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Advanced Freelancing

Learn more about freelancing and owning your business and your time from six-figure freelancer Laura Pennington.
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Now displaying: February, 2020
Feb 24, 2020

Can you believe we're just a couple of episodes away from hitting 100 on the Advanced Freelancing, and previously known as Better Biz Academy podcast? I'm very excited to chat with today's guest, Rachel Richards. She really has an amazing and inspiring story that I'd love for you to hear.

The reason that I wanted to have Rachel on the show is because she is really a master at passive income and has so much excellent insight she can share with us about how to get started with this. This topic comes up a lot. And that's why I felt like we needed to cover this on the show.

A lot of people get confused by the whole process of setting up your passive income streams. 

Is it really passive? How do you make all of that work for you? Rachel has an amazing background. She graduated in only three years at age 20 without debt. She used to be a financial advisor and published her first book in 2017 over 12,000 copies of it. So she quit her full time job at age 27 in August 2019, and is retired now living off of $10,000 a month in passive income.

So she has five rental properties with 35 units total, royalties from her books, royalties from her print on demand business, and her passive income which ranges between 10 to 12k a month.  She has more than replaced her full time income allowing her to retire early, to speak professionally, travel and pursue her interests. And she talks a lot in her books about passive income, aggressive retirement and “money, honey” about savings buckets investing, and how to get started with passive income and different streams.

Now, my interview with her is great.

There's lots of excellent information. I want to call your attention to one of the comments that she makes towards the end of the interview about how to leverage the fact that you've worked in different positions or even done different freelance gigs to figure out what you do and don't like. This comes up from time to time with some of my one on one coaching clients who have this dream of being a freelancer, and then once they're in the thick of it realize they actually hate it.

One of my one on one coaching clients, for example, it took her doing several freelance writing gigs for her to say, ”I don't want to do this anymore.”  And so we've had to step back and figure out what is the service or consulting that she can offer that's going to light her up because freelance writing isn't it.

This is why it's so powerful that you start your freelance business and dip your toes in the water of side income and passive income prospects starting small because you might not like what you do.  Maybe owning rental units isn't right for you because you hate it.  And maybe publishing books, you love the writing part, but being an author is at least 50% marketing and maybe you don't like that.

So figuring out what suits you from your background as well as knowing your own personality can really help you go in the right direction when it comes to building in different types of freelance services or passive income. If you love this episode, please drop me a line at info@betterbizacademy.com. I'd also love it if you left the show a review on Apple iTunes. Thanks again for tuning in. And we're almost to Episode 100, where I will be recapping my top 10 favorite episodes from the show.

It's time for another episode of the Advanced Freelancing podcast.

And today we're talking about a topic that comes up all the time with freelancers who have scaled their business to the point where they're relatively successful.  They're fully booked or close to fully booked and it's time to start thinking about expanding.

Another common issue that a lot of freelancers run into is, ”Okay, I'm only making money when I sit at my computer and work for my clients.  Which means if I'm sick, if I take vacation, or if there's some other reason I can't work, no income is coming in.”  And that's why I'm so excited about my guest today, Rachel Richards.  We are going to be talking all about passive income. And she is the queen of passive income.

I'd love to kick off by hearing about one of the things that jumped out from Rachel’s bio. 

And that is that she graduated with no debt. I know that that's so rare. These days, most of us, myself included, we graduate with tons of debt.  And it almost feels like you're going to be paying it off the rest of your life. So I'd love to know how Rachel made that transition and paid and graduated with no debt.

Rachel’s take for graduating without debt.

It's definitely a tough thing to accomplish, especially with the crazy cost of college these days. But I do have a couple tips. So the first thing I did is I started thinking ahead when I was in high school, in terms of what scholarships I could apply for.

So that got me motivated to do really well in high school.  I was academically doing really well. I had a great GPA. I was also getting involved in as many clubs and everything as I could. And that helped me to earn scholarships to pay for school.

So I went to a Centre College which is a private liberal arts school here in Kentucky.  And it costs over $40,000 a year. That's a ton of money. So with the scholarships that I was able to earn, I had a really big academic scholarship and I also had a piano scholarship. That helped me out a lot. But I was able to cover $30,000 out of the $40,000 in scholarships.

Another tip I would say is that I took a lot of AP classes in high school. 

And I actually ended up graduating in only three years. So when I went into Centre, I was going in as a second semester freshman and almost a sophomore. I was able to graduate a year early, which saves me that entire year's worth of tuition.

And then finally, the most important tip I would give is that, when I was in high school looking at this enormous expense, I was starting to feel really discouraged and afraid.

I had this really big fear of going into debt. And I was discouraged because, at the time, I was working at American Eagle and I was making paychecks that were maybe $200 per week. I knew that to make $10,000 a year to cover that gap and be able to pay for my tuition that American Eagle just wasn't going to cut it. No matter how many hours I worked, I wasn't going to be able to afford that $10,000.

So I looked into other jobs and I actually ended up selling Cutco cutlery.  So it's not an MLM let me just say that first because I know there's a lot of MLM hate out there these days, but it's not an MLM.

It's a direct sales company. And the reason I loved it so much is because it was the first time I was in a job where the harder I worked, the more money I made. I knew I could outwork anybody. I could work all day long and make a ton of money. So it really got me motivated and I was able to earn a lot of money from commission.

So I worked hard that first summer before entering college.

And I was able to make $10,000 that summer. So I was basically paying my way through school. Even though my parents were less than thrilled about the idea of me selling sharp objects to their family and friends. That's what I did. And I did it successfully. So those are kind of my three tips. That's the way I was able to pay for school.

There's so much good information there.

And I love the idea of taking as many AP classes as you can. I also know people who in college would take community college classes over the summer to get ahead.  If there's certain things you have to take, like intro to biology or a math class, why take that as part of your traditional education at an expensive college? Why not just make that be something you take for much cheaper at a community college?  Knock it out of the way.  You could even do that the summer before you go to college. I think that's super important. 

We have a fair amount in common there because I went to a private women's college in Virginia.

And our price tag was not as bad as yours, but it was $32,000. And it was the same thing. It was like we had after scholarships, we had a shortfall of like, $2,000 a year and my mom and I were like, “Okay, there's a way we can make this work.”  And when I got one more scholarship to cover that, then I was able to keep my work, study money to buy groceries or little things that I might need throughout the semester.

But I love that idea of kind of speeding up your time in college. 

It's so expensive.  Even if you're getting great rates at an in state school, it's still expensive. And if you can cut that one year off, maybe put in a little bit of extra work, and prepare for it in high school with those AP classes, that’s a great way to save a lot of money and graduate with very little or no debt at all.

So Rachel is like the queen of passive income. Why don't you give us a little bit of a brief introduction? How did you get into generating passive income streams?

Rachel’s take on passive income.

For those listening, just to kind of define what passive income is. And I know this sounds too good to be true, but passive income is money that is earned with little to no ongoing work.

So I'm sure you're familiar with JK Rowling. She is the author who wrote the Harry Potter series 25 years ago. She did all the hard work and the writing back then. And today, she's still making millions of dollars from the Harry Potter series. So that's passive income. It takes time to create, but once it's in place, it takes little to no ongoing work in order to maintain that income. And that's why it's so beautiful.

Why I think that’s helpful.

That's very helpful because I think one of the things that bothers me about the term passive income, is that people are always asking me about it.  And they're like, “What are your passive income streams?” And I have a side business. We sell all my old lesson plans from my teaching days. We have over 250 lesson plans for sale on Teachers Pay Teachers. In a sense, it's passive, because I spendless than an hour a month even looking at it.

But that being said, we do put some work into it.  We pin pins on Pinterest. And so it'll be interesting to hear more about what your passive income streams are, and if they are truly passive.  But I was just curious, how did you get into them? I mean, obviously, he previously worked as a financial advisor and had more of a traditional job. How did you branch out into these passive income streams?

Rachel branches out into her passive income streams.

So a few years ago, as I was learning about this amazing concept of passive income, I had this epiphany that once your passive income exceeds your living expenses, you're retired. And I just mean retired in the sense of being financially independent and not having to go to work anymore.

So that's what my husband and I started working towards. We actually started in 2017. And it only took us about two and a half years to build up enough passive income to retire.

So in 2017, the first thing we did is we had always wanted to invest in real estate.

We always knew that real estate was a really great tool for building long term wealth. And it wasn't even necessarily at the time. I didn't even think I put together the dots of creating the passive income, but it was just something we always wanted to do.

So in January of 2017, we bought our first duplex. We live in Louisville, Kentucky, so it's a low cost of living area and it's a great area to invest in. And the duplex we bought, we got a crazy good deal on. It was $100,000.

So we put we only had to put about $20,000 in for the down payment. And it was immediately generating $500 per month in profit and profitable cash flow. That's after expenses. So that was such a great income stream for us. We immediately took that money, saved, and reinvested it so that we could afford to save up enough money for the next down payment for the next rental property.

Now rental property, I'll hear something people that will say, “Wow, that's so passive and amazing.” And I'll hear some people that say, ”No, rental properties are not passive at all.” I think it's definitely in the passive category and that you're not having to work a 40 hour week to maintain it.

