If you are a freelancer, you already probably know Seth Godin. If you are planning on being a freelancer, I recommend that you read some of his books (“Linchpin” is a good book to start with). You can also check his blog, also very interesting. Seth has a three hour online course available on Udemy (Seth Godin’s Freelancer course). The course is definitively worth the money. It covers a lot of topics associated with freelancing:
- Why do freelancing
- Types of freelancing
- Managing clients
- How to deal with pricing
- Building a reputation
All of the information is great and may be eye-opening to you. It is delivered by Seth himself, looking straight at the camera, no PowerPoint slides, no diagrams, or fancy animation, just him talking about the business… in his very engaging and personable style.
The course clarified my thinking on how I run my own freelancing business. I’ve been at this for almost 15 years and even though I make a good living, it could be better. The course made me realize that I am too much of a generalist, and that I really don’t invest enough in marketing.
My one problem with the course is that I feel that it doesn’t go far enough. I need a plan on how to fix things. Can a course help with this? or is it something too personal? Maybe, I need a mentor, somebody who’s done this before? I really don’t know. At least, it’s a start.
This is a very partial list of the course notes I have. Again, I recommend you follow the course, it’s well worth the price. (My personal comments are usually italicized).
Why be a freelancer
Here are the 5 reasons why some people drift towards becoming freelancers.
- A chance to do great work
- A chance to make our own choices
- Responsible for the work we do
- Make a living by making a difference
- A chance to become a professional
You are weaving a braid
You need to understand that as a freelancer, you are building assets. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What do you want to do?
- Who do you want to change?
- How much risk?
- How much work?
- Does it matter?
- Is it possible?
I’m not sure about the analogy that Seth uses (i.e. weaving a braid). That being said, I totally agree that you are building assets. Your freelancing business is all about assets (your brand, your connections, even your knowledge… those are all assets). There’s a questionnaire offered through the course. I recommend you try it out. In my case, the answers were quite easy. I know what I want to do… but at the same time, I realize that I am NOT doing it! !@#!@##!@ Back to the drawing board.
Types of freelancing
There are 5 types of freelancing:
- Mechanical turk
- Not differentiated
- Cog in the machine
- Example, translation service, Uber driver
- Usually your services are convenient, e.g. you are close by.
- Example, wedding photographer within the region
- You offer something demonstrably better
- You are asked by name
- There’s only one of you
- Work done stands out, recognizable
- You are a brand.
Obviously, you want to be “remarkable”, but can you? Ask yourself, which type of freelancing you are truly doing? Seriously. Are you a software consultant, like me? If so, which level are you? Do your customers really really want you… and are they willing to pay for those services. I know that we are paid decently, but if your rate is 10$ per hour more than your competitors, will they still pick you? The world is not fair, you are note entitled to be “remarkable”. You are entitled to doing the best job you can, you are entitled to try… but not everybody succeeds. The course made me realize that presently, I am probably a “handyman” at best… People that deal with me are happy about the results, but how unique am I?
You think you’re remarkable? Ask yourself the following questions:
- If you outsourced your work and didn’t tell me, would I be able to tell?
- If someone else saw the work, would they know you did it?
- Is there something about my interaction with you that’s bigger than the work?
You have to find a way of not being generic!
How do you select customers:
- Find a customer who has money (Professionals don’t work for customers who don’t have money).
- Find a customer who has a problem and knows she has a problem.
- Find a solution that only you can provide
- (Bonus) Do it in a way that makes people eager to tell others.
Firing a client
- You need to have a deep understanding of the story the client tells themselves about you. If the story is that you are not to be trusted, or you are not going to deliver, you are not going to change that story. It’s better to move on. That being said you need to be good at interaction because this might just be that you are bad with people interactions.
- The easiest customer to reach are almost always the worst customers.
- You need to be clear with your client about what the story is going to be.
- Seth says that if somebody already has a story in their mind about them paying the least amount, you are not going to change it. You basically need to find customers that are willing to pay to obtain quality work.
This is so true. You need to understand the story that the customer tells himself prior to accepting a contract. If they are attempting to get you at the cheapest possible rate, they might not care about the quality of your work, just the cost. In which case, let other people do the work, find clients that care, they exist.
How to increase demand
There are three ways to get more business
- Remind people of their needs
- Satisfy existing needs
- Initate a need
Initiating a need is very difficult as you have to convince somebody that they have a problem… How do you convince somebody that doesn’t know they have a problem. It can’t be through a web site. They won’t look for you. Maybe a newsletter about the domain?
When a client disagrees with your vision as to position brand
If you are a brand then you don’t have a problem, the client expects you to provide the vision. If you are NOT a brand, you can attempt to tell the client a story that will make them change their mind but it’s their decision. With this second approach, you might do work that is not acceptable to your standards.
Seth talks about St Luke’s Ad Agency… awesome model!!
Are you charging on what it costs or on what it’s worth? Professionals charge on what it’s worth.
This is so interesting a statement. I have no doubt that a graphics designer may charge this way, if they are remarkable… but what about software designers? I haven’t seen this approach in the market. Some of us make good money consulting but it’s usually associated with a time based rate. I don’t know any software designers who do it this way. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. I just haven’t seen it being done. I think the fact that we don’t “sign” our work is the issue.
Don’t do spec work for free, except if they allow you to sign your work.