Business Solo Goes from Zero Clients to Full, Referral-Based Calendar in 5 Years


This New Jersey prosecutor turned Washington DC business lawyer has relied on unconventional marketing … like using Instagram influencers … and content to build her practice.

“A Modern Lawyer for Modern Times” is how Toya Gavin, an attorney in solo practice in Washington, D.C., describes herself.

Quoting her father in a large banner headline on one of her website pages, Gavin says: “It’s better to be pissed off than to be pissed on.” This informal, conversational tone is typical of lawyer Gavin’s bold, unorthodox website copy.

“I wanted people to think they were hearing from a real person,” Gavin said. “Somebody you could talk to and who could get things done. Too many lawyers sound boring, without personality. The kind of client I want, my particular niche, are people who want to feel a connection with their attorney.”

Here’s another block of engaging copy from her website:

The business world is ruthless, plain and simple.
The slightest mistake – knowingly or unknowingly – can cost you big time…
in terms of time, money, and frustration.
If you’re a new business, just venturing out into the ‘cold-hard’ reality of the business world
and want to avoid getting taken advantage of,
having a lawyer at your side, somebody who knows the ins and outs of the law, can be a huge advantage.

Starting Her Practice With Zero Clients

When she hung her solo practice shingle in 2015, Gavin had zero clients. She built her practice initially through the power of networking, targeting entrepreneurs and small online businesses as potential clients. Eventually, as her practice grew, Gavin employed a variety of additional marketing methods, but from startup her network was the prime source of her clientele.

Previous to establishing her own practice Gavin was a prosecutor in Newark, New Jersey, and the many defense attorneys she met in court began referring clients to her.

Family and friends were another source of referrals.

“But you must talk to them,” Gavin said. “Tell them that you want referrals, especially for people who need legal work for their business. But any type of legal work is OK. Don’t be shy about asking.”

The Do-It-Yourself Website

As her case load increased, Gavin knew she needed a website. With the assistance of some friends, including her business manager and a photographer, Gavin designed her website without the assistance of an outside vendor.

“At first, I hired a freelance writer for a hundred dollars to help with my copy and to edit it,” she said. “Now, I write and edit all the copy myself.”

Potential clients exploring the website will find all the information they might require, including Gavin’s client-friendly and non-intimidating style of communication.

Gavin’s marketing message is sharply focused on the needs of her potential clients … including the daunting and extensive paperwork required of every business. Potential clients, startups and owner-operators of young businesses, are frequently intimidated by the complexity and “jargon-filled” documents that must be filled out and filed, she explained. Business owners welcome the services of a knowledgeable attorney to do the work for them.

Another means of attracting new clientele through her website, is an unusual offering called a Legal Audit.

Gavin’s audit offers a comprehensive review of the legal aspects of a client’s business. This includes an examination of all contracts and recommendations to improve them, registration of copyrights and trademarks, protection of business names and slogans, a website and email review, and advice on how to protect personal assets.

A free offer wraps up her website’s sales message. A headline declares: START YOUR BUSINESS ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE LAW. Copy below the head says:

“Get your hands on The Small Business Badass Checklist, Things to Consider When Starting Out. Fun to read and loaded with killer tips, you’re sure to have more than a few revelations. You’ll also be added to my email list where I send additional tips and discounts straight to your inbox.”

Gavin believes a website is essential. “People look you up on your website,” she said. “They research you so you must have a website to establish credibility and trust.”

Bluehost, a WordPress site, hosts the site for roughly $200 per year. Gavin spends a total of about $2,000 annually on all advertising and marketing, including her website, although some years the amount may be higher.

Although her website is an important marketing tool, it’s not the main source of new clients. “Referrals bring in most of my business,” she said.

Social Media Brings in Clients

Gavin also has a presence on social media, including Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Facebook and Instagram run slightly differing content, but both succeed in generating business. YouTube runs content of a more personal nature, Gavin explained.

