203 FS Giving Advice Away For Free

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01:44 - Handling Initial Client Meetings17:17 - Proprietary/Intellectual Property


CHUCK: Oh boy, do I have problems.

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CHUCK: Hey everybody and welcome to episode 203 of The Freelancers’ Show. This week on our panel we have Jonathan Stark.


CHUCK: Philip Morgan.

PHILIP: Greetings.

CHUCK: Reuven Lerner.

REUVEN: Hi everyone.

CHUCK: I’m Charles Max Wood from DevChat.tv. And this week we’re going to be answering the question – Reuven actually brought this up, and basically it’s how much advice or how much a value do you give away before you start devaluing your expertise or the value you bring to a project. Do you have some context for us Reuven?

REUVEN: [Laughter] Yes. Basically, there’s a discussion on a forum that I am on online where the question was – someone basically said “listen, I was at an initial client meeting” –and many of us, I think, do this where we’ll talk to someone either in person or on the phone or on Skype, they hear about us, they want to work with us, and so we have an initial free meeting to see if it will work out.

Then this guy said basically “I gave away too much. I basically gave him all the advice I was going to”, and so was this mistake. And there was some back and forth about whether this was a mistake or not – to give away an advice in an initial meeting. And [inaudible] to some degree “that’s ok. I do this all the time”. When I have an initial meeting, I’m going to talk to the client. And if I can impress them with some clever advice during a meeting, then fantastic; they’re more likely to want to work with me.

But it does then mean “hey, I’m working for free, and why are you going to pay me lots [inaudible] forward?” So there is that sort of tension; the question is basically “where do you draw the line?” Where do you say “from this point on, I’m really going to have to charge you”?

CHUCK: Well, if you can give away the farm in an hour, I have to say that you probably don’t have as unique of a selling [inaudible] as you want to.

REUVEN: Well, I do talk fast.

CHUCK: Ok. So for Reuven, half hour.


JONATHAN: I would put it another way. If their problem can easily be solved in an hour of you talking to them, it wasn’t that big a problem. I tell people all the time – my approach for a situation like that is to talk the person out of hiring me. And if I can do that, then it’s a good thing because if they had hired me, then they would end up regretting it because – [crosstalk]

REUVEN: So when you do that Jonathan – when you do that, you’re basically saying to them “well, have you tried X and have you tried Y?” and you’re giving them solutions or potential solutions.

JONATHAN: Exactly, yeah. Why don’t just wait 6 months? Why don’t you just gather some more data? Why do this now? Why don’t you just use an off-the-shelf solution? Why don’t you use Fiverr? Why don’t you get someone from Craigslist?

And they’ll give you reasons why they can’t do that or they’ll say “yeah, that’s a great idea”. But usually they’ll say “no no no, we can’t do that because X, Y and Z”. And as you go through that conversation, they tell you why they need to hire you. And then I take that information, I put it in a proposal and I send it back to them, and they’re like “yeah, we need to hire this guy”. [Laughter]

I would say – my mom is a 6th grade teacher and she has a lot – she’s very creative, she love ideas about all sorts of technology thing. So a lot of time they get in a situation where she’s “I’ve got an idea for an app”. And she’s never actually asked this, but if she ever said like “I know you know a lot of iOS developers. Could you put me in touch with somebody because I got this idea for an app?” And I was like “are you crazy? That’s going to cost you like $50,000 minimum to get started with that. You’re nuts.”

And if she said – I’d be like “don’t do that. Don’t even – stop thinking about that because it’s crazy”, or I would try and offer some – maybe investigate a little bit and be like “maybe there’s a cheaper way to do it”, but if she could say to me “no no no, I’ve got investors. The principal and the school system are going to pay for this. I’m not going to pay for it. They all think it’s a good idea and it’s going to be this benefit for the school system”. And I’ll be like “ok, I’m convinced that maybe you should talk to some of my iOS friends”.

And I treat my costumers the same way. I’m not going to let them pay me a hundred thousand dollars if what they really need is a Wordpress plugin. That would be unethical. So –

REUVEN: Five thousand.


JONATHAN: So if you can win there and granted I have not had meetings like this – multiple meetings like this every week; I’m pretty picky about who I even bother to have an initial meeting with. You got a weed out the tire [inaudible], but once you have a meeting with someone, I give away everything I can possibly do to help them, is what I do, and I do that by trying to talk them out of hiring me.

I was just thinking about this meeting up to this episode. I can only think of one proposal in the last 10 years that I’ve had rejected.

CHUCK: That’s interesting.

REUVEN: That’s amazing.

CHUCK: One other thing that just comes to mind is that I’ve never had a consulting gig where – I’ve done training where they paid me to just come in and tell them about solutions. I’ve never had a consulting gig where they just paid me to come in and talk to them about solutions. They wanted me to implement them all or the ones that made sense to them after they hired me, be that by working closely with their team that’s implementing them or by implementing them myself.

And so if I’m telling them how to do it and then they decide that they’re going to have their own team do it, that’s fine. But the engagement that I’m after is for them to hire me to do it. And if I give them enough information to figure out how to do it again, then I don’t have a unique enough proposition for them. But the other thing is that if I can explain to them “this is what we’re going to do and this is the outcome that we’re expecting to have for you”, then that’s the value proposition. The value proposition isn’t “here are some of the guidelines for solving this problem”. The proposition is “this problem will get solved and it will save or make you money”.

