Freelancers’ Show

The Freelancers' Show discusses the challenges that freelancers face. The panel includes technology freelancers and entrepreneurs with many years of experience.

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220

220 FS Can You Make 25k per Month as a Consultant


1:00: Topic introduction

  • Full-time job vs. consulting
  • How much money is possible or likely?

4:30: Discussion of the money

  • Cost of living (Israel vs. USA)
  • Can a solo consultant make $300K/year?
  • Reality of what it takes

11:00: How to make a lot of money as a solo consultant

  • What do you enjoy doing?
  • What are you good at?
  • Find a successful niche

15:15: How to get people to trust you

  • Referrals
  • Networking
  • Example: Redmine
  • Blog/Podcast/Other media

21:45: Understand your customers’ problems

  • Conferences
  • Meetups

24:30: Emotional fortitude to command a high rate

  • Guilt
  • Mindset
  • Getting out of the low cash-flow cycle

31:00: Offering a mix of services

  • Avoiding dry spells
  • Systematic way to attract leads

Picks:

Family Vacations (Reuven)

Portugal as a vacation destination (Reuven)

RentalCars.com (Reuven)

Dev Shop Marketing Briefings (Philip)

The Secret of Selling Anything (Philip)

TrustVelocity.com (Jonathan)

Million Dollar Maverick (Jonathan)

ScheduleOnce (Charles)

FreshDesk (Charles)

 

Sponsor: Hire.com

This episode is sponsored by

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TRANSCRIPT

Charles: Hey everybody and welcome to episode 220 of The Freelancer Show. This week on our panel we have Jonathan Stark, Philip Morgan, Reuven Lerner. I’m Charles Max Wood from Devchat.tv and I just realized that the reason that I always get you guys in the order I get you in is because that’s the way Skype shows them to me and I think Skype alphabetizes you guys by first name.

Philip: It took me six months to realize that, same deal.

Reuven: I’ll be changing my name to Aaron next week.

Charles: I just start left to right all the time. Anyway, this week we’re going to be talking about, Reuven you said you met this person that we’re going to discuss?

Reuven: No, we had a phone call. He emailed me and said he listens to the show and he’s thinking about being a consultant. He wanted to know if we could chat. We spoke for about half hour. We had a half hour meeting. Thank you Calendly for making such appointments easy to make.

His initial question, the basic question was do I go get a full time job or do I go out on my own and do consulting which is a very legitimate and not always obvious how to answer question. He said if I remember correctly, because he listens to the show and of course we say everything there is to know about such things. He said he basically gets what’s involved in sort of all the aspects of consulting but the question that no one’s been answering for him is how much money can he expect to make and how quickly can he go up in salary. The conversation quickly pivoted to how much and how soon can you expect to make a lot of money as a consultant.

Charles: I have the answer. You can make a lot until you don’t. My experience is that some months, great, some months, not great. Most months we’re plenty of money, but sometimes not. A lot of that depended on me. Maybe it’s the classic consultant answer, it depends.

Reuven: Hey, who told you my favorite answer? I definitely think within our show, another show, it’s very possible. I don’t think bad for people to get a sense that if you do your job right, you can really do very well for yourself as a consultant. You’re not going to make start up lottery millions or billions but you can surely be making more than enough to live a comfortable life and way above the average salary. That doesn’t mean that from the starting gate, you’re going to get there.

Charles: I think the number you threw out and the time frame you threw out were $25,000 a month within six to nine months.

Reuven: Let’s call it a year to be round but it doesn’t really matter.

Charles: Is that possible?

Philip: Reuven, I forget if you said now or in the pre-show check. Where’s this person starting from?

Reuven: Everyone in Israel compulsory military service. He’s currently in the Army and you do that before you go to college, before university. Sometimes, if you stick around the Army, they’ll pay for your degree. I’m guessing he doesn’t have a degree yet. I’m guessing he’s around 21, 22 something like that and within one of these elite units where you actually do get a really amazing technology. I met people who don’t have a college degree who came from these units and they are truly brilliant and talented and have lots of experience, at least experience in technical sense, not necessarily in the business sense.

Philip: Okay. His skills are software development or programming?

Reuven: Yes.

Philip: Okay.

Reuven: I believe software development. I think mobile, although I don’t know. I don’t remember a –.

Philip: Okay, maybe some in demand or trendy area of skill?

Reuven: Yes.

Philip: Okay. What does $25,000 a month get you in Israel? Cost of living wise, how does it compare to other well known parts of the world?

