Landing your first paying client is a HUGE milestone.
Truly, it can drive you nuts. The uncertainty of not knowing if your idea will work is killing. That’s why it’s such a magical moment to hear ‘Yes, I’m in’ for the first time. It’s such a relief and often feels like a confirmation that you’re on track.
But since there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for getting that first client, I decided to ask 20 entrepreneurs about their ‘first client’ experience.
20 Examples on How to Get Your First Client
I asked 20 established entrepreneurs how they found their first paying client.
Here’s what they told me:
|Starting up my own virtual assistant business at the end of 2020 seemed like a no brainer after the world had been forced into remote working. Like any business, gaining my first paying client was the first hurdle to jump. I stepped outside of my comfort zone and responded to a complete stranger’s LinkedIn post who was originally calling out for an employee with similar experiences to me. I recall staying up really late one night after I’d finished work at my full time job (which I no longer have). I created a brand new resume to pitch myself and my new company to the business owner. After carrying out a Google search and looking into the business owner’s LinkedIn profile, I quickly worked out her success in business and a variety of skill sets including a news reporter. This set in the self doubt and the unlikelihood of her wanting to hire a complete stranger who is starting out in business. To my surprise, the business owner was quick to respond and requested a zoom meeting asap. Within a day I had my first paying client who is still with me today. It has been 6 months with a solid repeating monthly retainer of 20 hours a month at $55hr AUS. Starting up a brand new business during such uncertain times can be challenging but it is extremely rewarding and fulfilling. No regrets!
Lisa Morey, Mint Agency Australia
|Our first ‘real’ paying client came as a referral because we put our head down and earned some great results. It was then that we learned the power of referrals and focused our energies on delivering amazing customer experiences before trying to sell.
Patrick Carver, Constellation
|Get out and talk to your initial customers. Face to face beats everything. Your initial customers are really buying into you, not your product at the initial phase.
Olivia Tan, CocoFax
|My clients have mainly come from my instagram account organically or through my comments on posts in Mum Groups in my local Mothers In Business networking group on Facebook.
Celia J-Hale, Copelia
|We got our first client through SEO. Our main focus is creating blog posts that rank in Google with calls to action. My wife and I were working full-time jobs while working on SEO for our law firm’s website. It took 15 months to rank #1 for the keywords that we were targeting. The first keyword that we heavily targeted was Power of Attorney in Georgia. Once we ranked #1 for that keyword, it took us two weeks to get our first client. That first client paid us $350 for a power of attorney. With SEO, the mental struggle is how long it takes to get the revenue results you desire. But once you rank #1 for a keyword, that blog post can generate revenue for your business for months or years.
Shawn Breyer, The Hive Law
|It turned out we had a total of three touch points with the client before they made the purchase decision. The first was attending an online paid event about international growth targeting high growth startups. The second was through a blog post we published on LinkedIn about how to create a strong brand and the last was the email marketing campaign. So we did not win the client just from a random email!
Ruba Moussawi, Easy Trademarks
|I started a global branding and digital marketing firm 19 years ago and my first client came from a talk I gave to a professional networking group. I still give lots of talks and it is a great way to generate leads and business. I think having a good reputation is incredibly important to building a strong B2B business.
Paige Arnof-Fenn, Mavens & Moguls
|3 years ago at age 24, I became certified as a holistic health coach. I wanted to help women heal body, mind and spirit and recover from chronic illness like me (lyme disease). I started hosting local workshops on topics like how to make your own food, yoga, ayurveda, health These workshops allowed me to get my foot in the door with my local community. One of the women who came to my workshop recommended my coaching services to her friend. I did a sales call with her friend who was in her 60s. She didn’t have social media actually (this is funny since it’s what I use now for all of my marketing). The coaching sessions were* $150/month for 2 sessions *- we had a 6 month agreement. She paid monthly. Now, I have worked with hundreds of women entrepreneurs all over the world and have transitioned my business to solely online due to covid.
Bridget Sicsko, Bridget aileen LLC
|From August 2019 to October 2019, I went to three book signings and met with hundreds of authors but didn’t close a deal. In December of 2019, I responded to an ad on a local facebook group for a tech savvy assistant for a marriage therapist. I accepted the position for
$22 per hour because the therapist had a start up business idea and needed help building a website and potential social media. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted my business to be but it was a start. A month later, I was contacted by the president of a non-profit in New York City who was looking for someone to take over their digital communications (social media and email marketing). He was referred to me by his wife who was an author I met at one of the book signing (networking works!). I started the position at $500 per month and loved it.
Amanda OConnor, OC Social
|I became an active member of a Facebook group on the subject of Presentation Design. Through my interactions there,I built some relationships with other key members as well as the owner of the group. Building these relationships was never done with the intention of gaining work through this group, but that is exactly what happened. I received a message from another member who couldn’t fit a client into their schedule and they referred them to me. The client signed on with me for the project, and it was a great launch into this new line of business for me. Since then I have received other referrals from several members in the group and I am looking forward to the day when I can pay it forward and refer business to other members.