JONATHAN: That brings up an interesting point which is the nature of that meeting. And perhaps I didn’t – I wasn’t in a forum that – I didn’t read the forum post that that room is referring to, but in one of these meetings that I would be in, I’m not telling them anything usually. I’m asking them a million questions.

So it’s not like they end with some architecture document at the end of it; this be like “why didn’t you try this? Why didn’t you try that? Did you think of this? Did you think of that?” But it’s not like – in some of those things, they might say like “this happened recently”. I said these people were worried about how they’re going to handle a particular situation, and I was like “have you thought of using a single site browser wrapper” “What’s that?” Describe it in about 30 seconds and they’re like “oh my god, that’s exactly what we need”. And I was like “there you go”. That’s no skin of my back.

And the next time they need a clever solution or a simple solution to a complex problem. you better believe I’m the one that’s going to get the email. And if it’s not as simple to come up with me spending 30 seconds describing something that’s existed for 10 years, then I’m going to get hired. But I don’t want to work – I don’t want simple [inaudible].

CHUCK: Can I give an actual example of this?

JONATHAN: Yeah yeah yeah, go ahead.

CHUCK: This just came to mind. So I was looking around for some one-on-one coaching. I was thinking “ok well, who’s where I want to wind up and can coach me into getting there?” And so I identified a few people, reached out to them, and the person whose organization got back to me was Jaime Tardy from Eventual Millionaire. And she have one of her coaches get a hold of me and – well first of all, her assistant called up and asked me handful of questions. I figured out pretty fast that I didn’t need the basic “here’s what a freaking business is” kind of training; I was beyond that.

So one of their coaches called me up and he said “ok well, here are the coaching options we offer. You can either do one-on-one coaching with Jaime, or you can do this other group coaching that will solve these particular problems for you”. And those particular problems were things that I wanted to solve. And so I said “yeah, I’m much more interested in this other program”. And he said “Ok, good. Have you done these things?” and he basically walked me through identifying the expensive problem, and it’s just a process that you go through – the book that they recommended was Ask by Ryan Levesque; we should probably get him on the show.

But anyway, then he also said “and Jaime has these videos on how to do a beta launch that I’m going to send to you”. So not only did I get access to a coach who talked to me for a half hour for free, told me what I needed to do as next steps for free and sent me a series of videos for free in order to get me along, but what it did is it – it’s basically set me up so that when I’m ready for this product, I can go buy it and I’m in the right place for it. In other words when we talk about positioning – this is Philip’s wheelhouse – when we talk about positioning, it’s like “look, I solved these particular problems for people”. But there’s no reason why that initial call can’t give away a ton of information to get people to the point where they’re positioned for your positioning.

And by giving away a lot of this other information, sure I’m not buying their stuff for another month or so because I’m working through these other processes, but once I get to that point, if I get stuck, you can bet I’m going to buy that coaching program. And it’s because it sets me up for “ok, I’m at the point where they said that I needed to be in order to take advantage of this, and these are the benefits that they clearly laid out that I’m going to get now that I’m here.

PHILIP: So Chuck, can you step through that again and tell me – like your trust-o-meter which goes from zero to a hundred on the international standard trust calibration system? [Laughter] Where it was at each one of those steps?

CHUCK: I would say that I probably was at 40, 50 on the scale from zero to a hundred; just starting out because I had – I’ve been listening to Eventual Millionaire for a while. And so I who Jaime was, I know enough other people who know her to where – I’ve actually met her too, but I don’t know her well at all. But just from listening to her and talking to someone of my friends who know her, I know that whoever she’s having talk to people are going to be topnotch people.

So I kind of had that trust already just because of content marketing or content. But after talking to the assistant or whoever that called me up, I was probably a little bit but not a whole lot higher. But after talking to that coach that gave me all that information and said “these are the steps you need to be taking right now and that’ll set you up for the kind of success that you want. And then if you get stuck, then the course is for you at that stage”, then it was like 80-90 out of a hundred because I feel like “ok, they understand the issue well enough to say “here’s how you get ready to win, and then you can buy the step-by-step on how to win”.

PHILIP: That’s really interesting to me. I’ve been listening and trying to formulate a sort of devil’s advocate question like “what about this? What if you sell strategy?” And pretty much all you’re selling is ideas and planning. Is that a case when you should hold back and not give things away for free? And that question [inaudible] based on what Jonathan was saying earlier because really, if in a couple of hours of conversation that you might have before you submit a proposal, if you can solve the problem in that amount of time then, it’s not a very – if you can really truly solve it, I don’t think it’s that big of a problem, is it? I just haven’t been able to come up with a [chuckles] devil’s advocate position here even though I’ve been trying.

JONATHAN: The application of the strategy is where everybody gets hung up. If you can DIY based on a couple of ideas that I can solve [inaudible] to you in a free 1 hour sales call, then you don’t really need their help. And yeah, maybe – yeah, you gave them a lot of value and they’re going to remember that. And if they ever need you, they’re going to call you or they’ll recommend you to other people. Some of the whole concept [inaudible] my educational content marketing is giving away these ideas for free, right?

The thing of it is that you – even if you’re specifically speaking to a very targeted focus market, like for me software developers, a lot of people have a really hard time connecting [inaudible] certain things and they need their hand held. And people pay me for my attention. [Inaudible] attention to their problem. They’ll say “ok, I know – we absolutely buy in all this stuff. We can get it. It makes perfect sense, but we just can’t see the [inaudible], but we can’t apply it to ourselves. And the hilarious thing is I can’t apply it to myself either. My own stuff, I can’t apply to myself; it’s – [inaudible].

