Advanced Freelancing

Learn more about freelancing and owning your business and your time from six-figure freelancer Laura Briggs.
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Apr 6, 2020

In this episode, you’ll hear from two expert web developers and agency owners Jason Martin and Patrick Falvey. You’ll learn about how they made the decision to partner up and why a partnership and agency is the right choice for you so you can decide if this is the right fit for you.

You’ll hear advice on how they knew it was going to be a fit because they had worked together and how that helped them decide that being partners set them both up for success in running a freelance agency.

Running an agency is very different from working as a solopreneur, but you definitely have the opportunity to benefit from the “two heads are better than one” mentality. How do you choose a partner? How do you set things up from the beginning? How do you know what personality traits you should look for when you want to team up?

In this episode, we discussed:

  • Knowing complementary skills and how teaming up as freelancers can make things work
  • The power of setting vision individually and with your partner
  • How do you find a freelance business partner if you don’t want to just work alone?
  • Why you should have experience working together before deciding on a business partnership and why it’s like a marriage
  • Why enterprise clients can be the right fit and why Jason and Patrick made that choice and why you should ensure that you consider maintenance contracts.
  • Why you need to set big goals and how manifestation works in a freelance business or freelance agency.
  • How Jason & Patrick initially scaled the wrong way and what they learned from that experience.
  • Whether you should decide on having in-house talent versus leveraging freelancers or fully remote teams.

About Jason + Patrick:

Jason Martin is a Managing Partner of DjangoForce, a customer software development agency that helps businesses increase efficiency through the use of modern technology. After spending two decades working in marketing and UI design with multimillion dollar brands and start-ups, Jason knows what truly drives conversions and business efficiency. Jason's business accomplishments have landed coverage in Forbes, Tim Ferriss, and GeekWire. In addition to running a software development company, Jason is a travel and Jiu Jitsu enthusiast who lives in Boise, ID with his wife and 3 daughters.

Patrick Falvey is a Managing Partner of DjangoForce, a custom software development agency that helps businesses increase efficiency through the use of modern technology. In his spare time he loves to learn about anything technical, like updating his knowledge of new development frameworks, executive education through MIT, or even building an 8-bit CPU from scratch. Patrick lives full time in Boise, ID with his wife, Vina and enjoys mountain biking and skiing when he's not behind a screen.

Connect with Jason and Patrick:



Mar 23, 2020

It's time for your weekly dose of inspiration and strategy from the Advanced Freelancing podcast. Before I kick off today's episode, if you love this show and listen every week, please hop on over to iTunes and consider leaving the show a review. It helps other people interested in similar content be able to find this show and benefit from all of the great tips that you have already heard.

Today's guest wants you to consider one question.

What if you could determine who in your audience is your best client in 180 seconds? Juliet Clark is a dynamic and sought after speaker and podcaster, who has spent the last 20 years helping authors, coaches, speakers, and small businesses all over the world build expert platforms.

She created a platform building tool that assesses audience obstacles, generates leads, and qualifies leads for businesses. And she says her simple technology can be used from the stage, on social media, and at workshops to create conversations that build long term relationships. She's also the host of the Promote, Profit, and Publish podcast which helps entrepreneurs understand how to use great tools in the coaching and small business spaces. So we're going to be talking all about lead generation, lead qualification, and how to make that process easier for you. This is a hot topic for a lot of freelancers.

Juliet’s story on how she became so knowledgeable about lead qualification and lead gen.

So I'm out of college. I started out in traditional publishing. And I went on to work in advertising on a couple billion dollar accounts Chiat Day. And from there I went to being a stay at home mom and lasted two weeks. It was really hard. That is a hard job.

And so I decided that I could balance my time between there and real estate. And the one thing that I carried through all of those was that you had to prequalify before you worked with people. And you also had to build a really solid Avatar and test and validate that avatar over and over and talk to those people.

So, in 2007, I was going through a divorce and I wrote my first book. It was a mystery novel. I killed my ex husband in it. It was very cathartic. But the “what” came from that experience, besides not having to wear a felony orange jumpsuit, because it was metaphorically killing him in a book was that.

When I went to publish my first book, I found a self publishing model that was horrendous. It did not serve authors at all. So I started my own company and then within that we had entrepreneurs bringing us a book. And they had written the book because their products and services weren't selling. And someone told them that, “You know, the book is the answer. It's why nobody knows you.” And I kind of said, “No, that's not it. Yeah, this is going to be another failed product.”

So we developed, we worked with it, I found a platform that I really loved, and we started developing assessment marketing that was also lead generation. And as we got better and better over time with it, we put components in with it that were also qualification. So that when the people are working with the assessments, they're actually pre qualifying themselves for your business.

I think that is such an important thing to consider that you have lead qualification processes built in when people are coming to you. Both with they are landing on your website, your landing pages, they're finding you some other way, but also when you're doing outreach with them.

Where do you think most people get things wrong with lead qualification?

So my there's a couple of things. My experience when I was in real estate was there was always a couple guys in the office who'd be like, “I have 60 leads.” And they never closed anything. And I had a really great team of people, we were selling about 60 houses a year. And we pre qualified everybody. It was such a huge difference in what we closed every year. So I think that pre pre qualification, we go out and we collect leads, but we don't really find out how interested they are. So that's one of the one of the things.

The other thing is, it's easy for you to explain what you do and develop a product. But if you don't validate it first and know who that audience is, you can't replicate it for lead generation. So you have to be able to not only build that avatar, but also validate it.

How would you recommend that somebody validate it if they're like brand new to starting their business? How do you figure out that this idea you have, this service or product has legs?

So this is the second time I've had to answer this today. One of the things, and I know with freelancers, they work with a lot of coaches, authors, speakers,  and small businesses. And unfortunately, that business model is what I call “Bootstrap to Bankruptcy”. Because there are all these things that you need to be successful and one of them is not validating that product.

So that's actually what we use the assessments for. We tell people that are brand new, like we're your first stop, you have an idea. Let's get you out on a stage or networking or wherever it is. Let's create this based on success principles and let them tell you if it's a valid product and if they would pay me money for it. Because you get a lot of lip service about, “Oh, I really love that.” And then nobody will pay anything for it.

So I'd rather see you spend a couple thousand dollars and validate, then go out and hire that book coach and an online marketing coach and all of those things that are going to cost you anywhere from $10 to $100,000. I'd rather see you validate first.

I see this a lot too with other authors.

So I also do some freelance public relations work for nonfiction business book authors.  And it drives me crazy how many of them come to me and say, “I published my book three months ago, and it's not selling at all.” And I'm like, “Why are we waiting until three months after the book is launched to think about these kinds of things? Did anyone even want to read that book to begin with? And how much opportunity we've lost by you spending a year two years of your life working on this thing?”

And then it's the parts of it like did it ever have legs to begin with? Was it ever validated? And then also, how can we make sure that that follow through comes all the way through the process, right? We can't just stop when you created the product. You have to build in your customer service.  And you have to build in your marketing. All those pieces have to be in place.

I think a lot of people do struggle with lead qualification, too.

Especially when you're doing something like cold outreach.  That's something a lot of freelancers do. They say I want to work with Procter and Gamble, or whatever. So they go do their research. They dig for hours to try to find the CMOS email address, write this custom pitch, and get in there.

Then they forget about that lead qualification process just because it was a big name or a cool company. They still might not be your right client. So can you talk a little bit about, especially on a phone call, because that's usually the next step for a lot of freelancers, what information can you be asking for or listening for on a phone call to determine if a lead is not the right fit? So you've done your base level of investigation about this company or person, you think there's possibility to work together.

How do I make sure about that before we sign a contract?

So a lot of what we do inside of enrollment conversations is really talking to them about what's worked, what isn't working, what have you tried to get it to work, and really diving into that? The reasons for those conversations, even though they seem a little invasive, is you're going to find out a couple things. And they may not actually verbalize those things.You have to get really good at listening.

So to give you an example, when someone comes to us, we ask those kinds of questions. And we might find out that they're blaming it on somebody else they worked with. But when you really get down to it and do some heavy listening and dig, dig, dig, you'll find out that the person you're talking to didn't take action. They didn't follow through. And so you're really listening for those patterns when they're telling you about those experiences. Because they will tell you a lot. You'll find out if you have an action person or a blame person.  You don't want that blame person

at all. That's so true.

I think it's equally important to be listening to hear the right things and logging away those red flags that come up in those early conversations.

Because just like you were talking about, one thing I always tell freelancers is it's a bad sign if you're on the sales call, and they say, “I've hired 15 other freelancers before and no one could do the job right.” There is only one common denominator in those projects. And it was the person who didn't give good directions, didn't pay on time, or whatever it is that the client has done.

So do you have tips for making that lead generation process faster for freelancers or any type of business owner?

So that's actually what we use that assessment for, in depth, is we set the success principles of what we do and then you measure, as the potential client, where you're at in that. So we know not only how much help you need, but also you have an understanding coming into the call about how much help you need. Because sometimes I find that when we're pre qualifying, people don't realize how much help they actually need. They think they're doing better than they actually are. And for anybody, a freelancer, a business, that is a big red flag because their expectations may be much higher of what you're going to do for them than what you actually commit to do for them.

It's definitely important to know where they're at and where they want to go.

I use a loose form of pre qualification for the freelancers that I coach. I layout in the sales page this is the type of person I work with. These are the types of things we work on. And then I require that they do a brief phone call with me just to make sure that we're a fit beforehand.

But I'm imagining that using something like a form where you ask questions could help pre qualify people to see if they're the right fit. But what do you do with the people where you read it  and you say, “Hmm, this isn't the right fit” or you look at their information they've emailed to you? Let's say you got a lead through your website that says, “I want to hire you to do these freelance services.” But you can tell it's not a fit for you and they didn't really pass your pre qualification test. Where do they go from there? How do you respond to that professionally?

Juliet’s response to this sticky situation.

Usually, I try to be a connector.  I will go back and explain to them, “Look, this is not really an area where we work well and I can see you need help here. I know somebody.” And then I give them a name and number and tell them they should contact them and see if they can help them a little bit better. That doesn't mean that you're giving bad leads to someone else. But you genuinely may not be the person to do that work.

And most of the time, when we're referring, we're making a little bit of referral fee off of it as well. So it's not a total loss. But here's the thing about it, when you do something like that, and we just have this conversation in integrity, people come back and they send people to you. Because now they fully understand what you do. And they understand that you just didn't take their money and not deliver for the sake of taking their money. And that's huge when you're doing something like this.

I think one thing that you might never know is the people who land on your lead qualification page who look at it and just in looking at it, realize that you two are not a fit and they don't even fill it out.

So it's also doing a lot of that work for you. But people can self opt out and go, “This is like five questions long and I'm too busy to answer five questions.” If you're too busy to do that, we're never going to get anywhere on the project.   Anything else in that lead generation process can definitely help people realize “This is right for me.  This isn't right for me.”

Now, one thing I see all the time, not so much in the freelance world, but in other businesses is this idea of buying leads. Now is that something that's still relevant? I mean, I would think it's worth the extra time to find your own leads and then pre qualify them. But then every so often, I do see people selling these lead generation services where they'll promise you a list of  X many companies.

Juliet on buying leads.

So here's the deal. Business is all about relationships. And that is one of the things when you and I initially talked that I told you in this click world out there, what we've developed, is for relationship building.  So when you go out and buy a lead, there are three different kinds of traffic out in the world. There is cold traffic, medium traffic, and hot traffic.

Hot traffic is when you have referred somebody to me and you vouched for me. You really need this person.  That medium traffic is somebody who kind of knows you, following you trying to figure out what you're doing, and you're nurturing them. Those cold leads, they didn't ask to become a lead, for the most part. Or if you're in digital, they click and they don't really know you. A lot of times they've just clicked a click. So those people are really, really hard when you buy leads. And a lot of times when you go out and buy those, they're spam. So they're actually ticked off that you're like, “Where did you get my name?”

So now you have no chance of building rapport and relationships. You should always go out and develop your own leads because you're the face of your business. You're the person that they're looking at.  Are you credible? Do you follow through and do what you say you're going to do? If I tell you when you hand me your card that I'm going to call you this afternoon, do I call you this afternoon? There's all of these things that they're evaluating that make it necessary for you to generate and pre qualify your own leads.

It's such a great point, because I think so many people are looking for that magic bullet.

The easy answer of, “Oh, well just give me a list of 10 or 50 companies that I can pitch.” And I always say that your odds of success are going to be so much higher if you make your own list of 10 companies you would like to work with and then do the research to see if on your initial review, they meet your lead qualification. It's just going to be so much more effective.

The other thing I always wonder about those lead gen companies too is let's say they have a list of 50 companies, but 2000 people have bought that list of it, right? So now those people are really pissed off on that lead list because they're like, “Man, everyone under the sun is emailing me and I never asked for this information to come to me.”

And that's such a great point because Juliet has a lot of clients who are trying to get into corporate workshops.

And they think, “Okay, every corporation needs me.” Do you have any idea how many times a day that HR person is hounded for a workshop to come in? So the best thing you can do if you want to get into those places, is go to some place where you can network with those people.

The fact is, if I am going to an event, and I want to meet the speakers or I want to do business with those people who have been vouched for that probably could use my services, I reached out to them on LinkedIn. And I say, “Hey, we're going to the blah blah blah event. I can't wait to see you speak.” And then walk up at the event, introduce yourself, “Hey, I reached out on LinkedIn.” And then talk to them.

But here's the bigger tip.

Sit next to them at the event because inevitably when you're sitting next to people conversation starts. Sit at their table or wherever, because that's where it all begins. That's where you get to make your first impression instead of an email or a solicitation phone call. Get out of the house and go network with those people that you really want to grab their business. And you may find out at those like, “Oh my gosh, that person's horrible. I really don't want to work there.”

That tip about LinkedIn is so important because our email inboxes can get cluttered.

But you can always do follow up on LinkedIn.  You can do initial outreach on LinkedIn. And then if you sit next to that speaker at that networking event, and they post about having spoken, you remind them of who you are by commenting on that on their social media. You say, “Hey, you did a great job. It was great to meet you.” You want to keep staying in their world. And I think that that is really, really important.

So let's talk about the beginner person who's just starting out realizing that they need to have a better process for capturing incoming leads, what would you say would be the first step that they need to take? Where I'm going with this is a lot of freelancers go, “Oh, I can't launch my business yet. Because I don't have my website.”

A website that has no traffic to it is so useless. So just skip it. I always just tell them that they don't need that unless they have this massive following and they have massive traffic already. Then yes, let's optimize your website and make sure there's a place on there for people to hire you. But I would think it's probably not set up your website. I'm wondering if there's something else people can do to sort of be lead friendly.

Juliet explains how people can be lead friendly.

How about a landing page? It costs about $50 to put up the landing page. You add a little about yourself, your services, and let's set an appointment. So you can send people to that landing page.

Also get out and start developing content. Let's say that you and I had a conversation or we were going back and forth on LinkedIn a little and you expressed an area you were having a little bit of trouble and you may not hire me today. But wouldn't it be amazing if I served you by saying, “You know what, Laura? I wrote an article about this topic. Can I share it with you?” Then  leave the link and and just kind of start developing from there. You're showing them your value instead of telling them how valuable you are. 

And how many times do we see people doing the opposite?

It is rampant on Facebook and LinkedIn. “Help! I'm launching a podcast. Does anyone have any good resources?” And inevitably 10 people respond. “Hi, I'm a Podcast Producer here. Here's my services page, go check it out.” And it's like, I don't know who you are, you know what I mean?

If you were the person that left me the link that said, “Hey, here's this great resource I found, or I took this course. I read this book. I listened to this podcast and it was awesome.” And continue to build that relationship. I feel like we're interacting as to humans, rather than you just see me as somebody who can be pitched. And I think that that's really important.

I always laugh how many people seem to think that it's as easy as, you send a pitch or you get on a sales, contract sign, you've got the money, the company is in the person. It still goes back to relationships. We live in a digital world. And digital technology enables us to do all that other stuff faster, but we still have to go back to relationships at the end of the day.

Juliet’s upcoming book.

So this spring, I have a book called coming out it's actually called “Pitch Slapped”, because that's what I feel like when I go and you do that to me. Especially those people who are on LinkedIn, you connect with them and they say, “Hey, I've got this brand new program. Would you like it?” And it's like, “No, I don't even know who you are.”

And half the time they haven't even done the research to see what it is you do.

I've had people pitch me investment banking stuff. I'm like, “Did you even look at my profile? Like, I don't need investment banking. I'm not looking to have venture capital.” My favorite though is that people who are subtly insulting with their pitch where they're like, “I know how hard it is to work out.” You're like, “Oh my gosh, you're calling me out on my fitness or my nutrition.”  Not only have I been “pitch slapped” as Juliet says, but now there's like this undercurrent of like you have flagged me as your ideal lead because you think I need extra help.

Juliet’s pet peeve.

My pet peeve is men who email who tech. You go through Facebook Messenger and they say, “Hey, I have this great new meetup. I help women manage their money.” It's like when your husband tries to teach you how to play golf and tells you everything wrong. And you're not inspired by that. You want to hit him over the head with the club.

It's so crazy that and this all goes back to that same topic of the proper lead qualification.

Does this person want to hear your message? Are you reaching out in the most effective way to do it? Because maybe you do have some incredible supplement that burns fat, but there's a nicer way to go about it, or there's a more appropriate way to make sure that whoever you're targeting is the ideal person to hear that message. I might be willing to hear that at a networking event where they're just talking about their own experience using it.

I actually have a rule that if someone does that to me on LinkedIn, I just remove the connection immediately. If the first message is,  “Hi! I sell XYZ. Here's the link to buy it. I'd love to help you.” I'm like, “Okay, remove connection.” Because there is no connection between us because you didn't take the time to even get to know me or spend that time

Juliet shares a story.

So I love to share this story. Someone did that to me. They wrote me a birthday message and this was like in 2016.  It was really nice message, “Hey, Happy Birthday. You deserve all the best in life. I’d love to help you get healthier in your next year.” And they signed it. So I wrote back, “Thank you.” Then here came the sales pitch.

That would have been okay except 2017, they sent the exact same message. In 2018, I was at an event and the owner of this MLM said, “You know, my people are having a little problem with marketing. Do you think you can come in and talk to us?” And I said, “Oh my gosh, I have this great thing on social media. And guess what? I've got this messenger inside of my presentation that is what your guy keeps sending me every single year.” And he's like, “No way.” I was like, “Yeah, I use you guys as an example, in my presentation.”

You don't want to be the bad example that someone is using to say what not to do, right?

In my mind, it wouldn't take that much more effort for them to send you a personalized message that at least varies it up every year. He could log in a spreadsheet, pitched her in 2017 and didn't go anywhere. So let me not do that. Juliet pointed out that inside messenger, when you get that message, you can see the message above that's identical from the previous year. So vary it up.

That's another good point. Because when you're doing this outreach to prospective clients, you want to vary it up. One of my most hated things with follow up is when a freelancer sends a pitch and then they respond to that message when no one answers and says, “Hey, just following up on this.” Don’t do that.  Give the person a reason to read your message that they might not have seen initially. Always add a little bit of personalization. And that goes back to that human connection.

When you see someone else in your space or in another space who is doing things well and owns their expertise, go look at how they do it.

You want to learn how to make great email newsletters, get go sign up for somebody list that has a 40% open rate and a high close rate. You want to learn about lead generation and pre qualifying go look at how Juliet has set up her own pre qualification on the quiz. So you can always take lessons from other people who are doing things right.

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 Juliet:

Mar 9, 2020

After starting podcasting several years ago, I had no idea where my podcasting journey would take me. And it's still an excellent opportunity to refine and grow my process as I explore podcasting further in 2020. All that being said, you're tuning into the 100th episode of this podcast.

I've gone through some changes since I launched, such as niching down even further to content that will specifically help freelancers. And I took an 18 month break in between ending that sort of first season of my podcast and rebooting in 2019. That being said, if you're a new listener to this show, I wanted to do a recap for this 100th episode of the top 10 episodes that are the most downloaded, the most talked about, the ones that I feel are the best and can be the most helpful for freelancers.

So I'm going to recap these 10 episodes for you to give you a brief introduction about what that episode is about and why it's important. This would not be a good episode to listen to if you are driving, exercising, or not able to easily write things down. If you are able to write things down, you can grab these episode numbers and make note of the ones that you want to go and take a listen to.

10. Episode 91

A relatively recent episode that is all about the freelancers guide to raising your rates. I get questions about people raising their rates all the time. It does not have to be that complicated. It's important to raise your rates on a regular basis. But a lot of freelancers seem to get stumped with this idea of how they should do this.  I get questions like:

  • Do I do this across my entire business?
  • Do I keep my current clients at the rates they have?
  • How do I break this news to current clients that I'm thinking about having a rate increase?
  • How often should I do it?
  • How much should that increase be?

This is an area where a lot of freelancers tend to overthink. So if you're confused about some of my recommended approaches, check out “Episode 91: The Freelancers Guide to Raising Your Rates”.

9. Episode 10

This is one of my favorite time management and productivity tips, the Pomodoro Technique. I use the Pomodoro Technique every single day. And Episode 10 is called “Pump Up Your Business with the Pomodoro Technique” because it really has the potential to be a game changer and help you lay out your dates more effectively.

One of the biggest mistakes that I see a lot of people make is trying to work in really long uninterrupted stretches and thinking, “Well, you know, if I spend six hours on this project, I can knock it out from beginning to end.” What tends to happen for most people is that that's too overwhelming and too long. So thinking about how you can chunk your work into smaller segments, and remain hyper focused during that period, is really what the Pomodoro Technique is all about. In this episode, I gave you some ideas for how to get started. And then some of the different timers and tools that I recommend or have used with the Pomodoro Technique.

Now, there's been a lot of really good research about how many pomodoros, which typically means 25 minute work segments, but can also refer to 50 minute work segments, are optimal in a day? This isn't a situation where you want to take that eight hour work day and say that you're going to have 16 pomodoro in that period with no breaks beyond five minutes in between each one. There's definitely a sweet spot to hit there with several focused work periods per day. But not overloading yourself, because your brain really has a hard time keeping up with that.

8. Episode 17

I would love for you to go back and listen to Episode 17, where I had guest Catherine Morehouse talking about the power of niching down. Now a lot of freelancers and freelance coaches will tell you that you should never niche down.  That is something I do not agree with. Because I think that niching down has the potential for you to start charging as an expert and really be a specialty provider.

If you are just a writer, there are so many writers that you have no way to distinguish yourself. And niching down doesn't have to mean that you claim one particular industry or one type of project and you do that forever. With freelancing you have a tremendous amount of flexibility. But we talk in this episode about how focusing on the clients you like to serve best makes you become the go to person for that service. So go listen to Episode 17 if you're curious about whether or not you might want to niche down in 2020.

7. Episode 23

Switching back over to these time management and productivity tips, This one is called “Stop Changing Lanes in Your Brain”. This is another thing that I coach freelancers about a lot. And it works hand in hand with the Pomodoro techniques that I covered in Episode 10.

Changing lanes in your brain by constantly switching between different types of tasks is not just exhausting, it's really inefficient. And yet, it's the way that 90% of freelancers run their business. Choosing instead to batch your work and to focus on particular tasks during certain blocks of time is much more likely to make you feel successful and not as exhausted at the end of the day. So check out Episode 23 if you want to learn a little bit more about what I mean by changing lanes in your brain and how you can kind of break out of some of those bad habits.

6. Episode 26

Another challenge into that basis, a lot of freelancers, especially those who are scaling, is shiny object syndrome. This is the idea that you see a new project or idea and you run with it all the way before fully evaluating it. And that takes your focus away from some of the activities that you really need to be doing to grow your business.

So Episode 26 with guest Rita Morales is perfect if you're thinking about how to cope with shiny object syndrome. How much is enough? When is an idea just an idea that you should store as a potential future thing to explore? And when is it something you need to take action on right away?

5. Episode 94

I just recently recorded this episode.  It is a must must must listen to episode. This was with guest, Mariam Tsaturyan. And we were talking about freelance contracts. What goes into a contract? What mistakes do freelancers make when putting together contracts? What clauses are Must have, or clauses that you should be aware of when they come to you and a client provided contract?

Mariam is not just an attorney, she is a freelancer herself. And she sells some amazing templates to help you get started so you don't have to pay hundreds of dollars to an attorney.

So that's Episode 94. Any Freelancer in business for themselves has to know how to use contracts. So I strongly recommend that episode.

4. Episode 54

This episode is all about choosing the right clients. I had a guest on the show who was an editor and we talked a lot about what it really means to define who your ideal client is and how to work specifically and mostly with those clients.

