REUVEN: Today, the all-text edition of the podcast.
CHUCK: [Laughs] Yeah.
CURTIS: Let’s leave our mics on and they have to determine what we type by the key-presses or what?
CHUCK: There you go.
REUVEN: [laughs] No. No. No. We’ll do it like the Jeopardy Edition. We’ll provide the transcript people with the typed version and they have to then do voice acting.
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CHUCK: Hey everybody and welcome to episode 141 of the Freelancers’ Show. This week on our panel we have Eric Davis.
CHUCK: Reuven Lerner.
REUVEN: Hi everyone!
CHUCK: Curtis McHale.
CHUCK: I’m Charles Max Wood from DevChat.tv, and this week we have a special guest – and that is Liam, is it Veitch?
LIAM: Almost a Veitch.
CHUCK: I should’ve asked.
LIAM: That’s right. [Chuckles] Everybody gets it wrong. It’s one of those things. It’s all good.
CHUCK: Do you want to introduce yourself really quickly?
LIAM: Sure! Yeah, I’m the founder at freelancelift.com. The author, recent author of the book Stop Thinking Like A Freelancer: The Evolution of a $1M Web Designer’ I’m the founder as well and it’s kind of, that’s what the journey the book tracks, founder of UK-based agency Tone, which is T-O-N-E tone.co.uk and we build sites for pretty much everybody around the world and that’s the business that I’ve built from a rented desk in a co-working space and a laptop, really.
CHUCK: Nice. Now I ran across, I think it was a blog post that you wrote about growing to be a million-dollar business or something like that.
LIAM: Yeah. I mean that’s cumulative. It’s when people say, “Yes! This is a million-dollar business.” The assumption is that that’s in one year so I do put a little bit of a disclaimer in there and say that’s accumulated revenue over about a three-year period. But from a standing start, from somebody who, as I say, started out with a laptop and a rented desk in a co-working space, it’s something I’m really proud of and something that I feel I can teach.
There are lots of things that I’ve picked up along the way, which I didn’t pick up the first time around. The first time ultimately ended in failure and me joining a larger corporate and that’s some of the things that I like to talk about in the book and I talk about at Freelancelift as well, the high leverage stocks. I’m not talking about how to best organize your workstation or the best font size for proposals.
CHUCK: I think a lot of times we focus on those kinds of things though because they’re easy to control. I mean, the layout on my desktop, which app I’m using or which font I’m using. And so, you wind up spinning your wheels on things that aren’t going to make your business awesome. I think which font you use on your website, it might change your conversion rate, but ultimately, being the right candidate and getting in front of the right people is going to make way more difference than what font you use on your proposal.
LIAM: Yeah. Of course. It’s all about the small things versus the big things. The high leverage stocks and those are the things that are going to really make a difference [inaudible 04:00].
CURTIS: Problem there is we all dive into, “What tools are Liam using?” or “What tools am I using?” And it’s like, “Because I use Liam’s tool, I’ll suddenly start generating more revenue.” And that’s totally not the case, right? We don’t have his experience. We’re not him essentially.
CHUCK: Well, people would like me more because I have the awesome accent. [Chuckling]
REUVEN: It’s probably a little more common where he comes from, though. I’m curious, Liam. Are you a one-man shop or do you have people working for you? Just so I can get a better sense of the agency you run.
LIAM: There are nine people here now. And so, that nine is built from designers, a couple of developers and a couple of account level people and the project manager and also one marketing person. It’s built to such a level that it doesn’t really require my day-to-day support but I’m here. I’m still here on a daily basis. I’m still hustling, and that is again one of the flavors that I think probably differentiates between the things that I’m saying and the things that the people are saying that, to be blunt, their job is to sell information to freelancers as opposed to doing freelancing themselves, or being in a position of being a service provider themselves. So, again, I think that’s the key differentiator between me –. I’m still in the field. I’m still working with clients on a daily basis and there are nine of us now at the agency and it’s something, again, that’s doing quite well.
REUVEN: I’m curious. When you had your laptop and the co-working space, you said, “I’m going to start doing this sort of consulting.” Was your eventual goal, “Yes, I want to have a company with lots of employees” and so you’ve been marching towards that goal or did it just sort of happen and now you’re trying to help other people to get to that same place but without the bumps along the way.
LIAM: That’s a great question. It’s one of those things, isn’t it? As a small business, forgetting freelancing for a second. As a small business – as a one-person business, as a two-person business, things change really quickly. That part, the beauty of it being agile and moving from point to point, without really knowing which way you’re going, but it’s fun.
No, I didn’t set out to build a nine-person business. I didn’t set out to build an agency, really. I set out to build something that was going to do better, this time as a freelancer. So, what happened was, we fell into some pretty decent sized gigs and figured out a few things that worked this time, and again, the thing that were not mentioned here is the hiatus – the reason that I’ve tried again – which was me joining a larger corporate.
I was exposed to quite big business ideas – aggressive, vision-based stuff that I took on board and I implemented at the time – a side-business then, because this was the second time I was a freelancer. I was putting in place big-business ideas but not necessarily aiming towards being a big business. And that’s when things have kind of I caveat everything I’m saying with Freelancelift that [inaudible 06:48] you out to be an agency because ultimately, do we really want an employee? Do we really want hire people, sort of only a few that you got to be responsible for?
