How to Win at Booking Clients from Week One
Honestly, I feel a little weird even typing out that headline.
Disclaimer: The word “secret” doesn’t mean an easy solution. Starting a business is hard work, and I don’t want to downplay that at all. I do have a few tips and tricks that worked for me, and might work for you, too.
Expect transparency and a lot of honesty in this post! I don’t sugarcoat things. (Sometimes I spicy-coat them.)
I officially “started” my business June 11, 2018.
One week later, I found myself with a full client load and a waiting list.
I also frequently looked like this:
I’m so thankful to have had such a killer kickstart, but I just want to clarify a few things before we move on to the nitty-gritty.
By “started” I mean I told people what I was doing. That was it.
What I didn't have:
A website for my business
A “brand” of any kind
My processes NAILED DOWN
A fancy launch with giveaways and tag-your-friends craziness
What I did have:
Expertise + experience
The realization that I did not know everything
The will to make this work
This idea of a business had been brewing in my heart for years. I helped my friends in my free time, blogged my heart out, read business books for fun, and dissected the why and how of standing out in an industry, community, marketplace, etc.
You know, nerdy stuff.
I know you might be wondering: So, Jess. Why did people trust you? (GOOD QUESTION!)
Well, to be completely honest, I’m not sure. But if I take a LARGE step back, I can guess:
I practiced. You guys, blogging was seriously my #1 best form of practice for this business. It helped me figure out who I was as a writer, and showed me what topics resonated with my audience the most. I also started out writing About pages for people, I contributed to magazines, I wrote articles for non-profits, and more. I taught Creative Writing to high school students, and helped them learn different ways to grow into themselves as writers, developing their voice instead of emulating the voice of everyone else.
I built relationships without needing anything from them. I love connecting with other creatives. The reason I built my business around this clientele is because they are literally my besties. I am a total DM stalker, so I’ve been reaching out and connecting with other creatives for years. They all know me as the “words” girl, so this was a natural extension of who they knew me to be. Now I’m the first one on their mind when someone needs a copywriter! The thing is, I didn’t plan that. I just wanted to be friends. Don’t go in with ulterior motives. They can smell that stink from miles away!
I was brave. It feels a little weird to say that, because I’m a natural second-guesser. But, my first thought when someone asks me to do something, before my inner gremlins have a chance to take hold, is always: Oh, sure! I can do that! That got me into trouble in the teaching world because I took on way too much. BUT, it also helped me gain experience more quickly than I would have otherwise. When a national corporation asked me to post to social media for them, I said, “Sure, I can do that!” When another company asked me to food blog for them, I said, “I can probably figure that out!” And even though it took me longer than most, I did it, and then subsequently realized that was not the stuff I wanted to be doing. But knowing what you don’t want to do is just as valuable as knowing what you want, sometimes. And everything gave me such killer experience I wouldn’t have obtained in any other way.
I ASKED. Like I said, I’m a DM stalker. Half of my first batch of clients were from me saying, “Hey, I would LOVE to do this for you. Can I?” Guys. Sometimes they say “yes” and it’s fantastic.
I explained. I think sometimes we overestimate everyone’s desire to understand what we do. We get defensive when people don’t reach out because they “don’t get it.” Then we sit on our high horse listening to the crickets in the void without even considering: Wait, have I explained it to them? Have I told them how I can help them? Why working with me will make their life easier? How it will make them different? You can’t expect people to know what you refuse to tell them. Get off your high horse and put on your elementary teacher hat: What is every piece of information people need in order to get what you do?
So how can you book out your business in the first week?
1. Start before you’re ready.
Cultivate your skills. (Yeah, like Napoleon Dynamite. You know, computer hacking skillz.) Keep honing what you know you love and are good at. If you don't know yet, find out.
Build relationships. Don't be afraid to give something away, whether it's expertise, your services, a product of some kind, etc. But also, give away your friendship, your presence, your conversation.
ASK. Ask. Ask! It's amazing what might happen if you just ask someone. REALLY. Try it.
2. Be realistic. Being fully booked right out of the gate is the dream, right? Well, there are a lot of challenges that come with a full calendar before you have a ton of experience (but the only way up is through) Make sure you’re finding time for these things in the midst of it all:
Track everything. Make sure you're keeping track of your processes, cool things that happen in the beginning, how you feel, and more.
Be honest, but optimistic with clients. Excitement and optimism goes a long way, but you should never be unrealistic with your clients. You will be tempted to say, "Yes, I can do that!" But be realistic about the time it might take you to do something, and be honest if you have to find an answer for them. Honesty contributes to that trust-factor. I mean--DUH.
Take a deep breath and remember why you wanted to do this in the first place. Nobody ever said it would be easy. You will have hard days where you're up to your eyebrows in things you feel unqualified for. Remember: You chose this. Take some time to think remember WHY. Then get back to work!
Write out your next right step. Write it down in PEN. What would it mean to start before you’re ready? Do you need to cultivate a skill? Reach out and ask someone if you can serve them for free? Write out that specific next step. (Bonus: Then go do it!)
I would love to hear your next step in the comments or tag me over on Instagram (@jessjordana) so I can cheer you on!