The Freelancers' Show 117 - Preparing for Freelancing: Finding Your First Clients

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The panelists discuss finding your first clients.


CHUCK: Ugh, you binged on peanut butter, huh?**[Would you like to join a conversation with the Freelancers’ Show panelists and their guests? Wanna support the show? We have a forum that allows you to join the conversation and support the show at the same time. Sign up at]****CHUCK: Hey everybody and welcome to episode 117 of the Freelancers’ Show. This week on our panel we have Eric Davis. ERIC: Hello. CHUCK: Reuven Lerner. REUVEN: Hi! CHUCK: I'm Charles Max Wood from and this week we’re going to be talking about how to find your first clients. So I'm kinda curious – who were you guys’ first clients? REUVEN: I know I've told the story fairly recently, but basically my first client was my previous employer. I worked there for about eight months or so, and when I told them I was moving to Israel and planning to do consulting, they said, “Well, we’d be happy to be your first client.” So that was basically as easy and as great as it can get. Of course, other clients were harder to get, but that was a great, great, great starting point and also taught me a heck of a lot without having to learn too many difficult lessons straight away. CHUCK: Yeah, that makes sense. Can you tell us who it was? I guess it doesn’t really matter. Is there some trick to making the work? REUVEN: I wish I knew! Basically, I was working for Time Warner at the time, so to speak, and basically it was so early in the web – it was 1995 – that finding web people was pretty hard, so there were, at the beginning, three of us doing the web development there, and it was like this all new crazy thing. “Wow, we’re going to put Time Warner on the web!” By the time I left there I think we had 40, 50 people working, but they were still hiring like mad. I think perhaps the big secret was being in the right place at the right time, having niche knowledge and experience that they really could use and they couldn’t find too easily elsewhere. And the fact that they knew me and could trust me, and so we had a working relationship already. CHUCK: Yeah, that makes sense. What about you, Eric? ERIC: My first client was actually my previous employer also. When I was working for them as an employee, I was the main web developer, the web administrator; I did the marketing campaigns like email marketing stuff; I did half of the system administration; I did some of the best top development; I did a little bit of the mobile development. Basically, I was in every department but sales and accounting, I believe. When I left, I gave them a bunch of notices because we’re moving out of state, and it’s just the kind of thing, you know, you can never document what you'd done in the past couple of years in a couple of weeks. I ended up moving up here, and there's a couple of things like, “Oh hey, we need help” or “It would be a lot faster for you to do development on this than for us to bring someone else up to speed and find time for them to do it,” and so my first three or four contracts was with them. The rates were really bad; I think it was like $35/hour, which, coming from an employee, I was like, “Oh, this is awesome” but for my skill set that was bottom, bottom of the market at the time. And then – I'm trying to remember – my second, I think my second client came from a referral that I knew just in my personal life, and it was a basic web design job. I didn’t really use any of my development skills; I didn’t use Rails even though I knew it like the back of my hand, but it was enough to give me bootstrap into freelancing. From then on, I just started to do marketing, started to find people, started to find clients. My previous employer and the personal contact basically got me going. CHUCK: Very cool. My first client was not my employer. In fact, I went in to work and they called me and another developer in, and the only reason that they waited until 10 am was because they were waiting for yet another developer to show up. He had decided to come in at noon, so they called us in and laid us off. REUVEN: Wow. CHUCK: Yeah, so that was –. REUVEN: Did they basically say to you, “Hey, we got a big meeting as soon as so and so comes in”? CHUCK:**No, but my boss kept checking and he’d step out and I'd figured out later that he was actually calling this other developer, “When are you going to be here?” Finally, HR just said, “Look, you gotta pull the trigger on this” so me and the other developer got called into HR. My boss looked really upset, and HR looked less upset but still upset – because we were pretty tight-knit as a company, but it wasn’t as personal for her as it was for him. And yeah, so I got laid off and so I was out there. I was pretty jaded as far as jobs went; I wasn’t going to take a job unless I was pretty sure it was something that I really wanted to do. I was actually looking for a job and looking for clients at the same time, so I went to lunch with a bunch of folks – just local people, myself, the other developer that later showed up at noon. Incidentally, I texted him because I was at home. I'm like, “Have you gone to work yet?” He texted me back and said, “Hang on, I'm getting fired.” [Laughter]REUVEN: Glad he had the time to text you back while getting fired. CHUCK: Yeah, that’s totally his personality. So I went to lunch with him and a bunch of other folks, I wound up hearing that there was a company, a local company, that was looking for people. I went and applied, and they were looking for a contractor. They asked me what my rate was, I told them, “$60/hour.” It turns out, if you undercut the competition by more than half, they’ll hire you, and so that’s how I got my first client. REUVEN:[Laughs]**CHUCK: Yeah, like I said, it was like $60/hour – not quite as low as Eric’s $30/hour, but that was my first client. I just talked to people and found out who’s looking and went and got the job. REUVEN: Eric at a point, and maybe this happened to you as well, Chuck, but I found that when I started this first project – it might have been the first project