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The Ultimate Guide to Working From Home — Part 5

Starting a business isn’t as complicated as it seems

Starting a business isn’t as complicated as it seems
Download the free PDF: 'The Ultimate Guide to Working From Home'. Ditch the cubicle and create the career and lifestyle you want.

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Quiz time!

If you picked anything other than choice “E,” I’m gonna give you a shot of tough love.

None of that stuff matters! The so-called experts who talk about these tactics drive me nuts.

Starting a business isn’t complicated. Are you good at email marketing? Find a few local businesses that need it and offer it as a service.

Are you the math whiz who everyone copied their homework from in school? You can probably find parents whose kids desperately need help, and they’d be willing to pay you for it.

Do you love animals and live in a large apartment complex? I’m sure you can find people going away every weekend who are looking for someone to watch Fido.

Welcome to the world of freelancing.

Freelancing might be the best way to get started making money from home. Startup costs are low, and if you’re getting a steady paycheck from a full-time job, there’s hardly any risk.

Don’t be fooled by the informal nature of these gigs. These are real businesses and you’d be surprised at how much you can make from something like this — if you approach it the right way.

That’s what I want to show you in this section: How to identify your first profitable idea and get your first 3 clients to cut you a check.

So let’s dive in.

The simple test to find your first profitable idea

Most people think of a business idea, then ask a few friends about it who tell them, “Yeah! That’s an awesome idea! Do it!”

So they try it for a few months... and hear nothing but crickets.

I won’t let that happen to you.

The trick is this: Figure out if your idea will ever make money before you invest tons of time in it.

To do this, we’re going to use something I call the Pay Certainty Test, a technique that will let you eliminate half your ideas in less than 15 minutes.

When you apply the Pay Certainty Test, you can quickly score ideas to see if they have any possibility of being successful before you dive too deep into developing them.

Here’s how it works.

Take each of your ideas and write them on a piece of paper. Next to each idea, write down who would pay you for your service.

You should have a page that looks something like this:

Great. Now apply the Pay Certainty Test.

For each person who would potentially pay you, ask yourself:

  • Are they willing and able to pay me for this service? Do they have money and do they want to spend it on my service? (The Demand Question)
  • Am I willing and able to provide this service to them? Am I knowledgeable enough to provide this service? (The Supply Question)

If the prospect is willing to buy, and you can provide, you’re on the right track.

Example of the Pay Certainty Test in action:

The Pay Certainty Test lets you eliminate any ideas that wouldn’t have earned you a dime. Tweet This

Social media consultant for law firms

  • Does a law firm partner have the ability to pay? Sure. Law firms have deep pockets.
  • Does a law firm have the willingness to pay for social media? Heck no. Law firms don’t care about social media. They recruit and market through other means.

The verdict: Eliminate the idea

Motivational consultant for 20-somethings looking for career change

  • Do they have the ability to pay? No. Most 20-somethings barely have enough to scrape by, let alone hire a motivational consultant.
  • Willingness to pay? No. Even if they have the money, how many 20-somethings ever talk about hiring a motivational consultant? Not many.

The verdict: Eliminate the idea

Music instructor for ambitious children where the parents are paying

  • Ability to pay? Yes, parents of ambitious children tend to have money.
  • Willingness to pay? Yes, parents will spend a small fortune to make sure their kids are successful and well-rounded.

The verdict: Great idea! Pursue it!

The Pay Certainty Test lets you rapidly eliminate bad ideas that would have never earned you a cent and focus on the most promising ones.

Find 3 paying clients

Most advice on finding your first client is awful. It looks something like this:

In other words, “do awesome stuff and let people come.” Sure, this can work for some people. But in my experience, it’s neither reliable nor particularly effective compared to your other options.

Instead, I recommend being as direct as possible. Especially if you’re just starting out. That means finding prospects and pitching them with the intent to sell.

Where can you find prospects? It depends on your target audience, but you can find almost any type of person or business that you’re looking for online:

  • Yelp if you’re going after local businesses
  • TechCrunch or AngelList for startups
  • Google for just about everything else

Make a short list of prospects and email them with your offer. You’re not asking them to buy — just if they’d be interested in hearing more (over the phone, in a meeting, etc.).

Remember, your goal is to reduce risk. I get email pitches from people all the time offering to work for me, and they’re almost universally bad, precisely because they don’t do anything to reduce my risk. Mainly the risk that reading their email will be a waste of time.

Here are just some of the thoughts that run through my head when I receive an email from a stranger:

  • Who the heck is this and why should I care?
  • Is this person smart or dumb? (This is why your writing should be clear and concise)
  • Most importantly, what’s in it for me?

Here’s an awesome pitch I got from a reader. In this case he offered to work for free, but you don’t have to — it can work either way. My comments are in annotations.

Tap on the blue highlighted text for more information.

Best subject line I’ve ever received
Good buttering me up
He's in my head
I’m always looking for talented developers and he’s clearly one of them
I LOVE IT!!
As a matter of fact, yes I DO have some side projects I’ve been wanting to do

The beauty in the direct model is in its simplicity. For example, if you email 20 prospects and none of them get back to you, you know the solution isn’t more blog widgets or a nicer-looking logo. It’s that you need to experiment with changing either your service, your target market, or your email copy to improve what isn’t working.

On the other hand, if 5 out of 20 prospects respond positively, you’re probably on the right track. Follow up with them, pitch them your offer in person or on the phone, and get them to start paying you!

Your goal from all of this is to find your first 3 paying clients.

Anyone can land a single client. You get lucky, or your friend knows someone who hires you. But if you can land 3 paying clients, that’s when you know you’re on to something.

Don’t worry about what to charge at this point. Even if you get $50 bucks for a full day of work, that’s not a problem. You can always adjust the price later so that you’re making $50, $100, or even $200 an hour.

Many of my students did just that.

Success Story

Meet Julia

The caricature artist who went from “no idea” to earning $125/hour

Julia didn’t consider herself an “entrepreneur.”

At 24 years old, she had been working at a non-profit for the last 8 years. “I liked it. Great company. The work was good – fulfilling. I had great bosses. They were very flexible with my school schedule. I really had a good gig.”

Julia was putting herself through school to become an accountant, but when she decided to transfer to another college in a new city, she had a problem. She couldn’t take the job with her and worried about going broke…

Discover how Julia found her $125/hour idea

Most people don’t believe they have skills they can charge money for. Then I tell them how in college I used to show Silicon Valley venture capital firms how people were using social media — and got paid for it. That’s something anyone can do.

I have a free tool that can show you that you’re sitting on a goldmine of business ideas right now. I want to send it to you. Just enter your name and email below.

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Starting a business isn’t as complicated as it seems