Editor’s note: The following is a guest post by Ramit Sethi, author of the New York Times bestseller I Will Teach You To Be Rich and founder of the personal finance blog I Will Teach You To Be Rich. Take it away, Ramit . . .
Maybe it’s uncouth to say, but most of the advice on earning money is terrible. Typical advice goes something like this:
* “Just start blogging! Create great content and someone’s bound to come along!”
* “Make a website and do some SEO!”
* “Creating a viral video to get lots of viewers!”
* “Go on some forums and you know, be helpful!”
Wow, I’ll just do a little SEO. It’s so easy! Then a simple viral video! Ugh, get the hell out of here. Solution: Get your first three paying clients. Getting your first client is a two-step process that I call Locate and Communicate.
* Who is your exact client, and where do they look for a solution to their problems? Do they read magazines? Go to the grocery store? Ask their priest?
* Where are people already looking for solutions to problems, and how can you make a match between them and your service?
The first option is my favorite: Identify very specific leads in your very specific target market, and figure out where they go to look for a solution to their needs. Look, most people don’t want to buy your services. But a few people might be into paying for your services. When you’re starting out, your job is to find those few people and communicate with them. Here’s how you find them.
The first step to finding your first 3 clients is to niche down your market. Do not try to find every person who uses a computer, lives in the USA, and likes pictures of George Clooney. Niche it down. By age, location, interest, income level, and many more options.
Then, find out where they go to find solutions. Get in their heads:
* Want to pitch to moms that blog about children? Go to The Mom Blogs and start with the ones under “Popular Blogs.”
* Looking for physical or massage therapists within 50 miles of your house? Yelp can get you started.
* If you want to do... large dog grooming and sitting, there’s a local pet store or dog park near you where owners are all congregating just waiting for you to offer them a solution.
Excuses like, “But Ramit! I have this idea and have no idea where to find customers!” are just that — excuses. My response is always, “What have you done to research your audience?” Have they emailed a few people? Taken them out to lunch? Asked complementary service providers if this is a good idea? The answer is almost always no. Yet you could do this in one to two weeks and save one year of your life. It doesn’t have to take a long time, and it doesn’t have to be agonizing…which brings us to step two...
Email will be your most important communication tool for pitching clients. I get pitched via email all the time, and the emails are usually too long and ineffective. Instead of getting in my head and suggesting how they can help me specifically, people tend to just list vague skills that are all over the board.
When it comes to communicating with your prospects, I hear many people complain that they’ve tried to reach out with little success. But by getting in your clients’ heads, you can fix that and write emails that engage and lead directly to paid work — no fancy marketing strategy needed. Why is this important? The most crucial thing your first client brings you is not money. It’s feedback.
* Is your business feasible?
* Does your basic pitch work?
* Can you execute on the service you’re selling?
The point is to build a system that lets you test and iterate on your business. While most people worry about a fancy website or business cards, you will talk with potential clients and stay focused on finding three who will pay you. They’re out there. Go get them.
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