they did; I mean, with me it was Time Warner, my former employer, but it was definitely not the last. I would say the first project I did wasn’t even the biggest or the most lucrative, but after everyone saw that it could work out, that I was trustworthy not only as an employee but as a contractor and working remotely, it then worked up. I think within six months, I was working on a home project that I've never had anything to do with with other people – a whole, big, new thing – and I think worked on that for close to four years. CHUCK: Oh, wow! That’s definitely awesome. ERIC: For me, my third or fourth client, I picked up kind of those early days – I ended up working with them for I think four or five years. I made a significant amount of income, probably about half of the actual revenue from my company in some years. CHUCK: That’s interesting, because that first client was three months. Honestly, it’s not a contract I ever would take today – and I'm not just talking about the rate. The conditions I had to go into their office every day and work, and some things like that, and that’s just not something that I'm willing to do anymore. You wind up taking the client that you can get. After that I wound up doing some maintenance work for a company in San Francisco. Interestingly enough, I actually found that one through a recruiter, and the way that I got hooked up with it was that I have had friends in the Ruby community all over the place for quite a long time before I started doing Ruby Rogues, which started a little over three years ago. I actually did a video series called Teach Me to Code, and I did an interview series where I interviewed Rubyists, and so I had a platform and I had a lot of contacts, so I just let people know that I was looking for contracts. This friend of mine put me in touch with the recruiter who was looking for a contractor for their contracts – that was my second contract, and I asked for quite a bit more than $60/hour in that case. REUVEN:**One of the many mistakes I made in the early days – I don’t think it was the first contract at the time, but I think it was the second or third – I somehow [inaudible] it on a fixed price basis, and of course things just ballooned, and ballooned, ballooned beyond what we’d originally expected or anticipated. I was so new at this; I didn’t understand that I had to go to them and say, “Listen, the scope has changed so much” and so I was just working harder and harder in the hopes of getting the money that we originally talked about. Finally I just really had it and I got really upset; I said, “Listen, I'm working so hard here; I need to get some money here. What's going on?” and I wish I had been that polite. But my lack of politeness and my some degree of hysteria both taught me that I needed to think about this more in advance and change the way to do things, and made them realize, “Wait, we need to rethink this” and actually then we renegotiated the contract that worked out great. That was, I think, for the bulk of those four years, probably three years or so – and that was a retainer. That's what taught me, actually, the value of having a retainer deal where I was working for roughly 20 hours. I mean, it was supposed to be for 20 hours a month – I'm sorry, 20 hours/week. I think it was for $75/hour, and that allowed me then to start looking for other clients as well. [Inaudible] “Okay, I know how much work I'm going to do; I know how much money I'm going to get. Now I can start looking for other clients in case – or I guess when these guys disappear.”**CHUCK: Mm-hm, yup. What I kinda like to talk about a little bit is if somebody is considering going freelance, or they're thinking – or they're in a position like where I'm at, or where I was at four years ago where they got laid off and they can go find another job or they can go freelance and find clients – what do you recommend to people that they do? How do other people find that first client? REUVEN: My first suggestion would be, don’t wait for that moment if you can avoid it. If you're thinking, “Well, maybe in another year I wanna go freelance;” “Maybe in six months I wanna go freelance,” then I think it’s worth already putting out the fielders and talking to people, letting them know what your expertise are. You don’t just say, “I am looking to freelance.” You don’t have to commit career suicide or job suicide, but start to lay the groundwork so that when you leave your job and you say to people, “Hey, I'd like to find a contract,” you will have a network of people who know you and respect you and would be interested in it. CHUCK: Yeah, I definitely want to just add to that. You build – I know Eric hates this word, but you build the platform; you build the resource where people know who you are and will want to hire you, will want to pay you to do whatever it is that you do. That’s really where I was able to make the transition with almost no notice, was that basically, I knew people. It wasn’t just in my local area, though I'm pretty involved in the local users groups but I had that engine where I could go out and I could talk to all kinds of people and say, “Hey, look! I'm looking for a contract; I'm looking to do this kind of stuff and find work.” And so by the time that the severance and the bonus check and everything else that I had ran out, I had enough work to pay all the bills and I didn’t have to go take that other job. It really worked out nicely for me because I had the connections, I knew a lot of people, and I could just talk to them and do that. The other thing that helped was that I had a series of videos showing that I was capable of doing what people needed and so people would actually call me up and say, “Hey, I wanna build something similar to what you’ve built on your video show” and so I get the work that way too. I think half of my first five or six clients found me through the videos; it wasn’t me going out and looking. REUVEN: That’s amazing, right? That’s a fantastic feeling when someone calls you up and says, “Hey I'd like to pay you money for you to do the same sort of work that you're showing you know how to do.” Not only does that boost