If you've been listening to this podcast for any period of time, you know that I am a big advocate of only working with the right clients.  The right client means your ideal clients, the rock stars that you want to build your business around. But so many freelancers get tied into this idea of wanting to work with everyone and making themselves a little too available to those potential clients.

In this episode, you'll hear from both me and my guest Elizabeth, what it means to choose the right clients and what that looks like for us. Because even though it's important that everyone should implement only working with their ideal clients, that's going to look different from one freelancer to another. And it's up to you to determine what your ideal client avatar is.

A lot of freelancers get hung up on, “Well, should I only work with one particular type of client? Should I only work with one type of industry? Is that what it means to say that I have an ideal client?” Sometimes you can go too far with that and you limit yourself as far as what opportunities are coming to you.

So it's important to think about what's that perfect balance that I can implement in my business that is going to be really successful for me to attract the right people and also repel the wrong people. Because you definitely want to make sure that you have a nice balance between those two things.

And I've got a great freebie that goes along really well with that, and it is called “Creating an Ideal Client Avatar”. You can visit There is a PDF there that can help you walk through figuring out who your ideal client is.

3. Episode 71

I believe this episode is a must listen.  It is all about toxic freelance clients. And it's interesting because since I recorded this episode, I've seen so many people own that term of toxic freelance clients and use it in their own way. So it's been really interesting to see how that has kind of spread from what I define a toxic freelance client as working with the wrong person or the wrong team can be really detrimental to your mental and physical health and also the way that you feel about your business every day. So listen in on some examples of what toxic freelance clients can be, and how to figure out if you are currently working with one.

2. Episode 75

Another must listen is the episode that comes in the number two spot on this top 10 list. That's “Episode 75: What to Do When Nothing is Converting with Your Clients”. Nothing drives me crazier than someone who says, “I've been pitching for two years and haven't had any results.” Never wait until the point where it's been six months, a year, or even two years before you ask questions about what you could be doing more effectively and figuring out why nothing is landing.

When I've worked one on one with freelancers in this situation, 9 of 10 times there's something wrong in their process. That's pretty easily fixed. It could be that their pitches are terrible or their work samples don't speak to what they're claiming in their pitch. They're targeting the wrong clients or they're not pitching enough. And so all of those things are really within your control as a freelancer and business owner. So listen in on what I recommend you do, based on where you're at in your business and some of the challenges that you're having if nothing is working.

1.    Episode 80

And number one on the list of Top 10 episodes is “Episode 80: 10 Habits of Successful Six Figure Freelancers”. At the time I'm recording this episode, I am working on the final draft for my second book, which will come out in October 2020, “The Six Figure Freelancer”.

I've done a lot of interviews with other six figure freelancers.  And I've worked with quite a few aspiring and current six figure freelancers in a coaching capacity. I've taken some of the things that they all have in common, or some of the habits they tend to most frequently have or work towards, to be successful.

Even if your goal isn't to have a six figure or multi six figure business, it's very important to think about the mindsets and the habits that other people who run a business at that level have. Because even adopting some of those could help you with your time management, your client selection, or with the way that you attract clients to you. You may be thinking, “I don't have the time or the interest to build a six figure freelance business.” It's still valuable to listen in to those different habits and workflows that six figure freelancers adopt because it can really make a difference in your business, even if you are only a side hustler.

That's my top 10 favorite episodes of this podcast since I launched in 2017.

Remember, if you have an episode idea, you can submit that to For those of you who have been tuning in since the beginning, thanks for hanging around until Episode 100. And I hope the future episodes continue to serve you just as well and help you really scale your freelance business.

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.

Mar 2, 2020

I’m so glad you're tuning in for another episode of the Advanced Freelancing podcast. Now this episode was inspired by a handful of one on one clients and strategy session clients who come to me because they feel like they're not booking enough business or that their pitches aren't converting. I recently talked about this in my Facebook group because most of the time, when I dig a little bit deeper with these coaching clients, I find out that they're not really sending any pitches at all. So that's why this episode is focused on how much you should really be pitching depending on the phase that you're at in your business.

Now, it's important to remember that even an experienced freelancer is going to have ups and downs.

So you'll need to adjust your pitching expectations based on where you're at in your business. A fully booked freelancer is probably not going to pitch as much as someone who just lost their biggest or only client and now essentially has to build their business from the ground up.

The reason I want to cover this on the podcast is because it comes up in such a similar way. So often I hear somebody say, “I'm not getting enough business. I really wanted to be fully booked. I wanted to replace my day job with freelancing.”  And they sort of lead with that concern

or complaint. And then I dig a little deeper and say, “Okay, well, how many pitches did you send last week?” The answer is almost always something like two, one, or none.

That really confuses me. Because would you go to your personal trainer and complain, or your spouse or your friend and complain by saying, “I'm not really building any muscle.” If the answer to that was, “I go to the gym once a month, or twice a week for 20 minutes, essentially doing the absolute bare minimum.”

The truth is that you always should be pitching as a freelancer.

I think a lot of times people assume that once you're fully booked, you can turn that part of your business off. That is not true. I believe that you should always be pitching. So let's start with this idea of being the new freelancer who's really looking to scale their business up, or the intermediate experienced freelancer who has recently taken a major hit in some way.

A major hit could be that you recognized that you had a collection of toxic clients and that you went ahead and fired a lot of them. It could be that you had one client or a few big clients that let you go. I've had one on one coaching clients cope with that as well. Where they had one huge client then that client’s business folded or something else happened where they had to step away. It could be that you took some time off from freelancing.  So you're not new to the game, but you had to take a couple of months off for personal or professional reasons. And now you're coming back and you really need to ramp your business up.

Again, these are what I would consider more like crisis pitching situations. And you definitely need to turn up the volume on how much pitching you're doing in order for that to be successful. It is not enough to jump back into the game and send one pitch or two pitches per week.

Now, people are often looking for this magic number.

I'm not guaranteeing that what I'm going to tell you is going to be your magic number. But if you're not sending a minimum of 25 pitches a week, I never want to hear that your pitches are not working. If you're sending 25 pitches a week or real close to it, like 22-23, and nothing is converting, then we have a problem with the pitch, your samples, or how you're approaching people.  You might be targeting the wrong clients. 

But when you're only pitching once or twice a week, you do not have enough data to say that this isn't working. That is the absolute bare minimum that a fully booked freelancer should be sending. So if you are going crisis mode or if you are new, promise yourself that you're going to send 25 pitches a week.

Now I include everything in that 25 pitches.

That includes job board pitches, Upwork, reaching out to people on LinkedIn, and sending cold email pitches. That even includes if you do have previous clients, if you're that experienced freelancer, that includes following up with them and reaching out to see if there's more business they can offer you.

For example, I've had a client for three years that all of a sudden they just stopped assigning me projects around the end of December. And right now, we're about one month later when I'm recording this episode. And I didn't know why that was.  But the job I couldn't get them to respond to me in the Upwork work room. So I just closed the job and left them feedback and was like, “Okay, well what do I do now?”

The next step for me was finding the owner of that company who had had a few conversations with in the Upwork work room. And who I knew was the person who was paying the invoices. I found him on LinkedIn. And I connected with him.  I sent him a personalized message about who I was, in case he didn't remember. And we kind of had some back and forth for a couple of days. And it wasn't until he consistently saw me posting on LinkedIn that I think my name kept popping up into his brain.

This is one of the strategies I go over a lot in LinkedIn for freelancers.

It's often the lurkers or the people that you may have a really firm outreach method with, but they don't necessarily respond to that. It's sometimes the fact that they're looking and watching your profile. And they hear from you enough and see you enough that they reach out.

So for me that outreach was considered a pitch for that particular week.

I was re engaging that client and initiating that conversation all over again. And that client immediately after seeing me post different things about my business on LinkedIn, some of which were not even related to freelancing, suddenly reached out and said, “Hey, we really need to bring you on with a retainer.  We really have several projects per month that we need your help with.” So we negotiated that contract very quickly and got things going.

So that's just one example like a pitch does not always have to be from square one, you sit down and you write it. It can be a follow up. And it can be Upwork or can be all of the other things that I've mentioned. It could be following up with someone that you met at a networking meeting in person and you're trying to initiate that process.

I don't know why it's become so common that a lot of freelancers think that we have a lot of benefits in our business.  It is a lot easier to win clients, thanks to things like the internet. And thanks to things like job boards like Upwork. But that doesn't mean it's easy. If it were as easy as spending five seconds a day on your marketing, then everyone would be a freelancer.

The fact that everyone is not a freelancer should be telling you that there is work going on behind the scenes.

And it is not just the work that you do for your clients. As a freelancer, you are a salesperson.   That is your job. Yes, you might create content. As a virtual assistant, you might do admin tasks. You might design logos and other tools. But more importantly, you are a salesperson. And if you are not starting that sales process, initiating conversations, and sending out pitches, you will eventually have a lot of your work dry up.

This is something where a lot of those more experienced freelancers fall into a really bad habit that I will talk about in a moment. So if you're new or if you are in crisis mode, 25 pitches a week no complaining about problems with your pitching or that your business isn't growing, if you're not sending 25 pitches a week. Because if I am working with you one on one or if

you're in a strategy session, if you're in my facebook group, or you respond to one of my emails, and you know you have a legitimate concern, which is “I'm not booking business. My business isn't growing. I don't have enough clients on the books.”

My first question to you is going to be how much you are pitching? And if your answer is an hour a week or two pitches a week or three pitches a week, it is simply not enough. You're not serious about growing your business if you are only doing it a handful of times per week. So there needs to be a little bit of an expectation adjustment there as far as what it really takes to grow your business and to bring in business.

So perhaps you’ve been booked for a while.

So that was part one is for the person who's new, and for the person who's in crisis mode. Now, let's switch gears into the freelancer who's been at this for a while and is close to fully booked or is fully booked. This is a myth that a lot of freelancers assume, “Well, I'm good. I'm fully booked. I'm going to stop marketing.” And this really comes back to bite you if you need to fire a client. If a client's business folds or if a client fires you, that can be devastating if you've done absolutely no marketing for the last one to three months. Because you're essentially starting from zero in that crisis mode as well.

To guard against this, I strongly recommend having a pipeline of warm leads at all times.

This means that you might dial your marketing back, but you're still actively involved in marketing. So even when I'm fully booked, I am still posting articles on LinkedIn. And I'm still following other thought leaders on LinkedIn commenting on their posts and responding to their comments on mine. I'm still checking Upwork. And I'm still checking the daily job boards once a day. I'm not putting hours and hours into that effort. Instead, I might be only putting 30 minutes a day into Upwork. But I never let my marketing just sit there.

Perhaps I've got that process streamlined.

And I've got a virtual assistant posting on LinkedIn for me and I feel like I'm good. I still should be taking forward action steps with my marketing every single week. So maybe I outsource a lot of my marketing tasks to keep it on autopilot. But I might say, “You know what, I don't really have a funnel. I'm not offering a freebie to my clients where they get something after enrolling in my email list. And I'm not using that to nurture my leads and follow up with them.” You may say something like, “My blog sucks. I really need to fix it and pick the 10 blog post topics I'm going to write about next.” Those are also ways that you can still be involved in marketing, when you're close to fully booked or fully booked. Take on some of those bigger projects, so that you can continue to have people who are reaching out to you.

You know best what your turnaround time is on your pitches. For example, maybe you pitch on Upwork jobs. And it's like three to five days later and you've got that contract set up on Upwork. If you're doing cold outreach to somebody on LinkedIn or through emails, it might take a lot longer than three to five days. So pitching today, even on that simmer mode, isn't about the business you get today. It's about getting that person as a warm lead in your pipeline for the future. So the pitches that I send today, on my low power mode, are really about the best business that I'm hoping to book two, three, or four months later.

You can see why that's so important that you continue to send pitches even when you are fully booked or very close to fully booked.

Because what's the worst case scenario that could happen? Someone wants to hire you and you don't have capacity yet? Great. Put them on a waitlist. Tell them it's going to be another couple of weeks before you can bring them on. Fire a low paying client that you hate and replace it with this better person. I've never understood why people will hold back from pitching because they're fully booked.

I still think it's a good idea to have warm leads in the pipeline. You can always tell them no if you can't do the project right now. And you can always tell anyone no if they present a project to you that you're not interested in working on. You can always say no. And that puts you in the primary power position as the decider. Yes, you're reaching out to the client, but you are by no means obligated to work with someone just because you pitch them.

So why wouldn't you open yourself up to as many opportunities as possible? Where you're in the decision maker deciding whether you want to bring this client on or not. And what that looks like.  Perhaps you pitch them and you're pretty close to fully booked right now and you have one client whose contract is wrapping up. Use that as a negotiation and persuasion tactic. When you're talking to this new prospective client mentioned, “Hey, in two weeks, I have an opening on my calendar because I'm wrapping up a project. If you sign in the next 72 hours, I can get you on my calendar for two weeks from now and you can spend the interim two weeks getting me the information I need to do the job and getting me set up.”

So don't stop pitching because you assume that you're going to be fine or because you think that, “Oh, what happens if I get too much business?”

Listen, you can always negotiate around that. You could outsource that to a subcontractor. You could put the person on a waitlist. And you could give them an incentive like they have to sign up sooner and get the first available spot. There's so many options that you can pursue with that.

So it should never be an excuse, because that's what it is. It’s an excuse as to why you're not doing pitching when you're fully booked.

Now, the amount of work that you do on pitching will vary a lot based on where you're at in your business and the seasons as well.

I encourage you to look back at some of the previous episodes about slow seasons in your freelance business that will help you kind of prepare for that. There are lots of people who say, “Oh, every day is an opportunity to do business.” Yeah, sure. But your pool of people is much smaller in the three weeks surrounding Christmas. It's essentially a dead zone in August when nobody is even in the office and a lot of people are cramming in their end of summer vacations.

So can you get business during those times? Sure. But it's not going to be as consistent or as easy as it might be during other periods. So perhaps, let's say it's in the fall. You recognize that December is coming. Perhaps you turn up the heat on your marketing and your pitching now after recognizing that December in January might be a little bit slower months. So maybe you put in a little more marketing effort to try to secure some clients on longer retainers to get you through those months.

Pitching should always be either in the foreground or the background of your business.

It should never disappear entirely. And I have met way too many freelancers who have put it off, have not done it, or who think it's going to be a lot less work than it is. And the truth is, if you are not booked at all, if you have no clients, if you have one client, or if you're new,  you need to be doing 25 pitches a week. The first question I'm going to ask if you are fully booked or pretty close or you're an experienced freelancer and you have a couple clients but you haven't quite filled out your client roster with as many people or as much money as you would like.  Then you can definitely turn down the power of your marketing plan.

But it should still be something that you work on every single week, even if it's in small ways.  Even if that's 30 minutes a week that you take to write a handful of LinkedIn posts with the right hashtags. It could be that you get up every morning before getting started and you connect with five people on LinkedIn or you scan the job boards to see what's new. You do all of your follow ups together. It doesn't have to be a massive project when you are close to fully booked. But you always should be doing something that moves you in a forward direction with your business.

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 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 address, It's definitely getting flagged as spam. If it's a 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 or

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.

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Nov 18, 2019

I’m coming to you today with another guest who's going to share her great insight into how to make freelancing work for you.  She’s also going to share when to decide that maybe it's not the right fit, and you want to scale it down or work your freelance business in a different way.

My guest today is Dani Belvin who is a New Mexican theatre artist, educator, and arts administrator driven by the desire to make a positive impact in Albuquerque. She holds an MFA in Theater and a BA in Theatre, Education, and Asian Studies.

As an educator, she's worked with students of all ages in New Mexico, Hawaii, Japan, and China. As a performer, she's also studied 12 different Asian theatre and dance forms. And in addition to working full time in arts administration at an art center, she teaches part time at the college level and produces and co-host of the podcast, Biracial Unicorns.  It is a podcast about race, gender, and pop culture.

We're going to be talking about things that are a little bit off the beaten path for where a lot of the traditional freelance conversations go.  Which is, you're working it as a side hustle to bring it into a full-time gig.  You’re potentially using it to grow an even bigger and bigger freelance business.

My guest today is Dani.  I asked her what she would say her background is with freelancing.

She shared that she was an accidental freelancer. She feels like she’s heard me say that about myself. She didn't have the intention to freelance after she went to graduate school.  She went to graduate school with the intention of becoming a college professor. And that turned out to be a lot more difficult than she first thought.

So she knew that she wanted to teach.  And because her degrees happened to be in the arts... Well, there are a lot of very tangible transferable skills. But a lot of businesses don't see it that way. So it wasn't to fall into a traditional sort of job.

So she knew she wanted to work in the arts.  And she knew she wanted to teach. So she just accidentally fell into doing contract work in that way.  She was following through with any sort of opportunity and putting herself out there so that I could be in the classroom or be doing arts as a job.

So it started as kind of a way to support adjunct teaching. As far as college goes, she was teaching just a couple of classes a semester in the college setting. She started to pick up more and more other teaching jobs.  Part of it was through theatre company that she was a part of. And then part of it was through just other contacts she had made in the art world.

I asked Dani, “Was most of your freelancing was in teaching positions? Or were you doing different types of services for your clients?”

For the most part, it was teaching. The nature of theatre tends to be a lot of independent contract work as well. So while most of it was teaching, some of it was actually stage managing or performing in the theater world as well.

So when you were doing a lot of this freelance work, what did you feel were the benefits of choosing that instead of something that would be like a full-time tenure track or a Professor sort of situation?

The thing that Dani loves the most about freelancing was the freedom and flexibility to choose what she was doing.  And she could turn down gigs that did not align with her values, didn't align with her schedule, or weren't interesting to her. So she really enjoyed that aspect. And she enjoyed the aspect of creating her own schedule. All of that was, was really freeing and really

just gratifying to her.

But ultimately, it seems like that wasn't something that Dani wanted to stick with forever.  Which is kind of the nature of a lot of not just business, but life for creatives too.  We often discover along the way what we do and don't like or pick up some new passion and follow that thread.

So can you talk a little bit more about that process of maybe deciding, “Okay, I don't want to freelance forever”, at least in this particular way, and how you made that transition?

Dani shared that for her it was a lot of burnout. So she was working a lot and in a lot of different places.  That’s is part of the nature of freelancing.  She felt like she was spending a lot of time driving from gig to gig. And just constantly on the go.  It was exhausting.

For her, the move into a full time position meant having the stability of  working in one place.  It meant having the stability of having those set hours. And she thinks this is true for a lot of creatives. And for a lot of freelancers.

It's very difficult when you're starting out to figure out those boundaries.  She shared that she was more than happy to constantly be working. And for her that just was not sustainable. She was having a hard time figuring out where she was going to draw those boundaries with things like when was she not working? When was she working?” So that was really weighing on her.

Then a lot of it was the boring life things like needing health insurance and figuring out those those steps for myself. And while it is possible through freelance work,  it seemed very difficult for her.  And she had to evaluate if this was the type of work that she wanted to continue doing, or if she wanted to shift into something else.

So how did you make that shift into doing something else on a full time basis? Was that something where you were very intentional in your job hunting or did a job just sort of pop up and you're like, “Okay, this is it. This is my chance to make a move.”?

Dani shared that it was more the ladder in her case. She had reached the point where she was acknowledging her burnout and that she needed to do something else. And she was about to take some steps back.  She had set aside some time and savings to kind of pull back on what she was doing come the fall of that year.

 And she set that space with the intention of job hunting.  Perhaps reconsidering applying for full-time professor jobs out of state. She wasn't sure if she wanted to move away from where she was. But she set that space to search and decide.

Right before she was about to transition into that space, a job kind of popped up.  It was a full-time job with an organization she had been contracting with before. So she knew that the organization matched a lot of her personal values and was a good place to work. She knew a lot of people who were already in that organization, not well, but well enough to know that it seemed like a great place to work and it was in arts education.

But through the administration side.  So it was something a little different than she had done previously.  But because she had been doing a lot of freelance individual work she had the skills that they were looking for. She also had the practical experience of being on the ground doing the teaching, working as an artist, and having knowledge of both sides of it. So it was kind of an ideal situation that accidentally happened as well.

Well, that's actually very interesting, because through your freelance experience, even though you realized that that wasn't a path you wanted to continue down, you still had this introduction to this company and the people there to where you knew what some of the job would look like.

I think Dani touched on a couple of things that are really important.  But the one that I want to pull out first is this idea of setting aside space.

Because one of the challenges of freelancing that I think anyone who's done it can experience is the fact that it can overtake all day every day. And what tends to get crowded out is this idea of that intentional space setting to think about working on your business or even taking the step back to say, “Is this what I want to be doing?”

When your skills are in demand, it is very easy to fill your day with work for clients.  Sometimes I've even seen freelancers who have waiting lists.  They're turning down other clients, because they're so busy. And I think it was very smart that Dani’s first step was not along the lines of firing all her clients today. Nor did she have the mindset of taking whatever job pops up. 

She very intentionally said, “I'm going to put some space in here to figure out what this is going to look like because I don't necessarily know what my next step is.” And I feel that it's so hard for a lot of freelancers to do that just because of the way we work.  We tend to be thinking about other people's businesses. Or the projects we're working on.  And not recognizing how it's affecting us.

Prior to doing that your step, Dani recognized that she was in, at least, the beginning stages of burnout. I asked her if she could speak a little bit about that to help other freelancers who might not realize that there are some subtle signs popping up that they might be burning out.

I asked Dani, “What would you do if you could go back in time and talk to yourself at that period and raise those red flags sooner?

Dani thinks, for her, and probably for a lot of people who work in freelance, we go down that path because it's the work that we want to do.  It's the work that we value.  And it's a passion!   It's very hard to be motivated to work for yourself or to take on different clients nad different small side jobs, unless it's something you're passionate about.

And so, for her, the early signs of burnout were she was unhappy. And she did not see the same level of passion and commitment to the work that she had when she was beginning. She was very unhappy and very tired. She started to dread having to work. Instead of it feeling like something that was feeding her, it felt like she was just feeding the work.  So she thinks those were the early signs for me.

And then actual physical exhaustion was a part of it as well.  Like she mentioned before, she thinks a lot of it, for her, was the lack of very firm boundaries. So if she could go back, she thinks that would be something that she would work on and establish early on. And she thinks with those boundaries, it helps prevent burnout.  But she thinks you're also more likely to catch the burnout before it happens.

Yes, I could not agree with you more. I think that boundaries is probably up there with imposter syndrome and and mindset work.

But it is one of the most important things that a lot of freelancers don't realize how much they're hurting themselves and their business by not having good boundaries.  Because a lot of us come from employee-employer situations.  Or we're working with companies that don't realize they need to or have to treat freelancers differently.

It can feel very much like a power move to put those boundaries down with a client.  But it's very, very important for your own mental health. And I love that Dani acknowledges some of the signs of what that looks like for her. Because there's almost a sense of grief when you start to realize that this thing you built is great, but then it's physically exhausting you.  And you’re not even feeling lit up by it. Yes, it's bringing in money.  And clients are relatively happy, but it's having these other negative impacts on me.

So can you talk about this job opportunity that came up? How did you wind down your freelance work?  Did you keep it on but were just different about how you decided what to do with freelance clients?

Dani shared that it’s a little bit of both. Like she mentioned before, she had already started taking steps back when this job opportunity arose. So she had already created some space. When she started at this new job, in this new position, she as still honoring the commitments she had already made.

And she made it pretty clear when she accepted the position that it was important to her to be able to have the space to honor those commitments and follow through on the things she had already said she was going to do.  Which she doesn’t know why she found it surprising, but she did find it very surprising that the company loved that about her. They told her that's one of the reasons we hired her.

She did have a few other teaching gigs lined up, which I followed through and completed.  Luckily for her, within her work, everything was very structured on a calendar and an academic calendar. So she knew when those things would end.  She also knew that because it was work that she was passionate about that she wasn't able to give it up completely.

So while she was winding down with those things, she was trying to figure out how much of it she could keep, in addition to a 40 hour a week job.

And so through conversations with the college she was contracting with and her new employers, she was able to see how much space she could have.  She’s now in my third year in this position.  And she has continued to do some side contract work and some teaching at the college level while she has been there. So it's continuing to take that step back and see what the space was that allowed it.

What she also really liked about it was that she was able to build in more space for other projects that she wanted to do that weren't necessarily completely under the umbrella of what she was doing before. So it was nice to have that security of a full time job, but be able to continue a little bit of the work that she was really passionate about,  It was also nice to be able to create some space for new things. Because she thinks this is true for a lot of creatives and freelancers, we're always wanting to learn new things to improve ourselves to find something that will satisfy us. So she loves that she has that space in my schedule now that she’s able to try new things as well.

