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SPI 460: The Easy Way to Start Freelancing Now to Make Money and Change Your Life with Jay Clouse

So look, I usually don’t try to “sell” anyone too hard when it comes to these episodes, but this one might just change your life. Seriously, there is so much value for you here. Let me tell you why.

A lot of us start out with passive income being our goal, right? Well, that’s pretty much never how it starts. There’s a lot to learn, and a lot of us have a hard time even getting started. But if I had to suggest ways to get started tomorrow, this would be one of my top recommendations: start freelancing now.

Freelancing is one of the best ways to learn how to make money online — you can start generating income sooner than you think.

With us today is Jay Clouse, Community Experience Director for Smart Passive Income. He’s also the creator of Freelancing School, an incredible resource for anyone who wants to learn how to make money with freelancing. He’s going to break down some of the in and outs of freelancing for us: from where to focus early on to landing your first clients and asking for referrals or testimonials. Like I said at the top, this episode could change your life so don’t hesitate to give it a listen!

If you want to go deeper with Jay, you can save 25 percent on a bundle of his three courses: Business for Freelancers, Marketing for Freelancers, and Selling for Freelancers. Just visit Freelancing.school/spi and enter the code SPI25 — offer valid for the next seven days only! [Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.]

Today’s Guest

Jay Clouse

Jay is the Community Experience Director for Smart Passive Income. Previously, Jay was the founder of Unreal Collective, a community for creators. The Unreal community grew from a 5-person mastermind group into a tight-knit group of more than 100 business owners. SPI acquired Unreal Collective in January 2021.

Jay is also the creator of Freelancing School, which provides the training and community to help people make a living freelancing. And on the side, he hosts Creative Elements, a podcast about how high-profile creators broke through.

SmartPassiveIncome.com/pro
Freelancing.school
JayClouse.com

You’ll Learn

SPI 460: The Easy Way to Start Freelancing Now to Make Money and Change Your Life with Jay Clouse

Pat Flynn:
All right, I got to tell you that this episode that you’re about to listen to is probably one of the most valuable pieces of content you might ever hear. Especially if you are just starting out in your entrepreneurial journey, yes, passive income is the goal, but that’s never the start. There’s a lot of active things that need to happen up front. And one of the things that you can do to start to learn how to make money online sooner than later is to freelance. And today we have with us Jay Clouse, somebody who in fact has now joined Team SPI. This may be the first time you ever hear from him. The most brilliant answers to questions about how to get started online, especially as a freelancer, as somebody taking your skills helping clients, how to work with clients, how to have balance during that time and how to create a request for proposal. All these things.

You can begin to generate an income much sooner than you think. And I can guarantee that this episode will help you do that. I don’t often go hard with the “baiting” upfront about an episode. But this isn’t clickbait or anything like that, because this is value. And I am so looking forward to the day when you, the listener, the one who’s listening right now can come up to me or Jay or anybody else on the team and say, “You know what? It was that episode with Jay that truly changed everything for me.” That’s going to happen. So here we go, episode 460. Let’s do it.

Announcer:
Welcome to the Smart Passive Income Podcast, where it’s all about working hard now so you can sit back and reap the benefits later. And now your host — he rediscovered his passion for collecting Pokémon cards during the 2020 quarantine — Pat Flynn!

Pat:
What’s up everybody, Pat Flynn here and welcome to session 460 of the Smart Passive Income Podcast. My name is Pat Flynn, here to help you make more money, save more time, and help more people too. And today, speaking of help, we got some massive help coming in from Jay Clouse, who is now the Director of Customer Experience within SPI. You might see him if you’re a member of SPI Pro, he’s showing up every day going in there, making sure you’re taken care of. And he also is a master at helping people start their freelancing careers. Whether you just want a little side gig and make a little extra money here on the side, or you want to go full-time with this or even potentially build an agency and have other people working under you to help serve more people, make more money. We’re going to talk about all the ins and outs of freelancing today. Talking about strategy, tactics, mindset, the whole gamut. Here he is, Jay Clouse.

Jay, welcome to the Smart Passive Income Podcast. Thanks for being here, my man.

