We're right there with you: you want to work for yourself and find clients without going through a ton of trial and error or a $500 course. It's not easy - if it were, those $500 or $5,000 courses wouldn't exist. With that said, we'll cover the top best practices for free, as quickly as we can, so you can find that first client.
Finding your first client
Finding your first client comes down to matching a company's problem to your skillset. We first need to figure out where you uniquely add value, and then find a company with the matching problem.
Where you uniquely add value
While we cover this in detail in this guide, you can review your top professional accomplishments and think through what enabled you to accomplish those. Then, come up with a sentence or two that describes where you add value to a company. Make sure in this sentence you focus on impact to the business and remember, the more niche the better.
Finding a client
The quickest and most efficient way is to reach out to your professional network, set-up conversations, share your niche, and ask curious questions about their business along the lines of your expertise. If they have a big need there, great. If not, ask for introductions. If you have a solid niche and have enough conversations (at least 10), you're bound to find a fit. You can use these templates for outreach if you're struggling.
Set your rate
First, do a monthly retainer (preferred) or project-based (second option) to align incentives with your client. We don't recommend hourly -> nobody wants to track their hours and submit a time sheet. Come up with the number of hours (estimated) that you'll work, and an hourly rate that feels comfortable for you. If you're not sure for an hourly rate, take a realistic but solid annual total compensation (salary + bonus + equity) that feels right to you, divide by 49 (weeks per year) and then again by 40 (hours per week), and multiply by 1.4 (buffer to account for benefits and other misc. costs).
This math for $100,000 total comp looks like: (100,000 / 49 / 40 * 1.4) = $71.42 per hour.
This oversimplified equation will give you a baseline. Then, adjust to what feels right. Multiply your hourly rate by the number of hours per month you estimated, and you'll have your monthly retainer.
If I'm working 10 hour weeks for the company, then my monthly rate will be $71.42 * 10 hours * 4.25 weeks = $3,036 per month.
Send a proposal
Use this slide deck template or this proposal doc template to fill out a project proposal and send over after your intro call. The keys are to 1) use as many of their words in the proposal. As they read their own terminology, they'll realize you "get it" and are more likely to hire you. 2) Make sure to state the impact of your work in your proposal. Help them visualize it.
Take your ideal monthly retainer amount, add another 20-30% and ask for that. You're hoping to hear a "No." This means you asked for high enough. When they say "no," make them counter so you don't negotiate against yourself. If they say yes, remember to ask for more next time. During the negotiation conversation, your goal is to learn as much as possible. Knowledge is power. Be curious, ask good questions, learn what hesitations they have. The more you know, the better.
If your proposal is thorough, take what you wrote under the deliverables section, put into Exhibit A into this Contract Template, and send it over via Docusign to make it easy for them to sign.
Take that same language from Exhibit A, put into a working document, and send over to your client. Align expectations on Day 1 as far as communication styles, timelines, deadlines, stakeholders, etc. Use that working document as a central place to track your work.