I understand and that makes a lot of sense. Because when you're doing one particular thing or a couple of different things in your freelance skill set wheelhouse, it's very easy for those to become the most profitable or the ones that are requested the most. 

You do them over and over again. But it really can crowd out the opportunity to learn new things or even just pick something up that's a hobby.  I see a lot of people get stuck in this mindset of wondering if something is  going to make them money.  Not everything you do has to make you money, or has to be part of your business. It can be if you want, but you can also just pick up a hobby or follow a thread to see how much you're interested in it.  I think that that's a really common pitfall that people fall into.

I asked Dani to walk me through how her process has changed as far as deciding whether or not to take on a freelance project. Now, knowing what she does from having done it before and balancing this full time job and some other projects.

She shared that she feels like she has drawn a much stronger line. It used to be where she would pretty much accept anything that she  was remotely interested in. And now knowing that she has much more limited time to accommodate those things, she has to be a lot more intentional.

So for her that means she knows that she can only accept one or two things in a given amount of time.  She still thinks very much in the semester schedule.  So she can only take one or two things every semester. And having that knowledge and that line makes her evaluate what it is that she enjoys the most.  Some of the things that she considers are:

  • What age group is it?
  • Is it that I want to work with the most?
  • What are the sorts of things that I want to teach?
  • Or what kind of art do I want to do that would fill me the most in this schedule?

 And it's nice because she doesn’t necessarily have to think about long term with her freelance work. Now, she only has to think about what's going to serve her in this amount of time. And she doesn’t have to necessarily worry about building anything or expanding anything.

That's a really great point.

One challenge that I know a lot of freelancers who are coming out, from the other direction where they have the full time job first and they're just starting to freelance, they always want to know if they need to tell their employer.  Or if they need to tell their freelance clients that they also have a full time job and these are the parameters under which it does or doesn't affect what they are doing for them.

I asked Dani if she does that with her clients. Do they know that you have other responsibilities, and you're not going to pick up the phone at 10 o'clock in the morning if they call out of the blue? Or is that something you just deal with on a different or case by case basis?

Dani shared that she thinks it's a case by case.  She has had semesters where she was very upfront with not only the college she was working with, or the people she was contracting with, but also with the students who she was teaching about her schedule. This is her life.  And this is when she’s available and when she’s not available.

She’s also had times where she doesn’t do that.  The other thing she finds that it doesn't make a huge difference is what she communicates to other people, it's really kind of drawing the line for herself.  That makes the bigger difference. So she thinks in both cases the outcome was about the same.

She feels as though she has moved into more of not necessarily having to disclose just because she doesn't understand necessarily what she was getting out of disclosing.  She doesn’t know if she was looking for people to understand that boundary, but she feels like you can establish that boundary without having to justify why.

That's a really good point because a lot of times there's not a ton of overlap unless the person from your freelance gig is trying to push into your other time when you're not available or need to be focused on something,

I really found that a lot of times when I was working full time that it just didn’t really affect it. And I didn't see how it affected my boss at all. I didn't see how it affected my freelance clients either.   We could either do a call at noon when I was on a lunch break or after hours.  We could even just discuss it over email.

So I agree with you that it's a case by case thing. I don't think you owe it to anyone unless there's going to be some potential where they're like, “Oh, we need you to be available at 3 pm every Tuesday.”  That’s when you have to tell them that you might not be the person for them because you’re working at that time.

But I agree that I think a lot of times it's about our own boundaries.  You have to ask yourself, “Okay, how am I going to have firm boundaries with both these things so that I don't get overwhelmed or don't shortchange anyone in the process?”

Well, this has been super helpful, for me at least, to hear how you've made this transition and really arrived at a balance of things that work best for you.

I think that's important for everyone listening to remember that you don't have to apply a formula from anyone and try to force that into fitting into your life.  You get to decide to what extent you're freelancing or you're not or you have a full time job or you work remotely or you're volunteering.  So you get to decide what that looks like.

And you can always change it too.  If it's no longer suiting you, for any reason, you can always adapt and change it. So never feel like you're a prisoner to your circumstances.  Because you always have the power to adapt.

And that's something I think we've talked about a lot in this episode is tuning into those signals in yourself know this isn't working. How do I make that decision? How do I wind things down and move forward in a step that's positive?

I asked Dani where people could go to learn more about her and all of the great work she’s doing including her podcast.

The best place to learn about her is through her podcast, which is one of those lovely things that has been able to rise because I've had that extra space in my life and is able to fulfill me in a different way. So, she co hosts and produces a podcast called Biracial Unicorns. They're available on all the podcasting platforms.

This was such a great episode full of useful information.  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.

Nov 4, 2019

This is episode 86 of the Advanced Freelancing podcast. I'm doing a separate introduction here because this is the first time that I've interviewed a guest in this new format and reboot of my podcast.  I was super excited to talk to her because of her expertise.

Today’s podcast guest is fellow freelance superstar Hilary Sutton.

She is a writer, speaker, and consultant that is passionate about helping people spend their days in work that is wildly fulfilling. She is the host of the podcast Hustle and Grace, which you should totally go check out right now.  Binge some of that after you're done with this episode.

She's also the author of several ebooks and courses including “More in Less: 21 Productivity Hacks for Creatives”.  She has also served as a Professor of Communications, Social Media and Journalism, at Southern New Hampshire for five years.  And she's also a freelance writer for hire with expertise in direct response, copywriting, and content marketing.

As a freelancer, she has served clients ranging from Broadway shows to non profits large and small, creatives of all stripes, and consumer brands.  And she has written hundreds of articles in dozens of publications, including USA Today and The Washington Post. She and her family live in the DC metro area.  We will post all of her contact information at the bottom of the show notes.

This episode is for you if you've been thinking that perhaps full time freelancing or full time remote work might not be for you.

And how could you create a hybrid blend, where you've got essentially an employee-employer relationship as part of the mix, but not as your full time gig. I hear from more and more freelancers these days who are looking to build an intentional freelance business. They don't want to be working 40 or 60 hours a week as a freelancer.

For some of them freelancing was their ticket out of working in a dead-end job, but they're now realizing that freelancing full time isn't quite the right fit either. The cool thing about these side hustlers is that we can rearrange our business and client load whenever we want to reflect the new dreams and goals that we have.  Hilary is the perfect example of that. So stay tuned in this episode to hear more about the different transition she's made and how she recommends you do things like how to pick which industry or type of skill to focus on how to keep clients thrilled about coming back to work with you on retainer.

With that, let’s get into Hilary’s story.

Hilary shared that she has been a person from the beginning who liked a lot of different things. She’s always been a person who loved writing.  She’s always loved theater. And she loved connecting with people in college.  She could not decide on a major for the longest time and actually ended up with three or four minors as a consolation prize.

She started freelancing around 2007-2008.  Which, if you'll remember, that was around the time that the great recession hit. So freelancing was something that she wanted to do, but it was also something she was kind of forced to do.  Because at that time, companies were on hiring freezes. People weren't hiring full time. So Hilary said that it was sort of like a happy accident that she got into freelancing at that time when people were actually sort of looking for some freelancers.

So she started freelance writing, then she was also balancing it with a career as an actress in theater, especially musical theatre.  It got to a point were in between performing, she was doing some writing here and there. But it wasn't really enough to pay the bills. And so she was also working retail and doing some different things.

Back to School

And so she thought she would go back to school and get a masters degree so she could at least possibly get into the online education boom that was happening at that time. She thought, if she could maybe teach online, she could still have this autonomous lifestyle that she loved.  She could work from anywhere. And she could go audition in the middle of the day.  There was something about a full time job that felt very limiting to her.  It felt very stifling to her and her personality, because in the beginning she had three or four different minors and a love for lots of different things. So she always really liked variety.

So back to school she went.  She studied media and communications with a focus on media.  She really dove into the social media space.  That was also really interesting timing because that's when companies started realizing, “Hey, we should hire someone or we should hire a freelancer or a consultant to help with our social media.”  And so that's sort of how she really got started as a full time freelancer.

She did social media. And she did a ton of blog writing. She still did article writing for magazines. That sort of grew into a career as a content marketer and a direct response copywriter that she has today.

Her Life Now

Now she lives in the DC metro area right outside of DC.  She works as a full time freelancer. There was a time just a couple of years ago that she thought that maybe what she really wanted was to work remotely.  She thought that it would give her the flexibility and autonomy that she wanted.

Well, it turns out she really likes working for herself. So she works as a part time consultant with an agency.  That's sort of her anchor client. She’s technically a W2 there, but she’s part time.  She works remotely. She feels like they're her client to be honest. But she is part of a team.

So she does that part time. And then she sprinkles in whatever she has time for around that. So she does direct response copy.  She does freelance career coaching.  And she has some online courses and intellectual property. She does public speaking.  Basically, she does lots of different things. She likes to keep the variety going. But she does have this dependable anchor client in the staffing agency.

I think it reflects a lot of what we freelancers like.

A lot of us get that feeling of being stifled in a traditional job where you're doing the same thing all day every day. Even though sometimes the variety can be a little bit crazy, it's often a welcome part of the freelancer's life.  Why? Because you do get to decide who you work with and who you don't.

It's interesting that Hilary brought up that she has this anchor client.  To her, they're kind of a client, but not really because it's also like an employee employer situation, but it's super flexible. So you view it like a client.

It's very interesting because a lot of times for people that are looking to do full time freelancing, I tell them to never just have one client,  That's super dangerous, right?  You should never put all your eggs in one basket. And obviously, Hilary done that. But what advice does Hilary have for freelancers who maybe get an offer like that?

I see a lot of people who are like, “Oh, a recruiter contacted me about a remote opportunity or a part time opportunity. They want to pay me W2.  How do you set that up for success in the rest of your business being in the context of freelance?” It sounds like they're very much like a client for Hilary.

How can freelancers tell the difference between an employer that really wants to treat you like an employee and someone who's more like a willing to be flexible with the remote work?

Hilary shared that she thinks some of it is that you just have to feel out in the interview process. But she thinks you also have to be honest from the beginning about what your values are and what you care about.  Be honest with them that they're going to get your 110% effort. But you're not going to have that same approach to the company that other people might go in there from 9 to 5.

Hilary shared that in her situation, she doesn’t view them as an employer. And she also feels like they put her in my own special category as well. So you know, there are times when it's so beneficial because she’s outside of the office politics.  She’s outside of the water cooler chatter.  Those parts of working in an office that she frankly, doesn't feel comfortable with and doesn’t really like.

So she thinks it's important to be honest from the get go. She thinks it's important to ask the tough questions in that process in the beginning.  You have to yourself, “Self, what is important to me?”  You have to ask how much anxiety does it bring me to have five different clients that all get 20% of my time or, 10 different clients still get 10% of my time?  Is it less for you to worry about? Is it less for you to think about? Does it bring you some peace of mind to have a client that's 40%?

Hilary said that to her, it's all about a happy medium.

Because a lot of times she thinks a freelance line item on a budget feels unemotional to cut at the end of the year. Whereas, if you are a W2, she thinks that employers and companies don't feel as comfortable just being like, “Oh, we'll just reallocate that money.”

She has had that experience herself. She had a client that was about 20%- 25% of her income recently. And at the end of the year, they just said, “Oh, we're just going to rearrange some things. And we're going to hire someone in house.”  It was over an email and was so impersonal. And all year, they had been a huge piece of her pie. But, she was just a line item for them.

So Hilary thinks there is something beneficial about having that relationship where you're not full time, you don't do the commute every day, and you're not there every day, but they rely on you. You rely on them almost like a retainer. Hilary thinks it's a good thing. It's a good situation, depending on what you want and what your goals are.

So Hilary is talking about a setup that's a little bit different than your traditional freelance setup.

Most freelancers have defined channels for marketing.  They know how they're going to find their clients.  I asked Hilary what she suggests that freelancers interested in a client like hers go and do to fine someone like that. Do you use different terminology or pitching techniques or networking to find a client like that and to kind of convince them that you're the right one for the role? Because like Hilary mentioned, a lot of times, we are seen as outsiders.  Freelancers are brought in to work on specific projects.  Or as a writer, they might do some of the content marketing.

How do you kind of bridge that gap between being a freelancer and working as a part time employee or W2?

Hilary thinks it depends on where you're coming from and what you're doing just prior to that.   For me and her situation, she had been working full time for a company remotely. And she just put the flag on her LinkedIn saying that she was open to conversations with recruiters. She moved my location to the DC metro area because she was moving to DC and almost immediately when she got there, a local company reached out to me.

It was a marketing staffing agency So they didn't take long for them to find someone who was the right fit.  Hilary shared that she was a great fit for them not only because she was looking and open to freelance and part time and remote opportunities, but also in her previous job, she was doing the marketing writing.  Which is the kind of writing that I liked, but the topic wasn't something that I was passionate about.

So in her off times from when she wasn't working on the projects for her job, she was contributing to newspapers like the USA Today writing about careers.  She was writing about how to nail your internship.  Those kinds of topics that actually aligned really beautifully with this client and part time gig that she has now.

Hilary thinks it's important before you find that perfect sweet spot that you're really putting it out there and cultivating your own personal brand around the topics and the things that you love to write about or the projects that you just love to do. Don't just get bogged down in whatever it is that your current job and the projects assigned to you.  Create your own work. Hilary thinks that really attracts those special opportunities. And it will also show that you're more than just a writer.  You're more than just a designer.

Whatever it is that you do, you also have a passion for this specific niche. Because when you have a passion for a specific niche and someone needs someone like you, they're more willing to be flexible.  They're more willing to be like, “Okay, well we really want somebody in the office.  We really want to pay this.  But maybe we can rework some things because who's gonna be more perfect for this job that you? Probably no one. So we'll do what you want to do. We'll make it work.”

I love that youHilary brought up a couple of things there that I think are so important for any business owner or even someone who's looking to be a professional and work as an employee.

That is making yourself visible to recruiters on LinkedIn. I probably post about this several times a month in my Facebook Group.  Why?  Because it's just takes three minutes.  Go turn the button on and tell the recruiters exactly what you're available for. Because that is always the most searched person. Every time I go into who's viewed my profile on LinkedIn, recruiters are always number one.  Those are great relationships to cultivate. It's free and easy.  If your profile is optimized, that's perfect.

And then Hilary also talked about building your own brand.  I think this is so important.  People get bogged down in that too. If you don't have a lead at USA Today or Business Insider where you can post, then use your LinkedIn and your website to build your brand.  You need to be posting articles and content that are relevant to your industry.  People also find you that way through the hashtags, through the words that you use, and how frequently you post.

I think Hilary has a really great perspective because she’s worked in these different industries. And one thing I'd love for her to break down is the difference between working remotely and working as a freelancer.

The reason I bring this up is because I'm in a lot of communities with other military spouses and a lot of them are looking for remote opportunities.  Because, obviously, they move a lot. They want a job that's going to travel with them. And there's sometimes this confusion between, What's the difference between working remotely and something like starting my own business as a virtual assistant or something like that you've actually done it.  I asked Hilary to share from her perspective, what would you say those primary differences are? And how do you know which one might be right for you?

Hilary said when it comes to what are the differences, it's pretty cut and dry to start with.

A remote job is a job where you might as well be in an office because you have like one client.  You have one job.  And you have one supervisor.  You're probably benefited and get things like  401k and insurance.  You're an employee just like anyone else, except that you don't have that commitment to the office.

Whereas a freelancer, you can kind of like cultivate it and make it whatever you want it to be. It's where you are the business.  You don't work for another business.   But you are the business. So you not only do the work, but you also do the business development.  You go and find the clients.  And you take care of billing and invoices.  So if you're thinking about if a business is like the office, then you are everybody in the office.

Hilary was referring to The Office TV show because she’s finally catching up on it. It's like 10 years too late, but she’s in the final season. When you are the business, you are fearless. You are Michael. You are Angela.  You're everyone if you're a freelancer.  But if you work as a remote employee, then you are just one of those guys and you work from home.

I think that's a great way to explain it.

And I think some of it also comes down to the level of risk you're willing to absorb at the outset.  Because honestly, I know a lot of people are like, “Oh, a full time job, whether it's remote or an office, it's so much more stable.” There's a lot of arguments to make that your job could be eliminated or like the company that I used to work for before freelancing completely closed. So stability and risk is a questionable thing at that.

But when you're starting out, like you said, as a freelancer, you have to go create your own paycheck.  At a job you're showing up and they're telling you these are the things we need you to do. You're going to get the benefits. This is going to be your paycheck,  It's going to drop in your account every two weeks. A freelancer is taking on more of that upfront risk of saying, “Okay, I have to go chase the clients. I'm going to take on the responsibility of paying the taxes as a self employed person.  I'm going to figure out what to do with my benefits, etc.”

Some people are a little bit more averse to that. And others might be like, “Oh, yeah, I absolutely want to be my own boss.” So those are the important differences between remote and freelancing. I think it's helpful for people to know that,  The good thing too, is you could work remotely and still have a freelance side hustle.  There's lots of different ways that you could set it up.

Hilary talked about doing a lot of different activities and using those to land where she is now.  So I asked, for people who are just getting started with digital marketing and freelancing, how do you figure out what it is you want to specialize in or do and pitch that when there's so many options?

I know a lot of people who are like,  “I'm kind of into social media and maybe a little bit of writing and some other things.”  I asked Hilary how do you decide to narrow down or do you not recommend doing that?

Hilary thinks it depends on your personality. She thinks it depends on how much time you have on your hands that is available. And how much of a learning curve there is.  If you got a degree in marketing, and you've kind of been in that world and you already have specialized interests, pay attention to the things that catch your eye. Pay attention to the pages that you follow on Facebook, the brands that you scroll through on Instagram, and the accounts that you follow on Twitter.  What are the topics that catch your eye that you have a natural interest in?

She thinks that's a really great place to start. Because she thinks that you're going to be more invested.  You're going to have more of a passion for those projects. If you're still in the stage of  building a portfolio and finding who you are as a marketer then she thinks that it's good to start small.  Build those personal relationships and personal connections.

Start spreading the word that you're building a freelance business.  Maybe you don't want to ask someone directly for them to hire you or for their business.  Maybe you do.  You can minimally start spreading the word in your network by saying, “Hey, like I'm getting into this. I've always kind of had a knack for social media. I really think that I could help small like mom and pop restaurants, in particular, really nail their social media. I see so many bad pictures of food on Instagram. I really love taking pictures with this amazing portrait mode that I have on my latest iPhone. I really think that I could help people.”

Just start one email at a time or one Facebook message at a time.  You could do one coffee meet up at a time and build, build, build.  Spread the word about what it is that you like. And she  thinks starting with some that you're passionate about and pairing that with a skill that you're confident in is a really, really great place to start. And she thinks that there are lots of different things that you could do. But the more that you narrow down in the beginning, the more success that you can have because you can be confident that this is what you do well and you can really serve your clients well that way.

I love that advice, because I think it helps to be a little bit of a generalist when you get started because you don't know what you like or don't yet.

But I feel like when you say, “Alright, I'm going to be a social media marketer. I'm going to do content strategy. I'm going to do SEO and pay per click ads.” When you take on 6 or 7 different specialities, it's really hard to keep up with the changes and software in six or seven industries. Claim competency in one or two where you're like, “Yes, these are the blogs I follow. These are the podcasts I listened to. I do it enough within my day that I know what works as a best practice and what things are coming down the pike as trends.”

But I feel like I see a lot of freelancers, especially VAs, post on their website, “These are the 45 different services I can do for you.” That sets you up to be so frazzled and constantly having to go back and be like, “Okay, have there been updates in Facebook ads? I haven't worked at the Facebook Ads client in four months. So now I have to go back to the drawing board reteach myself that again.”  That can be really stressful.

So I think it's good, like Hilary mentioned, as soon as you get started, start seeing what you gravitate to.  Start seeing what you like and what converts well with clients.  What are clients asking you to do with them? Are your sales calls easy and they're like, “Oh, sold! I so don't want to do this.  You sound like the expert.”? Those are all signals that you can take and apply to your life.

I asked Hilary, what would be one of her best tips for getting clients to work with you consistently?

This big hurdle for a lot of freelancers both new and experienced.  They do a lot of one time projects. Since Hilary seems to develop relationships with her clients where it's more of a long term situation, how does she suggest that freelancers set themselves up to be open to more of those opportunities?

Firstoff, she thinks this is so important.  A few different things come to mind. The first is to  say yes to projects that you know you can nail.  I think it's nice to stretch yourself.  It's nice to try new things.  But in terms of building relationships with clients that you're going to have for a long time, you really want to build that dependability and that trust. So say yes to things that you feel very confident in.

Also cultivate real relationships. When you hop on a call, don't just get right down to business.  Ask someone about their family or how their sports team did.  You can ask things like what's the weather like today or where you are. She knows it sounds silly to always start with the weather, but it's such a nice icebreaker. And such a reminder of, “Yes, I'm here alone in my home in Northern Virginia, but you might be in your home office in Nashville.” She thinks it's so important to take the time to build a relationship besides just getting down to business.

I love that!  And especially notice that if you live somewhere unique, that can also really be a great icebreaker.

My husband and I just relocated to Minnesota a few months ago. And every single person who finds that out wants to know how cold it is.  They want to know how bad the winters are and why on earth would we move to Minnesota.   It just it instantly breaks people down from that level of professionalism when you show up to a call.  I used to say when people would ask me where I lived.  I would share that my husband is in the military. So we live wherever the Navy sends us.   And it would always disarm people to make them feel like they're talking to a person and less salesy and everything. So I totally agree.

And another one of my tips for that is when you are preparing to talk to a client or to start building that relationship, check out what you can about them online. A lot of people will share things on their LinkedIn or on other social media.  And I just openly admit to it like, “Hey, I kind of stalked you a little bit. I saw you run marathons. That's amazing.”  People are so flattered by that.  They're like, “Oh, yeah, I started doing it five years ago.”

It starts this whole honest communication thing, where you really are trying to get to know them. And you can ask questions about it or use that as an icebreaker. And you're right, it really sets people up to want to continue to work with you, because you took that little bit of extra effort to build a relationship and to have communication.

Move from email to the phone as quickly as possible

When I was talking about hopping on the phone and talking about something like that is one reason that Hilary is a big believer in moving some conversations from email to phone as quickly as possible.  When they email her and ask what her rates are or something like that, she wants to move that conversation from like cut and dry email to the phone as quickly as possible because she wants them to know that she’s a human. She wants to know that they're human. She wants to figure out how she can help them succeed at their job. If she can write the perfect thing for them, then that's going to help them put food on the table for their family. So as soon as you can, move from email to phone.  She thinks that's something that is really not done as much these days as it used to be. But she thinks that that can really be a game changer and building that rapport and building that connection with a client.

I am the same way, I always want my clients to get on the phone with me, even if it is for five minutes, because people can present themselves differently on paper than even in like phone or zoom or Skype communication. So I want them to know I am a real person.  I also feel like it's a much better chance for you to convert the sale.  If you get one of those emails with like, “Oh, send me your rates.”  And then you write back with your rate sheet. It's so impersonal. There's no value demonstrated there.

And the whole conversation is revolving around money, which does not put you in a positive negotiation situation at all.  It's very easy for the person on the other end of that computer to open it and think it’s too expensive. But when they've had that conversation with you, they're like, “Man, she really knew her stuff. She seems pretty organized. I saw her website and clients are raving about her. I just need to get this off my plate.  Why waste further time thinking about it?”  You built up that value there. So I could not agree with Hilary’s advice more.

So many freelancers are like, “Oh, we live in a digital world. Let me just close it over email.”  And not everyone can close over email.   You're still a stranger to them. So let's take that off the table a little bit and have even a 5-10 minute phone conversation. You're in a much better position there. So I love that advice, because I try to do the same thing.

I want to thank Hilary for agreeing to come on the show and sharing so much of her insight. I think that's going to be really helpful for people who are either new to freelancing or who are thinking about expanding their freelance business.  She shared a lot of really valuable insights.

Thanks for tuning in to 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.

Hilary Sutton is a writer, speaker, and consultant passionate about helping people spend their days in work that is wildly fulfilling. She is the host of the podcast, “Hustle and Grace” and the author of several eBooks and courses including More in Less: 21 Productivity Hacks for Creatives. Hilary served as professor of communications, social media, and journalism at Southern New Hampshire for five years. She is a freelance writer for hire with expertise in direct response copywriting and content marketing. As a freelancer she has served clients ranging from Broadway shows, to nonprofits large and small, creatives of all stripes, and consumer brands. She has written hundreds of articles in dozens of publications including USA Today and The Washington Post. Hilary and her family live in the DC metro area. Connect with Hilary on Facebook and Twitter @hilarysutton, on Instagram @hilary.sutton and on her website at

Oct 28, 2019

Charging a Freelance Per Piece Rate Can Make Things Easier… with One Caveat!