Reuven: Israeli salaries tend to be lower than American salaries. The average Israeli salary per month is now about $2,500 a month, give or take. Would that be a quick calculation that like $30,000 a year, something along those lines.

Charles: Is the cost of living comparable to here? That’s the other question.

Reuven: I would say some things are more expensive and some things are less expensive like cars, gas, way more expensive. Clothing, way more expensive. Health care, schooling, way less expensive. On balance, Israelis pay much more in taxes and have much higher expenses than Americans or Europeans. It’s close to Europeans but much more than Americans. You take home much more in the US. Basically, $25,000 a month is the sort of salary that high-powered lawyers make.

Jonathan: Did you talk to him all about is it just like an hourly billing type of thing. Did he basically say, “I’ve got $160 a month. I’m so awesome. I can definitely make $150 an hour, that works $25,000 a month.” Is that how he’s coming up with that calculation?

Reuven: I honestly don’t remember. I don’t think so. I do seem to remember mentioning that, “You’re going to get way more with value based pricing than you are with hourly billing.”

Jonathan: If you get at it.

Reuven: If you get at it. I can’t remember how deep we went to that conversation but I do remember it came up at least a little bit.

Jonathan: To generalize a little bit, I recently got a question which was can a solo consultant without hiring people make $300,000 a year, American. The answer is yeah, definitely, but not if you’re billing by the hour, almost impossible to do if you’re billing by the hour.

I think that it’s reasonable to point out that you need to be a seasoned consultant whether that’s a software consultant or straight up life coach. Whatever the consulting is, you need to be doing value based stuff that is extremely high value for you to get there and coding is not high value. It’s pretty good revenue but it’s not that profitable because it takes so long and there’s so much risk. Can a software developer turn themselves into a software consultant and make $300,000, $500,000 a year? Yeah, definitely, but it’s really hard to imagine a 20-year old that has even has the social skills to make that happen.

Charles: I think that’s funny that you went to, “Even has the social skills to make that happen.” It occurs to me that if you’re going to be making this kind of money as a consultant, then it really comes down to whether or not a, you’re solving an expensive enough problem which I think you just touched on and the other thing is that you have to be able to sell it. You have to be able to convince these folks that they’re willing to drop that kind of money on you and trust you to solve that problem for you in order to make that money. The technical skills, you just have to be good enough to solve it or good enough to find people to solve it. I think it’s really interesting because what it really boils down to is how much trust you engender in the people that you’re talking to.

Jonathan: Totally agree. Having grey hair works to my advantage.

Charles: Well it does because you walk in the door and you look like somebody that’s been doing it for a while.

Reuven: Absolutely and you can tell the worst stories of having done it for a while, “Oh, I helped the company with x, y and z. They were crashing and burning. I did such and such so I know that this works.”

Charles: That’s something that makes it easier, it’s not something that absolutely precludes somebody from being able to do it.

Philip: The thing that makes it the easiest is being able to generate more than that amount of value. That’s pretty much $750,000 a year that this guy is hoping to be able to earn. Jonathan, your rule of thumb is if you can deliver 10x ROI on your feet, you’re doing pretty good from a value pricing perspective.

Jonathan: That’s ideal. If you can do three to five in practice then people are just going to hire you over and over.

Philip: Can a software developer generate that much value each year? I think so, but it depends on a lot of things, doesn’t it?

Charles: Yeah but we’re talking about $3,000,000 per year, it’s $25,000 a month. Can you generate $3,000,000 or even three to five x $1,500,000 worth of value in the year as a coder? I think of the three to five x, maybe depending how valuable what you’ve built is but you’re really shortchanging the expertise that really matters and that is the ability to identify and solve tricky problems

Jonathan: It totally ignores the fact that customers are going to line up to start working with you non stop. There’s the whole marketing angle where it’s like, sure, maybe if there are clients out there, I’m sure there are clients out there that could potentially. This person that we’re talking about maybe could deliver that kind of value to the right company. I’m sure that there exists a company out there that is in a bad way and this person could fix it. It would be huge.

How do they meet? How do they believe that he’s the person that can do it? How does he find them? You can’t just assume that there is going to be a line of people waiting to work with you. If you’re going to run your business, work for yourself. There’s all the marketing stuff, there’s all of the promotional, there’s sales, there’s all the paperwork, there’s setting up your company, there’s dealing with contracts, and lawyers, and payroll, even for just for yourself, insurance. You can’t just think, I’m sort of putting words in his mouth but I’m assuming that number came from making $150 an hour, 40 hour weeks all year. It’s just not reality.

