I remember when I first started in the business world- I had just hired a business coach when we talked about creating an avatar for my ideal client on one of our first calls. Uhm, ideal client? My ideal client was anyone who would pay me over $7 an hour. Seriously. I knew I had built the blueprint for a successful business but also had NO IDEA how to actually make money by getting clients.
Within just a couple months of starting though, and lots of hard work, I was able to go from zero paying clients to being booked out in a month of advance. People ask me ALL the time tips on turning their passion into a paid gig, and here are my top five tips on how to do just that:
1. Do work for free
I know, I know. This isn’t something ANYONE wants to do. But, doing this was one of the most beneficial things I did early on for my business. I was still trying to nail down exactly what I wanted to do, and how my process would go, so right when I started with design, I reached out to a cocktail bar in Louisville, Kentucky down the street from me. I asked them if I could do some work for them for free. They (obviously) obliged and were super excited. I worked on a few projects, got amazing portfolio items and a wonderful testimonial. I also got SUPER clear on how to present my offers during this time and asked for feedback on my work that proved to be invaluable.
Now, this client still works with me on a monthly retainer basis, and has for the last year. Doing work for free for that one month created a connection where they trusted me and loved my work, and now I have a lifelong client who I absolutely love working with, and who refers me to their network, too.
Tip: Make your boundaries clear when doing free work- make sure you give a timeline and the exact amount of deliverables so they don’t feel upset when you decide you need to start getting paid for it.
2. NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK
This is one that is easier said than done because the key is to do it in a way that is authentic and genuine. There is a difference between selling to people and networking with them. Networking is essentially “planting the seed,” instead of “HEYYYYYY, PLEASE HIRE ME!”
Don’t connect and network with people with any intention of a sell, but rather to truly focus on building a real relationship with them. This goes for networking both online and in-person. Find people in Facebook Groups or apps like Meet-Up who share similar interests in you and get coffee with them as a friend. Answer peoples questions online when it has to do with your zone of genius just to help- expecting nothing in return.
Creating real relationships is fulfilling in so many ways than just helping with get clients. Creating these relationships and networking has given me some of the very best friends I could imagine (both online and in real life!)
And, when you truly go into it with a mindset to serve and help others without expecting anything in return, you become the expert of knowledge in your field- making you the “go-to person.” I’m a lot of peoples “go-to person” when they have questions on Squarespace, web design, or branding. Act like the expert you are in your field.
Tip: When networking online, make sure your social media pages tell people exactly what you do. If you are providing this valuable information and serving these people and then they click on your profile and have no idea who you are or what your business is, you could miss out on a really valuable connection.
3. Be more visible and tell the world about your offer
I remember early on in my journey I read “You are never as visible as you think you are.” That is SO true. Even if you have a loyal tribe and following, they’re going to miss a lot of your content. And if THEY miss it, imagine how many others miss it…
I posted a project the other day that I’ve posted what feels like a million times, and people were commenting on it saying they had no idea I did that, and they love that place, etc.
This just shows that SO MUCH of what we put out into this online space isn’t being seen. So that means you have to REALLY put yourself out there- make posts on your personal page about taking on new clients, do Instagram and Facebook lives, webinars, post consistently on different social media pages, be as visible as you can be and recycle that valuable content. This, again, helps you become the “go-to person” for your area of expertise and even if people aren’t ready to hire you now, your visibility will CONSTANTLY keep you front of mind for when you are ready (or, for a referral when their friend is ready!)
Tip: People LOVE videos- really utilize videos on social media platforms and connect with potential clients giving tangible tips on things they can implement to improve some area of their business. Always make it about what you can do for them- and make sure they know that you are serving THEM.
4. Be able to really pitch yourself and your services
One of the biggest issues I see with people just starting their business is… they don’t really know what their offer is! How can you sell yourself if you don’t even really know what you’re doing? Get crystal clear on WHAT you want to offer and create packages with your offers. Work on your elevator speech so you know how to answer someone when they ask what you do.
Figure out a price (I know, easier said than done, but something) on your packages so you can tell people exactly what they will be paying. Practice pitching your services in the mirror, on the phone, in anyway that makes you comfortable with saying “Hey, I am _____, I have x many packages, offering x, y,z, and they start at x price.”
Tip: If you pitch your services and follow-up and find your client has chosen someone else, ask them WHY. It’s uncomfortable, but could be the exact feedback you need to better your offerings and figure out what your competitors are doing better.
5. Make sure you “walk the walk”
If you are a social media manager, make sure you are practicing and implementing best practices. If you’re a designer, make sure your logo and brand are strong. If you are a web designer, make sure your website rocks. If you are a business coach, show testimonials and transformations of your clients. If you are a photographer, make sure you have professional photos of yourself and aren’t uploading poor quality images.
So many people avoid this step and then look back and think “oh, duh.” The best thing in your portfolio in any industry is YOUR BUSINESS! I remember one time I was with a friend who was looking online to find a new hair stylist. A woman had an image with what my friend called “super dead hair with grown out roots and a bad perm.” She then said “I’d never trust her to do my hair, she can’t even do her own!” She may have been a little harsh, but her saying that made me realize how important it is to truly showcase your business and expertise in your own life and your own business and who you truly are… the journey with your customers starts at the beginning. The second people view a post of mine, or my site, they begin to really look at my work- am I following the rules I preach in my blogs? Is my website mobile responsive? These things are all SO important in showing up as the expert in my field.
Tip: Ask for outside perspective on how others see your business- specifically those who may be your ideal clients. What is resonating with them, and what is not? This feedback will be invaluable.
So, there you have it- the five tips I give my success to on landing my first client. I truly believe these things contributed to my success in growing my business so quickly and SO hope they help you guys too.
Want more advice on up-leveling your side hustle and making the leap?