your ego, but it’s a tremendous business position to be in where you don’t have to be working ridiculously hard just to find one contract. CHUCK: Yup. Eric, do you have anything to add or any other insight on this? ERIC: Yeah, if you can get prepared beforehand, like if you have a couple of months to do it, that’s obviously the best thing. For me, we actually moved and so we completely severed all local – any kind of networking ties or any connections to the local market because we moved out of state and I originally was going to get a job up here, and then I decided out on a limb just to try freelancing. It would have been good if I prepared ahead of time, but I just jumped in with both feet and didn’t really know what I was doing. In that case, yeah, building a platform or having connections out will help, but that doesn’t actually bring you projects in the first month. I think in that case, you have to do what I did where – fall back on what connections you have. I was lucky with my previous employer, and then I had a personal connection that came through, but my third, fourth, fifth client came from me trolling forums, going to craigslist, going to different job boards and just “applying” or whatever for any kind of project that was out there and just trying to win stuff. One of my bigger clients came from that. I ended up, found someone riding on a forum; from there, went to their actual website, went to their blog and started commenting on some of their posts, and then they contacted me and that turned into that large multi-year project I was talking about. Also from that forum I was on I met a guy and we ended up talking on the phone. Didn’t turn into a project, but now – I mean, this is seven years later – I'm connected with him and his business partner and we’re talking about doing some things together, but that was a relationship that we started years ago. I mean, I think you kinda have to put in a little bit of that, run through the weeds and try to find anything you can when you get started. That’s actually something good to do even if you have a platform, even if you have connections – otherwise, you're just sitting there passively waiting for stuff to come to, and it can kinda get discouraging if nothing’s coming to you, versus if you're actually going out chasing things, at least you feel like you're doing some activity and as long as you're doing pretty good activities like trying to do sales, I think you actually get results from that. CHUCK: If you guys were in a position where, let’s say that the world reset in some crazy way. You didn’t know anybody; you didn’t have any clients; you didn’t have any work – what would you do to get started? REUVEN: I would say it’s at least two different things, maybe three different things. First of all, start making clear to people that you know something, whether it’s by blogging, whether it’s Stack Exchange, or StackOverflow – get your name out as an expert, and maybe just one technology, just so you can be known as the person there. The second thing is meet as many people as possible – go to meetups, go to user groups, try to speak at those. I've often said that every time I speak at a user group conference, or any sort of conference, I get a call – sometimes it takes six months, but I get a call from someone saying, “Hey, I saw you speak. I'd love to have you work with us.” The third thing is not to be embarrassed, I guess, about saying, “Hey, I offer this service; maybe you can use it.” I actually just got this lesson a few months ago, two or three months ago, from someone. I was meeting with him, and he said, “I'm surprised that you have so few connections from LinkedIn.” I said, “I don’t know, I think I have a lot of connections. And he said, “You don’t ever refuse connections, do you?” I said, “Well, actually I only accept connections from people who I've really done work with” and he said, “You're insane! The way that you should do this is try to reach out to as many people as possible, and when people reach out to you, you accept it and then you say to them, ‘I offer this service, how can I help you?’” That’s practically an extreme example, but of course he’s the CEO of a big company so maybe he knows something, but actively going to people and saying, “I offer this service, I can help you. Can you use it?” really works. Especially if you have the networking, especially if you have a blog or other experience to demonstrate that you actually know what you're talking about. CHUCK: What do you think, Eric? ERIC:**I agree. I, myself, don’t do speaking and it’s just not something [inaudible] for me – the travel and all that – it’s really doesn’t make a good fit for me. But showing that you're an authority or showing that you know stuff on a topic and then kind of reaching out is basically the keys to most marketing. I'm actually doing that because I've done some reposition at my business and I actually like reaching out to CEOs, CTOs, that I may not know but I may have someone that knows them, or I know about their company. It’s basically like a cold reachout, like, “Hey, I do this kind of service. I wanna talk to you about what you use to see if there's anything I can do to help.” It’s still early so I can’t speak to any results; it is scary to do, but this is how you would start from scratch, to build up relationships with people and potentially land clients. Worst case is you're going to get either a rejection or they're just going to ignore you, and you're still kind of in the same place where you started, so it’s – no risk there.