You’re gonna need a bigger piggy bank ––
Okay, so there’s this guy named Scott.
He wants more than anything to be a writer.
Unfortunately, he’s broke as hell and in love with a woman that says she will only marry him if he brings home the bacon.
Ruthless… but, I get it.
So, Scott gets a gig at an advertising agency in New York City to make his girl happy.
He literally packs up all of his shit and moves there to show her he isn't fucking around.
One of Scott's first projects is writing a slogan for a laundry enterprise operating out of Muscatine, Iowa.
Scott comes up with something half way decent...
"We keep you clean in Muscatine."
Scott has a few more base hits after this but decides he wants to write a novel and so, after pocketing a bit of dough, he moves back home to St. Paul, crashes with his parents and begins reworking a half-completed novel he had written previously during the war (not on Madison Avenue but in WWI).
The novel gets published. It’s kind of a failure.
He writes another one several years later that gains him world-wide notoriety and… bacon.
The Great Gatsby or something like that.
Scott’s girl, Zelda, ends up marrying him.
Scott Fitzgerald wasn’t the only writer who had to take an odd job to foot the bill for his dreams.
Stephen King washed bloody hospital sheets.
Charles Bukowski worked at The Post Office.
Ernest Hemingway worked as a journalist.
And, Kurt Vonnegut, the legendary science fiction writer, started a Saab dealership with his wife’s inheritance money.
While today, Saabs are known for being swell pieces of machinery, back in the 70s when Vonnegut started Saab Cape Code, they were clunkers with pretty paint jobs.
In fact, every time you filled up your Saab with gasoline, you also had to pour in a can of oil.
What made matters worse was that when you left the Saab in one place for too long, the oil and the gasoline would separate and when you finally did start it, the vehicle would spit out black smog like an angry dragon.
Vonnegut tells a story of leaving one of his Saabs in a parking lot for a week’s time, starting it and then smoking out his entire neighborhood.
Why am I telling you all of this?
No matter how talented we are, we should never be too proud to go out and make a $1 (even if it doesn’t directly involve our passion).
We’ve been conditioned by society to believe the starving artist is more virtuous than the rich artist.
But, I disagree.
I don’t think creativity and money should be mutually exclusive.
One of my favorite quotes on this topic is by a painter and creative thinker named Rod Judkins who wrote…
"Creativity flourishes where there is money. Money is not the enemy of creative thinkers but the friend; not a problem but an opportunity. The creative mind needs to focus on creativity; financial worries are at best a distraction and at worst a crippling weight."
Judkins goes on to explain that the size of Van Gogh’s canvases fluctuated in proportion to his finances.
I think I speak for all of humanity when I say I wish Van Gogh would have had a little more dough in his pocket while he was putting brush to canvas.
All that to say, I don’t know why the fuck you’re here.
Maybe you’re trying to figure out how to make money doing your passion. Maybe you’re trying to make money doing something that’s not your passion so you don’t have to worry about money whilst pursuing your passion.
Regardless, this guide will help you get there.
This is a guide about freelancing, more or less.
It’s a guide about how I built a $250k/ year freelance business.
And, how you can, too.
Freelancing your way to $100,000.
Wildly original, huh?
Anyway, the time is getting away from us.
So, let’s hit play.
It’s 2016 and I hate my fucking job.
I’m sitting at my desk, slightly bloated from a rather robust lunch, feeling the cold metal from my buckle pinch against the fat of my belly as my stomach hangs over my belt like a lurching tidal wave.
I’ve put on a bit of a pouch since starting my shitty little desk job post-graduation and, now, as I sit hunched over in poor posture barely keeping my eyes open as the slow digestion of my greasy meal takes up all my body’s energy, I find my gaze toggling between my laptop screen and the exposed brick wall in front of me –– strongly debating if it’d be worth it to slam my forehead against it, go to the school nurse and get sent home early.
Unfortunately, there’s no school nurse at this 9-5. Just long days, sitting at a desk, wishing like hell I was someplace else.
Eventually, after I decide it’s unhealthy to fantasize about slamming one’s forehead against an exposed brick wall, I get up from my desk, pack up my laptop and walk the fuck out.
The following morning, I schedule a meeting with my boss.
I tell her I’m putting my two weeks in and am surprised to find… she’s not at all surprised.
She tells me I’m free to leave immediately, to which I do my best to hide my excitement.
Looking back, while I haven’t had many bosses –– I’ve been self-employed for 99% of my adult life –– she was a good one.
It’s a bullshit cliche, but in this particular situation: it wasn’t her, it was me.
I wasn’t born for the 9-5 life, I was born to run… it just took me a month or so working at a desk after graduation for me to realize it.
This story, this guide, this course, whatever the hell you want to call it, is about how I went from the above moment (quitting a job I loathed that was paying me roughly $11 an hour) to building a one-person freelance business that would go on to do over $170,000 just three years later.
But, enough about me.
– fin –
Let’s talk about you (whoever you are).
If you’re reading this right now, you’re obviously interested (to some degree) in freelancing.
You might be a marketing director at some badass startup, looking to build a lucrative little side-hustle outside of your day job.
Or, maybe you just got fired from your cushy marketing director position from said badass startup and are deciding whether or not you should go out and get another job.
Or, do the unthinkable… freelance.
(Hell, you might even run a freelance business that’s semi-profitable but are ready to ramp the mother fucker up to six-figures).
The bottom line is that I don’t care who you are nor what you do –– whether you want to be the proud owner of a freelance business that brings in $1,000/ month or sky-rocket your current one to $15,000+/month –– this guide is for you.
While I certainly can’t guarantee any results here, what I can do is tell you how I built Honey Copy (my freelance writing business) into an ink slinging behemoth that brought in $171,000 last year.
Do I have your attention?
– fin –
How to not starve to death while you’re getting your freelance business off the ground.
When I quit my job, I felt the adrenaline surge through my veins like a kid at a sleepover that just hosed 18 pixie sticks.
But, like all adrenaline rushes, eventually, there was a major come down…
By the time I had pulled into my driveway later that morning, reality started to fully set in…
I knew I wanted to write for a living… and I knew I wanted to write on my own terms as a freelancer… but I had no idea how the hell I was going to get there (let alone pay the bills while I worked my ass off to get there).
Not to mention, I no longer had my company-issued laptop which meant I didn’t have a laptop at all –– a bit of an issue for a twenty-three-year-old kid looking to make a living, writing, completely remote.
So, shortly after pulling into my driveway, I quickly backed-out, went up the street to a Simply Mac and spent the last $850 I had to my name on a refurbished 2014 MacBook Air.
I remember feeling vulnerable, scared and sick to my stomach walking out of that store like I had 10 lbs of raw bloody t-bones stapled to my chest and was surrounded by a pack of hungry sharks… little did I know that I would go on to make hundreds of thousands of dollars with that machine.
