As a teenager, I knew I wanted to be in business. My world was very small being the small UK town I live in so my game plan was to serve my local community as a web designer.
Lee Matthew Jackson
In this episode I will share:
- how I landed my first customer
- how my niche evolved despite the location I was in
- mistakes I made
- lessons I learned
Sell by helping course by Nick Gulic: https://trailblazer.fm/sellbyhelping
Lee’s YouTube channel: http://trailblazer.fm/youtube
Lee’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/leematthewjackson/
This podcast was inspired by this live from my Facebook page.
As a teenager, I knew I wanted to be in business. My world was very small being the small UK town I live in so my game plan was to serve my local community as a web designer. In this live I will share: _ how I landed my first customer _ how my niche evolved despite the location I was in _ mistakes I made _ lessons I learned. Lee Matthew Jackson
Welcome to the Agency Trailblazer Podcast, this is your host Lee and on today’s show, I want to share with you a story. That story is how I got started in web design. How I got my first client. How I niched and some of those lessons that I learnt along the way.
So let’s jump into that time machine and first let’s talk about how I got into computers. If you’ve watched any of the live streams on my Facebook or YouTube account, (links are in the show notes), you will see there is a very particular machine behind me that is an Amstrad PcW 6, which is rocking a 16 Hz processor with both one meg of Ram and onboard one meg Rom for file storage.
It is immense, or at least it was immense to me back in 1997 approximately, when I was able to afford that as an ex-display machine from Dixons. It runs its own operating system, something called Rosanne, which is based… well built on assembly code and I started to try and teach myself (A) how the thing was built. So I tore it apart and also (B) how to program it. I obviously picked the worst language you could ever try and learn. It’s kind of one step on from binary and I have found it practically impossible.
But what I realized I needed to do was to actually get myself a DOS machine so that I could learn how to program for it. I had to be able to compile in DOS before I could then transfer any of my apps over to that particular machine. So hence started the journey of understanding how to build my own PCs and the rest is history with regards to how I got into tech. Now, during that process, I’ve really got into how computers are built and it became a passion of mine and I wanted to tell the world and the Internet was pretty darn new to me.
So I jumped online at school and found a system called “Tripod”, which essentially allows you to upload your own HTML and you would receive a URL for it. Essentially, it was my own web site.
So I took some pictures on a camera, got the film processed, scanned those pictures in at school and was able to upload the pictures of my Amstrad PcW16, as well as the hardware specs and some of the many things that I had learnt about it being set up. This started the passion for me in building websites. I absolutely loved how HTML allowed me to make things look awesome. Well, actually, in hindsight they look terrible, but back then they looked awesome of its time with GIFs and all the other cool stuff, and I loved how I could use that language to create something and got massively into building websites on pretty much any subject that you can possibly imagine.
Fast forward a couple years and we’d moved to a village called Finedon. And Finedon has about 8000 residents, maybe roughly. So it’s pretty small. It’s called a village or a town and that’s pretty much an ongoing argument. Officially, we’re a town. It feels like a village. So I like to call it a village-town, but that’s kind of a whole other conversation. And you probably don’t want to talk to a “Finedoner” about that because there are polarizing opinions. But I moved to this very, very small town. We’ll call it town for the rest of the podcast.
And I knew I wanted to be in business. I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. The problem is I had a 56K modem. I had no car. I was a teenager. I just managed to convince the local girl who I thought was absolutely beautiful, to start going out with me as well. I was trying to figure out how can I become an entrepreneur, how can I make it in business?
I knew I had a talent and that was either building computers or building websites, but I had no business acumen. I didn’t know how to get clients and I had to lean on something I learned as a child.
Let’s rewind again. Many years ago and I got into calligraphy. My parents were really kind and they paid for me to get calligraphy lessons. And I started to create Bible verses and greetings cards and I would go down to the local Christian bookshop and sell them to him and he would then sell them on, which is my kind of first foray. So that had been my experience back then. I’d gone with my parents so that I went with backing.
So this time I thought, right, well, I’m going to rock up at a local shop or my local stores and see if anybody wants a web site. And the first store I visited was a company called Alicia, and this was a lingerie shop which was actually across the road from my house. I’d been on their web site, I’d seen that there were problems, that things were out of date, etc so I popped in and explained that I was a local web designer and I’d noticed there were a few issues with their site and those some things they could do to improve it.
Essentially, I’d gone in unbeknownst to me, I’d gone in leading with value and they’d recognize the value I’d led with and that led to a conversation that eventually led a few days later to a web site being commissioned. And I’ll tell you why. I was absolutely petrified.
This was my first proper site. I’d only ever built hobby sites on pretty much anything or everything. So lo and behold, I had my first client and that was because I’d shown up in the location that I was based. That was a small village with a few small local businesses.