**CHUCK: Yeah, and I think for me – I mean, we’re talking about our different approaches, right? Speaking doesn’t really work for you, and for me, I would probably do some of the things that I'm doing now – start a blog, maybe start a podcast or two, start talking to people and getting to know them, show up at user groups – all of the things that you're talking about there, and just kinda build a backlog of proof of expertise. At the same time, yeah, just get out and just get to know people, find out what they need, and make sure that I am capable of offering that. I think there's some payoff in being able to demonstrate what you're capable of doing. In a lot of cases, like I said before, I've had people consume my content, and then come to me and say, “Hey, you're obviously an expert in whatever and I need that in my business” and then they hire me. For me, it’s a lot about that platform and a lot about just knowing people and being able to reach out to folks. REUVEN:**I would say another piece as well, which is, I would say only mildly, mildly dishonest, which is, certainly in my early days of consulting, when I wasn’t quite so focused, people would call me up and say, “Hey, do you do x or y or z?” I really wanted to get new clients and I really wasn’t sure of the direction, and I said, “Of course! Of course I do that!” As long as it was somewhat related to things I've done before. And so we’d set up a meeting, and I would order a book overnight on that subject, and read the book as carefully as possible and get some experience with it so that by the time I showed up at their office, I [inaudible] more of an expert than they were. That’s actually worked surprisingly well. I think I was the one rather surprised. But it meant that I got clients in areas that I wouldn’t have otherwise trying new things, and I got to learn new things as well.**CHUCK: Yup. ERIC: Yeah. I mean, as long as it’s similar to the stuff you already know, then that can work good. A few years back, I was learning a whole bunch of technology and one of them included KnockoutJS. I knew about it, and I tried it out; I wrote a lengthy blog post on it and a screencast and just basically ended up spending three hours learning it, and it was all just self-taught learning. Maybe a month later, I had a client come to me that I won and the only reason I really won it was because they had a Rails project which I have experience with that was heavily using Knockout and they just needed another developer. And so I was upfront with them; I told them, “Look, this is my only experience. If you want me to I can help you a lot on the Rails side, and the Knockout stuff I can learn and try to do it just-in-time” and for them, that was more than adequate. Someone who was willing to learn and actually knew half of their software stack was more than enough. CHUCK: Yeah, I fudged on a few things like that as well – areas where I know that I either can pick it up or I know people who can help that fill the stuff that I don’t know. That helps, too. The other thing that’s interesting is in a lot of cases, people think that you have to be some kind of expert in order to get hired as a freelancer. There are a lot of different types of freelance jobs out there, and some of them, they just want somebody on the team that can handle a certain level of things. They don’t need an expert; they don’t need an architect; they don’t need somebody who can do the high-level planning and the low-level coding. What they really need is somebody who could just get in and take some stuff off of the plates of the other people who are doing that stuff so that they can actually do the higher level of expertise things that not everybody has, and so I think there are a lot of options for people at all levels for freelancing. ERIC: Right, and that's kind of the story I had where – I knew Pitch. That was like my first official language, but I didn’t program into that much; I jumped to Ruby pretty quickly. I had a client where I was doing Ruby work for but they needed help with some WordPress stuff. They had the whole WordPress team and all that in place, but they just needed more help; it was a high-rush project. I was upfront with them and told them, “I know PHP; I know my way around WordPress, but I'm not an expert at it” and they basically brought me in kind of a junior developer level and had a bunch of the WordPress experts helping me out. But because I knew software development, I knew proper code and all that stuff, they were still paying my expert Ruby developer rate. For them, it was a win – even though they were overpaying me for the project, they still got stuff done that they needed and that they were charging their client enough to actually make it worth the while. So yeah, you can be an expert in a different topic or knowledge area and transfer some of that over, or it could even be that the client just trusts you and you're upfront about it, like, “I don’t know this but I can learn it, and I will do the very best I can,” and sometimes that’s all they need. Some clients are just so busy that they just can't do the work or they don’t have staff or employees to do it, and so even then just an extra developer body or designer body is all they need. REUVEN: Right. There are definitely different types of freelancing. There are some where you're brought in as the expert, and there are others where they just need someone reliable. Finding someone just reliable who knows how to communicate is tough enough, and I think the story’s a very good one, because definitely there are places that they would rather have someone whom they know they can rely on learning something new, than someone who’s supposedly an expert but might be a real jerk but difficult to communicate with come in. CHUCK: Yeah, that is so true. If you could kind lay out a plan for people to go out and find their first client –. I wanna put the caveat on this that I know that some people are better inclined or better at things like blogging than podcasting or podcasting than making videos, or maybe making cold sales calls versus getting referrals, but is there a general plan that we can get people that leads them to the point where they can actually then start to find clients, like just a basic marketing plan? ERIC: There it is. I've actually written an ebook on this, but the gist of it is you need to set your business up like, not like registering at the government and that sort of set up, but ‘why are you in business, what skills do you have, what kind of clients are you looking for.’ If you're doing this just to make as much money as possible using your development knowledge that you have right now, that’s a completely different business than someone who is doing design stuff on the side just to pay the bills so that they can continue their artistic stuff. The first step is figuring that out, like why are you doing it, who are your clients, what are you looking for, and then there's some foundational stuff like set up a website, figure out your portfolio, do some kind of – either inbound or outbound marketing, which basically is like what Chuck’s calling the platform stuff where you can actually go out and cold call people that you wanna work with. That’s basically how you get started at most businesses. Once you start getting clients, then you can start getting into the nitty-gritty of tools and contracts and all that stuff, but until you're actually talking to people and talking to actual, potential leads, a lot of that stuff’s not really needed. REUVEN:**I think it depends to some degree on where you are. If you're sitting on a pile of cash and you’ve decided that you’ve got a cushion for a number of months, and you really wanna build the business in the right way, slowly and methodically, I think everything that Eric is saying totally makes sense. Actually, what he’s saying makes sense regardless, but sometimes you need a client – like you wanna do the freelancing [inaudible] need a client now, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. I mean, at least the user groups and meetups that I go to almost always have companies saying, “Please, please. We’re desperate for people who have the following skills.” And even if they're usually looking for full-time employees, sometimes if they're desperate enough, or you're willing to negotiate enough on rates – I'm not saying that you should sell yourself short, but if you really need something right now – they might be willing to, then it’s worth talking to them. If people say that they're looking for employees, then they might be looking for contractors, and looking for contractors, all the more so. That’s a tactic; that’s a short-term thing; that’s not a long-term strategy for bringing clients.**CHUCK: Yeah. What I tell people as far as tactics go is, for the short term, like if you need a client right away, just go talk to everybody – everybody you know, everybody you can think of – just let them know that’s what you're looking for. If you're trying to build something out longer term, I think Eric really has it there. You do the platform-building, the work, where you make it pay off longer term, then I honestly can’t recommend Eric’s book highly enough to get started – 30 Days to Become a Freelancer. It’s got some great stuff in there, and most of the stuff really isn’t that hard to get started with. ERIC: Just to be clear –. CHUCK: Go ahead. ERIC: Just to be clear, I think you should do the platform-building either way, because – even if you need work now, do a little bit because it is a long-term play. It’s going to take months to years before it’s actually paying off a lot. I don’t remember what part, but even in the book, I tell people, “Go out as soon as you can and start talking to people. Go to a forum and pitch your services against people you think could become a client.” Even if you are sitting on a pile of cash, even if you have a 12-month runway to get started, pitching yourself, or pitching your service is going to build up your experience and it’s going to basically expose a lot of holes in the plan that you built. If you also, if you don’t have any runway, if you got laid off and you have no savings, and you jumped in like I did, pitching yourself is going to let you the really fast feedback and lets you actually figure out if you're wrong, or if you're right, and actually lands you clients. Part of the things I actually try to get the people who get the book to go out and do that as soon as possible because you can sit and plan for months or years on how you're going to start your business and the perfect way to do it, but it’s the idea that no strategy ever survives contact with the enemy. REUVEN: I'm also going to recommend Eric’s book. One thing that he says in there has also been said – I see a bunch of people say it recently and I'd never really thought about it before I read in your book first. The whole idea is your ideal client. Years ago, I tried doing some cold calling. I was not so good at it; I probably just didn’t approach them in the right way, but basically I never even thought about who would my ideal client be, who are the sorts of people I wanna work with, who are the people who can benefit from my sort of advice and work. I just said, “Oh, well. Here’s a company, I’ll call them. Here’s a company, I’ll call them” and really thinking about who do I wanna work with, who do I like to work with, and using that as a baseline for them trying to find more of such clients, and then strategizing to find more of such clients I thought was  a very, very useful piece of advice. There's no way that one person could be appropriate for all sorts of different companies out there, and so by focusing on something good, it allows you to focus on your marketing efforts and it means that there's a greater chance that you'll find someone’s appropriate for you. CHUCK: Yeah, and not only helping with focusing the marketing efforts, but it really informs how you talk to those people because you’ve identified that they're whatever type of company that you wanna work with. You don’t even mess around with, “Hey, I'm a whatever developer and I do whatever work.” You just go straight to the heart of their problem, because you’ve already figured out that they need a specific problem solved, and so your entire pitch is different. ERIC: Right. I'm actually doing that now because a couple of months ago – I talked about it on previous episode – I changed the way my business, changed the services I'm providing as far as the actual end result. It’s still the same – I'm still doing the same code, that sort of thing, behind the scenes, but how I'm positioning all that has changed. I had to do these exercises myself, figuring out who my ideal client is, and the interesting thing is I'd been doing cold calls, I'd been doing some stuff like that to reach people I think would be an ideal client. And I guess this past week, week