Within a passive income, though, there's a wide spectrum. 

Some things are completely passive. And some things are less passive. I personally think it really depends on whether you have a property manager or not.  So in my book, when I'm talking about how to create passive income, I always say invest in real estate, get rental properties, but make sure you have a property manager.  Otherwise, it's not going to be as passive as you want it to be.

So that's kind of the first income stream we started with. And then later on in 2017, I launched my first best selling book “Money, Honey”. I was generating royalty income off of that as well. So we had these two passive income streams, rental income and royalty income, and we focused on growing those as much as we possibly could for the next few years.

Fast forward to today, we now own over 35 rental units in Louisville, Kentucky. And I just launched my second best selling book. So I think last year, at some point last year, we hit this $10,000 per month mark, where we were making $10,000 a month in passive income.   Which was more than enough to cover our expenses. So that's when we were able to call ourselves retired. And that's when I quit my job.

I love the distinction between different ways you can define passive.

You can decide how passive really is this and the more you can build in the right structure from the beginning, the easier it is. And that was something I did too with my side business of selling lesson plans. I really didn't want to maintain this every month. I don't want to deal with the customer service questions if someone has problems with the download.

So from the beginning, I had all these lessons and I hired a virtual assistant and said, “Hey, are you comfortable with this?  It's going to take you less than five hours a month to deal with all of this, but I don't really want to be part of it.” I just wanted it to be there and be running on the side. And it's really nice to have that because I never have to get involved in any of that administrative stuff. But money's being generated every month.

So I have two questions following up on that.

So the rental property thing is so interesting. I think we hear this a lot from people who are very wealthy and very successful financially. You've got to invest in real estate. So my first question is, how did you get that initial money for that down payment of your first property? Did that come from personal savings? Was that another passive income stream that paid for the down payment?

Rachel shares where her initial investment money came from.

Yeah, so that came from personal savings. And I'll talk a little bit about how I did that. But then we'll also talk about the ways that people can invest in real estate without having a large chunk of money. So don't let that stop you.

I was in a situation where I graduated without debt. My husband also graduated without debt because he was in the military. So he used his benefits to pay for school. And then we both had pretty lucrative careers. I have always been a financially frugal person.  As a former financial advisor, I knew how to manage my money well.

So, we didn't have debt. I was managing my money. Well, we were both making good money and didn't have kids, which is a pretty big expense. So we were just able to save pretty aggressively.

I graduated from college when I was 20. And then I invested in my first rental property when I was 24. So, after four years, or I think it probably took less time, we had more than enough money for the down payment on the first rental property.

The big difference…

I was just curious, it's obviously quite a big difference, going from having one property where you're getting your feet wet, figuring out how this works. And now you have 35 rental properties. How do you keep all of that straight? I'm sure you have a property manager for each one. But how do you monitor all the logistics with those different rental properties?

Rachel gets real on logistics.

Yeah, so we did have property managers for a while. We're between them now, because the last people didn't work out. But just to clarify, we have 35 rental units, not property. So we have five buildings.  Three of them are apartment buildings where it's 11 or 12 units in each building.

But it is a lot to manage. It's a lot of work when you don't have a property manager, especially when you get to like 25-30 units, then it's really it's a lot of work. And you can't really call it passive anymore.  Which is why you really have to start out knowing that you're going to have a property manager in mind.

But in terms of how to keep everything straight. I am a luckily an Excel wizard.  And I love Excel spreadsheets. So I keep everything very organized in terms of the finances, the tenants, the payments, and the maintenance.  We have a pretty good system in place that helps us be a lot more efficient.

Perfect system for a financial whiz.

That's really amazing. And it sounds like it might be the perfect fit for someone who's already a financial whiz or virtual assistant who's really good with spreadsheets and numbers.  It's going to leverage your existing skill set.

Now, I love the fact that you've written books.

A lot of people assume that books are the fast track to passive income. I know when I published my first book, which was done through the traditional publishing process, a lot of people have this vision of what it means to write and sell books.  But it still takes a lot of work to market a book.  And I know that most books that are published never sell more than 250 copies.

Obviously, you are a major exception to that and are seeing continued success with multiple books. What are your recommendations for someone who's thinking about writing a book and really wants to get traction on Amazon or on any of the other platforms where books are sold?

Rachel’s recommendations when writing a book.

I think you made a great point about over the long run you still do have to market your book. So when you're thinking about passive income, you really need to consider how passive do I want it to be? Because there are things you can certainly outsource.  You can hire a social media manager.  You can outsource or whatnot.

And if you choose not to do things like going on the radio or the TV or doing or you know doing podcast interviews, then you can certainly make it a lot more passive. So everyone that's trying to create a passive income stream really just needs to think from the beginning. How passive do I want this to be? And what can I outsource to make it more passive?

Now books specifically…

Yes, the statistics say that most books sell 250 copies. So to have launched a book that's been so successful is still just shocking to me. My first book “Money, Honey” has now sold over 15,000 copies. And my second book, “Passive Income, Aggressive Retirement” has already sold over 3000 copies. And I just launched it a couple months ago.

I think there's a lot to be said for doing market research. I could write a book about cooking and launch it.   There are thousands of other cookbooks or books about cooking out there. So how could mine be different?

And it's the same thing or maybe even more competitive in the financial industry. There's thousands of books about money and finance out there. So why on earth would somebody want to read mine over somebody else's?

If you can't answer that question, then your book won't be successful. You have to be able to articulate what is the unique value that I am bringing.  What's different about my book that nobody else can find in another book?

So for example, in “Money, Honey”, I had this epiphany.

That people my age, female millennials, were coming to me all the time for financial advice.  My family and friends would come to me.  And I loved helping them. And at some point, I began to wonder why they're not taking advantage of some of these websites or books that are out there or trying to learn?

And then what I realized is that a lot of finance books are dry, boring, complex, and intimidating. So then I thought to myself, “Well, how can I make this subject sassy and fun and simple?” So that's what I did with “Money, Honey”. It's sassy and humorous. It's really, really easy to read. It's a quick read. And it has resonated so much with female millennials. So it really hit a nerve with them. It’s really taken off because of that. It’s just spread like wildfire. Basically, through word of mouth. I haven't done any paid advertising.

I know a lot of people have a dream of writing a book.

That's amazing. And I think a lot of people have this dream of writing a book. I believe that a lot of people, most people do, have at least one good book in them that they could write. But we all know many people who say, “Oh, yeah, I want to write a book. I've always wanted to write a book.” And then it never happens.

I know one of the biggest challenges is when you have a full plate.  Obviously, Rachel had other things going on in her life.  She was working on all of these different rental properties and having that happening at the same time as writing a book.

What tips do you have for someone who's busy? I mean, a lot of my audience, they're freelancers who are successful. So they've probably got a close to fully booked or fully booked schedule.  And a lot of people start off with the best of intentions and motivation, but lose that energy. So what recommendations do you have for people who think they might want to write a book and somehow need to find a way to fit that around their existing business and obligations?

Rachel’s recommendations for writing a book.

Yeah, that's a great question. And I totally agree. I think everyone has at least one book in them. So I get really excited when I can help people with this topic. But I would say I have two tips.

The first one is to set aside time at the beginning of every day.  Because if you wait until after work, or after whatever activity you have planned, the further you go along in your day, the less likely you are to actually sit down and set aside those 10 or 20 minutes to start writing.

When I was writing my first book “Money, Honey”, I was employed full time.  And I was investing in real estate. We all have crazy schedules. We're all busy. So it's just about prioritizing that time and making sure you do it first thing in the morning before things start getting in your way.

And then the second tip...

So one day, I sat down and I decided I'm going to track how I spend my time in 15 minute intervals for two days in a row. So literally every 15 minutes, I would write down what did I do the last 15 minutes? And yes, it was kind of tedious to do that and kind of a pain for two days. But man was that eye opening. It's sort of like doing a budget for where your time is going and where you want it to go or not.

And what I realized after two days is that I was saying that I was the busiest person in the world. I couldn't possibly take another appointment. I didn't have any time to do anything. Once I saw how I was spending my time, and this is embarrassing to admit, but I realized I was spending three or four hours per day on social media, or watching TV.

Most times we don't have any perspective. You don't really know where your time is going until you actually sit down and track it. So I think that's an eye opening exercise. Anyone can do that and really easily figure out where am I wasting my time and where can I free up time so I can spend it writing my book or researching book ideas.

It's so powerful to be able to track your time.

That's something I also recommend to business owners who are thinking that they might not need to outsource anything to a virtual assistant or a subcontractor. Because you think that you're being productive and doing all of these things. But when you track your time, you realize how much of your time you're spending on silly things like answering the same questions in an email over and over again or formatting a blog post and WordPress. And that might not be the best use of your time.

I think any of the tedious nature of keeping track of that is more than balanced out by the fact that it really calls your attention to what are you doing with your time. Because you'll find yourself being more mindful.  You’ll say, “Hey, I wasted the last 15 minutes. How did I go down this rabbit hole on Instagram scrolling?”  Now you're going to be more mindful for the future time periods that you're tracking even within that day and it can really help open your eyes.

I also really support our advice of writing first thing in the day.

