There is nothing like the excitement and sense of accomplishment when your brand new business gets its first paying client.
There’s joy and “I can’t believe this is happening!” fist pumps alone in your living room—quickly followed by that “oh shit” moment when you remember that someone is paying you real money and expecting real results. Can you deliver? What if you mess up? What if they’re not happy? What if you’re secretly terrible at what you want to do?
But even before all that, how will you even find clients?
Your first paying customer is probably someone you already know, or is a friend of a friend.
That means that in order to get your first clients, you don’t need to:
- Have a perfectly curated, on-brand Instagram feed with professional quality photographs
- Have a professionally designed custom website with all the bells and whistles
- Have 2,000 Pinterest followers hanging on your every pin
- Host an online summit featuring interviews from 35 “influencers"
- Have the perfect bio, title, and business name
So if you’re waiting on that stuff before you make money, you’re doing it wrong.
In fact, you’re not really doing it, at all. You’re playing a game called “business owner” that keeps you busy, safe, and broke. That can be a really fun game if you want a creative hobby. If you want a business (clients! money!), you have to focus on what really matters.
What do you have to have to get your first client?
A solution to a problem someone has.
Because it’s about the work.
It’s not about the flash.
The flash—the drool-worthy Instagram accounts and powerful websites—those only matter if they back up something of substance. Work on the substance first, and dress it up later.
Working on the substance first looks like offering your services for free while you develop your process.
It looks like having conversations with the kind of people who want to help so you know what they really need.
It looks like setting up a simple, one page website with a beta offering.
It looks like getting feedback from beta clients and improving your offer.
It looks like establishing an income and solid brand before spending thousands on a web designer.
The flash comes easy. You can buy the flash. The substance takes effort. You earn the substance.
So before you go out and think that some magic bullet like Facebook ads or an Instagram account or a designer blog is going to rocket you to Queen of the Internet status, earn the substance.
And then, tell the people you know what you’re doing. Your first client is probably a Facebook friend, someone you went to college with, the brother of that tall girl in your yoga class, or your neighbor’s art teacher.