How To Get Your First Clients Without Spending Money

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When you’re a brand new entrepreneur searching for your first clients it’s easy to believe you need a fancy system in place to find them. You study all the shiny software and try to create a seriously intense marketing plan. You probably believe this is the only way to land clients. That all new business owners have to go through this.

Like it’s a rite of passage, and requires a lot of blood, sweat, tears, struggle, and money.

But the truth is, if you have something of value to offer people, you can start working with clients right now.

No bells and whistles required.

The trickiest part of being a new entrepreneur is knowing when to start charging people. Once you wrap your head around that, and turn your attention to finding clients, it’s a lot simpler than you might think.

The Easy Way To Get Your First Client: Just Start

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”
- Arthur Ashe

The key to getting started is to just start.

You have to begin where you are, with what you have.

Really, there’s no other way to do it.

You can wait until you have this fancy software system, or that awesome qualification, or a million other things, but all you’re really doing is avoiding.

At some point, you are going to have to take the plunge. It doesn’t matter if it’s now or a year from now, it’s always going to be a big, scary leap.

The sooner you start, the sooner you get the ball rolling, the sooner you get successful.

It’s that simple.

So stop for a second and think: Who is there in your life right now that could potentially use your help?

Grab a pen and piece of paper, right now, and come up with a list of ten people you already know, who you would love to help.

They don't have to be people you know particularly well.

It could be the girl you met in yoga the other day, or your bestie.

There are no requirements for this other than you wanting to work with this person, and having something to offer them.

For example, if you want to start coaching people in business, you’re probably not going to be able to do much for your brother, who created a 7 figure startup overnight and is currently jet setting around the globe on his latest book tour.

BUT, I bet you’ve got a boatload of amazing advice for your brother’s best friend, the one who’s suuuuper jealous of his success and wishes she had her own amazing business.

How I Got My First Clients

When I first started my business I thought about some of the female entrepreneurs I’d gone to college with.

I knew I was interested in working with women entrepreneurs, so even though I wasn’t particularly close with the ones I knew, I reached out. It was really simple; I just zipped them a message asking if they’d like me to block out some time for them on my calendar, now that I was coaching people professionally.

They all said yes!

After that I thought about some people I'd known in high school. I’d seen on LinkedIn that they were hunting for jobs, and thought, “I like these people. I’d love to chat with them. And I can help them.”

If you want to get your first clients, you just need to start talking to people.

Start having conversations.

Offer people powerful advice and they WILL want more. They’ll want to know how they can continue getting your awesome wisdom.

Not everyone is going to be interested in continuing to work with you, but that’s okay.

You’re not meant to serve everyone, and you won’t want to work with all of them either!

But if you start putting yourself out there, and having these conversations, you'll start getting clients.

Tell The World You’re Ready For It

The biggest hurdle between you and your first client is making the decision that you actually want them.

Once you’ve decided you do, you have to make a bit of an effort. You might not end up working with the people you first reach out to, but that doesn’t matter. When you start putting your energy into finding clients, the universe takes notice.

That effort, that energy, is telling the universe, “I’m serious. I’m ready for this!”

If you make the unequivocal declaration that you want to work with people, by starting to work with people, the world will line itself up with you.

And your new clients will line themselves up right along with it.

Make your list of 10 people, reach out to them, and give them some time on your calendar.

Build Your Support Network

Your friends and family may know people who need exactly what you’re offering, even if they don’t need it themselves.

My first clients were mostly friends of friends, and people who knew me in some way. Telling the people who already know, like, and trust you (or know someone who does!) about your new enterprise is a great first step in building your confidence in what you’re creating.

For example, if you’re starting a biz as a wedding photographer, you may not have any friends currently planning on getting married. But it’s very likely that between friends, family, and colleagues, somebody you know, knows someone who is.

More than that, you’ll almost certainly find a couple trying to keep their costs down, who are open to working with someone looking to build their portfolio and gain experience.

