Sometimes success lands in your lap. Most of the time, though, you have to be more proactive. The one skill most successful people share is knowing how to create opportunities for themselves.
Of course, this is more important at certain points in your career. Creating opportunities for yourself is vital if you move to a new niche, start a new business, or even in the difficult post-graduation years.
Today we’ll be looking at how to create opportunities for growing your business. You may be asking yourself, “how?” Well, take a deep breath.
I’m going to show you how to reach out to people and offer your services for free.
Half of you are squirming at the prospect of cold outreach, and the other half is doing the same thinking about working for free. I can understand your reservations, but this strategy has been used to great effect by some very successful people. It’s how Elon Musk landed his first job in North America.
If it’s good enough for young Elon, it’s good enough for you.
Let’s look at how you can leverage this strategy to create your own business opportunities.
Define Your Offer
Naturally, if you’re going to offer your services for free, your first task is to work out what you’ll be offering. On one level, this should be fairly simple. If you’re a designer, you can offer to do design work. If you’re an SEO geek, you can offer to help business owners get more traffic to their website.
Beyond this, though, you’ll need to make yourself stand out. After all, you’re not the only designer around. As such, you need to set yourself apart with a compelling USP.
The fact that you’re offering to work for free should get you halfway there. To build on this, draw on your experience, and then relate this to how you can offer value to the person you are pitching. It will help to consider their pain points.
Research Potential Targets
Now it’s time to figure out who you’ll pitch. You’ll be glad to hear this isn’t particularly complicated. You’re looking to answer four questions:
- Is this someone who might want to hire you? For example, a company that doesn’t have someone in-house doing a function similar to your service.
- Is this someone who can afford your services? You can base this on the size of the company and your typical fees.
- Is this person in a similar niche to your own? This only applies to people providing certain services that are niche-specific, like content marketing or consultancy.
- Is this someone with a pain point you can address? Finding this requires a certain amount of legwork on your part.
To identify pain points for potential clients, you’ll need to check out how they’re already performing in your field. An easy example of this would be poor social media management. You could offer to take this over for free for a short time to prove how you can benefit the company.
Equally, you might want to find people to work for free to build a portfolio, rather than seeking out paid work from them directly. Paul Jarvis is a web developer who recommends pro-bono work for charities to build your portfolio.
He uses this email template:
I'm Paul Jarvis and I help businesses and nonprofits like yours do better and achieve more with their websites. I've donated to you for the past couple of years because I know you do awesome work.
I have a vision for your website that will help you: build a large community of support, increase your donations (and increase returning donations), and even hopefully get you a bit of press.
Typically, I charge $7,000 to design and develop a website, but I'd like to offer you my skills and problem-solving abilities for free.
Can we set up a call next Tuesday (or whenever works for you), if you're interested?
Of course, there’s more than one way to write an effective cold email.
Reach out by Email
Before you get as far as drafting your email outreach, you’ll need to get a hold of the email address of your potential client. This barrier leads many people to do their outreach via LinkedIn, but I’d recommend against this since LinkedIn messages are easier to ignore.
Instead, if your target’s email address isn’t publicly available, you can use an email finder tool. These look for patterns in a company’s email address to infer the right one for the person.
In terms of content, your email should be short. A couple of paragraphs with no more than a couple of lines each. These are:
- Who you are,
- What you can offer,
- What you’d hope to get out of the experience.
Notice that you offer value before stating what you want in return. Since you’re working for free, this could be as simple as building experience or getting a testimonial.
These three short paragraphs are then followed by a call to action to encourage them to follow up. For instance, in the above example, Paul Jarvis offers to set up a call.
At this point, three things might have happened. Your prospect could have accepted your offer or declined it. They also could have ignored you completely.
If your offer is declined, following up is fairly simple. Just thank them for their time, and if you want to, you can connect on LinkedIn to stay on their radar.
If you’ve been outright ignored, don’t lose heart. Emails often get lost in busy people’s inboxes. Don’t be afraid to send a short email to ask if they’ve considered your offer. You can also use this chance to reaffirm how excited you are to work together.
How to Create your own Business Opportunities
That’s all there is to it. Creating your business opportunities is as simple as having the guts to reach out to people, and the foresight to know that working for free can pay off in the long run.
Along the way, you’ll also need to define what it is you can offer to people, and then find people who need these services. Then it’s as simple as sending a few short emails to show how you can add value.
Owen Baker is a content marketer for Voila Norbert, an online email verification tool. He’s spent over a decade in online marketing. He enjoys sharing his knowledge of content marketing across a range of websites.
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