So I recognize when I’m making a mistake, but it doesn’t help me actually craft a headline a lot of times, where I need to get outside feedbacks, it’s really really hard. So if you have someone who’s going to benefit from that and someone who gets it that you – your ideal costumers, the one who totally trust you and gets that what you’re sending is true and they’re just going to do whatever you say – “please tell us what to do”, that’s what – I almost [inaudible]. That’s when they start paying in when you’re actually giving them some real help.

CHUCK: One other thing that I want to bring up on this is that we’ve said if the problem is so easy that you can solve it by telling somebody how to do it in an hour is too easy, but that’s also somewhat specific to the market you’re dealing with, right? If I go in and I say “ok well, you need to setup a Linux server and you need to install this open source software on it”, and I tell you guys that that’s the solution, you guys are going to go “ok” and you’ll go do it. But if it’s a solution that’s going to solve problems for a non-technical person, a dentist or an accountant or somebody, then I go in and I say “this is how you solve this problem. You setup a Linux server and you install this open source software on there”, and all of a sudden they’re going to pay you to do the implementation because it’s well beyond them and they don’t understand the concepts behind it other than “this software works this way and solves my problems this way”. And so it’s not just the argument; it’s not just the solution, but it’s also the costumer that you’re dealing with.

REUVEN: Yeah. My 13 year-old daughter – I’ve said since she was tiny that she should go into engineering and it will be a crime against humanity if she doesn’t, because from the time she can sit up, she was building these castles out of magnetic blocks and things. And sure enough many years later, now that she’s like “oh, but I don’t want to go to a high tech – but I do help all of my friends with their phone and computer problems”. And I say to her “well, why do you do this?” She says “I just don’t understand it. It’s so obvious and it’s so easy. Why can’t they figure themselves?” And I said “they are welcome to consulting” [chuckles].

[Inaudible] I go somewhere and for me, these solutions are really obvious because I’ve seen the problem so so many times. And to them, they wouldn’t even know where to start; where to start thinking about the problem, and that’s where the value is. And so even if I tell them what the solution is, they don’t know enough to implement it, to execute on it, or quite frankly, they don’t remember enough of it because so much of it is so new that they can do anything with it.

So very often, I’ll go and have an initial meeting. I’ll say “you should do X, Y and Z”. They say “great, you’re hired”. We have a second meeting, I say “you should do X, Y and Z”, and they say “oh, we’re so glad we hired you” [chuckles]. Nothing has changed except that on the second meeting they’re paying me to say the same thing. And then right – Chuck said often they want me – generally, they want me to help with the implementation, not just tell them what to do.

CHUCK: Yeah. The other thing to keep in mind is that even if you give me a solution that I can implement – so for example, you say “well, if you use these 3 or 4 libraries in your Rails app and they’ll solve your problem”, I may not have time to do it. And so I may be willing to pay you to do it just because you have more expertise in the area and because I don’t have the time or inclination to do it even though I’m capable.

So there are a lot of different reasons why people hire you. So by going in and actually giving away the farm, so to speak, by giving them the answer, it seems to me that it really boils down to the value that you bring. And this is Jonathan’s stick, right – that value based pricing. So if it’s something that I know I can do in a half hour. then it doesn’t have a lot of value to me to pay you to go do it. But if it’s something that I don’t have the half an hour to do, or I don’t have the expertise to do it at all – so for me to figure it out would take an astronomical amount of time or effort, then the relative value to me is much higher. And so it really does come down to that value proposition. And if the value is just the idea, then you have a very core value proposition most of the time.

PHILIP: Let’s put a pin in this for later. What do you think about proprietary intellectual property that maybe – Jonathan, you were probably going to just tag on the [inaudible].

JONATHAN: I was going to ask a similar – I was going to ask you a question actually. I think that if we’re talking about proprietary intellectual property like I don’t know what, like what – I’ll have insights and I’ll right about them, and it happens to anybody who’s creating content on the web. Other people rip it off [inaudible]. And I just can’t find it within me to give a crap about that.


REUVEN: So I had a meeting – I had my interview meeting with my accountant when we went over to books for my company. And as I often say, this is the time each year when I know how my clients feel because I’m like “oh my god, this is like watching paint dry”. I can’t – I have no idea what he’s saying. I’ll just say “uh huh, uh huh, uh huh”. And outside of it [inaudible].

And at some point, he said “wait, you’re doing all these teaching. You must have materials, right?” I said “yeah”. He said “you are making sure to register those for copyright, yeah?” And I said “not really”. He said “oh my god, you are crazy. This is such amazing content and it’s valuable to companies. I’m going to put you in touch with a lawyer and you’re going to sign up for copyright because otherwise, people can rip off your stuff, your methodology”. I’m thinking to myself “I don’t care”. My stuff is not that valuable without me. [Crosstalk] And so I just never bothered. I never called a lawyer at all.

PHILIP: I am literally racking my brain trying to think of a situation where – I have this page you can see at trustvelocity.com. And it’s somewhat Philip’s intellectual property, right? It’s not like that amazing. It’s not secrets to build a nuclear reactor or something. It’s just a different take on lead generation when you look at it from the perspective of how well lead generation techniques do to build trust, right?

So it’s a fairly simple example of intellectual property and I just – I’m like “ok, so somebody downloaded this and then used it in selling their own services. How does that harm me?” I mean I just – I don’t know. I think part of it is just kind of do you look at the world as a zero sum game, or do you look at it as if you create new value, you’re going to get rewarded for doing so even if it’s not a direct path that you can trace from creating the value to getting paid.


