If you’re a professional workshopper, we probably don’t need to introduce you to AJ&Smart—world-renowned innovation and Design Sprint agency.
However, we may need to introduce you to Jakub Michalski, Head of Content at AJ&Smart. In addition to writing incredible advice on Workshopper.com, he can also be found reading, cooking, and cycling around the streets of Berlin.
Jakub is originally from Poland, but moved to Germany to pursue his dream of becoming a facilitator—so he also knows all about the ups and downs of getting more facilitation clients.
So if you want to get more clients, why not learn from the best? The floor's yours, Jakub.
The demand for freelance facilitation is growing at an incredible rate.
Businesses acknowledge that successfully facilitated workshops play a key role in overcoming major challenges, boosting growth, and reducing costs.
Consultants who can help them navigate complexity—and capitalize on it—are at a premium.
Naturally, the fact that there’s so much demand for facilitators is awesome. But demand doesn’t mean new business will just come knocking at your door.
It’s up to you to build a steady stream of clients to sustain your facilitation business and stay ahead of the competition.
To that end, we’ve put together some actionable tips on how to get facilitation clients.
Let’s get to it!
1. Identify your ideal client
Ask yourself: who needs my service the most?
Your ideal facilitation client will be the person or organization whose precise needs are met by your precise skillset.
Narrowing your search to ideal candidates means you improve your chances of project success and referral business. Casting a wide net is no good if you aren’t the right person for the job!
To create a description of your ideal client, try to detail as many aspects of your service as you can.
What projects and clients have you worked on?
Look at past successes and overall areas of your experience. What did or didn’t you like about working with previous clients? Where would you prefer to focus?
List your attributes.
No one knows your expertise better than you. Categorizing your skills will help you determine which industries and business segments will benefit the most from your service. And knowing where your workshops will have the most impact will build your confidence for approaching clients.
What does a client want?
Knowing what your potential client hopes to achieve is key to developing your marketing and acquisition strategy.
Look at business models, current market trends—and ask potential clients directly how your facilitation business can help them.
Tailoring your pitch to their needs and anticipating their objections will help you close more deals.
Consider personal factors
As the role of a workshop facilitator requires a hands-on approach, there are some additional considerations.
You’re likely to want a client with a shared mindset, willingness to change, and one who clearly values open communication. Building trust and credibility play a huge role here.
No matter how much you might want to take every client on, if it’s clear the workshop is likely to be an unpleasant experience with little benefit to those involved, rather invest your energy elsewhere. You’ll be doing everyone, yourself included, a huge favor.
Accurately defining your target market is crucial—all your other client acquisition strategies will depend on it. You know your abilities and goals best, and your ideal client will reflect that.
2. Know your USP
Decisions that will impact your business are never easy. It’s why most clients want freelance facilitators in the first place: to help steer them to the right choices.
When it comes to bringing in consultants, it’s no different—organizations are overwhelmed with options.
They need to understand why they should choose you over your competition, and that’s where a unique selling proposition (USP) is most valuable.
Basically, a USP describes any aspect of your service that is unique to you.
To work out your USP, start by creating a detailed list of your attributes, then isolate those that are unique to you—the differentiators.
What do you bring to the table that other freelance facilitators don’t? This could be a specific area of expertise, how you deliver your service, or even the industry you’re catering to.
💰 Tip: Bear in mind that pricing, which can (and will) fluctuate, can never be a USP.
Think of FedEx’s old slogan “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.” This line quite brilliantly incorporated their USP—overnight delivery—by promising the customer a service that at the time no other company offered.
The appeal is clear. Customers know exactly what they’re getting from you that they can’t get elsewhere.
An easily recognizable USP can make or break businesses operating in competitive and niche markets, so it’s essential that you leverage your USP and make it the cornerstone of your overall marketing strategy.
Think of your USPs (you can have a few) as the core theme in your client acquisition and overall marketing efforts—keep coming back to them!
3. Share useful content
Sharing content related to your service on social media is such a great way to develop your brand.
It will help you build a relationship of trust and respect with your audience, grow your potential customer base, and win new clients.
Start by following influencers and organizations whose thinking matches your own, even if their industry is not directly related to yours. You’ll be surprised how often their content is still relevant to your market and sharing such content costs you nothing. It’s an easy, worthwhile way to start conversations and develop leads.
Even better, create interesting content yourself.
If you can create and share quality content, you will start to position yourself as a thought leader in your field. This is the best way to show potential clients that you’re more than just a company trying to sell a service. It highlights the breadth of your knowledge and demonstrates your value.