(Three years have passed since this fateful day and I’m so attached to the damn thing I haven’t been able to bring myself to take it to the vet and put it down… I’m typing this guide on it as we speak).
Anyway, shortly after buying my MacBook, I needed to figure out a way to make some dough while I was building my freelance business.
So, I got my hands dirty.
I found a construction company that was hiring (and heard they were paying cold hard cash) and I gave them a call.
The work was hard. Damn hard.
My job could best be described as “floor removal”.
They’d send me out at the crack of dawn with a big ass work van, a few 80-gallon trash bins, a shovel or two and a can-do attitude and I would be ordered to tear the carpet out of 5-6 apartment units each day.
These weren’t luxury apartments with soft velvety shag carpets, either.
What I would often find under my feet resembled something more like a type of moss you might see in the deep dark depths of hell (versus something that could be described as a carpet).
The places reeked of cat piss were scarred with cigarette burns and were home to all sorts of surprises… needles, bloody bandages, condom wrappers, booger ridden legos and spilled food caked into the carpet fibers like a sort of heinous icing on the top of a cake the grinch might eat.
But, it paid $14/hour and allowed me to work from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. which gave me ample time to write in the afternoons and late into the evenings.
So, I sucked it up, threw on a damn good business podcast and tore out carpet for hours on end… I got through it by telling myself it was an MBA I was getting paid for.
While you don’t need to tear out carpet…
You do need to find a way to pay the bills while you get your freelance business off the ground.
Here are a handful of ways you can do just that…
- You can have 3-6 months of living expenses saved up and you can quit your job focusing 100% of your attention on building your freelance business.
- You can work a full-time job during the day and find time outside of your 9-5 to build your freelance business.
- You can quit your 9-5 and find a part-time job that will pay the bills while you build your freelance business into an empire.
- Humanity can suddenly get plagued by a wildly contagious influenza and employers everywhere can ask you to work from home and you can keep your full-time job (but do it in 50% - 75% of the hours) while you build your freelance business.
One is pretty self-explanatory. So, like the red-headed step child, we won’t pay it any attention. If you don’t have money for rent, food and water for 3-months, you need to consider options two and three and four.
Let’s start with two because I’m fed up with talking about shitty part-time gigs for the time being.
– fin –
Burning the candle at both ends… How to build your freelance business while working a full-time job.
So, you’ve got the money part covered, your pickle is finding the time and motivation to work on your freelance business outside of your 40-50 hour workweek.
Here’s how you will find that time…
Firstly, you will stop working more than 40 hours a week at your job. If you have to tell your boss to “politely” go to hell, tell him to go to hell. I don’t care what any of your workaholic friends say, there is no reason you should ever work more than 40 hours a week for somebody else (especially if you’re only getting paid for 40 hours).
Secondly, you will talk to your boss (maybe a week or so after you tell him to go to hell) and you will ask him if you can come in earlier and leave earlier –– instead of 9-5, see if you can’t schedule your day from 7-3.
Thirdly, to help you discover how you can work faster and get a hell of a lot more done in less time, you will highly consider reading books like Rework by Jason Fried, The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss and Deep Work by Cal Newport.
Here’s what that all looks like in practice.
In an ideal world, building your freelance business while working a full-time job will look like the following…
You work your day job from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m.
You then put in a second shift (your passion shift) working on your freelance business from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m.
Then, come Saturday or Sunday, you carve out 5 more hours to work on your freelance business.
If you do this religiously, every single week, you will have 20 hours/week (or 1,040 hours your first year) to build your freelance business. If you can’t build the S.O.B. in 1,040 hours… well… I’ve never met anyone who can’t figure out a way to make money in 1,040 hours.
Now, let’s say that like me you’re fed up with your job and want to high-tail it out of there… this next section was written for you.
For those not privy, “TL;DR” translates to “Too Long, Didn’t Read”. I’m writing this guide like a story of sorts.
You and I are basically just sitting around a fire, getting drunk off Moscow Mules as I’m telling you like a wise old man how to earn your keep. And, not unlike most wise old men, I can get a bit long-winded.
So, these sections are essentially here to tell you everything I just told you in a sentence.
Here’s that sentence…
If you work a full-time job, carve out 20 hours a week you can dedicate to your freelance business.
– fin –
“I’m going out for lunch and I’m not coming back”… how to build a freelance business working a part-time job.
My brother works as a marketing director at a startup dentistry of sorts. Recently, he was telling me a story about a disgruntled employee that loathed the company’s CEO with the same level of anguish you loath your good-for-nothing two-timing ex.
So, one day my brother’s pissed off colleague emailed his boss the following…
“Richard, I’m going out for lunch and I’m not coming back.”
While I thought this was a pretty shitty move on the disgruntled employee’s part, I’d be lying to your face if I said I didn’t find it funny (and that I didn’t partially respect the chutzpah).
But, despite the rudeness and the humor, there is something to be learned from my brother’s ex-colleague… don’t be afraid to burn your ships at the shore.
There is a chance you’ve probably heard this saying. I’ll tell you where it originated from.
Long ago there was a great warrior king who was about to do battle with an enemy that heavily outnumbered him and his troops. After sailing to the enemy’s shore he ordered his men to burn the ships that carried them there. As the ships went up in smoke he told his men the only way off the island was to win.
One of the best decisions I ever made for my freelancing career was to burn my ships at shore and go all-in on freelancing.
It’s amazing how much of a fire you can light under your own ass when you don’t have a steady paycheck from your full-time gig coming in every two weeks.
As I mentioned in the previous section, after quitting my full-time gig, I went out and found a side-hustle.
(Not Gary Vaynerchuk’s idea of a side-hustle… where you close your eyes, post an assload of Instagram photos and pray for money to come pouring in).
I’m talking something that actually makes you some money. For me, that was tearing out dilapidated carpets in shitty apartment buildings.
If you need moolah while building your freelance business and you don’t have a full-time job or want to quit your full-time job, you should look for work in the service industry or, perhaps, even construction.
Counterintuitive I know but here’s why…
Firstly, these industries allow you to be somewhat flexible with your schedule and don’t always require that you work a full 40 hours, giving you plenty of time to work on your freelance business.
Secondly, they generally offer a pretty good bang for your buck. If you hustle your ass off as a bartender, server or Uber driver you can certainly make enough money to scrape by while you build your freelance business.
And, finally, they aren’t mentally taxing. One huge advantage I found in working construction while building my freelance business was that I was never mentally exhausted after I got off work. Sure, I was tired physically. But, by the time I showered I was ready to write.
Budding freelancers should find a flexible job they can work 20-30 hours a week outside of freelancing.
But, not something that’ll make you rich.
The last thing an aspiring freelancer needs is a pair of golden handcuffs –– just something that offers enough money to chip in on rent and buy a good Moscow Mule after a hard day of kicking ass.
