Course Review: Review of “Seth Godin’s Freelancer course”

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
  • Promoting
  • Selling
  • Etc.

All of the information is great and maybe 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.

Course Notes

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.

  1. A chance to do great work
  2. A chance to make our own choices
  3. Responsible for the work we do
  4. Make a living by making a difference
  5. 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
    • Generic
    • Example, translation service, Uber driver
  • Handyman
    • Usually, your services are convenient, e.g. you are close by.
    • Example, wedding photographer within the region
  • Craftsman
    • You offer something demonstrably better
  • Unique
    • You are asked by name
    • There’s only one of you
  • Remarkable
    • 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 not 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!

Finding customers

How do you select customers:

  1. Find a customer who has money (Professionals don’t work for customers who don’t have money).
  2. Find a customer who has a problem and knows she has a problem.
  3. Find a solution that only you can provide
  4. (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 is 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

  1. Remind people of their needs
  2. Satisfy existing needs
  3. Initiate 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 website. 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.

Book Review: Don’t make me think

When I picked this book up, I thought it would be a silver bullet for some of the UX problems I was facing at the time. It wasn’t… but what it is is a very high-level set of rules and principles that can help you when developing a UX.

Most of the stuff in this book is common sense but sometimes it’s nice to be reminded of the guiding principles.

I particularly enjoyed reading the chapter on testing… which describes an approach to testing on a budget.

Here are some of my notes:

Chapter 1

  • The most important thing you can do is to understand the basic principle of eliminating question marks.
  • the main reason why it’s important not to make me think is that most people are going to spend far less time looking at the pages we design that we’d like to imagine. As a result, if Web pages are going to be effective, they have to work most of their magic at a glance. And the best way to do this is to create pages that are self-evident, or at least self-explanatory.

Chapter 3

  • If you’re not going to use an existing Web convention, you need to be sure that what you’re replacing it with either (a) is so clear and self-explanatory that there’s no learning curve—so it’s as good as the convention, or (b) adds so much value that it’s worth a small learning curve.
  • A good visual hierarchy saves us work by preprocessing the page for us, organizing and prioritizing its contents in a way that we can grasp almost instantly.

Chapter 4

  • When you can’t avoid giving me a difficult choice, you need to go out of your way to give me as much guidance as I need—but no more. This guidance works best when it’s Brief: The smallest amount of information that will help me Timely: Placed so I encounter it exactly when I need it Unavoidable: Formatted in a way that ensures that I’ll notice it

Chapter 5

  • Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.
  • Getting rid of all those words that no one is going to read has several beneficial effects: It reduces the noise level of the page. It makes the useful content more prominent. It makes the pages shorter, allowing users to see more of each page at a glance without scrolling.
  • Your objective should always be to eliminate instructions entirely by making everything self-explanatory, or as close to it as possible. When instructions are absolutely necessary, cut them back to the bare minimum.

Chapter 6

  • Too-subtle visual cues are actually a very common problem. Designers love subtle cues because subtlety is one of the traits of sophisticated design. But Web users are generally in such a hurry that they routinely miss subtle cues. In general, if you’re a designer and you think a visual cue is sticking out like a sore thumb, it probably means you need to make it twice as prominent.

Chapter 7

  • The one thing you can’t afford to lose in the shuffle—and the thing that most often gets lost—is conveying the big picture.
  • Don’t use a mission statement as a Welcome blurb.
  • Taglines are a very efficient way to get your message across because they’re the one place on the page where users most expect to find a concise statement of the site’s purpose.
  • tagline conveys a value proposition.
  • Good taglines are personable, lively, and sometimes clever.

Chapter 9

  • Testing one user is 100 percent better than testing none.
  • Testing one user early in the project is better than testing 50 near the end.
  • Do-it-yourself tests are a qualitative method whose purpose is to improve what you’re building by identifying and fixing usability problems. The process isn’t rigorous at all: You give them tasks to do, you observe, and you learn. The result is actionable insights, not proof.
  • Even before you begin designing your site, for instance, it’s a good idea to do a test of competitive sites.
  • For each round of testing, you need to come up with tasks: the things the participants will try to do.
  • start by making a list of the tasks people need to be able to do with whatever you’re testing.
  • Choose enough tasks to fill the available time (about 35 minutes in a one-hour test), keeping in mind that some people will finish them faster than you expect.
  • Then word each task carefully, so the participants will understand exactly what you want them to do. Include any information that they’ll need but won’t have, like login information if you’re having them use a demo account.
  • your job is to make sure the participant stays focused on the tasks and keeps thinking aloud.
  • During this part of the test, it’s crucial that you let them work on their own and don’t do or say anything to influence them. Don’t ask them leading questions, and don’t give them any clues or assistance unless they’re hopelessly stuck or extremely frustrated. If they ask for help, just say something like “What would you do if I wasn’t here?”
  • After each round of tests, you should make time as soon as possible for the team to share their observations and decide which problems to fix and what you’re going to do to fix them.

Chapter 10

  • Having something pinned down can have a focusing effect, where a blank canvas with its unlimited options—while it sounds liberating—can have a paralyzing effect.
  • One approach was Mobile First. Instead of designing a full-featured (and perhaps bloated) version of your Web site first and then paring it down to create the mobile version, you design the mobile version first based on the features and content that are most important to your users. Then you add on more features and content to create the desktop/full version.
  • In some cases, the lack of space on each screen means that mobile sites become much deeper than their full-size cousins, so you might have to tap down three, four, or five “levels” to get to some features or content. This means that people will be tapping more, but that’s OK. With small screens it’s inevitable: To see the same amount of information, you’re going to be either tapping or scrolling a lot more. As long as the user continues to feel confident that what they want is further down the screen or behind that link or button, they’ll keep going. Here’s the main thing to remember, though:
  • Always provide a link to the “full” Web site. No matter how fabulous and complete your mobile site is, you do need to give users the option of viewing the non-mobile version, especially if it has features and information that aren’t available in your mobile version. (The current convention is to put a Mobile Site/Full Site toggle at the bottom of every page.)
  • Affordances are visual clues in an object’s design that suggest how we can use it.
  • For affordances to work, they need to be noticeable, and some characteristics of mobile devices have made them less noticeable or, worse, invisible. And by definition, affordances are the last thing you should hide.
  • Flat design has a tendency to take along with it not just the potentially distracting decoration but also the useful information that the more textured elements were conveying.

Chapter 11

  • I’ve always found it useful to imagine that every time we enter a Web site, we start out with a reservoir of goodwill. Each problem we encounter on the site lowers the level of that reservoir.

Chapter 12

  • About i18n… It’s the right thing to do. And not just the right thing; it’s profoundly the right thing to do because the one argument for accessibility that doesn’t get made nearly often enough is how extraordinarily better it makes some people’s lives. Personally, I don’t think anyone should need more than this one example: Blind people with access to a computer can now read almost any newspaper or magazine on their own. Imagine that.
  • And for those of you who don’t find this argument compelling, be aware that even if you haven’t already encountered it, there will be a legislative stick coming sooner or later. Count on it.
  • “Guidelines for Accessible and Usable Web Sites: Observing Users Who Work with Screen Readers.”