What I learned my first 12 months freelancing

About one year ago, seeing that my first venture had no chance to succeed, I had to find a way to make some money. The goal at first was only to play the game longer.

The lowest hanging fruit was freelancing. I learned digital marketing for my own project and I could apply this knowledge to businesses in my local market.

Sidenote, my first business, a marketplace for small local businesses and local citizens failed for a simple reasons. It was a bad idea because it required the whole network to join. I had it easy to convince some part of the population to join but I couldn’t afford the time and money to wait and convince the others. They didn’t have a buyer behavior and even if I had succeeded, the payoff wouldn’t be worth the hardship.

Lesson learned, or so I thought…

I shot it down but went after the exact same market, small local businesses. If a company doesn’t have a website, it’s probably because they don’t want one or because they don’t see the point. Don’t sell to the unconvinced and to hard clients in general.

I learned a lot though, that is the beauty of having to sell something, instant feedback.

My end goal is not freelancing, but I see it as a great side gig and stepping stone to greater projects.

First, let’s kill the world freelancing and call ourselves a consultant. And what does a consultant do ? He solves problems. In the B2B world, it means cut costs, makes more money, make more time.

The 3 number centric metrics have an easy to calculate ROI which makes them easier to sell.

The 4 greatest things about consulting :

  • It’s paid education
    You’re paid to learn new skills and try things. You’re paid to go deep into another business and understand it and test ideas and don’t suffer any downside (except losing the client).
  • It’s paid market research
    Imagine seeing a pattern along your clients or your client’s businesses, you can get business ideas while being paid consulting
  • It’s well paid
    When you solve a problem, becomes better at it your value improves, and your time decreases. If you setup your business smartly, you will double your rate and become more valuable at the same time.
  • You gain leverage
    By working on a client’s problem, you can bypass the boundaries of a classic job impacting directly the results of a client. If you increase online sales by 5 {41e01451738ffbf0125dab7b03b1226ea79fb5fd6ea840aecc8b61e4c2e6137d} (and you do that for a 1mio/year client or more), you gain leverage of being well paid and getting referrals. You can climb the vertical ladder faster and go closer to the money.

What I would do if I started today my freelancing career ?

  1. (optional) I would keep at job 50{41e01451738ffbf0125dab7b03b1226ea79fb5fd6ea840aecc8b61e4c2e6137d} of the time and hustle my way up to find 4-5 clients on retainer at about 1’000/month.
  2. I would make a list of about 150 people and email them 5-6 times a year asking them about their situation and showing what you do. Friends, ex-colleagues, other freelancers.
  3. I would make a list of leveraged relationships that could help me meet my ideal clients (Accountant, Lawyers, Freelancers in other fields, …)
  4. I would leverage the power of public speaking 10-20x/year. Presenting something educates a prospective client, shows your expertise and give you leverage. CHamber of commerce, coworking, meetup, lawyer’s or accountant clients, there are several ways to do that.
  5. I would be more public and to sell. Publishing articles or videos (what is your best way to communicate) and diffuse that on your blog, Linkedin, …
  6. I would talk money and numbers. A business owner will pay you X if he gets 4-5X. (Caveat, really small business or solopreneurs might not have the cash and be a waste of time)
  7. Go to buyers. Assuming that people needed something, even if right, didn’t bring businesses.
  8. Be premium and solve premium business problem’s of premium’s businesses. Premium gives you leverage and margin of safety.
  9. Learn hard skills and go close to the money (hint, email is closer to the money than social media management)
  10. Learn directly about the business side of freelancing :
    Read Brennan Dunn’s “Double your freelancing rate”
    Read Russell Brunson’s “Expert Secrets” and “Dotcom Secrets”
    Read Josh Kaufmann’s “The Personal MBA”
    Read Alan Weiss’ “Million Dollar Consulting”
    Read Tim Ferriss’ “The 4-Hour Workweek”

And another special note. I would define my skills by what the market values and using a Venn diagram go in the middle of :

  • What brings the biggest ROI (Marketing Automation & Growth Hacking for me) > Pick a discipline
  • What I am naturally good at (System thinking)
  • Clients that have high margins (Financial sector for example)
  • Clients that do minimum 500’000/year (better 1’000’000 to 5’000’000) (Money to pay upfront but small enough to talk to the decision maker/owner)
  • Low hanging fruits that can be captured vs marginally improving something (80/20 rule)
  • Clients that are buyers (don’t assume they will buy, test things out, pitch)

Overall, I sell Marketing Automation (discipline) that increases the front-end and back-end (talking money, sales) of financial companies (high ticket) where I can find easy to implement and surefire way to improve my client’s bottom line (low hanging fruits).

There is a learning curve, but there are a lot of upsides to working in consulting, full time or part time.

You won’t become billionaire by consulting. But you might very well get a 1’000 a day, then 30’000 a week (link Brennan Dunn or Patrick Mckenzie), then 25’000 a day, then 25’000 an hour…

It’s all relative to leverage. The value you provide in a high leverage environment. Improving sales by 5{41e01451738ffbf0125dab7b03b1226ea79fb5fd6ea840aecc8b61e4c2e6137d} in a 10’000  month or 1’000’000 a month business is not the same. The latter will be better paide, the solution might be the same though and often the latter will be easier to sell.

The game is about being in a position where you can have this impact. You do that by improving your skill set and by meeting the right people and building everything up.

Ps:

I talked money and so, but the goal is to help a client and not just suck his blood. But if you bring great value and impact, it’s a win-win situation !