I took an informal survey of my successful personal chef colleagues asking them how they found their very first client.

The answers were more diverse than I anticipated so I thought I’d share here to give you some ideas and some encouragement.

Word of Mouth

By far the most common source was Word of Mouth (WoM) or some variation of that such as a referral. Here’s a quote to make you smile and hopefully get you to start talking about your new business:

“I can’t remember if it was Word of Mouth or me telling everyone that was in my ‘breathing space’ about my new business.” 

Two of my colleagues said, “YOU, Monica! You gave me my first client.”

Ah yes, networking which is an expansion of the WoM tactic.


This is more targeted as you either interact with others IN your profession who may have more work than they can handle and will share the wealth OR with those who may not be chefs but may have access to your target market.

Another interesting variation on WoM came from a former fitness instructor turned chef who was constantly asked by her fitness clients if she would cook for them to round out the picture of their health.

Partnering and collaborating

This natural intersection between fitness and food should lead you to think about partnering with fitness instructors near you who have no desire to cook for their clients but could potentially refer them to you.

Thumbtack was an answer but with a caveat that this was early in Thumbtack’s history before it became a bargain-hunter’s tool.

Thumbtack, the internet and roaming the store in your chef coat

I will add that some chefs in some markets have found Thumbtack to be a very valuable resource and others say it is a waste of money. I think it depends on the market and may require a small investment to determine if it works in YOUR market.

One chef built her website FIRST (unlike most of us) and found her initial client came within 2 days of launching the site. This underscores the power of the internet which we’ll address in the future.

By far the most interesting and creative response I had to my little inquiry was the chef who said she found her first client by “walking the aisles of Whole Foods in my chef coat pretending to shop for my non-existent client.”

LOVE it!

Get creative and GET OUT THERE!

If you’ve already scored that first client, help me continue to gather data and let me know how that happened in the comments below.