Being new to an industry is very exciting, but it can also be quite daunting. Though you may be confident in the knowledge and skills you have, there is still the fact that you don't have any experience yet, and this is what's going to differentiate you from all the others who have a world of experience backing them.
Yet don't be discouraged - after all, everyone started out new at one time or another. The major hurdle is getting that first client; after that, it typically gets easier, since you now have someone who can recommend you or refer you to others in need of your services.
But how do you get past this major hurdle? How do you get recommendations when you're new? What do you tell a client when they ask about your past experience doing the job? What do you do?
Though you may be tempted to tell people that you aren't new to the industry, this is not going to do you any good. First of all, you can't really back it up since you are a newbie. Secondly, lies are never a good way to start a business relationship - it's a sure recipe for disaster.
So be honest. Let your potential clients know that you're new and that they'll be your first clients. But let them know that you're going to do your best, which leads to this second bit of advice…
This doesn't mean bragging about the medals and awards you earned during high school and college - most people don't really care about that. To inspire confidence, you should be knowledgeable about what you're doing and you should be able to effectively communicate what you plan to do. If you can't even explain what you can do for your clients, how will they be convinced to hire you?
Effective communication is the key here. Nothing inspires confidence better than a good speaker. You should be able to convince your potential client with your words that you'll do a good job on the project.
Utilize your network
Networking has always been an effective way of getting business, since nothing beats word of mouth referrals. People trust the people they know, and this is why they would typically hire someone who has been referred by a person they trust.
Through your network, you may be able to find clients who are willing to take you on. You can ask the person linking the two of you to recommend you. Utilize the network you know - your former professors/mentors, your colleagues, even your friends. These people know you and what you can do, and they can be invaluable in helping you land that first client.
Even your social media network may be able to help you get that first project. LinkedIn, for example, is an excellent professional social networking platform for finding leads and prospects. You can join groups related to your industry, answer questions to show off your expertise, and so on. The connections you form there may be the ones who will introduce you to potential clients.
Joining forums that are related to your industry is a great way to meet new people, build relationships, and get recommendations. Be helpful, answer questions, and contribute to the discussions. There are lots of stories of people who got businesses through helping people in online communities.
Always deliver on what you promise
Once you get that first client and deliver on what you promise, then it's going to get easier the next time around. This is what's going to make you referable - delivering the work successfully. So make sure to do your best, and the recommendations will follow. After all, it's hard to imagine a client who would begrudge you a great referral if you did a great job on their project.
Starting out can be tricky, since most people don't want to serve as guinea pigs for a newbie on the industry. But if you're honest and inspire confidence in your potential clients, then they just might be willing to give you a chance. Remember to utilize your connections through your different networks, be active on community forums, and don't be afraid to ask people you know to recommend you.
And most importantly - be referable. As long as you deliver what you promise, then you won't find it hard to find people who will recommend you. In the end, it doesn't really matter whether you're new or you have years of experience to back you up, as long as you do the work well.
Maria Elena Duron, is managing editor of the Personal Branding Blog, CEO (chief engagement officer) of buzz2bucks.com - a word of mouth marketing firm. She helps create connection, credibility, community and cha-ching through mobile marketing and social commerce around your brand. She is co-founder of #brandchat - a weekly Twitter chat focused on every aspect of branding.