This past week, a friend reached out to talk about starting her own endeavor. I find myself so grateful for the pause to reflect on all that happened at the beginning of this crazy adventure with Ember and three key takeaways surfaced that took this little company from a pipe dream to having more clients than I could handle alone.
For anyone starting anything... I hope these reflections on my first steps give you hope, grace for yourself, and encouragement for just how possible it is. You can do this! I know this because I am nothing special, I just took the steps every day.
1. No Plan B
In February I quit my job (that’s right, February 2020, HAH.) and I had to make a decision - was I going to devote my time to finding a new job or starting my own thing? Whichever decision I made, there would be no going back and I wouldn’t stop until I had reached the end result because . . . I needed money!
I had enough in my savings to get by for about five months. A five month timer that quickly started ticking. I must qualify all of this with the fact that I had a safety net - an incredible community of people who I knew would take me in should I come to financial ruin. This family and community has always enabled me to take bigger risks. I know not everyone has that privilege to take those risks.
I am certain the success of Ember is in large part due to the fact that there was no other option. It would work and it had to work. Necessity is the mother of all creativity, innovation, and client acquisition in my case.
2. 100 Calls in 90 Days
Before I even had a website up, I drafted a PDF with a “good enough” name in Canva and started reaching out to people to set up calls. I challenged myself to have 100 calls with people over 90 days. But instead of focusing on that, I focused on my list. Who did I know? And who could they connect me to? I made so many lists, I get dizzy thinking about it.
For some people I even asked them to talk on the phone AGAIN two months later when I still hadn’t hit my goal (but knew I had more to offer). Which took everything I had to send that message and not feel like I was THE most obnoxious person to bother them not just once, but TWICE! They were very gracious. Cheryl and Ellie especially. If you are reading this, I love you.
On every call, at the end I said: “as you hear me share about my vision for what I want to do, do you have any feedback? Do any brands or friends come to mind who you think could benefit from what I’m doing?”
And then you have to shut up (often I would put my hand over my mouth) and give it 30 seconds to let them actually answer.
All of my current clients came from someone who knew someone, who was willing to go out on a limb for me and connect me with someone else. God bless these dear souls - I paid you in nut butter gift baskets, but I really owe you my entire livelihood.
In fact, if you are reading this, I probably called you and asked you these very things!
By the end of July, I had my 100th call and celebrated with a glass of wine. I was arguably more proud to complete the challenge than nailing down my first client... Nope, wait, that’s a lie. I almost cried when I got my first client. But I WAS extremely proud to complete the challenge because it took a lot of vulnerability and courage.
3. The Rule of Four
How did I get 100 people on the phone?
Well, here’s my other not-so-secret trick that I learned at Sseko. When you reach out once, the response rate is dismal. Second time, it bumps up a few percentage points. Three times, a little more. But a FOURTH time and that response rate jumps up to 90%!
Because here’s the thing: life happens. It is not their top priority to talk to me. And that’s okay! It doesn’t need to be. I just need it to be super easy for them to do and ENOUGH of a priority to get it on the calendar.
Let’s be clear what these four reach-outs DON’T look like:
“Hi! My name’s Bri, do have time to chat for 30 minutes?”
“Hey! Just following up, what do you think?”
“Me again! Have you had some time to consider?”
“Are you still there?”
I’ll be the first to say I’m still learning the right way to do this. I got a note from a friend one day that one of my messages came off spammy. *heart-sinking-feeling* But you live and you learn how to craft your message more skillfully and you keep going. (Also, if that friend is reading this, your feedback is THE GREATEST GIFT I COULD EVER ASK FOR. Please keep giving it to me, I am forever grateful.) For every one person who might be turned off, there are nine who will respect the hustle. Tell yourself that and keep going.
Usually, my initial reach out would contain a short blurb about what I do, what I appreciate about their mission (get specific and show that you did your research, not just a glance at their landing page), and any vision for how we could partner. Then, 48-72 hours later I would follow up with a short message. A week later, I would try to reach out with a slightly different angle and let them know that I was going to reach back out in a month to see if that’s a better time.
Tiny tip: I like to phrase my questions so that the response I’m looking for starts with “no.”
So it looks like: “Is this a bad week for a short call together?”
The response I want is “No, it’s not a bad week…”
This is a tip from Chris Voss’s book on negotiation.
He says it works and I trust him.
If you are starting something new, does any of this resonate with you? Does any of it scare you? If there’s any way that I can support you (or be one of your 100 people you are calling), don’t hesitate to reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo Credit: Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash
About the Author
Bri Leever is Chief Community Architect at Ember, a splasher of water, and lover of books doing life in an ever-changing migration pattern ✈️