Did you know that you don't have to scale your freelance business up to a full-time job? Plenty of Freelancers have a goal of scaling their business to be able to replace their day job income, but others are perfectly happy with what they do from 9 to 5. If that's you, you'll love this episode with experienced freelancer and nurse Janine Kelbach, who purposefully keeps her freelance writing biz as a part-time venture simply because she loves her job.
If you're like most people, having a day job doesn't fulfill all of your creative or even entrepreneurial desires. This is what makes freelancing so unique as a business model, since you can scale it up or down as much as you want. Taking on the number of clients that is right for you is a very personal decision.
Keeping your freelance side hustle, however, also give you peace of mind that if something were to happen to your job, or if you want to accomplish different financial goals more quickly, that you have alternative options.
No matter what your day job is, there's a good chance that it takes a great chunk of your time. In this episode, we discuss how to successfully freelance side hustle when you have a day job that consumes a lot of your mental and physical energy.
You can actually use the fact that you have a day job as a way to more quickly accomplish things, since you have a compressed window of time in which you must accomplish all aspects of your feelings business, including marketing, client work, and the administrative aspects of running a freelance company. Having a day job while also freelancing on the side requires you to be much more focused and diligent about the kind of projects that you take on.
Most people start their freelance side hustle while they're currently in at a job, but this means that plenty of new Freelancers feel like they're not qualified enough to charge high prices or to even pitch themselves to potential clients. In this episode, we talked about imposter syndrome and how to overcome it when you're new to your freelance side hustle. Janine and I also discussed how to evaluate your current skillset to find the freelance side hustle types that are best suited to you.
Are you stuck on which kind of freelance side hustle you want to start? I have good news for you: I put the top 24 most profitable freelance side hustles into a PDF guide you can use to branch out of your existing freelance offering or decide which direction you want to go. Check that out here.
Janine’s podcast : www.thesavvyscribepodcast.com
Her linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/writernjanine/
Her instagram: @savvyscribes
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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:
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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 https://www.betterbizacademy.com/creating-an-ideal-client-avatar/. There is a PDF there that can help you walk through figuring out who your ideal client is.
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.
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.
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.
Remember, if you have an episode idea, you can submit that to firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.