How do you get your first few customers?

We’re minutes away from launching our Velvet Platform and are looking for our first round of customers or early adopters. 

Everyone from freelancers to coworking space owners asks me, ‘how do I get my first few customers?’

This post will share the basic outline of what we are doing to get our first customers. 

And then, in the future, you can come back and read what is working and what is not working. 

So, how do you get your first few customers?

That is hard to answer, and I know I need to write ‘it depends’ to a question like that.

I believe you have to go out and listen either in person or on the internet. 

People, including me, think that you can open something up and then people who want it will show up by magic; it does not work that way. 

Like Alex, the Chairman of our company, said, ‘no one cares what we do!’ 

I was delighted to hear him say this because usually, founders and CEO’s are delusional about how their products look to people in real life.  

Marketing is a commitment, not a campaign.

We have a ‘tight everything’ budget – so we have to bootstrap.

Building tech and getting financial licences is a terrifyingly expensive thing to do. 

I was super excited to get our marketing budget.

But when it arrived, I had to get out a magnifying glass to see it. 

But this is a good thing.

In the last decade, I’ve been part of start-up teams or watched people get investment and blow it on a ‘growth hacker’ or another quick fix method. 

They ‘outsource their success’ by throwing money at someone instead of plugging into the grit and doing the work. 

My mate Jon Buscall says, ‘marketing is a commitment, not a campaign.’ 

By doing solid, consistent actions every day, we will build what Darren Hardy calls the Compound Effect.

Our marketing team. 

Our marketing team is a group of freelancers from all over the world.

We’ve now been together for eighteen months, and we worked together on European Coworking Assembly and European Freelancers Week before Velvet Platform and PayPugs came along.

Read more about how we work in this post here: How I’m Absolutely Boosting My Productivity Score Every Week

In 2020 we: 

  • Launched or rebuilt ten websites
  • Published over 80 podcasts 
  • Sent hundreds of email newsletters
  • Posted over a hundred blogs 
  • Sent thousands of social media posts
  • Produced events and meet-ups like Coworking Symposium and London Bloggers Meet Up, to name a few. 

And we’re going round again now – RSVP here for Coworking Symposium 2021. 

Getting paid as a freelancer

In 2020 as COVID gripped the world, our team got a long way without much; more than once, we had no idea if we’d get paid. 

One of the most stressful, gut-wrenching things when you have family and bills is when clients delay paying you. 

Money stress gives me pain, like someone drilling the side of my forehead with a road drill. 

Then my creativity stops dead. 

Then I panic because I can’t think. 

But all this pain helps us when communicating Velvet Platform; we are the user. 

Imagine a man marketing women’s hygiene products and pretending to know where the product’s meaning is. 

As a group, we have a long list of real-life situations of collaborating with fellow freelancers on projects and sending invoices and waiting for money to clear. 

We’re not a big fuck-off firm full of people who have only ever got paid by salary who think they know what life as a gig worker, freelancer or consultant is. 

Building a social media audience

Even before we built our website, we’ve been making a small social media audience on: 

Twitter

Facebook  

LinkedIn 

Instagram

Of course, you need a social media voice, but social media does not convert people into customers and is even worse if you are a company or a brand. 

In the fifteen years I’ve been active on social media, I’ve seen people follow and interact with people, not companies. 

We want to start some trouble here, of course, but I’m not betting the ranch on social media. 

The place I think we can have fun and impact is with influencers on our Instagram account.

Also, on LinkedIn, the freelancer and Coworking conversations have exploded in the last six months. 

Things like This week in Coworking get a massive response every week. 

I chat with my long time agency friend Phil Szomszor on giving LinkedIn a go in this podcast here.

Advertising 

The human race is now immune to ‘advertising’, and like Jay Baer kicked out in his 2013 book Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is about Help Not Hype – the best marketing has to be helpful. 

When we have a solid customer journey and sales funnel worked out, AND our content marketing articles are stacked higher, then we’ll advertise. 

Companies blow thousands of pounds on advertising to get people to their website, and then when people get there, it is unclear what to do. 

Every Tuesday, I learn from my mate Kenda at the Marketing Automation Academy to make a total sales funnel; it is an art. 

I talk with Kenda about understanding Your Customer’s Journey in this podcast here.

Articles and the BIG FIVE

For Velvet Platform, we’re going deep with the BIG FIVE, a method I’ve seen build for a decade now and trust it.

The BIG FIVE are what customers want to read:

  1. Cost and pricing
  2. Comparisons
  3. Problems (theirs and yours)
  4. Best of lists (top ten etc.)
  5. Reviews

No one gives a shit that you’ve won an award, launched a new website, have excellent customer service or even how much you innovate. 

They want to know is: 

How much it costs

How it works 

When they can get it. 

90 days of massive action

Over the last five years, I’ve watched many micro and small businesses grow by taking part in the 90-day content challenge built on the Big Five. 

And I know people in the UK who have added hundreds of thousands of pounds of revenue to their company by writing a few blog posts with the Big Five method. 

Content is where natural SEO is.

Of course, you have to have your site set up correctly, but new valid words on your website get you found in search engines and build your online authority. 