And the best part is you already have everything you need to do so—your expertise. You just need to apply it.
Write a blog.
Whether a listicle of top tips or insights into what’s got you excited about your industry, blogging is an easy way to create shareable content.
Record a podcast.
If you prefer the spoken word, try recording a short monologue about your opinion on a topical subject related to your expertise. Bring in a peer or client to make it a conversation!
Film a workshop session.
But only if clients agree, of course. If you don’t want to hire someone to edit a video for you, do it yourself! Most recording and editing software will include an easy-to-understand quick guide.
4. Ask for referrals
Phone a friend!
It’s no secret that for most of us, asking for a favor can be difficult. But when it comes to referrals, it can’t be overstated how beneficial it can be.
Nielsen reports that 92% of consumers trust suggestions from friends and family more than traditional advertising.
The greatest part of referrals is their domino effect—one successful workshop can easily lead to any number of potential new clients down the line, so long as you encourage clients to share your expertise.
Considering it takes no financial investment, it’s a no-brainer.
While it might feel like you’re crossing a line to ask for more than you’ve already been paid for, your client is highly unlikely to feel the same way. In most cases, it’s the opposite.
If you’ve done a good job for them, they’ll likely be more than happy to offer referrals. In this way, referrals don’t just create new relationships—they can also strengthen existing ones.
5. Use paid advertising
For those not as familiar with the digital options, advertising can seem like the province of larger businesses, daunting for a freelance consultant trying to win new clients. But really, it couldn’t be easier.
Paid advertising, and especially pay per click (PPC), is a fantastic, relatively inexpensive source of leads. Research shows that paid search ads have a 200% return on investment.
PPC includes Google Ads, Facebook Ads, LinkedIn Ads, Twitter Ads, and Instagram Ads. Most of these are incredibly intuitive, so you don’t have to worry about hiring a professional to do it for you—simply follow the guides.
One of the best things about an option like Google Ads is the incredible amount of control it offers. In addition to the fine focus, which will enable you to target your ideal client, as your campaigns progress you can refine the demographics to focus on the areas that work and reduce it where it doesn’t.
As the name implies, you only pay when someone clicks your ad. Done right, it can be an incredibly efficient way to get new leads—and turn them into clients.
Successful networking isn’t about connecting with many people – it’s about connecting with the right people.
To that end, first try to find ongoing events that are relevant to your field.
Talk to colleagues and friends, use online networking sites and apps, and subscribe to the relevant notifications. Most of all, take advantage of social media, through which you will find events and opportunities for one-on-one meetups. Simply follow appropriate groups and interact as much as possible.
Many of today’s networking opportunities are remote, making it less daunting if you’re terrified of the social aspect. Whether physical or online, events can become a lead-building extravaganza.
The Butter Community is a great first step for those who want to connect with other like-minded people, as they host frequent events for facilitators.
Once you’ve found events that you think will be beneficial to your networking efforts, a few simple steps will help you optimize the benefits:
Do your research. What exactly are the participants wanting to get out of this? Make sure your pitch is tailored to the occasion—and the attendees.
Let others do the most talking. Find out what it is they’re after and determine if you’re the right fit. If so, make sure they get a clear picture of how you can support their goals. And of course, exchange all relevant information.
Immediately send a thank you or follow-up email after meeting someone for the first time. Remind them who you are and how you can assist them in reaching their goals. Be as detailed as possible! It helps to show them you’re invested in their success, not your own.
7. Partner up
Being a freelance facilitator doesn’t mean having to go it alone.
When looking to win new clients, the benefits of collaboration shouldn’t be ignored. Developing the relationship will allow both you and your partner to offer services and solutions you couldn’t otherwise. Expenses can be shared, and you can capitalize on another brand’s reputation.
To find suitable partners, start with who you know. Former employees or colleagues are an excellent source of partnerships—and it’s easier to cultivate an established relationship than to start a new one.
That being said, other consultants or firms looking to bring in external expertise are abundant. There are even several online companies that will pair you with suitable partners.
To maximize the benefits, set clear expectations between yourself and your potential partner. Defining roles and expectations will help ensure success.
You, your partner, and the client—a good collaboration is beneficial to everyone involved.
8. Join LinkedIn groups
LinkedIn isn’t just an online CV. With over 50,000 groups and 700 million users interacting with it as a professional network, it’s a potential gold mine for your burgeoning facilitation business.
