How to get USA clients

Get USA clientsI get asked a lot of questions.  Some questions I get asked over and over.  One of these is about how to get USA clients for internet marketing activities.

A little background first, for those who don’t know me very well.  I am originally from New Zealand, and have lived in Australia since the early 1980’s.  I am in my 50’s, and did a computing degree (and other relevant study) in my early 20’s, and have worked in the field for around 35 years now.

As a programmer / website builder / online marketer I work with people mostly in Australia and the USA.  I have a lot of clients, and consider myself to be successful.  But I am asked by a lot of people who are not in the USA how they can get USA clients.  This is how I did it.  It won’t work for everyone, but this worked for me.

Pick a niche

First, pick a niche.  What I mean is, you don’t start by deciding “I am going to dominate Chicago”.  The location is NOT the key if you don’t live in that location.  If you do live in a location, you will have an advantage because you will be able to physically visit people in that location and have face-to-face meetings with them.  You will also know the suburbs and travel times and local issues and weather and so on, which is very hard to get a feel for if you are not there.

Instead, you need to start in your own local area, with a topic you know well.  In my case, I started making websites for people who run craft businesses in Australia.  Specifically, the craft of quilting.  The reasons I started with this niche are

  1. There was at the time (early 1990’s) nobody in Australia, in fact nobody I could find in the world, who was specialising in helping that particular group of people online.
  2. No offence intended, but generally people who are running craft shops are not usually also experts in setting up websites, and so are more likely to need my help.
  3. This particular niche is very compatible with online selling.  The products are visually appealing, and the customer demographic (generally women, tend to be “older”) have a strong online presence and enjoy sharing things they like with their friends – so good social engagement.
  4. While this is not a high-money niche, so I couldn’t initially charge high prices, I felt that my early lack of expertise meant that what they could afford to pay roughly matched what I was worth.  And I was prepared to serve an “apprenticeship” working on their sites (some of which are still running, well over ten years later, BTW).
  5. I was “into” quilting.  I am a quilter.  I know the jargon and can understand the industry and their concerns.

So what I did was start to do websites and online marketing exclusively for quilting businesses in Australia.  Over time I expanded to other crafts, and I also did a few sites for friends and relatives of clients who needed online help in other businesses.  But I was mainly known as a website builder who specialised in craft sites.  Advertising in local quilting magazines helped, as well as participation in Australian quilting forums and mailing lists.

Gaining a reputation

This, of course, did not get me many overseas clients.  Of my first 50 clients, 49 were in Australia and one was in the USA.  But it was a good way to learn what I was doing, and hone my skills.  And, I was becoming known as the “go to” person in Australia for those wanting a website for their craft business.  Quite often a new client would say they had come to me because someone they knew had said “Why not get the best – A Gecko Gully site?”.

It was also building a good portfolio.  Over the years I put my pricing up, and I changed from using one technology to another to another as the different website platforms got better, and now exclusively build WordPress sites.  I was learning and growing.

Expanding to get USA clients

Once Facebook came along, I was also active in international quilting groups there.  I would often post about client sites that had answers to questions that were being asked.  I didn’t actually say “I built this website”, but I said something like “Here is where you can find an answer to your question”.  At the bottom of every website is a little “Website by Gecko Gully“.  You’d be surprised how many people notice that, and after seeing it a few times the idea starts to gel in their head that Gecko Gully builds nice websites that they have visited and know, like and trust.

I didn’t consciously wake up one morning and say “OK now I am going to get USA clients”.  What I DID do is say “I am going to be the best website builder there is for quilting businesses”.  And that helped me to get USA clients.

Moving outside my comfort zone / niche

Through various online training things I participated in, that were based in the USA, I met several people who were trying to do Internet Marketing.  Basically, they were trying to build websites and get the word out online for clients.  But in almost every case, they had no idea how to do the actual work.

And that is where I found I could fit in.  These Internet Marketers would have some (for me) fairly basic questions about how to do things, so I would answer them.  But I didn’t answer them one-on-one.  I would either write a blog post (like this one on “get USA clients”, which is itself in response to a question I am often asked), or make a video for the more technical stuff.  These posts and videos would often be shared widely among other Internet Marketers, because they answer, for free, questions they need answers to.

The questions/answers were no longer related to quilting sites.  They were based on what I had learned over the years of my “apprenticeship” building websites for craft businesses.  You can find a lot of the video answers here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLxQqg2CrFK5fmV5VwbxnURpE5XpGOSE7d

And you know what happened?

I started to get USA clients

People in the USA started to contact me, saying things like “I have been trying to build a website for my business but I am stuck.  I need your help”.  They had found me through the videos on YouTube, or through blog posts, and they could see I had built a lot of websites and looked like I knew what I was doing.  I had, over the years, put my prices up, and that actually helped me to get clients – people could see I wasn’t a cheap beginner.

I also started getting some of the “bigger” Internet Marketers contacting me and wanting me to white-label my services to them and work with THEIR clients.  So there are a lot of websites (and other things) in the USA that I have built that don’t have my name on them.  I sometimes had direct contact with the client, and sometimes not.  But every project I work on helps me to grow and learn more about that industry, or that location.

So now, when someone comes to me wanting a website or other work, I can honestly say I have done that type of work, or I have solved that problem already, or I have worked with someone in your area.

These days, I no longer advertise.  I am busy enough.  If I do want to get new clients I am likely to use a software package like Video Closer to find people in an area who are actively promoting themselves online, but who look like they could use some help that I can provide.  Since I now have an established reputation for being able to deliver what they need, I can usually just approach one business in an area and can honestly say that yes, I have worked with a business like theirs in another area.  I can show them what I have done for someone just like them, which helps a lot.

Summary

So, if you have a spare 20 years or so, you could probably do what I do.  But of course the Internet is no longer what it was way back then (I first started using it in 1988!).  My advice to anyone starting out today is this…

  1. Start local.  No matter where you are in the world, start by getting some clients in your own city.
  2. If you are new to doing what you do, learn how to do it (yourself) before you try paying someone else to do it for you.  You will be of much more help to your future clients that way.
  3. Give give give.  Make videos, write blog posts, answer questions in forums and social media.  Even while you are still learning, there are people asking questions that you only found out the answer to last week.  Help everyone you come across.

Then, once you have established a reputation as a helpful, knowledgeable person with a good track record with local clients, you will find that people all over the world will WANT to work with you.  That is when you put your prices up.

Good luck!  Let me know in the comments below what you have done, or plan to do, to get USA clients.