A few months after I started my business 25-plus years ago, I was delivering a workshop one evening on an ideal topic to attract likely clients. And sure enough, the room was full of self-employed professionals who were excellent prospects to hire me as a business coach. I presented what I thought was a value-packed program, and my audience seemed to be learning useful material from me. “I’m sure to land some clients from this,” I thought.

What does she do?

After the workshop, a woman came up to me hesitantly. “This class was very helpful,” she said. “But I’m wondering… would it be possible for me to hire you to work with me personally? I don’t know if you do that.”

I was dumbfounded. How was it that this prospective client had no idea that she could hire me? When attracting clients like her was exactly what I had come here to do? And how many other potential clients in the room that night went home without ever speaking to me, because they didn’t know they could ask me to work with them? Yikes!

The lesson I learned that night is one that has helped me to consistently land clients from public speaking — and from writing articles and blog posts — ever since. Now I teach this lesson to all my self-employed clients: When you’re sharing your expertise, for free, with potential clients, it’s essential to let them know exactly what it is that you do.

You may think that by giving a workshop or authoring a blog which shows how much you know about a subject, of course people will figure out that they can hire you to help them with that. But why should they have to figure it out? And why should you have to hope that they do? Instead, you can simply tell them.

Here’s what I mean. In every workshop I give now, I talk about the work that I do. I mention that I’m a business coach who works with clients one-on-one. I give examples from my coaching sessions that show the value I bring to my clients. When possible, I demonstrate how I work with clients during the workshop itself. And none of that lands on my audience as being too self-promotional, because I do all of it within the context of teaching something useful.

Sure, I do the promotional stuff at the beginning and end of the program that all effective public speakers do. I have someone introduce me with a brief bio and I conclude with a call to action. I collect contact information from the audience so I can follow up. But all of that works much more powerfully to produce clients for me because the audience understands what I do just from participating in my workshop.

The same guideline applies to writing articles and blog posts in order to attract and convert clients. In my Business Building Writer program, one of the most important fundamentals I teach students is how to showcase their work in their writing — without being self-promotional.

Within a piece of writing that has the main function of educating, entertaining, and/or inspiring readers on a topic of interest to them, you can and should make sure the type of work you do is apparent. You can tell stories about your client engagements. You can mention clients, by name if appropriate, or by category to keep them confidential. Or include examples of advice you’ve given and work you’ve done. Or cite your experience or training. Or mention an element of your work you can link to.

Like I’m doing right here in this very piece. While you’ve been absorbing useful, relevant advice as you read this blog post, you’ve also learned that I’m a business coach who works one-on-one with self-employed professionals, that I’ve been doing this for 25-plus years, and that I offer a class that teaches the advice I’ve been sharing. But yet, I’m willing to bet that you haven’t felt “sold to,” because you were gaining value as you read.

The next time you get the opportunity to speak or write for your target audience, put this advice into practice. You’ll gain more clients from each and every exposure when your audience understands exactly what you do.

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