Sure, for the first year, you might find yourself working 50 and 60 hour weeks. But, I can promise you that you’ll never feel more alive.
However, if you don’t feel like getting your hands dirty, another option is to ask your employer if you can move to a part-time position. What employer wouldn’t adore receiving a compliment like this…
“Terry, I love working for you and really admire what you’ve built here. So much so, that it has inspired me to go out on my own and make it as a freelance (fill in the blank). With that said, I was wondering if you’d be open to me moving to a part-time role at some sort of hourly rate?”
What the fuck? You just landed your first freelance client…
One other thing to keep in mind is where you’re living. When I was starting Honey Copy, I was at a huge advantage because I was living in Southern Indiana where $500/month for rent is considered fairly expensive.
If you’re serious about freelancing, it might not be a bad idea to explore living in a city that’s cheaper for a year while you’re building the damn thing.
There are tons of great (affordable) cities –– Louisville (KY), Indianapolis (IN), Chattanooga (TN) and Cincinnati (OH) just to name a few.
I guess what I am trying to say is it’s a hell of a lot harder to start a freelance business in New York City than it is in a small town in Indiana.
Some people make the argument that with bigger cities come more connections, I’d argue we live in a world where wifi is everywhere… so there is no sense in spending a fortune just to shake impressive people’s hands.
Now, let’s talk about what the hell you’re going to sell as a freelancer.
If you hate your job, quit or move to part-time, get something less glamorous to pay the rent and focus most of your mental energy on building your freelance business.
– fin –
Dry coughs, face-masks and global pandemonium… How to build a freelance business during the Coronavirus.
^^^ us staring down the barrel of the Coronavirus in 2020 ^^^
If you’re reading this sometime in the future when the Coronavirus is a thing of the past, feel free to take a break during this section.
(Maybe, go for a ride around your neighborhood on your hover-board or something).
With that said, right now the Coronavirus is absurdly relevant and a lot of people are freaking the fuck out about it, for good reason.
That’s why I’m basically dedicating an entire section on how to build a freelance business in the face of this invisible monster and, hopefully, pretty it up with some lipstick in the process…
During the onset of COVID-19 –– I’m using its super-duper scientific name because it freaks me out a lot less –– something interesting has happened:
The world is now working from home.
Currently, people everywhere are working remotely. While we might not see it right now, this will change both the world and the way we work within it forever.
At the end of all of this, I imagine employers will ask their employees to come back to work and they’ll receive quite a bit of push-back.
“Oh yeah, about that… I actually really like working from home, I get more done and am a lot happier...”
Over these next two, three and four weeks… you have an incredible opportunity.
Since you will no longer have to deal with bullshit distractions and interruptions like March Madness Brackets, meetings about meetings and gossip at the water cooler… you will be able to knock out your workweek in 25-30 hours.
This gives you ample time to build your freelance business. Towards the end of this guide, I’ve written an entire section on how to work from home more effectively and productively. But, for now, here’s what you need to be thinking about.
You are used to spending, at the very least, 40 hours a week outside of your home commuting to and from work and, of course, doing the actual work at work.
Now that you’re working from home, you need to be asking yourself… how can I deliver my boss the same quality of work in 5 hours a day versus 8?
If you can learn to do this effectively, you will cut your work week down to 25 hours a week giving you an additional 15-25 hours you can dedicate to your freelance business.
While what’s going on in the world sucks harder than an intergalactic asteroid vacuum, there’s a silver lining…
There will literally never be a better time in history to build a freelance business.
Currently, businesses everywhere are looking to cut costs to survive this madness. They will sadly be firing a lot of hardworking people. But, they will still need the work these people did to be done.
That’s where you come in, the freelancer, who can get shit done faster and cheaper than the full-time employee.
What’s happening in the world right now is not okay and I’m certainly not downplaying it… but those working from home for the first time need to be taking advantage of the opportunity to get more done at their day job faster and use the additional time they have to build their businesses.
– fin –
Specialization is where the money is… finding and mastering a skill that you can sell.
By now you’ve concocted some sort of evil plan to quit your job, cut back on the hours you’re working at your job or move to a part-time job you can work while you begin building your freelance business.
So, now it’s time I tell you about a guy named Ryan.
There is a guy named Ryan living in New York City that makes $110,000 a year walking dogs.
He’s a dog walker… a dog walker that makes more than most college professors.
He’s not a fucking genius.
He’s just a hustler that has a very specific skill –– dog walking.
How did he discover the skill?
One day, he was randomly teaching his girlfriend’s dog how to do a few tricks and he was surprised at how fast the dog was catching on.
Long story short, Ryan began to realize he was a dog-whisper of sorts and started Ryan For Dogs, a dog-walking and dog-training business in Long Island.
To be a successful freelancer, you have to be like Ryan. You have to have a skill; a very specific valuable skill that you specialize in.
(I really want to hammer this concept of specialization into your head so bear with me as I do a bit more riffing here).
Let’s jump in a time machine.
The term “freelancer” actually originated in the middle ages –– it was a skilled knight or mercenary for hire.
Free… lancer. Get it?
Anyway, let’s pretend for a moment that we’re a king in the middle ages who is at war with our prick cousin who wants our land and we’re worried we could lose the battle.
Now, let’s pretend we are interviewing hundreds of freelancers (knights for hire) to build an army capable of kicking the shit out of our prick cousins.
Who do you think we would hire? And, more so, who do you think we would pay the most money to hire?
Sir Dip Shit who shows up to the interview with twelve different weapons, none of which he can use very well?
Or, Sir Hendrickson, who shows up with a bow that he wields like Apollo, the Greek god of archery?
Sir Hendrickson, obviously.
The same can be said today, hundreds of years later, as we freelancers strive to create damn good work while adding to our loot.
If Ryan (the dog-walking guy) told folks he was a freelance graphic designer, dog walker and piano instructor… he wouldn’t get hired by anyone.
The same can be said for the jackass that claims he is a freelance “growth hacker” or “creative director” or… here’s one of my favorites… “full-stack marketer”.
None of these titles mean anything, they’re just pretentious hippies with mustaches wanting to publicly jerk off on their LinkedIn.
Businesses don’t want a freelance full-stack marketer, they want a specialist –– freelancers who’ve dedicated themselves to learning and mastering a specific skill.
Here are some very focused freelance skills (and freelance businesses) that would make an assload of money…
- Social Media Strategist who creates, schedules and runs all of the content for local small businesses in her city (with tools like Buffer, one individual could manage a dozen clients at the same time on a monthly retainer… if each client pays just $500/ month, well, you do the math).
- Chicago-based headshot photographer that will meet busy professionals anywhere in the city to get their picture taken and will offer large organizations headshots at a bulk rate (I think someone could charge $250 a headshot and could build a huge super-localized Instagram audience by sharing and tagging the person the headshot was taken of).