Jay:
So excited to be here with you, Pat. Thank you for having me.

Pat:
One of my favorite things to do is interview other podcasters because we all have good audio, we know what to do. We were just talking right before this you were like, “Hey, whatever I can do to help your audience.” This is perfect. I’m really excited because we’re going to be talking about freelancing specifically. You’ve helped loads of people be able to make money from their skills, from their talents and such. And we’re going to dive into that, the nuts and bolts, how to get started, how to price, how to work with clients, all that stuff. But I do want to dive into you and many people who have listened to the show already might know or have heard of you, Jay, because you are now a part of Team SPI. And I want to lead up to that here in the beginning and your origin story. But before you came to work with us, who were you? What were you doing? Let’s start there.

Jay:
Yeah, most recently before joining the SPI team I was a full-time independent creator for the most part. To go back a little bit further, I got into entrepreneurship because I bought into the whole tech startup hypergrowth idea. I grew up in a farm town. My parents were high school teachers and entrepreneurship just never really entered into my world, at least not nominally. So when I went to college, I went to Ohio State University, I found my way into an entrepreneurship organization and it just blew my mind. I could not believe that people my age were building apps in the app store and earning money, doing it and starting companies. I was like, I thought the path was you go to college, you get a degree, you get the job, you work the job for 35 years and that’s it. And so once I realized that there was another path where you can build your own path, I was all for it.I was so excited about it.

But my view was still kind of limited. I thought that that was tech startups. So out of college, helped co-found a digital ticketing company, a little bit like StubHub. And we went through an accelerator. We raised some money and we were acquired in 2015 and it was rough. It was a hard, hard journey to build that company. And I didn’t have a great experience with it, honestly. And so instead of going back out on my own to start some other tech company that I didn’t know what problem I was going to solve, I took a product management role at another company here in Columbus, Ohio. But after about 11 months I felt like I wasn’t learning much and I didn’t care too much about the healthcare industry. It was really frustrating because it’s really broken here in the United States. And I went back out on my own and I didn’t know how I was going to get by. I just knew that I probably could, and started freelancing even though I didn’t call it that because that was how I could earn enough money to pay rent.

Pat:
So did you just quit one day and go, well, I’ll figure it out, or did you have at least a plan or a start before you made that decision?

Jay:
I was working on something. I had a kind of chance conversation with a friend of mine named Kwame. And I was telling him, “I think I’m going to leave my job soon, but I don’t know what I’m going to do. Because I don’t want to start another tech company myself, but I also just want to be out on my own.” And he looked at me and he said, “Well, if I was you and I had the network that you do, I would consider facilitating mastermind groups because I think you could connect people and pull them together really well.” And so while I was working that job, I started ideating on okay, how can I do that? And I’d never been in a mastermind group. I hadn’t heard the term before, he had to explain what it was.

And I thought, “I think I can do that. I think I can pull together five of my friends who are working on their own independent projects and facilitate a weekly call with them so that everybody benefits.” Now, the company was taking a hard right turn and trying to focus on a new product and my role was going to change a lot. And so about a month earlier than I was thinking, I decided it was the right time to leave. And I really left without a parachute, it happened really quickly. One day we had a leadership meeting and they said, “We’re going all in this direction.” And I just knew, I was like, “This is my time. There’s no reason for me to start this new role, be there for a month, and then have to have them onboard somebody else. I should just go.”

And I said, I’ll give you two weeks, I’ll give you six weeks, I’ll give you whatever time you want, because I don’t have a burning next step. And they said, “Well, because we’re making this move you can just turn your equipment in and do your exit interview and you can leave.” And so in a 48 hour period I was out on my own and figuring it out.

Pat:
Wow! And so you had this inkling of an idea from your friend to facilitate mastermind groups and likely doing a lot of research, figuring out what this is. And so what was your first attempt at actually doing this and where did it go from there?