and a half, I'd been noticing that the people who I thought would be my ideal client – CEOs at this size of a company in this industry, they're too big for me. They're not responding; they care about this problem, but it’s not their most pressing problem, and so I'm actually going and adjusting. I'm going to target a bit smaller companies where the problem is actually keeping the CEO awake at night, versus “I had all these 42 divisions across the US, and I don’t care what Eric’s talking about.” Just by going out and getting feedback from that, I'm actually tweaking and refining my own version of the ideal client. I had a version before that lasted me for about five years, and so the concept of it and how it works, it’s pretty good. It’s a nice way to really concisely explain who you actually can help. CHUCK: Yup. The other thing that I like to tell people when they're first up they're looking for clients is don’t be afraid to reevaluate, and I think you really nicely illustrated that, Eric. REUVEN: We've been talking so far – I guess maybe it’s just implicit, but the assumption is that people are looking to do freelancing full time, or they're looking for full-time clients. If you're not 100% sure if this is really right for you, if you just wanna stick your toes in the water, it’s definitely possible to take on small, part-time clients, especially working remotely. It’s a bit different, but it means that you can work maybe in the weekends and try it out, see if it works, and if you like it then you can expand on it. It’s not an all or nothing sort of deal. CHUCK: Yeah, I think you have a good point there. My first contract gig was I was moonlighting, basically. It was a contract, and it was freelance, but it was stuff that I was doing after work for somebody that I had met in the community here. Do you guys have any advice for finding that sort of first client? REUVEN:**What I was saying before about meeting people, talking to them and companies – companies are often interested, I found, at least. Or maybe this is just an Israel thing, [inaudible] part-timers. They're not stuck on the idea of only having full-timers work for them. Coming in even a day a week, two days a week, or doing something in the evening might be useful or valuable to some of them at some times.**CHUCK: Yeah. One other tactic that I found is that successful freelancers sometimes find projects that are a little bit bigger than they can handle on their own. If you get involved with people who are freelancers, this is something that I did pretty early on; I just lucked my way into a group that Eric was in that kind of answers your questions about freelancing and stuff. They weren’t terribly active, but they were there and they would answer each other’s questions and have conversations about this stuff. I didn’t find any work that way, but I'm pretty sure that if some of those other guys had found work, that they had overflow where they needed somebody to help them with a project, that’s probably one of the first places they would have gone to find work. You can work some of the stuff out that way. On some of the projects, yeah, I only meet somebody 10 hours/week, 15 hours/week, and so you could do that in your spare time in the evening. ERIC:**Yeah, I was going to say I know that group; I passed probably half a dozen projects to people that, like they actually landed. I think a lot of people from that group actually were seated into this podcast to get this podcast going. I know one guy from the work I've worked with; I mean, as recently as six months ago, we’ve gone back and forth where he went on a project and I'd come in as a sub under him or work with him, or I'd land a project and have the client bring him on. That informal networking group has helped out a lot of freelancers [inaudible] in that little group, in that network community. I had one –how do I say this –. Another good way to do – I like it if you just wanna get started on the side, is, I call it maintenance contracts. That’s the software developer version of it, but it works in other industries. If you can find people like clients that they need a little bit of work, but it’s not urgent, and they needed all the time, those are great for moonlighting gigs. In the software industry, a lot of the companies will build a product for a client, deliver it, and then they’ll go off and work on the next client and built a new product. If you can set your business up or used up in after that first big company builds the software, and you basically provide maintenance updates, security updates for that client, that could be very lucrative and it doesn’t require you to be full-time. You can get one or two of them and be set for a couple of years, and that also works with designers, writers, whatever – you can have a reoccurring thing where you write a company’s weekly news letter or a weekly blog post for them. Or if they are bringing you new products all the time, you can audit their designs, or kind of update the design on their landing page, that sort of thing. But those periodic recurring tasks are really good, because then you don’t have to worry about landing a new client every month. You can have more longer term contracts, and most of the work usually isn’t urgent stuff; you have to get it done [inaudible] the weekend and the client’s not breathing down your neck.