As a follow-up to my Reinventing Yourself post, I want to share my favorite way of getting a new business off the ground. Give away your services for next to nothing or for free. I know, this is not the American way. You may even think of it as, dare I say it, Socialism. Well just hang in there, I haven’t gone completely nuts.
Once you’ve decided what you want to do, brushed up on your skills at a site like Lynda.com and put together a business plan of some sort, you need to find customers. This is usually the most difficult part of starting your own business. After all, why should anybody use your service or buy your product when they’ve never heard of you, you have a meager portfolio or samples and your website comes up on page 28 in a Google search? FREE, that’s why. Let all of your friends and relatives know that you’ve started a business. Let all of your Facebook friends and Twitter followers know about your service. Let everyone you know that you are now working for yourself. You may be surprised at how good you feel about your new status and your in-laws may even start treating you with some respect, saying things like “at least he’s not unemployed anymore.“
Let everybody you know that although you provide a valuable service or product, while you’re getting started, you will work for whatever they feel is fair, if this turns out to be for nothing, so be it. This period of indentured servitude provides you with valuable experience and feedback (most customers don’t complain much when they’re getting something for free) as well as a body of work you can show to prospective customers. I have created several Facebook profile pictures for friends, logo design for a worthy not-for-profit, and ebook covers and epub conversions for family writers. Everyone of these projects have helped me increase my skills, build my portfolio and led to more jobs and new paying customers. One very nice surprise came when the not-for-profit mailed me a substantial check for my services after they received a government grant to continue their mission.
Think of this time as an unpaid internship, it may not pay much now, but it will reap you tremendous rewards in the future.
As always, I encourage your feedback and comments on this and all of my articles. Please share your experience with my readers.