This interview is the sixth in a series I started to share how web designers and developers got their first client.
David Goldstein resides close to Toronto, Ontario with his spouse, dog, and cat. He specializes in web application security and led the IBM Canada ethical hacking team for a few years before becoming an independent consultant. He now provides website marketing services for real estate agents and continues to provide consulting services for web app security.
1. How did you get your first client?
Getting my first client was unintentional. I was in the early research phase with my website marketing business and wanted to understand small business owner’s “pain points” to learn how I could most help them.
I decided to interview my former real estate agent just because he had previously expressed frustration over technology. Although we weren’t close, he had benefited from my business previously as a client of his so I think this was a goodwill gesture.
We met at a coffee shop and I asked him a series of questions about how he markets himself online. You could see he was really getting into it. About 30 minutes into things, the tide turned. He started asking me a ton of questions about how he could better present himself online to get more leads.
Much of it focused on his current website, which was a cookie-cutter realtor template that had a ton of duplicate content found on his competitor’s sites. I gave him some practical suggestions on what actions he should take and then we ended the interview.
I actually left feeling a bit bad since it seemed my line of questioning steered the conversation into a soft sell for my services. But I hoped if anything he was going to take my suggestions and make some improvements.
Months went by, and then one day I decided to join an online business network called Referral Key. When I signed up, it automatically sent an email to all my contacts who were on the same network. I can’t recall what that email said exactly, but I wasn’t too happy with it since it made it look like I had sent it myself.
Well, turned out my realtor was one of the recipients of this email and this unintentional touchpoint sparked his interest in reaching back out to me. He responded with an email suggesting that I give him a call since he wanted to talk about his website.
So a few days later we spoke by phone. He explained that he knew his website needed work, so I told him my vision for the new site. He liked what he heard and asked for a proposal. Keep in mind all of this was new to me so I was really second-guessing myself through all of this. So I whipped up a proposal and waited.
A few days went by and I hadn’t heard from him. I started to wonder if I had priced myself too high. I had planned on reaching back out to him after a week but I really started to think he wasn’t going to go for it.
After about a week though, I got an email with his acceptance and he said he’d have a cheque ready for me to pick up!
2. What did you learn from that first experience?
Two things. I’m a teacher at heart, not a salesperson. For me it’s moments like this where I get to educate people that I come to life.
This is what I believe generates me business and this experience helped prove that.
Second, touching base with someone doesn’t have to be a bad thing. I used to think it would get on people’s nerves if you followed up with them. In my case it was purely accidental, but I need to be doing more of this.
Again, I think there’s a fine line between being “salesy” and just being authentic with people by asking how things are going with their lives. People are busy these days. Sometimes just remembering you is enough for them to go, “Hey by the way, I’ve been meaning to do something about my website!”
3. What advice do you have for folks trying to get their first client?
Start with your connections and in a non-salesman way, introduce your new business. Let them know what you’re doing now and if they know of someone now or in the future that could benefit from your service, you would be grateful if they could pass on your details.
I would also reach out to non-profit organizations that could really use your help. If they have a poor website, they likely could really benefit from your service. Not only will it score you some karma points, but you’ll build up your portfolio and confidence. People visiting that site would also see your link in the footer which could earn you business. Plus I’m sure the charity would be happy to recommend your services to others.
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