- Squarespace Web Designer that works with service businesses on creating websites that aren’t heinous to look at but are super simple to build (most brands don’t need multiple web pages… a simple, scrollable single-page site will do just fine).
- Email Marketing Guru who works directly with eCommerce brands, managing their email marketing and selling their goods (it might be interesting to consider taking a small cut of the profits rather than getting paid by the hour here).
- Accounting wizard that works with freelancers looking to save an ass-load of money on their taxes (I’d honestly pay for this tomorrow).
- Videographer that shoots highly entertaining introduction videos for startups (Think: My Cousin From Boston and that epic Dollar Shave Club commercial).
- Nashville-based “Dog” Headshot Photographer that will take candid pictures of man’s best friend (this would be a hilarious sister business to #2 acting as a nice additional revenue stream and an interesting way to go about differentiating yourself from other photographers).
- Tampa-based “Google My Business” Photographer that reaches out to small businesses on Google Maps who have shitty photos or just no photos at all (how many times have you opted out of going to a restaurant because there were no photographs of the food?).
- Freelance negotiator for parking tickets, late fees, utility bills and subscriptions (you could charge your clients 25% of whatever is saved the first year and they’d still be saving a ton of money).
- Vehicle hunter and negotiator that finds your dream vehicle at a discounted price and, like #9, takes a cut of whatever is saved.
- Small business interior designer that outfits buildings with heavily discounted furniture from thrift stores –– if you had a warehouse you could charge for both your interior design skills and sell the furniture directly to the small business… win-win.
- Direct Mail Afficianado for dentist offices looking to drive more business –– I think clever physical mail would make a lot of dentists so busy they’d have to expand their team (marketing in the world of dentistry as a whole just absolutely sucks).
This isn’t malarkey…
Most of you reading this right now have some sort of skill you can sell. The reason you haven’t been able to sell it (up until now) is because you haven’t been packaging it well, you haven’t been focused enough and you probably haven’t realized that businesses are willing to pay handsomely for it.
Here are a few freelancers (and freelancers turned entrepreneurs) who are making a killing by being ultra-focused.
Aaron Draplin makes a fat six-figures creating logos for lifestyle B2C brands.
The infamous video agency, Sandwich, got its start shooting videos for startups (they still mostly only work with startups).
The award-winning agency PB&J, creates badass Squarespace websites –– not WordPress, Wix or whatever the fuck else is out there –– just Squarespace.
Duane Sorenson built and sold a multi-million dollar coffee empire called Stumptown (I wrote about them here)… but first got his start roasting beans out of a small shop in Southeast Portland.
When you choose to get specific with the skill you’re selling, you will immediately be able to charge more. There is a reason primary care physicians make roughly $200,000 a year while specialists (like Orthopedic surgeons) make somewhere in the neighborhood of $500,000.
If you specialize, you can make a lot more money. All of us have skills. All of us. Specialization comes down to practice and ultimately choosing to hone in.
Watch how in minutes we can help Cynthia the “Creative Director” find specialization.
A Q&A with Cynthia the “Creative Director”.
Cynthia, what do you do?
I’m a creative director.
What does that mean?
That I provide creative direction for brands.
Yeah… that doesn’t make a bit of fucking sense. Let’s dig deeper. What’s your favorite aspect of “creative direction?
You’re an asshole, Cole… but, I’d say graphic design.
Okay, now we are getting somewhere. What are your favorite graphic design projects?
Hmm. I’d say packaging. I love making a product stand out with beautiful packaging.
That’s interesting. What brands would be your dream brands to work with?
Definitely all the dope online brands I see on Instagram.
Okay. So, you’re not a creative director. What are you?
I’m a graphic designer that designs beautiful packaging for B2C brands looking to stand out on online and on social media platforms like Instagram…
Congratulations. You just found your specialization.
We just helped Cynthia go from “Creative Director” to “A graphic designer that designs beautiful packaging for B2C brands looking to stand out on online and on social media platforms like Instagram.”
You should ask yourself the same questions we just asked Cynthia.
Think: Apollo… specialists get rich (generalists don’t)… focus in on a skill, then get so focused that you can tell anyone exactly what you do in one sentence.
– fin –
How to price your services (& how to eventually raise them).
Folks have been struggling with pricing their products and services since the beginning of time…
Take a John Reed for example.
In 1799, John Reed’s 12-year-old son Conrad Reed stumbled upon a large yellow rock resting in the churning waters of a river outside his house.
Intrigued, the boy fished out the rock and showed it to his father John Reed, a poor North Carolina farmer. While John found the yellow rock to be out of the ordinary, he assumed it wasn’t worth much, and for the next three years the heavy stone was used as a doorstop in the family’s farmhouse.
Eventually, John’s curiosity got the better of him and he took the rock to a local jewel dealer to see what it was worth.
That day, the jewel dealer bought the 17-pound gold nugget from John for $3.50 and later sold it for $3,600.
Don’t you worry, I’m going to do everything in my power to keep you from make the same mistake John did…
We’re going to discuss how to land clients in the next section.
But, before you start hunting, you really need to know what you’re charging. Otherwise, you will sound like a blabbering idiot when the question inevitably comes up on the phone.
With that said, some of the worst advice I hear thrown around the web is “charge what you’re worth”…
What the fuck does that even mean?
The ambiguity is detrimental to freelancers.
You could have a freelancer as talented as Leonardo Da Vinci (yes, he was a freelancer for a large part of his career)… but she might not have an ounce of confidence. So, her charging what she is worth is $10/hour.
Then, you might have a freelancer with about as much talent as DJ Khaled… who is as cocky as a rooster. So, him charging what he is worth is $300/hour.
Here’s a better clearer way to approach freelance pricing…
Beginning Freelancers (0 - 6 months) should charge a fairly low hourly rate.
Initially, when you’re just starting out in freelancing, you’re going to charge anywhere between $25 - $50/ hour. This is because you probably aren’t very good (yet) at what you do. Now, the number you land upon within this range will be decided naturally by the market.
For example, if you come out guns blazing and decide you think you’re worth $50/ hour but nobody hires you at that number, you better lower your rates or risk going out of business.
Eventually, if you do good enough work and pitch enough people, you will have a pool of clients regularly paying you somewhere in the above range.
Semi experienced freelancers (6 - 24 months) should charge a higher hourly rate.
Freelancers who’ve been in the game for 1-2 years who are still charging the same rates they charged when they first started… need to raise them.
A telltale sign is when you have too much work –– this usually means that you’re charging far too little.
A super simple way to raise your rates without losing the clients you currently have is pitching all new prospects at your higher rates. This is a risk-free way of testing the market without shooting yourself in the fucking foot.
