Welcome to the latest experiment here on my blog: “My First 20 Clients”, a four-part series all about exactly how I won my first 20 clients online — and how I continue to win clients today.
Over the next few posts, I’ll lay out all the delightful, dizzying, and downright-dirty details around how I crafted my first offers, designed my schedule to fit my life, won paying clients without being gross, and how I kept winning clients consistently.
Ready to roll? Read on, and stay tuned for parts 2, 3, and 4!
The year was 2013, and I was… in bed.
Not because I was taking an afternoon snooze, mind you — but because I was on bed rest for a whopping 2 years thanks to a painful spinal problem.
(I’ll tell ya: you never realise just how much your spine matters until it stops working properly.)
However, despite being stuck among pillows and blankets most of the time, I was keeping busy. After all, before my surgery I’d been an on-site consultant doing face-to-face work, constantly overscheduling myself, and pushing, pushing, pushing myself as hard as I could.
So, while my back problem had put a stop to that career path, I was filling my time another way: with blogging and connecting with and helping women entrepreneurs online.
Suffice it to say: Going from being an active professional to being stuck in bed made life… different.
I knew running an online business was the way to go, and I also knew I wanted to work with women to help them build a thriving business — but my health put a lot of constraints on me. As I struggled to decide what to sell, I worried my physical limitations meant I wouldn’t be able to create an offer that could deliver real value to my clients, and help transform them.
Here’s why I’m telling you that bit:
While the situation with my back was unusual, this scenario is universal.
All of us have our own kinds of obstacles and fears to work around when it comes to our businesses, and creating and delivering on offerings for our clients.
Some of us have full time or part time jobs, or pre-existing illnesses, or strong preferences about the kind of work we want to do for how many hours, or wee ones who need tending to… the list goes on.
That’s one of the biggest blessings of working for yourself, and the reason why a lot of us get into it: We can design our work and offerings to fit our schedules and goals.
What other job gives you that kind of freedom and flexibility?
(Spoiler alert: none of them).
So, there I was at the start of my business, stuck in bed, with my work cut out for me. I needed to create an offer that worked for both me and my clients, and allowed me to help people at the highest level I could given the constraints of my health (i.e. could be delivered entirely virtually).
While I thought it would be a pretty simple process (find out what people wanted, create the offer, then sell it) this adventure wound up having a whopping 6 phases!
Here’s the story of what happened — and (most importantly!) how things panned out after the fact. (BTW this isn’t necessarily a ‘do what I did’ type list. Instead, think more ‘learn from my mistakes’)
Phase 1: You can’t sell people something they don’t want. So my first order of business was getting to know my potential clients.
At the time, I’d been blogging for a while, but I’d never put an offer out there, had never connected with my readers directly, and my gut told me I couldn’t just drop a service onto the interwebs without some kind of warm up.
I also knew I didn’t have any testimonials that would relate to this work, and I didn’t know exactly what people wanted.
So I did the only thing I could think of: I offered a few free sessions to find out what people in my community needed. My idea was to talk with each person live over Skype and provide as much value as I could in the hour we had together.
At the time, I had been blogging for a while, had some loyal readers, and had built up a small newsletter list. I used this list to send out an email inviting people to join me for a free session.
I ended up doing about 15 of those sessions in one month. I took lots of notes and, like I’ve already mentioned, I tried to share as much valuable information as I could in the hour that we had together.
On reflection hosting these free sessions were invaluable. They helped me identify what my community was interested in, their biggest pain points, what they really needed help with, and what would be incredible for them to experience.
Then, I got to work brainstorming my offer.
Phase 2: I came up with an offer: A virtual VIP Day.
I chose this 1-day intensive session as my first offer for one big reason: I was very nervous about working with people over a longer period of time — months for example — because of my health. I absolutely didn’t want to commit to something I wouldn’t be able to follow through on.
So I thought that offering a VIP Day, where my client and I would be together virtually via Skype for around 6 hours on a single day, doing a lot of intensive work together, would be a manageable starting point.
