"I’ve decided I’d love to do professional organising (only just emerging in Australia), and am reading lots of excellent books on the actual work/counseling and also marketing and business info. The biggest question is, since I’ve been a Personal Assistant, and that’s the only thing I’ve ever done (18 years), how on earth do I break out of the mold of the old job, and find the guts to actually TAKE ON A FIRST CLIENT in my new field? I mean, to study and ponder and learn and prepare is one thing, but actually going out there and DOING it, I have no idea where to get the "nerve" from. This could be the difference to whether I take off or not. How do I go from preparing to doing?"
This is such a juicy question because it highlights a number of challenges for first-time entrepreneurs:
How do you get experience in a new field so that you have a track record of completed projects and satisfied clients?
How do you gather the confidence to "put yourself out there" in a new way to the world, when you might not be totally convinced that you are competent yet?
Where can you find your first client?
Here are some suggestions for each of these questions:
- If you are brand new in your field, you might want to "test drive" your service as a volunteer. Choose an individual or organization that would be an excellent case study and that would provide clear "before and after" results. Gain agreement from your client that if she is satisfied with the results, you may use her as a reference for future clients and would use her project as a case study for your marketing.
So in Olivia’s case of being a professional organizer, she has a great opportunity to choose a client with a terribly messy office or closet. She can take a "before" picture, do the work, then do the "after" picture. If she does a stunning job (which I am sure she will!) she can take a picture of her satisfied client and ask for a two-sentence testimonial. This will be great for her website or marketing materials.
(Note to any newbie organizer in the Phoenix, AZ area … if you need a great "before" and "after" filing project starter client, let me know!)
- Find yourself a mentor. There is nothing like hearing "stories from the trenches" from someone who used to be in your position and now has a thriving practice. You can get information, resources and confidence-building from the right person, or group of people. You may also join a professional organization or community forum like Startup Nation to get some ideas and support.
For Olivia, I would heartily recommend two wonderful professional organizers I have come to know through this blog: Jessica Duquette of It’s Not About Your Stuff and Ariane Benefit from Neat Living Blog. They are very open and supportive people and I am sure would share tips and tricks with you, as well as give you encouragement to make the leap.
- Obviously, there is an art and a science to small business marketing. If you are concerned with just getting things going and taking on a few clients, start with defining your niche. That is the specific segment of people that you will target for your marketing efforts.
For just about anyone these days (well, anyone with the something meaty to share and who likes to write), I would recommend starting a blog on your topic, since it is a great way to showcase your expertise, build community, test ideas and develop a friendly relationship with potential clients.
In Olivia’s case, since she mentioned that professional organizing was just getting started in Australia, maybe she could partner with a more established service professional such as an accountant to provide financial organizing services for their clients. Whatever niche she chooses, I would recommend starting in a targeted way, then as she gains exposure and experience, she could branch out to other groups. Some of my favorite marketing resources for service businesses: Action Plan Marketing and Duct Tape Marketing.
I know that everyone here is rooting for you Olivia … the time to act is now! Get your volunteer starter client lined up and see where it takes you. To any of my Aussie readers, if you happen to be looking for someone to create order out of your chaos, let me know (pcs (at) ganas (dot) com) and I will pass on the info to Olivia. I am not sure which city she lives in, but with the power of networking, we could probably line her up a client or two. (Update: she lives in Melbourne)
Other suggestions for Olivia?