Jay:
I reached out to five people in my network that I knew were working on something interesting on their own. And I basically said, “Hey, I want to test this. If you would humor me and agree to meet with me every week for 12 weeks and meet for an hour, I think I can help you make faster progress on that project than if you did it alone.” And a lot of people said no, frankly. I didn’t ask for any payment, I was just like, “Just let me see if I can make this work and make this worth your time.” Because my idea was if they have a good experience, I’ll document it, I’ll tell the story, I’ll have success stories, and I can parlay that into marketing it as a program and as a product if I even like it and if it goes well. And so I reached out to five people and five of them said yes and we started meeting every week for an hour.

Pat:
And then what?

Jay:
And then I started running out of money because this, as I said, was a unpaid pilot of this mastermind program, which I was calling an accelerator. And I didn’t have much of a plan, as I said. I was starting to build WordPress sites for friends. I helped a friend mix his first podcast episode, I helped another friend name his company. These were freelance projects I was taking on before realizing they were freelance projects. And I got to a point where I was looking at the progress of the five people in the mastermind program, which I had called Unreal Collective. And I said, “these are interesting stories. I think I have enough here to talk about growth and I can wrap their stories into a marketing page, put it up and see if other people would pay to be a part of this program.” And so I started marketing the program and pulled together the first 15 paying members of the Unreal Collective accelerator. And that got me through the next three to four months.

Pat:
That’s incredible. And I’ve gotten to know the Unreal Collective very recently here as we’ve been talking about this acquisition of Unreal Collective and bringing the entire crew over to SPI and you coming in and working now as somebody who’s really taking hold of the community that we have and bringing all those experiences of facilitating these group meetings and interactions and something that we have definitely wanted to do more of. So it just seemed like a perfect fit. So when it comes to – I just want to grab one question from you before we start hitting hard on freelancing kind of stuff, which I know you help a lot of people do, obviously you’ve done yourself. When it comes to the idea of mastermind groups and facilitating these interactions and such, how do people, whether they themselves are facilitating them or they’re a part of them, because I know a lot of us listening are a part of mastermind groups and such, how do we get the most out of that? What creates an environment that allows us to grow best?

Jay:
I’ve learned so much on this point. This is actually the crux of the mastermind program we have within SPI Pro is what I’ve learned on this part. Which is, you need to have aligned expectations and you need to have a fit between what you’re working on and also personalities. And it’s so hard to pull all these ingredients together and make them meld really well if you’re not an empathetic person who can kind of grasp onto people’s personalities and how well they might gel together. Because you need to have people who are going to be willing to listen to others when it’s not their turn on the hot seat and still be able to benefit from it. They need to be open-minded, they need to be generous in their own feedback, but also there needs to be an element of this is closely enough related to what I’m doing that it benefits me also just to be in this room.

And you need to have aligned expectations on when are we meeting? How long? How many times are we going to meet? Because if people don’t show up, then it degrades very, very quickly. And so anyone could start a mastermind group. You can do it for free, you don’t need to pay for a program. You don’t need to join SPI Pro necessarily. But the thing is, when you actually invest into the experience and everyone else around you does too, they’re more likely to show up, to take it seriously, and everybody has better results. So you need to have aligned expectations, you need to be at a similar stage in your business, and you need to have a group of people who are actually going to get along well interpersonally.

Pat:
How many people did you have at Unreal Collective before coming over to SPI?

Jay:
110. It started with that first five. And then it grew by 15 to 20 people every quarter for the last three plus years.

Pat:
So I want you all to hear that, 110. A lot of us want to start a business or freelance and we’re like, “We need to have millions of people follow us. We need a blockbuster hit. We need a YouTube video that goes viral. Right? Can you speak to the point that that’s absolutely not true, in fact, probably the wrong approach when it comes to freelancing or starting anything from scratch?

Jay:
Yeah. And the by-product of why this worked so well for me as a freelancer and creator myself, most people who are drawn to freelancing, they want control and they want time and space to work on their own creative projects. But the thing is, if you don’t embrace the business of freelancing, if you don’t learn how to market yourself or sell yourself to get enough projects to cover your living expenses, you’re not going to have the time and space to do that. Literally so many freelancers are incredible, talented creatives who are just a little resistant to embracing the business side of things. And if you’re resistant, it’s not going to reward you with the time or financial upside that you want it to to put into your projects. It’s kind of this tragedy that I see play out time and time again, because you end up spending more time than you’ve ever spent making less money than you’ve ever made, and you’re not making any progress on your own stuff.