This is episode 85 of the Advanced Freelancing podcast. In this episode, I'll be talking about a recent experience I had with a client that I completed a test project for and then terminated from my client roster. This is based on a topic that comes up a lot. And that's when your per piece rate is not really a true freelance per piece rate.

From Hourly to a Freelance Per Piece Rate

Now, for most beginners in the freelancing world, charging hourly makes sense. 

Many freelancers struggle with how to set rates and to determine something that's fair. So for a lot of beginners, I recommend starting off the process by charging an hourly rate based on your expertise, your background in the industry, and sort of something you generally feel comfortable with.  Then give the client an overview of how long you think it might take you to complete the project that might vary from one project to another. And so that's why hourly is a good place to start.

You don't want to lock yourself into huge projects charging hourly.  But it can be a really good baseline to determine whether you need to charge more on an hourly basis.  So that you can start to get a sense of how many hours it takes you to do typical projects. Then you can convert to a per piece rate.

Freelancing at a Per Piece Rates Making Things Easier for Clients

I like per piece rates for lots of freelancers, because they make it easier on the client to know exactly what the client is paying for and going to get an exchange.

There are no surprise invoices for the client. But they can also be better for the freelancer because you aren't being penalized for being a fast or a slow worker.  I honestly believe that charging hourly is really hard for a lot of freelancers at the intermediate and advanced level, because we end up simply selling our hours. So a lot of times I based multiple factors into deciding whether or not I'm going to convert something from hourly to a per piece rate.

And my per piece rate is going to include my expertise in the industry. It is also going to factor in how long it's going to take me and other relevant information such as is this piece highly technical.  Or do I have to do more revision request for a particular client?   So when you can convert a client to a per piece rate, it makes a lot of sense.  Because then everybody knows up front what it is you're going to charge and you feel comfortable with the rate.

To Charge Per Piece, You Have to Know What the Project Requires

There are also some freelance projects where it's essentially impossible to charge a per piece rate unless you have a really good handle on what the project looks like.

Editing is a great example. Things like certain forms of virtual assistant work, data entry, and website maintenance are hard to get an exact read on how long a project like that is going to take. And it might be more appropriate to charge hourly. So keep that in the back of your mind.

Also, are there extenuating factors here? If someone's asking me to edit their dissertation, for example, and they sent me a one sample chapter to review,  I don't know if the sample chapters is going to take as long as every other chapter. So it might be easier for me to quote an hourly rate with a range if I can't get to that per piece rate. But in general, as a writer, my preference is a per piece rate, because it makes it very clear to everyone involved, exactly what's included>  You quote a number and tell them how many rounds of revision or how many phone calls or how many other bells and whistles they're going to get.

Check Out Another Recent Episode on Freelance Test Jobs

I want to walk you through an experience I recently had with a client and go back and review the previous episode about test jobs.

If that's something that you have not used before, I strongly recommend using test jobs. You can hear more about test jobs in episode 82. It's very important to help you get to feeling more grounded and confident.  Using test jobs is just as important for the client as they are for you as a freelancer because it allows you to test out who you might not want to work with.

My Recent Per Piece Freelance Project Mess

Recently I had the opportunity to work with a client on a project piece rate project.

It was actually a rush project. I was doing them a huge favor, because they essentially had another writer working in a contract position, but she was basically full time. And she quit in the middle of the month. So they had some social media calendars due. They had several blogs due. And some other information that was due at that time.

So the client sort of told me what person was doing. They gave an example of what was published. And they let me know the per piece rate.  So I  went and looked at the material and thought, “Okay, the purpose rate seems fair. This is a test project.  We can always come back to it and discuss this again after the test portion is complete should I go forward and working with them.”

Mismatched expectations can ruin freelance per piece rates.

This was actually a mismatch with expectations because it truly was a very low hourly rate once you factored in all of the other things that they consider to be a part of one piece.

So for example, they sent me a long hours and hours of video and or phone recordings with the client and the previous writer that they wanted me to listen to.   Now, some of these weren't even relevant because they were regarding content that had been published by the previous writer. But based on the per piece rate, that wasn't something we discussed at the outset of the project.  I wasn’t told that I was going to have to listen to hours of conference calls discussing each line item one at a time.

Also the rounds of editing that were expected were a little bit ridiculous. Also, the client gave me a title.  I stepped in to help turn this around really quickly as a favor.  I turned in many of one piece the same day and two more pieces the following day. And these were all overdue because the other writer had stepped down.

So my expectation was that I did this on a rush project for them based on the per piece rate we discussed to do that. And then they came back six or seven days later saying that what I had done wasn't exactly what the client was expecting. Why? Because that client had shared all their information outlining and what they wanted to see that piece be with the other writer. Well, of course, I didn't have access to that information.

And I didn't have the time or the interest in sitting down and listening to hours and hours of phone calls.

Because I started to think about all of the going back and forth communicating about this.  And I thought about all  these revisions on the one piece where they'd sent the information to the other writer and had never shared it with me. They wanted me to rewrite it entirely, which I did not agree to do.

Between texts, emails, phone calls, and the expectations that you'll respond right away.   They would send me emails at five o'clock.  Then two hours later reply all and say, “Did you get this or not?”  I'm not working anymore at 5:00 PM. You know what I mean? So that's when your per piece rate is not really a per piece.  Because you base your pricing for certain clients on what you anticipate goes into it.

For a writer,designer, or a developer, it includes a specific package.  And you might say they have one round of revisions, one kickoff call, one strategy call, one vision setting,and a meeting.  This is just an example.  But then if they start expanding farther and farther beyond that, they want you to revise things six or seven times.  Or they want you to answer text messages. And they're supposed to respond to your edits or your version submitted during the day and then they don't.  They wait until after the fact and send you emails at 10 o'clock at night. Now they're starting to push on your boundaries, right?

And I know this is an issue because it happens a lot as well with my private coaching clients.

One of my private coaching clients had an issue where the client was unnecessarily revising things four and five times.  It was even clearly in their contract that the maximum would be two rounds of revision.  For short things like blog posts, I don't know why you'd ever need more than two rounds of revision.  Sure somebody's master's thesis you would need more than two rounds of revisions, but not a 500 or 600 word blog post. That's just ridiculous. So this is when the price that you've quoted, even when you have clear expectations, and the contract does not line up with the amount of work you are doing on that actual job.

Handling Problems With Your Per Piece Rate Following a Freelance Test Job

So how do you deal with this when this comes up after a test job?  

I actually think that you can bring this up in the middle of working on a test job or working with a client. This is where you say, “Hey. I put together the proposal based on the following expectations.”  You always want to direct the client back to anything in writing that you have that stipulates that. For example, the contract stating that there's only two rounds of revisions.  And then explain where the problems are.

You can also redirect your clients by saying, “Hey, I think it would be most efficient if we took the following steps.”  Imagine there's a case where there's 10 people on the team and they're all reviewing your work and providing feedback. I was on another project like that recently.  It was the launch of a website. So we had designers, developers, the site owner, and project managers.  Everyone was involved.

And one of the most effective things that the project manager did was doing weekly status updates letting us all know where everything is at. Here's what we're waiting on from each person. This is where we're stalled.  So that's something you can do as a freelancer doing any type of service, you can say, “Here's how I think we could be most effective. I think we should go back to the drawing board and review the editorial calendar and do a 30 minute call.  We can discuss all the specifics there, clarify titles, clarify keywords, etc.”

You can also request that everyone complete their rounds of revision before you are asked to edit or change anything.

We don't want to go do a redesign of an entire website and then the Vice President of Marketing chimes in four days late with his requests. Now you would have to go back and do it all over again. So explain what your expectations were and then reference that this would probably be most efficient and effective for everyone if you took the following steps and then outline what those steps are.  It doesn't necessarily guarantee that the client is going to follow those steps every single time. But that way you at least have it in writing that you've made an effort. Part of this really is about making that effort. Because if you do terminate this client or drop them after the test job, you want to know that you made your best effort.

So after a test job, this is your opportunity to decide if you do or don’t want to continue to work with them.

With this particular client,  it was too confusing with the different expectations.  And it wasn’t really a fair per piece rate and they weren't really willing to budge. So I decided not to work with that client. You can address it in a way where you're still making an effort to fix it after a test job by telling the client what your expectations were and what you think going forward. You can also say, :I base my test job price o n factors x, y,& z.  However, we also discovered factors A, B, and C working together. So I've adjusted my per piece rate as a result.” 

You can also ask how necessary is the kickoff call? Do you want me to remove that from an ongoing retainer proposal?  You can let them know that if they really do need that extra round of revisions, then you need to factor that into your pricing. So after a test job, unless the client was unbearable, or is not willing to adjust at all, on the pricing or these boundaries, try to fix it and suggest what those steps would be. 

Let them know what would be most helpful for you and for everyone involved. Maybe it was something where you got approval to do certain things. And then the project manager came back two weeks later and changed everything up. So maybe you propose that you need to do a kickoff call with the project manager. And once he or she signs off, the decisions that we made on that call are considered final and can’t be updated.

How to Tell a Client That You Per Piece Rate Didn’t Factor in Their Demands

Now, if you're in the middle of a contract, you can still communicate these concerns with your current client.

You don't have to necessarily fire them right away. But I think one of the most helpful things you can do is to remind your client that they are not your only client. Often, many clients that are working with numerous people, including in house employees or remote employees, can blur the line between independent contractors and employees.  They start to treat you like you are their worker on call as an independent contractor.  Legally in the United States, you are not.

In the middle of the contract, it's your responsibility to highlight the fact that this isn't really working for you and why.  

You might explain, “Hey.  I just want to let you know that text messaging is really the worst way to get ahold of me. It's not something I can easily and quickly see. It would be much better if we had things coming through email or our project management software so that I can always find that written form of communication by doing a search.”  So that's one way you can address it in the middle of a contract.

You can also alert the client by simply saying that you will not be doing something because it is not in your contract.

If, for example, I was in the middle of the contract with the client that I mentioned above, and they said, “Hey, can you go listen to four hours of phone calls?” I would have said, unfortunately, we did not sign a contract to do that.  Should you want me to listen to these phone calls, take notes, and then incorporate that into the writing, there's going to be a rush fee for that.  Because I'm already working on these projects on a rush fee. And now I've got to build in time to my schedule to listen to hours of phone calls and here's the additional cost for doing that and the link to the invoice to pay it right.”

Sometimes clients don't realize that what they're asking for is above and beyond what you agreed to. This is why we do test jobs and get really clear instructions and guidelines at the outset of any project working together because we want to know what all is included. Maybe this client it's an absolute must that you do a 60 minute kickoff call at the beginning of every month with them.  And that's fine. But that needs to be in your proposal.  That needs to be in your contract. And if they're asking for things that are well outside of what's in the contract, it is your responsibility, as the freelancer, to let them know that and to provide recommendations for the next steps.   You always want to give them a choice. 

You can let them know that if this is really important, and it's something vital that I need to do, here's my suggested turnaround time on it. Here's the price to do it. And here's the invoice to pay to add this to our current contract.  You can let them know that if they don't believe that it's important, however, to let you know.

Or you might say, “If you have an administrative assistant or old copies of notes from this phone call, or you're willing to pay to get it transcribed.”  You can always present other options to the client where it's clear to them that they've kind of pushed the boundaries a little bit.  And they're asking for things that are a little bit ridiculous.

And the more you let this go on in a test job or in the early part of your relationship with the client, the more likely they are to continue it and to honestly expect it. So it's much harder to address this issue six months into an ongoing contract than it is at the beginning.  Why? Because you can not only stop whatever the current issue is, but block any potential scope creep or communications boundary pushing that might come down the line.

Thanks for tuning in to 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.

Oct 21, 2019

Today, I'm steering a little bit away from some of the traditional strategies I love to talk about when growing your business to think a little bit more big picture.  Have you ever created a mental health plan for your business?  Or at least for the busy seasons as a freelancer?  This is a topic that I feel connected to so personally, because I recently took the time to create what I'm calling my mental health plan.

Why You Need a Mental Health Plan for Your Business

Now there's a reason I'm using those specific terms.

We often talk about self care in the context of being business owners. But we rarely put enough pressure on that to make it appear as important as it really is. Because self care is key, right? But it's so easy to sweep that under the rug and act like, “Yeah, that's great. Like, I love to get a massage if I could afford it or fit the time in. But whatever, I'm really busy right now, that's not going to happen.”

And recently looking at my schedule, the number of things that were piled on it, and just sort of how I've changed and evolved my business model this year, I realized that I needed to have a mental health plan in place. Now, when you're listening to this episode, we're in the last quarter of 2019.  I did several really important and cool things this year that I'm proud of. But the timing of all of them, and not having a mental health plan or structurally fitting in self care nearly led me to burn out.

So around the time of publishing my very first book, which was in July of 2019, I did so much work for the publication and promotion of that book.  In addition I was moving to a new state for my husband's job and doing two TEDx talks.  So writing those, editing those, memorizing those, and traveling to deliver those, just in conjunction with all of the other crazy things going on in my business, I felt that I was headed down the path to burnout. And burnout is something you really want to be aware of as a freelancer and as a business owner.

Why Are So Many People Affected by burnout?

There have been studies showing that 40% of employees in the United States are so burned out that they just can't figure out how to move forward.

But employees are not the only ones who really cornered the market on being burned out. Entrepreneurs can burn out as well. It can have a lot of really negative problems for your personal life. And for your professional life. It's been tied to heart disease, depression problems, decision making, and job dissatisfaction. So lots of studies have been done about employees in big organizations and burnout.

But burnout has also really expanded into the entrepreneur world in the United States. That means more freelancers are reporting burnout, too.

I was reading some research in preparation for this episode, that burnout costs our country at least $300 billion a year. So burnout definitely affects entrepreneurs as well and can really deflate your overall job, PR, and/or passion you feel for showing up when you are fully burned out.

So when you've gone through all the phases, you stopped caring about everything.

You don't care if you lose clients. And you don't care if you get bad news.  You don't care if you get good news.  So you never want to get to that point. And being very aware of what burnout looks like and feels like for you is important. And it's a little bit different from one person to another. 

For some people, their nutrition totally slips.  They start cutting things out of their life  that take up time, but we're really valuable. So they might cut out exercising because they feel like they are so busy that they can't possibly handle that right now. Or you're building your business and you cut back on some of the things that were giving you some sanity. That might be your housecleaner or maybe childcare that you had set up so that during the hours you worked on your business you could really focus on it.

Studies Show that Entrepreneur Burnout is Real

So a recent study was completed and shared in the Harvard Business Review.  According to this study, 3% of entrepreneurs felt severely burned out and 25% of entrepreneurs felt moderately burned out.

So we're talking about nearly a third of all entrepreneurs out there are feeling some level of burnout.  And it will vary from one person to another.   But its impacts can be far reaching.  It can really damage your business.  And it can damage your mental health.  It can make you feel very overwhelmed. If you ever get to the point where it's really bad, you just feel like burning your business to the ground.  You don't even care if everything just kind of goes belly up.

Unfortunately, in our society, we hear so much about hustling, working harder, or putting in 80 hours a week, if you want this to work.  We internalize that as a badge of honor.  We tout that we work really, really, really hard on our business. And doing that, in that way, for a long enough period of time, can absolutely lead to burnout.

And okay, maybe you're able to drag your body for three to six months of being that level of exhaustion and still function relatively well. But if you hit the severe levels of burnout and shut down, you could affect your business for months, or even years from that point. So it's far better to recognize when you have the potential for burnout.  Which as an entrepreneur with those statistics I just shared, you definitely want to create a mental health plan to prepare for that.

What Led Me to Prepare a Mental Health Plan for My Business?

I recently started working (again) on my Ph.D. dissertation.

In many ways, my PhD has been the hardest project I have ever worked on. It calls for different forms of communication, collaboration, writing, and research revisions. So even as a professional writer, it's something I've really struggled with mentally.  And I took three years to completely off from my program to focus on building my business. I don't regret doing that. But of course, it's made it much harder to come back and start again.

So I was adding in that process of, “Okay, now that I have my business at this point, where I adjusted it from the book launch, let go a lot of freelance projects, allowed some to come to a natural close, amd terminated some contracts with some clients.”   

Because I was really, really tired of this summer, and recognized that I needed to take a big step back and do things differently.

So I really focused on the area of my business that was filling me up the most professionally and personally. And that was my coaching.  That was working one on one with freelance coaching clients, which is something that I really love,  It brings out the teacher background in me and I love helping other people build their business. And so I made that conscious decision to turn down money on the freelance side of my business.

For my sanity, I did not want to be writing eight or nine hours.  TEvery single day, I was kind of over that.  I felt like I'd taken it as far as I could go with my business in that sense. I had done almost everything I could do with freelance writing.  And I didn't feel like there were many  mountains left to climb.  And it no longer felt fulfilling.  It instead felt a little bit draining.

So I finally got things to the stable point after adjusting my business from the book launch.

It's one of the great things about freelancing too, right? We can build our business up or back down if we need to. And I love that!  As you build it down, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Perhaps it means that you're being choosier about the clients you work with.  You might end up making the same or more money when you do that. It’s very unique to freelancing in that way.

But I built my dissertation back into my schedule. And then all of a sudden, some other things started to happen.

Some other opportunities came up that I could tell we're going to take a substantial portion of my time too.  Potential book deals came on the table and all of these things were going to have deadlines or timelines that were really close to one another. So taking on a dissertation level project, which I feel exercises my brain the most, is the hardest type of work that I do.

It is also very time consuming. It's not like in my writing business. I'm always looking for ways to speed things up.  You spend a lot of time thinking, writing notes, and creating materials that may never actually be published in a dissertation or in a document related to it. And so it's not as easy to speed that process up.

So when all these things sort of landed on the table at the same time, I said to my husband, “I am taking a step back this time. I know seeing all these major projects that are going to have the exact same timeline and are really going to call on me to be at my strongest, I recognized that from my first book launch. And just from building up my schedule, early on in 2019, that I don't really want to do that in the coming year.So I am going to create a mental health plan that will help guard against burnout. Hopefully it will also help keep me from going too far down that road of feeling exhausted.”

So as a freelance business owner, I feel like this is helpful for my audience to listen to as well because we all need to have a mental health plan.

And I really do call it that name very specifically because I think it's so important that we recognize that, as freelance owners, we’re the CEO or the CTO, the chief financial officer, VP of Marketing, and VP of operations.  We're everything, right? Even if you have virtual assistants on your team, you are making a massive amount of decisions to drive your business forward on a daily basis. And if you suffer from decision fatigue or just the ongoing pressure that naturally comes from playing too many roles, you need to recognize that your mental health could be affected by that.

So how do you know when to put a mental health plan in place?

I really believe it should be part of your business and your life at all times. Now, a lot of people might feel like, “Well, you know, things aren't that busy right now.” It's actually the perfect time if you start building in your mental health supports and your positive self care now, while you still have the time to do so. And you recognize that as your business grows, you're going to take proactive steps to prevent the business of running your own company to bleed those other things out. Because there's a lot of reasons why this downtime or your mental health plan actually benefits your business.

There's been so many studies done.  A lot of them are talked about in various business books that have come out recently.  They say things like working beyond 50 or 60 hours a week really does not lead to an improvement in your work quality or your productivity.  So there's definitely an upper limit cap. And yet, we hear all of this marketing talk that you need to hustle.  We heat that you just need to work really, really hard and you can put in more hours. 

I’ve fallen for that right.  And I've definitely run my business that way and not been happy with running it that way. So a mental health plan should be in place at all times. But definitely in your busy seasons. If you're onboarding a new client, that's a little difficult.  Or if you're starting a new major project.  If this is your busy time of the year as a freelancer.  Or if you're bringing on your first VA.  Because if there's these growth challenges and issues that you're experiencing as a business owner, it is the perfect time to put a mental health plan in place.

What Goes Into a Mental Health Plan?

I think first of all, your time off is key if you are putting in a lot of hours. Or if you have multiple ventures going at once. Trust me, I can definitely speak about that because I’m running multiple businesses at the same time. And then having outside projects, your time off is critical.

So one of the things that I really put into place strictly with my mental health plan,I have two cell phones. One is a personal cell phone and only my family members and my husband have that phone  that phone stays on all the time.  The ringer is on all the time.  It's essentially like way back in the day what your landline would have been right. So you can always reach me on that cell phone. That phone also has hardly any apps on it.  It really is just a very basic phone.

And I've had two cell phones for years.  Since maybe the second year of running my business. Because it was driving me crazy when my clients would try to text or call me on my personal phone. So it's definitely not something new, this whole concept of having two phones.

But I had allowed my use of my business phone to get really lax.  I was answering emails. I was answering Voxer messages.  I was like all the notifications and apps are on my business phone that I used to run my business. And I noticed that my work was starting to bleed over into other hours like early morning, lunchtime, weekends, etc. So one of the things that's part of my mental health plan is physically turning that business phone off at the end of the workday. And if I get that addictive notion to pick it up, I at least have to think carefully about if i really need to turn my business phone on or not.

Be Strict With Your Time Off

I'm turning my computer off. And I'm specifically scheduling things on the weekend again, so in the months leading up to and surrounding the book launch, I did a lot of work on the weekends. And some of it, I was excited to do.  And other work I just felt like I had to do it. There was no other time to really fit it in, especially as we were moving from one state to another.

But now I'm getting really mindful of my time off.  Where is going to be the time that I have relaxation time, creative time, and what fun things can I go do on the weekends.  Because working from home can get kind of isolating.  You can get a little bit of cabin fever.  This is true especially given that I now live in Minnesota and will probably be confined to the house a lot of the time.  During the week, it won't be as easy for me to leave and go out and you know something for lunch due to weather. So I'm getting very intentional about my time off and who I allow into that time off. So that's a component of your mental health plan. 

Leverage Your Support Systems

So these could be things like yoga therapy, taking that dance class you've always wanted, or regularly scheduled activities that are forms of support.  Because they clear your mind. They force you to be outside of business mode.

When you're a business owner, you think about your company all the time.  You might even dream about it.  When you're taking a shower, you're thinking about a way to grow your company.  And then when you're driving, you're thinking about that issue that you had yesterday with a client. So build in your supports in quiet times.  You can  you can either talk things out with other people.  This could be: 

  • lunch with your friend that you scheduled twice a month
  • book club where you're reading fiction and not business stuff.
  • volunteer work where you regularly go and completely remove yourself from your own environment
  • yoga where you're not talking at all
  • Journaling where you are disconnecting yourself from the doo doo doo of business

It’s very, very important. So how are you going to build those in? So for me, that was building in some outside supports.  I have a dance class that I'm going to once a week now and some other things that are built into my schedule.  Even date night with my husband, where it's not just for our marriage.

Consider What Little Things You Can Do Each Day

Now these can be so little, but can have such an impact, right? It might be the 10 minutes you spend drinking coffee before you open your computer. And before you get started working, where it's just your time to take some deep breaths. 

Working from home can mean wearing super comfortable clothes.  For me, my feet are always cold. So it's about having really amazing socks so that I always feel like my feet are super warm. I know that when the weather's good, I will take my dog out for a walk for 10 minutes.  Those little things that can be built into my day and don't really have to be necessarily scheduled.  But can have a positive impact on mental health and your physical health too.  So I wake up and drink three glasses of water immediately. That always makes me feel good. That's such a small thing, but it has positive ripple effects through your physical and mental health.

Don’t Forget Exercise and Nutrition

When you burn out, you start to be really cognizant of what your doing to your body. In fact, burnout often manifests as physical ailments. When I was getting ready to leave my teaching position in Baltimore, my body actually started to shut down. I developed kidney stones.  And I sprained my ankle. I felt like I had a sinus infection for four months.  My body was really telling me, “Hey, we're collapsing here from working 16 hours a day, and the high level of stress.”

So start to notice what that looks like for you. It could be getting headaches or feeling the compulsion to sleep 15 or 16 hours a day. And it can manifest in so many different ways. But how can exercise and nutrition help that?  They really do work.

So for me, I'm an intermittent faster.  That means I eat one meal a day. I try to eat really nutrient dense foods and even cooking has become part of my mental health plan.  We're trying one of the meal delivery services. So that's three times a week, I don't have to think about grocery shopping or choosing what to eat for dinner. And then the other days of the week, I just cook in the crock pot.

So removing that decision making ability and excess shopping time has been huge for my mental health.  I actually really enjoy grocery shopping, but I don't like doing it more than once a week.