A lot of people just want to earn more. It’s not about that; it’s about putting in place the things that are going to generate more interest, more retention and ultimately more revenue. It’s up to you and that revenue to take you for better or for worse so I’ve ended up hiring people. But I could’ve easily taken the brunt of all that work and not gone that path.
CHUCK: So, do you spend most of your time then working on building the business and finding clients or do you spend some of your time actually doing the work for the clients?
LIAM: I’ve moved myself out a little bit of day-to-day work production, as I call it. But I tend to one a month, so I get involved with a client on a hands-on basis. But for the most part, it’s strategy on how we’d move forward as a business and the agency being the business. Actually, I’ve been spending a lot more time at the moment on Freelancelift – putting together videos, books and that kind of stuff – and that really is where I’m spending a lot more of my time on the basis that things are taking over okay.
So the things that I’m involved with are the pitches for the agency and stuff like that, pitches strategy based of figuring out where we’re moving from here, financials and that kind of stuff. When I say that, it actually bores me thinking about it but I don’t know, I’m that kind of person, I think. I like to go headlong into the strategic areas as much as I can bore, I still have a toe in the water as it were from a service provider point of view.
CHUCK: I guess the next question that I have then is, “At what point did you hire your first employee or your first person to work for you?”
LIAM: Again, that’s a good question. There’s actually a passage in the book about this, which is the first person I hired was my brother. He was in a place where he didn’t really have the skills to be an agency person and I think, one of the things, one of the beauties of having somebody that you know as your first hire is that it can be very, very casual.
So again, what I talk about quite a lot as well is the remote team aspect too. It depends on where you want to make savings. If your vision is to work 5 hours a week and to do the highest leverage stuff and have all the people around you doing that other stuff, then you hire at a certain point. If you are the type that wants to be delivering for the most part, then you hire at a different point.
I hired when I kind of needed it. I like that phrase, “Hire when it hurts.” So, I was hurting at that point and it was that thing, “Okay, I need somebody to help spread this load.” They weren’t a designer. They were helping with more day-to-day administrative aspects.
I think you can hire somebody, again, the virtual assistant thing. Most people have tried that. I think the key when it comes to hiring somebody is to have a process in place that they can move into. Without that, those end up taking a lot more of your time than you would’ve expected.
But in terms of making first hires, I think it depends on the vision that you got for your time and where you want to put it. If you want to work 5 hours a week then you need to hire sooner. If you think, “I’m okay with working 34 to 50 hours a week.” Then you hire a little bit later.
CHUCK: One other thing that I’ve run into because I have a few people that have worked for me off and on. It’s really easy for me to sell myself. I know what I’m capable of, I know what it’s going to take for me to do it and I have a reputation out in the community. People more or less know who I am. People who come to my site more or less know who I am. And so what I’m trying to sell them on, “Well, I have this other guy that is going to help me do it,” some people are a little bit more “Well, can’t you just do it?” And a lot of times, the answer is “Not really. I don’t have the time.”
So how do you sell that and make everybody comfortable with the way things go. I mean, I usually give them some kind of a personal guarantee but that doesn’t always work either.
LIAM: Yeah. I would always hire into non-value-added positions so, yes, I would pretty much say that you’re going to be the guy that’s delivering it. Again, I’ve not really hired into a position where I’m replacing me. I’ve always hired into a position where I’m building a team around me and my skill set, which I suppose is where you drive them with that. But I would always look first to hire into a position that was low-skilled, that you can train somebody to take time away from you.
You’re not at your best when you’re responding to customer service or customer support, e-mails. You’re not at your best when you’re, I don’t know, formatting the proposal into something that is going to go out to a client. And you’re probably at your best standing in front of somebody or chatting with somebody over at Skype, or over the phone. But the administrative aspects, the mechanical aspects as it were, are always better to be handled by somebody else, if you want to eventually pull yourselves out from working on your business, from being dependent on you, from replacing yourself point of view. I’m not sure I even have the answer because, as you say, ultimately, if you’ve got the reputation and people are looking to you to be that end-deliverer, that service provider.
CHUCK: That makes sense. So you hire somebody that’s a little lower level and that’s generally what I’ve been doing. But at the same time, my team and I are going to handle this, it sometimes is a harder sell. Sometimes, it’s an easier sell but sometimes it’s a trickier sell4.
CURTIS: It depends on your branding too. Like you’ve been branded as “Chuck” as opposed to branding as an agency right? When you hire an agency, you know that the person you’re talking to on Day 1 may not be the person that does the whole thing end-to-end because you’re hiring an agency.
LIAM: Second time around, I positionrf myself as a team of people. So I was quick to use the word, “we.” You know, “we” will do this. “We” will do that. And I think that’s the difference, isn’t it, between having a personal brand and having a brand that is a brand effectively on its own two feet.
CHUCK: I may have to reboot into a team brand. I mean, I can still claim everything that my company has done as just stuff that I’ve done.
CURTIS: Yeah. And I have a few friends that operate under their own name really. But, it’s like, the team that work with me. So it’s all about the team but they still mostly trade on their own name, really.
