When I first started working from home, I was working two other jobs...and I made a whopping $15. And I was really proud of that $15, too. I knew that what I was doing had the potential to be my only job. I also knew that I had great insight about risk management, contracts, and business in general. If there's one thing I've learned over the last six years, it's how to make more money with a business. The key is to know when to shut up: know when to stop talking about you and know when to listen...because if you listen, you'll learn very quickly what the client really needs. And you'll know how to make more money with your business.
It's All About the Pain Points
And, yes, I realize some of you reading this think I'm a jerk for saying that. Unfortunately, that means you don't know much about business. Clients pay for solutions to problems. They know they have problems. Clients pay for two things:
They pay to solve their problems.
They pay to avoid the problem(s) to begin with.
Generally, it's number one because they don't often think about the second one to start. Keep in mind that when Virgin Airlines started, Richard Branson didn't think about the competition he faced in the airline industry. He didn't think about what it would take to buy jets or pay employees. He was concerned with how in the hell he could get a flight to an island one day...and he couldn't afford the plane so he started selling off the seats at just under $40 a person. He solved a problem he had...he didn't think about whatever risks might eventually be present because he wasn't even looking to start a business.
Think about it from a personal level...we operate the same way. We are often far more concerned about solving the problem du jour than thinking about what we can do to prevent issues from happening in the first place. However, believe me when I tell you that if you want to start a work from home business, it pays to think about the potential problems you could face and come up with a way to either prevent them or to make them less likely to happen (or prepare for them in advance).
Think About Your Ideal Clients & Their Potential Pain Points
If you're looking to start a home business, then some of your potential pain points may include:
Making more money
Being your own boss
Being home with your children
And every other romanticized notion that comes with self-employment
Of course, I'm sure that because you're an individual, you have some other personal reasons that you want to work from home. I know I did and still do. To be able to address your ideal client's potential pain points and make more money you must get to know them...even if you don't have those clients just yet. Yes, really. And yes, you can do that. You have Google.
Come up with an ideal client profile. If you could work for a dream client, what sort of client would that be? What industry would they be in? What would you do for the them? What market would they serve? How much revenue would they make?
Get on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and the websites for businesses that fit your ideal client profile and read about them. Learn about them. Learn their history. Read their blogs. Look for current PRs or news stories. Think carefully: what potential pain points do they have? Are they blogging? Are they using social media? Are they on podcasts? Are they using outdated practices? Compare entities. What are some doing that others aren't? Is it a pain point?
Read their open jobs. You don't have to apply, but it can give you an idea of what they know they need help accomplishing. You can even read freelance job postings in areas your interested in working in. You'll gain a better understanding about potential pain points.
4 Main Types of Pain Points
There are four main types of pain points:
Financial pain points: Clients are spending too much money and they're not getting enough return on their investment.
Productivity pain points: Clients aren't getting enough done with their current method(s).
Process pain points: The internal process used by clients must be improved because there's a bottleneck somewhere in the process, the process falls apart at some point, or leads aren't being successfully closed.
Customer support pain points: Clients aren't providing their customers with the support they want. With social media, chatbots, and the internet as a whole, customers have become accustomed to what is essentially 24/7/365 customer care.
And the Best Way to Identify Pain Points? Shut Up & Let Them Talk!
If I had a nickel for every time someone told me that they thought they knew what a potential client wanted and then they were surprised that the client was unhappy...and had to do it again but they never took the time to have a conversation with the client to begin with, I'd have a sock full of nickels to smack them with.
In the six years I've worked from home I've only had two clients who attempted to muddle the waters purposefully to cause issues and get free work. Once was over $10...and I am not chasing down $10. That happened right around the time I started working from home. The other was over a larger project that was paid in advance and I still have screenshots and emails and they never revoked my access to their Google Analytics despite calling and raging at me screaming over the phone and name calling in an email (quite unbecoming of a lawyer) and I forwarded all that over to my attorney in the event that this particular person decided they wanted to go that route (always keep your documentation...always!).
Regardless of whether you start the conversation or they inquire about your services, silence is a powerful tool. After the general "getting to know you" pleasantries and engagement (which, if you're using a freelance platform I recommend that you use a question in your proposal toward the end to encourage the prospective client to respond. Even if you don't have a question, ask a question!), ask about the end goal for using their services. You want to be polite, of course, but don't beat around the bush. You need to know their goal...and you need them to sit in their pain point. Be quiet. Let them marinate in it. Do not respond right away (be it in video chat or in messenger; if you're using a video chat, move some so they know the screen hasn't frozen...but even ten seconds of silence is very powerful). Let them talk. Let them sit.
If Necessary, Ask Them About Their Pain Points
Some clients will try to avoid the pain point talk. Don't let them. You don't have to call them pain points. And you don't have to treat them like dollar signs, either. You must understand that if you don't truly cannot solve their issue or help them solve their issue and get them to trust you, you won't make more money because they will not come back to you. They will not recommend you in the future. I get a lot of repeat business because I am very good at communicating with my clients. You can ask them:
What is your biggest concern?
What is your manager's biggest concern?
What takes up most of your time each day?
What is the main focus of most of your meetings?
What is the biggest complaint you've dealt with about this product / project?
What is the biggest objection?
What is the biggest reason you think you keep losing deals?
What are the biggest complaints you get from your customers?
From there, it's easier for you to clarify their pain points and their end goal. And it's also easier to determine if their end goal is realistic or if there are other things that need to happen first. It's okay if there are other things that need to happen first. If they trust you, they'll likely stick with you through the process. Don't be afraid to give away information and knowledge. It highlights your expertise...and that's another great way to make more money in the future.