Amy De Wolfe, Presentation Design Pro
|My first paying client was also the reason I left my last job and started my own company. We had a web design client who found us because they liked the work I had done for another company. I was very proud of bringing in this business and worked hard to create a design they would be happy with. Despite my relationship with this client and my input on what they wanted in a website, my supervisor chose to pitch a different final design to them. They ended up turning us down. The next day, I quit my job and contacted the client to pitch them on my design, and they loved it. I had to hire some freelancers to make it happen by myself, and that was the foundation of my business.
Devon Fata, Pixoul
|Getting my business started was an uphill struggle. It wasn’t just a matter of getting one client; my business works by connecting borrowers to lenders, which means I needed a critical mass of both in order for things to really take off. It took constant communicating with banks, credit card companies, and other lenders, while also working hard on my website’s SEO in order to convince them that I was worth their time. After months of slow growth and keeping my previous job to pay the bills, something clicked. We started seeing an exponential increase in traffic and commissions, and the site became self- sustaining.
Carter Seuthe, Credit Summit
|At an old job, I befriended an old director partially as a mentor, but partially due to us having similar personalities. Fast-track a few months into that job and I ended up getting beers one day with this director and drunkenly talked about SEO and how fascinating it was and what it had done for me up until that point in my career. Thinking nothing of that conversation, I had forgotten it for a number of months afterwards. That director ended up moving on to another opportunity, but not before talking to a very wealthy entrepreneur who was curious about my skills and hired me to do an audit of a potential acquisition quickly. From there, they were impressed with my skills and that individual spoke to the owners of PickFu, John and Justin and the rest is history! Retrospectively, I never thought that my drunken rant would ever accumulate to anything and I thanked that old director for the name drop! From there, I have now grown my client list to well over 12 clients!
William C, Your Digital Aid
|My first official client for my agency was through relationship building and being at the right place at the right time.
Lisa Apolinski, 3 Dog Write Inc.
|In the service industry, you often start getting clients through word of mouth. You do free or discount work from friends and family and then they recommend you to paying clients so long as you do a good job. This is what happened to us. We offered our services for a reduced cost to VIP customers and then they recommended us at our full-service price to other clients. This isn’t enough to grow a business by leaps and bounds, but it’s a good start to establish repeat clients, build up the business and its processes, and generate enough revenue to hire the necessary staff to grow further.
Jeremy Yamaguchi, Lawn Love
|One of the main strategies that has worked for my company to help get my first sales and increase my sales is doing a PR campaign. This campaign helped me obtain hundreds of followers. What helped boost this campaign, is me using an paid Instagram ad which was $300 for a 7 day run. To be apart of the PR and receive free products, it required users to tag their friends and post on their social media to receive extra entries and to be considered.
Ashley Blain, ZenLuxCo
|My first paid client was a nonprofit organization. They served the population I wanted to work with, so I reached out to cultivate a relationship first. After learning the ins and outs of their program, I saw an opportunity to offer 1-1 support through coaching. I pitched a pilot program that complimented their existing services and a small group was selected to participate. We took the lessons learned from the 5-week pilot program and fully launched to the entire organization. With this model, their constituents received complimentary coaching sessions, the organization received a custom package, and I was off running with multiple clients. It was a win-win-win!
BriS, Life Lived by Design
|I got my first client through networking online with people in the online marketing space. They all wanted to have free time like me but I need money at the time so they got their free time by hiring me and I got the money I
wanted as well as building relationships with great people in the industry. I only charged 1 cent per word back then and now I charge around 30 cents per word depending on the subject.
Jessica Vine, Jessica Lauren Vine Consulting
|I have been in the digital marketing industry for about 20 years, but started my own business about 3 years ago. The first paying client I earned was actually from helping people in an online forum related to small business. I was giving some tips for a few businesses online and an ecommerce owner DM’d me asking for help, which turned into monthly work. To this day, they are still a client and I have billed them over $20k in hours..
Jeff Moriarty, JMoriarty
Now It’s Your Turn
Hope these stories inspired you to stick to your plan and keep momentum. Need an extra push? Here are five motivational tips:
- Stick to your plan. Don’t quit if you don’t see any immediate results.
- Don’t overthink it. Just take bold action, even if your inner critic tries to hold you back.
- Cut out the noise. Don’t get distracted by news, drama and everything fear related.
- Visualize it. What you believe becomes your reality (google ‘neuroplasticity’, it’s fascinating how powerful your thoughts are)
- Take consistent action. Don’t underestimate the power of daily action (the compound effect of 5 minutes every day is unbeatable compared to just 35 minutes once a week).
Good luck. You’ve got this!