Being a full time freelance writer for seven years, if I used up all of my writing energy and creativity on things for my clients, there was absolutely no way that I was even typing one word on my books at night. And so it had to be that first priority. The first thing you work on every day.

And I think sometimes people set these big, crazy goals that you can't really accomplish like, “Well, I'm going to add 5000 words to my book this Saturday.” Wouldn't it just be easier if you said you're going to do like 1000 words every morning, Monday through Friday? Don't set these giant, enormous goals that put so much pressure on you and feel like such a letdown if you fail.

If you miss Tuesday morning’s 1,000 word writing session, you still got at least 4000 words towards your book. That's much more effective than putting this pressure on. I'm going to spend the whole day writing Saturday and I'll get 5000 words. And you get zero and that disappointment is crushing because then it's like, “Well, I guess I have to wait to get another week until my next Saturday to write.” So breaking it down into that morning activity is really important.

So we've talked about two different types of passive income streams, books and rental properties. Are there other recommendations for passive income or side income streams that you can recommend for people who have online business savvy and skills?

Rachel’s other passive income recommendations.

Yes, absolutely. And this kind of gets into the meat of my newest book, “Passive Income, Aggressive Retirement”. In that book, I talk about 28 different passive income models. And anyone can do it. Passive income either takes money or time or sometimes both to create. So you really have to start with asking yourself, do I have more time? Or do I have more money that I can put into building this passive income stream?

Royalty income is a really big category of passive income. So that includes what we talked about launching and writing a book. But it could also include launching a course. It could include something called print on demand platforms where you're earning royalties off of products that you sell without having to touch the products, without having any inventory. A print on demand platform.

There's also passive income that would fall into the e-commerce or advertising category. So that could be affiliate marketing, blogs, or offering some type of membership. And again, you have to be careful about the way you set this up. Because when you start a blog, it could either be not passive at all, it could be completely active.

Or if you build it the right way, and outsource the writing and content creation, then it can be passive. That's something that Bobby Hoyts did. He's the founder of the Millennial Money Man, the website and the blog. And he has a really large community and online classes that he offers. I actually interviewed him for my book as well as a ton of other different subject matter experts.

But yeah, there's tons of ideas out there. So I would encourage people to research, get started, and don't hold yourself back because you don't think that you can do it or that you have the right skill set.

Excellent advice. Now how long do you think it takes to really get traction with passive income streams? And does that vary based on the different type of income stream you're pursuing?

Yes, it definitely varies. And, for example, portfolio income is probably the only passive income that's truly 100% passive.  It literally doesn't require any work. And when I say portfolio income, I mean investing it in investments that are earning dividends or producing income for you.

So when you decide you're going to, you have to have a large amount of money to do this. But the good thing is, it doesn't really require any time. You just invest the money and then it's generating income for you. So that's something that has no time requirement in the beginning and it can generate passive income immediately. Of course, you need to have a ton of money to do it. So you kind of have to  pick your battles there.

There are other income streams like writing a book. Of course that's going to take months of researching and outlining, writing the book, and putting together a marketing plan. And then to actually launch it and sustain the success long term requires marketing and having a really great strategy.

So for example, for my first book “Money, Honey”, I started writing it in January of 2017. And I launched it in September of 2017. So it's about nine months. But I was also working full time. And I also quit for four months in the middle of that because I was convinced that my book was awful and it was going to be an embarrassment. So I quit writing for four full months. And if not for that, I really think I could have launched it within four or five months.

In my first book, or in my first month of lunch, I made about $500 or $600. And then I quickly grew that income stream to over $1,000 per month within the first few months. But you have to account for all the time it took to launch the book in the first place.

And then another example would be real estate investing. You do need some money for that. It doesn't have to be a ton of money. Then you're gonna have to spend time just finding the right property and doing the research. And sometimes you'll get lucky and the right property will appear out of thin air and you'll make an offer and everything will happen really fast.

But it's something I always say you have to be really patient with. Because it could take months to find the right property. I think it took us nine months of searching before we found our first duplex and closed on it. So you just have to be patient, you have to put the work in in the beginning so that you can then enjoy the fruits of your labor later.

That's perfect advice.

Because I think a lot of people hear these great stories about somebody like you who's very successful with passive income streams. And of course that started smaller and you were willing to invest the time and wait for the right thing. So it wasn't like you said, “Okay, I'm going to create online courses. I'm going to write books. And I'm going to buy rental property. I'm going to try all the things all at once and it should be successful in 90 days or less.” That's not how it works.

But you started off with a lot of motivation. And then you continued to tweak and improve things as you went. I think that's so important for anyone thinking about passive income. It might be a slow build, but the long term payoff is really something that can be worth it.

So it sounds like you've built a lot of your financial knowledge and your gold around your previous career as a financial advisor. So what strategies or advice did you take with you when you left that career? And which ones did you leave behind?

I was a financial advisor at first very early on in my career. And then the last few years, I was actually a finance analyst. But there were a lot of things that I learned as a financial advisor. And one of the things I actually learned just kind of on a more personal note. The reason I went into financial advising is because I had this awesome sales experience selling Cutco knives. And then I also wanted to help people invest their money. So I thought it was going to be the perfect career for me.

It turns out that when I actually got into that job, I realized it was a lot cold calling and prospecting. And although I could be really good at that, if I forced myself to be, it was just draining and exhausting, and it didn't come naturally to me. So it probably took longer than it should have for me to realize this wasn't the career for me. And I really needed to make a change.

It's hard because when you're a millennial or a recent grad, and you're trying to navigate your way through  the job market, you don't want to have all these short stints on your resume. Because they say that looks bad to an employer. But at the same time, there's time to do that early in your early in your career where it's really not going to hurt you.

So you really have to give yourself the opportunity to work at a few different jobs and see, what do you not like about this job? What do you like about this job?  That way, you can really figure out what you want your long term career to be. So that's kind of my takeaway, just from a career and personal perspective. 

I think that most people can manage their money and invest on their own. Yes, they will have to do some learning and some reading. But I think that we really overcomplicate the subject of investing. We make it way harder and more intimidating than it needs to be. And in reality, investing can be a super simple activity.

I would also say to educate yourself if you do choose to use a financial advisor. I think that's great because it's better to invest with a financial advisor than not to invest at all, but make sure that you're aware of how financial advisors are paid.

Some financial advisors are paid based off commissions. That means that they are not incentivized in the correct way and they're not acting as your fiduciary. But other financial advisors are fee only financial advisors.  So they're being paid a fee of the total percent of assets they have under management. That means that if they grow your money successfully, they will get paid more. So those incentives are lined up the exact way they need to be lined up for them to be their fiduciary. So if you are going to work with a financial advisor, just make sure you understand how they're paid, how they're incentivized, and whether they are truly acting in your best interest.

That is such excellent advice.

I've heard a lot of the same. And I think a lot of people are scared about how you get started with investing knowing that there are a lot of brokers and advisors out there who have the reverse incentive to make a lot of transactions and move things around so that they can collect a fee every time that happens. And as someone who might not be educated on how all that works, it's hard to tell that balance of are these moves really benefiting me? Or is this being done more for the benefit of the advisor?

So you mentioned that everyone should do a little bit of research about getting started with that. And as far as investing, do you have some recommendations of some books or some resources that you love for total beginners?

Yes, I would give my book “Money, Honey”, a five star review.  But I'll give some more resources. But in my book “Money, Honey”, I do talk about how to invest. And I include screenshots and everything. Because one of the questions that would get from my friends was, “Okay, but how do I physically buy the stock? Like what do I do?” So I have screenshots of literally how to set up an investment account, a discount brokerage account, and how to trade and how to buy your first stocks and some advice on how to do that.

Some other really great books. I've read tons of finance books over the years. I love “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki. Another really great book is “I Will Teach You to Be Rich” by Ramat Sethi. I don't know if I'm saying that correctly. And that's not so much about investing as it is just about practical money hacks and things you can do to just easily save yourself some money.

And for those of you who are interested in getting Rachel's books…

If you have Kindle Unlimited, both of them are available through the Kindle unlimited program, which I really recommend if you don't have Kindle unlimited is well worth the monthly cost that you pay to be able to have up to 10 titles out at a time. I've already added both of her books to my downloads. So no excuses to not at least start with Rachel's books.

So my kind of last wrap up question for you is, how do you balance the fact that passive income can vary from one month to another? How do you balance that when you've got multiple things that can change every month?

That's a great question. And something my husband and I were really careful to do when we were working towards early retirement is, you know, if your living expenses are $5,000 per month, and your passive income is $5,000 per month, yes, you're technically retired.  You've covered your expenses. But that leaves you no room in case you don't make as much income as you thought or in case your expenses are more than you thought. Or if you just want to continually be saving money, which we did.

Then we kind of really re-evaluate it. And we said, “Well, for our living expenses are $5,000 a month, and we want our passive income to be $10,000 a month.” So that's an enormous margin of error or buffer room. Most months, we're able to still save a lot of money. But that means that if our passive income is only $7,000 or $8,000, which is a lot less than what it should be, or what we would think it would be, that means we're still more than offsetting our expenses.