Reuven: Also, we said this a lot of times on the show. The main skill that clients are looking for or that will cause clients to hire you again and again is not your coding ability, it’s your ability to empathize with them, to understand them, to learn their business, to help them improve their business and give them demonstrable results. If you are a good communicator and a bad coder, you’ll probably do better as a consultant than a fantastic coder who’s a bad communicator.

Charles: I’m going to play the part of this person just for a minute. I have no idea who he actually is but I can see somebody coming in and just being determined. This is something I really feel like I can do. You’re definitely giving me a few doses of reality but let’s assume that I can overcome those things. What do I need to do in order to make that kind of money as a solo consultant?

Philip: You need to create at least that much value and charge appropriately for it.

Charles: Yeah, but what can I do now wherein I don’t have those clients already lined up?

Reuven: That’s a fantastic question. If you see it as a process, if you say, “Okay, maybe I can’t make that money now but if I work hard and I’m focused at it then in another x years, and x could be 2, 5, 10 or 20 years, but I will be on the right trajectory at there.” Then I think it’s very legitimate to ask and even a good thing for people to ask, “What should I be working on?”

I think to some degree, it depends what you want. This comes straight from Philip’s book and from what other people said but what is it that you’ve enjoyed doing that you’re good at that people keep asking you to do. If you can find something that hits on all those, then you start working on problems and you try helping people with problems in that area. Overtime, you’ll get a reputation and you’ll understand these problems and you’ll be able to do it. People will eventually pay you with money to do it. They will probably, there’s no guarantee, but they will probably pay you the money to do that.

Charles: Alright. You find a niche and then you go out and solve problems in that niche, hopefully something that I enjoy, that I can give a lot of value in. There’s got to be more to it than that in order to get to that $25,000. It’s wash, rinse, repeat but at the same time it’s, “Okay, what else do I need to do? How do I find these people?”

Jonathan: Yeah, in the pre-show chatter I was asking if the guy that has this question ever used the word relationships at all at any point in the conversation because the cool irony of working for yourself is that you don’t really work for yourself, you find people who have a problem you can solve and build a relationship based on trust that culminates in them paying you to solve the problem. Not even culminates. That’s actually just a part of the relationship. I agree it’s a process and I think you need a systematic, Chuck touched on positioning. You also need a systematic way find clients. You have to have some kind of way to generate leads.

Reuven: You can’t just walk up to high tech companies and say, “I am a great programmer. Don’t you want to hire me?” If that works for you, great, but I’m skeptical.

Philip: That’s how you get an hourly position or a contractor position or staff augmentation type position. You could make $100,000 a year in the US doing iOS development tomorrow. It’s a really good living, it’s solid, but it’s not $25,000 a month. You’re not working for yourself.

Charles: The other thing I would add is that I’ve actually gone to companies and said, “I’m really good at Ruby on Rails. Do you want to hire me?” But what inevitably happened in the companies that I got hired for is that they would somehow have all of the applications they got up on some kind of public forum and somebody would have listened to one of my shows. I had an unfair advantage just in the sense that there were at least decent odds that some of the companies I was going to would’ve heard of me.

But if you’re going out there on your own with nobody ever having heard of you or knowing what you can do, it’s a whole lot harder sale to just walk up to somebody and say, “Hey, do you want to hire me?” Instead, what you usually wind up doing is talking to them and then when they touch on a problem you know you can handle, then you start speaking their language to them about the problem and start feeding them part of the solution. When it comes back around, they hire you because part of that solution is really tough and they don’t really want or are capable of hiring somebody to take care of that in house so they want to just bring you in because you can solve it more quickly and more efficiently than anybody else.

Jonathan: I think the key thing that you mentioned there is that they heard of you. That gives you a little bit of a trust edge.

Charles: Yup.

Jonathan: I guess another way to tackle this is, okay, if you are going to try and accelerate this process, the real question is how do I get people to trust me faster which I know Philip can do a 15-minute solo quickly on and should.

A very quick way to do that is referrals. Referrals are the gold standard of trust. If you know what you do or who your ideal buyer is, you’ve got some kind of value proposition, even if it’s like, “I’m a god coder.” And you’ve got a happy customer then probably the fastest thing you can do is go to that person who trusts you and say, “Hey, could you reach out to some of your colleagues in similar positions, in similar companies and see if they need a god coder and introduce us.