So exercise has become really important for me as well.  I found that doing 40 to 60 minutes of exercise will tamper a lot of the anxiety that I might wake up with if I'm in a busy season or under a lot of stress. It also helps me sleep. And then, of course, the nutrition feeds into that as well.

Lean on Support from Your Friends and Family

Do not be afraid to ask for things from your friends and family.   I've asked certain friends and business colleagues to stop saying “Call me anytime.” Because I don't know what to do with that information. I don't want to call them and they’re in the middle of dinner or they’re in some other meeting and I've disrupted them.

So it really helps me when they give me specific times that we can talk.  It seems like such a small thing. But I don't want to have the back and forth or even the internal pressure of “Call me anytime.” Like please just like if you want to talk about something specific, let's nail down a time and a place to have that conversation.

You can also ask for support from your friends and family like please don't call me during the workday when I'm doing my work.  Or Thursday nights is going to be our family fun night and  everyone needs to be on board with this. This is the time that works for everyone's schedule. What support can you get from your friends and family to help you through these times?

So my husband is now in graduate school again, he knows that if he needs help with his citations, or if he needs me to go polish a journal article for him, that's a very simple way that I can support him and make things faster for him. And likewise, I'll call on him and say, “I need to have a company meeting about my dissertation or about this thing I'm doing or I'm getting ready to present at a book festival next week.” 

I know I can ask him to be there for the day.  Him coming along with me will make it more fun. And he knows that it's really going to make me feel supported if he’s there. So think of the different ways that you can ask for little support from your friends and family.  Don't be afraid to ask.  The worst that can happen is that someone says no. But that's usually very rare.  Especially when you just come out and explain why you're asking for this. 

Put Limits on Technology

There's been so many studies about how technology is affecting our lives. And there's no doubt that it has ripple effects in many different ways. I've already talked to you about how closing my computer, turning off my phone, and using tools like Boomerang, helped me to get on top of my email. Even sometimes, with my coaching clients, I will just explain that I am only going to be able to check this two or three times today because I'm at a conference.  I have very clear boundaries.  I'm not going to answer messages on the weekend.  You're free to send me them if that's when you're in the zone and send me emails, but just know that I'm not going to read them or respond to them. 

Limits on technology can also include activities that you use to zone out or numb out when it is not benefiting your mental health.

So sometimes, I really just want to binge a couple reruns of Big Bang Theory on my iPad.  Or The Office or Friends on Netflix. And that actually makes me feel supported in a mental health way. But be aware of when that can be used as a distraction or when you're using that as a coping mechanism. Because it can really be a sign of something bigger that's going on if you like start bingeing at noon and then you find that four or five hours have gone by.  That's a sign that there's something else going on.  Maybe you don't feel personally connected to your business anymore and you need to take that step back and ask about that.

So limits on technology can be helpful. They can also be things you implement within your family and within your household.  How are we going to spend more time together.  I've really been testing out how many times I can leave the house without my business cell phone especially if I'm just going to the gym or running an errand.   So limits on technology can take so many different forms. But it's really fun to try that and test that out.

What I would love is if you could think about how a mental health plan for your freelance business based on this episode could support you, your company, your family, your physical health, and your emotional health. All too often the stigma around mental health is that we just ignore these issues.  We act like people are weak if they admit that they're suffering from anxiety, burnout, stress, and/or depression. 

All of these things are really important to be talked about. That's a big part of the issue around why they're so prevalent. And it's really important to think about how a mental health plan can support you.

I’m entering what will perhaps be a crazy eight months for my business.   Because of book writing, expanding my coaching, potentially working with a new client that would take up a lot of my time, but would really line up with my passion and purpose. And so I'm being proactive about that.

This time, I'm saying how do I best support myself knowing that not only is this going to affect how I feel on a day to day basis, but the work products that I create.  When I'm in a better state with reduced anxiety and reduce stress my work products are going to be better. I'm going to affect and impact more people in that way by being intentional about my mental health. So I'd love to hear your ideas on how you're going to take a mental health plan and make it a serious component of your business.

Thanks for tuning in to another episode of the Advanced Freelancing podcast. Remember, you can always check out additional resources on my website like bingeing past podcast episodes and checking out my massive volume of YouTube videos. Or if you're interested in becoming a freelance writer, take a look at my very first book. Until next time, thanks for listening!

 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.

Oct 14, 2019

In this episode, I am going to nerd out with some of my favorite strategies, systems, and software that will help keep you organized.

When I first launched my freelance writing business in 2012, it was okay to be a little bit disorganized.  It was also okay to not really have one consistent place where I was communicating with clients or keeping track of my research and deadlines.  Why?  Because I didn't have that many clients at the time.

So whether you're starting right now or you're already in the intermediate stages of your freelance business, it is much easier to build in these strategies and tools now.  They'll be there to support you when your business grows. So these are some of my favorite tools for keeping projects and clients organized.

My very first tip, no matter where you're at, and whether you've invested in software yet or not, is to write everything down that comes in as a potential project.

You have to have a way of key keeping track of the projects that have deadlines associated with them. But you also need a place to store where you're going to keep the contact information for people.  You need to follow up with people that you've sent proposals to and with someone who asked you to circle back in three months, etc.

So I sort everything that comes into my freelancing world by need. So is this something I need to do? It's an actual project.  It's instructions that I need to review and follow up with the client again to ask questions about.  Is this something where I need to follow up and see if they've had a chance to review my pitch or proposal? Do I need to ask further information or request a meeting? Or do I need to edit something? Do I need to submit something such as if I've sent in the piece already, but we're waiting to submit the invoice?

So there's lots of different tools out there. And one of the best pieces of advice I can tell you is to always be researching and looking for ways that suit your individual business style.  The tools that everyone else uses might not be the right fit for you. So a great example of this is that a lot of academics that I know use Trello for organizing their big academic projects. For me, even though I love Trello, and that's one of the tools I'm going to talk about in this episode, it wasn't right for me to organize my dissertation project. [Check out this related post on why I love Trello for managing digital teams]

So be open to trying something out and giving it a week or two weeks to see whether it could be a fit for you. And then ultimately changing and using that information that you've learned.  What did you like about the process that you had?  And what could be better? 

So one of my favorite tools is TEUXDEUX.

It is a very simple tool.  And it is very affordable at  $24 a year the last time that I checked.  It really lists out, almost notebook style, the entire days of the week. Now what's cool about this is that you can easily add things into it. And then you just have to click on it for it to strike a line through it and it won't delete right away anything that you struck the line through.

So if you have made a mistake or something, you can go back and fix that.  You can also see how much you've done during that day,  And you can customize it with sort of a color background.

It's a very simplistic tool, but it's one that I have used for over four years. So every time a project came in, I put whatever I needed to do related to that immediately into this particular website.  It was easy to access from my phone as well as from my laptop. And I loved that because it was really all I needed at that point in time.

So I would split things into different projects like research, write, edit, or turn in invoice.  I love the simplicity of Teux Deux and how easy it is to capture information.  It also ensured that there was much less of a chance that I would forget something and then not be able to meet a deadline as a result of that.

Now my second tool I'm going to recommend is similar to that it's called To Do List.

There's a little bit more flexibility with To Do List like add drop down sub tasks and customize things into different projects. Whereas on TeuxDeux, you're just going to have a daily vision of whatever it is that you need to do. So you might have to drag and drop and sort on your own to make things you know work together.

Like all the emails you have to send to sort of lump them next to each other so To Do List is sort of a next level up from the above-mentioned tool when it comes to keeping track of all of the different things you've got on your plate.

As a freelancer, you're wearing many different hats and doing many different things inside your business. So having a place to track all of this marketing, client communications, actual projects is a great way to be able to keep track of that and make sure that you do not lose things.

Now I would be remiss if I did not mention the importance of Google Docs as well.

For quite a while, I also use just a Google document with a table of five different boxes in it to keep track of my to do list. And I did that to sort of plot out how much I was doing per day.  I was estimating how many hours or minutes it would take me to do certain tasks. That gave me a week by week view of seeing if I was overloading myself on particular days.

Being familiar with Google Docs and Google Suite can also be very beneficial when pitching yourself to clients. Oddly enough, not everyone you know has Microsoft Word. And it's also sometimes easier to work from the same version of a document.

Google Docs can be beneficial to you if  you're a writer or not a writer. Google Docs allows you to see the different changes that are being suggested or have been made in the document so that everyone's working from the same version at the same time. And this is really helpful when you're turning something in.  You don't want multiple people editing it on their own and then you have to sort of merge all of those edits together.

So Google Docs is an easy way for people to see, edit, and print material that you have turned in.  I use Google Sheets and Google Docs pretty much every single day. So it's a great way to be able to communicate with clients, respond to comments, and make sure that you don't miss particular edits as well. You can also accept all of the changes or suggestions when it's in suggest mode. So that is another great benefit that I find to be easier to use than Microsoft Word.

Now if you're looking for something for an advanced project that has a lot of moving parts, I love Trello.

Other similar tools include Asana and Basecamp. Trello is very visual in comparison to those two.  It's best for complicated or advanced projects. I use Trello for the project management of my own virtual team. So we have something like this podcast episode,  we’ll move through the process on the Trello board, where we're adding images, making sure that the audio engineer has access to the audio for the show, making sure that we've pulled out quotes for social media, and have the show notes uploaded.

So we often connect back and forth with Dropbox. One of the challenges with Trello is that there are limits on how big the file sizes can be. So a lot of times when we're working with a big file, like a podcast episode that gets uploaded into Dropbox, and then we link to it inside Trello.

And I love Trello because you can see where everyone has contributed to a certain project.  You can see when things that are overdue.  And you can ask questions there and tag people. So it works really well for advanced or complicated projects.

I have been a Content Manager for several different companies.  And I have used Trello for all of those to organize teams of as many as 6 to 15 writers and editors working on the same project. I love the visual aspect of it. And it's very easy to go in and see all of the places where you have been tagged.

One of my other favorite tools is called Boomerang for Gmail.

Now you can get a free version of Boomerang and it will limit how many of the benefits you can use.  I pay for the premium version.  It's $5 a month. In my opinion, it's well worth it. There are two different features of Boomerang that I love.

One is called inbox pause. It allows you to stop emails from showing up in your inbox.  And it hides them into a secret folder. Yes, you can still get to that secret folder if you need to. Boomerang is a great thing if you're trying to respond to a bunch of messages or work on a very focused project and you don't want to have people who are replying to you filling up your email inbox.  Or if you're just trying to reduce the amount of time you spend in your email inbox.  This can help break some of that addiction of waiting for the next email to populate.

So inbox pause, you can set it so that you just have to click unpause.  It will then deliver all those messages at once to your inbox. Or you can put it on a schedule. So if you check your email three times a day, it can come back into your inbox on a schedule and help break some of the lost time and productivity that so many of us experience due to email.

The other aspect of Boomerang for Gmail that I love is being able to schedule messages to go out at a certain time. And sort of in conjunction with that, send emails to come back into your email inbox later. So I usually never have less than 50 open emails in my inbox at a time. I use Boomerang to the ones that are not urgent.

So if it's something where someone's proposing an idea someone sending in something early, I will Boomerang those to come back into my inbox later.  It will remove them from showing up as unread in my email inbox. And then I will decide when they come back in. So if my Friday mornings are my administrative time and someone's sending me administrative questions like password issues or invoices, I will receive that and then immediately Boomerang it to come back on Friday.

So it doesn't seem like that's something I need to deal with right away. The other aspect of that is sending messages later.  You can decide when emails go out. So you can schedule it to go out.  For example, if you're working on the weekend and don't really want your clients to know that you're in the office on the weekend, you can schedule that email to go out on Monday morning.

You can also set emails to come back to your inbox, if you don't receive a response from the intended party.  This can be great as a simple way to track follow up. So if you pitch to somebody over email, they don't respond to you, then you don't want to forget about that. So when you send the email, you can click a button that says send it back to my inbox in two days no matter what, or in two days if I don't get a response. And that can prompt you to make it very easy to respond.So I love Boomerang for Gmail, the free version is great. The $15 a month is well worth it for all of the benefits that you get.

Now speaking of tracking email, HubSpot email tracking is one tool that I have consistently used.

Another program that is similar is called Streak. It's great for those of you who are sending out a lot of pitches over email and want to be able to keep track of when your emails are being opened. So in the free version of HubSpot, you can track activity for up to 200 notifications. So it's going to track a notification every time someone opens your email.

Now this is great for if you send someone a pitch proposal and you can see if they got the email.   If it is sitting there sent, you might be wondering why I don't know if my email message went through. And then secondly, it's also helpful to see who's opening your messages. So if you send a pitch or proposal and someone's opened it 17 times, there's something in there that's calling their attention. So it could be a great opportunity for you to follow up. 

You don't need to mention that you've tracked the email and that you know, they've opened it so many times. But it can be a great way to pull out from all the pitches or proposals that you're sending which ones deserve a response.

So you'd want to follow up with those people who are opening your email a lot.  There may be something there that is really making them interested or they have further questions. So it's a perfect opportunity, while you know that you are top of mind for them, to be able to follow up. So I've used the paid version of HubSpot email tracking for one to two months. 

It's about $50 a month for the basic upgrade into the premium version. And I did that when I was pitching literary agents. So I was sending a ton of emails.  I wanted to make sure my emails were being read. 

I also use that in conjunction with Boomerang for Gmail, because each literary agent had different guidelines for how long to give them space to read your material before following up. So someone say if it's been six weeks, and you haven't heard from us, you can follow up. So when I would send those emails, I would use Boomerang as well as the HubSpot extension that you can add into your Gmail account. So I would send it with the tracking so I could see that they opened it. And then I would send it to Boomerang back into my inbox if it had been six weeks and I hadn't heard from them to do the follow up.

So the free version is probably sufficient for most people.  I think you can get a lot of benefits out of the free version. So definitely check into that. It's a very easy extension that you can connect to your Gmail account.

Now my last tool that I'm going to mention for this podcast is Google Calendar.

If you don't want to use something like Boomerang or HubSpot because that feels too technical or you think you'd need the paid version. You can use Google calendar for adding follow up reminders. I love using Google Calendar in connection with an email scheduling or with a scheduling tool that I use called Calendly. 

I like Calendly because rather than having emails going back and forth,  it makes it easy for them to book a time that is on your schedule.  And you can set it up where it sends a calendar invitation immediately to their email address after they've booked a time. So they're going to get reminders and other information about speaking with you.

You can also use Google calendar for adding follow up reminders. I've used Google calendar to create my ideal week. So I don't know if you know that you can go into calendars and set up different ones to show up on your schedule at the same time.

So on the left side, inside Google Calendar, it says my calendars, I've got a goal week calendar. And I've got my regular calendar. You can merge those together so you see all of the things that you have coming up. But Google Calendar makes it so easy to see what your week ahead is looking like or to determine if you're traveling, which weeks look kind of slow, where you might be able to easily get out of the office and do some different things, or take some time off. So Google Calendar just makes that so easy.

And like I mentioned at the beginning of this episode, you always want to test things out and see what's going to work best for you.

Because what works for me might not work as well for you. So test things out. And if you don't love something about a software or tool, figure out how you can tweak it. So go into YouTube and look for tutorials and other information where you can learn more about it. Or ask in entrepreneur groups.You can say, “Hey, this is what I love and don't love about you know Boomerang for Gmail.  Does anyone else know of another program that is similar, where I can still get some of these benefits without some of the downsides?”

So this has been Episode 83. I'd love to hear what other strategies, tools, and pieces of software are essential for you and your freelance business. What are you using to scale up and to be able to get things done efficiently and never let any of the different projects slip through the cracks? As always, thanks for tuning in. You can send topic ideas or questions to info at

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.

Oct 7, 2019

It's time for another episode of the advanced freelancing podcast. And thanks for finding me here. Whether you're in my facebook group, Mastering Your Freelance Life with Laura, discovered my freelance services on LinkedIn, or found me through my website, I'm thrilled that you're here. It's my mission to make freelancing something that you enjoy doing,  Something that fits into the rest of your life so that you can optimize your business and your goals as much as possible and feel really confident about how you approach your business and how you choose to scale it.

Today, I want to talk about why test projects are so important.

Yes, even for those advanced freelancers. I'd argue that test projects are more important for advanced freelancers than even beginners because we have to be choosy about who we work with. And test projects are an excellent opportunity to see if the client likes you. And if you like the client.

One common mistake that a lot of freelancers make is to think about this as only a “one way” transaction of trying to prove yourself to the client and show just how great you are so that they're thrilled to potentially work with you on a bigger project or on retainer. But do not neglect to think about how freelance test projects actually help you decide whether or not to work with this person.

In fact, there are a big reason why I use test projects as a freelance writer all the time now as a freelancer.

This is especially true if I've done a phone call with somebody and I'm not entirely sure that they're going to be the right fit for me or the way that I do business. Now, they might be thinking of it as, “Oh, this is great. Like we get to work together. And that way, I'm not committed long term if I don't like this particular freelancer.”  But I'm thinking about it from another perspective.  I want to see their style of communication. And I want to see if the project is even worth my time. That way I have an easy out if this is not the right fit for me.

In fact, I've done several test projects.  Most recently over this past summer that just did not work out.  They didn’t work out not because the client was unhappy, but because I didn't want to continue working with them. And that saved me a lot of headaches or that feeling of guilt that I had to continue working with someone.

Now it might seem crazy to you.  And you might be thinking, “If somebody offers me a three month contract and I don't know if I like working for them or not, I should just take it because that's three months of income that's very predictable.” I can understand feeling that way. But it can be much more beneficial to know that you're working with a nightmare client on a short term limited basis before agreeing to work with them for a longer period of time.

And it has the added bonus of being a great sales technique of showing how wonderful you are to work with. So a client that's on the fence or maybe thinks that your rates are a little too high, could be persuaded into working with you just based on the experience that you provide in test projects.

So let's dive into why test projects are so valuable. First of all, test projects, keep things

First they are small and manageable. When you define a test project, it's usually either something that the client has specified very clearly in writing or it's something that you propose. So a virtual assistant, for example, might take on a one-time project to create a social media calendar for the month.  Or perhaps provide five hours of their services to see whether or not it's a fit.

As a writer, I often take on test projects that involve me working on one small blog or piece of content.  I am writing for them with very clear expectations about how long that project is going to be, how much it's going to cost them, etc. It keeps things small and manageable and really does guard against problems like “scope creep”, because I'm specifically saying, “Let's work together on a trial basis or for a test project. Here's what that test project looks like.”

Now your rates might be higher or different for the test project.  Because you're not working on retainer, that's yet another reason for the client to consider deciding to work with you over the long run. They might realize that they will get some sort of a discount for purchasing ongoing services, but that your one time trial rate, because you have to do extra things like getting to know the client, reviewing their guidelines and expectations, and only to deliver a one time project might be different.

With that in mind, though, keep the test project small and manageable. Don't take on something that's going to require 20 hours worth of your work.  Try to make it meaningful for what you're hoping to accomplish.

The second reason that I love test projects is that they are a trial on both sides.

Sure, this is your chance to step up to the plate and show the client everything that you have to offer. And of course, you want to do a good job. You want to show them why it's so wonderful working with you. So aspects beyond the quality of your work are really important when delivering test project.

The work should be delivered on time.  You should make it easy for the client to work with you. And you should ask all questions at the outset of the project. But it's a trial on your side as well. It gives you a chance to learn things like:

  • How do they communicate with you?
  • Does their team seem very disorganized?
  • Are their expectations for the rate involved way out of line with what you expected?

I'll give you a great example here. I recently worked with a client that had a decent rate per piece. But the amount of work required, they wanted me to listen to phone calls with the client. They wanted me to review long brand expectations. They had big content guidelines to look at. And they also wanted three rounds of revisions. So that ended up not making sense.

And I'm definitely glad that I knew that information working on a test project rather than committing to working with them on an ongoing basis. So that's what you're looking for. as a freelancer. You're trying to provide them with a lot of great evidence of why they should continue to work with you beyond the trial project should you want to do so. But you're also looking to see is this someone I can see myself working with long term.

The third reason I love test projects, they allow you to set a boundaries very early on.

The client learns what it's like to work with you. And when something is outside the scope of reason. So if you're working on a test project, and you turn in a piece, and they wait two weeks to review it, and then demand that you incorporate changes within 12 hours. That's a good thing for you to see in the test project. It also gives you a chance to say, “Okay, this isn't really what I was expecting and working together. Normally, I need a couple of days to be able to implement revisions. And I haven't been able to block this into my schedule, because I haven't heard from you for two weeks.” So you might still be able to salvage that relationship by telling them why it's a problem. And if they're totally unreasonable, you can wrap up the project and not ever work with them again.

Now finally, test projects allow you to review aspects of the client that might not be a fit.

Now, they might not understand the reasons why you're declining to work with them if you decide that's what's best for you. I like to keep it simple and generic sharing at the end of a test projects that I don't intend to continue working with them.  I explain that it's simply not the right fit for me or my business.  You want to allow them to find someone who might be a better fit for them.

Your client might think that just the very fact that they're offering you money in and of itself should encourage you to take the project on an ongoing basis or to take more work from them. But that's not always the case. As freelancers we get to decide what we will and won't do and who we will and won't work with.

So one of the important aspects of this could be that you have a project minimum.  Maybe you did great on the test project and the client is thrilled with the work you did, but their project on an ongoing basis is only $200 a month.  That might be far too small for you to stick with and to continue making an effort to communicate with them and keep things organized.  The client might not understand it because they're thinking, “Hey, it's an extra $200 a month. And I paid you on time.  I showed I was easy to work with.”  But if that project is too small for you to fit into your schedule and requires too much work for that $200, you might choose to pass after the test project. So just be prepared to rely on that line of saying this isn't a good fit for your business model at this point in time. That's a really good one to come back to in these situations.

So let's talk about how to suggest a test project.

First of all, narrow it down to one small piece of what they want done or a one week trial. I recently took on a client where it didn't make sense to do a per piece rate.  It really needed to be hourly because of the kind of work he was requesting. So I said, “What if we work together for one weeka and I think that a reasonable outcome from that would be a document that looks like this. And then from there, we'll decide whether or not to continue working together.”

That helps scale it down. So my client felt more confident about partnering with me and knew that his losses would be limited if the project were a disaster. So even if I turned out not to be the right fit for him, I still gave him a heads up on the type of output he could expect to receive during that one week. And he could cut his losses at that point and run and still not have anything.  He'd still have something substantial that he could use, but he wouldn't be locked into working with me on an ongoing basis before knowing it was a fit. So try to narrow it down to one small piece of what the person wants done or a one week trial.

The second thing to do when suggesting a test project is to clarify the cap of what this will cost or the number of hours it is limited to.

To circle back to my example of the client that I started with. I said, “I'm not going to work any more than eight hours on your project that will give you a chance to review what I've completed to give me a better idea of the scope of this project overall. And what allows you to decide whether or not to continue.” So he felt confident in knowing kind of what that budget was going to be at the beginning.  And I felt comfortable that I wasn't agreeing to something that would be far more substantial and too involved for me to really know what was going on.

So when you're working on a project that could become very complicated or involve a lot of hours, the test project is a really good chance to get grounded in it. And to understand, “Okay, here's what I think will be necessary to get this done.” Imagine someone asks you to edit their book, taking on a small piece of that, such as a number of pages, or one chapter will also tell you how much time is likely to be involved in editing the rest of the book because you're looking at one small piece of the bigger puzzle. So try to clarify what that cap will be and what it will cause.

Clients love knowing upfront that they're not going to have to pay more than a certain amount for a piece or for a set number of hours of work. Because part of their hesitation and working with you might be that they don't know what it's going to cost them. So it's much easier to come back and say, “Hey, I've edited five pages of this book.  It took me this many hours. Based on what you've told me about the final word count, I’d  estimate that for me to edit the whole thing it would be this amount and it would take me this long.” So it helps the client to decide if you're the right fit or not, while also showcasing the value in what you provided in that smaller piece.

Finally, explain to the client that this is a limited engagement and that you'll circle back after the fact. I like to use terms like “I'm happy to help you out with this short term project to see if we're a fit.” It says that I'm not committing to working with you long term. I don't know if I have enough information yet to decide whether we should continue working together. So this is a test project that goes both ways, because I'm trying to decide if I want to continue working with you as well. Using those terms and referencing them to the client while also positioning that this is a value add for them because they get to test you out and see the quality of your work often puts people at ease. And usually if you can step up to the plate and deliver a really amazing test project, and the client is happy and you're happy, it is easier to convert them into working on retainer.