So when you're kind of projecting out and planning out how to achieve this, I would just basically do it based on the worst case scenario. So in your worst month, if your passive income is only x, is it still enough to cover your expenses? And if not, then you need to work on getting your passive income higher or reducing your expenses.

That's perfect advice. So aside from getting your books, which are available on Amazon, where else can people go to learn more about you and all of the great work that you're doing?

Anyone can follow me on social media. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter if you just search Money Honey Rachel. You can follow me. And you can message me there. Both of my books are available on ebook and paperback. And my newest book “Passive Income, Aggressive Retirement is” available on audiobook. And “Money, Honey” audio book is about to come out any day now. So definitely follow me! Don't hesitate to reach out because I love to help people with this stuff.

Well, it's really been a pleasure to get to interview Rachel. I know I've learned a lot and I can't wait to read her books. Thanks for tuning in for another episode of the advanced freelancing podcast. For more freelance advice, get a copy of my book Start Your Own Freelance Writing Business—available now! Buy it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and more.

Feb 10, 2020

It's rare that I find someone else whose advice on freelancing I really trust. But that's not the case for my guest today. Because it's very easy to take and trust her advice. My guest today is Abbi Perets. She wants moms to know you don’t have to choose between kids and career.

She's the coach and mentor moms turn to when they're looking to break into freelance writing and earn great money from home on their own terms. She combines nearly 20 years of experience freelancing for some of the world's biggest companies with first hand knowledge, having five kids of her own, including one with special needs.

She understands the unique challenges moms face every day and has created programs specifically tailored to meet those challenges and empower moms all over the world to have it all. And importantly, we talk in this episode all about how to send great pitches, some of the mistakes that people make when pitching, and how you can avoid those mistakes.

Welcome back, everyone to another episode of the Advanced Freelancing Podcast.

My guest today is one of the few people that I would trust with giving you freelance advice. The list of people I do not trust is way longer. But I am so excited to have Abbi here on the show because she really knows what she's doing. She gives authentic advice. And she's helped a lot of other freelancers, specifically writers, grow their business.

I often feel like people ask me, “Oh, have you worked with so and so? What do you think about this person's courses?” And I feel like all too often I'm saying run away. It's so nice to have a couple of people that I actually do trust. So if somebody asked me advice, I'm happy to be like, “Oh, yeah, you need to go learn email sequences from this person.” It's so awesome to be able to have you on the show. We have a lot in common. We think the same with a lot about business stuff, but I'd love for you to give us a brief introduction, who you are, and what you do right now.

All About Abbi

She runs Successful Freelance Mom. And she is a mom of five kids, including one with special needs. She has worked as a freelance writer for 20 plus years. And today, she still does freelance writing work. And that's something that's really important to her. She still does the work with clients. So she’s not talking about theory that she learned in that work 20 years ago.

Today, she teaches moms how to get started in freelance writing. And she has a couple of courses that are very general on how to get started in freelance writing. Then some of that are very specific and geared towards doing a specific offering a specific service, email sequences to course creators, and she loves it. She loves every second of it.

Abbi hit on something that's one of my pet peeves too. 

And that is somebody who freelanced once 10 years ago or sold one project on Upwork. It's not that they don't have valuable information to share. But I do question whether that's relevant.  We could like just make this like 30 minutes on what we don't like about other people. But I hate to seem that negative, but it's true. 

Because what happens is, and Abbi probably sees this with a lot of her core students, by the time someone comes to you, they might have already looked at or purchased something from someone else and been disappointed and it they’re jaded.

It crushes me because they're very concerned about working with anyone else again. They have these beliefs or ideas about how things should be or have to be because they heard it from somebody else.  And then it didn't work for them. So there's such a mindset thing, especially when you start about all the confidence that it takes and fake it till you make it and being damaged by one person.

My advice...keep looking.

I guess my advice on that would just be that you purchased a product a software worked with somebody, bought their course, bought their ebook, and didn't love it, so keep looking. That person is not the only authority. I would even say that if you bought something of mine and it didn't resonate with you, go find somebody else who teaches that might be able to help you. I just think it's so important that listeners know that because that's always been one of my big things, too.

I don't feel like I can authentically talk about what it means to freelance today, if I'm not at least doing that. I have several clients, right. It's so cool that Abbi has it set up the same way. And I definitely want to talk about email sequences. But what we're hoping to focus on in this episode is pitching.

I'm sure Abbi has seen it. I've seen it. Our clients have seen it. So many pitches are terrible and awful. The sad thing is you can avoid almost all of this. So I asked Abbi to talk about a top two or three things that she sees people doing over and over again that are just wrong. We’re talking wrong on the level of, “Yeah, don't even send the pitch. If you're doing this, just wait until you've got it refined.”

“Hi. I’m a freelance writer.”

Abbi thinks that a thing that someone teaches on the internet that is wrong, is do not start your pitch with “Hi, I'm Abbi and I'm a freelance writer.”  Because guess what, we know who you are. Because it's 2020, she has email, and it says your name right up there! And you probably say in your subject line something about whatever it is that they're looking for in a writer. You don't need to waste anyone’s time. 

She thinks that a lot of people don't realize how much email some of these editors get in an hour, forget about a day. Literally hundreds of emails. They don't have that eight seconds that you've stolen it from them. And in pure resentment, they're just going to

click “Delete”.

That's it. Exactly. And especially if you're pitching on a platform like Upwork, where the client is soliciting a writer or a graphic designer, it's obvious that if you're replying to the post, you do that thing. So you don't need to recap it.

“I’m really good at it.”

The other one that drives me crazy is when people say, “I'm a good freelance writer. I'm really good at it.”   I would hope so. Because you shouldn't be in business if you're mediocre or bad. People still put it in there. You should only say things like, “I've been doing this for five years.” if there's some specific reason that the five years really matters.  Because it's not enough!

Abbi is right about people having such a limited attention span. And if you put the good stuff about you at the bottom of the email, they’re never gonna get there. They're just going to delete it right away and you lost your chance with that editor or with that potential client. So that's definitely a good one. I totally agree with that.

Track your email.

Then this is a little admin thing surrounding the pitching, but Abbi always tells her students to track the email that they're sending. And she does this. She did this with everything. First of all, if she’s sending an email to her husband, she wants to know that he opened it and read it so that he can't tell her late, “Oh, I know I was supposed to do that.” Yeah, you did. Because you read the email, cookie. So I saw you open it six times at work.

Track everything you sent. Because if you see that people are opening your email and you're never getting response, something about your pitch is not resonating with them. They're not giving you a chance.

On the other hand, if you see that it's being opened multiple times, and especially in different locations, then you can tell a pitch is being forwarded around the office, being discussed, maybe in working meetings, that kind of thing. That's a great time to follow up and say, “Are there any Additional questions I can answer for you?”

So just an admin thing around emails. It gives you a sense of how your pitch is being received. And if it's being opened at all, if it's being open and never read again, or if it's being open multiple times. Track your email.

Getting flagged as spam.

That's so good!  Because there's so much information you can get from that. And you don't want to wait until you've sent 40 or 50 pitches and aren't getting any responses. Because I've even seen freelancers who are sending pitches, and for whatever reason, there's something about their email address that's getting them flagged as spam.

So it's not that the pitch is bad, but seeing that in the tracking that no one is even opening it. That tells you that there's something wrong there. Maybe your email address doesn't seem professional enough, or it's reading like a solicitation and the spam filter is catching it. So there's a chance to fix some stuff there.

Email Tracking Software

I know that HubSpot allows you to track up to 200 notifications. So I think that's every time someone opens an email per month for free. I know about mail track as another tracking tool. What do you recommend that freelancers use for tracking?

Abbi has been using Streak which is a free Google Chrome extension. It works with Gmail. And so Streak has a paid version. You don't need the paid version. The paid version is for really a team of people who are doing multiple project management type tasks. The free version is unlimited in how many emails you can track per month and whatever. And it is robust!

So for Abbi, it works exceptionally well.  She uses it herself. And she recommends it to her students.  She loves it.  And there's nothing like Mailtrack. She thinks it puts those little track my mail check at the bottom of every message. So Streak has nothing like that. It's not infallible, but nothing is and it's really, really good for what you need. I can't think of any use case for a freelance writer where  this wouldn't be a good fit.

That makes a lot of sense because I agree. I installed Mailtrack to try it and it drove me crazy. I felt like it was buggy and it put at the bottom of every email that it was being tracked.  Sometimes you don't necessarily want your prospective clients or current clients knowing that you're tracking your email or their email.

It's nice to have that as a secret tool in your arsenal to be like, “Hey, John Smith opened my email 21 times. This is the perfect time for me to write a custom follow up because obviously, there's something about it that got his attention.” But you don't really want to show all your cards with that. So I love that idea. It's so simple to do. It probably does not add any more than a handful of minutes to your pitching process.

A basic misconception.

I think another misconception that people have and we'll talk about this later is that it's as simple as sending a pitch and a client opens your email, reads it, writes back, and goes, “Sure send me the contract. Let's do thousands of dollars of work together.” A lot of the business is in the follow up.  You're setting yourself up for success with that.

Follow up from day one by tracking it just makes it so much easier for you. I see people have these complicated spreadsheets that show when they contacted people. You don't need all that. Use the free version of Streak, get all the benefits of it, and don't add more stuff on your plate. So that's great.