That’s probably the very, very fastest way you could do it. It might not pan out, but you probably won’t pan out. The odds are sort of low for someone just starting out to be able to make that work but that’s the fastest way I can think of to actually get clients as well as have your existing customers network for you.

Charles: I was just going to say if this person’s in a military unit that does this, I’m assuming that way of the people who are coming out of there and getting top notch jobs or getting connected is through their commanding officer or at least somebody who’s familiar with and works with the unit on a regular basis. Instead of trying to parlay that into a full time job, you may be able to work that out so that you get referred for a client position.

Reuven: That’s exactly right. A lot of these lead units have alumni associations. Because they have so many people in the high tech world at such high positions, it’s very good networking. In fact, I have to tell my kids when you go to the army you want to go into one of these intelligent units in high tech because then it’s going to be super easy for you to find an amazing job afterwards. They definitely refer each other whether refer each other to consulting jobs or just to full time jobs, I don’t know, I wasn’t in such a unit. There are a lot of references going on there, referrals going on there.

Philip: There’s a sort of paradoxical thing going on with trust. When it comes to lead generation, the things that rapidly increase trust unfortunately are the things that are the hardest to do when you are starting out. There are things that involve having some sort of invention or intellectual property that is not necessarily a secret but proprietary, meaning it’s associated with your name, it’s kind of branded with your name.

The other lead generation technique that really gets people’s attention is to have this contrarian viewpoint which that’s an Alan Weiss original for you. Those two things of an invention that you’ve created or unique intellectual property in a contrary viewpoint take time to develop. Paradoxically, they are the thing that makes the biggest difference I think if you possess those things when it comes to lead generation. You’re playing the game at a much easier difficulty setting. I know that’s probably not what our man at home wanted to hear but also if you make that a goal to work towards those things, they can be developed in six or twelve months and they can really change the game when it comes to commanding premium fees.

Charles: I have a case in point for that.

Philip: Lay it on me.

Charles: Eric Davis who is on the show was pretty new to Ruby on Rails and then I think before that he’d only been doing PHP for a year or something. I don’t remember all the details but he hadn’t been a developer very long and he certainly hadn’t been doing Rails very long when he ran across Redmine.

He built a couple of open source plugins for Redmine. Before long, he became sort of the premium place for people to go and get custom Redmine plugins built for their businesses. A lot of them were things that only one or two companies were building but he built that out by having that stuff out there. And then it was, “Oh, we trust you to build our customs stuff because we’re already using your open source stuff to solve our other problems so we know you can do it. We have trust that you’re capable and that you’re confident and we can bring you in to solve problem.”

That was just unfair advantage and I believe that over the first six to nine months of him doing Redmine development, it was mostly writing open source stuff that eventually built into the market that he could hit full speed ahead.

Philip: That’s about right. I interviewed him for my podcast and he has this great story where he talks about clients fighting over some open time in the slot, a bidding war going on. That definitely accelerates this process we’re talking about and it is a process.

Charles: You can do it with a blog or you can do it with a podcast. I talked about my experience there and it got to the point where if I hit a slow down, I would just mention on the JavaScript or Ruby podcast that I had some open time and it got filled in a week.

Philip: You bring up a good point. I said in line for property and contrary in viewpoint but only a media asset which really is what a blog is can also help a lot. That definitely can help a lot especially when it’s a trusted, well known thing which intend in a world of podcasting is a lot easier to do than you might think if you possess a certain amount of self discipline and follow through.

Charles: The other thing I’ll add to that is just I had a few clients that were lukewarm on me and then went and listened to the podcast and then came back and said, “Okay, we’ll hire you. No problem.” It serves the other way too because it adds credibility if they haven’t heard of you before. It’s relatively an easy thing to set up.

One thing that I would caution though if you’re going to go do a podcast is that it’s easy to do a podcast about the technical skills that you possess that allow you to complete the job, but in that case you’re reaching your colleagues and competitors and not your customers. If you’re going to put together a podcast, you need to go out and do the extra work so that you can do a podcast about who you’re trying to serve and about their problems so that you can prove that you understand those problems and so that they’ll want to listen to you because you’re giving information that’s interesting to them and not necessarily to the people who do what you do, if that makes sense.

Philip: I think the caffeine is kicking in for me finally. Another thing that slows down this process, which if you’re aware of it going in you can work around it to a certain extent. It is exactly what Chuck said, your customer’s problems. I bet you money that most people listening to this could improve on their understanding of what their customers’ problems are or their clients’ problems. If you can make that a focus early on, I think your journey from wherever you are to $20,000 a month in revenue will be accelerated.