REUVEN: I’ll tell you, I’ve been hedging on that for years and I’ve heard the argument that you should brand it as a business and brand it as the team and not brand it as yourself. And I just can’t get myself to do it. And I’m not sure it’s because I feel like, I’m the brand that people are coming to. And what you’re saying, Chuck is exactly what I’ve experienced. People come to me because they’ve heard my name. They’ve read my articles; they’ve seen my videos, something like that. And they come to me and they just get very unexcited hearing about someone else working with me or working with them.
At the same time though, I think if I were to rebrand as an agency or as a company, that will, sort of, take away from the some of the branding that I’ve managed to get so far. So far, I’ve just hedged and continued to say, “Oh! It’s me and my company, and we do X, Y, Z,” and I don’t think it’s been that effective to tell you the truth.
CHUCK: I think what I’m hearing though is, “Where do you want to go?” “Where do you want to wind up?” “Who do you want to attract?” And “What kind of a sale do you want to make?” So if they’re coming to charlesmaxwood.com to hire somebody, then they’re expecting to hire Charles Max Wood. But if they come to an agency site, and they know that I own or run or work at the agency, it changes the conversation a little bit because they recognize that even though I might still be trading a little bit on my personal reputation, that they are dealing with an agency and the agency is going to work things out to solve the problem.
LIAM: Yeah, it’s about personal goals as well and personal vision. What do you want to get out of it? Because, somebody like Paul Jarvis who’s a great designer – all he does is bank himself on that personal brand but book himself six months into the future. So rather than having that issue of “I don’t have time.” It’s like, “Yeah, I do have time but it’s in May.” And I think that aligns with his personal objectives. He doesn’t want to get much bigger than he is now, but what he would like to do, I think, and again, I’m paraphrasing what his thoughts are here, is to be [inaudible 14:56]the rate that he can bill and yet book himself into the future as a result without saying “No” to people.
CHUCK: So, do you guys have any more questions about this in particular? Because I want to change topics a little bit.
REUVEN: I’m curious. Basically, Liam’s mentioned a few times so far, “Well, you know, my first times so far didn’t work so well.” So, I’m curious what was this first time around and what did you change? What, in terms of whether it’s branding or procedures or clients or anything, did you change that made things so much more successful now?
LIAM: Again, I’m going to have to try and answer this without going into book promotion mode, so you’ll have to excuse me. The first time around, it was a lack of, really, understanding that to be a business – to be successful – you’ve got to think like a business and not necessarily like a freelancer. When I say that, what I really mean is when you head around the web, you’re not necessarily looking at the right type of information for you at that particular moment in time. And I’ve pinned it down into five areas really which is:
The first one, which I called, again, ‘Evolution Ready,’ which just means understanding where you are right now and really putting down where you would like to be. A lot of people who start out miss out the business planning aspect and what I’m not talking about here is a cumbersome, old-school, business plan. What I lay out is a one-pager.
It’s inspired by the Lean Canvas. They just say, “Okay, here is where I want to go.” So last time around, the first time around, I didn’t do any of that. I was kind of hopping from point-to-point-to-point and flipping really from opportunity-to-opportunity as well, trying to supplement that income without actually saying, “No, this is what I want to do. This is the rate that I’m currently billing. This is the rate that I would need to get to, to meet that goal. And here is the audience that I’m going to rate them at.” Then it’s working at, “Okay, how can I repel the bad-apple clients and attract dream clients, so the first time around, that was on channels like elance.com, odesk.com. Fiverr wasn’t around back then, but that kind of channel, all I found were poor quality clients. What I didn’t understand at that point was, people aren’t hiring me because I was a designer at that point. They’re not hiring everybody because they’re a designer, writes a mocks or whatever. They’re hiring you because they have a business problem that they feel that your services can remedy.
So that’s the second thing really, understanding that you are being hired to solve the business problem. That’s something that I didn’t have locked down last time. And as a result, my website had splattered all over it. The things that you’ve seen a million times before, like a cityscape or whatever. We build websites and again, giving an interesting example, which is a headline: “We specialize in building websites.” That, in [inaudible 17:27] appears 891,000 times on Google. That is to say, 891,000 pages also mentioned the fact that they specialize in building websites, and that’s something I didn’t understand. As I’ve said, everybody is talking about that so as a service provider you blend into the background. It becomes so common that it actually becomes blended into the background. So that was the second thing.
The third thing really is, understanding that in order to multiply my earnings I needed to also multiply my exposure. Building a platform, it just wasn’t something that I did before. So, I wasn’t blogging, I wasn’t active on social media and building relationships. I wasn’t out there providing value in this space, and as a result, I kind of felt sorry for myself that nobody knew who I was. Nobody knew what my site address was, and nobody even arrived at it – the third thing.
The fourth thing was a lack of understanding that freelancing comes with instability in its core. It comes with that [inaudible 18:23] cost to which, generally is driven by the fact that it’s unpredictable. One week, you have a good week and then next week, you could have a very poor week. Understanding that and putting things in place to counteract that like recurring revenue opportunities with clients, like building small products that can bring in revenue in the slow weeks. I didn’t have any of that in place and the result – I just lived with the fact that freelancing is unstable.