LinkedIn carries a comprehensive professional profile of Gavin, including her previous work as a municipal prosecutor, and as a contract attorney for two private law firms. The LinkedIn pages also contain information about her current practice and her consulting firm, and several articles she wrote about legal and business topics.

A Newsletter and Blog Send Her Message

A weekly newsletter is published on Gavin’s website and is disseminated through email. The newsletter runs an introduction to her blog, which is also disseminated through her website. Content includes an inspirational quote related to a posting, comments about Gavin’s current interests. “Usually art, music or books I’m reading,” she said.

“A third section called ‘Demand,’ is where I talk about a political or social issue and ask my readers to take action or weigh in.” The audience is anyone who has signed up for Gavin’s email, or who is on her email list.

The newsletter typically runs about 300 to 500 words.

The audience for Gavin’s blog is broader and more diverse.

“I have more readers on my website blog than on my email list,” Gavin said. “Primarily though, it’s professional women with side hustles [businesses]and female entrepreneurs.”

Content varies, but is always pertinent to readership interests. It includes legal topics, business issues, including management and productivity, and self-awareness topics.

Recent articles posted on her blog, which runs weekly at from 600 to 750 words, included the following:

  • 5 Reasons You Should be Doing a Legal Audit of Your Business.
  • Owning the Conversation – How To Trademark A Hashtag for Your Business.
  • Stop Copying Me: How To Protect Your Original Content Online.

“My most unusual marketing method is that I use Instagram Influencers to market my services,” says Gavin. Facebook ads work, but they can be pricey. So I pick out Instagram Influencers with a similar target market and advertise my services directly to their audiences.

Instagram influencers are individuals, including celebrities, who have used the social medium to build an audience and establish their integrity and honesty. Advertising that appears on their pages has the implied approval of the influencer. Advertising rates are based on number of followers, beginning at $1,000 per 100,000.

Unlike many attorneys who advertise on radio, television and in newspapers, Gavin uses none of these. “They don’t reach my audience,” she said.

Pro Bono Public Speaking

Gavin’s pro bono work, another marketing tool and a source of new clients, includes public speaking. Two or three times a year Gavin speaks to students at community colleges about entrepreneurship. Among the topics she discusses are a full range of legal issues facing startups. Some of the students she’s addressed over the years have become clients.

Noting the success of her public speaking work, and the large numbers of potential clients in her audiences, Gavin said, “I plan to do more of it this year.”

Gavin’s Presence on Social Media

Social media in recent years has become a significant marketing medium and Gavin takes full advantage of it.

She has a presence on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. “My Facebook messages are more personal,” she said. “They also build credibility and trust and go to clients, former clients and people I know.” Gavin’s Instagram site carries comments on people, events and issues which interest her. The purpose of her presence on all these social media sites is to “be out there,” she said, reiterating her strategy to maintain a high profile online.

Gavin’s LinkedIn pages completes her social media packaging, providing a comprehensive look at who she is.

Although not directly a component of Gavin’s marketing strategy, one more source of new clients for Gavin is her consultancy, Legally Bold, a business separate from her law practice which offers legal coaching for entrepreneurs and business people and provides them consulting services.

Gavin’s marketing advice to her fellow attorneys: “Know your potential client. Reach out to them in their language.”

And for lawyers with law firms and new lawyers who want to start their own practices, “Give yourself permission to do it, ” she said. “I gave myself five years to make it. If I didn’t succeed by then, I’d get a job.”

Five years after she went solo, Gavin’s practice is flourishing and she currently has no plans to grow.

“I’m happy with the state of my practice right now,” she said. “I’m in a sweet spot and I like it. What I plan to grow now is my consulting business.”

Get your hands on the Small Business Badass Checklist: Things to Consider When Starting Out. Fun to read and loaded with killer tips, you’re sure to have more than a few revelations. You’ll also be added to my email list where I send additional tips and discounts straight to your inbox.


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