You’re not a huge risk for them, because you have a mutual friend, and there’s a huge benefit for them in working with you as it will help them save money (check out my post on pricing when you first start out for more details on this!).

Likewise, if you’re a health coach looking to support people losing weight, you will have someone in your network that currently needs help with that. It might be someone you know directly, or a friend of a friend, but when people need something, they are very willing to accept help when it’s offered.

So offer it!

This is true of pretty much any service. If you’re starting out as a web designer, a writer, social media manager, whatever, there will be people who need help with the service you want to offer.

It doesn’t matter what you’re offering, there is always someone you already know who needs it.

Or at the very least, someone known to someone you know.

Reality Is What You Make It

Entrepreneurship is soooo rewarding, but it can also get kinda lonely. One thing I figured out early on is that there are two types of people in your life: the ones who are super supportive of your efforts, believe in you, and share your vision (even if they don’t always understand it!) and the skeptics.

When you’re seeking out new clients, use your discretion.

You know that one friend you have who always poo poos everyone else’s ideas, goals, and dreams?

You know the one, they’re constantly negative (even when good things are happening), and perpetually caught up in some huge drama (which is always ‘worse’ than whatever is going on with you and your other friends).

People like this often have many great qualities - you wouldn’t be friends with them otherwise, right? But don’t count on them for support.

In fact, don’t even mention your new endeavor to them yet.

Starting your own business is a huuuuge change. It’s part of the reason we put off starting - change is scarier than the Night King riding an undead dragon!

Some people can handle change. They see potential in it. Others struggle with it more, seeing only the possible negative outcomes.

People who don’t know you or support you may try to keep you grounded “in reality”, which really just means keep you from exploring what’s possible.

The truth is, you can be, do, or have whatever you desire.

Reality is what you make it.

It can be difficult for some people to see this, particularly if they’re not willing to take risks, and really work on the tough stuff. Change feels impossible because the work needed to make it happen doesn’t feel achievable, or simply doesn’t interest them.

It’s easy for someone with this mindset to project it onto others and assume the same is true for them. They believe their reality is also your reality. When you start describing something they can’t envisage ever doing themselves, it’s unachievable, and they try to talk you out of it.

“I’m just trying to be realistic.”

“Yeah, but that’s not reality is it?”

“It’s a nice thought, but dreams don’t pay the rent!”

You don’t need to hear things like this!

Starting a business is hard enough without all that negativity. The good news is that you don’t have to share what you’re creating with people unless you choose to.

It’s easy to sidestep the issue.

Be selective in who you choose to speak to about your new business.

Get in touch with the people who have supported and encouraged you in the past. Friends and family you know are always supportive of others, and positive and enthusiastic when it comes to change.

And try not to resent the people you can’t share it with; they’re not purposefully trying to bring you down.

They probably genuinely believe they’re looking out for you and helping. But the result will be making you feel bad. You’ll start second guessing yourself, doubts will creep in, and you’ll put everything off a little bit longer.

What To Ask And How To Ask It

When you talk to people, be specific in what you say. Let them know exactly how you can help each other. Keep it short, simple, and direct. Here are two examples:

“I’m sooo excited about my new photography biz, do you know anyone who needs a wedding photographer? I need to build my portfolio, gain some practical experience, and collect testimonials, it would be a massive help if you could put me in touch...”

“I’m suuuper excited to be taking on my first coaching clients, do you know anyone who is looking to lose weight and create a new, healthy lifestyle? I need to test out the amazing new health plan I’m developing, gather some success stories, and build my confidence, I would be hugely grateful if you could put me in touch...”

Swap out the specifics and keep the tone light and positive, while still very clearly explaining what you’re doing, what you need, and how they can help you.

The Targeted Way To Land Your First Ideal Clients

Talking to people you already know is a great way to get the ball rolling. But if you want to build your business fast, and make sure you are doing exactly what you want it to be doing, there are a few other things you can do.

