. If things get heated, remember that the goal is to reach an agreement that’s beneficial for both sides. By staying calm, you’ll be more likely to think clearly and work together to find a reasonable solution.


Be prepared to walk away 

Sometimes the best way to win a negotiation is knowing when to call it quits. If the other party isn’t budging, it may be best to end the discussion and move on. This doesn’t mean that you’ve lost; it just means that further discussion—at least right now—isn’t going to be productive.



5. Make a good first impression

When starting or running a business, how you present yourself online and IRL is important.

All the little things add up:

  • How you dress – This doesn’t mean showing up in designer clothes, but you make the effort to look professional.
  • Your confidence – If you want your client to believe in you, you must believe in yourself. True confidence will attract business.
  • Your abilities – Now is not the time for modesty. Talk about your knowledge, skills, and results—and specifically how you’re uniquely qualified to solve your clients’ problems.
  • Your soft skills – Communication, empathy, adaptability. How you interact with people can make or break your business.
  • Being your genuine self – While finding inspiration from others in your industry can be a good thing, stay true to who you are and what you value. You’ll be happier for it and attract the right clients.
  • Caring about the details – Showing up on time, being responsive, meeting or exceeding deadlines. Getting small things right goes a long way.

Those first touchpoints with clients—whether through your website, a contact form, a first meeting, or phone call—offer a snapshot of you and your business. Make sure it’s a positive interaction.



6. Always be professional

Whether you’re a doctor, a lawyer, a construction worker, or a salesperson, acting with professionalism shows that you’re dedicated to your job. It also helps you advance your career and build better client relationships.

For me, being on time is something I strive for in every commitment. If my client wants to have a meeting at 10 a.m., I’ll be there and ready at 9:55 a.m.

Small, consistent acts of professionalism like this will instill confidence in your clients and build the necessary trust for long-term relationships (and business). 

Of course, being professional doesn’t mean that you have to be serious all the time. Passion and enthusiasm are contagious—and convert prospects to clients.



7. Keep your promises

Doing what you say you will do is key.

Life happens and sometimes things get delayed. Maybe you’re stuck in traffic and late for a coffee meeting. Unavoidable setbacks come up.

However, when you’ve made a more significant promise—like committing to get your product to a customer by the end of the week—you should do everything you can to follow through on that promise.

The best way to show you’re dependable and trustworthy? Show don’t tell.


8. Ask for referrals

Many people cringe at the thought of asking for referrals. No one wants to be perceived as pushy or salesy. 

Here’s why you absolutely should:

  • Referrals can help build up your network of contacts 
  • When you get a referral, they’re likely interested in your product or service
  • Being referred comes with the benefit of established trust and credibility 

When it comes to asking for referrals, be strategic. 

You can offer referral incentives, like discounts or freebies.

Or you could simply ask someone for a referral. Reach out to a client or other business connections (where you already have a strong relationship) and say: “Hey, do you know anyone who would be interested in [insert your product or service]? I’d really appreciate it if you could send them my way.”

The goal is to find new opportunities—without seeming pushy or desperate.


9. Don’t forget to follow up

Staying in touch and nurturing client relationships is always a good idea.

The easiest way to follow up is to make a phone call. Have a quick chat to see how they’re doing and what their needs are. You’ll be surprised how far a little bit of conversation can go.

Another follow-up channel is social media. A quick post or comment shows that you’re keeping up with them and you’re still interested in what they’re doing.

And, of course, a personal email is another option to keep communication open. 

Choosing which way to connect can depend on your client. If you know someone is more responsive on email (vs. a phone call), then make a note of that preference.

If you’re following up with a client who has made a large purchase or been a loyal customer, you may want to consider something more personal, like a handwritten thank-you note or even a small gift.

Most of all, focus on building relationships, not just making sales.


10. Let go of bad clients

If you’ve ever had a bad client, you know how frustrating it can be.

Whether they’re nitpicky, demanding, or unrealistic, one thing is undeniable: They’re making your life difficult.

Don’t be afraid to let them go.

It’s far better to lose one bad client than to have your business suffer because of them.

But firing a client is a tricky business. Here’s how to fire a bad client without damaging your reputation or livelihood:


Be straight with them

Tell them why you’re firing them, and be specific. This will help them understand and accept the decision.


Be respectful

There’s no need to be rude or unprofessional. How you deliver difficult news speaks volumes about your character.


Be firm

Once you’ve made the decision to fire them, don’t waver. This will only prolong the process and make it more challenging in the long run.


Have a plan

Think through your exit strategy. How will you close out your final business with them? Tying up loose ends and providing clarity around any open projects (and the stopping point you’ve determined) will be helpful to you and your client.


Be prepared for pushback

They may not take the news well, so be prepared for a negative reaction.

Deciding to fire a client is difficult but trust your gut. Your business will thank you for it in the long run.


Finding clients and building lasting relationships takes work

But it’s worth it.

Decide what’s most important and be intentional when it comes to finding and keeping clients.

The effort you put into research, outreach, and connecting with your current and future clientele will impact your business success—for better or worse.