Pat:
Yeah. That makes complete sense. And we’ll speak to the business side of this for sure, because that’s often times the hardest part for people. But for those who are maybe – let’s say for example that somebody just left their job or because of the pandemic or is no longer working with the job that they had and they’re out on their own and they want to start freelancing, they want to start making money, but they just have no idea what to do. Where would they start? How do we even start to believe that we have the ability to charge for things?

Jay:
I think it’s important to first take a realistic and honest inventory of your skills. And if you think about the job that maybe you left voluntarily or involuntarily, they were paying you to do something. So think about all those skills. But not even just the skills inherent in the job description that you might’ve been fulfilling, think about some of the other secondary or tertiary skills that you had to bring into that experience also. If you were a copywriter in your previous job, you might also have developed a lot of great marketing skills or even audio and video skills, depending on how much they asked you to flex into other roles that the company needed.

So really do an inventory of the skills that you’ve honed over the last couple of years. And especially mark down the ones that were things you really enjoyed. Because I guarantee you, there are people out there who are much further down the skill ladder on any of those skills that are much more willing to pay you to help them than to invest the time to learn those skills themselves. That’s probably not their mode of creative genius, it’s not where they want to play. They would much rather pay someone very competent to help them out with those things. And that can be you. And it doesn’t need to be a lot of people to be meaningful enough income for you to have a good life and enjoy what you’re doing and save time for your family or creative projects or whatever you want to prioritize.

Pat:
So we have a lot of students who I speak to who, when I asked them what they’re going to do because they either just got laid off or what they’re thinking about doing to begin something, they get an idea, it’s based on some skills or talents they have . . . and then they start designing the logo for their business. And I mean, I know that that’s not the right first step. And I think most of us, when we zoom out, we know that to be true. However, that’s the fun part. We get to make letterhead, we get to get our social media handles and such. But what is actually the first step people should take once we have an idea and a thought that maybe we can turn this into something?

Jay:
If we boil it down to the simplest level, for you to stay in business you need to be able to financially afford to stay in business. What you need is customers, you need clients. And I know a lot of very successful consultants, coaches, freelancers, and they might not even have much of an online presence. It doesn’t matter ultimately. If you’re able to get clients through other means, you don’t need all these fancy things. Now I get it, I’ve been there. I’ve been the guy who made the logo first, ordered a bunch of stickers and bought a teeshirt. It’s easy to hide behind those things and it feels good. If that helps boost your confidence and you feel like this is legitimate, I feel more comfortable now going out and pitching myself as doing this thing, that’s all great. Ultimately you need to be able to go out and market yourself.

Market yourself realistically, you need to advocate for yourself because until you are comfortable advocating for yourself, no one else is going to do it for you. So in the beginning you really need to be hyper-focused on how can I get clients? How can I get customers?

Pat:
How do we get clients? How do we get customers?

Jay:
There are a lot of ways. So for freelancers I think there are three main avenues that I would consider. The first being direct to client. It’s the traditional I go to you, I learn about your problems, I say I can solve that for you. Here is the scope of work. Here’s the timeframe and here’s how much it would cost. That’s kind of the most traditional. I also think that it has the highest upside potential and the most defensibility for you as a freelancer, because you’re investing in your own reputation. You’re investing in your own brand, investing in your own network.

Below that you have subcontracting avenues, which is basically to say other people are selling the contracts to clients and it’s a large project where they need more help, and you can be an extra resource to another agency or freelancer to help fulfill that project. This is great because you don’t have to do a lot of the sales yourself. It’s difficult because it takes a lot of control out of your hands. It’s hard for you to control when other people are signing clients where you can come in. Oftentimes you don’t actually have direct interaction with the client. And if you do, you might have to be acting on behalf of the agency of note. So it’s useful, it’s a good way to help augment your streams of getting new client work or paid projects, but it’s not long-term the best strategy in my opinion.