If you start pitching new clients at $75/hour and all of them are telling you to go to hell… no problem… you still have your pool of clients that are paying you $50/ hour.
However, what will probably happen is that you begin landing some of these prospects at your higher rate.
Once you have a nice pool of customers paying you this higher rate and they are surpassing the income you’re making from your lower-paying clients, you go to your old clients and tell them you’re raising rates.
This conversation can be very straightforward. Here’s the email I’ve used to tell my clients I’m raising rates in the past…
To begin, I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed working with you over the past year and I would very much love to continue to do so in the future.
However, as my business is growing and I’m continuing to develop my craft as a writer, demand for my services is increasing. With that said, starting next month I will be raising my rates from $50/hour to $75/hour.
I’d be more than happy to jump on a call with you to discuss this transition further.
While I’ve had a few clients walk away from working with me when I’ve raised rates, the vast majority of them stand by my side.
Anyway, freelancers who are very good at what they do, have a strong portfolio of work and who have had experience freelancing for 6 - 24 months can charge anywhere from $50 - $100+/hour (and they should).
If you’re scared of raising your rates, one thing I found really helpful when I was charging a high hourly-rate was telling my clients exactly how long something was going to take before I started on the task project.
Brands don’t give a flying fuck how much a freelancer charges by the hour, they’re worried about how many hours the freelancer is going to spend.
I’ve talked to CMOs who’ve told me nightmares stories about a freelancer charging a relatively low hourly fee and then blind-siding them with 40 hours on a project that should have taken 10.
Folks get shittier than a gas station bathroom when they’re blind-sided.
Seasoned freelancers (3+ years) should move to project pricing.
As you become a freelance wizard, two things happen:
- You get far better at your skill.
- You get faster at executing your skill.
So, tell me if this is fair?
You and your arch-nemesis, Ned, are competing for a 2-minute video for a startup selling fair-trade silk sock muppets.
Ned charges $75/hour and estimates the project will take him 30 hours to complete.
You charge $100/hour (because you’re better at what you do than that scum bag and 95% of other freelancers doing what you do)… and since you’re faster, you estimate the video will only take you 12 hours to complete.
If the startup goes with Ned –– and they probably will because they’ve got the money and “more expensive” gives the impression that something is better –– Ned would be getting $2,250 for executing a shittier project.
If they went with you, you would be getting $1,200 for a stellar project you’re delivering faster.
In the words of every algebra teacher I’ve ever had… that math just doesn’t add up.
To make more money as a freelancer, you eventually have to stop charging by the hour.
Unfortunately, you have to be really damn good at what you do to stop charging by the hour.
And, not unlike most things in life… getting really damn good comes down to time and lots of projects and a portfolio that shimmers like a wood chipper that just took a goddamn disco ball to the suck-hole.
If you’ve been freelancing for 3+ years and are charging anywhere from $50 - $100+/hour, it’s time you make the move to project pricing.
Today, when folks enquire about working with me, I tell them all my projects start out at the $5,000 mark.
Sometimes they will ask me what I charge hourly, I tell them I don’t do hourly.
They sniffle and ask why… I tell them they’re not paying for my time, they’re paying for the service I’m providing.
I can tell you, I’ve never lost a prospective client because I told them I don’t charge hourly.
To make a pretty penny freelancing, you can’t be afraid to raise your hourly rate… and, eventually, you have to go all-in on project-based pricing.
Some negotiation tips from a media mogul.
Felix Dennis was a media mogul that made a fortune back when magazines were all the rage. In Dennis’ book, How to get rich, he outlines 18 negotiating tips he claims helped him come out on top in most business deals…
- Remember that few are good at negotiating (this includes your opponent).
- Set a limit on what you will pay or accept and on any conditions attached.
- Don’t negotiate unless you have to.
- Do your homework –– what you don’t know could kill you.
- Never surrender control of negotiations to advisors, they don’t have to live with the consequences.
- Don’t be afraid to call “time-out” at the negotiating table if your advisors are leading you down a path you don’t want to go.
- Never fall in love with the deal. It’s just a deal. There will be more.
- Avoid auctions (unless you are selling something).
- The person across from you isn’t your friend, he isn’t your partner, he is your enemy.
- Don’t be afraid to be passionate and emotional but keep it under control.
- Listen. Then listen some more. Nobody ever got poor listening.
- Find a roque element that’s an advantage for you and bring it into the negotiation at a late stage.
- Pinpoint differences in opinion in your opponent’s senior management and drive a wedge between them.
- Don’t allow #13 to happen to you –– you’re better to be at the negotiating table alone, outgunned, outflanked and outmaneuvered, than to have two or three of you silently squabbling.
- If it’s your company, then, you are the final arbiter.
- If you’re a bad negotiator, don’t attend. You make the decisions but someone else deals the blows.
- Establish where the balance of weakness lies in any serious negotiation. Strengths are self-evident. Weaknesses, less so. Ferret them out.
- Whatever you agree to during a negotiation, fulfill the bargain. Nobody wants to do business with a weasel or a chisler. The TL;DR…
As your freelance business grows, you will find yourself doing more and more negotiating. Keep these close by.
– fin –
Now, let’s hunt… How to cold email your way to your first $100,000 as a freelancer.
When you’re first getting your start in freelancing, cold emailing is an excellent marketing strategy and a proven way to generate moolah quickly.
It’s especially effective for drumming up B2B clients.
If you don’t know, a B2B business is a business whose customers consist of other businesses.
(If you’re building a freelance business, you’re a B2B business).
Nike is B2C because they sell shoes and shit to folks like you and me (business to customer, get it?).
Cold emailing doesn’t work as well for them because selling $100 pair of shoes isn’t worth the time and energy and hustle that is required to cold email like a cold-blooded killer.
However, B2B companies like Predictive Index and Salesforce have entire teams dedicated to firing off an absurd amount of cold emails to various businesses because they aren’t selling a $100 pair of shoes but instead $10,000, $15,000 and even $20,000 software
While you’re not selling software, you are selling your services for a decent chunk of change. This is why cold-emailing is the fastest (and cheapest) way to grow a freelance business from $0 to $100,000.
I’m not just spewing bullshit here.
I recently perused my FreshBooks account (the invoicing software I use) and took a look at the clients I landed the past few years through strictly cold emailing alone.
While I can’t name names, one cold email I sent out back in early 2018 resulted in a client I still write for today who has paid me $37, 701.80 to date.
And, ironically enough, I actually landed FreshBooks as a client by cold emailing them a couple years back. Seriously, you can read the article I wrote for them here.
Anyway, when I hear content marketing gurus and SEO wizards scoff at the idea of cold emailing someone, I have to resist the urge to run down to the local fair, grab a fat greasy turkey leg and slap the shit out of them.