Test projects can be an extremely valuable way to grow your business. And to avoid working with clients on a long term basis who just aren't the right fit for you. I love using test projects for advanced freelancers because 9 times out of 10 you already have the skills and ability to make the client thrilled. But it's about you deciding if this a partnership you want to take on while also showing that amazing value and talent that you have.

So I'd love for you to take from this episode how to use test projects and to think about how you can use them with clients who are kind of on the fence.  Maybe aren't ready to sign a retainer yet!  You can really increase your conversions by using test projects as this tool.

Thanks for listening to another episode of the Advanced Freelancing podcast. If this episode was helpful for you, I'd love to help other freelancers find my podcast and listen to it as well. Please consider signing into Apple podcast and leaving me a review in there on iTunes. It really helps the iTunes algorithm show this podcast and its episodes to other people. Thanks again.

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.

Sep 30, 2019

Here's what's really cool about freelancing...what it looks like is based on your needs.

The ideal set point and type of clients and projects that you work on will vary from one freelancer to another. So it's a really great, customized way to build a business that works for you. It's why there's no one size fits all solution for a lot of the issues that advanced freelancers face.

Now, when you're first starting your business, there is general advice that applies to helping you get established find clients, and stay consistent with your marketing. But as your business grows, your needs might also change and evolve.  One of the common sticking points for a lot of advanced freelancers is scheduling.

So in this episode, we're going to talk a little bit about some of my favorite scheduling tips. But you've got to keep in mind that what it looks like for you might be different.  I've probably changed my schedule at least a dozen times across the course of owning a freelancing business. Even as that company has evolved, as well into incorporating things like public speaking, writing a book, or coaching other freelancers, that has meant that my freelancing schedule has had to change as well.

So when I first got started, I would basically work any pocket or window of time that I could find.

I balanced my freelance business for a year while also holding down a day job. So that meant that nights, weekends, and early mornings were the only times I could freelance. When I jumped full time into freelancing, one of the first things that I did was basically try to work as normal a day as possible. So eight to nine hours a day of doing everything that was required within my freelance business. And a lot of what helps make that scheduling transition relatively effective was the fact that I had been doing it for an entire year on the side of another job and knew about how much time it was going to take me to complete various things in my business.

So I knew how much time I needed to spend marketing. I knew what proportion of my time I need to dedicate to client projects.  And I simply had to make some general adjustments to now allow for a whole work day. Now, what's interesting, and I've heard this from a lot of other advanced freelancers, is that we're actually more effective with our time when we have a day job. I don't know why that is. But I have found that to be true.

I'm still relatively productive and effective with my time.

I've been freelancing full time for six years at the time of recording this podcast. But I definitely had better time management skills when I worked another job because I was limited, very limited, with my hours. So there was no time to get into my head, there was no time to question things.

So it became more difficult to schedule as my business grew and as I added more components to my business as well. So what you're “fully booked point” and what your schedule looks like will be different from other freelancers.  Someone who's only able to work 10 hours a week can still be an advanced freelancer because perhaps those 10 hours are really focused and truly leveraging that freelancers abilities.

And what you think fully booked is, will also be very individual. So for me, that's no more than 20 hours a week of freelance client work in order to balance the other projects that I have going on. For someone else that could be 30 or 40 hours. So that's a really good starting point to begin with.  You need to know what your fully booked point is.  What is the maximum amount of time that you want to be spending, creating and delivering client projects?

Now, that doesn't include your marketing.

So you've got to keep that in the back of your mind too.  Maybe you don't want to do any more than 30 hours of client work per week. But you aren't going to neglect marketing, of course. So you might have to say, “Okay, well, what am I going to fit in five or seven hours of marketing, so I'm really working closer to 35 or 37 hours per week?” So my scheduling tips for advanced freelancers, these are just different ideas that you could potentially try as your business grows.

The first one I have is to block out creative time.

This is time when you're doing things other than working on your business. It could be hobbies, creative projects, like writing a book.  You could be diving into a different creative talent or hobby that you'd like to have. But maybe you're brand new to journaling or meditation.  I kind of consider as creative time too, because it really sets the tone for what the rest of your day and even week is going to look like.

So start by blocking out creative time. This is your non business time when you're not even doing things like listening to business podcasts, or reading books. This is truly your creative time when you're able to express yourself. And maybe that's only 20 or 30 minutes per day. But that should be built into your schedule first.  Because guess what?  If you don't put it in there at the outset, it is far too easy to overlook it and not have any of it in there at all.

My second tip is to block out your marketing time as separate from your work time.

I'm a huge fan of batching your work as a freelancer. And that includes putting all like minded activities into the same sectors or blocks of your day as possible. I do not market when I'm working on client projects or when I am in a period of doing phone calls or responding to my clients over Voxer.  My marketing time is separate. It is individual..  And it is focused time when I am only working on that particular task. And blocking that out and thinking about how that's different from the time when you're working on client projects is very important.  Because they're different ideas.  They're different concepts. And we don't want to try to ask our brain to be doing multiple things at the same time.

I often see freelancers trying to do this because maybe it worked when you first started your business. You'd have several different tasks open and you're doing marketing on LinkedIn, you're reviewing job boards, and then you're also like half working on this piece or project for a client. Making these separate helps you be much more effective with the time that you are focused. So being distracted and pulled in different directions can really slow you down and impede your progress and productivity. So make that marketing time separate from your work time.  Block out an hour or even 30 minutes per day, when you're specifically doing marketing and not working on things for clients or answering clients.

My third tip is to play around with your schedule and find your most productive time.

This is another personalized aspect of scheduling for advanced freelancers. Some people work better in the afternoons or at night.  That is not me.  I am never as productive during those times as I am first thing in the morning. So since we have the benefit of being freelancers and setting up our own schedule, adjust your work hours to reflect what works for you.

All it takes is letting your clients know what to expect. I tell my clients don't expect responses or edits from me after 3pm.  I'm just not doing it. I'm normally not even in the office, I'm in the office earlier than most people, because I do typically work pretty early mornings when I am most focused. But that means I can get a lot more work done in 4 focused hours then trying to say, “Yeah, let me work the traditional nine to five.” Even though that's not my most focused period, I'll actually get the same or even less done, trying to take that approach of working someone else's hours.

So allow your body's natural rhythm and ability to help dictate when you're going to work the most. If you're really inspired and focused from 7 to 10pm at night, use that time for your brainstorming, outlining of projects, and thinking about how you're going to write your next blog for marketing purposes.

Another tip that has really helped me a lot is to put all of my phone calls on one day or on certain days of the week. 

By doing this I’m holding other days sacred for client work or focused periods of work when I'm doing things like marketing, brainstorming new classes, and responding in depth to some of my clients.  This has helped tremendously, because there's not those phone calls that disrupt and sort of punctuate the day and throw me off from what I was doing. So I've done everything from no phone calls on Mondays to Fridays to phone calls only on Thursdays to everything in between.

You need some level of flexibility to be able to speak to your clients. I find that Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursdays are the days when most people are in the office. Holidays tend not to fall on those days. So it's easier to schedule phone calls during that time. I try to put as many of my calls on Wednesdays as possible, so that I can have Mondays and Fridays as my more creative days when I'm doing in depth focused work for me growing my business and other projects. And then Tuesday through Thursday are pretty heavy client days. So I keep those open for phone calls, consultations, and responding to pitches and follow ups.  I keep those very client focused because that works.

My next favorite tip for scheduling tip for advanced freelancers is to stay out of your email inbox as much as you can.

Email sometimes is the bane of my existence.  It never seems to go below 50 messages that I need to review and respond to.  It can also become very addictive and non productive to be in your email inbox a lot. I used a tool called Rescue Time back in the day, and discovered that I was spending 12 hours a week at that point in time on my inbox. Now very few of those hours were making me money or were working on things that were imperative for an immediate response. For more tips on dealing with email, check out this blog post.

I try to check my email no more than three times per day. And I use a tool called Boomerang to push off things that are not imminent. So if someone emails me and says, “Hey, I'd love to collaborate with you.” If I don't need to respond to that immediately, I'm going to push it off towards one of those Mondays or Fridays, when I'm doing a lot more catch up work and non client specific things. And I'll respond to all of those together. So I will try to set them to come back all at the same time.

So let me explain a little bit more about what that looks like. If I get 10 emails in the morning, then some of them are from people who want to collaborate on things for freelancers and some are from prospective clients. Some are things I need to follow up with immediately. I want to push off the non imminent things.  So I tell Boomerang send the collaboration requests back into my email on Friday at 9am. I'll take a look at all of those together, review them all, and respond together.  I might immediately respond to the things that require my attention. And then I might have other things set up to Boomerang back into my inbox a Friday at 10am. Like perhaps all of my follow ups from everyone that I've pitched or written proposals for.

So that way I've got similar emails coming back into my inbox at a similar time. So Friday is my email catch up day.  Maybe at 8:00, I'm getting those collaboration requests. At 10:00, a new wave of the things I boomeranged for follow ups have come back in. And that way it doesn't seem overwhelming or get confusing because they're showing up as new in my inbox during that time.

My last scheduling tip for advanced freelancers is to think specifically about when do you want to take vacations.

So many of us are completely guilty of not taking vacation. We kind of fall into this trap of thinking, “Oh, well, I can take a vacation any time. So I'm not going to plan it in advance.” One thing that I have found really increases the chances of you truly taking that vacation, enjoying it, and giving your clients plenty of notice that it's coming is putting that on the calendar at least three months in advance.

So you're listening to this in the fall. I'm looking ahead to November and December.  What weeks am I taking off? And what days will I close my office? What time periods do I not want to have as much freelance work?

Let's say that I close my office for the two weeks around Christmas.  I'm going to need to put reminders in my schedule, either Boomerang or on my calendar, around mid November to tell my clients,  “Hey, your work is going to have to be turned in early. Edit requests need to be turned in by this date. The last time I can schedule phone calls is X day.” I'm going to let them know that about a month in advance whenever I can.

So if I wait until it's the first of December, and then realize I don't have enough lead time to get caught up on work that might otherwise be delivered. At the second half of December, I might not be able to accomplish that goal of letting my clients know that a vacation is coming and I'll just end up overwhelmed and behind 

Whenever I go out for vacation, especially if your trip is two weeks or longer, it usually takes me three solid weeks to get ahead.

Most of my freelance clients are on retainer. So that means I am working ahead. If you're in another phase of your business where you're drumming up business, you're going to want to make sure your follow ups and your automated marketing efforts to go out while you're gone are still present and there. So it's still will take at least two to three weeks to lay that groundwork and work ahead. If I know I have to turn in two weeks of blogs for the second part of December in advance, I've got to kind of backdate and reverse engineer everything.

So then in November, I pick those topics, get them approved by the client,  I draft them, edit them, send them in early, and all those different processes.  I kind of have to back up and make sure that it doesn't fall into the normal schedule so I can truly take that time off. So that can really help you when you look ahead to the future and know:

  • When am I going to take my vacations?
  • And what steps do I need to take in advance to make sure that my clients know and that I'm fully organized so that I can step up my office?
  • Where do I need to tell my VA…
    • Here's the blogs to post, the LinkedIn things to monitor.
    • And Here's what I'm asking you to keep an eye on in my email inbox while I'm out.

There's a lot of different steps that need to be taken to really protect you and make you feel confident about truly closing your office.

So I'd love to know your favorite scheduling tips that might help you to grow your business more effectively. These are some of my favorites.  But remember, it's going to look different for you. My best recommendation is to play around with your schedule, stick with your new guidelines for two weeks, and see if it works for you. If you find it unbearable then some changes are needed.  But it's always good to test things out and try switching things around to be more effective. Thanks for tuning in to 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.

Sep 23, 2019

This episode specifically is for those of you who are thinking about scaling your freelance business to six figures. I recognize that that's not necessarily everyone. Everyone has different goals for their freelance business.  For you, it might make sense just to do this on a part time basis.  Or maybe you have a day job you love that you don't want to leave.  That's perfectly fine, but I wanted to introduce you to the concept that six figure freelancers, multi-six figure freelancers, and business owners that think a little bit differently. Many of them recognize that what got them to the six figure level or close to it will not be the same thing that takes them to the next level. So they made that navigational change pretty early on in their business to be successful with where they're at.

I've identified 10 habits of six figure freelancers that will go through in this specific podcast episode.

Increasingly six figure freelancing is becoming more common. In fact, it's estimated that 1 out of 5 freelancers is already there according to the State of Independence in America study in 2018.  But I think that number should grow even more. Many people are leaving full time jobs to pursue freelancing and have a whole new perspective on work.

The number one thing that six figure freelancers recognize is that mindset work is a must.

They don't just try to implement strategy after strategy and hope that it works. They're engaged in mindset habits that keep them positive like reading books or listening to uplifting podcasts, journaling, yoga, massage, exercise, and more. Six figure freelancers know that getting their mindset straight is almost more important than the work and some days even more important.

Need a recommendation for a great mindset book to start with? Check out the Big Leap by Gay Hendricks.

The second habit of six figure freelancers is that they don't get attached to the outcome of any one thing.

They know that no one client job proposal, pitch, or phone call defines them.  Instead they approach their opportunity calls with clients with confidence rather than desperation. And trust me, that can make a world of difference when you're on the phone with a potential client.

The third thing that sets six figure freelancers apart is they don't underprice or oversell themselves with clients.

They don't promise the sun, the moon, and the stars. Instead they know their value and they ask for it. Even though they know that it means many of their potential clients will turn them down. You will always be too expensive for some people. Just be prepared for that six figure. Freelancers know their value and recognize that they shouldn't position themselves as a person who can do it all. This often means that you end up in an employee type scenario where you are indeed doing it all for a particular client.

Unless you love juggling multiple things at the same time and being responsible for many different aspects of a client's marketing strategy, as a freelancer, niching down or focusing on the things that you do best is a great way to stay.

The fourth thing that sets six figure freelancers apart is they recognize the detrimental impact of drama, especially drama that unfolds online.

They don't engage in drama with friends, family, or anyone else online. We've all probably been in some of those Facebook groups or online spaces where drama rules the day. I've seen it far too often.  It's part of the reason that I have the stringent rules in my own Facebook group because I don't want it to become just one more place on the internet where people are arguing with one another and shaming people.  Or trying to jump and pile on and and be trolls, right?

So six figure freelancers are way too busy being booked and doing those positive mindset practices to help scale their business to be worried about dealing with naysayers. So if you are the type that gets totally locked into that comment someone made five days ago, that makes you feel really poorly about yourself, that's a mindset habit that you can start to work on and recognize that anyone who kind of goes that direction with the constant negativity is only pulling you away from business opportunities.

The fifth thing that six figure freelancers do differently is double down on their absolute best selling services and the projects they love to do the most they find where they make their money. And where their happiest doing it and instead focus on doing a few things at a time.

Rather than saying, I offer it all now. You can still be a multi-passionate entrepreneur and freelancer and have several different things going on at once.  But you don't want to say, here are the 50 services that I can provide you with. Most six figure freelancers have no more than four or five things that they provide to a client at any one time.  Often they become an expert in their niche or a kind of project in which they do really, really well. They further become an expert in that niche or industry, which makes it easier to convert and sell and collect testimonials that convert other clients like that.

Now this next one is extremely important. Number six: six figure freelancers market all the time.

It's a very common mistake I see freelancers make.  They assume that they can just stop when they're fully booked. Six figure freelancers do not stop or give up when they are booked. In fact, they use that to their advantage. They establish waiting lists. They apply urgency and scarcity to converting new clients, but they don't make any excuses about finding their marketing avenues with the highest conversions. You aren't really going to see six figure freelancers that have 16 different ways in which they market and they are waking up every day trying to do all the things. Instead they've said, you know what, my two highest converting channels are X and Y. That's where I'm really going to put most of my effort.

Number seven: six figure freelancers know their value and they position themselves with it.

They don't accept calls with tire kickers. When I get on a phone call with someone who is not serious about hiring or has an extremely low budget and just wants to argue with me specifically about pricing, I get off that phone call as soon as possible. I was recently on a phone call with someone who wanted to hire me to go straight to their book. He threw out at the beginning of the conversation that his budget was $8,500 for a six month project. That it required multiple interviews with him and you know, basically formatting the book to be self-published. And it included the creation of a marketing plan. I honestly thought it was a joke when he said it. It really came across like he had no clue what goes into producing a book.

So about six minutes into the call after he was starting to go off into a tangent.  I just very clearly said I'm not the right person for this job. It sounds like you have some phone calls set up with someone else who might be a better fit. I wish you luck. So getting off the phone with tire kickers, trying to weed and screen those people out before you even talk to them is key.

I had a sample project recently where the client took six weeks to pay for one blog.  They also never responded to any of my comments in the Google document when they made edits that made no sense or asked for information that had nothing to do with the blog post itself. So when the client said that they didn't think they'd be moving forward with me, huge relief, right? You also have the power to decide after bad sample projects when to say no.  That particular client just beat me to the punch that time.

Six figure freelancers seek ideal clients only and often have a client or monthly minimum.  They won't take on a project where the scope of work is expected to be one thing per month or where there's a flat fee that the client is paying, but that also includes hours and hours of phone calls and back and forth.

Now, the eighth thing that six figure freelancers know and the way that they approach their business is that they can't do it all alone.

And if you haven't listened to the previous episode about hiring a virtual assistant, this would be a great opportunity to go back to that and learn more about when it's the right time to start outsourcing to a virtual assistant on your team. Six figure freelancers recognize that they need support from a variety of different professionals, including an accountant, perhaps a team of freelance subcontractors, a virtual assistant, or even a coach.  And they'll see these professionals as investments rather than as an expense and realize that they cannot do everything within a given day or do everything well.  So they'll outsource what doesn't fit in their zone of genius and keep the rest.

The ninth thing that six-figure freelancers do differently from a lot of other business owners who are operating at more of the beginner level is they know that they are the driver of their business and they accept responsibility for what they do.

They're not forever blaming their lack of success or the problems in their company on someone else. They're recognizing the role that they played in that process so they don't blame marketing tools, virtual assistants, or anyone else for their lack of success. Instead, successful freelancers always look to see where they can improve and then create a solid team surrounding them to help them get better and accomplish even more.

Now, the 10th and final thing that six figure freelancers do is surround themselves with winners and become lifelong learners.

Other freelancers and mastermind groups are a great place to start so that you can have a support system to be at your side as you navigate and grow your freelance business.  Finding other people who get what you do, who encounter the same types of challenges and obstacles, and can be a sounding board when you have questions and concerns can be instrumental for helping you scale. These lifelong learners are your six figure freelancers who also read and learn from experts.

They listen to podcasts in their industry, right? That's probably you if you're listening to this podcast.  They seek out expertise from other people. They see people about two to three steps ahead of them and learn from those people as much as they can. You have to recognize that you cannot do everything by yourself.  You shouldn't want to do that either. So having a team of people around you who might have more knowledge in a specific area or who can help you navigate some of the trickier aspects of working as a freelancer, especially as your business grows, can give you a lot of peace of mind and help to normalize the situation.

Oftentimes, our friends and family members don't really understand what we're doing as freelancers. They don't recognize how our lives are different.  Or that we're not just sitting at home all day watching Netflix.  They don’t know what it really takes to run a freelance business. So build that community around you. Even if you're a remote worker at home.

Now, six figure freelancers have an eye towards the future. Freelancing might not be their end goal and that's okay. They have an underlying desire to scale their company and to build their business around their life and not the other way around. Six-figure freelancers don't have that perspective of “Let's just keep adding and adding and adding income and revenue to my business, especially if it's also adding complexity and I'm getting increasingly less happy with the process of running a business.” They're constantly testing things and thinking about how to do things differently, how to make their business work more effectively for them.

Now, if you've been listening and are thinking, “I don't know if growing a six-figure freelance business is right for me.”  That's okay!  You can still keep many of these tips in mind and effectively scale your freelance business as much as possible in the timeframe that you have and with the individual goals that you have. The more that you start thinking about where you're going to be with the next step in your freelance business, the easier it will be to build your confidence and get to that point.

Thanks as always for tuning in to another episode of the advanced freelancing podcast. Remember, you can get lots of free resources on my website, including past episodes of this podcast, hundreds of YouTube videos, and great blogs to help point you in the right direction.

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.

Sep 2, 2019

I’m stepping out of the box of talking about advanced freelancing for this particular episode because I have had a number of people reach out to me about the process of marketing a book.  I recently wrapped up the launch of my first book “How to Start Your Own Freelancing Business” published by Entrepreneur Press in July 2019.

If you have been following me, you already know this is the book I wish I had when I started out as a freelance writer.  And that is what I kept in mind when I was writing this book.  I don’t really talk about the craft of writing, but I do talk about how to set yourself up for success working with clients, what you need to know about marketing, what typical days look like, etc.

This book was published very quickly when you think about the traditional timeline of publishing. So that gave me a very condensed timeline to come up with a plan for launching and marketing this book.  In this episode, I’m going to dive into the “behind the scenes” of my book launch and what it really takes to market a book.

Regardless of if you are traditionally published, self-published, or thinking about writing a book, marketing is key. 

Having a solid book launch and a marketing plan in place is very important no matter which direction you go with publishing.  This is something you should be thinking about ideally before you even start to write a book.  Why? Because it matters!  The marketing of the book actually takes up a substantial amount of time after the content is written.  But it can take a long time to put that plan in place.

Why do publishers care about book launch marketing?

It’s because it directly affects sales.  The more you can drive up the hype and excitement about this coming attraction, the more likely people are going to be to preorder your book and/or order it after it launches.  Makes sense, right?  I’ve interacted with lots of authors who have self-published a book who have said, “Hey, I just started thinking about marketing.  My book came out 3 months ago.”  Now, this is not to say you can’t still market a book after it’s been published.  However, the ideal time is before it comes out.

My book came out in July 2019, but I really started thinking about marketing in December.  When you write a nonfiction book, your book is sales based on the proposal.  So your marketing plan is part of that proposal.  Essentially you are trying to communicate to publishers:

●       Here is what I intend to do to market the book.

●       Things you have already done to establish a platform and a brand.

Let’s Talk About Platform

In the world of nonfiction books, the platform is an important word you’re going to hear over and over again.  Essentially, it’s how you are connected to all the different people in your world that are going to buy this book.  So this could be your social media numbers, your email list subscribers, the number of people you have in your online courses, etc.  All of this makes up your platform.

This is a way for publishers to evaluate if you already have an audience ready and willing to buy your book.  So the platform is one of the most important things that publishers look at when they are deciding if they want to work with you on a nonfiction book.  It’s still important in the fiction world, but less important. 

You see a lot of nonfiction authors who are professional speakers, CEOS, or online business gurus who have already built a business and have recognition for that business.  Nonfiction publishers see these types of people as less of a risk because they have already built up recognition and an audience who will be willing to buy their books.

Publishers care about book launch marketing.  There is a myth that if you get a publisher or self publish a book all you have to do is put it out there and people will buy it.  Which isn’t the case at all.  You have to do just as much work, if not more, on the marketing end of things for a book to actually sell.  There are A LOT of books out there.  If you want your book to actually sell you have to put in time and effort on the marketing!  Any savvy author out there is going to put in that time on marketing their book. 

I had a solid 6-month plan for marketing.

It started with the development of the book launch/marketing plan I had in my proposal. But of course, it went much beyond that as well.  I started tweaking and using it in a lot of different ways after the book was written because I knew more about what I could say the book was truly about.  So you need a plan about 6 months out.  You will be tired at the end of it, but it’s worth it.  You should have a lot to do if you’ve done your work.

One of the things that really helped me was having a launch team,  I had an author’s assistant who helped me plan out the launch.  I also did a call with a book launch strategist who walked me through the different components of my marketing plan.  We went over what I had already typed up and how my TedX Talks were going to work in conjunction with my launch.  She even reviewed some of my creative ideas. 

I did a lot leading up to my book launch.

I did 2 TedX Talks in the month leading up to my book launch.  I created a book trailer.  I have appeared or will appear on 35 podcasts that I pitched.  I did some guest blogging, I did some traditional media responses using HARO.  I also reached out to all of my contacts in different industries to let them know the book was coming out. I found collaborations in diff organizations that had a similar audience to mine.  I offered a giveaway to their audience.  I worked with an influencer who advertised my book to her audience as well.  And of course, I leveraged my launch team.

My launch team was a core set of volunteers who committed to buy the book when it came out.  They agreed to submit a review.  They shared things on social media.  This was helpful for me because you kind of get tired of talking about your own book.  Also, you can say all you want about your own book, but it won’t matter as much as what someone else has to say about your book.  When you can rely on a launch team like this it’s huge because social proof speaks volumes.

I recommend having a plan that is 6 months out because you have so many different components that you need to consider. 