Abbi would also say, if you're not using Gmail, there's so many great tools built right in. They've even got this new, little nudge feature. If you sent an email a couple of days ago, and you haven't had a reply, it'll pop it back into your inbox and say, “Hey, you didn't get a reply to this. Do you want to do anything with that?” So I wouldn't necessarily take Google's advice every single time and immediately send a follow up three days later, but I do love the snooze feature, for example. So she will often snooze that and say, “Hey, remind me again 10 days from now.” Because that's the point where she does want to follow up and she does want to take a look.

Is your email address unprofessional?

So again, on the admin side, we talked about your email address might be coming off as unprofessional or getting flagged as spam. If it's an AOL.com address, It's definitely getting flagged as spam. If it's a hotmail.com address, it's 100% getting flagged as spam. It is 2020, get your own domain name and get a personal email address.

It's not that expensive. I feel like Google charges $6 a month for that. I know I just put one of my websites on the year long plan with Squarespace. And it was one of the bonuses that came with that. A year of professional email. So at the bare minimum, you should be using something @gmail. com, you can probably get away with that if you don't want to deal with the hassle yet or not ready to invest. But it's such a small and easy thing to do to get that yourname@yourname.com or yourname@yourbusiness.com.

Even if you don't have the full website setup yet, you can still leverage that email address.  It comes across a lot more professional because we've all received those annoying emails. Usually it's from SEO services. At least that's who targets me. And it's so obvious that it's a poorly written pitch. I mean, it starts with Dear Sir every time. Which I'm just like, “No, that's not accurate.” But you don't want to come across like those people. You don't want to be the fly by night, template pitch that has no rationalization to it. So try to stand out! Little things like your email address can make a big difference. They really, really can.

And that's going to bring Abbi to her next point. 

I mentioned these things that feel like templated pitches. So she’s all in favor of templates and systems and processes that save you time. But they shouldn't ever feel like templates and processes and systems that you created to make your life easier and to not really care about your clients.

So she has a couple of  rules for business or rules for life or just things that she lives by core values. Don't lie. Don't send an email you'd be embarrassed to show people in your real life. These are basic things to Abbi, but a lot of people don't bother to follow them. So if you are a person who follows them, you will stand out.

One of the things that she thinks about a lot and that she talks about a lot is that you should genuinely care about your clients and the people who you work with. You should really care about them. And you should think of them in a sense, as your friends. Yes, you want to have a professional relationship with them, but you should think of them as people whose well being you care about, whose time you want to protect. So don't send them crap that you'd be embarrassed to show people in your real life when you're emailing someone. 

Put some effort into it.

Even if it's a pitch, and even if you are using a template, put some effort and thought into it. She uses, for example, a tool called a TextExpander tool. There are different versions of this. The one that she uses is literally a $4.99 one time fee app. And it makes her life so much better because she can say of all of these templated responses that she can call up with just a keystroke or two, but then she always goes in and personalizes them.

So the part that doesn't change is the service that she offers. Every single client who she works with gets the same offer, because that's the service that she offers. So it's an email sequence, it costs this much, and if you want a sales page, it's this much. But what she’s pitching to them, why she’s reaching out to this particular client, that's going to be the part where she’s going to put in that personalization.

Be honest.

And she finds that it's most effective, again, if you're honest. If you actually looked at their website, and there was something about it that spoke to you and made you say, “Wow, I want to work with this person.” Or if you're on Upwork, or a site like that, and you see a posting, what made you apply to that posting? And please don't tell me it's that they're offering a lot of money. That's not a good reason. There should be something beyond that that is pushing you to reach out to this specific client and not that one. So talk about that.

And don't be afraid to let some of that passion come through. She thinks it makes pitching much more enjoyable for you as the person who's writing the pitch. And it certainly makes the person who opens it and reads it feel much more engaged with you if you're starting off by saying, “Wow, I looked at your website and your involvement with this organization, or the way you're approaching this, or the people you're serving…” Whatever it is, talk about the pizza thing that jumped out at you and got you excited.

Absolutely. There's way too much generalization in some pitches. And it always surprises me, especially when I see that in responses to an Upwork gig. Because you're competing against other people there. If you're cold pitching somebody, they might have other freelancers that are cold pitching them, but most likely not at the same time as you sent your message on LinkedIn or your email.

Use personalization.

But when you're on Upwork, it's essential to have some level of personalization and a lot of times people will say, “Well, how do I know what that is? I can't see the client’s name. They didn't include their link or Upwork won’t allow them to do it.” Look for the clues that the client has left you in the job description if they are hiring a virtual assistant and it says, “I'm looking for someone who's super organized and a great communicator.”

That's the personalization you put into the pitch. Not saying, “I'm a great virtual assistant.” Lead with, what it is about your communication.  Is it a feedback comment from a previous client that said you were the best communicator they'd ever interacted with? Is it the fact that your organization spills over into your personal life and your friends are envious of your closet? Share things that speak to that level of personalization even when you don't have a ton of information.

I think it is an important sticking point that comes up a lot with beginners as well. It's easy for more experienced freelancers to pitch. They've got all of this background, past clients, testimonials, and referrals. If I knew, what the heck do I say in my pitch so that it's honest, like you mentioned, but not making promises that aren't true or not giving away necessarily, “Hey, you might be the first client I'm ever going to work with. How do you get a that in a pitch?

Confidence is key.

Abbi is definitely a huge fan of honesty. So she would never say you should claim to have experience that you don't have. But she also doesn’t think that you need to open with, “I've never done this before.” So you want to strike a balance.  One of the sentences that she loves, and she wants to give credit where it's due, her friend Lauren Golden uses this sentence and teaches this sentence, and that's, “I'm confident that I can do this for you. I'm confident that I can do this thing that you need for you.”

Tell them the process.

If you make your pitch about the outcome, that you're going to deliver the results that you're going to give your client, then you're driving that conversation. So it's not going to be about samples, clips, and experience. It's going to be about what you are going to do for them. Sometimes it can be very helpful to talk about the process you're going to follow to get the work done. You might say something like:

“Hey, if we work together, we're going to start off with a kickoff call. That'll be about 45 minutes. Here's what I'm going to ask you on that call. Here's the information, I'm going to need to see from you. After that, it'll be about a 10 day turnaround time for me to do the work. During that time, I'll update you every other day by email, or I'll work in a shared google doc.”

Whatever it is, talk about your process that makes you sound like you know what you're talking about. You have a process, you're laying it out for them, and you're making it really easy for them. Your clients don't necessarily know how this project is going to run. Because just like it might be the first time you're doing it, it might also be the first time they're outsourcing like this.

So if you step up, and you say, “Hey, this is how this will work.” You take a lot of pressure off them. Think about it like this. If you're going to renovate your kitchen and you hire a contractor to come and renovate your kitchen, you’ve probably never renovated the kitchen before. So hopefully you hire a contractor who's perhaps done this once or twice, but every contractor has to start somewhere. So maybe this is that. But if he tells you, “Hey, okay, on Tuesday, we're going to come and we're going to demo. You're not going to have cabinets or counters or whatever. It's going to take two weeks after we measure for the things to be built and made. Two weeks later, you're going to have wood boxes in your kitchen. And then I'm going to come three days after that and do the countertop.” At least you have some sense of what's happening. Even if he's never done this before, and it's his first time and it's your first time, you feel a little bit more confidence in the process.

Abbi thinks it's also okay to say to a client, again she wouldn't open with this, but she thinks it's okay to in your discussion, say, “Hey, I'm still nailing down my process on this, which is why I'm going to slightly discount this project or, which is why I'm doing this for x amount of money, when in the future, I plan to charge this much.” I think that that's an okay thing to say, when you're starting out if you really want the work, you really want this particular client, and you feel like this is your end.

Telling the client the process adds accountability.

I love all of those ideas. And I especially like explaining what the process is going to be like for the client. Because the other thing that's great about that, if you're just starting out, you've kind of set up your own loose accountability there by saying, “”Okay, we're going to start with the kickoff call.” So if I get this project, I need to be organized for that kickoff call. How am I going to block my schedule for that 10 day delivery period to make sure that I meet the deadline and the process that I've already presented to the client? I think clarity helps a lot. And clients want to be thinking about that end process of where you can take them. I love the idea of saying that I'm confident I can do this.

Talk about your experience.

Another one that I recommend is saying, especially if you have past experience, even if not freelance related, “I rely on my blah, blah, blah degree in web design to help my freelance clients.” or “I rely on my five years of experience working as a nonprofit to now serve in a consultant role.” So that's absolutely true. If it's accurate for you because you are relying on that experience. That's the passion and the interest in the background that potentially brought you to the type of freelance work you're doing today.

So I completely agree. Do not lie. Do not say these are the kinds of results I get for my clients if you don't have any results yet. You don't need to say things like that. Of course, when you get to the more experienced freelancer point, you absolutely want to start adding those things into your pitches. Great comments and feedback from clients, amazing results, big name clients you've worked with. But please don't feel as a beginner like you have no chance if those things are missing from your pitch.