As I mapped out the structure for the VIP Day, I packed it with as much as I possibly could.
(I’ve got to say it was way too much and it was a really important lesson for me. These days I know that, rather than packing your offer full of features, it’s much more important to include only those things that will be most powerful for your ideal client. After all, there’s no competition for ‘packed most stuff into my offer’!)
Phase 3: I set a premium price.
Are you shocked to read that I priced my offer at what I felt at the time was a more premium, high-end price point straight out of the gate? I have always believed that you should price your services at the value they deliver to your client and align with your desired industry positioning, rather than letting your self-doubt make financial decisions in your business.
I knew that I wanted to price the VIP Day at around $2,500 but I also knew that this price tag meant that I needed a solid sales page, sales experience and onboarding process, so people really felt they were getting the premium experience straight away.
So what did I do next? Well…
Phase 4: I hired a copywriter… and things didn’t go as planned.
I hired a copywriter to help write the sales page and waited with bated breath for two. whole. months. She was really well-known and well-regarded, and man was I excited about working with her, so I put down my deposit and hopped on the waitlist.
While I was waiting, I worked with a naming specialist to brainstorm a name for the offering and settled on something I thought was just perfect.
… That’s when things went wrong.
A couple of days before the copywriter was FINALLY set to work on the sales page, I got a message from her saying that she’d decided to not work on my project.
The reason? She felt the name of the offer was too closely aligned to a name of another client’s offer that I had no idea about.
I was devastated. I spent a whole day crying. I’d waited on tenterhooks for two months to work with this woman — and at that point, I just didn’t want to wait for anyone else, but I had no idea how to create a sales page.
The next day I pulled myself together and thought “Fine! I’m going to figure this shit out and write this bloody sales page myself.”
Now, when I look back on that, I’m so glad things worked out this way. When you’re just starting out, understanding how to put together your sales copy, even if you work with a professional to spruce it up after the fact, is invaluable.
Was it painful at the time? Yes – but this is a skill I’ve since used over and over. Getting really clear on the structure of the page, and exactly how to hook and captivate your ideal clients will give you so much more power in the long run. So, while I’m all for hiring professionals? When it comes to sales copy, consider taking a stab at it on your own first.
Part 5: I (finally) put the offer out there.
I finally, finally managed to get my offer out there, which took far too long because of that setback — and immediately booked my first few clients. (More on exactly HOW I booked them coming in an upcoming ‘episode’ of this series!)
Aaaand… as it turned out, I really didn’t enjoy doing the VIP days AT ALL. It was just way too much. And, somehow at the same time, it wasn’t enough either.
While it was fun working together, we created a powerful plan, and we took practical transformational action during the day, there were too many steps involved. I could tell my clients felt overwhelmed by the experience (as did I!). And worst of all, because we’d only work together for one day, there was no guarantee my client would follow through with all the good work we’d done.
(These days, after this process and a number of other offers, I have a foolproof system that I use to create offers that feel great and get results from everyone involved. But this first time around I just packed way too much stuff in.)
Part 6: I retired the offer.
Yep, this is how this part of the story ends. After all that work, I decided to shelve the service.
Don’t get me wrong! It was a great learning experience from start to finish, from doing the original free sessions, to writing the sales page, and actually doing the VIP Days, and learning what worked and what didn’t.
Most importantly I developed my confidence and got much clearer on how I could best help people through the experience.
For example, I realised that I loved working with people over a longer period of time because I know that for me, that’s when real transformation happens.
So even though I retired that offer really quickly, it helped me move on and learn so many lessons, get to know my clients and community really, really well, and a whole heap of other great things.
And while I have you here, I’d love to know: Have you ever created and then shelved an offer?
What was it? And what happened next?
Tell your story in the comments below — and I’ll see you next week, where I’ll be pulling back the curtain on the next phase of the My First 20 Client series: The birth of my master schedule.