PHILIP: Yeah, I’d love to hear it, man. Lay it on me.

JONATHAN: The answer is if somebody rips it off and they trade market and then you can’t use it.

PHILIP: Ok. So they come back and then they file a trademark claim saying ‘you’re using my intellectual property”.


PHILIP: Ok. That would sting. That would hurt. That would hurt my sense of justice and my sense of pride about creating this thing and –

JONATHAN: Yeah, but would it have a meaningful effect on your business, no?

PHILIP: Probably not.

JONATHAN: It wouldn’t be worth paying the lawyer in the first place, I think. I just can’t bring myself to care. It’s like – yeah, it does sting. It happened to me recently that somebody – I joined somebody’s email list and they had literally copied and paste something like a – it was one paragraph out of an entire email, but it was clearly mine. And they send it back to me – and this is someone I’ve met in person. [Chuckles]

I was like “busted”, but I couldn’t – what was I going to say? I just couldn’t – I could not bring those bad vibes into the world. It’s like “look dude, if that’s what you need to do, then that’s what you need to do. I’m not going to make a big stink about it”. I’m saying this to myself; I didn’t say anything to him.

And I know – Philip, in our Mastermind, this has happened to a number of people in there. People who have – a lot of people who have putting out original content and insights freely and – I want to say [inaudible], but it’s not a real word.


CHUCK: Publicly.

JONATHAN: Yeah, just a lot of free insightful information and breaking new ground, and people just like totally – [chuckles] they just don’t even care. And I’m like “I don’t know, I just see this [inaudible] business on the internet”. It’s like that’s the flipside, so if if you don’t like operating in that space, [inaudible] a great way to prevent that from happening, I suppose, is to not operate in a text format; operate in video or audio format. It’s really hard to rip that off.

CHUCK: Yeah, but as far as giving away proprietary stuff, when you write it or record it, it’s copyrighted. So that’s all protected by US law anyway if you’re in the US. The other area that I see – because trademarks, that’s your brand name and things like that – you don’t even have to register a trademark to use it. And if somebody else comes into your space and starts using a similar trademark, then you can fight them even without registering the trademark. And I’m not a lawyer, but I studied intellectual property law for a little while.

The other area is trade secrets, and if you own the trade secret, then obviously you can talk to other people about it. Of course, then it starts to cease to be a trade secret. You cannot give away other people’s trade secrets though. So if you work for a client –they’re doing something noble, that gives them a business edge; that’s a trade secret and you can’t give it to other clients. So that’s the only caution I really have on this discussion is that you can’t give away other people’s trade secrets.

REUVEN: Which regardless of what the law says, it’s a pretty slimy thing to do.

CHUCK: It’s true, but at the same time, I think sometimes we get in there, we see them doing something noble and we don’t consider that it’s a trade secret.

JONATHAN: [Inaudible] Fair enough. So I got a question for Philip, which is: are you a fan of content upgrade, and how does that relate to this, if at all.

PHILIP: I think content upgrades are great. For the folks at home, we’re talking about you create some kind of content that free in the clear; maybe it’s a blog post and there’s a related piece of content you have to opt – you being the viewer of this content have to opt in to an email list to download or access. And I think it’s great. I’m kind of thinking of this more from the perspective of how you can market your services and build your list, and I think it’s a fantastic way to do that because it lets people self-select into – this is worth opting in to learn more about.

I have an example. I have a blog post on my website called the Minimum Viable Funnel, and it’s just a very – it’s a very hastily written, to be honest, but just to overview of how you can setup a marketing funnel in a way that’s very minimal but also effective. And I have a content upgrade on that, and what you're opting in to get is a PDF, like a one page PDF that overviews this system. So it’s not anything different really than was provided in the content; it’s just a more convenient way. It’s sort of a sum – a visual summary of it. And so I don’t feel like I’m holding back any important insights in that content upgrade. I feel like I’m giving freely which is my inclination when it comes to marketing.

And also, I think, it’s a wonderful way to build trust; reference the example. That’s why I asked Chuck about his trust-o-meter as he went through that experience with Jaime Tardy stuff, is I think that’s what it does. I think it builds trust because it demonstrates expertise. So anyway – I don’t know – is it a good [inaudible]. Generally, I’m a fan of them – obviously depends on implementation, but I think they’re a good way to – it’s sort of a nice win-win.

JONATHAN: Yep. That answers it.

REUVEN: I keep hearing that content upgrades are a fantastic thing to do on your blog to get opt-ins. And it hasn’t quite worked for me, but I haven’t really pushed on that very hard. But I keep hearing it so my guess is that my small experiments are not worth it. But once again it’s a matter of giving away your expertise, giving away your knowledge so that people will see what you do and who you are and that it’s worth doing business with you. And the number of people who have come to me – I’ve mentioned in the past – I think we all have – that speaking at conferences, what’s that if not giving away your ideas for free.

JONATHAN: You get paid to speak, but it’s not –

REUVEN: Well, sometimes. I don’t always get –

JONATHAN: That’s true. Sometimes you’ll do it as a pure marketing thing. So yup, that’s true.

REUVEN: The pushback that I got on that was – in this forum was they’re – in stuff you're doing on your blog, stuff you're doing on a conference is to a large public. So it’s adding people to your potential marketing funnel; it’s not giving away your expertise for free one-on-one. And I can see the difference, but it’s not a 100% clear line to me at all.


