In 2016, I made a decision that changed my life.
Up until then, I’d been struggling to earn money from home. I was happy being a stay-at-home mom. Yet, I also wanted more.
I missed the freedom and confidence of earning an income.
I’d tried many things: running a local business, building affiliate websites, creating online courses, user testing, selling stuff, writing books.
These strategies worked. But they were slow to gain momentum. And I’m an impatient person.
So, I switched tacks. I did some research and took an online course. Three months later, I earned $1,100.
Between diapers and naps, I worked less than 10 hours a week.
That experience taught me something important.
If you want to make money fast, you need a different strategy. One which doesn’t require an email list, a social media following, or a huge network.
Here’s what I discovered…
… the fastest way to earn your first $1000 from home is to offer a one-on-one service.
You only need a handful of clients (or if you’re lucky, just one client) to hit the magic number. And you don’t need to invest a single dollar upfront.
I offered freelance writing services. But this isn’t your only option. In a moment, we’ll figure out your first offering.
Now, if you don’t want to sell time for money, then stick with me.
I understand – I felt the same. This isn’t your long-term plan. You can expand into other areas later.
This is about getting your first $1000 in the bank.
What Service Should You Offer?
There are hundreds, maybe even thousands, of ways to get paid for your time. So how do you decide what service to offer?
In an ideal world, you’d find meaningful work. Something that plays to your strengths and is consistent with your values. Work that doesn’t feel like work.
The truth is, this isn’t always realistic. Perhaps you need cash fast. You may not have time to figure out your deeper purpose in life.
That’s okay. Where you start is a stepping stone to finding your ideal work-from-home job.
Let’s get started with your first offering. To get your juices flowing, I’ve listed some options below.
For more ideas, check out this list of 150+ services by my friend, Gina Horkey. I guarantee you’ll find something you can do there.
- Graphic design
- Delivering home-cooked meals
- Organizing homes
- Walking dogs
- Drawing caricatures
- Administrative tasks (managing emails, answering the phone, organizing content)
- Managing social media accounts
- Creating and editing videos
- Online research
- Mobile development
- Website development
- Project management
- Email marketing
- Data entry
- Coaching (relationships, health, business, life)
Action Step: Answer the following questions.
- What skills have you used in your job or at school? List everything – administration skills, technology skills, interpersonal skills, business skills, etc.
- What would you like to learn more about and become expert in? Think about books you read, blogs you follow, or documentaries you watch.
- What do your friends ask you to help them with? This points to your natural talents.
Don’t worry about whether there’s a market or how you’re going to find clients. We’ll get to that soon. Focus on identifying the skills you have or would like to develop.
Bonus Tip: Browse the services on Fiverr.com. It’s a useful place to see what people pay for. You might be surprised by the variety of offerings.
How Much Should You Charge?
You should now have several service ideas. If you’re still stuck, check out Gina Horkey’s list of 150+ services.
Now, let’s talk money.
People agonize over how much to charge. I don’t want you to do the same.
You can change your rates later. In fact, I recommend rapidly increasing your rates… after you’ve landed a few paid gigs.
Those first jobs are critical. They get you to your first $1000. They also win you testimonials and referrals. And that’s how you build a sustainable business.
Your starting rate needs to be competitive. Yes, this goes against popular advice. But, you’re starting out. Your goal is to find at least three people willing to pay for your services.
Having said that, don’t go too low… bargain rates attract bargain hunters and they are often the worst clients.
We could do some math to figure out how much you need to earn. Then how much you need to put aside for expenses and taxes. This is a good idea and something you want to do before you quit your day job.
But for now, I want to keep things simple.
At the start, your expenses are zero. You don’t need to build a website, order business cards, or buy new tools and software. Instead, you want to test your idea. Before you invest time and money, figure out whether this is going to work.
Below are some suggested starting rates. Scale these up or down, based on your skill level.
But don’t wander too far from these rates. Once you have three or more clients you can fine-tune your offering(s) and hike up your fees.
- Freelance writing: $20 per hour
- Virtual Assistant (administration, managing social media/email/blog, customer service): $20 per hour
- Graphic Design: $30 per hour
- Website Design: $40 per hour
- Coaching or Consultancy: $50 per hour
Now, although I’ve given hourly rates. Whenever possible, you want to charge by the project.
For example, a brand new freelance writer might quote $50 per 500-word article or blog post.
Action Step: Decide on a starting rate for your services. If you have more than one idea, then you may have different rates. Don’t spend long on this, pick a number and go with it.
Where To Find Your First Paying Client
You haven’t invested a dime in your new business yet. You have nothing to lose by going for it.
It’s time to find your first client. Let’s break it down into steps:
Step 1: Start by brainstorming businesses or individuals you know who may need your service. Think about family, friends, past work colleagues, businesses you frequent (your doctor, dentist, kids’ school, hair salon, etc.). Aim for at least 25 names. This is your outreach list.
Step 2: Next, contact the first person on your list (ideally someone close to you). Ask if you can pick their brain**. People love to help and are flattered when you ask them for assistance.
** NOTE: Only use the “pick your brain” strategy with people you know. This isn’t an effective way to approach influencers or strangers (in these situations you always want to give first before asking for anything).
Step 3: Meet with them and explain you’re starting a side business. Share what you’re offering and how your clients will benefit. Ask for their feedback on the idea. Listen attentively to what they say. Yes, you want to land your first client. But don’t jump into sales mode. You don’t need to, and it will put the other person off. Relax, enjoy the conversation, and see where it goes.
