Let’s talk about knowing when you’re ready to make money from something you love to do. I’ve been getting some questions on this.

Are You Ready To Make Money?

You’re ready to make money when people are willing to hire you based on work that you’ve done. If people are asking to pay you money, you’re ready to make money!

What If People Aren’t Asking To Pay Me?

If people aren’t asking to pay you, you need to start putting up work and you need to start making work consistently. Of course that’s a challenge when you don’t have clients lining up to hire you. So what kind of work do you do when you don’t yet have paying clients? There are two kinds of work you can do:

  1. Personal projects
  2. Pro-bono projects

Let’s talk about those.

1. Personal Projects

Let’s say you’re a hand lettering artist. Personal projects would look like maybe doing an ornate custom piece for every letter in the alphabet. Or maybe if you’re an artist, you could do an illustration a day.

You’re not getting paid for this, but it’s getting your work out there and it’s showing your skills and expertise.

If you’re a developer, that might look like building a piece of software that solves a problem for you. It’s a personal project that you didn’t get paid for, but it solves a problem for you and it demonstrates your abilities.

2. Pro-Bono Projects

The other kind of work you can do to demonstrate your abilities is pro-bono work. Pro-bono is another way of saying “do it for free,” but there’s a significant detail that makes it different from just saying free.

The reason I like pro-bono work is, it acknowledges the full value of the work you’re doing.

The Pro-Bono Web Design Project

Let’s say you’re a web designer and you decide to do a pro-bono project for a non-profit organization. On the proposal you send, you’re going to give a typical outline. You’ll want to provide all that’s going to be done, the responsibilities of the client, your process, the completion date, and the terms.

You’re also indicating the full value of the project. While the project is pro-bono, or “done for free,” if a job is worth $2,000, you should indicate that on the proposal. The client is seeing the full value.

Not only that, but this really drives home the acknowledgement of full value: when you as a business do a pro-bono project for someone, the client is still taxed based on the full value of the project.

Why Pro-Bono Projects Are Great

I like pro-bono projects for a lot of reasons:

  • When you’re starting out, you need to learn how to be selective with clients, and bring them under your process (Related: e122 10 Mistakes You’re Making With Clients That Cost You). Pro-bono clients are already getting a great deal of value for free, so they have absolutely no qualms with adhering to your process. What are they going to say otherwise?
  • This is excellent practice for you to bring the client through a professional process. It’s effectively your training grounds.
  • As a result of going through every step of your process, you not only have practice, but the materials you need to write a case study on the project.
  • Lastly, this pro-bono client is going to provide excellent word of mouth referrals. They just went through your professional process, they acknowledged the full value of what your services are worth, and they will effectively vet your services to the person they refer. If they know the full project was valued at $2,000, they’re only going to refer people that can pay that rate. This is something you don’t get when you discount your services. If you discount the job down to $1,000, it will be valued by the client at $1,000.

The only two prices that acknowledge full value are full price and free.

Even if a pro-bono project is free to the client, they’re seeing the full value and paying taxes on it, so they know what it’s worth.

The reason you’re able to do this free work and side projects is because you already have your bills covered with a day job like we talked about in tv019 (Related: tv019 Day Job as Foundation). Because of this, you’re not in Scarcity Mindset and taking on any work you can get or devaluing your work by discounting it.

You’re able to take on clients that fit your process.

These clients will give you the fuel you need to produce great case studies, which will attract the right kind of clients that will pay you your full value.

Build Up a Body of Work

You’ve not only got your personal projects, but excellent case studies that demonstrate your expertise.

The idea is to build up a body of work that speaks for itself.

People are going to hire you based on your track record. Get some work up and show people what you can do. This makes all the difference in the world, because you now have a body of work that attracts clients to you as opposed to you chasing clients.

Don’t Chase Clients, Attract Them

This is absolutely key in getting the kind of clients you want. When a client approaches you, they are in a deferential position. They are more willing to come under your process. When you’re chasing them and cold-calling them, you look desperate.

Because of the Rule of Reciprocity, you’re now seen as asking them for the favor of being your client (Related: tv022 The Rule of Reciprocity). You’re coming to them asking, which puts you in debt to them. They will then be more inclined to fight you on your process and ask for more from you because you essentially owe them for doing the favor of becoming your client.

When you are the one who displays the work and expertise, it attracts clients to you. When they are the ones approaching you, it sets the relationship off on the right foot.

When Do You Know?

To the question of knowing when you’re ready: You’re ready when you have people asking to pay you. Yes, you can go chase them and beg for money and you’re going to get the bottom of the barrel jobs. Those will never lead to quality clients.

Build up a body of work with personal projects, and do pro-bono projects.

Do not discount your rate.

If you discount your rate, you devalue yourself.

That is why we do pro-bono projects. Pro-bono is free to the client, but it acknowledges full value—remember, the proposal has the full amount and they even pay taxes on the full amount.

The only two prices that acknowledge full value are:

  1. Full Price
  2. Free

Don’t discount, do pro-bono work to get practice with a professional process that simultaneously gives you a great case study to put on your website.

This way you attract clients to you instead of chasing them.