When you’re just starting out for yourself, one of the hardest things can be to get new clients. Whether you’re a new coach, PR consultant, make eco friendly deodorants, or are a yoga teacher, it can be a challenge to get people to try your services or products a go when you don’t have any testimonials and word-of-mouth recommendations.
The truth is, it can take a while to build up your reputation and credibility.
The first few years as a solopreneur, business owner or freelancer can be incredibly tough.
During those years you might question Richard Branson’s famous quote: ‘opportunities are like buses, there’s always another one coming’. It’s common and normal to feel like that’s total BS when you’re still in the early stages of working for yourself.
I get it. I’ve been there.
Those first few years can feel like a non-stop hustle for opportunities and clients. Maybe you ask yourself if you’re missing a trick, if you’re doing something wrong. So what do you do?
How do you get past this stage?
In their early days, a lot of people tend to go down the route of bartering or offering their products and services for free. Whenever they get an opportunity to teach, speak, write, collaborate or provide their products or services in any way or form, they’re willing to do it for free – afraid that the opportunity will pass or the client will reject if they charge money for it.
The people I work with often struggle with this dilemma.
Should you offer your products or services free of charge when just starting out, or is that a total no no?
Here’s what I think.
It makes sense to offer your products of services for free if you’re getting something else in return for it that’s going to benefit you and your business. Your craft (whatever it is what you do) is valuable, so don’t give it away for nothing.
For example, you could ask for a testimonial or genuine, constructive feedback in return.
Another idea would be to use the (free) opportunity you’ve been given to help you build your profile or email list. Ask for video footage or professional photos of you, if that’s relevant to the opportunity. If they’re well-connected, ask to be introduced to that person you’ve been trying to get in touch with. Perhaps you could get access to free training.
The opportunities are endless.
The point I’m making is: monetary compensation is not the only way to rewarded.
There are other, sometimes much more valuable, ways to get something in return for what you’re offering.
You’ve got every right to say no to opportunities and clients if they’re not willing or are unable to pay you. Think twice before saying yes to something if, apart from having someone try your product or service, you don’t get any other benefit and they’re unwilling to give you anything else in return.
You should also question if it’s the right thing to do if your diary is already swamped and you don’t think you’ll have the time, energy or focus to provide your product or service properly.
Another red flag would be if the opportunity or client is not in line with your bigger picture and where you’re heading. Say, for example, that you get the opportunity to work with a non-profit, but there’s no overlap with what they’re doing or the people they work with and what you want to be doing.
I’m not saying these should be a 100% no go, as every opportunity and client, whether free of charge or not, can result in a new opportunity or piece of work that you could never have predicted.
What I am saying is that if a situation like the above shows up, don’t just say yes. If after a bit of thinking you do decide to go ahead with it, make sure you know that you’re not doing that from a place of fear: “if I say no, I might never get another opportunity”.
Sometimes it’s better to say no and save space for other, better things to come along.
In the end, there’s no right or wrong when it comes to this question. However, I hope that my thoughts and suggestions help you to make the right decision for you.