Step 1: Know Your Ideal Client

These steps will not only land you clients, but land you your ideal client. But you can’t do that until you know exactly who that is, so get a really solid understanding of who your ideal client is, and what they want. Check out my post on How To Determine Your Ideal Client And Why It’s Important for more info on this!

Step 2: Get Crystal Clear On Your Outcomes

What exactly are you going to be achieving for people? What can they expect from your process? Do you have any specific methodologies you favor, or a signature service/style you’re developing?

If these are your very first clients, you probably don’t have anything to demonstrate how well your way of doing things works. Consider trying it out on yourself first! Can you take great photographs of your friends, family, dogs, or the elephants at the zoo, to demonstrate how good you are with a camera? Can you build your own website and ensure it’s utterly perfect to showcase your web developer skills? Or maybe you’ve already overhauled your own diet and lifestyle and are seeing amazing results.

Get creative. How can you pin down the exact things people will get out of working with you? How can you make them tangible?

Step 3: Create An Irresistible Offer

Once you’re suuuper clear on what you’re offering, package it up in a way that is really appealing to people. Even if you don’t have a physical product, you can still create ‘package’ services.

Packaging up your offerings with a clear outline of everything people will receive (whether it’s the number of coaching calls and sessions, or the number of photography prints) will make it easier for people to buy. If you can add complementary extras all the better.

Unsure what to add to your packages? Think about the practical things your new clients will need in order to make the most out of what you’re offering. How about offering unlimited email support, or a weekly phone catch up? Can you create PDF downloads, tutorials, audios, video, or other content to help them?

Step 4: Create Amazing Content

Speaking of content, the more you create, the more people will find you and reach out to you. There’s no right or wrong way of creating content. You might blog, vlog, or start a podcast. You might dedicate yourself to Snapchat, Instagram, or another social media platform. Exactly what you do and where you do it isn’t nearly as important as getting your content out there.

It’s how people will find you!

Step 5: Put Yourself Out There

Another great way to ensure people find you is to really put yourself out there. Guest blogging, getting featured on sites like The Huffington Post, and gaining press coverage for yourself and your new business will all build your profile and reputation.

See if you can land some speaking gigs in your local area. Offer them for free initially, for the opportunity to get yourself in front of new people, and pitch your offering at the end. Go to local business networking groups and meet other people who are starting up their own businesses.

Step 6: Targeted Networking

In a similar vein is a much more targeted form of networking. Once you’ve identified your ideal client you should have a really good idea of where they love to hang out. Get on social media and find ideal client-specific groups and networks.

Join in. Start talking to people.

Check out my FREE Finding Your First Clients Checklist for a detailed breakdown of exactly how to target your ideal clients on Facebook (without spending any money!).

Step 7: Listen Keenly, Offer Freely

One of the huge benefits of really getting involved in online groups and taking and interest, is the opportunity to share your knowledge.

You don’t have to pitch people, just get yourself known to them and when they ask what you do, tell them. Offer your expert advice when people ask.

You will find people start to remember you for your specific talent, and come to you for help. The next time they need someone who does what you do, you’ll be the first person they think to ask.

And the next time someone asks if they know someone in your area, you’ll be the first person they recommend!

Letting people genuinely get to know you will do a lot more to help you than just dropping in once a week to post a promotion.

Be a better listener than you are a talker, letting people explain their situations, problems, concerns, and share their hopes, fears, and wins. When appropriate, offer your help, but when you do, offer it freely.

Yes, it feels counterintuitive, but if you offer your services freely right at the start, when you do start charging you can immediately charge what you’re worth!

And Finally...

Your first clients may come to you quickly and easily. Or, they may take a bit more work. Your mindset is incredibly important. You must know, believe, and be excited to assist people. If you have a conflicting energy about it, it’s going to be much harder to attract the right clients.

If you’re looking for extra help getting started, join the FREE live workshops I’m teaching November 28th, 29th, & 30th on How to Master Your Mindset & Marketing to Fully Book Your Creative, Coaching, or Online Biz (Even If You’re Still in Your 9-5).