PHILIP: Yeah. It’s interesting. In any sort of activity that is going to result in you having a new client or new lead, I’m always thinking about quality. Does the way you designed it actively screen out clients who would be terrible clients or leads who are never going to spend money on you eventually? And so I’m always ok with doing things in a way that screens out this bad fit prospects, but I know that some people are terrified by that idea. They’re like “oh, I need to maximize my list growth” or “I need to maximize the number of clients I get”.

So I guess that’s a contextual thing we should call out is if you give away your advice in a one-on-one confidential consultation with a potential client, and then they run away and do something with that, what kind of client would they have been [chuckles] if they had decided to hire you? Probably a [inaudible] not very fun to work with client.

JONATHAN: I was totally thinking that exact thought when Chuck was talking about the Eventual Millionaire screening process that here’s a bunch of homework for you to do Chuck, and Chuck saw it as “oh wow, all this free assistance”. And I saw it as if Chuck isn’t going to follow through on the work, we don’t want him anyway because he’s just going to turn in to a refund or someone bitching about how we’re not worth the money online; not that Chuck would do that.


But you know what I mean? I think we all know people who have class, know people who give these sorts of classes and coaching and the amount of effort it takes to deal with problem costumers is high. It’s very emotionally – and it’s just draining from a stress level, from an emotional level. It’s not even worth it. You're just like – when I would get people who would send cranky feedback about one of my books, I would immediately just send him 20 bucks. It’s like “I’m not even going to respond to this email. Here’s your 20 bucks”. It’s not even worth it to me. So it’s like – you know when you can tell that you're just not going to please someone?

Anyway, I’m getting of the topic, but to Philip’s point, if you are desperate for work and you go into one of these meetings and they say “wow, thanks that we’re all set now. See yah”, then yeah it’s going to tick you off because you’re desperate for the work. But it doesn’t change the fact that they didn’t really need you that much. Maybe they need you a little bit, but if they needed an hour of your help, what are you going to do? Retract, recharge them a hundred bucks? Big deal. Really, [inaudible].

REUVEN: I once had something almost kind of like that where there’s this company where I’ve given them some database advice over the years, and the staff completely turned over. I got a call one day from the head of – the new head of the database group saying “we really could use your help”. And it was – it sounded to me like it was going to become a long-term engagement.

And so I ended up going there and talking to them for an hour or so and actually giving them a bunch of ideas thinking “oh, this will lead to more stuff”. And then it was sort of clear it wasn’t. So I said to the guy “ok, and where do I send the invoice?” He said “oh, just send it to me”. And that was that [chuckles]. And it was very clear to him that I have given them something in value and I should be paid for it and it wasn’t even a question in his mind.

JONATHAN: Interesting.

REUVEN: And I've never heard from them again. [Inaudible] Yeah, on the potentially bad client front, I just was speaking to someone over the last few week where it sounded on paper like “wow, this could be an amazing client for me and my employee, and also it’s a great stuff and I see how much” – from the way he was describing his business, it sounded like they make lots of money.

And then he said “oh, it’s going to cost that much”. This was just the initial discussion. “Oh, I don’t know, I’ll just find someone online to do it for $500”. And at that point, I realized “ok, this is like – this is just not going to work. It’s not worth my chasing him down”. I sent him a contract; I said “you want to hire us. Let me know when it’s good”. And strangely, I’ve not heard from him since then.

So right, if I had spent lots of time giving him lots of advice and going over lots of things, I would be really upset, but I gave him some.

JONATHAN: That reminds me of the pitch. So this is what I’m talking about, what we’re all talking about, is not a pitch meeting. So I don’t know if that’s what this person in the room did, but I’m a hundred percent against pitches where somebody comes up to you and says “hey” – especially if you're a designer – “hey, we need a branding redesign done. We’re going to send out an RFP to 10 people. We’d like you to put together a deck and put together your best ideas on how you would do it, and then come in and present them in an” – essentially [inaudible] show where you’re kind of combative situation between you and other firms. I wouldn’t do that ever. That’s crazy because then you –

REUVEN: You’re actually doing work and then you’re proposing it, and then only if they like it to you get paid? Is that the way it works?

JONATHAN: Yeah, basically. You get the gig. And I think it boils down to – I think the difference between that and what I typically do is that there’s no – in my situation, there’s no direct preparation for the particular client. I’d keep myself sharp with my – I keep myself up to date in general, and all of my clients benefit from that more or less equally. It’s just part of my job to keep up to date on latest developments and how those developments might apply to any of my individual costumers.

And when I get a new prospect, I don’t do – I’ll do some homework about their company like what do they do, where the costumers come from, how big are they, what kind of cars the CEO drives etcetera, etcetera. I’ll find out about – I’ll do some homework, but that takes 15 minutes. And then I get in to a phone call with them and I haven’t really prepared any specific for them at all. I haven’t certainly spent hundreds of man-hours putting together an advertising campaign; a demo advertising campaign. I basically – I’m going to go in there and I’m going to be – I’m going to try and deliver as much value as I can in that meeting usually by challenging their premise; not usually by giving them answers to anything, but really just asking smart questions.

And that’s a very different thing than going to a situation where you’re basically 1 out of 10 or 12 people who are pitching a thing, and you have to spend 48 hours with no sleep over the weekend with 3 of your staff putting together a [inaudible] on Monday morning you can [inaudible] run in to a skyscraper elevator and go [inaudible][chuckles] hopefully get the gig. No way.


JONATHAN: Yeah. Just picture like madman scenario where like –


REUVEN: That’s exactly what I was thinking. That’s right.

PHILIP: So here’s an interesting thought experiment. What would be the cost or the damage to Kentucky Fried Chicken if they’re [inaudible] their secret recipe was published online.