While I use a wide array of marketing strategies at Honey Copy to build my email lists and drive sales on both my larger writing projects and my copywriting guide… I will always have a special place in my heart for cold emailing.
Before we dive into tactics you can use to send better more effective cold emails, allow me to explain why I am so bullish on this marketing strategy.
Why I crush hard on cold emailing.
Marketing isn’t always a level playing field.
Some brands have big money and talent and resources that allow them to do things with their marketing other brands simply can’t.
If a brand has an entire SEO division in their company, naturally they’re going to outrank their competitors.
The same can be said for fat marketing and advertising budgets –– brands that have hundreds of thousands they can spend on paid advertising every month are playing at a serious advantage.
I adore cold emailing because it levels the playing field (to some degree). And, it doesn’t require money nor talent nor resources… it just requires hustle.
When I started as a copywriter, I was going after 3-4 of the top copywriters in the world that were making $500,000+ a year. They were well ahead of me –– I was starting at $0 and zero clients, after all.
While I haven’t caught up to them yet, cold emailing allowed me to grow Honey Copy without spending a single $1 on advertising or marketing. That’s invaluable to a twenty-three-year-old kid without anything in savings.
In fact, I believe in the power of cold emailing so much, that if I were hired on as CMO at some floundering B2B software company, the first thing I would do is increase prices on the software by 25% - 50% and then hire 2-3 business development reps, teach them copywriting and have them start cold emailing like madmen and women.
But, enough with me praising cold emailing… here’s how you do the damn thing.
How to write and send cold emails that drive six-figures in sales.
First, you’re going to write down a list of your 100 dream clients. David Ogilvy did this when he first started Ogilvy & Mather.
While I will let you choose your clients however you please, I would recommend you keep the following criteria in mind as you go about selecting them…
1,000 people companies are difficult to land and require an assload of time (I’ve found less than 250 employee companies to be my bread and butter).
Companies of this size are usually pretty fast-moving, are open to working with freelancers and have the moolah to pay you some serious cheddar.
So, pause for a moment, and begin creating your dream client list on a scrap piece of paper and then transfer to an excel spreadsheet.
From there, you’re going to do the following.
For this step by step process, we’re going to pretend we are trying to reach out to Allbirds. You’ve probably heard of them. They’re a super badass New Zealand brand that makes sneakers out of wool.
Make yourself a free account on Hunter.io.
(This is essentially a massive email Rolodex at your fingertips that holds emails to some of the most powerful men and women in the country).
Copy & Paste the website of one of your dream clients into the box that looks like this…
Hit “Find email addresses” and a series of email addresses will be generated.
Head over to LinkedIn and type the dream client’s name into the search bar. Begin scrolling through the names of the people that work there and their positions.
Match the name of the person you are wanting to email on LinkedIn with the email addresses generated from Hunter.io.
Let’s say you want to reach out to the co-founder of Allbirds, Joseph Zwillinger (bottom of the screenshot above). Look for an email shit out by Hunter.io that resembles his name… “email@example.com”… bingo.
Also… be sure that you are emailing individuals who are in decision-maker roles… marketing directors, CMOs, CEOs, founders, presidents, etc.
Now, email the individual a thoughtful note that shows you’re actually interested in working with his brand. Whatever you do, don’t copy and paste the same note to hundreds of people.
(I’ve made this mistake before and I’ll tell you it’s not effective and will leave you feeling like an asshat).
Write them a thoughtful email like…
To begin, I’m a huge fan of Allbirds. I’m constantly bragging about you to all my people. I’ve listened to your story over on “How I built this” like five times.
If you’re ever in need of some graphic design help, it would be an actual dream to work with you guys, seriously.
Would you mind if I passed along some of my work?
If the individual doesn’t email you back, follow up in a week then follow up again a week after that. Sometimes, it takes emailing someone 3-5 times before you hear something back. I also wouldn’t be afraid to hit up other people at the company.
If you want to drum up business quickly, start cold emailing… shoot for 5 damn good cold emails a day.
– fin –
Some negotiation tips from a media mogul worth keeping in mind when those cold email inevitably land you a phone call.
Life after cold-email…Building a B2B Lead Generation Machine.
Eventually, once you get a fat book of business, you’re going to put your cold-emailing days behind you. Or, at least this was the case for me.
While through cold email, I was able to build Honey Copy up to a very lucrative freelance business, I eventually realized the cold emailing strategy was only going to get me so far.
So, I pivoted.
By implementing my very own tailored B2B lead generation strategy, I was able to create a steady stream of leads for Honey Copy.
Chest pumping aside… doubling, tripling and quadrupling any B2B business is one-hundred percent possible with the B2B lead generation strategy I am about to lay out for you.
B2B Lead Generation Strategy Step One: Write solutions to your prospective customer’s problems.
When most people think of content marketing, they think of blogging, which is only true to some degree…
We aren’t writing blogs. We are writing solutions to people’s problems. Any chump with a keyboard and an opinion can slap together a blog with a clever name. It takes a savvy freelancer with in-depth industry knowledge to craft an article that can become an invaluable resource to their prospective customers
The first step in my B2B lead generation strategy is to write articles that offer solutions to your customer’s problems.
Here are a few brands that are doing this incredibly well…
Grammarly, the writing app that protects users and teams from sounding like idiots in their emails, crafts articles that help their customers write better by offering tips like how to use an apostrophe correctly.
Slack, the tool that allows teams to collaborate better, publishes articles that help users work faster and smarter like this one they wrote arguing that productivity is about purpose rather than busyness.
But, in order to write high-caliber articles that your customers actually want to read (and cough up their hard-earned money after reading), we must establish the greater solution our articles are trying to solve.
Here at Honey Copy, the greater solution I am trying to solve through my articles is to help my readers make more money and craft cooler more interesting brands through the written word.
Establishing your greater solution or intention behind the articles you’re writing is generally pretty simple. If you’re a B2B brand selling a new innovative CRM software to brands, your greater solution for your articles might be… to make salespeople across the world better, smarter and more thoughtful at selling.
Yes, that’s simple. But, it’s powerful. If I were a sales manager, I would want my salespeople to read that blog.
That brings me to another point. As you begin writing your solution-driven articles, you need to be thinking about “who” you are writing to.
Establishing a “target market” isn’t enough. A 25 - 40-year-old sales manager isn’t a reader, it’s a target market.
And, we can’t write effectively to a target market, not if we are wanting to sound like a real-life living breathing human being writing to another real-life living breathing human being.
Instead, we must write a bio of our reader and combine it with the greater solution we hope to offer.
This would look something like…
“Dave Dundee is a sales manager at a fast-moving technology startup. Due to the nature of startup culture, he is in a big role at the young age of twenty-seven and while he is certainly capable, he is both trying to manage while also honing both his managerial and sales chops. Our articles are helping Dave become a world-class sales manager as quickly as possible. We’re going to load him down with such great insight with our articles, his company will be forced to give him a promotion.”