And then the fifth thing, which I never really got to in the end, but the fifth part of this Freelancer Evolutionary Growth Cycle and I apologize for nipping into book mode here but the fifth part of that was really understanding that I need you to loosen the reins a little bit. It isn’t necessary to work on your business 60 hours a week. You can put things in place – systems, processes, and people – that are going to fill the gaps in the areas that you don’t necessarily need to be involved with.
Those are the key lessons, those five key things I didn’t have in place last time but I did have in place the second time around. And those have been a major catalyst, and in fact, the only catalyst really [inaudible 19:23] difference because I’m still the same designer that I was back then. [Inaudible 19:27], a little bit more years behind me in terms of experience and a better level of understanding of how the web works and stuff.
But deep down, I’m not the same designer. My clients were always happy the first time. The clients are happy this time. Now, it’s just that this time around, I’ve figured a few things out which enabled me to grow beyond a freelancer.
CHUCK: So you mentioned that people need to think of their businesses as a business and not as – in other words, “Don’t think like a freelancer,” which I think is the name of your book or the tag line of your book? I don’t remember.
LIAM: Yeah. Oh, I’m sorry.
CHUCK: No, it’s fine. But what I’m curious about then is what are – you talk about some of them, but what are the major leverage things that you can do to start acting like your business is a business instead of, “I’m doing my hobby for other people so that I can sometimes pay the bills.
LIAM: Yeah, there are a few. The key one that I’m attacking on behalf of Freelancelift members at the moment, trying to get them better at, is explaining their services better, explaining why a client should work with them, and doing it in such a way that they understand that there are two types of freelancers.
There’s the laborer, the person who takes instruction. The person that you will find on elance.com, at fiverr.com and that kind of thing. He takes an instruction from the client and delivers it and generally delivers at an hourly rate basis.
A business, on the other hand will kind of say, “Okay, I’m treating this as a long-term relationship. I’m going to be an asset to you as a business, as a service provider, and I am going to act that way. So I’m going to explain specifically how I can make a difference to your business. I’m going to handle myself in such a way that I can grow this thing to a longer-term relationship that’s going to ensure that we’re all happy at the other side of it.
So, that’s the first thing, really – understanding that you’re not being hired because you can design by [inaudible 21:20]. You’re being hired because you can solve a business problem – or so the client thinks. And positioning yourself and making messages that speak about, and then understanding, “Right. Okay. Well, I need to build a platform. I’m not exempt from advertising. I’m not exempt from being aggressive in terms of vision and willing to target a specific audience.”
These are things that, for my money, freelancers are missing. That vision. That understanding, “Okay, well, I need to advertise. How do I advertise? How do I get attention?” That’s just not there. A lot of times, we’re busy beavering away doing the work while we’re not actually thinking, “Okay. Well, how do I market myself? How do I position myself like a business? How do I position myself like an asset? How do I understand the leverage, the great copy will give me, and that kind of stuff. It’s the structure really, more than anything, to answer the question. That is the difference between the way that – more often than not – freelancers work in the way that businesses work. It’s that structure and that ability to plan ahead. [Crosstalk 22:15]
CURTIS: I think one of the key mindset shifts is also looking at things as an investment as opposed to an expense. As I’ve transitioned to, “Will I invest in an editor for my content?” “Will I do this?” I’m looking at, “What’s my possible value out of it?” Not “How much this is going to cost me immediately?”
LIAM: Yeah [inaudible 22:31]
REUVEN: I completely agree with what you’re saying, Liam. And I’ve been increasingly making this shift although I still don’t feel like I’m making the sale quite a need the shift to talking using that language. But I also find, and maybe this is the function of the clients – the potential clients who are meeting with me or who are coming to me. I find that when I try to talk in this language, they’re just a little confused because they see me as, “Oh yeah! The developer we hired!” or “The DBA we hired to help us out with things.” And when I say that I want to go beyond that, they’re not quite sure what to do with that.
LIAM: Yeah. And again, a lot of that is probably specific to your niche as a dev, but I think a lot of the time, you have skills in business that you can trump onto other people. So it’s not necessarily letting the pigeon hole you. It’s giving them ideas that break beyond what they feel the realm of your expertise is because that’s the key, really.
Especially when it comes to building mutual beneficial partnerships. It’s saying, “Yeah, I need to go to this guy because he can help me with anything.” I mean, it’s having that relationship with the client that’s going to generate a longer-term revenue. I stumbled across a really, really interesting stat when I was looking at some of the previous numbers for TONE and it was that, on average, the people that buy again, have spent, over an 18-month period from that first investment and 130% more. That is to say, if somebody spent $10,000 with those today, on the next 13 months, they’re going to spend another $13,000. So that, what it gives me, is a lot of stability, a lot of reliability in earnings and that only comes from being the expert. It only comes from having over things that became seldom effective but in a standpoint of ideas, a standpoint of mutually beneficial ideas that we’re going to put in place for businesses.
CHUCK: So what if you’re kind of a generalist? [Crosstalk 24:27] Can you just not afford to be a generalist?
LIAM: Well, that’s I suppose what I’m getting at. The more general you are, the more strings you have to the ball – to your ball. The more services you can sell to people. But I think, what you’re referring to there in general is the sense of the market? Is that right?