**REUVEN: That’s a great idea. CHUCK: And it makes a lot of sense, too. Yeah, that was kinda the second contract that I got; it was actually a maintenance contract and it was 10 hours/week, and I was working on – it was basically a glorified blog, kinda split the difference between a blog and a new site. And yeah, that’s all they needed – 10 hours/week – that is something that somebody could work on after work and blah-blah-blah, right? As long as you're available to your client when they need to talk to you and communicate with you – you know, worked out really nicely. I could totally see somebody doing something like that as a moonlighting gig. ERIC: If you're upfront about it with the client and you tell them you have a full-time job and you have these hours, most clients – if it’s not urgent stuff – they're fine with it. Another good thing is if you could take advantage of time zones. If you're on the east coast, your client’s on the west coast, that’s a three-hour difference. You could finish up your nine to five job and actually call the client during their business hours still – US-centric. But if you're working outside the US or other places, that still could be in your favor, too. If you're in the UK and your client’s in the US, you guys could actually be working at the same time even though you're working at night and moonlighting. CHUCK: Yeah, the other thing that’s nice about it too – so I've had subcontractors from various parts of the world, I give them a task to do, and then when I get up in the morning it’s done, which is also a very nice thing. It’s like, “Oh, okay.” Here’s the task, they ask their questions, they get enough information to complete it, and then when I'm ready to pick up in the morning, box checked, and then I just make sure they know what to work on before I go to bed that night. There are a lot of advantages, there are a lot of ways to do it where you can really make it work for your client. REUVEN: Right. I often had it the other way around. When I'm in Israel and I'm working for people in the US, we’ll talk at the beginning of their day, end of their day, and then I’ll go off and work on things while they're asleep, and then submit it to them. It can be a little frustrating sometimes to navigate the time zones, but if you figure it out in the right way, then it can be really productive and effective for everyone. CHUCK: Yup. And every client’s going to be different, and they're going to value different things, different advantages are going to work for them better than others, so be flexible. But yeah, there are a lot of different ways to go with it. Alright, any other big ideas? REUVEN: I'm trying to think if there are certain kinds of clients to avoid at the beginning. ERIC: Bad ones? REUVEN: Yes, don’t work for bad clients. Don’t work for people who don’t intend to pay you. ERIC: Yeah, what I would recommend especially if you're new to freelancing and/or you're new to business, if you don’t have a business education, or you worked management or stuff like that, try to pick up clients that are on the smaller side of projects to get started. You don’t want your first project to be a multi-year, big, six-figure, seven-figure project because there's a good chance that you're not going to know what you don’t know when you're going to be surprised by things. It’s like maybe you’ve underbid by $600,000 or something. Try to get some small projects, some small wins under your belt and use the experience from that to figure out how the bigger stuff works. I'm not saying if one lands on your lap, you should just run away from it, but you should really be cautious that those bigger projects tend to have bigger problems, and be aware of that going into them. CHUCK: Yeah, that’s fair. And definitely pick clients that'll pay you. REUVEN:**And stop working for them if they don’t pay you. Like my mistake early on, although that was resolved to everyone’s benefit, I would also say no matter how amazing or wonderful a client seems, it’s probably – I mean, it’s definitely not going to last forever, and so you should expect you have to find new clients and other clients at some point. Every time I say, “Oh, my God” every time I tell my wife that I found this amazing client, it’s going to be this fantastic relationship, she says, “Yeah, it might be, but it’ll probably last six months to a year, and then they’ll move on or you'll move on, so you can’t stop looking for other people.” If it’s a bad client, don’t stay with them just thinking, “Oh my God, there's no one else out there” – there is. You'll find someone. I think I just gave the equivalent of dating advice for consultants. [Chuckling]ERIC: But honestly, I come back to a lot of my writing – I mean, the client to contractor/freelancer/consultant relationship – it’s a relationship. You have your first dates, you have getting-to-know people, and then you have this long, ongoing thing that could turn into a marriage – it’s very similar. It’s standard, people relationships stuff and a lot of books, a lot of advice says you aren’t talking to a business when you're talking to a client. You're talking to a person who works at a business, and so a lot of the same, psychological stuff – it’s the same thing in business as it is in life in general. Don’t show up with flowers and chocolates for your first client meeting, but if you buy a box of donuts or some croissants or something, that actually goes pretty far. CHUCK: Yup. REUVEN: Absolutely. I just wanted to add that because you're dealing with people and not just a company, at the end of the day, people are making decisions. Remember that everything is negotiable, and so if they're an established company and they're used to working with freelancers in a certain way and you wanna work a slightly different way, it’s okay to raise that as an issue. In fact, they may expect you to raise it as an issue. So if they wanna pay you after three days or 60 days and you want to be paid right away, talk to them about it, or an advance, or a down payment. It’s totally worth talking to them about it, and you're not going to offend them or upset them. I think that was one of the big lessons I had to learn – that’s it’s okay to talk about these sorts of money and contractual issues. CHUCK: You guys make it sound like clients are made out of people. REUVEN:[Laughs] Well, you know, I've heard someone say that companies are people.