And then the third avenue is a freelance marketplace like Upwork or Fiverr. These have supply and demand, they have people that are looking for help. They have people that are actively looking for someone with your skills and abilities, and you can bid on projects and get hired for short term projects. And sometimes you can even parlay that into a relationship with those clients that becomes a direct relationship outside of the platform. But there are transaction fees involved. It’s often a price competition. So it’s sometimes a race to the bottom until you build your own reputation on the site.

And if you haven’t started on Upwork yet, it does take a good amount of work to build reputation on that site and start to get people to trust you and want to hire you and pay the rates that you want to earn. So I don’t think of these as you have to pick one of the three. I think, especially in the beginning, you can explore all three. But longterm I would be setting myself up to be in that first category where people are hiring me and me specifically because they know me and they trust me and they want me working on the project.

Pat:
How do they know you even exist? What is the first point of contact? And how do you phrase, how do you position yourself as somebody who could help somebody when you haven’t helped anybody before?

Jay:
Totally. Great question. I look at it this way: Anybody who’s going to hire you is going to hire you because they know you, they like you and they trust you. So you can start from zero and find people, introduce yourself so now they know you, have enough interactions that now they like you, and have enough experience with them that they also trust you. That’s an uphill battle. But if you look around you, there are a ton of people in your life who are already in that camp. They already know, like, and trust you. And I’m not saying to go and just try and sell all your friends and family on whatever it is that you’re selling, but they are the first place that I would start. When you start socializing that idea that, “Hey, I’m starting my own business. I’m going out there. I’m going to be a freelance graphic designer.”

These people, I refer to them as your advocates because they are really this extra set of eyes and ears out there for your business all the time. They’re essentially like a highly motivated unpaid Salesforce for you. This is word of mouth, this is referrals. This is what most service businesses live on. And it starts with your advocates. People who already know, like, and trust you. You can reach out to them just to say, “Hey, I’m starting a business. I would love to catch up with you, learn more about what’s going on in your world.” And when you have those conversations, spend the entire time talking about the other person. Ask a lot of questions, ask them how they’re doing, ask them how the year has been treating them, how’s their family. They will probably start to focus on problems they’re facing right now because we’re all self-interested to some degree and we’re thinking about our problems all the time.

That’s an invitation for you to see, can I help this person? Can I solve this problem for this person? They’re going to want you to solve it if you can. And if you can’t solve the problem, you might be able to connect them to somebody else who can. And now you’ve strengthened your relationship with both of those two parties. And that’s a really positive impact too. So these conversations are about reconnecting with your advocates, making stronger relationships, socializing the idea that you are starting a business in freelancing, and hoping that down the line with enough of these conversations some of them will turn into clients, but a lot of them will turn into referrals.

And where people I think go wrong here, Pat, is they try to force each of these conversations into a client conversation, which becomes really uncomfortable and burns people out who are close to them. But statistically speaking, we’ve already mentioned that you don’t need a lot of clients to have meaningful revenue to support yourself. Most of the people in your life will never be a client. So don’t focus on trying to make any one conversation a client conversation, focus on making every conversation a relationship conversation. Because anybody can be a great advocate for you and your business. Your mom, your aunt, somebody in the community, anybody.

Pat:
Dude, absolute gold. It reminds me of a conversation we once had here on the show with the Jordan Harbinger, who talked about the importance of digging your well before you’re thirsty.

Jay:
Yes.

Pat:
If you are going out there and you’re selling something or you want to hire somebody or have somebody hire you, and that’s the first point of contact, then you’ve already lost. You’re digging your well when you’re thirsty, it’s too late. And this idea of going out there – and I love this thought of these are my advocates, meaning they aren’t necessarily clients of mine, but they are people who can help me potentially find clients of mine. And they’re going to go to bat for me because we’ve already developed the know, like, and trust factor like you said. And it reminds me of how Jess, my executive assistant, who has been on the show here a couple of times, most people who listen who have been a part of SPI know her. The way that she had gotten the job with me and SPI was in fact her just sending an email to everyone she knew. She’s just like, “Hey, I’m not working at this place anymore. Just wanted to give you a life update. And if any of you happen to know anybody who would like some help I’m there for them. Let me know.”

