Ask 1099Mom: How Do I Get My First Client or Customer?

How do I get my first customer? This is by far the most frequently asked question that I get here and in my consulting business to moms who want to start working from home.  While many of the opportunities for work are employee arrangements where the company provides you with customers, some of the best work-at-home careers are self-employed gigs.  You have to bring in all the customers and clients with your own savvy.

So how does someone who is new in the business get started making that first sale?  Whether you are a blogger, dog walker, jewelry maker, or daycare provider, the answer is all the same.


Here are the steps I take to get business.  They'll work for you, too!

1.  Go where your customers are.  It always amazes me when moms shell out money for conferences and networking events to go where their competitors go.  (Take away extra points for awesome if there are no clients there.)  Before putting out cash to attend an event where there will be no opportunities to sell, make sure that there is some other valuable take away such as education or peer-training.

Identify where your next customer will be by attending trade events in your niche.  Go outside of where your competition goes.  If you're a real estate blogger, attend home shows where small real estate companies may be exhibiting or just attending as a guest.  If you sell makeup, hit events where teen girls will be gearing up for prom.  Do your research and make your attendance count!

2. Have your business card and elevator pitch ready.  It was really hard for me to first give an elevator pitch when I started in the online world.  I was a blogger, freelancer, consultant, social media manager, public speaker and so much more.  So how did I condense all my services into a slick sentence or two describing what I did?  I practiced.

Now, on airplanes, I can answer the question of "what do you do?" easily by handing over my card and saying "I make sure my clients have excellent online content anytime they need it."  This leads into specific questions that I can answer to say that we blog, create video, and handle Facebook accounts for small businesses.

If I'm actually in an elevator (and short on time), I hand the card and say the first line.  They can look me up by the web address on my card and figure the rest out.

3.  Ask your friends and relatives.  This does NOT mean to be the annoying sales person that asks uncle Joe if he needs a nail wrap or your down-and-out cousin if he can give up an extra $200 a month for energy shakes.  This means that you don't hesitate to announce to friends and family what you do and remind those who are qualified leads that you can help them.

If you sell B2B (business to business) services or products, this may be more difficult.  But even your Aunt Sue with the video store could use your social media services to advertise specials on the newest DVD releases.  Work it out to give them a discount or barter for reduced prices so that you can get your foot in the door and have a forgiving client who can help you as you grow your process and work out any kinks in your new business. Do not, however, work for free for relatives.  Ever.

(It will be very difficult to take the partnership to a paying arrangement down the road.)

4.  Advertise.  I have no idea why today's work-at-home mom is so advertising adverse.  Really, there is a time and a place for advertising, and -- if done right -- it can have a greater impact on getting new business than any other method.

Did you know that most of the moms I talk to with thriving businesses haven't a clue about what a Facebook boosted post is?  They haven't considered putting a magnet on their car.  They are completely unsure how to go about getting a banner ad on a well-known blog?

While each of these tasks is a process in itself (and one that I'll be sharing in detail for each at a later date), the truth is, advertising works.  You may not always get the exact client you want by broadly reaching out to a mass audience, but you'll drum up interest and can go from there.

5.  Get referrals.  Have you done work in your industry but are branching out as an entrepreneur for the first time?  Get in touch with old clients and colleagues and ask them who they think could use your products or services.  Most will be happy to keep their ear to the ground and recommend you to anyone they come across who is looking.  One way I use to stay in touch with all my old co-workers is to stay active on LinkedIn.  (Here are tips for using LinkedIn that you should already be doing.)

The art of getting sales is reliant on persistence, as well.  Keep trying.  It took me 6 months to get my first blogging client, and that was back in 2007, when blogging was new and there wasn't much competition!

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