Because I think you're just relying on a little bit different approach. But that doesn't mean it's not valid. And you have to think about the fact every freelancer started with no experience. So many people have found a way to break in and they are just a couple of steps ahead of you. That's really important to keep in mind.

So two things...

One is you might be new to freelancing, but you have a lot of other experience. Abbi said she can't tell you how many students she’s had who come to her and say, “I have two doctorates, and I've been the president of Uganda for seven years. Do you think I'm qualified?” She said she’s like, “Yeah, I feel like you can probably handle writing. Yes, I feel like you will be okay.”

So don't discount the 10 years of corporate experience that you have in any writing work or freelance work that you've done.   Anything that you've done in your past that relates to what you're trying to do now, counts.  It matters. It's real experience. Every Freelancer starts somewhere right? Everybody has a first project.

She loves to tell her students it's not only does every freelancer have a first project, every brain surgeon in the entire world has to at some point, picked up a scalpel and sliced into someone's brain for the first time. And she feels like not to belittle what we do by any means. But she feels like brain surgery is just a little more complex than most freelance writing projects.

My goodness, Abbi just gave me a flashback.

In my husband's third or fourth year of medical school, he rotated with a surgeon.  And the guy was more than ready to throw him into gastric surgeries with no experience.   My husband was like, “Yes, I've been trained to do this. I understand the theory of it. I know what that process should be. “ But he's like that first time that he goes, “Okay, you tie this up.  You close this out and you do the sutures.” 

Everybody gets over that hurdle, no matter what your line of business or your passion is.  So keep that in mind.  Continuing to push yourself and get over those hurdles, especially as you expand your business too.   Me and Abbi have both had the first time we coaced somebody, the first course we created, which by the way, mine sucked.   So it’s going to be okay. However, if the first thing you create, the first thing you do, the first pitch you write, is maybe not a home run, that's okay. Because sometimes I think it's about that confidence of sending it out.

Sometimes I hear especially from freelance writers that they're like, ”I'm going to take the next five to six months to write.“ And I'm like, “No, you're good. Like you don't need to spend six months workshopping this.” Sometimes it's just about maybe you don't send that first pitch to your dream client. But getting over that hurdle is so, so important.

Following up.

So let's talk about following up because this is really where your pitch can go from an email that happened to get read to now we're talking about potentially closing a deal. A lot of freelancers often ask me and I give them the answer that they hate, which is it depends if there is a specific formula for following up. I think there are loose guidelines around when and how you follow up.  So I was curious about Abbi’s thoughts on “you've sent the pitch, we tracked it, we see it's being opened, it's possibly being forwarded around” what now? 

Abbi says follow up is so critically important.

She follows Ilise Benun of Marketing Mentor. got it. And she did a podcast episode or an email or something about how somebody was trying to get on her podcast. Abbi had emailed her multiple times. And she said, “I feel like she probably thinks she's bothering me, but I happen to know I'm really busy and every time she emails I'm like, Yes, I meant to go and look up her stuff and I haven't had time yet. If she keeps following up, she's going to get booked in that slot.”

So we write all these stories in our heads about how they must have hated it or they would have replied, but the reality is people are busy. They're spending far less time thinking about you than you think they are. No one cares about you very much. So the act of following up is really important in and of itself.

How and when do you follow up?

So how and when Abbi typically advises to follow up is if after two weeks if you've seen that that email has been opened multiple times, it's a good time to follow up. But how do you follow up? Abbi doesn’t forward the old email. Don't do that. To her, that's weird. She would do a new email with a new subject.  You can even say following up, put a dsah, and then your original subject line. And that's something that she likes to do personally.

And then, “Hey, I wanted to follow up with you. I'm sure you're busy. Here's how I can help you…” Hit the high points. Here's how I can help you be less busy. And here's how I can take some of this load off of you. I want you to think for a second about the one behind the one. There's the thing that business owners say like, “I need social media management, right”. But what they mean is “I need more clients. I need more money.” That's what they actually want. So speak to that want behind what they actually want to get from this relationship. I can help you grow your business, I can help you whatever it is that you're offering to do for them. Hit the high points and make it super easy for them to get back to you.

It's not, “Hey, you can call me at this number.” Nobody wants to pick up the phone anymore. Put a calendar link right in there and make it super easy for them, click here, book a time with me, I will be happy to take care of everything for you and give you all the answers you need. Take this project off your hands, get it done, and get it delivered. You can even say something like, “I'm currently booking work for whatever next week, two months from now…” Whatever it is that you're trying to project in your business that can sometimes push people into that response.

If your email hasn’t even been opened.

Abbi thinks that if you've seen that an email hasn't even been opened and it's been two weeks, then she would definitely send it with a completely different subject line because it wasn't ever opened. So ignore that first subject line.  It either wasn't interesting enough to them or it never made it to the inbox or they have a lot of email and things get lost. Whatever. forget about it. Come up with a new subject line, something that you feel might hook them in and get them to open your email. You can use the same text of the email if you want to, although I would read it over to make sure that there's nothing in there that's getting it filtered into spam. Just give it a once over.

And if you see that something was opened once and then never opened again, it still could be worth a single follow up. In that case, I would kind of make a note to yourself that this is the last chance for this guy because you feel like he's not interested.  And it’s fine that not everybody is going to be interested in you. And that's okay, too.

Make the follow up different than your original email.

I love all of that. And one of the things that I really want to hone in on, which is what you talked about, is this idea of making the follow up be a little bit different than your original email.  Not forwarding the same email and not saying, “Hey, again, here's my website with my samples.”  Remember, these people are busy. If they didn't look at your samples from the first time around, or even if they did, they don't want to see that again. So you're getting into the psychology of it all right? Who is this person?  They're busy, but obviously there's a need and a want here because they opened my email five times. So how can I hit home with that? 

Another place where people get stuck a lot is the multiple follow ups.

And I think that's important to do. Because sometimes you will hear from clients that you haven't heard from in weeks, months, sometimes even years.  And they will appear out of nowhere. Even if you've never worked with them.

There was someone that I wrote a proposal for, that they didn't accept, but they forwarded my name to somebody else who contacted me out of the blue. Because I had kept following up on the proposal that they never signed and went for. So I like to think of it as you're opening all these doors, then leave them open for as long as it makes sense.

Don't do the follow up of like, “Hey, just following up on this.” That's appropriate if they have a proposal or a contract that is pending a signature. Then you can be that directive, like, “Hey, I just want to make sure my invoice gets paid, that you saw this contract and scope before you agree with it.”  But make it more personal. When you're still at the pitch level or you're trying to get them on a call or something like that. I think a lot of people kind of miss that.

Creeper status.

Now, after the first couple outreach efforts, I get a little bit of creeper status going so I will start googling the company and the person I'm emailing. I will look for articles or new studies that came out that were relevant to their business. And I will say something like, “Hey, I came across this article on email marketing, and how the ROI on it is, blah, blah, blah, dollars for every blah, blah, blah dollar you spend. I instantly thought of you because I know I've sent you previous information about email marketing and I really feel like for your audience segment. It could be key.”

If the CEO was recently received an award or was featured in an article, use that as your follow up like, “Hey, I saw this. This is super cool. It's part of why I'm so pumped to potentially work with you.” So make it a little more personal. I think that every client and potential client hates when people say, “Hey, following up.” or  “Hey, checking in on this.” over and over and over again.  Because you're making it all too easy for them to just say, “No, not right now.” There's no incentive for them to take any action based on those kinds of statements. So you want to prompt them. This is what you're missing if you don't work with me, “Hey, I'm really passionate about your company or you or your industry.” Something that's personal that makes them go, “Man, if we are gonna outsource it, it's gonna be to this freelancer because their follow up game is solid.”

Abbi shared that if you want to go an extra step, send a video pitch. 

This is something a lot of people are going to hear this and be like, “I'm not doing that.” But Abbi encourages you to think about it. She has students who have had an enormous amount of success with video pitches. They will literally use Loom, again free Google Chrome extension that’s super easy to use. Even if you've never used it, you can be up and running in 45 seconds, because you're a human with a brain.

You go to their website and you can talk about them and like, “Oh, my gosh, I love this stuff about you.” Or you could take that article and say, “I'm reading this article, and I'm just thinking about you. This line in particular really speaks to me and reminds me of your company, because XYZ.”

Number one, not everybody is sending video pitches. Number two, it is clear that you made this effort specifically for that client. It catches their attention.  And Loom loads things so nicely with this preview right in the email. People are like, “Huh, what's that?” And they click and you don't want to go on for 17 minutes. But if you do like a two- three minute video, that's something that has a real impact. And you get a notification when they've watched it. So another nice tool for “Oh, hey, they watch this.” You know you are going to stand out in their mind.

We're writers, because we're introverts and whatever. Get over it. They're not looking at it to judge your makeup or whatever. They care much more about themselves. So take the time, make this little video pitch because it makes such a difference.

I can't even tell you how many clients I've landed, or at least opened the lines of communication, because I sent a one or two second video.  It's really your chance to show that you're a human too. You're not just a taskmaster who does projects and turns them in. You're a human being. And you have a personality. You care about their business.