Charles: Just one thing to add to that. I’ve been going to podcast conferences and other conferences for quite a while and I’m not even looking for a business opportunity with these people. At the same time, I come away from there and I have a pretty good understanding of what people are fighting with now in order to get their shows out there better.

If you’ve decided, “Okay, I want to go and serve fairy farmers.” I’m just picking something out of the air. If there’s a big convention for dairy farmers, go. Go, sit down, see what their talking about in the sessions. Go buy a booth on the show floor and sit down, talk to people and say, “Look I’m a technology guy and I want to solve your problems. Where are you struggling? Where are you having issues?”

If you have enough of those conversations, you can short circuit a lot of that research and you can come away saying, “I came out of there with about ten ideas that I think are pretty solid. Five of them sound like stuff that I just don’t want to do, the other five I have two favorites and both of them look like they’re pretty common and pretty lucrative problems.” Go after those. I think one or two sessions or events with the people you want to serve can drastically make that up for you.

I had a conversation yesterday with one of my co hosts on The JavaScript Jabber podcast because he’s considering his employment options going forward. He’s thinking about freelancing. He said that he wanted to work with start ups and then I said the only problem with startups is that there is no really convenient place out there to find them. I did mention a few because there’s a startup incubator out here that has a big startup community around it. There are also a few investment firms that tend to do start ups related meetups.

I said you can go to those and meet people and listen to them and figure out what they’re about. Again, you can start figuring out how to get in there and what they’re looking for in technical cofounders and contractors who could come in and build their MVP. If you can find the community and you can get involved with it, you can have a conversation to get you well down the road of knowing what the next step is.

Philip:           I think it’s super relevant to think about the emotional fortitude that it takes to command a premium rate. A lot of us have a lot of self doubt about our own value. Maybe this guy is one of those exceptions. Maybe he’s a light studious sociopath and doesn’t have to struggle with stuff like this. No offense, guy, if you’re listening but a lot of people would feel a lot of guilt honestly about charging, making ten times as much as their neighbors do. Not everybody but a lot of people would. They would have to use some work kind of inner work on their mindset just to be able to look at a client in the face. I took $25,000 multiplied it by 12 and divided it by 3 because I don’t think you can work on thirty projects in a year. I think it’s more like three or four projects in a year and that works out to $100,000 per project. Can you look at your client in the face and say, “This is going to cost you $100,000 and it’s the best way you could possibly spend that money.” A lot of people would fail that what seems like a very simple task but it’s not easy.

Charles:        I could tell you I’ve had to work on that. I think part of what gets me there though is the benchmark that Jonathan put out there and that is if I feel like they’re giving me $100,000 so that they can get a million dollars from somewhere else, I don’t feel bad about it at all.

Jonathan:      Right.

Reuven:        It takes a long time to get to that point.

Charles:        Yes, it does.

Reuven:        How many years would I squirm when the client would ask me how much I charge. I’d squirm and I’d say that at the side of my mouth and well what do you say until I was confident enough to really say, “Yeah, I am going to charge this and that’s okay.”

I just got an email. I guess it was last week, two weeks ago from the training company that I’ve done a lot of work with for several years. They said, “Would you be interested in doing a Git course for us?” I said, “My rates have gone up but sure if I have time in my schedule.” We had a conversation with the client and everything was great and then they said, “Okay. So what do you charge now?” I told them and they were like, “Are you kidding me? We don’t pay that.” Literally they said, “Why don’t you make the price more attractive and then we can do this?”

Charles:        Attractive to who?

Reuven:        I was like, “My schedule is full and this is the minimum that people are paying now.” I haven’t heard back from them. Years ago. I wouldn’t have the guts to say that. I would be like, “Oh my god. There’s work. Of course I’ll take it for whatever they’ll pay.”

Jonathan:      That’s a tough cycle to get out of. It’s not just confidence, it’s also cash flow. There’s a depressive effect on your pricing when you’re not getting a lot of leads because you get this feeling like this could be the last lead. I’m lucky I have this one lead. This could be the last lead I’d see for six months so I really want to get the job. You just talk yourself internally into this lower and lower and lower price. That’s not good.

I think deep really the only way to solve that is either you have a ton of money in the bank so that you got a long runway or to just have lots and lots of leads coming in so that you’re just totally comfortable saying, “That’s just not going to work for me.” The line I learned from a previous employer that I love is when somebody asks for a discount, I say, “I just can’t make a business case for that.” Then I kind of put it on them like, “Why would I do that?” Then they’re like, “uhhhh.”

