How to Build a Prospect List

While you’re marketing your business and starting to pitch to clients, one of the things that can be most helpful for reducing overwhelm and staying focused with your end goals is to create a directory of potential clients. When you know how to build a prospect list, then you can be much more organized in your business management and marketing efforts!

The idea behind creating a prospect directory is that you can brainstorm ideas for all of the clients you would LOVE to work with, and then from there you can come up with a concrete plan for reaching out to those specific companies/individuals.

Psst… if you’re a freelance writer, you can absolutely use this prospect directory concept for listing websites, magazines, and other publications you’d like to write for.

Your client directory doesn’t need to be anything fancy: in fact, you can use a basic spreadsheet to keep your thoughts and ideas organized and all in one place.

How to build a prospect list for your business: 

1) Know who your ideal client is.

You can't exactly market your business unless you know who you want to market yourself to. Building a prospect list is about identifying the RIGHT people for your unique set of services.

If you have no idea who your ideal client is, then it's time for you to create an ideal client profile! Check out my step-by-step guide to create an ideal client profile before you build a prospect list.

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2) Identify 10 prospects.

You'll want to add to your prospect list over time, but starting out with just 10 will be much more manageable in the beginning. Once you have your first 10, then you can add the next 10, and the next, and the next.

Plus, when you start with the first 10 individuals/organizations that you'd love to build relationships with and have as clients, then you'll also be able to get an even clearer idea of your ideal prospect.

3) Research each prospect.

Once you have your first 10 prospects, then you can start researching them. Gather contact information for them and learn what you can about their businesses. Look into where these prospects spend their time (for example, on social media platforms and/or in-person networking events, etc.). Keep track of any particularly useful tidbits in your spreadsheet.

4) Connect the dots between your business and your prospects.

What about you and your services will most appeal to each individual prospect? Explore how you can be of service to each prospect on your list. Why will they benefit from your services? What makes YOU the right person to work with them? Make notes of these in your potential client directory.

5) Brainstorm how to build relationships with your prospects.

Consider your current relationship status with each prospect: have you connected with them in the past? Do they know who you are? What can you do to cultivate relationships with them? Identify at least 3 actionable ways you can cultivate relationships with each prospect, and add that to your directory spreadsheet.

Some of the things you might wish to include when building your prospect list…

Each one of these bullet points can be a separate column in your client directory spreadsheet: Learn how to build a prospect list in this step-by-step guide! When you have a potential client directory for your freelance business, it will make marketing your services that much easier. But it all begins with knowing who you're going to market to! Create a prospect spreadsheet to get ahead of the game...

  • Name of the potential client/organization/publication
  • Link to the potential client’s website (and/or other social media platforms)
  • Name of the contact person (only relevant if it’s an organization or publication, rather than an individual client)
  • Their email address (and/or phone number, or other key contact information)
  • Your idea for why your services would be a good fit for them
  • Your current relationship status with this potential client (do they know who you are and what services you offer? Have they seen examples of your work? Have you had a meaningful conversation with them?)
  • Your plans for how you will connect with them to cultivate a relationship (put a plan in place for at least 3 progressive ways you can get on their radar)
  • Your plans for how you will actually pitch to them (what medium will you use, and how will you broach the subject?)
  • Timelines for keeping track of when you are going to reach out to them and pitch them
  • Any additional notes about this particular potential client/job idea

Once you've started this process, see if you can come up with a list of 20 names to add to your directory. Then, target your marketing so that you can further your relationships with these potential clients.

Refer back to your list often to update it with what you've done to cultivate relationships---you may also wish to include the dates that you connect with these people and the most effective methods of communication you discover along the way.

Each month, assess what you've accomplished and whether this is an area you need to spend more time on. Continue to add new potential clients over time---you can even use different coloured highlighters to organize the list (for example, yellow highlight for a relationship in progress, green highlight for those who have turned into clients, and red highlight for dead ends). If you offer a variety of different freelance services, consider using different sheets within the document to categorize each potential client.

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Pitching prospects

When you know how to build a prospect list and when you have an awesome potential client directory in place, you can build relationships with those prospects... and then starting pitching them!

Here's the thing: if you don't actively pitch prospects, then you're going to be stuck in an endless cycle of passively growing relationships without really making much progress. At some point along the way, you're going to need to "sell yourself" and promote your services.

After all, if you don't get hired by clients, then you aren't making any money from your business, and then you can't pay the bills.

No clients means no income---it's that simple.

And your prospects aren't going to magically become paying clients, just because you've added them to your potential client directory! You need to put in the effort to PITCH them, too.

Luckily, pitching doesn't have to be as intimidating as you might think it is. It doesn't need to include sleazy tactics (in fact, it shouldn't be sleazy at all!), and it doesn't need to feel scary or awkward.

To be honest, pitching doesn't come naturally to me. I feel uncomfortable with the idea of being "salesy," and I don't always want to put myself out there. Besides that, I'm an introvert, so sometimes pitching can be really draining.

But over the years, I've managed to perfect the art of pitching. I've changed my attitude towards pitching. I've discovered techniques that feel good for my personal style, and which make prospects feel good about our interactions, too! As a result, I've worked with some fantastic clients over the years.

Even if you aren't a natural "salesperson" (and let's be honest, there are very few people who are naturals at selling!), and even if you're an introvert, you can still be good at pitching yourself... and you can actually enjoy the process.

I'm outlining how to do just that in a brand-new e-course: Pitching Clients 101

The program teaches you...

  • How to find the RIGHT clients for you & your unique business
  • Done-for-you checklists and templates for building a sales pipeline
  • What you need to do to set yourself up for success when preparing to make a pitch
  • How to craft custom pitches for clients
  • ...and more!

Learn more about Pitching Clients 101.

How do you feel about pitching clients? Do you have any questions about how to build a prospect list? Are you excited about creating your client directory? Share in the comments!