I also worked with an online business manager for about two years. And it was from an Upwork pitch. But she went one step beyond to Google my name and made me the two minute video that says, “Hey, I went and looked at your website and as your OBM here, the three things that I would change that I don't think are working as well as they could.” No one else even spent the five minutes today to check out who I was and where I probably needed the most help. And so that led to a two year contract for her.

Make it personal.

So anytime I can do something that's a little bit personal like the video, going that little one step beyond the follow up.  Another one of my favorite follow ups is pitch the person then connect with them on LinkedIn. I did this yesterday.  And I was pitching a speaking gig. I wrote the custom pitch to the conference organizer. Five minutes after sending it, I sent a connection request on LinkedIn.

And said, I like to add a note section connecting I said, “Hi there, I'd love to connect with you because blah, blah, blah.” But then I put at the end, “Also, I just sent you an email on 2029 friends. Looking forward to connecting.” And because people still tend to check their LinkedIn, which might not always be 100% true on email, that's another great way to follow up or keep that conversation going or ground somebody whose email inbox is bogged down to go searching for your name.

Add a note to connection requests.

Abbi loves that I sent a personal message with my LinkedIn request. Because sometimes you can get dozens if not hundreds a day. And when they don't have a personal message, she’s not necessarily going to bother to approve them. Because she doesn’t know who you are. She doesn't know anything about you. And she doesn’t know if you're a good connection for her.  She’s very selective with her LinkedIn connections. Because when she puts out content on LinkedIn, she wants it to be showing to people who actually may engage with that content.

So if it's somebody who has taken the time to write her something personal, she will almost always accept them even if they're outside of that immediate market. She thinks, “Okay, this person made the effort and told me why they wanted to connect with me. Sure.” But if you don't bother to do that, then you are missing out on a chance to connect with people.

I leave my connections for the longest time in purgatory on LinkedIn if I can't figure out who they are and what they do.  This is especially true if you don't send the note. Also, your tagline on LinkedIn is extremely big.  Someone the other day tried to connect with me and their tagline was “Making dreams come true.” And I thought, what does that mean?  And what industry are you in?

Some of the people that I connect with, not just connects with, but gets right back to them immediately, are those who are like, “Hey, I saw your TEDx talk.  I loved Episode 90 of your podcast.” It's like, “Oh, yeah, this person actually knows who I am. They're not just randomly clicking people you might know and adding connections for whatever reason.”

So if we think like that, I guarantee you marketing managers and busy entrepreneurs think like that, too. So it doesn't even have to be related to the service that you pitch. It may be you saw them deliver an amazing keynote and you comment on like, “Hey, you really killed it on that stage. You did an amazing job.” You're much more likely to open that line of conversation and communication. So I think that's so important and underutilized.

Abbi has also had students of her who will sign up for her free email course, they'll like her Facebook page, they'll join her group, and then on LinkedIn, the message will be something like, “I swear, I'm not a stalker.” So you know, it took five seconds to write that. It made her laugh. And she gets it. She knows you want to follow her in these spaces. That's totally cool with her. She is there for it. She’ll even reply to something like that like, “Haha, I don't think you're a stalker. It's awesome. So glad to connect.  Let me know if you're finding everything you need.” And now we have a conversation going so. So there are definitely ways that you can do that and it's such an easy way to stand out from the crowd.

Just give them a nudge.

So to close things out, because I feel like we could talk for hours, say you're in the process of following up, you've suggested the call, and they haven't taken it. Do you have any tips for how to nudge that person into getting them on the phone? Because I feel like that's where so much business is done. How do you nudge that person without being annoying? How could it be most effective at sort of prompting them into that action step of the phone call?

Abbi would definitely start with her calendar link. And if that hasn't been clicked on, if that hasn't resulted in the follow up, then she might, in her next follow up, propose two times. She would say, “Hey, I'd love to get this on the calendar. Would Tuesday at 3:00 or Wednesday at 10:00 be better for you?” Then if one of those works, then she'll send that calendar invite.

There is no foolproof system.

It is a little bit tricky there. She doesn’t have a great foolproof system. And she doesn’t think there is a foolproof system for every situation. For example, her calendar link is linked to a zoom call. Which is a great little setup, but some people may be intimidated by the calendar link in general and by the idea of Zoom. So maybe make it a little bit easier. “Would it be easier for you if I called you at 10am on Wednesday?”

Think about the person.  If you're speaking to someone of a certain age, they may be less comfortable with some of the technology. And if you're speaking to someone who's not in a technology field, they may not be comfortable. Another thing that she ran into was some corporate clients can't access some of those zoom things on a corporate network. So be cognizant of that and say, “How can I do this? How can I make this easier for you?”

I love that and giving them a reason to take the phone call, even if it doesn't end up going further with business. Maybe there's a question they have around content marketing, or maybe you have a couple of recommendations that aren't giving away the farm, but allow you to get some of your insight in there, and really get them to see you as an expert.

So when people are busy, there has to be a reason for the phone call. Your link cannot be a 45 minute thing that you're scheduling. Keep it to 15 to 20 minutes if they're definitely interested. And they've written back saying, “Yeah, we really need someone to help with XYZ service.” You can expand it to 30 minutes. But you want to watch your time too so that you're not giving away too much and it's not leading to business. But definitely give them a reason for that phone call to make sense.

Get them thinking.

Right now we're in q1, a lot of companies have met and decided their budgets for the year. That might be a good opportunity to be like, “Hey, I'd love to hear about your content marketing and traffic goals or email newsletter goals to close out quarter one and kickoff q2 strong.” That gets them thinking about it.

And If you've hit the right employee or that's on their list of things to achieve, there's more of a chance that they're at least willing to talk to you, especially if it makes them look good if you're going to give them a tip or if you're going to propose an easy solution. You may say, “Hey, your email newsletter is not converting, I know because I'm a customer and these were the problems I encountered with it.” They're much more likely to hire you. And you also can make that employee look good when they go to their boss and say, “Hey, I've got some excellent feedback on how we can improve this. And I found the professional who can help us to accomplish that and knock it out and start seeing better numbers.” 

More Abbi later.

I love it. This is not the last Abbi will hear of me because I have so many things to pick her brain about. We're definitely going to try to have her come to a live training in my facebook group specifically about email sequences.  Iit is kind of in the freelance writing world like writing emails for other people.

Abbi’s Facebook Group is amazing. 

Another one of my pet peeves with the online world is Facebook groups where, especially writers, love to pile on each other or critique other people's rates or be negative or write comments like “You'll never achieve your dreams.” Abbi’s Facebook group is not like that.

I also strive for that to not be my Facebook either. But I would if you're a writer, even if you're experienced, I would strongly recommend joining her facebook group because it's a very supportive community and people write actionable tips in response to questions.  They don’t write supervague, like, “Hey, I can offer you a phone call.” You're going to get good answers to your questions.

Thanks for tuning in for another episode of the advanced freelancing podcast. For more freelance advice, get a copy of my book Start Your Own Freelance Writing Business—available now! Buy it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and more.

Connect with Abbi:

Feb 3, 2020

Welcome back to another episode of the advanced freelancing podcast. This is part two of a

small series, just two episodes about how to deal with burnout. So if you're listening to this episode, and you haven't yet heard the episode that comes immediately before it, now would be a great time to go back and listen to that episode because it is really all about how to recognize burnout and how to prevent burnout before it happens. And of course, the more mindful you can be about the problems related to burnout, the easier will be for you to stop that cycle before it even starts.

The reality is that far too many freelancers and business owners find themselves stuck in that cycle of burnout.

It can be very, very toxic and overwhelming when you're coping with burnout. A lot of us don't even recognize burnout until we're so far into it that it's very difficult to walk back and figure out how to remove some of those stressors from our life.

Burnout will look different from one person to another. So for you, it might primarily manifest in physical terms. But for someone else, it could be more of a mental or emotional challenge. So recognize that if you've witnessed a friend or family member go through burnout, that it might not look the same for you as it does for others. There are three primary reasons why somebody ends up feeling burned out.  Some of them are kind of interconnected or more complicated than just one simple thing.

The first reason you can experience burnout in your freelance business is your potential clients.

Who are you working with? Are you working with the right people? And are they making you feel overwhelmed? Are you working on projects that you don't love? And are you working on a project that you do love, but the client is so overbearing and difficult to deal with that you're waking up with night sweats and you're dreading every single day?

I've worked with a number of different aspiring and currently six figure freelancers who have found themselves working with toxic clients. And if you have not listened to that podcast episode, I strongly recommend going back and listening to the episode all about toxic clients because we go into what it really means to say somebody that is a toxic client. It's called “Toxic Freelance Clients: You Can’t Afford to Keep Them”.  It is Episode 71 of the podcast. And it is very powerful to go back and recognize that you might be working with those clients, if you previously were unaware.

You might have more than one toxic freelance client which really increases your chances of feeling burned out and overwhelmed.

When you're working with people who are very difficult, who are demanding too much, or who want you to kind of be at their beck and call and available to communicate all the time, you can easily get very, very overwhelmed and stressed out. And a lot of times what's great, even though it might not seem like it in the moment, about the situation of being with a freelance client that is not the right fit is that you can fix this aspect of burnout. There are some things that lead you to a state of burnout that are not really so much in your control. But this one about deciding who you do and don't work with.  It definitely falls within your control.