CHUCK: Yeah. So if you’re focused, I guess you can be a generalist but you still need to focus on one area at a time.
LIAM: Yeah. Yeah. I think so. The most difficult thing, I think, for a lot of these to get our heads around is, “I’m going to minimize the pool of people that I’m going to be working with by a factor of a hundred, a thousand, and I’m going to minimize the people that I’m going to be dealing with for millions to maybe 12 to 15 people on my dream client that I will work with.” That’s a bit of a mindset shift and it sometimes feels like you’re blocking out those other people but it doesn’t necessarily need to be that way.
I’ve seen lots of people build small sub-plans for specific sectors. I still have that main core plan that things fare in general or putting out their ideas and flavors of what they’re doing, spinning it so that it works as a sector. And again, Joanna Wiebe from Copy Hackers – I’ve probably pronounced her name horribly wrong as well – Joanna from Copy Hackers, she puts down one of the two things that she saw as a turning point was changing what she is being referred to as from a Content Writer to specific Copywriter for Software as a Service Businesses. By doing that, she was able to narrow down a lot of people that ultimately were going to buy her service but in doing so was able to charge higher rates, was able to win more clients, and was able to build a reputation in that space.
REUVEN: Yeah. We had here on the show, a few months ago, I think. Many people have made the same point so one of these days; it will actually sink in with me. [Laughter]
It can’t be that everyone else is wrong and I’m right and yet I’m still struggling there. We had someone on the show who made the analogy to a plumber, maybe it was Eric, right? Who said – now I’m quoting everyone – “When you have a clogged drain, do you want to go to Joe Plumbing? Or do you want to go to “Joe’s Drain Unclogging Specialist Removal Service?” I’m sure it was phrased better. And when you put it that way, obviously you want to go to the specialist, but in our own businesses, I have this great reticence to feel like I’m pigeon holing myself and removing possible clients and possible interesting work.
LIAM: And sometimes though, you might find that you are specializing in a certain area without knowing and again worry too much about your back catalog of clients but there maybe things that unite them that are bringing them to your doors [inaudible 27:12]. Effectively, it’s still within a certain specialism there, it’s just that you can’t put a label on it.
I was talking to an illustrator last night and she’s telling me that she didn’t have an idea of who her specific coordinates might be. And when I talked about it and tapped some people that she’s been working with, what we found were that they were business owners themselves; that they were entrepreneurs; that they were vocal in their space – they were content creators. Straight away, we drew a line between all of the similarities that they had. And to her mind, she was still quite the generalist but what we were able to do is to pick out some key areas that were, kind of, “Okay, well, they have at least this, this, this, this and this in common. So let’s talk to this, this and this, and we’re talking about the benefits that the service can have.
Ultimately, [inaudible 27:58] the common denominator between a lot of these things. Really, at Tone, I’m the biggest hypocrite going because don’t have too much of a massive specialism. What I’ve identified over that time is the ability to hone in on an audience because it’s always driven by the size of the audience. The smaller it is, the better you can go and get access in through to them. It comes down to that attention thing as well. If you, engineer everybody, you ultimately get the attention of nobody. If you look and try to get the attention of a certain sector then you’re going to have a much better chance of doing that.
CHUCK: So, my question is, I’ve been trying to think of the things that businesses do that I don’t. And, so there are things like advertising – I don’t do any advertising. I mostly do content marketing if I do anything. But, are there other things that businesses do that freelancers tend not to do?
LIAM: Yeah, it’s the structure thing really – its process. So, first step always to me is to figure out, “Okay, where do I want to go?” “What’s my intent?” “What is the vision for this thing?” I think as freelancers and as solopreneurs, we kind of, feel guilty of sometimes [inaudible 29:10] along and not taking the step to look back at where you come from; look forward at where you might want to go. And so, as a result there’s a lack there of structure; a lack of vision. And you might tell me that that’s wrong in your particular catchbook. I’m thinking, generally, from a freelancer’s point of view. That’s one of the key things that I generally see. We’re not as eager to plan forward, to work backwards, to benchmark, to look better, to make assumptions, to pivot and even to push in the right direction as businesses are. And then, again, look into this thing specializing in a market. We don’t do it as much as businesses would do.
We limit ourselves to one product affected by, which is the service the service that we offer, more often than not. And if you look any business in the world, look at Google for example, they have a motto, which is “Do one thing really well.” Yet they have Gmail, YouTube, Android and all these different areas of business that provide them revenue. And if one fails, they can still survive.
As a freelancer, if you’re just pinning in your hopes on having that one service then ultimately you’re gonna “If that fails, struggle to pay the bills the next month” or whatever. It’s that thing, it’s having an understanding that seeing stable model and doing nothing about it, that’s another thing that, I think, businesses would never do. Businesses wouldn’t say, “Yeah, okay. This is a really unstable model, so let’s just go with it and take away chances on the fact that we can find new clients to fill that pipe-line.” I think, a lot of the time, we put things in place that ensure that there’s just a little bit of a buffer zone on that. [Inaudible 30:42] I think, processes well, again, figuring out, “Okay, to do this certain thing this way, is going to take investment and time and this much.” That has an opportunity cost of whatever that is. And we, as freelancers and the solo premieres, often just take the hit, from that point of view. If it was a business, they’ll look at that and say, “That’s a waste of resource! I’m paying that person ‘X’ amount. They shouldn’t be doing that job; hire somebody else that’s a quarter of that salary, or whatever. Again, if you were to multiply the size of the freelancers by 10, then it would be unsustainable as a business and if we should do exactly the same, as a business again, we identify things like that and say, “No, we need to hire somebody that’s lower skilled to do that particular area of the work because that’s inefficient and it’s costing us too much money.”
