I’m a big advocate of entrepreneurship and I truly admire people who take the plunge. Here’s a question from a brave reader who went forward with his dream. I’ll call him Walt, for fun, after a character in one of my favorite books:
I’m starting a personal training business, and I’ve been marketing for about two weeks now. I’m waiting for the clients to roll in, but in the meantime, I’m spending all my savings.
At what point do I staunch the flow and get a part-time job to pay the bills? Keep in mind that I would make $10-15 an hour in a part-time job and $75 an hour training. I break even with 5 training sessions a week.
I have about a month before I can’t rely on my savings and HAVE to have some kind of money coming in.
If I were in Walt’s situation, here are the tactics I would use:
I would spend every single day for the next month, from sun up to sun down, marketing my business. I would have a huge pile of pamphlets describing my business and hit every single gym and health food store in the area looking for clients (depending on solicitation rules, of course).
I’d offer a big introductory discount. The one thing you need right now is customers that might become regular paying customers, so offer some ridiculously huge discounts right off the bat. “75% off your first session” or “Buy one session now, get one free later” might be good initiatives. Even better, if you know people who are trendsetters, give them a completely free session in exchange for spreading the word a bit for you.
I’d call every person I know that might be connected to the area of the business. If you’re doing personal training, likely you know people who are physically inclined. Hit up that list of people and let them know that you’re now doing personal training and ask if they know anyone who might be interested.
I’d invest the money in professional-looking promotional materials. Seriously, materials that look professionally designed and printed may be very pricey, but they create an image that your business is serious and that it is of quality reputation, whether it’s true or not.
What about the personal financial situation? Here are some tactics I’d use:
Get a night job. If you’re a personal trainer, you’re probably in good shape. Look especially hard for a job as a night watchman. That way, you can do that job at night, promote your business in the morning to people who might be potential customers, sleep during the day when you don’t have clients, promote a bit more in the evening, then work again. It sounds like a lot of work, but it’ll really pay off if you’re committed to the business. Then, when the business takes off, quit the night job and you’ll have renewed focus on your business.
Get a job where you can cross-promote. How about a job at a GNC or a health food store or a sporting goods place? These jobs might not pay well, but they’ll give you golden opportunities to promote your own business. Most of the time at businesses like these where the business itself is in alignment with what your side business is but they’re not in competition with each other, it’s completely acceptable to promote a side business in this way. If you can just convince one person a month, it won’t be long before you can go back to focusing on the business full time.
These tactics are all things I would use in your position, trying to get a small business off the ground.