Don't beat yourself up about the fact that you've worked with somebody who isn't the right fit.

Somebody who's overbearing, somebody who expects too much, somebody who puts additional stress on you by paying their invoices three months late, or anything like that. It doesn't necessarily have to be toxic for it to be overwhelming or triggering towards burnout for you. But it can definitely be something that causes you to feel like that's carrying over into aspects of your business and your personal life. So the great news about discovering that clients are the source of your current burnout is that it is within your power to fix that situation.

Now, if you primarily have one anchor client, and that's the client that's causing you to burn out, it's going to take a while to build up the business to the point it feels like you can walk away from that. And I've also seen coaching clients who hold on to that anchor client even when it's not the right fit. And then that client can also decide not to work with you anymore.

When you've got all of your eggs in one basket, so to speak, that can also put you into a very difficult situation. Because if you suddenly feel like, “You know what, the straw has broken the camel's back, I cannot work with this client for one more moment.” or their business folds it can put you in a tough situation.

I've had coaching clients who've had their clients literally close down their entire business because it was mismanaged.

Where if the client just decides not to work with you anymore, you don't want to be counting on that one client or those one or two anchor clients for your whole income. So you want to start building in that buffer and working towards having other clients on tap. Now, if you want to learn more about why it is so dangerous to have just one client, you'll want to go back and listen to Episode 76. That's “Don't Put All Your Freelance Eggs in One Basket”.

So now that we've covered the fact that clients can contribute to you feeling burned out and overwhelmed, that's probably going to be the easiest one to detect. Is there anyone on your schedule where you are feeling so bad about opening their emails, you hate having to talk to them on the phone, you really wish you could just fire them and move on? That is going to be the easiest place to find potential burnout and to deal with it from there.

The second set of problems that can contribute toward a higher risk of burnout include outside stressors.

Outside stressors could be anything that's really not so much in your control even if you have taken proactive steps to minimize or to try to completely control that issue. For example, maybe you have somebody in your family or the caretaker for an elderly member in your family. Perhaps you have a child with special needs. Maybe and your partner work different shifts. You work the day shift and he works the night shift and so on. Childcare is always very stressful and you have very little time to work on your business. Those are kind of outside stressors that you can't easily change, or can't be changed at all.

So the two things that you can do to help with these outside stressors are to eliminate problems wherever possible and to build in support.

So if there's something in your day to day process in the structure of your business that

could be changed to help you minimize the chance of burnout, you want to take those proactive steps. First, for example, maybe you do have a situation at home where it's very difficult to have no background noise. Maybe you've already tried to have everyone in the family be quiet or tried to do your sales calls in the closet. And it just hasn't worked right. So maybe you need to adapt your business model to figure out how you can close people in other ways where you’re not relying on having a quiet backgrounds. So that would be eliminating problems.

You could also address that problem by building in support. So perhaps you hire somebody to do childcare. You don't even have to go spend your entire budget on a day rate for somebody.  You can book all of your calls between 2:00 and 4:00 pm because that's when you have childcare. And everyone else in the family can be out of the house. So this same process can apply to many of the different challenges that you face from outside stressors.

Now, obviously, there's a whole set of outside stressors here that will still continue to impact your life even despite your best efforts of eliminating any challenges and building and support. If you're dealing with a health care crisis, for example, you probably have enough on your plate. And you're already focused on attempting to recover or to minimize your symptoms. So it might not be possible to eliminate some of those issues. But you might be able to build in some levels of support.

Recently, we went through the loss of a family member.

One of the things that I had to do was reduce expectations from everyone. So I informed all of my coaching clients that I would be slower at responding. I informed my current freelance clients that I would be X many days behind on delivery and let them know what was going on. So sometimes you can't build in enough support or eliminate enough problems to keep operating as you normally would.

Give yourself that grace and that space to be able to scale back your business and say, “You know what, I'm in a season right now where for whatever reason, I am not able to deal with things as I normally would. I'm not going to get upset about that. I'm not going to try to force it. Instead, I'm going to do whatever I can to make sure that I have space in my business and in my life to cope with what's most important right now. Because what's most important, might not be me hitting my marketing or my income goals at the moment.”

So lots of times people put additional pressure on themselves because they're feeling like, it's almost like their fault that they're dealing with these outside stressors. And that is rarely if ever true. So don't feel bad that you have to slow down. Don't feel bad if you have to take steps away from your business. I know that it's very hard for anyone who's a high achiever or a perfectionist to hear that advice, and really fit it in.

As you're listening to this episode, we went two weeks without any new podcast episodes being released.

And that was because we were going through things with the loss of a family member, where I just couldn't physically fit it into my schedule to be recording episodes. I didn't have that quiet background space. And then also I just really didn't feel up to it.

So for me, it was about releasing myself from that expectation that I'm going to continue as I normally would, and instead saying, “Okay, where can I trim things out of my schedule because this is not the top priority right now? And I will catch up later. If that means we missed two weeks of the podcast, then we miss two weeks. I've got to practice what I preach here.And my listeners will understand.” 

A lot of people listen to these episodes after the fact and they might not even notice that there was a space between the previous episode and this one. So to recap real quickly two of our most common causes of burnout in a freelance business are having the wrong clients or having a client that kind of overwhelms and takes up all of your time and/or outside stressors.

The final major cause of burnout I see in freelance business owners is taking on too many things and not taking enough care of yourself.

Now you could find yourself in an either or situation, but it's very possible that you experienced both. So as business owners, we're constantly thinking about ways to take our companies to the next level. That can be both a blessing and a curse because you can find yourself putting way too much on your schedule and ending up very stressed out and overwhelmed.

If you're doing that while also not taking care of yourself, that is going to take a physical, emotional, and mental toll as well. I've definitely been guilty of taking on too many things plenty of times. And it seems like it's one of those lessons, I'm just going to have to learn over and over again.  That lesson is building time to take care of yourself and recognize when you're hitting your limits and thresholds for what is right for you.

A fully booked business will look different for every single person.  So don't compare yourself to what it's like for somebody else. Someone else's ideal business might be running 15 or 20 hours per week. Whereas yours is only 5 or 10 because of your current life circumstances or possibly some of those life stressors. Or maybe that's just the perfect sweet spot for your business to sit.

So don't hold yourself up to the standards of anybody else. That can really get you into a difficult situation as well. Remember to keep taking care of yourself and recognize when you have too many things on your plate and how to reduce that. Another podcast episode that might be helpful for you is “Episode 87: Why I'm Not Freelancing Full Time Anymore”. You'll hear a little bit about my decision to really scale back my freelance business and keep it at the point where it's still operating and is very profitable, but doesn't take up a tremendous amount of my time.

There really is a model for everyone when it comes to freelancing.

So recognize when you're in one of those busy seasons. What more can you do to take care of yourself? How can you really support yourself when you are facing down a really big deadline? How can you give yourself space immediately after you’ve finished a massive project? How do you step back and really give yourself that peace of mind and that chance to recover? And if you're in a period where you can't really slow down, how do you support yourself with nutrition, rest, mindset exercises, physical exercise, and even taking vitamins? How do you sort of have that to support yourself?

If you are the type of person who has trouble taking care of yourself or putting too many things on your plate, you will love Episode 84 which is “Creating a Mental Health Plan for Your Freelance Business”. Now, that episode goes into great detail as far as what does it mean to build a mental health plan? How can that really benefit you? What does my mental health plan look like?

So these are just a couple of examples of ways that you can end up feeling really, really burned out in your business.

When you're feeling burned out. You can push yourself so far as to you need to shut down your business for several months. And we always want to avoid that if possible. I wouldn't want anybody else to go through that experience. And we see that with business owners often where they end up facing a tremendous amount of stress. And it's not necessarily that they have a breakdown, but they have to take some space and time away from their business and that can be really overwhelming for them. That personal pressure and stress can really be a lot for them to cope with and to deal with.

So, trying to avoid burnout as much as possible will really help you when you are getting ready to think about up leveling your business.  You need to think about if this is now the right time for me to fold in other things into my business or should I kind of rethink that and table that and make that project go a little bit slower because I'm primarily concerned with taking care of myself?

Now if you do believe that you're suffering from burnout, I strongly recommend reaching out for help for medical professionals, therapists, and other psychological support services. Burnout is a relatively new word in the western medicine dictionary and diagnosis category. So it's something where you want to have the right help to guide you through that process and to recognize burnout for what it is and create a custom plan for you to recover as much as possible.

Thanks again for tuning in to another episode of the Advanced Freelancing podcast.

In next week's episode, we'll be recapping some of the Top 10 Best Podcast Episodes that have come out of this show going all the way back to 2017.  Because it will be Episode 100. That's right, we've made it to 100 episodes. So I will be recapping from my perspective, the favorite 10 episodes that I have recorded or put together.

So if you are just starting as a binge listener to this show,or if you've only listened to the recent episodes since the reboot, you might catch some gems in there that can help direct you to some awesome episodes in the past. Thanks again for tuning in.

Thanks for tuning in for another episode of the advanced freelancing podcast. For more freelance advice, get a copy of my book Start Your Own Freelance Writing Business—available now! Buy it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and more.

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