Start by joining groups on LinkedIn which are related to your ideal clients; the search function makes locating them easy enough, and you’ll be surprised by how many associated groups there are.
Before diving in, spend some time “social listening.”
Take in the general vibe of the group: what subjects do they prefer to cover, what is of interest to the different members? What content do they most engage with? Who are the key influencers?
When you feel it’s appropriate, start contributing to the conversation. Ask questions and offer your insight and share resources. Building your brand in this way is an excellent way to showcase the value you could bring to the potential client.
But read the room.
There’s a time to speak up and a time to show restraint. Only contribute if it’s actually going to add value, not just because you want to sell your service.
By organically showcasing your expertise you will grow relationships and your client list. This LinkedIn blog offers excellent ways to engage with group members directly without the hard sell.
Apply the same practices to Facebook, Twitter, and local social business sites, too.
9. Follow up with old leads
It’s unfortunate, but the fact is you’ll likely have to contact a lead more than once to successfully convert it into new business.
But don’t stress, another advantage of only targeting your ideal clients is you can keep approaching the same leads with little chance of alienating them. It’s not about whether or not they need your service, rather when they will.
Be sure to look at your history with them and refine your approach. Where did you leave off with them last time? If there was no reply at all, then try contacting them via a different method. If they’re not replying to email, give them a call.
But read the room.
84% of buyers say that salespeople can be too pushy—this applies to your situation, too. If your leads weren’t responsive before, then focus on building a relationship with them before pitching again.
An easy way to start doing this is by simply having a conversation. This means first doing your research.
Find out if there have been any changes since you last reached out. Check their social media sites. Are they expanding? Talking about new clients or goals?
Look for areas where you can actively assist them. If it feels natural, focus on this as an angle for the conversation and showcase how they can benefit from your facilitation.
10. Browse job sites
Online job sites are an excellent way to find clients you might never have heard of otherwise.
Thanks to the filter functions, these sites are a great way to narrow your searches by industry, location, and so on, to better isolate your ideal clients.
Save your search fields for ease of use and sign up to any notifications; this will let you keep abreast of any opportunities without having to spend the time rechecking the sites.
Being able to see exactly what it is that clients are after will help you determine areas where you should be focusing your efforts and highlight areas for upskilling.
Even if your ideal clients aren’t posting for facilitation contracts that are suited to you right then, take note of those companies and keep an eye on them.
Or even better, contact them directly to offer your services. Companies that utilize freelancers tend to be experiencing growth and are often open to receiving solicitations for areas that will help them.
A bonus for freelance facilitators: job listings are an excellent way to get an idea of what companies are willing to pay. Considering our research shows there is no standard rate, any help is welcomed.
11. Keep informed
As with any industry, training offers significant competitive advantages.
With the need for freelance facilitators projected to continue its rapid growth, keeping up to date with current trends and educating yourself accordingly is the best way to future-proof your career and ensure you stay ahead of the competition.
There’s another, often overlooked benefit—training is one of the best networking opportunities possible. You’re meeting a whole number of professional peers all involved in, if not in your exact field, one adjacent to it, which means a lot of possibilities for client referrals!
Online short courses have become popular in recent years for obvious reasons, and sites like Udemy, Coursera, and Udacity all offer affordable options for people without much time on their hands.
When it comes to facilitation specifically, there are any number of free online resources that will keep you at the top of your game.
We’ve assembled our very best just for you, right here.
So, the TL;DR on how to get facilitation clients? There isn’t one. As any freelancer will tell you, building a dependable client list takes time, dedication, and most of all, patience.
Experiment with the above tips and see what combination works best for you.
Every success will grow your reputation and your efforts will keep paying off. The importance of facilitation is only increasing, so there are going to be many opportunities to find your ideal clients—you just need to be ready to capitalize on them.
With some dedication and discipline, there is absolutely no reason your facilitation business shouldn’t have numerous clients within a relatively short amount of time.
Until all you’re having to do is keep up with the crazy amount of new work coming in!
A big thanks to Jakub for this great advice! If you’re looking for more ways to level up your facilitation skills, check out AJ&Smart’s Workshopper Master program.
Watch their FREE training video to learn the 5 things you can do to become a top 1% facilitator, and earn six figures while doing it.
And if you're just learning about Butter for the first time, welcome! With agendas, breakouts, polls, flashcards, and more, Butter is the best way to plan and host collaborative virtual sessions. You can sign up for free here.