The Most Important Thing Your New Business Needs: Your First Client

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A few years ago, I left my full time job and struck out on my own as a self-employed product management consultant. I had a baby and wanted to create a schedule that better fit my new role as a mother.

Even though I had plenty of experience and domain expertise in product management, I was new to being an independent contractor and felt a little lost. What did I need to get started: Dedicated business email? Logo? Website? Business cards? 

It turns out, I needn’t have worried. All I really needed to get started was one friendly client who wanted to hire me.   

I did set up a business email, because it was easier to manage an uncluttered inbox and it gave me more professional confidence. But I decided to forego the website, business cards, and logo. I determined that as long as I was able to find enough clients through word of mouth, I shouldn’t invest in other forms of marketing. And as it turns out, it worked! Over the next six months I ran a successful independent consultant business, relying solely on word of mouth.

At Pepperlane, we hear a lot of the same concerns from new business owners. Before you have customers to serve, it’s tempting to spend your time with that imaginary list of “things you’re supposed to do when you start a business”—a logo, a website, etc. But you know what actually makes your business real? Paying clients. Beyond bringing in income, the greatest benefit of those first clients is that you learn a lot about your businesses strengths and weaknesses. 

So how do you find those first clients?

The great news is, you are most likely already connected to your first client, although it may be through a degree or two of separation. Most people underestimate the expanse of their network and connections. Once you start getting the word out to some of your biggest supporters, that first client is likely to follow. 

After years of helping hundreds of moms build businesses and attract customers, Pepperlane is sharing our top tips to help you identify your network and find your first client. (And we created a free worksheet to help you do this!)

  1. Identify your broader networks - This worksheet will help you create a comprehensive outline of the various groups and networks you are connected to. 
  2. Consider who you know and could connect with - Once you’ve identified your networks, then you’ll work on creating a list of the specific people you know in each of those networks. Be sure to pick unique people and consider people who could offer different skills and connections to help you get your business going.
  3. Label each person on your list - We recommend noting each person has a Prospective Client, Cheerleader, Guide, and/or Connector. A person can be multiple of these, but this will help you know what message to send to each person.
  4. Create your communication templates - Now that you know who you are contacting, it’s time to create some templates for each of your contact types. This is something you’ll want to still personalize, but by creating a template, you’ll stay on message and hit your key points.
  5. Start your outreach! - Now it is time to reach out to the people on your list! This part may feel a bit scary, but be confident that you have people in your network who are ready to see you succeed. Yes, there will be some “no’s”, but you’ll be surprised how many people you have in your corner.

Remember, having a client will make your business feel real. Focus on what will bring you results—reviewing your network and lots of outreach. We are cheering for you!

Don’t forget to download our *free* worksheet to help you identify your network! 

Get My Worksheet

Written by Jess Petersen

Jess is a mom of two, an avid runner, and a tech nerd. She's spent her career building products at Boston startups like Carbonite (NASDAQ: CARB) and Hopper from the very earliest stages into successful companies with millions of users. Sharon talked her into starting Pepperlane when she was 6 months pregnant with her second baby. What could possibly go wrong?

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