JONATHAN: Probably nothing.

PHILIP: I think very little.

CHUCK: Yeah.

REUVEN: This American Life did that, I think, about 2 years ago or 3 years ago were they found what they believed was the original formula for Cola Cola in some notebook. And so – first of all, [inaudible] “is this really it or not”, and they basically came to the conclusion “yeah, it probably is or it’s really close, even it’s probably tweaked since then”. And they went to a place that does custom soda flavors and have them manufacture this. They’re like “yeah, that’s pretty close”. And basically they said it does not matter because what you’re buying when you drink coke is not that formula; it’s so much else, so much more.

PHILIP: Yeah, and it’s convenience and it’s done for you. It’s their – I was thinking what if I – someone could make KFC chicken at home? What if another restaurant got a hold of it? And they would be – and they’d have no differentiation other than price and that would be a race to the bottom situation [inaudible] someone who’s already pretty close to the bottom. [Chuckles]

Again, maybe I’m setting up [inaudible] argument here, but I just cannot think of a situation where that would be all that damaging to Kentucky Fried Chicken.

JONATHAN: Again, unless if somehow they were banned from using [inaudible] recipe is the only thing I can think of.


PHILIP: I think that’d be pretty hard to pull off.

JONATHAN: Yeah. I’m grass versus straws here. I just don’t see what is – the information wants to be free. It’s not – it’s just – you just can’t fight it. Trying to fight information sharing in the modern world is just a terrible way to spend your time. It’s just total value destruction.

PHILIP: It is like pushing a rope.

JONATHAN: Oh men. It’s just – yes, that sting when you feel it stings; get over it. Just move on. Just – you know what I mean? Create something new. Let them try and rip that off. It’s almost like people who are ripping you off will never be your competitors. It’s kind of ironic. They’ll never be [inaudible].

REUVEN: Interesting point.

PHILIP: Yeah. From a positioning perspective, one of the best positions you can own is being a leader in whatever sandbox you choose to play in. And thought leadership is not – as I’ve probably said before on the show, not like going on medium and writing your opinions about something. It usually involves research and stuff that takes real work to create. And it sucks to see your thought leadership being imitated or copied, but – I don’t know, I don’t think anybody really – anyone who is seeking the value behind that is going to go to a source of that thought leadership, not to the imitators.

I think about like fashion rip offs. The person – the only one with the good rip off who knows is a person who wears it, but if they can afford the real thing, you can be sure they’re going to spring for the real thing.

JONATHAN: Right. My books are available stolen as PDFs online, but I don’t care because I don’t care about the money that I’m making from the book. I care that my name’s at the bottom of it. And then when somebody wants me, somebody wants really expensive help, they’re going to call the person who wrote it. And I guess if somebody put their name at the bottom of my book, they would be hilarious. It would be hilarious to imagine that person getting a phone call and trying to pretend – that would just be absurd. You know what I mean? They would just immediately be discovered as a fraud.

PHILIP: Yeah, I tend to agree.


PHILIP: I’m sorry; I was going to take this a slightly different direction, just a tiny tangent. It’s very popular for people who are kind of more in the info marketing end of the space that publish a lot of details about their business at the end of every year. You’ll see a lot of folks publish a year-end report with detail of how much money they made, from which product line and so forth. Is that something you guys would like to talk about? I’m kind of curious if you have opinions about that.

REUVEN: I find that to be kind of weird. I guess it’s meant to be inspirational because a lot of this people are doing it to say “I’ve done this and you can do it too”, and you see it from people who are helping consultants helping businesses. So it’s meant to be like “look, I started from zero. I built this up. If you follow my advice, you too can be making this much”, so I sort of get it from a marketing perspective. But first of all, I think my family would kill me if I do that. [Chuckles]

But second of all, I don’t know if that really contributes so much to my value of the person or how much I believe they’re actually good at what they do.

JONATHAN: Yeah. I find that I have to do it a little bit – I had to do it a little bit when I started doing coaching because – when I started doing coaching, it was like “whoa, who cares what this guy has to say? I might be doing better than he is.” So somebody is reading my page and they were like “ok, but this has no context without knowing how much Stark makes because I know how much I make and I feel like I’m doing pretty well”.

And I’ve had more than one person say to me that if I hadn’t mention roughly what I’m making in a year, they would have just assumed that we were doing roughly the same. And I think that since I’ve only been doing coaching for less than a year, I think that eventually I’ll be able to replace that with success stories from students and be like “this person went from” – it wouldn’t have to be like “oh, I’m making a million dollars a year or whatever”. It’d be like “this person went from a hundred grand per year to 250 grand per year working less fewer hours”. And then I can pull my own – it feels so braggy; you know what I mean? But without the – so I don’t like it. I don’t like doing it because it feels braggy, but –


REUVEN: I see what you’ve written Jonathan – I see what you’ve written and I actually don’t think – I think that fits exactly the niche that you’re describing there. It says “I actually know what I’m doing and I want to help you do it”, but it’s not like – what I think I was thinking of was this people say “well, from my books I earn this, and from my podcast I earn this, and from my coaching I did this”, that’s where a breakdown strikes me as a little over the top.

JONATHAN: Yeah, I agree.

PHILIP: I definitely have mixed feelings about it. It’s all about the intentions and I understand the marketing value of it so I am on the fence about that, as well I’ve never done it myself, but yeah, I can see the role it plays.