Eventually word got around and here we are. And she’s been working with me for nearly a decade now. And it’s because she had advocates and she built those relationships ahead of time. I absolutely love that. And there’s obviously a lot of nuances to the contracts and the clients and payments and pricing and all that stuff. And I want to skip over that because that’s the weeds and the details. And we’ll talk a little bit here about some additional resources where people can go and get more information from you because those are the things that often can drag people down. But I think what I want to talk about now is what is it like to work with a client now? And how do we foster that relationship? What’s the structure like of working with a client and what are the nuances of that? What’s the etiquette, if you will, in the world of freelancing?

Jay:
When it comes to clients, actually I’d love to introduce us with a little bit of a story. Which is to say in Hollywood, this is something that we probably don’t have a lot of experience with but we can visualize. You have casting directors and you have people who are auditioning. And the person going in to audition is often thinking, “Gosh, I hope they hire me for this role.” And the casting director, believe it or not is actually saying, “Gosh, I hope this is the person that we hire because I’m tired of doing auditions.” Everybody who’s interviewing you for a freelance role or a project, they want you to be the answer to their problem. So you’re actually starting off on a good foot in just about any one of these conversations. But you need to be confident and you need to lead the conversation because this person is hiring you for your expertise.

They want to put money towards this problem. They want to hire you and know that it’s going to be taken care of. So from the first conversation, you need to be leading that conversation. And it starts with questions, it starts with saying, “Okay, so tell me about your goals here. Tell me about why we’re talking about this project.” Let them stream of consciousness tell you all the context that they want to. And then it’s your job to say, “Okay, it sounds like we want X,” where you identify the outcome. “It sounds like we want a logo that really speaks to your brand, it is aligned and feels really modern. Is that right?” And the client will say, “Yeah. Yeah, that’s what we’re looking for.” And you can say, “Okay, what is the timeframe that you’re working on here?” And they might have not have thought about that, but it’s important for them to think about that.

And they probably have an intuitive answer. So say, “Well, we’d love to have this done by the end of the quarter.” You say, “Okay, I can do that. I can absolutely do that. And we can have a great logo by the end of the quarter. For that to happen we’re going to have to get started by this time.” And you give them a new date now to say, “For me to hit the timeline that you’ve told me it’s important to you, I can tell you based on my experience that it’s important that we start by this date. How does that sound?” They’ll say, “Okay. I think we can turn that around.” “Okay, great. Let me go back, let me put together a proposal for you and crunch some numbers and I’ll follow up with you tomorrow to give you that information.”

Most freelancers won’t ask these timeline questions, but they’ll say, “Let me get a proposal to you.” They’ll send the proposal and they’ll never hear from the client again. And it’s because the client isn’t entirely sure that you can solve the problem. You probably didn’t lead the conversation enough to make them confident that you know their problem and you have solved it before. And second, unless you introduce some sort of urgency, they aren’t incentivized to make decisions quickly. We love to kick the can on decisions until we have to make them because we’re afraid of making the wrong decision. And then when a freelancer follows up and says, “Hey, I haven’t heard from you. What do you think about this project?” It can feel pushy to both parties. But when you ask about the timeline, now when you follow up on the proposal, if you don’t hear from them you can say, “Just want to check in. I know you wanted to have this project done by the end of the quarter and so for us to hit that we need to get started a week from now. So I’d love to hear what you think about this and if you’re willing to get started.”

Now it’s not about your timeline. You’re not pushing them on your timetable. You’re saying, “Listen, I heard you and I know what you’re looking for. And I can deliver that for you, but we need to get moving.” And it removes some of the animosity or some of the – and a lot of times it’s perceived pushiness on the freelancer’s part – to just move the conversation along. So it’s about confidence, it’s about leadership, it’s about making the client comfortable that you understand their problem and that you’re confident that you can deliver the solution they need.