But then again, the vision, structure and “How do you go out to attack a market?” “Who is the market?” “How do you describe that the best we can.” “How do put ourselves out there? “With a voice?” “With a platform?” And be a little bit more aggressive as well about bringing in interests and attracting people in, so viral advertising and things like that.
CURTIS: I think the one danger there is siding Google on doing all these things. When Google started, they did not do all those things, right? They were a search company and that they monetize search. And now they do all of this random stuff because of millions and millions and billions in the bank. As opposed to, like at the beginning, if they said, “Let’s do Gmail and let’s host this service for that and let’s do all these other stuff.” Would it really have succeeded?
LIAM: No. But I think, what we’ve identified was that, in order to be stable and in order to grow to be one of the most valuable companies that ever was. And I think, they identified a need to grow into all of the areas. Yeah, I think Google was perhaps not exactly an example but it goes without saying that, as a freelancer, if she’s relying on that one form of revenue and that is crossed off, then, you’re in a really risky position. So what I would recommend and looking upon the freelance point of view without the multi-billion dollar [chuckles] business and looking at secondary revenue streams so, “How can I convert my knowledge into something of value; to [inaudible 32:47] that can sell, like a book, any book or video training course or whatever? And again, that’s supplementing that primary income stream. I’ve always recommend putting in place, if you can, efficiencies and the things that can deliver you secondary income stream beyond that initial one because again, the freelancing game is very unstable. And if you just live with that, then you kind of, live in that risk willingly.
CURTIS: And I think the key thing to remember at the beginning too is to build and/or on your core competency, right? So, me, doing mostly e-commerce membership sites building something that is, say an early purchase, an easy lower end purchase for my clients like an e-commerce taste test course for them to look at a bunch of the e-commerce platforms without meaning to engage full time.
CHUCK: I want to hark back a little bit to; you were talking about processes. For the sake of conversation, let’s just say that I have this friend named Charles that’s really bad at coming up with good processes for things.
CHUCK: How do you do that? Especially if you’re a business of say, one or two people, maybe a virtual assistant.
LIAM: Yeah. Again, this is a question that I asked myself. So I figured out a process for making processes, which was a Yes/No diagram. And the Yes/No diagram start by saying, “Is this making money?” ‘Yes’ or ‘No’? Again, it starts by understanding, “What am I doing on a day-to-day basis?” So I’ll rewind the second. What I recommend to begin with is saying, “Okay, where is my time currently being spent?” “What processes are at play in your business already?” [inaudible 34:19] for example, appearing on this show – that was a process. And we’ve turned on Skype; we phoned the guest; we’ve all turned up together; we’ve chat some beforehand and we’ve tape-record. And afterwards another process will occur. Whether we lay them out in a process map and there’s still a process going on here. So, the key really is, understanding: “What processes are going on?” “What tasks we are doing?” And then putting in place physical processes around that to say, “Okay, to get this podcast up and running, what are all the links in this chain?” Add them all out one-by-one and put it in what is called a Schwinland Process System, saying, “Okay, here are all the blocks. Now let’s have a look at each one of the blocks. Do I really need to do that block?”
Finding the guest – “Do I really need to do that? Or can I make a system or a process that can do things more efficiently.” “This next block, okay, what’s this one? Let’s find out whether I need to do that or I don’t need to do that.” So, the first stage for me is always getting out an app like Harvest, which is harveyst-app.com, I believe. And if you can put in time tracking in place to see, “What am I doing at this moment in time?” “What am I doing at this moment in time?” And by doing that, you’ll track on a daily basis, all the things that are taking up your time because the objective of processes is to make them more efficient either by: you don’t do them entirely because they’re useless to the growth of your business and not providing any value whatsoever or so that you can hand them over to people who can do them 70% as well as you. And for whatever 70% less in terms of cost.
The first stage is tracking where your plan is being spent. The second stage is “Okay, well, that’s where our time is being spent. These are all of the tasks that I’m doing on a daily basis. What are these tasks? What category do they fall under? Do they fall on customer service? Do they fall under marketing? Do they fall under production? Do they fall under research?” and all these different areas. And then, “Okay, well, I’m pretty much – without me knowing it, I’m in business here with several departments that has several people doing different things. It’s all being the same person, it’s all me. So how can I then build a process which says, “Okay, this particular block of time – this particular department, I can push it on to somebody else. And because you’ve understood, “Okay, here are the processes, the links in this chain.” And because you’ve written it all down, it makes easier for you to hand those off and outsource those separate dates to different people.
