Becoming a financial advisor is a challenging endeavor with many requirements. Beyond traditional education courses, you may also need to become certified as a certified financial planner (CFP) or chartered financial analyst (CFA) to set yourself apart from the competition. The United States Department of Labor reports there were 271,000 financial advisors as of 2016, and that number is expected to grow 15% over the next decade. While the pay can be good, getting those clients and building a solid book of business can be a challenge. If you’re a new financial advisor, consider some of the following methods to secure your first clients.

Cultivate Your Influence

As a new financial advisor, you need to get outside your inner circle. This allows you to build a growing network that can provide ongoing referrals to the services you provide. You can do this through social media marketing or through personal relationships, though the latter tends to be the most effective.

Don’t limit yourself in growing your network. “My advice to any new financial advisor just starting out is to try to employ ‘leverage’ through the use of centers of influence such as accountants, attorneys, HR directors, business roundtables, as well as through social media. Such relationships with various accounts and attorneys take a lot of time, and, therefore, should be cultivated early in one's career,” says Donald Reichert, Partner at Capital Design Associates Group, LLC. Reichert’s advice to cultivate that network early in your career is important because you never know who you will meet through networking, and making connections earlier spurs career growth sooner. (For more, see: Tips for Advisors Who Want to Grow Their Practice.)

Serve the Underserved

Retirees, or those near retirement, can be a great source of clientele for many financial advisors. That will only increase as the number of those over 65 is set to double over the next few decades. While that number provides a lot of opportunity, it also means this demographic will be one of the most targeted for the forseeable future.

Instead of focusing on the clientele that is over-served, consider focusing on demographics that are underserved. “Most advisors work with individuals in or nearing retirement with lush portfolios, but I'm focusing on serving the underserved young professional space. I've spent some time focusing on getting in front of advisors to tell our story and how we can help clients,” says Matt Cosgriff, CFP, founder of Lifewise Advisors. By networking with other advisors, he's able to not only target those who might be underserved but also increase awareness among the advisor community of how he can help those in need. (For more, see: How Financial Advisors Are Leveraging Social Media.)

Become Involved in the Community

One of the best ways to get your first clients as an advisor is to become involved in your community. Whereas traditional marketing methods require money, community involvement largely requires only time. You may not realize it, but community involvement provides a natural avenue to network with those around you.

Find an organization you support or an event you enjoy and become involved. This will connect you with like-minded individuals that can potentially turn into clients for your practice. Like the networking previously mentioned, you never know who someone may know, and community involvement is a great way to grow and develop that sphere of influence. (For more, see: 5 Top Ways New Advisors Can Land Clients.)

What Provides Little Return

Getting clients as a new financial advisor is a numbers game. You’ve likely heard of or done some of the following things to get new clients:

  • Cold calling
  • Providing free meals to encourage attendance at a presentation
  • Knocking on doors
  • Fish bowls with business cards at trade shows

Those techniques, and many others, will provide numbers, however, it can be difficult to build a solid network of clients from them. “For the first ten years as an advisor, I struggled with the client acquisition process. Cold calling, door knocking, seminars and hoping for referrals were my only solutions. While these methods worked, they were painfully slow," says Devin Carroll, founder of Social Security Intelligence. (For more, see: Top Tips for Winning New Clients.)

This isn't to say the above-mentioned tactics won’t work. They will work, to a certain extent, but focusing on relationship-building and becoming involved in the community can build an organic book of business that spurs the growth of your business over the long haul.

The Bottom Line

When people hire a financial advisor they often look to those with credibility, which can be established best by forming relationships. Through getting out into the community and networking, you can build a firm that will grow with you for years to come.