"I guess that's something I'd just do for free if someone asked."
These words were uttered by a close girlfriend of mine over coffee a few weeks ago. We were talking through some business ideas (because she wants to start one) and I was throwing out a variety of ways she could earn once she had built up a following.
Only she wanted to do EVERYTHING BIG THAT I WAS SUGGESTING FOR FREE.
Listen, sis. Money is a tough subject for a lot of us. As women, we've been taught that money is dirty. That we should feel bad asking for more money, awful for having money, and downright diabolical for spending it. That "things" should not make us happy and therefore money should not be important.
But I'm not saying you need to earn millions to make yourself happy.
I am saying you need to have your own money at your disposal so that you don't feel like you have to check in on every dollar you spend at Starbucks when you decide to meet a girlfriend for coffee.
I'm saying you need to have your own money at your disposal so you don't feel—and this is one I REALLY get deep in my bones—a burden. To yourself. To partners. To your family. Because student loan debt. Or credit card debt. Living outside your means, amiright?
I'm saying you need to have your own money so that when you desperately need a vacation next spring and hey you can buy round trip airfare to another city for $75—you should be able to DO that.
I am saying you need to have your own money because you feel like a totally new person after a haircut.
Whether for an experience or a physical thing—money is necessary in this thing we call life. Because the rest of the world relies on it. And that's a whole lot of people you won't be able to purchase goods (or experiences) from because you feel bad about the paper in your pocket.
Now let's state the obvious: "It feels like a really weird time to be taking money, Allison."
I know. But this blog isn't about asking people to buy your $1500 course that promises to teach their dogs how to do household chores.
This is a blog about how to get to a point in your work where you can ask people to buy your $1500 course that promises to teach their dogs how to do household chores. Because there's a lot of work that needs to take place before that can happen. A lot of good, FREE work on your part that needs to take place. So that when the world begins to tilt itself right again? You're in a position to be successful.
When I first started searching for clients, I had an entire list of businesses to hit up for work. And ever so diligently, I reached out to 5-10 each day with the same, boring, "I'm a freelancer and I'd love to help you with your marketing" message. Looking back at those emails, I cringe—hell, I can smell my own desperation.
At the time, I was charging $150/month for services. Which felt like a LOT of money when I was starting out. It included social media, 4 blogs, and the update of one landing page per month. Like...hello excellent deal.
If I could speak to my sweet, 24 year old self, the things I'd say to her...
You want to know how many of those AMAZE-balls packages I sold in my first month of attempts? Zero. Nada. Big fat goose egg.
My approach (clearly) wasn't working.
And here's why: I wanted to charge people $150 up front—for work I knew I could do. But they didn't know me from Tom, Dick, or Harry. And also, it was obvious I couldn't sell myself—so why did they want me anywhere NEAR their marketing which by nature is DESIGNED TO SELL?
So I changed my approach. Because marketing is all about experimentation and frankly, a bit of risk. Remember that.
Now on the one hand, I was still willing to work for anyone who wanted to give me money. I hadn't zeroed in on a target audience. I knew nothing about writing for a specific niche. There were zero expectations beyond, "I need to make some money." Those things were learned in time...and I'll teach you, too.
But what I did change was the message I started sending out. On LinkedIn. On Facebook groups. In forums.
"Hi XX. I'm loving you and your business. But your Facebook page looks like it could use a little love. Want to hop on a call? We can talk about some easy changes you can implement on your own...and I'll ask you a few questions about your business in exchange. No pitches. Only real talk. Let's chat!"
That's not my exact message of course. But that's the gist of it. And wouldn't you know—that next month I jumped on not one, not two, not three, but four calls. And based on those conversations, three of those callers were so thrilled they asked if I could help them...in exchange for money.
But here's where it gets REALLY good: Based on the questions I asked each of them, I knew—even if they didn't—where they needed my help within their marketing efforts.
The kicker being this: why should they know I could help them in those areas? Marketing isn't their area of expertise. It's mine. They didn't have a solution, they only found themselves staring hopelessly at a problem. But I unknowingly had positioned myself as an expert who could help them with those problems they had zero solutions to. And they had a budget to solve those problems!
Is your brain on fire yet? I honestly could not believe what was happening in those early days.
So where to go with this? Well, next I did something that felt terrifying and thrilling all at once. I designed two different proposals and sent them off to those potential clients.
One was for $150 and included 1-2 pain points they knew they had (usually social media related).
The other was for $350 and included 1-2 pain points they knew of PLUS 1-2 pain points I'd picked up on based on my knowledge from these brief, 15-30 minute calls.
All three of these businesses took the higher proposal.
One of these clients I still work with regularly and another about every three to six months. They pay me more now, of course. But we've been together for TEN FREAKING YEARS!
What's the moral of this story?
Well, sweet grasshopper. Today's lesson comes down to one very simple fact: It's that you must GIVE if you want to RECEIVE.
I didn't know it then, but I was becoming a lead generating ninja.
Giving to receive smells like common sense, doesn't it? But you'd be surprised how many people make the cringe-worthy mistake—as I did—of asking for money with nothing to prove their worth. So skip this step in your business plan...please!
Now, you don't have to rely on phone calls as I did for this type of result. But you do need to put some work into finding followers and positioning yourself as an expert in photography, yoga, jewelry making, writing, travel planning, budgeting, pet training—whatever!—who is able to help with exactly X, Y, or Z.
And what better time to find people who truly relate to your message than right now when so many people are online for HOURS each day?
This approach won't feel icky or tone deaf or money hungry. Because it's totally 100% organic. Everything you're giving away today is free, darling. You're not asking people to invest anything more than their time with you. And time is never in short supply when someone finds you and your offerings helpful and/or aligned with a need or want.
Then...when you have big business ideas—like the ones I was pitching my girlfriend over coffee—you don't have to give them away for free. Those are the ones you can charge for and start earning some income—when you feel ready with a worthy product or service.
Want my Lead Gen magic to rub off on your dream business? This free downloadable includes a bunch of digital products you can create in the coming weeks. Use them find fantastic fresh organic leads for your business. So that when you have something big to sell, you also have followers wanting to buy.