CHUCK: I’m in the same boat too. Yeah, the people I see putting those kinds of report out of – Pat Flynn and John Lee Dumas and – they’re trying to inspire people to go out and do interesting things in their own businesses, and so they’re putting the numbers out there saying “hey, go for it. This is what’s possible”. But I don’t know; I just [chuckles] – I have trouble getting there myself. I think if people wanted to know the numbers, I don’t go out of my way to protect that information at all. I don’t care if people know how much I make, but at the same time – I don’t know.

JONATHAN: I think it is pretty important for the end user when they’re consuming the piles of information that’s available to them for making their business better. I think is pretty – if we’re talking about business – this is The Freelancers’ Show, right? We’re trying to talk about how people can be better at freelance, make more money and have stronger business – that sort of thing. Bottom line is it’s all about money, so it doesn’t make sense to talk about money.

So I have found in certain situations when deciding, let’s say, what to do next, like [inaudible], what product I want to focus on doing next, that it’s super helpful to know roughly the order of magnitude that you can hit with it. You know what I mean? I can roughly guess how long would it take me to put together a video training course. I could get that right down to almost an exact number. Videos are going to be this long, it’s going to take this [inaudible]. If I do the one trade, how much money could I make from this?

And I’ve talked with people who haven’t shared the numbers publicly, or I’m not sure if they shared the numbers publicly or not, but in private conversation I’ve had people give me – share that kind of information with me, and it has dramatically affected the types of things that I decided to do. So I think it’s definitely useful, but if the question specifically is “do you think it’s a good idea to [inaudible] willy-nilly share it with the internet at large”, it’s kind of hard to see why. I’m not – how do we tie this back to the “is that part of giving away intellectual property for free?”

PHILIP: I think in a way it is. It felt related to me because there’s this idea that a business model could be somewhat proprietary. I think of course you see that more so when they’re lawyers on the staff of the company in question, but I feel like for a lot of us freelancers, how we generate value is the business. And I guess that is any business, so that’s kind of dumb, but I think sharing how you generate value and that’s where order of magnitude difference that you were talking about Jonathan between different ways of generating value when implemented well is such valuable information that it should be shared because it stands to benefit so many people.


JONATHAN: Yeah, it’s not zero sum.

PHILIP: Right.

JONATHAN: So it’s like I’ve had maybe – I mean if you count coaching student, I’ve had maybe 10 – I can’t even know – fewer than 20 customers in 10 years. I could never – if someone could copy my shtick a hundred percent, go for it. [Laughter]

I will never be able to service all the customers. Tell me; let me know that you’re doing the same thing, and the people I can’t handle I’ll send to you. The world is so big that if you’re doing something really specific, who cares? Then everybody is better [inaudible].

PHILIP: Right. The big giant billboard caveat to that is if you are essentially – if your services are a commodity, if they are replaceable commodity that, doesn’t – that math doesn’t apply to you because someone will go on Upwork and find a basically identical substitute. So I think that’s why we’re all so big on getting out of that commodified position by finding something where you generate unique value.

JONATHAN: Yeah, be an expert at something.


REUVEN: Right.

PHILIP: Well that was quite a sermon.


CHUCK: Alright, anything else before we get to picks?

REUVEN: I think we settled a lot of the subject already.

PHILIP: Feels like smoking a cigarette. [Laughter] Yeah, that was good. I feel like we touched on a lot of the issues there and I just – I want to say to whoever was representing that viewpoint we were all piling on against, I really try to come up with a sort of devil’s advocate position. I just can’t figure out why it would be worth – like Jonathan said, why would it be worth even worrying about who gains access to what information and does well with it.

JONATHAN: It’s not like we haven’t all benefited wildly from people doing the same thing for us.


REUVEN: Well, let’s say – ok, I know we’re going to finish up, but how about this: maybe it’s that matter of negotiating leverage in terms of pricing that if I go to a potential client, and I have a meeting with them, and I give away the farm for an hour in terms of everything I know, which if I can squeeze into an hour, we’re doing ok. Then maybe they say “well, he gave me all that information for zero, thus I don’t have to pay him that much”. I think that might be the fear.

JONATHAN: No. No, I don’t buy it. My [inaudible] to them is heavily predicated on the notion of value pricing, no. So if in that conversation you haven’t revealed to yourself and to the customer that there's a very expensive problem that you are uniquely qualified to solve, then there’s no gig anyway. And if you have demonstrated to both parties that there is an expensive problem to solve, there’s going to be a rough dollar amount associated with that. There’s going to be an urgency or an importance associated with that in the customers mind, and you’re going to have a rough idea what that is. And if it’s a big number, then you can charge a fraction of that big number and they will run to send you a check.

So I just don’t buy it. I don’t buy it. If somebody is just constantly been burned by this, you’re attracting the wrong kind of customers; you’re attracting terrible customers. So you might want to talk [inaudible] about this to [inaudible] yourself or something. But if you’re getting these penny pinchers all the time, it’s time to start looking at yourself and maybe not thinking that every client on earth is a total jerk because they’re not.

CHUCK: All right, well let’s end on that. Let’s do some picks. Reuven, do you want to start this off with picks?

REUVEN: Sure. I’ve mentioned a bunch of times in the past I have this email list Mandarin Weekly for people who are learning Chinese, and I’ve been playing with different experiments to try to expand that list. I did some advertising, I’ve done some sharing it different ways. So the latest thing I’m trying is something that you’ve probably heard off called KingSumo for giveaways. And it’s not quite as easy to install as they would have you believe on the website, but it’s not too bad. It worked great if everything under the hood is working great, I guess.