So, as I was saying, the first step for me is to [inaudible 36:45] where the time is being spent. The second step is saying that, “What category will these tasks fall into?” And then the third step is saying that, “What processes are at play in my business already? And then just writing those down; just writing down the key blocks. Step one is this; step two is that; step three is that. And then for each one of those steps, then point out the Yes/No diagram and saying that, “Is it really worthwhile doing that? Could I have this piece of software or system to make it quicker? Could I hire somebody that would do it 70% as well as I could? Does it make me money? Does it not make me money?” “Do I need do it because it’s public speaking or something that I really need to do?” And all these things fall into process whether you’ve written them down or not. It’s about being explicit about what the processes are – at play. And then how can that make it more efficient – either by using software at certain areas or by hiring somebody into certain blocks of it. Does that answer the question? Or does that give more questions than answers?
CHUCK: No, I think it’s definitely a good to start and then it gives me a lot of ideas for just breaking down the processes – of building out processes for my business.
REUVEN: It’s funny, Liam. The way that you’ve described it and it sounds like it’s very smart but it really does sound like even these large Fortune 500 companies, one of my big clients just laid off a huge number of employees and it was clearly because, they said, “These businesses are just not profitable for us.” And someone went, or many people went and did those calculations. I guess the difference is that, if it’s just you, you know what you can and can’t do. And these measurements help you identify them, all the things you can do and maybe that you want to do which are worthwhile doing or which are most worthwhile doing, which to be honest, I do a whole bunch of things and I don’t think I could point to which are and are not the most profitable or most worthwhile.
LIAM: Well, a good example for me and again, in some ways, guilty of not outsourcing enough as [inaudible 38:33] a lot, I love videos. I love to do more videos. I love to sit in front of the camera and do them all day. The problem I had with it is: I have to write the script, I have to sit in front of the camera and do it then I take the original and video files and marry them together. I do the editing, I put the titles in, I upload it to Wistia and all of these links in this channel, I do it myself. Now, it’s false economy for me to think, “Oh, well, I’ll just do it.” Because it’s taking me time, it’s taking me time away from doing that key thing I like and the key thing that makes the value. To me, not necessarily the most profitable bit, the sitting in front of the camera bit but it’s the most enjoyable bit. I don’t necessarily enjoy sitting there and chopping off tens of minutes of video. But I just do it because at the moment, I don’t have clear enough process for doing it. I know all the blocks there, and in more [inaudible 39:20] the areas that I’m working half-blocks, have other people doing them or have a system that just works it for me. But in this particular case, it’s about, “All right, it’s not necessarily the most profitable bit or the most important bit. It’s about which bit do I enjoy doing most and by doing the other area of it, am I losing the opportunity to more of that. It’s a double down on the bits that I do enjoy in. So looking at myself, it will be a case of “Let’s figure out a way of hiring an editor, putting in place a system that allows me to outsource most of the bits that I don’t necessarily enjoy in – don’t necessarily deliver me enjoyment. And the profitable there is the secondary bit. If they’re not profitable either, then it’s a complete waste of time, really. In fact, would you do it because that’s the way small businesses work?
CHUCK: All right! Are there any other areas that we haven’t talked about? That we should cover before we get to picks?
LIAM: Yeah, not sure. I mean, we covered a lot there. We covered a lot of ground there. [Chuckles] Definitely talked about [inaudible 40:21] areas, to jump into the picture, from my point of view anyway. Again, if there’s any questions that you’ve got from things that are less than answered, then I’d be happy to pick those off before we jump into the picks.
CHUCK: Doesn’t sound like it. I do want to give you a chance to explain what Freelancelift is and give people a two-minute pitch on what your book is about. So that if they’re a good fit for either the website or the book, they can take advantage of those resources.
LIAM: Well, from the book’s point of view. Anyway, the book is a compilation of everything I wish I had known the first time around. A lot of time as freelancers, this is the same for Freelancelift as well as the book, we pick up those ideas, angles and we have a pretty good idea of what we might take to make more money, to pin down our dream client, to generally make freelance most stable. But for the most part, we don’t. We put the time and place to do it but [inaudible 41:14] either lapses because of procrastination or because we don’t know which bits to tackle first. So, my job with the book, is to say, “Okay, let’s break down, let’s put it in a specific order. Which is where the evolutionary cycle comes from. So it’s saying, “Okay, let’s have a look at this bit first, then we’ll have a look at this bit. Forget about the little bits for now. Let’s move on bit-by-bit and put it into an order that we, can all follow – that is logical. That if need to, and if you already know that stuff, you can skip along. But it just puts in an order that beats out procrastination. That’s what I wanted to do for this. Obviously, the milestone of reaching a cumulative million dollars was the turning point. The driver, the facts they put in pen and paper are one and the same. But, the need for me to warn people against going down the track I went down last time was what drove this book, what drove me to build Freelancelift.
Freelancelift is a selection of video content, short book content, world’s blog content, I’ve got podcasts on there as well. And launching January 2015 is Freelanceliftpro, which is that gives you that element of accountability as freelancers, one-person businesses that’s easy to feel as you’re working along. So, that accountability, having people working alongside you, achieving the same goals on a monthly basis and with direction from somebody who’s been there and done it, like me, and having that tone of vision. So, do a monthly, four-hour workshop where we work on a particular goal every month. The theme for each month is in and around that goal and the point is to have tone of vision on achieving that, moving on to the next one month after month and building something credible from a tiny freelance business.