You can hear from Debbie Ekins about content marketing and the BIG FIVE in this podcast here

Finding our voice and community

We need to work on our voice; it will come, but I’m impatient.  

We have professional looking pictures and artwork, which I’m very proud of, but I feel that we won’t have a character until we get to know the people using Velvet Platform and what makes them laugh.

For example, I’ve been part of AppSumo for years, where the community members call themselves ‘Sumolings.’

I’ve only met a few of these people, but I feel part of the community and have an AppSumo addiction. 

I’m an Appsumo fanboy saving £10k a year.

I’ve spent a few thousand pounds with AppSumo over the last six years, and I do have apps I’ve never used or were crap. 

But the ones that made it have paid off big time – I mean BIG TIME.

Between all the products we use for PayPugs and Velvet Platform and Grumble from SEO apps, email marketing, content marketing research and scrum project tools, we’re saving over £10k a year. 

Saving £10k a year is a massive chunk of change when you are bootstrapping and getting going. 

For example, you can listen to my podcast on the Soundwise App I got from App Sumo. Click here.

Our basic 90-day plan marketing plan

So I’m a big believer in the content, and we’re heading out like this:

We’ll post two to three times a week like this.

1. We’ll interview Ed Goodman from Freelancer Heroes for ‘this week in freelancing.’

I got this idea from my mate and collaborator, Hector.

I’ve sat beside Hector as he built This week in coworking email and watched it blow up. 

Hector’s exclusive newsletter went to a new level when he added the weekly Clubhouse meet up.

Ed already has a Facebook Friday live stream interview with the 11k strong UK-based Freelance Heroes Facebook group.

2. Big Five Post – this will be questions we get on support, use cases and how the whole Velvet thing works. 

3. I’ll post every week – and these posts will be what I submit to the next 90-day content challenge.

These posts are from my experiences of twenty years of freelancing, remote working, podcasting, running events, communities and being a working parent.  

Fun Fact about how Velvet Platform started:

In 2019, Ed took to Twitter to ask about how to collect money for a charity quiz. 

His tweets got picked up by Jeannine, who is now CEO at PayPugs with me. 

When Jeannine ran this past Alex, a member of her coworking space, it became one of the primary use cases that led to the Velvet Platform creation. 

Meet Up’s and Events

In London, Velvet is sponsoring the Meet Up groups that we have built up over the last ten years.

It was tough to keep these going in 2020, and having a small amount of funding to kick them off again is excellent.

We’re not at the level of the good old days when company’s like eBayVodafoneZipCar and TalkTalk would sponsor thousands of pounds for an event and buy all the beer – but we were not in a global pandemic back then. 

I love these groups, I’ve been on Meet Up since 2008, and it was the first place in the world where I read the word ‘coworking’ on Tony Bacigalupo’s NWC Meet Up.

Some of my best friends in London have come from bloggers meet up, write club and other antics. 

We even hosted an event at our London office for Meet Up organisers with Scott, the Meet-Up founder, back in 2012. 

Email lists and lead magnets

Don’t tell anyone, but I don’t what to do for a lead magnet for VP – But we need to build an email list – I tell everyone this!

And believe me, 2020 was the year I am so glad to have kept our email lists active.  

Sorry to bore you, but having a GDPR compliant connection to thousands of people via email is a precious thing to own. 

We kept up emailing the London Coworking AssemblyEuropean Coworking AssemblyEuropean Freelancers Week, and other projects. 

I’m listening harder than ever to Kenda in our weekly Marketing Automation Academy lessons. 

BTW You can join Kenda for our London Bloggers Meet Up on How To Ace Newsletters here

I’m working on getting Martin and Lyndsay after their SEO success for beginners session; they were a big hit – but I’ve lost their phone number. 

First project examples

Podcast Project 

The first project to be set up is this, and it is one of the problems that inspired the Velvet Platform

The project is the European Coworking Assembly podcast, which Cobot sponsor. 

(Cobot makes software to run and manage your coworking business.) 

Instead of the long-winded way payment gets sent now, Cobot will put the money in Velvet Platform, and the fee will automatically get sent to the podcast team every month. 

Writers project

In the London Coworking Assembly, we’re growing a group of paid writers from UrbanMBA students to hunt down coworking stories from the sprawling metropolis.

Think of it as the Marvel Bullpen for Coworking in London, AKA the Full Bullpen.

The people at these five companies are long time supporters of our Coworking Assembly mischief, and it is very cool of them to be willing to sponsor and help set this new project up for UrbanMBA.

Our London Coworking Assembly sponsors are:

Nook

Tech Sapiens

Cobot

Nexudus

Salto Systems

We’ll plug all these companies into the Velvet Platform, and then the writers and podcasters will get paid out automatically when the work is marked complete. 

Velvet beta testers welcome

We have a beta testers group that you’d be very welcome to join. 

The Velvet Platform will work for you as a: 

Freelancer

International project founder

Remote first companies and employee

Multicurrency project

Start-up

Revenue share project

Influencers and collaborator

Co-living project

Event coordinator

You can request an early invite’ here, and we’ll be in touch – mention my name, and you’ll get a good seat.

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