What is your counter-intuitive tip on writing

Get your first customer with this counter-intuitive approach

Shopify expert Kurt Elster runs a successful e-commerce agency, starting out as a freelancer with empty pockets and no experience as a self-employed person. He still knows, like today, that it was a real challengeto win the first customer for yourself. In this post, Kurt explains how you, as a complete beginner in the world of freelancers, find your first client and, on top of that, convince them of yourself.

One of the most common questions I hear from new freelancers is, "Where can I find my first client?"

The first customer is always the most difficult. But there is one lesson that applies to any new business, no matter how good or bad it is: If no one has ever heard of you, no one can hire you.

When I started my own web design company in 2009, I was like most new businesses. I went live with my website with great expectations and then ... nothing happened at first.

After days of frustration, I took a very old-fashioned approach. I wrote individual introductory letters for selected companies in my neighborhood and then pushed them under their doors one early morning.

With success! A couple of these letters led me to phone calls that turned into meetings. It became my first customer within two weeks. That first customer then referred me to another local company, which in turn referred me to another.

Momentum is created through the combination of experience and word of mouth, every additional customer is easier to win afterwards. The question is, what can you do until you land that first assignment?

If I had to start my business from scratch, I would know exactly how to do it.

Define your positioning

In the first step you should define your positioning. What target group do you serve? What is your offer like? How do you stand out from other freelancers?

If you know this, you can work out your so-called positioning statement in the next step. For example, my positioning statement is as follows:

“Kurt Elster helps Shopify shop owners to uncover hidden sales potential in their websites. In contrast to web designers, his only concern is to achieve the highest possible return on investment. "

Try it yourself and fill in the following gaps in the text:

"I am a ________ who supports _______ with ________. Unlike my competitors, _______."

It is easy to skip this step, but it will hurt you sooner or later. A concise and concise positioning statement is the cornerstone of your marketing. Through them you stay in the memory of your customers, they recommend you to others, you get new customers in turn and so it goes on and on.

If you cannot explain briefly and succinctly what you do for a living, no one else will understand either.

To make things a little clearer, imagine the following: If someone asks you what you do for a living, how long will it take you to answer that question? I bet it'll be at least ten seconds. And if this is the case, how can you expect the other person to remember it? If you cannot explain briefly and succinctly what you do for a living, no one else will understand either.

With a precise positioning statement, you describe the value you offer. But what is even more important: You also enable others to understand and describe what you are doing with ease and high quality. If you are currently unavailable, people in your network can remember you and your range of services and pass on your pitch.

Another tip at this point: The worst thing you can do is to define an overly broad and general positioning, based on the motto: "I help everyone with everything!"

Please don't, because it's counter-intuitive. As a generalist, it is extremely difficult to assert yourself as an expert or to establish a certain authority because you are simply doing too much. In order for me to become a Shopify expert in my network, I had to emphasize again and again that my main work was Shopify. The more specific and targeted your positioning, the easier it will be to attract customers.

Reading tip:Why You Should Specialize in Ecommerce

The rule of ten

Once you've drawn up a position statement, it's almost time to target your audience. I am deliberately saying almost here. Because not only is it pretty hard to write to a non-existent audience, but it won't do any good either. So let's start with building our audience by making use of what is known as the “rule of ten”.

Tell at least ten people about your positioning

The rule of ten is pretty simple: tell ten people about your positioning. Of course, if you have more than ten that's excellent. But there should be at least ten recipients. This list can contain previous customers, employees, friends, family members or other acquaintances.

Start a newsletter on your topic and ask these people to sign up for it. This is the spark for your audience. Everyone on your list should benefit directly from your content and knowledge. In any online business, including professional services, your email list is your most valuable asset.

With a newsletter you can systematically build up a list of people who have actively expressed interest in you. This is how you build a relationship with them so that ideally they will either hire you or recommend you to others.

Once you have a small but fine audience, you start writing. It's far easier to write with a small audience in mind than with a big nothing. It gets even easier when that audience has questions that you can answer.

Your first newsletter should therefore contain a question. For example, “What is the biggest challenge or problem you face regarding [topic]?” The replies to this email will be the content that you will present in your next newsletters.

One of the best ways to get inspiration for your own newsletter is to sign up for other newsletters in your industry. I personally like:

  1. Mastering Apps by Gavin Ballard
  2. Shopify Dispatch by Eric Davis
  3. And my own, Ethercycle

Reading tip:The ultimate guide to attracting web design clients.

Content marketing (that doesn't mean blogging!)

The rule of ten and a subsequent newsletter may be enough to win your first customer. If not, it's time to get started with content marketing.

Instead of expecting customers to come to you, you should actively use your knowledge to approach them.

However, I don't mean blogging, because after all, you don't (yet) have an audience and therefore nobody who will read your blog. Instead of expecting customers to come to you, you should actively use your knowledge to approach them.

Spread valuable information that is easily accessible - where your ideal customers are already. If your ideal customer is a Shopify store owner, ask yourself what could add value to them. What challenges or problems do shop owners face that you can support them with?

Maybe you're an ace at Facebook advertising. That's a good thing, because Shopify store owners naturally want to generate more traffic and sales. With that in mind, you could show them how to get that annoying Facebook pixel working or how to set up a remarketing funnel.

Reading Tips: How to Use Content Marketing to Generate New Leads for Your Business

After that, you need to find out where your ideal customers are. Find groups and discussions that you can add value to, such as Facebook groups, Reddit forums, or Slack.

I'll even tell you where I like to hang out: At Slack, I like the eCommTalk channel from shop owner TJ Mapes, and you can often find me on Facebook in the Shopify Entrepreneurs group of Shopify expert Jonathan Kennedy.

A German alternative to Shopify Entrepreneurs is the “Shopify Germany, Austria, Switzerland” group.

The various forums are teeming with questions. Choose the best three to five questions and answer them carefully and thoroughly. Then you post one of your answers every day. In this way, you will quickly establish yourself as a trustworthy expert in the relevant online community. For me, this resulted in people I didn't know at all referring potential customers to me within a few weeks. From their point of view, I was the “Shopify guy”.

Being active and helpful in communities is a wonderful example of one-to-many marketing that anyone can take advantage of without spending a dollar on it. Answering three threads on a single Facebook group could result in literally thousands of people seeing you as a trusted advisor and helpful expert.

Find that first customer

The whole thing is more than just practical advice. It's the same path I should have taken years ago. And it's the way I would go today if I had to start all over again.

Note that I deliberately didn't talk about creating your portfolio or writing case studies. These things are beautiful but self-centered. It is much more effective to go out into the world and proactively offer value to the people you want to work with.

Reading tips:
This is how it works: From freelancer to successful company as a Shopify partner

The Benefits of a Landing Page for Your Portfolio Page (and How to Create One)

What small step can you take today to strengthen your freelance business? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

This article first appeared on the Shopify partner blog and has been translated.

The most important Shopify newsletter for agencies and freelancers

Register and do not miss any updates, tips and learnings that give you and your customers the decisive advantage. Become part of the community!

Free. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Thank you for your registration.

You will soon be receiving free tips and resources.