How to Land Your First Client (That Isn't Your Mom)

By: Kaplan Financial Education
February 5, 2019
Investment advisor signing her first client

You set up all the paperwork. You registered your business and ensured everything was compliant. You bought all the hardware you needed to run your own RIA smoothly, and your financial planning software and tools are standing by, ready to accept your first clients.

You powered up your new laptop, made the final approval on your website, and launched it into the world. Maybe you even sent out your first social media post or email newsletter to make the big announcement: your financial planning firm is officially up and running, and the doors are open to new clients!

But you soon realize...the only person reading your blog posts is your mom, and your significant other is the only person dutifully liking all those posts on your firm’s Facebook page.

Relax: Getting Your First Clients Takes Time

Before you panic, know that hearing crickets in the first days after you launch is completely normal. You may even have a few prospect calls set up, but no one bites. It takes a lot of legwork to sign up that very first person (and to start building a pipeline of potential clients). But if panicking isn’t an option, then what should you do instead?

 First, look at this as a positive. When you first launch your business, you may not have much cash flow or revenue. But what you do have is time. And if you can invest your time into the following strategies, you’ll start bringing on your first real clients soon.

Connect with Other Advisors

Established advisors aren’t necessarily your competition. They can be your collaborators if you work to build mutually-beneficial relationships with them. Look up advisors in your area and call on those you already know. They likely receive prospective clients that, for one reason or another, aren’t a good fit for their firm. You could become the perfect referral for those prospective clients who don’t fit into another advisor’s plans.

By connecting with other advisors, and providing them a place to send clients they can’t or don’t want to work with, you are also doing them a favor. No one likes to turn people away. Now, those advisors can provide a good recommendation for that prospect while also helping you to build your own pipeline of potential clients.

Network with Local Business Owners

In addition to connecting with advisors, look at business and entrepreneurial groups in your area that you can join. These could include organizations like:

  •  BNI
  • Your town or city’s chamber of commerce
  • Rotary International
  • LeTip
  • Your college alumni services or groups (if you’re still in the area)

You can also run a Google search for “local networking groups” if your location services are turned on; Google will return results for your area if so. Look for niche groups as well, and search by specific keywords (e.g., “business women in [your area]”). If you don’t live in a big city, that’s okay. There are groups on Facebook and LinkedIn that you can become a part of and contribute to for the nearest metropolitan hub.

When integrating into an online group (or an in-person one, for that matter), a good strategy is to seek to add value first...and to contribute over and over again before you ever make an ask yourself.

In the meantime, if someone in the group specifically asks for a financial planner, you can speak up and perhaps share a link to your website. You don’t need to be pushy or salesy. Just provide your information and throw out an invite to contact you if they have any questions.

Once you’re integrated into the group, you can start making specific asks or promoting yourself in a more direct way. Perhaps you can share an event you want to host, or share links and articles you’ve written that are relevant and helpful to the group. Through networking in these communities, both online and offline, you can slowly build a referral system that thinks of you when they hear someone needs a financial planner.

Tap Your Existing Networks

No, you don’t want just your mom as a client—but maybe your mom, or your cousins, or your friends, or other people you already know personally and professionally, know people who would be perfect clients for you.

They can’t make referrals to you unless they clearly understand what you do, who you do it for, and why. Here are a few ways to educate them:  

  • Reach out directly and personally. Have a one-on-one conversation to talk about your business, your goals, and the kind of people with which you want to work. Provide a business card for them to hang on to in case they think of someone who might be interested in your services.
  • Send out one email through a system like MailChimp. Make it short and sweet—share that your business is taking on new clients. Briefly describe the kind of person you want to work with, and conclude by thanking them for their time and help. Give them the option to be removed from future emails like this.
  • Stay top of mind going forward by occasionally sharing your business social media updates on your personal networks, or by sending out a periodic email to say hello. Do not send emails to those who asked not to receive them, and try to avoid sending out impersonal mass emails.

In all these cases, you want to be open and honest, but not pushy. These are your friends, former coworkers, and family. Once they’re aware of what you do, you don’t need to bug them every other day with a Facebook message.

Attend Local Events for Businesses and Professionals

There’s something to be said for just being present and showing up when you get the chance to do so. Look for local professional events, conferences, and other happenings around town that can give you the opportunity to meet new people. You may not go to an event and score a client directly, but over time, your attendance can help you build a name for yourself along with a good reputation. This can expand your own network and provide more opportunities to gain clients down the road.


There’s rarely one silver bullet to landing clients. In other words, no one action or approach is likely to yield a stream of clients. Instead, build up your book of business over time and through several different activities. Establish your authority and credibility, both online and in person in your local area.