September 20, 2018

Core Story 13: First Paying Client

I was telling you yesterday about my early business ventures…

After the hair salon incident I decided to hang my shingle as a web designer. I had been following Ben Hunt through my System Seminar recordings, and decided to join his online Pro Web Design Course. Which at the time was the most comprehensive web design course on the internet, by a mile.

I created a basic website about my work (using a template – not my own design!), and a basic Google AdWords campaign targeting local ‘web design’ keywords. One evening my phone rang.

“Hello, I’m AD” said the caller. “Do you do websites?”

Yes, yes I did do websites.

“Could you add a membership site?”

Yes, I probably could.

“Would you come over for a meeting to discuss it?”

Yes, yes I would!

I was relieved to get off the phone without AD asking whether he could see any of the websites I had created. Which in a roundabout way, was zero. We arranged to meet the following evening at his house.

AD shared his house with his wife, parents, and about thirteen small children. We perched on office chairs in his attic, surrounded by piles of strewn paper.

AD did most of the talking. I did most of the listening. We mapped out roughly what his new website was going to look like. Eventually, the subject of payment came up.

“How much is this going to cost?” AD asked.

I thought back to my experience with Emile. I was careful not to let it show, but I badly needed the cash.

“Four hundred pounds. Two hundred up front, two hundred on completion.”

“That sounds fair enough.” AD said, without blinking.

Damn, I should have asked for more!‘ I thought darkly.

Still, a part of me was relieved. After spending weeks trooping around shops speaking to people who would rather I went away, it was good to have someone who wanted to engage my services and pay me money.

He paid me the £200 outside his house in cash, on his doorstep.

I sent AD an invoice later as a receipt for the £200. I had no invoice template, and at the time had no accounting system. My first ever invoice was set out crudely in Microsoft Word, with ‘RJD Consulting’ at the top as my business name. I copied the layout from an invoice I had received from a supplier, and set the invoice number at random. I didn’t want AD to know it was my first ever invoice!

There were a number of problems with AD’s website. Firstly, AD had no idea what he was actually trying to achieve. The scope of the project was changed abruptly a number of times.

Secondly, the website took me WAY longer to prepare than I anticipated. The more intricate membership elements of the site didn’t work fully, but AD eventually signed the site off.

While this was happening I still desperately needed clients with real businesses. A friend recommended I try local networking. After a little research online, I came across the High Wycombe Business Network. I sent an enquiry to see if they needed a web designer.

The message back was that the group already had an incumbent web designer, but if I wanted to come along in another capacity I would be more than welcome. I yawned nonchalantly, and asked what they might like to hear about.

“Getting ranked on Google,” was the reply.

I hurriedly designed and ordered new business cards from Vistaprint, and booked to go along as ‘Rob Drummond: PPC Consultant’. I had no pay per click clients of course, but my experience with AD had proven this didn’t really matter.

The Network was a two-hour breakfast meeting, running from 7-9 AM every Thursday. I went along and spoke about my non-existent Google AdWords services.

The first time I went I remember everyone seeming so assured. The financial advisors huddled in a corner to speak in their own special finance language.

On the inside I was in turmoil. “WHAT IF THEY FIND OUT I’M A FRAUD?” a voice screamed in my head.

And then a little quieter, “What if this is the day you stammer again?”

I really, really hated that little voice.

As the weeks slipped by, I became more assured. Speaking to people every week forced me to think about who I was trying to work with, and how I structured my projects. One week a guy with an office supplies business approached me after the meeting.

“I’m spending money with Google,” he said, “and I’ve tried calling them. And I think it made things worse. Can you help?”

I stretched nonchalantly to hide my inner nerves, and said ‘sure…’

Pay per click client No.1 was on board!

More on which tomorrow.

Rob Drummond

Rob Drummond runs the Maze Marketing Podcast and Maze Mastery. Rob specialises in content production, ad creation, storytelling and CRM systems. He has two published books, Magnetic Expertise and Simple Story Selling, affordable on Amazon.