So you've been bustin' your ass for a while now with a few of your sites, and you've got them ranking pretty well. You've studied all the ebooks on SEO, you've read John Battelle's Search book, and you're ready to take on your first paying SEO client.

Since you're just starting out, you're obviously at a bit of a disadvantage as far as marketing is concerned. Chances are, you've been spending all your time (and money?) marketing your SEM sites, and not your SEO abilities. That's ok, finding a client won't be too bad.

If you're a web designer, you've probably already got a list of clients that you could contact. Tell them about your "newest service", search optimization. Or search marketing. Or search engine marketing. Whatever you want to call it.

Don't have a list of clients? That's ok. Contact your local Jaycee or Kiwanis or Chamber of Commerce and offer to do a free talk on Online Marketing opportunities. Have your business cards, and even a few business packages or flyers that explain your services in further detail. Do the talk on how your audience can expand their business by simply ranking on Google. Don't promote yourself, its not the time to do a sales pitch. Give them a genuine value and they'll see that you're a smart and confident person.
Or you can do what I do. I teach a free class at the local branch of the library. The class is called "Marketing Your Business Website". The title alone helps me target business owners. And they come to the class. So here I am, once a month with local business owners eager to see how they can market their website online.

My class is pretty fast-paced. I cram a ton of stuff into their heads in two and a half hours. Too much for them to remember, but that's ok. What I've found is that most business owners aren't there to learn all the marketing techniques anyway. Some of them are just there to see if I really know what I'm talking about. They take notes, and may go back to their computer and update their meta tags, but most won't do much more than that.

What will happen, however, is that a week later or a month later or three months later they'll phone me up. "Hey, this is John Smith over at Widgets, Inc. I took your class at the library. I was wondering if you'd have time to stop by. We'd like to talk with you about some website issues." There's your opportunity. It's happened to me several times.

Oh, and since you're a marketing guru, I challenge you to find your first client without the use of advertising. Don't spend anything to get them. C'mon, be creative. You can do it.

So what happens when you get that client to admit they need SEM, and then they balk at the price you've quoted? We'll talk about that next.

About 

Will Hanke owns Saint Louis' top independent Internet Marketing firm, Red Canoe Media. In addition to helping some of St Louis' most recognizable brands with their online marketing strategy, Will also is an Amazon bestselling author, speaker and teacher.