Hell yeah. Now we are getting somewhere. We can write some damn good articles to that.
Got it? Good. Let’s move on to step two of this B2B lead generation strategy.
B2B Lead Generation Strategy Step Two: Brainstorm article topics that stay true to your greater solution (and power them with SEO).
Once we have set our greater solution or intention rather, we must begin brainstorming articles that align with this greater solution.
As I mentioned earlier, the greater solution of my articles is to help my readers make more money and craft cooler more interesting brands through the written word.
Here’s a list of a few articles I’ve written over the years. You’ll notice, for the most part, they were pretty true to my greater solution:
- 19 kick-ass examples of email subject lines that sell like hell.
- I need a copywriter… I think?
- Writing good advertising copy is like writing a love letter.
- How to write catchy headlines that readers can’t resist.
- Does sex sell? An in-depth look at sex in advertising.
- 100 of the most powerful words in marketing.
- The psychology of selling.
In the above articles, Does sex sell? brought me in a lead that ended up being a $2,500 project.
Writing good advertising copy is like writing a love letter convinced a Belarusian angel investor to fly me out to Minsk to work with three of his startups.
I say all of this not to brag but to show you that investing in well-written and extremely informative articles are the only B2B lead generation strategy you need to double, triple and quadruple your business (no matter the size).
(Now, let’s talk SEO).
Search Engine Optimization sounds complicated but it’s really very simple and it can be used as an excellent tool to help brands know what problems their prospective customers are struggling with.
Not to mention, when leveraged correctly, SEO-powered articles can act as free virtual billboards for your brand.
People try to overcomplicate SEO. It’s really just Google’s way of finding the best answer (or solution!) to a person’s question.
And, while there are tons of tricks and hacks you can use to boost your site’s SEO, from my experience the best SEO practice is to write extremely high-quality articles.
I currently rank on Google’s first page for a number of articles and I’m no SEO wizard. I’m just committed to writing damn good articles.
(Take a moment and Google… Sex sells, marketing words, Ernest Hemingway writing style… you will see my website in the first three that pop up).
A big mistake I see a lot of brands make is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on articles but never honing said articles for SEO. It is better to write one world-class article a week that has a real shot at ranking on Google’s first page versus writing five mediocre articles a week.
When it comes to article creation, quality always trumps quantity.
B2B Lead Generation Strategy Step Three: Craft a damn good landing page
Once you are committed to writing high-caliber SEO-powered articles, you need to craft an email opt-in page to direct your readers to.
When it comes to an email opt-in page, you can write a sales page that directs your readers to your products, pricing, free trials, etc. Or, like me, you can simply create a landing page that asks for their email.
I have chosen the latter for the following reason: 95% of site visitors never return again. In my mind, I would rather have the reader’s email address so I can have a real shot at selling to them tomorrow and the next day and the day after… versus trying to sell to them today and potentially losing them forever.
So, with that said, let’s talk about how you can create a good email opt-in page that converts readers into subscribers.
Unlike most marketers, I don’t offer a free ebook or some free incentive for signing up for my email list. In fact, I would recommend most folks avoid doing this.
The copy on my email opt-in page is simple yet enticing…
“The closest you’ll ever get to someone emailing you gold: Paper airplanes delivered right to your inbox containing marketing & copywriting secrets to help you sell like hell (without losing your soul).”
Your email opt-in should stay true to the “greater solution” we discussed in step one of the B2B lead generation strategy.
Once you’ve created your email opt-in page. Sprinkle your article with links to it. Put it everywhere.
As writers, we never know exactly what’s going to convince a specific person to take action. So, we must drop a link to our email opt-in throughout our article(s). You can also do this with an email pop-up form but I find that shit to be annoying and I imagine most readers do too.
B2B Lead Generation Strategy Step Four: Create an email sequence that turns leads into customers
Creating an email sequence you can throw on auto-pilot for your customers is essential. I usually recommend a 3-5 part email series.
If you’ve subscribed to my email list sometime in the last year, you’ve received this sequence. But, if you haven’t… subscribe here and you will be taken through this sequence.
But, what does this look like for you?
Let’s say you’re a freelance graphic designer that creates logos and 1,000 people subscribe to your email list after reading one of your dozen or so articles.
You might send these new subscribers the following email sequence…
Email One –– An introductory email welcoming them to the newsletter with links to your most helpful articles on logo design.
Email Two –– A story about how you helped a startup build a super badass logo by pulling inspiration from the most unlikely of places.
Email Three –– A classic sales letter outlining the perks and benefits of having a killer logo with a hard sell to use your services at the end.
Email Four –– A curation of your dozen or so favorite logos of all time.
Email Five –– A limited-time deal on your logo design services (maybe they can try you out for 25% off).
You get the idea.
That was a lot, so let’s do a quick recap on this B2B lead generation strategy.
Step One –– create the greater solution you’re hoping to achieve with your articles and then write out a very clear bio of the reader you’re writing to.
Step Two –– brainstorm a list of a dozen or so SEO-powered articles to start with, use tools like SEMrush to make this much much easier.
Step Three –– create a damn good email opt-in (a page you can direct all of your readers to).
Step Four –– craft a 5-7 part email sequence you can throw on autopilot, be sure these emails are extremely valuable to your customers and consist of a nice mix of free helpful resources, customer stories and of course a sales email or two.
Once you have a lucrative freelance business with enough client work to pay the bills and then some, begin putting into place a lead generation strategy that finds and lands business for you.
– fin –
How to actually get shit done while working remote.
When you’re forced to work from home as a freelancer, you learn pretty quickly that time is money. I don’t want to get too productivity hack-y… but here are some ways to get more done in less time while working from home.
Respond vs. React.
If you were a patient receiving treatment for something or another and a doctor tells you that you are “responding” –– this is good.
But, on the contrary, if he tells you that you are “reacting” –– this is generally not good.
Effectively working from home or remote –– whatever you want to call it –– comes down to keeping yourself in a responsive mode rather than a reactive mode.
A responsive mode is a mindset where you are proactively working through problems, drilling through work and creating something at the end of the day that you can be proud of.
A reactive mode is a mindset like a basset hound covered in raw ribeyes stuck in a cubicle with swarming squirrels… you can’t focus, you can’t get anything done, you can’t help but refresh your email for the fourteenth fucking time in an hour and you leave the workday feeling like the world rode you hard and put you away wet.
To avoid the latter, you must come up with ways to control your time on email, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and those goddamn group messages that we know are so wildly entertaining.
Here’s what works for me…
I fight desperately to hold off from checking my email (and any social) until noon each day. When I do this effectively… I, for lack of a better word, fuck shit up in the best kinds of ways.
On these days, I can shell out two articles, send out a newsletter and knock out client work.