**CHUCK: I'm trying to think if there's anything else I should bring up about finding your first clients. ERIC: One thing is, it’s sales. You're going to be rejected a lot and at the beginning, you're probably going to feel like you're getting rejected all the time, and you have to stick through it. So if you approach it from having an artistic or creative background, it’s going to be hard. It’s definitely an emotional rollercoaster at times, but keep at it and you'll find the right people eventually. Don’t get so discouraged by your first few no’s; keep working, chalk it up as a learning experience and move on. REUVEN: Right. I think probably common for, especially for software developers, to be so sought after because it’s still a skill that’s desperately in need in many places. The notion that you're going to get 10 companies, 20 companies saying no to you, that they're not interested, might come as a shock, but that’s just part of the game. Use that as a learning experience. I sometimes even, when I have KnockOn contracts, I ask the client, I ask the potential client at the company, “Why? Why did you reject me?” Sometimes they’ll be very frank about it and they’ll say it was for this reason or that reason; usually, it’s a money reason, but not always. It’s often useful to find out what they have to say. CHUCK: They say no because they're mean. REUVEN:**Well, yeah. [Laughs]**CHUCK: Just like when I say now to my kids, it’s because I'm mean. Alright, well let’s go ahead and do the picks. Reuven, you wanna start us with picks? REUVEN:**Sure. I've got two picks for today. The first pick is another podcast that I have discovered from Slate. Slate seems to be doing – Slate Magazine Online’s seems to be coming out with this huge number of podcasts lately, and actually a good number of them are very good. The latest one they’ve come up with is a daily podcast called The Gist. It’s this guy Mike Pesca, and he’s amazing, you wanna hear him say whatever he says – even if he read the phonebook, it’ll be interesting. I was like, “Oh, come on.” The guy is actually very interesting and very funny; it’s sort of a 20-minute, 25-minute, daily magazine, so it’s about 10-15 minutes on one newsy topic, and then another 10 minutes on some [inaudible] our topic, and then he rants and raves about another five minutes, but I found it to be extremely funny, extremely entertaining, and actually quite informative as well, so The Gist is my first pick. The second pick is my dissertation software, since I turned in my – or I guess I defended my dissertation last week – yay! So, Modulo Correction’s on my dissertation, which I have to turn in within the next 10 days. It’s June 13th and I've got my PhD, so I’ll advertise my dissertation software again, the Modeling Commons – for people who are interested in agent-based modeling. If you're not interested in agent-based modeling, well, you really should be. Actually, it’s really cool stuff, and so you're welcome to take a look.CHUCK: Yeah, when you open it up you say, “What’s up, doc?” REUVEN:[Chuckles] Anyway, that’s my picks for this week.**CHUCK: Alright. Eric, what are your picks? ERIC:**Sorry, I got a Bugs Bunny cartoon stuck in my head now. Two things – one, it’s a blog post called Sales for Hackers. I thought I read it last time; it’s actually pretty good. It talks about kind of from the perspective of a sales person, like how to do sales. It’s developer-centric, but it’s actually a [inaudible] blog post and it’s about overcoming rejections, how you figure out is this the person that you should be talking to for sales. I think for freelancers, it’s probably a good introduction; it could kinda get you started, and it has a few things that I'm going to put into practice pretty soon for my stuff. The second thing, just because everyone’s mentioned it, the book I have, 30 Days to Become a Freelancer. I’ll give you guys a coupon code, ‘freelancersshow,’ so two s’s in it; if you do one s it’ll still work. It will give you 20% off any package offer you get on it.**CHUCK:Go-buy-it. [Chuckling] Alright, I've got a couple of picks. I was doing some work for my client yesterday, and I actually overcommitted a little bit, so I was up until midnight, 12:30-ish, working on stuff for him. He had a demo tomorrow or the next morning, and he’s in Germany actually, so when he got up at 7am, I was still up working on it because it was midnight here. Anyway, the thing that was really cool about it was I was building these charts with DCD.js, and it’s got a couple of tools in it and then it kinda ties everything together nicely. This is totally a programmer pick; if you need charts on your website, it’s a good library to know about, and you can find a competent programmer, if you're not a programmer, to do it. Anyway, it builds bar charts and pie charts and everything, but the thing that’s really cool about it is once you have it draw all the charts, if you click on a particular segment on the pie chart, it’ll actually adjust all of the other charts and show you the pie charts for just that segment. This is a travel website, so it was all the bookings for departures in the morning. I click on that and then it’d show me, okay, of those, these are the discounts that they got, here are all of the prices in the bar chart and all the stuff. It was really, really cool, and I got excited about it so I'm going to pick it on the show. Another one that I'm going to pick is Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters by Meg Meeker. She’s a pediatrician and it’s basically a discussion on the influence that dads have on their daughters, and just a terrific book. There are so many things – she kinda discusses some of the scary statistics out there, the different things that your daughter’s going to encounter, but at the same time she comes back in and basically explains some of the things that you need to be doing as a dad to help inform and guide your daughter into the right way to live and the way to avoid some of the dangerous stuff out there. It talks a lot about the emotional things that girls go through and some of the influences that are out there. Anyway, it’s the only book that I've read in the last year that made me cry [chuckles], so anyway, I just have to say it. It’s a terrific book, and so if you're a dad and you have a daughter, then go pick it up. Those are my picks, so I guess we’ll start wrapping up. We’ll catch you all next week!ERIC: Ok. REUVEN: Bye! [Hosting and bandwidth provided by the Blue Box Group. Check them out at]**[Bandwidth for this segment is provided by CacheFly, the world’s fastest CDN.  Deliver your content fast with CacheFly. Visit to learn more]

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