So, you want to turn your passion into a business.
Go from an idea to a service or a product that impacts other people and allows you to focus on what you truly love and do best.
All that stands between you and having a business is that first sale.
The challenge isn’t that you don’t know where to start from; it’s that you have so many ideas, tactics, and strategies, it’s challenging to stick to one and know which to prioritise.
With all the information available out there, it becomes overwhelming to decide what to do next. You end up starting tactic after tactic until something better comes along.
You’re stuck in a loop, continually starting and stopping and never seeing progress.
In this article, I want to show you how I helped three wantrepreneurs find their first client and turn their passion into a business through my coaching programme.
How to Find Your First (and Second) Client
Meet Jon, Effie, and Megan.
Jon enjoys his corporate career but wants more flexibility to be able to spend time with his family. He wants to make better use of his time in both a personal and a financial sense. Jon is passionate about writing and loves to help other people express themselves through the written word. In the past, he has helped a couple of friends start online blogs, but has never quite turned it into a business activity. He tells himself that he doesn’t know who would be interested in his services.
Effie has just gone part-time at work. She likes the mindset challenge that business represents, and she wants to work with entrepreneurs to maximise both her impact and learning potential. Effie has worked in event management and is currently the personal assistant to a startup’s CEO. She’s excellent at helping others get organised and taking admin off their plate. Effie is determined to turn her superpower into a flexible business that would allow her to make more money but also have the flexibility to travel. She decided to create a VA business that can scale beyond herself and enable her to create a radically different situation.
Megan has a 9–5 that pays her bills, but she’s very passionate about creating art. Her husband, Mike, loves to watch her getting lost in the creative process. Megan lights up whenever she combines impactful messages with beautiful imagery. She wants to inspire people to face their demons just like she did. She’s read a ton of books and listened to podcasts; she has so many ideas that she struggles to stick to one for long enough to see results.
She doesn’t know what to prioritise, and the overwhelm has kept her stuck.
Here’s how Jon, Effie, and Megan can get a first client.
Overcomplicating Things: a Tempting Distraction
At this point, many entrepreneurs overcomplicate things: a subconscious way to self-sabotage.
Remember, launching a business will bring a massive change to your life, whether positive or negative. We don’t like change. We’d rather be unhappy than uncertain. Having a business will require you to change the way you think and act, as well as creating brand new challenges and opportunities you’ll have to cope with.
A common manifestation of this self-sabotage is to operate like a much larger company. Create a level of complexity that is not needed, and that will spread your limited resources very thin.
Content is a classic example: opening up a Medium, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube account just because you have heard that “you need an online presence.”
To be clear: Content is a powerful sales engine, and it’s how I get more than half of my coaching clients and connect with other influencers. But if you’re starting a business from scratch, it’s also unnecessary.
You already have to learn business 101; why would you add content creation on top? You now have two giant missions, each with a big learning curve, and still don’t know where to start from.
Instead of creating a community and then scouting it for potential clients or customers, keep things simple: Go to existing communities.
Where Do They Hang Out?
A couple of years ago, I felt disillusioned with meeting women on tinder. Most dates were a pretty random match with very little in common. So I decided to make a list of places where a woman I’d be interested in would choose to pass her time; I focused on coffee shops, events, and fitness classes. Within a month, I was dating a girl I liked.
Business isn’t that different from dating; to find your first customer, go where they already hang out.
The first step is to know who your target audience is: Are they male or female? What kind of job and daily activities do they engage in? What problem can you solve for them?
Once you have a well-defined persona, you can start thinking about the communities they are likely already a part of. Podcasts, blogs, meetups in your city, Facebook groups, Instagram accounts. Where do they hang out? How do they pass their time?
Knowing this allows you to go from fishing with a (blunt) wooden spear to using a trawl (someone else’s trawl).
Instead of using a “stab in the dark” approach that only reaches one person at a time (think cold emails or those pesky LinkedIn bots), you want to go straight to a gated community and buy your way in by providing value.
Here’s how this applies to Jon, Effie, and Megan (and how you can do it too).
Reach Out to the Gatekeeper (No More Email Blasts)
OK, so. You have a customer persona, and you know where they hang out. It’s time to get access to that gated community by creating value.
Jon wants to help content creators express themselves through the written word. In his case, it’s much easier to interact with people who already share their thoughts and create content online. They are ready, and they possibly already monetise their content, meaning that they are in a position to pay.
In Jon’s case, we looked at people who already had content in an unwritten form: events and podcasts. This way, he could propose to turn their existing concepts into blog posts (or even a book) and quickly reach more people. By focusing on content creators, Jon was able to go for a double-whammy: reach out to a potential collaboration directly, then ask for access to their community. That’s why we decided to focus on podcasters with a following in the entrepreneurial community. Providing value to them may mean getting a first client and also access to a congregation of potential leads.
Leveraging access to a community means that you can focus on quality rather than quantity; that access already grants you volume. It’s worth putting in the extra work. Even if Jon has to write a free blog post (or three!) to get recommended to someone’s (relevant) audience, that is infinitely more efficient than sending cold emails and praying.
Now, what about Effie? She wants to work with business owners to help them stay organised but also learn from them. Could we find another double whammy and target entrepreneurs who work with entrepreneurs? Coaches, personal brands, events, members clubs … all fall under this category. A founder runs them, and they bring founders together. Effie reached out to a business community in London and a few online bloggers in the productivity space. She offered a free trial to the gatekeeper, with one condition: If they were happy with Effie’s assistant service at the end of the short test, they would talk about it to their community.
Most bloggers agreed, since they were getting a free trial, and they were also able to provide value to their audience by recommending a relevant service. The “only if you’re happy with the trial” guarantee took away all the risk from them. This tactic got Effie her first and second client: one of the bloggers and someone from his audience. She also got a third client from another community shortly afterwards.
It’s Megan’s time. She wants to express herself through art and inspire people. She can leverage existing communities by collaborating with people who have a message that inspires and is aligned with her values, and create a visual representation that they can share to their email list or on their social media.
Megan can create Instagram images to help an influencer share their amazing quote in exchange for a tag or a link back to her website. The same tactic can apply to her services or products; in the future, Megan can collaborate with influencers on a paid product like a series of t-shirts that they can sell. Just like Jon and Effie, Megan is putting in more work upfront. However, she offsets the extra effort by using her work to access a more extensive community instead of just an individual.
How You Can Gain Access to Gated Communities
So you want to get your first (and second) client. You have an idea, but you don’t know where to start. On top of that, your time and resources are minimal; you need to leverage what gets you disproportionate results.
To do that, you want to access gated communities so that you can get in front of multiple people with each effort. Instead of starting your following from scratch through content or sending out an email blast, focus on quality rather than quantity.
Firstly, get clear about who your customer is and where they spend time online and offline.
Next, find a way to provide value upfront to the gatekeeper. Offer a guarantee, and don’t expect anything; after all, we’re going for quality, not quantity.
You want to reduce the risk for them and frame your work in a way that brings value to their audience. Remember that what you are asking is no small request: a warm introduction to a group of people who have put their trust in them.
You may have to generate value upfront for a few gatekeepers, but the one that lands will open doors to disproportionate results. Cold emails and other tactics don’t even compare.
Your turn now: find your gated community, and find your way in.