CHUCK: Awesome. All right! Let’s go and do the picks! Curtis, you want to start us off with picks?
CURTIS: Sure! I meant to pick two podcasts. One is The Sales Evangelist that we have done, a few episodes ago and I was over on his show and that went out last week. And I’ve also shared my full entrep e-mail template there. And then the other one I want to pick is ‘The Soul of Enterprise’ which I recommended before but the specific episode is, I don’t have episode numbers here but the topic [inaudible 43:23] we talked about today specializing and then having like a sub-brand that serves, say the lower-end clients while your main brand serves the higher end clients.
CHUCK: Nice! Eric, what are your picks?
ERIC: So, one pick that I found, it’s an article called Would You Hire Yourself for Freelance Work? It’s interesting because, a lot of times you might get to a point where you think you’re really good at what you’re doing like, the actual tactical stuff like: good at developing, good at design. But this post helps you get out of that a little bit and take your clients’ stands. You might think you’re really good at something but how does that actually come across to your client? So, not just in your branding or marketing but are you actually the best? Are you actually helping your client’s problems? And I think that’s something that’s really important that a lot of people miss out. You need to be able to present stuff to your client and so they can understand you but you also need to do it in such a way where it’s human and it’s not very robotic and not arrogant at all. So it’s an interesting short post [inaudible 44:15]. They actually did this kind of reflection on themselves and I think it’s useful for everyone.
LIAM: Well, yeah, that sounds good and I’ll definitely check that one out.
CHUCK: Awesome. Reuven, what are your picks?
REUVEN: I’ve just got one pick this week. I’ve been starting on these screencasts for one of the higher tiers of my e-book. The PythonBook, that I finally released. And so, I’ve been using Screenflow to do my screencasts and I’ve been really enjoying it. I’ve realized that I’ve only used the tip of the iceberg. There’s just a huge amount of functionality there that I’m slowly but surely learning how to use. So if you’re a Mac user, Screenflow’s definitely worth working into.
CHUCK: Very nice. I’ve got a couple of picks. The first one that I’m going to pick, Eric talks about Freelance Chi and I just want to pick it because I was reading the articles and that’s how I ran across Liam’s blog posts. It was in Freelance Chi, which was awesome. So thanks for that Eric.
The second pick I have is: John Sonmez is coming out with a new book called Soft Skills. If you’re a developer, it’s kind of, a life manual for software developers. He talks about a lot of the other things that you need to understand in order to balance out your life and things like that. So, super awesome!
Anyway, those are my two picks. Liam, what are your picks?
LIAM: Yeah! So, I’ve got three. I’m being a little bit greedy here but hopefully they’re all high values. The first one is just a little bit of inspiration really –inspiration as to the importance of putting together valuable content. You talked briefly about content marketing as a path, as a strategy for marketing effectively. And what Groove HQ, groovehq.com had done is grow from zero to $100,000 a month in revenues. They’re a software company, 6 months in service provision but what they have done is build that, pretty much off the back of great content. Content [inaudible 45:58] and just providing value. They’ve reached at $100,000 a month target, which was started from Day 1. And so, it’s a great read down [inaudible 46:07] looking back at what really works then.
Second one is more for my designer brethren and one of the common questions we get is behind sloped quicker vine and “Can you make my logo, big guy?” It’s that common client statement of “I need everything above the phone.” “I don’t believe that people scroll.” And “I need arrows and stuff pointing down.” Well, huge inc to an agency-based in London, I believe and they’ve done some research on that and what they’ve found is often, most times – 80% of times, we notice what the difference was on the page. Everybody scrolled [chuckled] and so, it’s a link that people can just grab and throw over to your client if they make that statement.
And third one is just a big idea. It’s a ponder, really. Corbett Barr, who is a founder at fizzle.co. Great guy as well. He put together a post on his new blog actually, which is a fell new blog corbettbarr.com. On entrepreneurship and it’s just entrepreneurship and everybody has a little entrepreneur inside them. And what he believes is that it should be nurtured as a life skill. There’s a meme a few years ago that people sent. A lot of people need to have computing as a life skill simply because that’s the way it’s going as a society. And what he believes is that entrepreneurship is the same. People should have that element of entrepreneurship encouraged in them. And have that as a life skill. So far, the idea is really interesting and it’s something that, “Yeah, I’ll go along with it.”
CHUCK: Awesome! All right! Well, thanks for coming Liam! It was really enlightening and this is one of the ones where I’m going to have to go back and listen again and just see what’s going on and apply this to my own business.
CHUCK: I also want to quickly remind folks that we are in iTunes so if you could leave us a review there, that would be awesome. And if you want to get these episodes in your inbox, I am working on automating that. So if you go to freelancersshow.com and scroll down a little bit, you’ll see that there is an e-mail opt-in form and if you fill that out then you can start getting the episodes in your e-mail box. I’m probably going to start doing that around the first of the year so just keep an eye out for that. And yeah, thanks again Liam!
LIAM: No worries, thanks for having me, guys!
CHUCK: All right, we’ll wrap this up! We’ll catch you on next week!
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