If you have recently finished a paralegal training program, you are about to embark on one of life’s most rewarding journeys: running your own freelance business. Like most entrepreneurs, you are probably eager to solicit clients – an exercise you are likely to repeat consistently over the lifespan of your business, unless you hire a salesperson to do it for you. Put on the brakes just long enough to solidify the infrastructure of your fledgling business. Remember that building a business is like building a house; you must create a strong foundation before you can comfortably live inside of your new paralegal business.
Draft a marketing plan, if you haven’t already. Some business owners make the mistake of skipping this important step, but they often end up paying for it later. One of the benefits of drafting a marketing plan is that it forces you to crystallize your objectives and establish priorities, which is especially important because you cannot possibly pursue all new business opportunities at the same time.
Hire a graphic designer to create a logo for your new freelance paralegal business. Just as you followed a program of study to become a paralegal, graphic designers are trained in the art of creation. Your logo is an important representation of your business and identity, so take your time in choosing one. Consider a tag line as part of the project, and keep close tabs on the development so that you can provide feedback along the way.
Develop your other marketing collateral, keeping an eye on your budget. If money is tight, you should be able to get by with business cards – for attending business events – and a brochure or sell sheet, which you can either hand out or send electronically to people who ask you to “send some information.” A website is an important marketing tool in today’s business world, but you may be able to postpone it if you have more time than money to market your freelance paralegal business.
Consult your school’s job placement office for client leads. Schools usually have large repositories of free resources for recent graduates, including everything from business databases to examples of sales letters.
Join your local Chamber of Commerce. Scan the categories of members who might need the services of a paralegal and send them a letter of introduction that highlights your services. Attend as many Chamber events as you can, as the people who benefit from Chamber memberships are those who get and stay actively involved.
Investigate your local, regional, county and state bar associations and become an active member in those you can. The yearly membership dues may prevent you from joining every one so, depending on the strategies outlined in your marketing plan, you may decide to pursue the “gardening” approach to marketing your freelance paralegal business. In other words, you may decide to grow your business deep and then wide, expanding it exponentially as conditions allow.
Introduce yourself to the “power players” in your community and offer limited pro bono paralegal services to an entity you believe may reap dividends in the future. Municipal and county planning officials are usually good sources of information -- every prospective business entity that wishes to come to town is represented by an attorney, and every attorney needs a paralegal.
Create a tracking system in which you can quickly document the contacts you make and your next course of action. Within a week, you’ll be glad you took the time for this important step, for it will allow you to stay abreast of people who ask you to follow up with them in a week or people who ask for time to review your sell sheet.
Adopt the habit of asking everyone you meet if they know of someone who may need a paralegal’s services. Often, this is one of the most difficult steps for an entrepreneur to undertake, but it is vital as you develop your business.
Learn all you can about the services of business owners you meet with an eye toward developing your own referral network. Remember that people like to make credible referrals to professionals they know and trust, and you can position yourself to be right at the top of the list.
- U.S. Small Business Administration/Missouri Business.net: Developing a Marketing Plan
- Small Biz Trends.com: A One-Page Marketing Plan Anyone Can Use
- Smashing Magazine: Vital Tips for Effective Logo Design
- Tanner Christensen: 45 Rules for Creating a Great Logo Design
- Entrepreneur.com: 8 Steps to a Successful Sales Call
- Another benefit of joining a Chamber of Commerce is that you might be able to forge strategic business alliances and barter for services you otherwise would have to pay for. For example, you might be able to provide some legal work for a graphic designer who could design your logo.
With education, health care and small business marketing as her core interests, M.T. Wroblewski has penned pieces for Woman's Day, Family Circle, Ladies Home Journal and many newspapers and magazines. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Northern Illinois University.