And the idea is basically you can setup these giveaways where you probably see them on different websites. Normally a giveaway is you enter and you have a chance to win, and the more people enter, the fewer chances you have to win. The idea though is with KingSumo, I enter and then I tell my friends and they get that sort of magic URL, and then I get more chances to win because my friends have shared it. So I’ve been playing with it on my list for the last week or so; so far, not spectacular results, but not terrible and definitely worth looking into. And I’ll made a report back here in the next few months about how well it worked overall, but definitely worth looking at.

CHUCK: Alright, Jonathan what are your picks?

JONATHAN: I’ve got two picks. The first one is Google Keep and it is like Evernote, but much less simpler, so say fewer features, does less, but for what I was looking for, so far it’s turn out to be pretty perfect. And what I was looking to – I had it solve for me was to organize my notes. I’ve tried a bunch of different note taking solutions including taking notes directly onto an iPad with a stylus and all that, and I just can’t get away from using my nice fancy pen on a nice flat notebook. I just like taking notes with physical pen and paper, but I hate everything else. After the capture phase, they’re a nightmare; organizing them, finding them quickly later, etcetera, etcetera.

So the other day, I looked around for an Evernote competitor because I’m not a fan of Evernote and found Google Keep and it’s working perfectly for me. So what I do is take my notebook and after I’m done taking notes, like say for the Freelancers’ Show or with a coaching student or something, I just take a picture of the piece of paper with my phone and it saves it to Google Keep. I can tag it with Freelancers’ Show or whatever – pics or whatever I want to tag it with. And then later, I just can tap on the tag and immediately have the notes that are relevant to this current context right in front of me; I can just read the pictures. So I don’t go nuts trying to transcribe or anything like that. Just when I’m on a phone call, I want to refer back to my previous page of notes, or maybe two pages back, and I just boom boom boom, goes up immediately. And it works on iOS, Android and desktop, which is very important to me. It syncs very quickly in the background. So far, I’m really really liking it, and of course it’s free. So Google Keep I think is really cool to look into if you want organize your notes.

And related to our conversation today, I am doing a free webinar as we record this; it’s tomorrow, but they’ll be a recording online after the fact. So by the time you hear this, they’ll be a recording on Crowdcast of me doing a webcast on writing proposals; huge piece of writing a proposal is, at least for me, is having that conversation before you write it, having a valued conversation before you write the proposal. And that’s what leads to an incredibly high close rate. So if you’re spending time writing proposals and you have a terrible close rate, you’re essentially wasting all this time writing bad proposals, then you might want to check that out. And I’ll link to that in the show notes.

CHUCK: Alright, Philip what are your picks?

PHILIP: I’ve got three picks this week. We mentioned in passing a new thing that I’ve set up which is this website trustvelocity.com, and I’d encourage folks to check it out if you wish you had more leads coming in the door or the leads coming in kind of suck. This is a way to look at various lead generation technics based on how well they develop trust with these new leads. And I think that’s – to me, that’s just like the key. That’s what makes something like – over in the side channel here we’re discussing a contest. And contest can be good leads for certain types of products that – for other types of product, they would not be great leads. So differentiating between those different approaches, I think, is really worth doing in developing a good lead generation strategy, and so I would recommend that you check out trustvelocity.com for more on that.

Second pick: when people start selling some kind of info product, they tend to gravitate towards a platform called GumRoad, which has a lot going for it and some things not going for it, I think. So I wanted to recommend an alternative to that. If you’re concerned about GumRoad for any reason, SendOwl – it literally is the word – Send followed by that Owl ferocious bird that hunts on small animals. SendOwl.com is really really a nice – I think it’s a step up from GumRoad in terms of what it offers and it’s [inaudible] competitively. And so if you have some thing that you want to sell, including by the way your services, and you want to make it easy to set up and sell, I’ve been very pleased with SendOwl for a number of things that I’m doing.

One of the things about it that I could never get happening with GumRoad is after you – someone successfully purchases from you to have it send them to a custom Thank You page so that I could set up analytics on my website without having to know JavaScript, which I don’t. I’m a JavaScript ignoring this and – that’s one of the cool features about SendOwl. So someone buys something or signs up for my mentoring program or what-have-you, SendOwl will send them to a custom Thank You page which lets me start to track conversion rate using my third pick, which is an analytics program called Heap Analytics.

And Heap Analytics packs in my opinion – I don’t know – 50-70% of the power of a very expensive solution like Mixpanel in a much much much much easier to use package. So what I like about Heap Analytics is compared to Google Analytics which drowns you in a fire hose of reports and information, Heap Analytics gives you no information at all unless you go in and specifically set up a report to look at a funnel, which is someone moving from step A to step B and so on. So I really like Heap Analytics as a nice alternative to Mixpanel. And if you’re like me and you make a really good money from an amazingly tiny amount of web traffic, then you can even use it for free, which is nice.  So that’s my third pick, is Heap Analytics.

CHUCK: Awesome. I’ve got a couple of pick. The Primal Blueprint; I just read the book. I think it sounds really interesting. I am diabetic anyway and so cutting carbs sounds like a great idea to me. I don’t completely buy in to the entire premise of some of the Paleo related diets, but they also talk about some of the biochemistry and things like that involved. It makes some sense to me, so I figure I may as well try it. So I’m going to do it for 3 weeks and see how it goes. So I thought I’ve picked it, and if you have any suggestions for recipes or anything else, I would really appreciate your feedback.

And yeah, those are my picks. And we’ll go ahead and wrap the show and we’ll catch you all next week.

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