You have to consider things like traditional media responses, working with a publicist, etc.  Working with a publicist is risky and expensive for several different reasons.  Because of this I actually DIYed most of my book launch.

So for my launch plan, I built out a calendar of exactly when I wanted certain things to drop.  This included:

●       Book trailer to drop exactly 30 days before the book launch.

●       Have my launch team primed and ready to go exactly 30 days before the book launch.

●       Make sure we have a lot of sales on the day the book became available.

So I did a lot of sharing in my personal network. I built a launch team. I wrote about the book on LinkedIn. I reached out to a lot of different people on what they could do to help me with this launch.  I did giveaways.  I went Live on other people’s Facebook pages.... I also had the book pre-order link in my email signature for about 5 months leading up to it.  It just had a picture of the book and it said buy my first book.

Behind the scenes of the book launch is tiring. 

It was harder to do the marketing than it was to write the book.  I’ve been writing for years.  But all of the different moving pieces of the marketing really paid off because the book was ranking very well on Amazon the first week it was up.  It was really great to see this after all of that hard work.  I do recommend you give yourself NO LESS than 3 months and that’s only if you have your marketing plan laid out and you are just picking the components of it. 

We also had a preorder giveaway.  So I had a landing page on my website where people who preordered could send a copy of their receipt and they would get a special set of bonuses.  I also scheduled conferences the summer the book was coming out so that I could talk about it and sell some copies lives and sign them and build buzz.  I also gave anyone who bought it live access to the special set of bonuses.

Another important thing to do is ask for reviews.

It’s very important to get reviews on Amazon.  Why?  Because it helps other people decide if they want to purchase the book.  I kind of assumed that people would just go back and leave a review after they read the book.  But that’s not necessarily the case.  I learned that you really need a more personal approach and reach out to people who have purchased it.  You need to personally ask them to leave a review. Reviews are really key for Amazon to see that people are not only buying the book but they are actually reading it and liking it.

So this is something I am still actively working on a little over a month after the book has come out.  I’m still personally reaching out to people who have purchased the book.  I am finding creative ways to keep the buzz about the book going. 

The first 90 days are important in Amazon’s algorithm.  Why?  Because you want to get your book in the suggestion section of Amazon.  You know the one I’m talking about.  The one that says “Customers who bought this also bought…”.  I want my book to be associated with other books on writing or books in a similar genre.  I want this to happen so that people who don’t necessarily don’t know me personally have a chance to see my book and possibly buy it.

So if you are thinking about publishing a book either the traditional route or self-publishing, you cannot afford to neglect marketing.

This has a lot of similarities with much of the teaching that I do around running your freelance business too.  To be successful in freelancing or in marketing a book you have to have your finger on the pulse of marketing.  You have to be doing something every day or every week that is moving your marketing efforts forward. 

You lose a lot if you don’t already have a marketing plan in place before you launch.  It’s really a lot harder to try to do this after the launch to generate the buzz you need to sell your book. So if you are self publishing think about how much lead time you need to have to create this marketing plan and be able to implement it around the time the book comes out.  That date is very important.  You want to be able to show Amazon and other retailers where the book is listed.  You want to show them The buzz and hype around it and the excitement that coincides with that date.  So it’s a lot harder if you are looking back 3-6 months later and try to start marketing your book because you have already lost some traction by not already having a marketing plan in place. 

Reverse Engineering The Marketing Plan

From the moment I signed the contract for my book “How to Start Your Own Freelance Business”, I knew the publishing date was going to be July.  So I reverse engineered all of my marketing plans and ideas thinking back about when I wanted certain things to drop.  I thought about how I could use various components of my marketing to get maximum leverage out of them. 

Like in the month before the book came out I wanted to drop the book trailer because it would generate more excitement than if it was launched 4 months before the book came out.  I also didn’t want my launch team to sign up too early because then they would sign up and forget about it.  It would be really hard to keep people engaged and do their posting on their social media and leave reviews. 

Yes, there is a lot of buzz leading up to the book release date, but you have to continue marketing your book for the days and months after the release. 

This shows consistency.  It shows that there is still interest in your book after the initial release. You also have to make sure you don’t frontload your marketing plan too much.  How are you going to keep the excitement going a month or two months after the book has been published?  What other components of your marketing plan can be activated at this point after it has been published?

So as you can see there is a lot of work that went into planning a book launch.  It was very tiring.  Towards the end, I was happy that I had planned ahead because I was also balancing my freelance business and watching the launch go live.  I was nervously tracking everything.  I was very thankful in the summer when the book dropped that I had done a lot of the leg work in advance.  Why? Because I don’t know that a lot of the marketing that I did would have come to fruition if I hadn’t planned it months in advance.

It was kind of surreal when the book came out because I had spent so much time thinking about the marketing and doing outreach and putting this plan together that it was like “WOW, THE BOOK IS ACTUALLY HERE!”  It has been this thing that I have been talking about, thinking about, and strategizing for so so long and now it’s here.  Now to keep the buzz going.  Having the energy and strategy to do that was largely due to the fact I had done so much planning in advance.

So I strongly recommend if you are thinking about publishing a book to think about your marketing now. It contributes to your platform and the likelihood you will be able to work with a traditional publisher.  Even if you are self-publishing platform is just as important because you are doing all of the marketing legwork to get that book off the ground.  You will thank yourself later when you have done the work in advance.

To get a copy of my book Start Your Own Freelance Writing Business—available now! Buy it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and more.  Of course, I would be honored if you would also leave a review of my book! 

Aug 26, 2019

I have to get on my soapbox and talk about a topic that’s very important as a freelancer.  It’s something that most freelancers probably already know, but it’s still something I feel needs to be discussed.  Why? Because it’s so important to protect yourself.

Why You Should Always Have More Than One Freelance Client or Lead Source 

The idea is not to ever let any one thing be the source of your success.

Variety, different sources of income, and different sources of marketing are all critically important for a freelancer.  We never want to put all our eggs in one basket.  However, it happens all too often with freelancers.  It happens when a freelancer finds something that really works from them, but they don’t see the challenges of having just one client or one form of marketing.

These two things can set you up for failure in a big way.  Think about when you had a traditional job.  It can be nerve wracking to work as an employee because if you are an at-will employee, at any point in time your employer can terminate your job.  I know because it’s happened to me.

When I started freelancing as a side hustle, I knew that I didn’t want to have just one client.  I knew from experience that it can be so scary thinking the rug could be pulled out from under you at any given time.  I knew I needed to diversify. 

Diversity needs to come in many forms.

So here I was pitching to different clients with the mindset that if I had 5 different clients if I lost one it wouldn’t be the end of the world.  Which was true.  But then I had a colleague point something out to me that really made sense.

If I was only using one form of marketing to do my pitches, in my case it was Upwork, what happens if that website crashes and you can’t pitch anymore?  This was a huge wake up call to me because I had built my entire business around something that’s called “digital sharecropping”.   You see other businesses doing this today too. 

As a freelancer, you never want to have one platform be your sole source of leads.  This is why I expanded from Upwork into cold pitching into using LinkedIn.  I didn’t want to be dependent on any one thing.  Having a variety of different marketing methods is definitely very important for freelancers.  Once you are established and know which methods convert the highest, that’s where you will want to put your emphasis in your marketing.

As a new freelancer, you’re going to be trying a lot of different marketing methods all at one time.  As time goes on you’re going to have to look at the data of which of those methods is converting the highest for you.  You then can pick 2-3 methods to focus on for your core marketing methods to get you the best possible result.

You don’t have to feel like you need to do all of the things forever.  But having variety is good.  What if your Facebook Group gets shut down and you could no longer use that?  What would you use to market and bring in clients?  Variety is truly the spice of life in this case.  It’s important to be building your market in several places in case something like this would happen.  Never stop marketing and never fully rely on one source of marketing.

Digital Sharecropping

Digital Sharecropping is essentially building your business’s success on the reliance of some online tools, websites, software, or other person who runs an online company.  When you are reliant on platforms or tools to convert offers or bring you business, everything is contingent on that site continuing to run exactly as it always has.  If something changes dramatically this could potentially put you out of business.

As online business owners, we are always evolving and adapting. So sometimes a site like Upwork tries out a new algorithm and it gives me the ability to try it out and tweak my business to adapt to it.  But that doesn’t always mean it is a complete and total overhaul of Upwork.  However, if they were to do a complete overhaul, it could be catastrophic for me if I hadn’t built up my business elsewhere.

Don’t be a digital sharecropper who has built everything on something staying the exact way that it is.  In the online world, we know that things are constantly changing.  Variety is important so that you can pull potential leads from multiple places when these changes take place.  If you are listening to this, take this as an opportunity to branch out and explore other platforms to start building your business.

Try something new

The best time to try something new is when there are no stakes are attached.  If you are a person who is completely reliant on one platform to bring you all your leads, then branch out and try something new.  Start using another platform and build your business and see how it goes.  You don’t want to have to wait until a catastrophe happens and it’s necessary.  Do it now so that you are prepared IN CASE something happens.

A great platform to try is LinkedIn.  I actually just dropped my newest course about using LinkedIn and 3 step process that has brought consistent high quality leads my way.  So I’m glad I started my LinkedIn strategy when I didn’t really need it because by the time I was able to master it, I was able to move further and further away from using only Upwork to source my leads.

One of the biggest ways you can set yourself up for failure is by only marketing on one platform in one way.  Why? Because if you try something new, you may become a master at it.  And what if you original form of marketing goes bankrupt.  You are already marketing yourself in more than one place and are prepared if something happens.  The best time to try something new is now!

Only having one client.

Having only one client as your sole source or bulk of your income is so dangerous.  If this is you, please consider adding multiple smaller contracts to your business.  If the BIG CLIENT terminates your contract or goes out of business, your entire source of income just goes away if you only have that one client.  Once again, diversify.  There are so many things that can happen in the freelance business.  Don’t set yourself up for failure.  Have a backup plan in place.  Be marketing to other clients and bring on some smaller clients.  (For more about contracts in freelance projects, please check out this related episode.)

If you all of a sudden lose your work with that one client and you have paused your marketing, this could be devastating to your business.  It could be a setback for several ways.  You need to always be marketing and you need to have several clients.  We have to be prepared for the possibility that things could shift and change.

Because we are in control of so much in our business, we have to take ownership of everything that we do.  You make choices every single day about who to work with, what type of work you want to do, how long to work with people and what to charge.  You need to have an “insurance plan” in place.  This means having more than one client and more than one marketing method. 

It’s very dangerous to have only one client and only one marketing method.  Avoid putting yourself in the tough spot of having to rebuild your business on the fly.  Make sure you have at least one month of expenses saved up so that if this does happen, you are covered for a bit financially and it gives you time to build it back up.

Having more than one client means that if something happens your income won’t go all the way down to zero dollars just like that.  It’s important that you realize I keep talking about having more than one client and more than one marketing method together because I often see issues arise with both of these things.  People come to me who only had the one big client and only using one marketing method and both have went belly up so to speak.

Variety is the magic of life.

Having alternative sources of marketing and income are instrumental for your success.  There are a lot of statements out there of how very wealthy people will have 5-7 streams of income at one time.  There is a reason for that.  They aren’t hedging their bets on ONE THING to continue bringing in money.  Even if I got rid of my coaching and freelancing business, I still have a steady stream of income coming in from other things like speaking, my books, etc.

Starting when you don’t need to start it is the best time to start it because the risk is very low.  You can figure out a strategy that can save you in moments of crisis, but can actually help you when you are thinking about if you need to make a shift in your business.  This gives you a great deal of peace of mind.  I want you to avoid being in a bad situation. For more advice about things that can help you launch your freelance career successfully, check out this related episode on the five things I wish I’d known when I started.

So if you are currently thinking I have this one client and I have this one marketing method, but how do I break out of it then we need to talk.  This is something I help freelancers with all the time.  I do this through 1:1 strategy sessions where we dive into your business for a specific period of time and talk about what is working, what isn’t, and where you can go from here.  I am able to get a good understanding of where you are at and where you want to go in your business.  If you are interested in learning more about these 1:1 sessions go to and you can see the options for these sessions.  I’d love to work with you! 

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.

Aug 19, 2019

Have you ever had the OPPOSITE of what I call a “King Midas Day” or even week in your freelancing business?  What I mean is it feels like nothing is going to work.  You feel like a failure.  It feels like your business is imploding right before your eyes!  Does this sound familiar?  Well if you are having that kind of day or week I want to encourage you to take a step back!  Get out of your house!  Most times this will give you some space and allow you to gain a fresh perspective to come back and be able to troubleshoot.  Sometimes it really is an off day and other times it’s our own mindset that is holding us back.

What should you do if nothing is converting with your clients?

It blows my mind when I see posts in a Facebook group with people saying they had sent 100s of pitches and had a website up for a long time, but still hadn’t gotten their first client.  In my early days of coaching freelance writers, I had a girl come to me who had literally sent out 200 pitches on Upwork.  And not one of those had ever reached out to her or decided to work with her.  This was shocking to me!

In my own business, if I am doing something that isn’t converting I am either going to figure out if this is the right fit for me.  Or is there someone out there that knows this system/software better than me that I can hire or learn from to make this convert?  If this is happening to you, please don’t wait until you have sent 100 pitches or until you have spent 2 years on Upwork and have zero results before you reach out to someone who can help you.

“Always take a step back and figure out what you can do on your own.”- Laura Briggs

When I first started trying to pitch to speak at TedX events, I had NO IDEA what I was doing.  I submitted several applications and all of them were rejected.  Now, I thought my idea was pretty good, but obviously it wasn’t resonating.  I had no idea about some of the TINIEST mistakes I was making on the application process until I hired a coach who had successfully landed four TedX talks on his own.

Even though we had to work at it for a while and get through some rejections, it ended up with 5 different invitations to give TedX Talks.  It’s always good to find someone who has been down the path before rather than just trying to make things work on your own.  This process can be really frustrating to go through it on your own.

When nothing is converting with your clients, there are a couple of different things you want to check and evaluate.

The first one is really important because it’s your mindset! When you are in a funk and you have a roster of clients that you don’t like to work with, you will subconsciously hold yourself back from pitching.  Why?  Because your mind is saying, “Oh, we don’t want any more clients like that. If working and bringing on freelance clients means being as frustrated as I have been with this group of clients then...NO THANKS! I’m not pitching.” 

I have seen freelancers be held back by this.  The hard part is they don’t even realize it.  It’s kind of a subconscious battle that is keeping them from being able to effectively pitch.  It became an easy to “back burner” the process of pitching because they were stuck in this mindset of not marketing at all because of their current clients.  You need to know if this is something that is potentially holding you back.  Think about these things:

  • Who is on your roster right now?
  • Are you working on projects you enjoy doing?
  • Are you being paid well to these projects?

None of the other elements I’m going to tell you to check are going to work if you don’t have the right mindset.  So first things first, evaluate and work on your mindset.

Once we have figured out whether or not your mindset, there are some other things that you can check.  Now, If you have figured out that it’s your mindset and you have a disaster client, now is the time to figure out a few things like:

  • What are you going to do to get out of that relationship?
  • How are you going to replace this client?
  • What do you need to do on your marketing side of things to bring in more business so you don’t have a fear and holding back on your pitching?

The next thing you are going to want to check are your samples.

Whatever samples you are providing to your prospective clients speak volumes.  And you cannot afford to have samples that don’t accurately depict your quality of work. A lot of times, we forget to update your samples. If you are anything like me you probably look back at your samples and cringe! Why? Because you have gotten better at your craft since you created them.  You don’t want to be sending out samples that isn’t putting your best foot forward.  You should be sending out samples that is your best quality work.  Samples should be the work that you are most proud of.  The samples should always reflect where you are at right now, not where you were at 6 months ago.  Check your samples for the following:

  • Are they outdated?
  • Are there errors in them you didn’t see before?
  • Do they depict the type of work you are doing now?

Samples work in conjunction with the second thing you should check...your pitch.  And more often than not, if something isn’t working with your marketing it is either your samples or your pitch.  One or both of these things is off for your marketing method or your specific market.  If nothing is converting and you have checked your mindset, the next thing to consider is the pitch and the samples.  This is where I recommend you put your focus.  Invest in having someone proofread the material or give you some feedback.  You can reach out in Facebook groups and such so you can figure out what isn’t working.  If your pitch and samples aren’t working they can slam the door of opportunity shut with clients who otherwise would have been perfect clients for you. You may not even realize this!  It’s often these little things that can be tweaked and that leads to conversions.  Little things can make a HUGE difference.  ASK FOR HELP!

It’s amazing to me how many creatives send out samples and pitches that are not their best work.  If you are a creative person, whether it’s a writer or designer, your work needs to be spot on and error free.  That’s very important!  It would be nice if clients would look beyond that, but they don’t!  I speak from a professional standpoint where I have been hired as a Content Manager and they client has told me to not hire anyone who has grammar mistakes in their pitch. So, as you can see, even the littlest mistakes matter!

The next thing to consider is your market.

Are you marketing to the wrong people?  Are you marketing to people that only work with agencies? Are you marketing to organizations that don’t have the money to pay you?  Are you marketing to people on LinkedIn but that’s not where “your people” are?  Check your market after you have checked your mindset, pitch, and samples.

This is another great opportunity to engage with someone else in the freelance world and ask for their expertise on whether or not your market could be off.

The next thing to check is YOUR follow through.

Newsflash...most business is done in the follow through stages.  I am always surprised when I hear from freelancers that they sent out pitches and never hear from anyone.  I always ask them if they followed through.  When they say that they never heard from them so they didn’t follow through it blows my mind. Most business does NOT come from sending a pitch and getting a signed contract in reply.  There is a nurturing process that most clients have to go through.  So if you aren’t following up with prospective clients, you are leaving business AND MONEY on the table.  Check your follow through by considering things like this:

  • Do you have a system to capture who you have pitched?
  • When did you follow up with them?
  • Did they have objections?
  • Was a call with you scheduled?
  • Have you sent them a proposal?

You even have to follow up after the proposal phase.

“A lot of what we do as freelancers is selling and being consistent with that selling process.”- Laura Briggs

Think about someone who tried to sell you something you didn’t want, understand, or even feel like you needed.  A great example is a life insurance agent.  It’s easy to push off something like this and say you didn’t want to do it.  It’s probably because this person followed up with you multiple times before you decided to go through with it and get everything set up.

Be aware of how important follow up is.  If you are not doing it, it wouldn't surprise me if you aren’t bringing in a lot of business.  Clients need hand holding.  Yes we live in an amazing digital age where you don’t have to see your clients in person if you odn’t want to.  But that also means we need to make our clients comfortable about hiring essentially a stranger over the internet.  We need to break down those barriers and make them feel trusting of us.  The follow up is where you do this.

Follow up also shows persistence.  Some clients love this.  You’d be amazed by how many freelancers DON’T follow up!  Sometimes it can even get your foot in the door ahead of someone else JUST BECAUSE YOU FOLLOWED UP SO MANY TIMES.  Having a CRM system is a great way to keep track of all this.

Through Hubspot you can get up to 200 open email notifications for free.  AFter that you have to pay.  Anyone who is pitching and using cold email this can be helpful because you can see when people open your message so it will remind you to go back and FOLLOW UP!

Following up is so easy! It doesn’t take much time.  It’s a quick reach out to the client to see if they have reviewed what you sent.  It’s also a chance to showcase a little more personality.  Carve out time and send your follow ups out in batches based on the pitches you sent a few days to a week before.  Being the person that follows up can significantly increase your conversions.

The last thing you need to check is your pricing.

Sometimes your pricing is just off. Across the board you will find all kinds of different pricing.  Never base your pricing on anyone else’s numbers. This is a huge reason why I never discuss pricing anywhere I’m talking about freelancing.  There are literally so many variables that go into determining pricing there is no one size fits all answer.  Whatever you charge you will have clients that think that it’s cheap and a great deal.  And you will have clients that think it’s too expensive.

Because you are going to hit that at every level, it’s about finding a price that works for you that still allows you to be competitive in the market.  You can do a lot of harm to yourself by having pricing that is too low.  I have had clients turn me down because he thought I was too cheap.  I have also had more people turn me down because I was priced too high.  I never take it personally though.  It’s never worth burning the bridge because those people may come back to you or even refer people to you once they know the baseline of your pricing.  You simple just say OKAY.  I have had people turn me down because they thought my pricing was too high only to come back to me when their business was doing a little bit better.

These are the types of things that go into the consideration of your pricing.  A lot of people think it’s their pricing when in fact it’s their pitch or proposal.  But it is worth considering whether there is something that is off with your pricing.  The best way to know this is if people are straight up telling you that you are too expensive or don’t know what it is included in that cost.  This leads to the client just shutting down.

There is a reason why we check the pricing last.  More than likely, the reason you aren’t converting is because of one of the other things I listed. 

There is nothing wrong with you as a business owner or creative if something isn’t converting in your marketing cycle.  Most of us are new at this.  We are figuring things out as we go along and making our best guess at how to run our business.  So there is no shame in saying this isn’t working.  You just have to look at what you can get better at, what you can learn, what you can change in your business to make it better.  This can actually liberate you from the stress of taking it so personally.

Learning is something that can be so empowering in your business.  It can also help with your mindset towards your business.  As business owners we have to be adaptable and constantly evolving to see where the market is going.  There is a tremendous amount of intelligence in stepping back and seeing what isn't working and figuring out how to adapt to change it.

**Remember I have an awesome FB GROUP where you can get tons of free training and information and network with other rockstar freelancers.  You can find me by searching for Mastering Your Freelance Life with Laura. 

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.

Aug 12, 2019

Welcome to another episode of the Advanced Freelancing Podcast.  Today’s topic is getting through a freelancing dry spell.  I don’t care what anyone says, one of the most important things to know as a freelancer is when you might encounter a dry spell.  It’s key for every freelancer to know how to prepare yourself for it.  You need to have a plan to address what to do when things get slow. It can happen to any of us. 

It actually happened to me recently.  I let go of 2 clients and at the same time, another client had to pause all of their marketing operations.  This was a SIGNIFICANT loss in income.  BUT...even in these moments you have the opportunity to think about how you going to overcome it.  Hopefully, you have done some of the leg work in advance to be able to help protect yourself through this dry spell.

One of the things you need to focus on and be aware of in your freelance business is building it up to the point of sustainability and replicating your results every month.

It can be very frustrating for a freelancer to bounce around month to month with different levels of income.  The more you can scale steadily to where you feel confident in your business the more comfortable you can be with business decisions.  Business decisions like how much you are going to pay yourself and how much of your revenue is going to go back into your business.

Freelancing dry spells DO happen.  In fact, that’s a big reason WHY I stayed at my day job for 13 months after launching my freelance writing side hustle.  I had no idea if there were going to be dry spells.  I had an eye-opening experience with this because I came in as a teacher.  Now, where I taught you could decide to have your salary distributed over the 12 months of the year.  This means you would get paid less monthly, but would still get paid over the summer break. Or you could just get paid during the 9 months of the school year.  A lot of the teachers had to pick up other income streams over the summer.

Check out: What You Should Know About the August Slow Season

How to deal with slow seasons…

I have been freelancing for 7 years and have seen a trend where every year August is slow.  It’s a hard time to market.  I have also noticed from around December 15-January 15 is a slow period as well.  There are several reasons for this.  People are distracted during these times of the year whether it’s for back to school, last-minute vacations, holiday vacations, or even just waiting for the year to close out so they can start fresh. 

  • There is also a dead zone between Thanksgiving and the beginning of December. There will be some people who want to get something done before the end of the year and they may contact you on December 1st.  However, it’s extremely important during these times to get things squared away in advance. 
1.     Track your numbers. 

It’s important to track your numbers in a spreadsheet.  This will let you know what months are not your best months.  Example: Let’s say May isn’t my best month.  So I’m going to use that knowledge going forward and try to book as much work as possible in April.  OR… Maybe February is my busiest month so I’m going to take some of the money I earn in February and put it aside in an emergency. It’s so important for you as a freelancer to have an emergency fund.  WHY?  Well, for example, if you only have one client and you have to fire that client or something happens where you aren’t working with them anymore, where is your income going to come from?  This is where I encourage freelancers to not put all their eggs in one basket.

  1. NEVER rely on one client. 
    Always be marketing heavily in other areas.  You need to have protections in place to protect your business.  If you have 3 clients and you lose the big one you still have a little bit of a buffer because you have other clients in place. That padding plus saved money (emergency fund) gives you a buffer to get things figured out.
  2. Know how long it takes clients to sign.
    For me Upwork clients sign quickly whereas LinkedIn clients typically take a little longer to sign on for my services.  I’m not going to ignore LinkedIn.  I’m still going to market there.  WHY? Because if I lose a big client, it may take 3 to 4 weeks to build up that relationship.  So by continuing to market on LinkedIn consistently, I’m always building those relationships.