Charles:        That’s awesome. I love it.

Jonathan:      Yeah. I love that one.

Charles:        If you’re looking at getting into Git training, Reuven has a referral for you.

Reuven:        Exactly. I feel to some degree for people who are starting out and they’re inspired by success stories and they want to do well. There’s no reason why they can’t do well. What’s the line? Overnight successes spent many years getting there.

Jonathan:      The ten year overnight success.

Reuven:        Right. What I don’t want to come off as sounding like is you have to pay your dues. It’s not what I’m at least thinking at all. It’s more a matter of just sort of there’s a natural cycle of when you’re learning to do anything. When I’m putting together a new course, it takes time for me to figure out how to teach it and what the terms are and how to work in it. It takes several times of doing it until I feel smooth. It’s going to be the same thing with working with clients. You might know the technology but until you can talk about it and understand it and use it to further businesses, it’s going to just take a while. That’s just the nature of life.

Charles:        Just to pile on because this is the thought that I was having. The only limiting factor to having a lucrative and successful career in consulting or freelancing is you. It’s what you’re capable of and what you can sell. What were saying isn’t that you have to pay your dues. I like the way you put that. What we’re saying is that it’s much easier to sell when you have a whole lot more experience and I’m trying to think of what the right word is but..

Well you have stuff you can actually show people. If you’re new to it, you don’t have a lot of that. When you’ve done it for a while you do. We’re not saying it’s impossible. What we’re saying is that it gets easier over time because you have these other social proof. That’s what I was looking for. There’s other social proof. You have this other experience that shines through and then when you communicate, it becomes much, much easier to both sell and solve the problems.

Philip: I’ve done this before where I got a project that was pretty big for where I was in my business and here’s how it worked for me. I bet other people have done this too. You look at that project and let’s say it’s a three month project and you’re going to make $60,000. You divide that by three and you’re like, “Oh my god. I make $20,000 a month.” No, you don’t you have a three month project that pays that amount and that’s exactly long enough to take your eye off the ball which is not getting $20,000 a month. It’s not delivering the project. It’s marketing yourself in a way that you can sustain that. I know I’m a marketer so I’m a little bit biased when I say that. Yes, of course the delivery matters but that’s just long enough to take your eye off the ball and set yourself up for a nice three to six months dry period.

Charles: That’s so true.

Philip: That’s another part of having a business that makes whatever. Even if it’s $50 a month, if you can do that consistently day in, day out? Come rain, and come sunshine? That’s actually a skill that will set you up for this $20,000 a year business that you want a lot better than some other skills will.

Another thing that’s related to that is developing a mix of services. Jonathan talks about hitting a home run. You don’t have to hit a homerun every time at bat if you have the right mix of services. You can have some services that sustain cash flow in between the bigger projects. I don’t see a lot of people doing that on day one of their business. It would be ideal if they could but some of that just kind of comes from that feel you develop for your clients and their needs.

Reuven: Absolutely. I remember I did a big project a number of years ago with SAP. I came home, I said to my wife, “I’m so excited. This is the biggest project ever and I’m going to be working with them for years. This is just the best.” And she said, “No, you won’t.” She said, “I’m not trying to be negative here but no project lasts forever and something always happens. It’s just the nature of your business and you should realize this.” She was 100% right.

It was a fantastic project. I worked for them for 8 months. At about the 8th month part, the Vice President pulled me aside and said, “That’s it. That’s the end.” It wasn’t anything bad I’ve done or anyone’s fault, it just happened. I hadn’t been really looking around for other things because I was so excited by this project. There was a dry spell, absolutely.

Philip: The mindset you’re in the day after you get that phone call or whatever is not a very productive mindset for commanding a premium rate on the next project. It’s the opposite of that.

Jonathan: It is. I got a story. I have been getting a lot of really good leads. Not a lot, but I was getting plenty of really good leads for a long time. I want to say it’s five years ago. It just was like top of the world like, “Oh this is never going to stop.” I had two retainer clients at the same time which is like hitting a lottery every month. I was like, “Oh yeah. I’m sitting on top of the world.”

Something came up with one of them that it doesn’t matter but for whatever reason I was like, “I needed to amicably end the retainer.” I basically fired them. I cut my income in half, simultaneously my wife had quit her job, and simultaneously I stopped getting leads. I’m just like a story of a period of time when I was when I was firing on all cylinders without really knowing what I was doing. It was mostly luck and sort of cockily fired a client who’s paying me five figures a month without even thinking that much about it because, “I’m sure, I’ve been getting leads like this. No problem.” And I didn’t get any for like a year. It meant that I had to actually work more that I don’t like.

