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On-demand customer research

On-demand customer research

Deon Don — Vancouver, Canada

Are you asking the right questions? Deon went from being unemployed to growing a profitable business in two months after asking himself one question.

Tell us about yourself and what you do

My name is Deon and I recently started a customer research service for software companies. I call users on behalf of companies to find out about their experience with the software and uncover insights about their market.

What motivated you to start freelancing?

The idea came from an online course I was taking. During office hours one day, we were discussing business ideas and our instructor asked me what's something you can do that people really want?

At first I thought about setting up Squarespace websites for a fee or becoming a relationship coach (bad idea). I dug deeper and it occured to me that most people hate doing cold calls despite how valuable it is.

We continued to brainstorm and this idea of doing cold calls turned into calling existing customers to discover hidden insights. This was great because unlike most people, I actually love talking on the phone with customers.

I thought this might be something worth pursuing.

How did you get your first paying customer?

During the same office hour, we came up with an idea to test the market. I would do 100 calls for $100 — essentially losing money on each call — but it would help me refine the offer and validate that it's something people want.

I posted the offer in a private facebook group and got 5 companies to take me up on it within 24 hours. Time to get to work. I spent the next few weeks fulfilling these orders, spending hours on the phone and not making any money.

I was ready to give up at that point.

I got on another call with our instructor, told him how I was feeling and he encouraged me to keep going. He felt like there was a great opportunity there and he suggested I keep tweaking the offer until it was profitable.

I trusted his advice and made $2,000 the second month. This was enough to pay for my living expenses. After over a year and a half struggling to make ends meet, things were finally looking up.

How are you growing the business?

Right now the business is growing by word of mouth. I'm getting positive reviews, clients are reordering and recommending me to their friends.

I'm also experimenting with the pricing and the offer. The downside of my initial approach — a cheap offer to test the market — is that it's hard to get clients to pay more for a service once you've hooked them at a lower price.

Another challenge is finding the right balance between marketing and fulfilling orders. I'm often in in that situation where I only do marketing when I run out of work instead of trying to keep a steady flow of leads coming in every week.

This is a common struggle for freelancers and service businesses.

Any tips for aspiring freelancers?

If you have a job — even if it's part time or not that exciting — don't quit. Having a steady source of income will help you make better decisions. When you don't have an income and you're under pressure, it's hard to think straight. You risk getting desperate and making short term decisions instead of thinking long term.

Where can we reach you?

You can email me at contact@deondon.com, or call / text at 604-441-0445.