Step 4: As you’re chatting, the person may volunteer a contact or even say they need your help. If this happens, congratulations – you’re on your way to landing your first client. If it doesn’t, wait until the end of your meeting and ask: “So, do you know anyone who needs help with [the problem your service addresses]?”
Bonus Tip: Always frame your service in terms of the benefit to your client. What outcome or result do you provide? For example, if you offer Virtual Assistant services, you can ask “Do you know anyone who needs xyz tasks taken off their plate, so they can focus on growing their business?”
Sometimes you’ll get a referral and sometimes the person will say “yes, I need help!” At other times you’ll draw a blank. But if you follow up with the person (and thank them for their time) then they’ll remember you in the future.
Action Step: List at least 25 people and contact the first person on your list. Try to meet in person, e.g. over coffee. I’ve made valuable connections at kids’ playdates and in the school playground. If you have no other option, a telephone meeting also works.
Remember – don’t try to sell your services. You want to have genuine conversations and build relationships.
This stage can be scary. Embrace the fear and keep going. Most people don’t put themselves out there. They never get past dreaming and planning.
By acting on your idea, you’re different. You’re on your way to earning your first $1000.
How To Convert Leads Into Clients
Once you have a promising lead, you may be wondering what to do next. If you’re like most people, you hate the idea of selling your services.
I get it. Selling is something I still struggle with. One thing I find helpful is to remember this…
You’re not selling yourself. You’re selling a solution to someone’s problem.
This perspective shifts attention from you to the problem you help with. It’s much easier to offer a solution than sell a service.
I also like to enter every conversation with a plan. Below is a structure I use to turn leads into paying clients.
1: Do your research
Before you talk with a lead, check their website (if they have one). Research their competitors, the industry they work in, the type of problem they’re struggling with.
Know who they are, what they care about, and what their pain points are. In other words, be prepared.
2: Ask questions
When you meet (on the phone or in person) ask questions. This shows you’re interested in the other person.
You also collect valuable information. Here are some questions you can ask (obviously adapt these for the type of service you’re offering).
- Can you tell me about the last time you experienced [the problem you help with]?
- What specifically about [the problem] keeps you awake at night? This question gives you insight into how deep the pain is.
- What, if anything, have you done to solve that problem?
- What do you like or dislike about the solutions you’ve tried? You want to offer a solution which overcomes perceived issues with other options. Pay attention and look for ways you can differentiate yourself.
When you ask questions, listen intently. Let the person do most of the talking. You’re gaining a better understanding of their problem, building a connection, and avoiding coming off as sales-y.
And whatever you do… don’t launch into a rehearsed sales pitch. This is the fastest way to lose a prospect.
3: Replay what they say to you
When the person has answered your questions, summarize what they told you. Use their own words. This shows you understand their situation and further builds a connection.
4: Ask their permission before you sell
Then, when it feels right, ask permission to explain your services. Say something like this: “Would you like to hear how I can help with [their problem]?”
If they say yes, then explain what you do and ask if they’d like to work with you (or if they know someone else who would).
This is important – don’t forget to ask for the business!
Your Outreach Plan
You’re nearly ready to find your first client. But first, there’s something you need to know. It’s this…
… when starting out, success is a numbers game.
You may get lucky and find your first paying client immediately. But often, it takes 10, 20, or even 50 conversations before you start earning money.
It’s easy to give up after this many rejections. Here’s a strategy to make sure you stay the course.
Step 1: Commit to a daily or weekly goal
The best way to achieve anything is to make it a habit. So, what does this mean for outreach? Here’s what I want you to do…
- First, set a daily outreach goal. EX: contact three new people each day.
- Next, decide when you’ll do your outreach. EX: do outreach every week day from 9AM – 10AM.
- Finally, pick a trigger that reminds you to follow through. EX: after you drop your kids at school, when your alarm goes off in the morning, after you make your first cup of coffee.
When I wrote my first book, I had a three-month old baby. I struggled to find time (and motivation) to write. My trigger was putting the baby down to nap.
My brain learned once my baby was in his crib I’d write. After one week, writing became automatic.
Step 2: Track your progress
Don’t skip this step – it’s important!
Each day you meet your goal, check it off on a tracker. You can track progress in a calendar, paper journal, spreadsheet, or habit app. You can also download a free printable, like this one:
I use a tracker app on my phone. The app sends me daily reminders and shows my current streak.
Progress tracking helps with motivation. When you have a streak of 5 or 10 days, you really don’t want to break your streak.
Step 3: Review and refine
I’m not recommending you keep doing something that’s not working. After a week or two of outreach, review and refine your strategy.
As you talk to people, you’ll receive feedback. Be open to what people say. If necessary, tweak your service offering and outreach strategy.
The key to successful outreach is two-fold:
- Create a service people want.
- Share your service with the people who most need it.
If your outreach isn’t working, the problem is with one of these two things. Either your offering is not desirable enough or you’re sharing it with the wrong people.
Imagine you’re a dog walker. Are you targeting all families with pets? If so, try narrowing your focus. Who most needs your help? Maybe it’s stressed-out executives with not enough time to exercise their dogs.
Also, think about how can you make your service more desirable. In our dog walker example, you might offer an add-on service like dog grooming. Put yourself in your client’s shoes and offer a solution they can’t refuse.
Action Step: Commit to an outreach goal and decide how you’re going to track progress.
Ready, Set, Go
Okay, that nearly brings us to the end. So far, we’ve covered:
- Selecting a service to offer.
- Converting leads into clients.
- Creating an outreach plan.
There’s one more step. You must execute your plan.
Commit to your outreach and find your first paying client.
Are you ready for the challenge? Could this be the month you earn your first $1000 from home?
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