It was 2004. I was 17 years old. I had enrolled in a “Graphic Arts” class in Central California. As a part of the class, I had learned to use Photoshop and expanded on my knowledge of Dreamweaver. Near the end of the semester, shortly before my 18th birthday, I got my first web development client. The El Dorado County Democratic Party needed a website and one of their members asked if a friend and I would be interested in building the site. We jumped at the opportunity and that began my entrance into the world of web development.
That first site was $300, if I recall correctly. It was a lot of work to build, stretching my then limited knowledge of web development, and challenging me in more ways than I had imagined. It was fun, though, and I was ready for more.
My second web development client came shortly after. Our local newspaper, the El Dorado County Mountain Democrat, had published a column I wrote, teaching folks how to avoid viruses delivered by email. A gentleman contacted me after reading the column and asked if I built websites. He worked at UC Davis, a California University, and needed a website to represent a school project. We worked out the details and I began my second development project.
Since then, I have worked with over a hundred different clients (I haven’t done an exact count yet), with projects of many different shapes and sizes. I have learned a lot over the years, through a lot of pain and a lot of success.
For the first client, I was the right person in the right place at the right time. The second client was a lot more work. From those two clients and the many that have followed after, I’ve learned a lot about getting new business.
Your First Web Development Client
So you’re wanting to get started in web development, but you’re not sure where to begin. The good news is that there are three universal principles I’ve learned that, diligently applied, will lead to your first client.
The Three Principles
- Making Yourself Available
People need to know that you build websites. If they don’t know, how can they ask? First, you tell the people you know. “I’ve started making websites! If you know of anyone who needs a website, let me know!” Keep it simple and get the word out. Next, when you meet someone new, let them know! If you’ve already got a job doing something else, say, “I work at so and so.. and I do web development on the side!” Get business cards with your name and contact information and share them with friends, family, and folks you meet.
- Give Value Like Crazy
This has been the key to my success. I wrote my first WordPress tutorial back in 2006 and I gave it everything I had at the time, with no strings attached. I wrote articles, gave advice, and made it a habit to share what I knew with others. As people read my tutorials, some of them would contact me and ask me to do work for them. I built my first business around the value that I had given away. As you give, conclude with a call to action and invite them to contact you if you can be of service. The more you give the more opportunity you have to reach someone who will ask for your services.
- Answer The Question
As you make yourself available and give value like crazy, potential clients will start asking for your help. When they ask, say yes! Make sure that you focus on a “win” for your client and yourself. This means that you start by asking for a budget or by telling them upfront what you charge. If they don’t have a budget, feel them out, “$500? $1000? $2000? $3000?” They’ll let you know how much they’re comfortable with. From there, determine if their budget and your services are a match. Once you’ve worked out a win, pour yourself into giving that first client the best experience possible.
Now, let’s go get that first client! You’ve got 30 days. Here’s what you need to do:
- Make The Decision - Decide that you are a web developer and you are committed to learning and mastering the trade and providing the best service and experience that you can possibly give. Write it down where you can see it every day.
- Build Your Website - Create a website on WordPress (learn why I recommend WordPress) using a pre-built premium theme. Offer it as an example of the types of work you can provide.
- Spread The Word – Contact at least 10 people closest to you in the next 5 days. Keep it simple. Just let them know that you are now doing web development and that if they know of anyone (including themselves) in need of a website that you would be thrilled to be of service.
- Give Value - In the first 10 days, figure out a way to contribute something of value. Here are a few specific ideas. If none of them are a match for you, spend some time thinking and come up with something:
- Contact your local newspaper with an article outline and work with them to get it published.
- Offer to build a website for a local ministry at no cost with no strings attached. When the work is done and the client is thrilled, ask for an endorsement and referrals.
- Write a tutorial explaining how you built the site for that ministry so that others can do the same for theirs (it might seem counterintuitive, but it works).
- Teach a free workshop at local library, community center, or church on the basics of starting a new blog on WordPress.
- Give your time, no strings attached, sharing ideas and suggestions with business owners on how a website could help their business.
- Report Back – Use the comments below and tell me how you’re doing. If you’ve got questions, let me know! If you get stuck, keep moving forward!
- Stick To It – Review your decision each day. If you’re a believer, pray earnestly about this new endeavor. Do something to move towards that goal of your first client each day.
New! How I Can Help
I’ve decided to offer a free course called “Four Weeks To Your First Client“. I’m developing the course to take you in greater detail through each of the steps I’ve outlined above, with particular attention given to the “Build Your Website” section and “Give Value”. There are no strings attached. The course is completely free and my goal is simple. If I can help you get your first client, then you will more than likely want to buy my premium course and let me help you go beyond that first client. Ready to get started? Scroll up and fill out the form just above this post or visit the course page and I’ll send the first lesson your way!