Q&A: How do I build a build a client list in a new area?

 Posted by Ellen Mehling

Q: I’m an Architectural Resource Librarian and moved from Maryland to TN.

I serviced most of the popular Architects and Interior Design Firms in DC by managing their Libraries. My goal is to provide the same service to the Firms in Nashville but having a challenging time to do such.

It seems like the service I’m providing is not as common in Nashville. Hoping I can get some helpful pointers as I’m really passionate in what I do.

EM: I would start by connecting with the community of architects and interior designers in Nashville, and as with all networking, this will take time; you’ll be building your reputation with a new group of people in a new area. Think back to how you built your network in DC. Consider people who are currently in your network who may be able to make introductions in Nashville. As you connect with people in that field in TN, look at the professional organizations they are members of and active in, and consider attending the events they hold and perhaps joining and becoming active yourself. You’ll also want to join and become active in local library-related organizations, of course.

Do some research into who else is doing the kind of work you are hoping to do in this area – these people may be your allies or competition, depending on how in-demand your skills and experience are in TN. You may also find a gap in services – something you can now offer.

Consider doing some local pro-bono work to make yourself known, and try to set up some informational interviews (which should really be used for gathering info about the field in this new area – NOT as a stealth job interview or a pitch for your services). If you don’t already have it, create a website/portfolio/Instagram where you highlight past achievements and clients and demonstrate clearly what you have to offer. A blog writing about topics of interest to your potential clients can help too – convey and share your passion – this can make you stand out in a good way.

I would also consider your transferable skills and what other, related kinds of work you can do with those skills, just in case continuing what you did in DC proves to continue be challenging. Focus first on the aspects and tasks of your work that you enjoy the most, determine what the demand is for them, and see what jobs come up when you do a search for open positions based on those skills rather than a job title. It doesn’t hurt to have a “Plan B”, even if you end up not needing it.

Good luck!

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