Around the same time, I was talking to another consultant who had just gone in house, if you will, as the President of what was going to be a reasonably large services business. We were comparing notes of our previous year. He did something like, there’s $750,000 or $800,000 as a solo consultant the year before. I was like, “Why would you…” I knew he was going to be making significantly less in the new company. I was like, “Why would you ever do that? That sounds so great.” He was like, “Yeah but it was a good year but they’re not all good years.” Here’s a guy that’s in swinging distance of a $1 million a year by himself. No employees, nothing He was afraid of the feast famine cycle, if you can believe that.

The story I’m telling I guess is like if you don’t have a systematic way to attract leads like Philip was talking about, then you end up in this feast or famine cycle and that creates a really bad effect on your confidence which decreases your pricing and puts you in this downward spiral. Maybe not a downward spiral but it’s like you’re trapped in this hamster wheel type situation. It just takes time to develop things that will prevent that from happening. This person that we’re talking to here could very well have a bunch of $25,000 months right out of the gate. When I see that, it reminds me of go to Vegas and hitting the first time for $5,000 and you’re like, “This is so easy.” And you keep doing this. There’s just more to it than that.

Charles: Alright, anything else to add? Just to sum up, it seems like most of this just comes down to people who have been doing this a while have an unfair advantage in both experience and social proof. It’s easier to make more money the longer you are a consultant but there’s no reason why you can’t, you just have to go out there and create your own unfair advantage. I really liked the point that Philip made where he basically said that you can go and create your own unfair advantage with intellectual property or something similar but again that’s a lot of work and it takes some time to get it all together and then get people out there talking about it

Philip:           The best versions of that are not developed in some laboratory. They’re developed by working with clients which creates a chicken and an egg problem.

Charles:        Alright, well let’s go ahead and do picks. Reuven, do you have some picks for us?

Reuven:        Yeah. I just got back a few days ago from a family vacation. We spent two weeks in Portugal. That already gives me my first two picks.

One’s family vacations. I know this is going to sound crazy but this is when the first time in memory that I didn’t work for a period of two weeks. I was catching about a tiny bit of email with clients but really was miniscule. My wife even remarked that while we were there I was really not working and this was unusual for vacations.

Someone who has fallen to the trap of, “Well, I’m self employed, I better keep track of things. I better constantly be doing things.” Try to set yourself up so that you can remove yourself from work and that your work won’t fall apart as a result. It’s good for you, good for your family, good for your relationships. There’s a lot of fun out there in the world that doesn’t have to do with work, shocked as my family might be to hear me say that.

Number two is we had a fantastic time at Portugal, if you can go there, great fun.

The third pick which actually might have to do with work is while we were there we rented a car, we rented two cars actually. I was having the most frustrating time checking in with this company and this company and this company and I said, “You know someone must have done aggregation of car rentals. They can’t be that no one has done this. Indeed, I found two different companies. One of them is carrentals.com, the other is rentalcars.com.

That’s fantastic and I will tell you that rentalcars.com is great and carrentals.com is not. Not only was the website actually easy to use and I enjoyed using it but because they work with a lot of different companies, when a company could not provide me with a car I wanted, they called me up on the phone and they said, “We’re working to get you another company in the same class at the same price.” And they came through which I thought was pretty great and amazing. Not that I really rent cars very often at all but you can be sure that I’m going to use their services again in the future because it was just so convenient. Those are my picks for this week.

Charles:        Philip, what are your picks?

Philip:           I would also pick taking time off. I’ve dropped down to the three-day work weeks in August. I may be able to continue that a little longer and it’s been great. I have changed how I label my webinars. I used to call them Micronars which I still love the word but now I’m calling them Dev Shop Marketing Briefings and I wanted to point people to a page where I published the recording of those after they’re done. Very much unlike myself, I do not have a vanity domain name setup for this. Just look in the show notes and there will be a link to Dev Shop Marketing Briefings or Google it and the entire front page will be links to the site where I clipped these recordings.

These are 30 minutes. Sometimes it’s me, sometimes it’s a guest expert I bring in like the next one I’m bringing in Jake Jorgovan to talk about outbound marketing because he’s an expert on that, I’m not. I think it will be very valuable to people. He’ll talk for thirty minutes about it and it will be 60 minutes of live Q&A. I’m trying to do one of these a month and that may be of interest to folks so I wanted to mention that.

