A friend asked me a riff in jazz of:
I’m planning on quitting my job in a month. I want to start freelancing. What should I do to get my first client?
I told them that the most valuable thing they could do would be to go out and get rejected by 10 business owners in their target market.
If they did that in a month, they’d be miles ahead of the game by the time they quit their job.
The most valuable thing you can do as a freelancer or consultant is to learn more about your target market. As you learn more about your target market, you’ll understand the pains and problems they’re experiencing, where they spend money, and what industry shibboleths you’ll need to know to blend in.
It doesn’t matter how much industry knowledge you already have1, you will learn about your target market by having conversations with people who are in your target market.
You want to get out there and work on starting conversations with people. If they respond, that’s a success! If they don’t respond, that’s also a success.
When you make an intentional effort at talking with people in your target market, you’re also spending time on things that will help you better understand your target market:
- You’re making a decision on what market to target
- You’re researching where you can find them, online and offline
- You’re reading articles about them, for them, and by them
- You’re watching videos and consuming information written about them
- You’re learning how to write emails to them
- You’re learning how to follow-up and what to say in your follow-up emails
These are all incredibly valuable outputs while you’re working on an outcome like “have conversations with people in your target market.” That’s one of the topics covered in The Independent Consulting Manual (https://kaidavis.com/independent-consulting-manual/).
And those are your outputs if you do not succeed in starting conversations with people in your target market. That’s what happens if you get rejected.
If you set a goal of:
Have 10 conversations with people in your target market
and send 20 emails and get 0 replies, the rejection implicit in those ‘empty’ replies can make the experience feel like a failure.
You set out to do the thing. You did the thing.
You did the correct things in the right order.
It didn’t work.
Well, it depends on how you look at it.
Having conversations is a bit of a leap of faith. It takes two to tango and all that jazz.
Let’s reframe a goal like
Have 10 conversations with…
Around what you actually have control over: the number of people you try and get in touch with.
What’s the most likely result of you trying to get in touch with someone?
Most likely, it will be “They Did Not Reply “.
Count your rejections. Aim to be rejected.
Take joy in being rejected.
If you are rejected by 10, 20, or 100 people in your target market, that means that you’ve taken the time, invested the energy, and done the work to start conversations with those 10, 20, or 100 people.
Along the way, you’ll have learned a surprising amount about your target market.
You might even land a client or two.
- It’s binary. You have “some” or “none.” ↩