April 10, 2019

How did you get your first customer?

Louis Nicholls @louisswiss

I was talking to a first-time founder yesterday and she said "the hardest part of starting a business is going from nothing, to something... "

In that spirit, why not inspire other founders who are just starting out and explain how you got your first (paying) customer...


  1. 6

    For Indie Hackers, my business model was advertising. My first paying customer cold emailed me 4 days after I launched on Hacker News and said the following:

    Hey Courtland!

    Great job on the new project! It looks really really nice!

    I am the founder of REDACTED_COMPANY, an NYC-based startup that helps REDACTED_DESCRIPTION.

    Wanted to see if you are interested in sponsorship of the site. I know you are early, but would be great to hear how it’s going so far and if you’re interested.

    If you've read the book Crossing the Chasm, you'll remember the author divides your market up into groups like innovators, early adopters, early majority, laggards, etc. The innovators are visionaries in that they see the potential in brand new things and how to use them to get an advantage over everyone else. Not only are they willing to put up with a few rough edges in the products they use, but they're clever enough to figure out your value proposition even if you don't know what it is.

    Since we're all building brand new things, these are our ideal first customers.

  2. 4

    For Ministry of Testing I had been running an online forum for a few years. I had built up a bit of an audience and decided to make money from doing some training and a conference.

    I sold around 16 spaces on a 3 day training course. And had 65ish attendees at the conference. I can't remember the actual figures, we did turn a small profit, but most importantly validated that it was wanted.

    1. 1


      You sold the spaces by announcing the training course on your forum? Or via an email list maybe?

      1. 1

        Oh, but this reminds me that before then we created a physical newspaper called 'The Testing Planet'. I so loved doing it, we sold copies, like 100 subscriptions and gave some out at our events in the end, but not enough to make it worth our effort. I think we did 10 issues.

        Those were the good old days, haha. https://www.flickr.com/photos/softwaretestingclub/4843853857/in/photostream/

        1. 1

          This is really cool!

      2. 1

        I had a forum called a very original 'Software Testing Club', I started 'Ministry of Testing' on the side as a focus on events + training. But yes I announced this to the forum community, not sure I even had an email list back then...think there was the option to 'message' all the members though.

  3. 3

    Called up an old colleague and asked if he wanted to beta test an idea I had (no intent of selling it to him).

    He wanted a pitch before trying it out, so I gave him the 5-minute sales pitch.

    15 minutes later he invited his colleague to see if this would be a good fit for his company.

    45 minutes and a demo later, he became my first customer, before even beta testing it.

    6 months later he's still a customer... and has the most feature requests...

  4. 3

    After making free Alchemist Camp videos for a few months, I linked a hotjar survey and a mailchimp signup page from the description in a YouTube video in which I asked the viewers if they'd be interested in premium content. The survey only had two questions, and the deal with the email list was they'd get an earlybird discount.

    Out of under 60 people who even saw the video, I got 20 survey responses and 11 signups on the email list of whom 7 became paying customers within the first few days I let them.

    I'd have loved to have done this after building a bigger audience, but I was impatient for revenue!

    1. 2

      Out of under 60 people who even saw the video, I got 20 survey responses and 11 signups on the email list of whom 7 became paying customers within the first few days I let them.

      That's a nice conversion rate!

  5. 3

    I'll go first...

    My first customer for my first product (a SaaS product sold to gyms) took three cold emails, a phone call and two in person meetings to close.

    The customer (the gym owner) told us he didn't believe the product would work, but wanted to support us because "he thought we were good lads"

    (we were 21/22 years old at the time)

  6. 1

    I registered on a German platform for freelancers. This cost me more than 1000 Euro and the customer brought me 400 Euro. Was not very successful, but encouraged me.

    1. 2

      I'm curious what you thought what you get for 1000 bucks when you signed up and did it turn out to be successful in the long run?

      1. 1

        I was just expecting too much. But I got screwed, too. I finished something with the knowledge that it was a monthly payment. But it was annual and that's why it was so expensive. Monthly would have been perhaps profitable, thus with small orders.

  7. 1

    For PingBid, we didn’t even start building till we had an LOI in hand. Once we built what our client wanted, we started charging from the first lead sent through. He was a client for 5+ years. Our second customer is still with us, and he was a friend of a friend who we asked to be an advisor.

  8. 1

    For ProjectLocker, I think our initial customers came from an email to a closed email list of alumni of a former employer. Sort of a "here's what I'm doing now and by the way please sign up." I think we got a couple of customers from that initial email.

    Some of those initial customers were with us for over 5 years.

  9. 1

    This comment was deleted 2 years ago.

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