Now, I understand that not everyone has the luxury of not checking email until noon. My father is a real estate agent and he’d be committing a cardinal sin if he weren’t actively responding to emails, texts and phone calls to field interested (at times, pushy) homeowners.
If you’re someone that needs to be in email, I would encourage you to do the following…
Find a 2-3 hour window each day where you aren’t checking it. This window should be spent focusing on your deeper work.
The hugely popular writer, Neil Strauss, will literally lock his phone in a safe-like device to give himself a window each day to do what he gets paid to do: write.
Tomorrow, try this… grab your phone first thing in the morning (or during the window of your choosing)… walk your ass down to your mailbox, stick your phone in the mailbox.
(You won’t have to worry about it getting stolen because, at the moment, everyone is inside scared to death of breathing within close proximity of another living human being).
I can promise you that when you have the urge to scroll through Instagram or send that meme to the group chat, you will think twice before slipping on your shoes and walking down to your mailbox.
In fact, you’ll only head down there when it’s time to get actual work done on your phone.
Take the right kinds of breaks.
There are good breaks and there are bad breaks.
Breaking every hour to scroll through Instagram isn’t what I would call a good break. Again, this sets you into the “reactive” mode we’ve been discussing.
However, breaks are wildly productive when we use them to refill. Here are some examples of good breaks…
- Grabbing an apple and going for a 15-20 minute stroll outside.
- Lying on your back and breathing silently for 10 minutes.
- Taking a short nap mid-afternoon to relax.
- Throwing on the sneakers and going for a mile jog.
- Jumping in the shower for 5 minutes to refresh.
- Whipping up some eggs and a bit of avocado.
- Reading a few pages of good fiction.
Notice, none of the above included technology. Most Americans spend eight hours of their day (if not more, that’s honestly conservative) staring at a goddamn screen.
Your breaks shouldn’t include staring at a goddamn screen.
Batch the bullshit.
Everyone’s career has bullshit they have to do. I consider bullshit fielding dozens and dozens of emails, reminding clients for the third time to pay their invoices, jumping on the phone for meetings, the list goes on.
The reason this is bullshit isn’t because I don’t necessarily like doing these tasks but because they keep me from doing the stuff that I’m very good at and ultimately get paid to do: write.
One mistake I see a lot of people make is to leave their calendar wide open for calls, emails, etc.
Choose two to three days each week, in the afternoon or morning, and make these the windows where you take your client calls.
For me, this is Tuesday and Thursday afternoon from 1 p.m. CST to 5 p.m. CST.
This is called batching and batching is extremely effective for getting shit done.
Think of it like washing dishes.
You would never wash a couple pots, go jerk off then come back and wash a couple plates, go kick rocks, then come back and wash a spoon or two, go grab-ass, then come back and finally finish the rest of the stuff in the sink.
No. When you wash dishes, you wash everything.
This is how we need to be treating the bullshit, the light work, etc. If you have to jump on ten client calls each week, batch them into an afternoon or two and then spend the rest of the week focusing on doing the deeper work that you get paid to do.
Open and close your door.
Perhaps the best non-fiction book I’ve ever read was written by a novelist who writes almost entirely fiction, Stephen King.
In his book, On Writing, King gifts the reader’s tons of gems from his fifty-some-odd long writing career. One of which applies so incredibly well here…
“Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.”
While this piece of advice is obviously intended for writers. It’s splendid advice for the millions of Americans now working their careers from home (and hopefully building freelance businesses in the process).
For your work that can be described as “deep”… work with your door closed. This, strangely enough, creates a deeper level of focus.
But, when it comes time to answer emails, knock-out admin type tasks or do any kind of work that could be defined as “light”… open up the door to the outside world and let that Spotify playlist bounce off the walls of your room, out the door that’s now ajar and down the halls of your home.
When working from home… respond versus react, take the right kinds of breaks, batch the bullshit and know when to open and close your door.
– fin –
The freelancer’s toolbox.
There’s no need to get too long-winded in this section.
I really just wanted to create a list of all the tools I use in my freelance business. I will write these in the order that I think you will need them…
Firstly, get yourself a professional email address over at G Suite. If you want businesses to take you seriously, don’t send them a note from your 7th grade AOL address. Get yourself a good professional email. If you don’t have a name for your freelance business, it can be as simple as [first name] @ [first name, last name] dot com.
Now, for cold emailing, you will want to create an account over at Hunter.io (which I linked to earlier in this guide). The only thing to remember here: don’t spam people.
As you land clients and put out great work, start building a portfolio that you can quickly link to in your emails. Here’s what my portfolio looks like. I always (always) recommend that folks use Squarespace. It is, in my opinion, the easiest and best-looking website builder on the web.
As you land gigs, get yourself some solid invoicing software. I really like Freshbooks. I recommend this for a few reasons. One, receiving checks from clients via snail mail is like watching paint dry in hell. They take forever and often times get lost in translation. Two, Freshbooks lets your customers pay you directly in the invoices with their credit cards. Also, the software allows you to see when your clients have opened the invoices you’ve sent.
Finally, once you’ve created a freelance business that’s bringing in $3,000 - $5,000 month, you will definitely want to begin looking into SEO. Again, I really dig SEM Rush.
Oh, and last but not least, find a good email marketing software. Again, this can come further down the road. Right now you need to be focusing on landing clients. Take a look at SaaS Mule. They’ll help you find a damn good email software.
Use the right tools. Period.
– fin –
It’s goodbye… for now.
Well, this was just a damn riot… wasn’t it?
Before I let you go, I want to leave you with one last squirt of mustard. If you learn to become a damn good freelancer, you can make 2x, 3x and even 10x hourly what you are making now.
Let me explain.
The reason brands can get away with paying a graphic designer or a videographer or a writer or a web developer $40,000 a year is because they’re bringing them a steady consistent paycheck and they’re also the ones bringing in the business.
Every reasonably bright brand has something called PPE (or Profit Per Employee). This is the amount of profit a brand is making per employee that works for them.
Facebook’s PPE is $599,000.
Apple’s PPE is $393,000.
Goldman Sachs PPE is $215,000.
Many times, employees forget that they are being hired on to make the brands they are working for money. And, while the graphic designer isn’t making Nike money directly, Nike has a pretty good idea of the monetary impact its graphic designer(s) have on its business.
Most of the time, brands are looking to 2x their investment on an employee.
When you begin to understand this, you realize that businesses are “marking-up” your skills.
There’s nothing wrong with this. It’s smart business.
But, what employees need to remember is that this gives them power if they are capable of selling their skills on the side.
Why? Because they’re cutting out the middleman and going directly to the client.
So, while I don’t think everyone should quit their day jobs… not if they truly don’t want to… I do think everyone should be working as a freelancer outside of their day jobs (and consider quitting once they start making some serious moolah).
But I digress.