So now you are in a freelancing dry spell.  I am going to assume that you have already been saving a portion of all the income you make for expenses, taxes, retirement, family emergency fund, and 1 month of expense for your freelancer emergency fund. If you haven’t already set up that emergency fund, do so now.

So in this dead zone, it’s harder to drum up work.  I don’t know about you, I don’t like to throw spaghetti at the wall and hope it sticks.  I’m not going to send out 100 pitches the week before Christmas because they most likely aren’t going to get seen.  So why not send those inspired pitches in the beginning of the year when people are thinking about their goals.  It’s much easier to market during this time.  This is also true for September after people have gotten their kids back to school.

These downtimes are a great chance to update your work samples! Check out: How to Get Clients to Actually Review and Be Wowed by Your Samples

Here are 6 things you can do that don’t involve marketing your business right away.

  1. Reach out to your past clients to see how things are going. 
    A really organic way to do this is to find an article that relates to their business and send it to them.  It allows you to open the conversation, letting them know you had been thinking about them and allows you to ask how things are going.  Notice by doing this, you aren’t asking them directly for work.  However, if you have lost your only client or have no clients, then yes, ask them if they have any work you can do.  It’s an opportunity to re-engage and reopen the conversation.
  2. Learn a new skill.
    This is the perfect time to think about picking up something that you wanted to do for a long time but haven’t been able to figure out.  I decided to learn how to market myself for speaking events.  I learned how to pitch myself for Tedx Talks.  I used a slow period to write my entire book proposal that went to an agent.  This helped me to learn something and go to the next level with it.  Maybe you want to learn Facebook Ads or Google Ads.
  3. Turn to your tabled project.
    What needs to be done that you have put on the back burner? Maybe it’s your LinkedIn profile. Maybe it’s building a website.  Whatever it is that you keep pushing to the back burner get it done in your slow season.
  4. Take some time off.
    If you don’t have to work because you have saved your money then take a vacation.  I used to always take a vacation in August because I knew it   be that hard for me to step away from my business.  I always close my office for the week between Christmas and New Year’s because I know that I can turn in whatever would have been do early to my client and it won’t have that big of an impact.  Bonus points if you can see this coming and plan ahead to take the time off.
  5. Try something outside of your comfort zone.
    Is there another service area that you have been thinking about adding to your business?  Where can you step outside of your comfort zone and try something when the stakes are low?  Now is the time to try it.  It could even be something in your personal life.  It gives you a chance to try something out and push yourself.
  6. Refine your marketing.
    What’s working? What isn’t? Where have you been slacking in your marketing?  A slow season is a great time to look at all of these things and develop a strategy for the next few months.  This slow season is a perfect time to take a step back and look at what is working in your marketing.  And dump whatever you’re doing that isn’t working.

A slow season doesn’t have to be something where you are panicked because you don’t have income.  Ideally, you should have planned for it.  That allows you to have this time to reflect on your life and your business and decide what you want to do next.   I love having these things built into my year because I know that February through June is a crazy time.  It’s always busy.  But I know I have some slow season coming after the time I have been pushing pretty hard. 

A slow season doesn’t have to be completely negative.  It’s a chance to recalibrate and take a break for once.  I had a freelance coaching client once who hadn’t taken a vacation in 3 years!  We had discussions about taking time off and put it in the calendar ahead of time.  I never feel guilty for taking a vacation when I do.

What are your favorite things to do during a freelancing slow season?  I’d love to hear more about how you make this downtime work for you.  Remember you can always send questions and comments to  Remember to SUBSCRIBE to the podcast so you always get updates about new episodes every week.  Also, I would love it if you would do me a HUGE honor of leaving a review of the show inside your podcast app like iTunes or wherever you listen. It helps other people who are freelancers find this show.

Aug 5, 2019

Welcome back to the Advanced Freelancing Podcast!  Today I’m going to talk about something that is going to help supercharge where you’re at with your freelance business.  It can also help you overcome obstacles in your business much faster than if you were having to work through things on your own.

Since I started I started my freelance business there have been more resources added to the internet, books, and other places to learn about freelance writing.  However, that’s now always enough to get you where you need to be.  I have read practically every book there is on freelance writing. 

I have also interacted with coaches.  I have attended conferences.  All of this has been helpful and I have picked up different tidbits here and there.  But one of the ways to absorb a lot of information more quickly is to choose to work with a coach. 

For a long time, I was resistant to working with a coach.  I had the mindset of being afraid to let anyone else into my business.  What if they messed it up?  What if they tried to press their business model on me and I didn’t agree with it?  An example of this is subcontracting my writing work to other writers...I don’t agree with this practice.  This is MY business so I was very protective of it!  This is a personal choice for me. 

I am familiar with both the agency and solo model of business.  This is helpful when I’m coaching others with their business.  We have a real conversation about what is best for THEM! 

So why on Earth would you hire a freelance coach?

You’re Stuck...

The first reason you would hire a freelance coach is because you’re stuck.  You’re stuck at a certain income level, stuck working for clients you don’t like, or you feel like you are stagnant and you are having difficulties going in the next directions.  This is where you say “Okay, I need more help!”  A lot of the people who hire a coach have been stuck at a certain income level for a while and are ready to step it up.

Hiring a coach can help you get to those higher income levels so much faster. WHY? Because it involves having someone else’s eyes on your business giving you recommendations and suggestions on what’s best for you!

So much information…

The second reason you want to hire a coach is that there is SO MUCH information out there.  You don’t want to spend the time sorting through ALL THAT INFORMATION searching and trying to find out what’s best for you! You want to be able to bypass the challenges and get to where you want to be faster. 

Now if you are someone with a lot of free time on your hands, then by all means, you can read through everything there is out there on freelancing.  But this will take FOREVER for you to get results!  I wish I had invested in the help of a coach when I first started my business!  Having someone in your corner who understands not only your business but also the strategy of running your business is invaluable.

You need accountability…

The third reason you might want to hire a freelance coach is because you NEED that additional accountability  If you slacked off in your marketing or if you know there are things you want to do or try in your business but you just can’t seem to make them happen, you need a coach.  Investing in a coach gives you accountability to make these things happen that you otherwise tend to ignore or put on the back burner. This provides focus because it’s another person to help you stay on track! 

Other Reasons…

There are other reasons you might hire a coach.  They include:

  • Wanting to scale, but you don’t know how to do it.
  • Feeling burned out, but you aren’t sure where in your systems and process the burn out is coming from.
  • Continually attracting the wrong kind of clients and need someone to help shed light on what you are currently doing and what can be changed to attract your IDEAL client.

Different Coaching Models

There are different coaching models out there for when you are working with a coach.  I have personally been through just about all of them.  In fact, if you purchase my book the last chapter is all about coaching and mentoring and the different options available to you.

Courses that have limited support from a coach

This is where you invest in a course.  But there is some kind of limited amount of contact with the actual coach like office hours.  You might get a 1:1 call with the coach.  You may also get a set of group coaching calls.  These can help you with specific questions about the course.  But, these are timed and very limited as far as interaction especially if it’s a group call or office hours. 

Strategy Session

This is great for the person who doesn’t necessarily need long term support.  If you have a handful of questions or want someone to give you in-depth advice about your marketing or LinkedIn profile for pitching purposes a strategy session might be for you.  These can help you with emergency issues in your business if you get stuck and need to figure things out. 

Make sure you find someone who specializes in your particular area of business.  They are usually 45-90 minutes long.  You can get a lot accomplished in that time if you are really focused.  With a 90 minute session, I can usually cover 3 topics with my clients.  It’s a great place to go if you need help or direction with what to do next.

Mastermind/Group Coaching

This is essentially one step up from purchasing a course or book and reading through the material.  Why?  Because essentially you are going to receive information from the person running the mastermind and then are given a chance to ask questions about the information in a group coaching call.

A mastermind would be a good fit for you if you like engaging with other people.  You can sometimes actually learn just as much from other people as you can from a coach.  If you feel like your freelance business is kind of isolated and you are looking for like-minded people who may be going through what you are makes a mastermind a good choice for you.

1:1 Coaching

This is by far the most expensive form of coaching.  But for good reason.  It’s the most involved form of coaching.  You’ll find a lot of coaches who do things in a whole bunch of ways.  One form of this type of coaching includes a series of coaching calls where you can ask questions on this once a week call. 

The type of 1:1 coaching I do with my clients is by using a voice app like Voxer or sometimes people use Facebook Messenger where you can essentially get almost unlimited support.  This would be if people need day to day support.  One on one coaching is better to do this way because if you have urgent questions arise, you can ask that question without having to wait until your scheduled call.  The reason that I offer my coaching like this is that most of the freelancers I work with already have semi-consistent income making at least $3000 a month and they are wanting to scale, but they have day to day issues that they just want feedback on.  They tend to need that day to day support and I’m happy to provide it!  I still do a monthly call with them to cover important things, but day to day support allows them to Voxer me and get immediate support.

The two primary ways that I provide coaching is the Strategy Sessions and the 1:1 Unlimited Coaching through Voxer.  Usually, people are a fit for one or the other.  Almost all of the freelancers I have worked with on a 3 Month period get a lot of results in their business.  They even often renew for another 3 months to start the next steps in their business. 

The people who use 1:1 coaching get results a lot Voxer a lot faster.  This gives them a whole new round of questions they need to address to take the next step in their business. 

If you are thinking about hiring a coach but you are stuck, consider what type of coaching style might be right for you.  For example, I don’t get anything out of mastermind coaching.  You have to make sure you connect with a coach that coaches in a way that will connect with you.

If you are interested in learning more about my coaching, I always do a free call with people first to make sure we are a good fit.  It also allows me to see some of the issues you want to work on.  You can learn more about my coaching at and as always you can email me at  If I am not the right fit for you I will recommend you to another coach that might be.

I know it’s hard to invest money in things, especially as a newer freelancer.  But in hindsight, I don’t regret investing in these types of things because they have helped me go to the next level in my business.  I encourage you to look at where you are right now in your business and also where it is you want to go.  Coaching might be a possible solution to help you achieve your goals. 

**Remember you can always send topics and questions to

Jul 29, 2019

Hello again!  Welcome to this episode of the Advanced Freelancing Podcast.  Today I’m deviating a little bit from my “traditional” podcast episodes to discuss some information about my book!  If you haven’t heard, my first book published with Entrepreneur Press officially came out on July 16th, 2019.

I want to share some “behind the scenes” info with you! 

I want to tell you why I chose to write this book.  I also want to share why I think writing this book will not only benefit my coaching and consulting business, but also my freelance writing business as well.

“I believe that everybody has at least one book inside of them.” -Laura Briggs

Now, there are a lot of reasons why we put off writing these said books. But I want to encourage you, especially if you think that writing a book would be great for your personal development or your business!

Writing a book for freelance writers is kind of a no brainer.  It was an excellent vehicle for me to be able to show off my writing abilities.  It doesn’t matter if you choose to self publish or publish through a company.  Being able to produce an actual book shows people that you have the stamina it takes to outline, create, edit, and publish a book.  This is a great thing for your credibility as a freelance writer.

For me as a freelance writer, having a book about freelance writing will directly help my freelance business.  When I’m pitching to a client, there is a certain amount of credibility and validity from having a book published.  I have wanted to write a book for a long time. 

A little back story…

Originally when I was toying with the idea of writing a book I had the idea of starting with fiction first.  So I went to a writing conference. I had kind of a bad experience with a fiction agent.  One of the most important things I learned at the conference was that I would feel much more confident if I went the route of non-fiction first.

Fiction books sell on the basis of completed projects.  So for new writers, this means you have to have a manuscript that has already gone through at least one round of general editing done before you can even pitch it to an agent or decide to self publish. 

Non- fiction books sell on spec.  This means they sell on proposal.  My proposal was about 55 pages and I made sure to get it right!  Your proposal is essentially your pitch to agents and publishers about what it is you think you want to do.

Non- fiction books have their own unique set of challenges.  Not only do they sell on proposal, but they also sell on platform.  This means that in order for a publisher to pick up your traditional non fiction book for regular publishing you have to be able to show that you already have an established audience who are ready and willing to buy that book.  This can be done in many different ways with social media and mailing lists.

However, the reality is that not a lot of people have developed that kind of audience especially when they are writing their first book.  It’s the number one thing we heard from publishers when I was submitting my book was that I didn’t have a big enough platform.  This is why when you see books they are typically from someone who is some kind of advanced executive.  It’s people that have a massive following.

About my book...

I spent about 4 months creating my proposal!  I knew I wanted to write about freelancing.  Funnily enough, the book we sold is NOT the book we pitched.  So I am self publishing the book that we originally pitched.  I didn’t really need the full 4 months for the proposal, but I was questioning a lot of things.  I was slower because this was a foriegn concept to me.

I finished my proposal in January 2018.  So now it was time for me to shift focus to evaluating agents.  There are a lot of places to find potential literary agents.  Different ways to find an agent include:

●       Attend a conference and pitch it live.  You want to make sure you only pitch to agents who take the type of book you are creating.  Example- an agent who only takes children's books certainly would not be a fit for someone pitching a nonfiction book.  I personally was looking for a versatile agent who sold not only business books, but had a crossover into other genres. 

●       Using a paid tool. I found 33 potential agents by using a paid tool called Publisher’s Marketplace.  I paid $25 a month and you can see different deals and books that agent has represented.

●       Writers Market.  This is a huge volume that has everything from magazines that you can pitch to writing competitions.  Every year they do a volume of agents and break it down by what that agent accepts as far as types of work.  You want to double check what you find here with Publisher’s Marketplace.

So now once that you have your list of agents…

You start to submit to agents.  You start to have conversations with agents about your book.  Once you find an agent you like, you will sign an agreement with that agent to start shopping your book to publishers.  Agents take a standard 15% cut of what you do.  Sometimes the contract would be for that one project.  There are also instances where the contract will be for a specific amount of time in which that agent would be entitled to 15% of whatever you sell during that time period.  SO MAKE SURE YOU ALWAYS READ YOUR CONTRACTS VERY CAREFULLY WITH BOTH AN AGENT AND A PUBLISHER! GET AN ATTORNEY FOR THIS!

It can be a long process to publish a book traditionally.  A traditional timeline for publishing a book is about 2 years. That’s from the time the idea is accepted to the time there is a physical book in hand.  Self publishing is a lot quicker.  It can even be as quick as a few months for self publishing. 

I knew I was getting an offer in the summer of 2018.  Which was quick because I only signed with an agent in May.  We pitched to a lot of big publishers.  We got a lot of feedback that my platform was too small

Publishers tend to sometimes be behind the trends.  So if you are pitching something that is cutting edge, you need to know this can sometimes be a hard sell depending on who you are pitching to.  I want to note that for me and this book I was pitching, I don’t think the publishing houses knew the power of and how many freelancers there are.  Not just in the US but also around the world. 

We got an offer and it was time to get to work...

We finally got a response from a publishing house that was interested in my book.  But then we got a response from Entrepreneur.  They said that they were not interested in taking on the project of the bigger book at that point in time, but had an opening to refresh an old book about an introduction to freelance writing.

After many conversations with several people, I decided that this was a good opportunity for me.  Even though my business is shifting to help more intermediate/advanced freelancers, being able to offer something at the introductory level was a great opportunity. 

My contract was signed in mid August and my first draft was due on December 1st.  So I had to write roughly 65,000 words in a very quick amount of time in the publishing world.  I knew I could do it. So I stuck with the schedule and met the deadline.  It went through one round of edits that I had to complete around Christmas time. 

Then the first two weeks of January I had to complete copy edits.  These were things like punctuation, grammar, etc.  There were more than 5000 changes that I had to manually accept and edit or decline and explain why I declined. 

I really loved with Entrepreneur Press because even though they had certain styles and things they wanted me to cover, they were really leaning on my expertise.  It was the perfect blend of structure and creativity for me.

The book went into production very quickly after a few more edits.  It was on pre-sale from March to when it went live on July 16th!  So the process of writing a book is amazing!  I had really psyched myself out thinking it was going to be really difficult.  There are a few things that made it a great process including:

●       A great agent who was advocating for me.

●       I worked with a great publishing house that was very easy to work with.

●       There were very clear expectations about the marketing that was going to be done.

Remember when I said the book being sold isn’t the book I proposed?

The original outline that I proposed to the publisher changed dramatically as I was writing this book. I wrote it chapter by chapter, but as I was writing there were things I thought needed to be changed.  So I had the idea of 12 chapters at roughly 5,000 words each.  So I used a spreadsheet to track my words, places that need more work, and chapters that I felt were done.

I wrote a lot of this book on planes because my husband was traveling all over the country for job interviews.  I wrote in coffee shops and libraries.  This really motivated me and helped me stay focused and on track.

Here is my final piece of advice to you for this episode.  If you are thinking about writing a book, even if you hear this and think traditional publishing isn’t for me, that’s okay.  I still encourage you to set a deadline, keep it, and write your book.  Why?  Because this is a good process that pushes you to the next level!

So you may be wondering why I wrote this particular book?  Well, when I first started out as a freelancer, this is the book that I wish I had! When I started in 2012, most sources out there was so outdated!  So the framework for this book is online freelance writing!  I focused on this because it’s my area of expertise.  I wrote about what I knew about!  I wanted a newbie to be able to pick up this book and decide if freelance writing was right for them by looking a real day of my life as a freelance writer.

If you are interested in purchasing this book it’s available at all major retailers.  It’s not overly “thick” book so it’s easy to flip through.  I’d love to hear your questions and comments about my book.  Please send those to

Related topics: freelance writing, traditional publishing, writing a book, finding a literary agent[1] 

Jul 15, 2019

Welcome to the 3rd episode in the reboot of this podcast.  The focus of this podcast is now Advanced Freelancing.  If you haven’t gotten caught up on this change then jump back two episodes and find out why I rebranded this podcast and what you can expect from it.  Now let’s get into today’s episode.

Today’s episode is all about the freelancer’s guide to working with startups.  There are so many businesses that start up daily.  There are lots of businesses that also close within the first year of starting up.  And even business that make it 2-3 years in business still aren’t guaranteed to stand the test of time.  There of millions of startups that are out there and some are successful but a lot of them aren’t. a freelancer should you work with startups?

As a freelance writer, I have been contracted and contacted by LOTS of startups.  I always go in a little bit cynical. Why is that? Because sometimes the excitement of the startup fades over time which ultimately leads to the end of the business.

“The problem with startups is that they haven’t fully tested whether or not their company is going to be successful.”-Laura Briggs

Let’s go through some things that I have learned through the process of working with startups and some things to keep in mind when you are contacted by a startup OR if you are thinking about pitching to one.

  • Startups are more likely to post on job boards like Indeed. This is particularly true if they have a lot of funding and are trying to bring on employees quickly.  In order to scale quickly they have to bring on a lot of employees quickly.  Here’s the thing...THEY PROBABLY DON'T HAVE THE MONEY TO PAY A FULL TIME PERSON.  A lot of people are wary of working with startups because of the possibility of the doors closing in 6 months.  So this might put you, the freelancer, in a good position to pitch yourself as a freelancer because they might have challenges attracting traditional employees.
  • There is a big difference between revenue and funding. When you are working with people who have secured funding from venture capitalists or even put their own money into the startup you do have the possibility of getting paid.  When you start talking about venture capital it’s easy to get excited because you start seeing all these big numbers.  BUT… that isn’t revenue.  That is money put up by people who believe this company can make it.  That doesn’t mean that this startup will actually be able to generate revenue or better yet profit.   Never equate the startup funding as revenue.  Never count on these types of projects as a sure thing.
  • Management in startups. Some startups are completely mismanaged.  They may start with great funding but if it’s mismanaged the company could close up shop in 6 months.  I have seen this happen more than once.  If they don’t have enough funding to make it work will almost certainly try to get more bang for their buck.  Occasionally, you can convince them that your work is worth more than they are willing to pay, but it’s not likely.
  • Ask for a piece of the company. This is absolutely worthless if the company never goes anywhere. If it’s something you really believe in, this is a good way to get additional money from a client who doesn’t have the money to pay you upfront. Negotiations are always an option when dealing with a startup.
  • Hustle mentality present with startups. People who are starting up a business often have the mindset of it’s all hands on deck.  That mentality might not be the best thing to step into as a freelancer.  Be mindful of how this could easily take over your business.  Be mindful of being treated as a contractor vs. employee.  If they are treating you like an employee then it opens up certain protections under federal law.
  • Energy and excitement with the founders. Most times the founders are in various levels of distress.  Knowing how to interact with them can help you be more effective as a freelancer.  Be upfront about how you run your business.  Set boundaries and expectations are really crucial to communicating with someone who has a lot of responsibility on their plate.
  • As a freelancer, YOU ARE AN ENTREPRENEUR. Even if you don’t “own” that title, you are an entrepreneur because you have started your own business.  If you have your own way of doing things, it can sometimes be hard to step into an environment where the startup might or might not have their own way of doing things.  They might be so entrenched in something that the founders are bringing over from their previous life in business and it might not be something that jives with your personal mindset.  This is something you need to pay attention to.  It’s a good idea to have a call with the founders and find out why they created this business, what is their vision for the future, and how they see you as a freelancer fitting in to that.
  • Sometimes they like to hire people who are a jack of all trades. They might hire you to do content writing but in that all hands on deck mentality they might expect you do jump in and do something else.  As a freelancer, you have to speak up and tell them when something isn’t working.

These are just a few of the many things you will need to take into consideration before you decide to start working with a startup.  You need to make sure that your 10 hours a week doesn’t quickly become 40 hours a week and drowning out your other clients.  It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of a startup so be wise in the decisions you make regarding your freelancing business.

If you have worked with startups before, I’d love to hear about your experiences.  Email me at and I might feature you on a future show.

Jul 8, 2019

I’m now seven years into my freelance journey, and the last six of those have been as a full-time freelancer. I’ve been through the beginning stages, the ups, the downs, the struggles, and the successes.

In this episode, I’m reflecting back on what it was like when I was just starting my business and what I’ve learned since then.

Is there something you wish you had known when you started your freelancing business? Share with me on LinkedIn. Let me know you are listening and enjoying this podcast by writing a review on Apple Podcasts!

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • the 5 different things I wish I had known when I started freelancing.
  • what I would tell 2012 Laura as she started her business.
  • the most important thing I’ve learned that is important for every freelancer no matter what stage of business they are in.

Resources mentioned:

Connect with me on LinkedIn

Pre-order my book - Freelancing 101

Jul 1, 2019

Hello, and welcome… again! I’m relaunching my podcast, and if you were a listener a few years ago, you’ll notice this podcast has a completely new name and approach.

This relaunched podcast is geared specifically towards intermediate and advanced freelancers who are on the cusp of scaling their business in a big way… in their OWN big way!

The techniques, strategies, and resources I’ll be talking about are geared towards freelancers who are well past those beginning stages of starting a business.

If you are tired of hearing about the recipe that you MUST follow to be successful, the steps you HAVE to follow to get more clients, the niche you MUST be in to grow your business, then you’ll want to tune in to this podcast each week. Make sure you subscribe so you get notified when a new episode is released!

Have a topic you’d like me to talk about? Send your idea to:

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • what has changed for me since I first launched a podcast over two and a half years ago.
  • why I’m coming back to podcasting.
  • and what you can expect in these podcasts going forward.

Resources mentioned:

Pre-order my new book - Freelancing 101

TEDx Talk - The Future is Freelancing


Dec 5, 2017

Hello fans of Better Biz Academy!

Today's episode is inspired by numerous posts I have seen in various Facebook groups and emails that I tend to get about whether or not people really need a freelance contract and how on earth you find one and what should I put in there etc.

So, today I am only going to focus on one particular aspect of the whole contract debate, which is: what happens if you don’t have one.

Nov 28, 2017

Welcome to this episode of the Better Biz Academy podcast where I talk about the tools that I use to make podcasting possible and how you can easily and quickly launch a podcast yourself.

It's becoming very popular for people to think about podcasting because a lot of people are listening to podcasts now. By the time you're hearing this episode, I've had my podcast and have been recording for over a year and there have been quite a few things that I've learned in that process. This is a quick, action-packed episode about the tools that I use to make podcasting easy.

I have tried a number of different tools in the process of having a podcast. Some of them I loved and some of them I eventually let go, but I now have a few favorites — to record my podcast, to make sure that it's edited properly, and to publish it with minimal fuss.



Udemy Course: How to Launch a Podcast in 30 Days or Less

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