My second pick is a book called The Secret of Selling Anything by Harry Browne. Old book, some outdated examples but really great concepts if you are interested in learning about how to think about value and how that’s the basis of any transaction. I enjoyed looking outside the world of freelancing for stuff that’s relevant to people in the world of freelancing and I think the book is a great example of that. It’s pretty simple, very easy to read. First chapter is a little boring, a little bit of a slug but after that it gets a lot better. That’s The Secret of Selling Anything by Harry Browne. That’s it for my picks this week.

Charles:        Jonathan what are your picks?

Jonathan:      First, the plus one on the Harry Browne book. I started reading it the other day on Philip’s recommendation and it’s arresting. I think it’s really good. I’m only a little ways in but I can definitely plus one that pick.

I will also pick trustvelocity.com. Philip put up to rate a bunch of different approaches that you can take to building trust which follows on from the episode that we just recorded. There’s a lot of different ways to build trust. Some are harder than others. Some are quicker than others and some have a better result than others. You can go down the list and it helps you first of all get an idea of what all the different things are you can do to build trust and pick and choose the ones that are best for your personality or your business. It’s a great resource. Figured I’d plug Philip there.

The other, I’ve got a book for my last pick which is Million Dollar Maverick by Alan Weiss who came up today. It’s almost a memoir style book compared to his other stuff. It might be that I like it so much because I’m so familiar with so many of his other books. Most of his other books, at least the ones I’ve read, are very tactical and specific which is great because it’s very much like do this, say this, ask this which is helpful when you’re getting started out. After a while though, you kind of hit the wall if you don’t understand what goes into some of that stuff.

In this book, I feel like he drills into the psychology underneath some of the things that he just previously told you to do. I probably have half a dozen wow moments. If you’re familiar with Allan’s work, I would say definitely worth reading Million Dollar Maverick. If you’re not familiar with his work, you should perhaps read Value-Based Fees first or Million Dollar Consulting. Those are classics and then move on to this Million Dollar Maverick book. I really liked it.

Charles:        Awesome.

Jonathan:      That’s it.

Charles:        I’m going to go ahead and make a couple of picks here. I also want to plus one on the taking time off. I had to do it a couple of times this summer where I had minimal or no internet access. One week in June I had none, the other week I had it on my phone but I didn’t really have time to check in anyway. Amazingly, nothing fell apart while I was gone. When I came back, there were a couple of things I had to deal with but nothing that was permanently ruined, relationships that we’re lost or anything like that. Some of that is due to Mandy holding down the fork for me and I think a lot of that is due to having processes together. Generally, the server stayed up. I have great co-hosts that recorded shows while I was out. It’s just awesome.

The other thing that I’m going to pick is ScheduleOnce. I was using Calendly to schedule podcast guests and the issue that I had was that Calendly only allows you to connect one calendar to each Calendly account and that’s the problem if you have five calendars for five podcasts. ScheduleOnce allows you to set up each sign up page and connect it to each one to its own calendar or to any calendar. I was able to go in and set things up for each show so that the show guests could actually hop on and pick a date that works for them which means that I don’t have to do a whole lot of back and forth. They just pick the date and then when none of them worked they can email me and say, “Look, I can’t do it on Tuesdays at 11:30am mountain time.” And then I say, “Well then what about these other days and times?”

Anyway, I’ve been super happy with that. I’ve been working on getting the guests on boarded. This week, I’m really going to be focusing on automating a lot of the stuff around sponsors. I’m just looking forward to getting all that stuff together and making sure that it all works.

The other one and this is something that I’m looking forward to trying but I haven’t tried it yet. It’s FreshDesk. It’s just a help desk platform. I’m probably going to have one or two people that already do work for me helping assemble the stuff in there and then I’m looking at up to an email address that people can send request to and that way my inbox doesn’t get completely full. It also means I can have other people solve the more routine problems and then I can focus on, “Hey, the website’s down. This particular thing isn’t working.” Anyway, I’m really looking forward to that. I’m hoping that that will take stuff off of my plate.

Still doing the automation thing, still working on a lot of that. I know we talked about that a few weeks ago but that’s kind of where I’m at and that’s why I have those picks. I don’t think we have anything else to announce so we’ll go ahead and wrap this up and we’ll catch you all next week.

Philip:           Bye everyone.

Jonathan:      See you guys.

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