Instantly, two lessons we can draw from this is, number one, leading with value is really important when we’re making connections rather than going in for the sell. We go in with value.
And secondly, our location and the limitations of that are not necessarily limitations. We can still show up to a small audience or in a small space and still add value and still do business.
I was really grateful for that first start in business. And as I look back, I kind of cringe at how unreliable I was. Yes, I knew my stuff, but to be frank, I was completely besotted (still am) with Kate, who is now my wife, and time with her always took precedence over doing any work, which meant I’d often be late, I’d be flaky, I’d be unreliable. And that’s something that I look back on. And I’m really grateful to the team at Alicia who were super patient with me.
But that was a problem that I continued to have for a couple of years throughout my short stint in business back in the early 00s. In fact, that is what led to my eventual business demise. And I gave in and got a job. Whilst I knew my stuff, whilst I was adding value, whilst I was able to show up and help. I was also unreliable and flaky and didn’t always finish the job on time. The job would get done, but not necessarily when it was most needed. And again, I’m really grateful for all of the old clients who bore with me. As I learned how to be better at business and as I grew out of that “distracted, lazy, airy fairy teenager mode”.
Despite my shortcomings, I did start to develop a niche. Finedon back then did have quite a few local businesses, including cafes, there were pubs and it had a large percentage of antique shops. In fact, Finedon had become known as one of the places to go if you wanted to get your hands on some real good quality antiques and those from all around the world would often come and visit, find and of all places to go and visit all of the antique shops.
Building on my marketing technique, I’d learned at Alicia by turning up, adding value and eventually making a sale, I continued to do that by reaching out to the antique shops in the area and eventually a couple of antique shops took a punt and we started to either develop their website or to help them sell online through eBay. Bearing in mind this was back in the days where we had digital cameras that barely had one megapixel in resolution and the Internet was a rip roaring 56k at its very best.
Unbeknownst to me, I developed a niche in a small town by working with one of the antique shops I was able to see what their problems were and how I could solve them. That then led the conversations with other antique shops within the town. They recognised that I knew what I was talking about. I knew what would sell online. I understood their problems and that was very compelling. And over the next few weeks and months, I developed relationships with a few of the local antique traders and helped them sell online, either via their website or via eBay, which was still in its early days.
Let’s remember, I was in a small town with around 8000 residents and a few local businesses, and yet I was able to stick my stake in the ground and define a niche and not worry about losing out on business with other companies. In fact, my business became successful despite myself based on the experience that I’d gained with other similar traders. Antique traders recognized my ability to understand their problems because of the experience I had had with other traders and this made me highly valuable and made them extremely patient with me, like I’ve said, because I was a little bit unreliable at times.
And I want to use this to encourage you. You don’t have to have a huge audience on a podcast or on a YouTube channel or a social media following to be able to do business. You can rock up to your local stores and have conversations and lead with value and still make sales. You can still build a business and build a niche with a tiny audience or in a location as remote as Finedon was where the Internet hardly even touched it. I mean, we were literally rocking 56k modems. Social media did not exist. How it exists today. The Internet was not so entrenched in businesses lives.
So if I could do it, then you certainly can do it now. And you don’t need to hold yourself back because you compare yourself to other people, other businesses, other people’s Internet presences, podcasts, whatever it is that they’ve got.
You have your own unique value, your set of skills and your experiences. And that makes you extremely valuable. And I would encourage you to reach out to the audience that you do have and add value, see how you can help and support businesses right now during these really uncertain times. What can you do to help? And within that, I imagine you will begin to carve out a good business with solid clients and potentially even a really solid niche.
So please be encouraged and please learn the lessons of the young teenager who dabbled at business and did a few things right and unfortunately, a lot of things wrong.
So as a recap, we’ve learned how I landed my first customer by showing up, adding value and converting that into a sale. We also learned how I developed a niche by building up experiences with people who traded in antiques. And despite the small village location, I was able to make a name for myself as the web developer who helps antique traders sell more online. And that’s pretty darn cool for a tiny little village.
And the lessons we can learn from that is that our audience needn’t be huge, that we can lead with value and we can make sales. I’d encourage you to check out a link in the show, Notes of a Course by my real good friend Nick Guilic, and he focuses on selling by helping. And I didn’t realize I was doing that, but I was selling by helping. And in this course, he unpacks that entire process in a real simplistic way so check out that link.
Also, please be sure to check out our sponsors Cloudways you can find them on cloudways.com or the links in the show notes. They have continued to support us now for many, many months as they really believe in adding value into the lives of agency owners and businesses around the world. So thank you Cloudways for all that you do to support this show and all of the other initiatives that we have going on.
Don’t forget, we have a Facebook group, which you can find on trailblazer.fm/group, and you’ll be redirected.
If we don’t see you in the group, we will see you in next week’s episode.