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From: Steven Ng
Date: Thu, 20 May 1999 09:10:40 0800

The most difficult customer to win is the first one. The average person makes the transition to self-employment, filled with grand dreams and visions. Reality quickly sets in as calls are not returned, e-mails are ignored, advertising collateral appears ineffective, and it seems as if business just can't be found.

Although marketing strategy always needs to be fine-tuned, many prospective clients already have someone to turn to for services in your area of expertise. Even when prospects have direct need for your services, they often hesitate to do business with you.

Most people entering the self-employment realm underestimate the value of a track record. They rigorously market themselves, their expertise, and their business. Features are not what many clients want to see. They want to see that you have other clients -- that you are “safe” to do business with. A track record plays to a comfort zone with many prospects.

By definition, everyone must start smewhere. How is a track record established? A good way to start is pro bono work for a non-profit organization. Such an organization is in need of no- or low-cost services, while still maintaining a professional appearance.

Barter is an increasingly popular way to obtain clientele. Approach a new business in your area that would be willing to vouch for your services in exchange for either free or heavily discounted rates. Perhaps you can
exchange services and serve as references for each other.