My first three clients were two lawyers and a fashion designer. I also had a brief gig with an artist in Toronto whom James met online and that left me wanting to work with more ambitious women like her. So instead of looking inside my network for a new client (which has its limits), I decided to pimp out my resume, write a summary of who I am, what I do and WHY anyone would want to work with me and posted it on Craigslist in an effort to find the best fitting client for me.
James supported me but he looked skeptical. I reminded him that I had found everything from roommates to rides on Craigslist – the normal I guess but I also found friends who took me out to West Hollywood when I didn’t have my driver’s license at the tender age of 18. I knew I would find a client and I did!
I met a business coach who hosted a podcast and needed help with promoting it on Twitter. That happened in May 2015 and I am still working with her! UPDATED APRIL 2018
She is part of a rich network of women entrepreneurs and she introduced James and I to two clients. One entrepreneur needed help writing blogs and the other person is a nutrition expert and chef. After just one call, I ended working with Alexandra Jamieson and grew her Instagram account from 10,000 to over 16,000 in three months.
When people ask me: How do you find clients? And what is it that you do? It’s a loaded question and I usually don’t know where to start. So here is my attempt to start answering that.
1. Work with what you got
Find what you can do online and work with what you got. Even though I’ve had many jobs in the retail sector, the restaurant industry and loved being a tour guide in San Diego (I miss my Toastmaster clan at Voyagers), I also had worked in sales and social media selling marketing products to real estate agents. So when the opportunity to manage a lawyer’s social media account came up, I took it.
Want to know what else helped? My bachelor’s degree. No longer a BS degree mind you. Since I was in Nicaragua bartending for $2 an hour plus tips (which rounded to about $4 an hour), I was willing to take any pay raise.
Side note: The average wage in Nicaragua was $1/hr. I got two bucks because I speak English. As a result of my “above average pay” my part-time bartending job was enough to support me.
Now, I loved bartending because it allowed me to tell stories and jokes to strangers but if I wanted to continue traveling down the Central American continent, I needed more dinero!
The job requirements for the social media manager for a lawyer in New York (my first client ever) included learning about real estate law and have an above average grasp for English grammar. My degree proved that I was more than qualified for the virtual assistant role. My competition at the time was virtual assistant in the Philippines who just didn’t get it. Sure I cost more per hour, but this lawyer didn’t have time to instill the American culture and office etiquette to someone via Skype across the Atlantic ocean. As a result of my work ethic, I got one referral from this lawyer and have been working with these two lawyers ever since!
So to you I say, write down all your skills. Even if you only dabbled with the skill a few times or had some experience back in high-school. Remember what Amy Cuddy said, “Fake it till you become it.” You can teach yourself any skill online. Gary Vaynerchuck is a self taught social media expert! How’s that for motivation!
You can also teach anything online. I looked for a harmonica coach the other day and they do exist. If the skill that you offer is quirky or kinky, Google it. Anything is possible!
2. Look inside your network, look online and know your WHY
Don’t be shy about asking your English high-school teacher if she needs help with grading homework. You’re friends with her on Facebook right?
What’s your local real estate agent up to? I’m sure you could help her or him do a better job with digital marketing. Just start with a few hours a week, how could they say no? And if they do say no, move on the next one. This isn’t multi level marketing, you’re not asking them to involve themselves in any scam so chill and allow yourself to make the pitch.
It’s hard to be shy when you know WHY you’re doing this. So WRITE YOUR WHYS ON PAPER. Let them materialize and motivate you. You have soo much to offer!
Examples of whys to motivate you:
I want to live in Bali to practice yoga everyday
I want to spend more time in Cusco the second (or third) time around and do the Salkantay trek to Machupicchu
I hate working from 9 to 5 because it usurps the better part of my week
I’ve always dreamt of becoming a nomad and taking my work wherever I go. I also wanted to become one of those important executives who would take the red eye to Greece and be back in four days.
Did I really? I heard that those people never leave their hotel room so I think I have something better now. Let me assure you that what I do is nothing like going to Europe and returning jet lagged a few days later. My digital nomad life is way more relaxed and grueling when taking many buses in developing countries. It’s not glamorous… If you call sipping on a $5 glass of wine on a sky bar in Kuala Lumpur overlooking an infinity pool with the Petronas Towers looming in the distance, that’s as glamorous as it gets.
When James and I arrived to Nicaragua, we had $200 in our account which was not even enough to buy a plane ticket home for one of us. We wanted to keep going. My intention was to see Colombia by the end of the year! And to do that, I needed to either save up with the bartending money or find some way to make money on the go. James looked for a teaching job, I bartended and cooked to save, and we both propped a food tour business … when that failed, we continued to look for more ways to sustain ourselves. Our WHY was that we wanted to travel for a year. It was that simple and it fueled our ambition to look for ways to do it. So we asked our friends.
Does anybody need assistance with blog writing? A grant proposal? Website design anyone? I notice that you haven’t posted anything on your Facebook Business page since last year…
We began with one client, the lawyer. I was always better at looking inside my cold market so while James continued to look inside our network, I checked Craigslist and freelancer.com. Since I managed a huge Twitter account, I also became real active on Twitter and someone from the UK hired me to grow his Twitter account. I should probably write a blog on how to find cold clients online. Stay tuned!
Right now I’m thinking about a past roommate, I’ll call her CJ2. She loves cats, she once worked at Home Depot and I think she’s attending community college right now. Her grammar is impeccable. Although she was quite snarky when I lived with her, her grasp for English makes me think that she would be really good at doing some of the things I do.
For more about the WHY concept, check out this guy, Simon Sinek and How Great Leaders Inspire Action
3. Price competitively and show your best work
Do you know what the cost of living is in Latin America? Or Asia? To give you an idea, a liter of beer cost .75 cents in Nicaragua so multiplying that by seven is $5.25 per week for evening happy hours. Our monthly rent for a studio with a pool cost $350 dollars in Granada, Nicaragua. As a result, we were able to charge a low rate to our clients in the U.S. and live like king and queen.
“Fun things happen when you earn dollars, live on pesos and compensate in rupees.” Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Work Week
So, where do you want to travel? How much work are you willing to put in per week to balance work and travel? For us it’s three hours a day and it has been enough for us to live decently in the third world, save enough for a plane ticket home and save for retirement. It didn’t happen overnight, it took a year and half to get here.
A year and half is pretty fast right? The reason for this progress is that we showed our best work every time. We demonstrated trust and integrity. As a result, we got referrals every month. Why show your best work? It’s not because you might tap into a huge network of entrepreneurs (as I mentioned at the beginning). Look at it this way: Your client is providing you with the opportunity to travel! To live abroad and do whatever it is that you want in that country EVERY DAY.
Imagine spending half of your day surfing in the best beach in the world, focusing on a martial art in Asia, practicing yoga in India or dancing salsa in Latin America for months at a time… and spending only three hours a day working to earn that living. The 9 to 5 is a depravity of life and it should be the other way around.
Beyond that, another reason to love your clients is because when they grow, you grow. I learn something new every time I sit down and write tweets for a podcast or do some light research to write a killer Instagram post for a branding expert.
Digital nomads are the best people to hire because they are happy people. And when you hire a happy person, you get great results.
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Jane is my name, Juana is my Spanish name. Claro que hablo el castellano.