Pat:
I mean that is of service to them to help them reach their goals at the time that they want to reach them. I absolutely think that’s brilliant, because now it’s not about you at all like you said. It’s to help that person. And that’s the approach that I always take, serve first and that’s of service and you can sell and serve at the same time. That’s brilliant. That’s absolutely brilliant. How about, okay we sign the contract, the proposal’s good and it’s a, I don’t know, a month long project it’s supposed to take, whatever it might be. Are we checking in every day? Are we sending reports? What is that working structure like after the proposal, pre-deliverable?

Jay:
I’ll go macro and then I’ll go a little bit more micro. Macro, the client wants it to feel like magic. As much as you can make it feel like magic that, “Oh, I signed this contract. And now on the timeline that I wanted I got the deliverable that’s perfect.” That’s great, that’s the goal you want. Now, for you to deliver that magic, depending on the client, depending on the project you might need certain types of information. So it’s on you to be able to scope out, based on the project, the information you’ll need so you can do your job, And try to collect that quickly in the beginning, make it as low stress and low input as possible on the client so you can deliver this magic. You’ll have to read each client and how much they like to be involved or informed on the process.

I can say I don’t know a single freelancer who loves to be micromanaged through a project. That’s not why they get into freelancing in the first place. But clients have varying degrees of involvement they want or awareness that you want. So if you have a client that’s pushing for a lot of check-ins constantly, “Hey, how’s this going?” I would just recommend preempting that a little bit in the beginning. Again, it’s about leading and it’s about setting expectations. So say with my process, I want to make this as easy as possible for you. And so to keep you updated on how things are progressing, I’m going to send you an email every Monday to update you on the progress of the project since last week. That eliminates so much back and forth because the client knows I’m going to hear from this person on Monday.

What they don’t want is to feel like I just gave this person a bunch of money, I don’t have any real oversight. Are they proceeding on the project or not? That’s really what most clients who are micromanagey are trying to identify as is progress being made? I’m a little afraid that I trusted this person I’ve never trusted before and already paid them. And I haven’t heard anything from them. So be proactive with your conversation, but let them know that, “Hey, I’ll reach out every Monday.” If they push for more of that maybe you set up a standing meeting where you say, “I will bring an agenda, I’ll let you know what information I need.”

Again, it’s all about leading the process. Continuing to reinforce I know our goals, our goals are the same, we’re very clear on that. I’m confident that I can deliver it on the timeline that you want. And here’s the process that I’ve seen works best. That’s another thing that can work for you is to say, “This is what I’ve seen work best in the past.” Because the client wants to be sure that you know what you’re doing. And because you have experienced doing things like this in the past, they will defer to your leadership if you take it.

Pat:
That’s brilliant. When it comes to work-life balance as a freelancer, I know that this is where often struggles can occur because there is no more nine to five. We don’t leave work. We’re often at home or in our office or wherever, doing the thing. And we just keep going until the thing is over and we deliver. How do you stay mentally healthy, physically healthy? How do you create that balance as a freelancer?

Jay:
You have to get comfortable leading yourself too. You need to be your own boss. If it helps you can make Google calendar or your calendar application your boss, which is kind of what I’ve aired on doing is basically saying I will do the work of breaking down everything I need to do into discrete tasks, simple tasks that are bite size. I understand what it means to complete them. And then I’ll look at my calendar and I’ll block out where those tasks will happen. Because if you look at your calendar and you can’t tell when something is going to be done, it probably won’t be. So you can avoid that by just plugging it in and time-blocking and saying, “Okay, for two hours in the morning I’m going to be working on client X. Then I’m going to take an hour break, maybe have breakfast, maybe have lunch, and then I’m going to work with client B for two hours. On Tuesdays I focus solely on business development. Tuesdays is all about sending emails to new clients, having conversations.”

This is an idea of theming your days along with time blocking so you don’t have context switching. It’s really hard to have a deep work day where you’re trying to do actual client project, and then also have four conversations with potential clients. It’s hard to get in that mind space. So you need to think about your own – you mentioned time management. I think about energy management a lot, especially for creatives. I think they understand that. You know when you have your best creative energy and when you can really lean into it and probably do two hours worth of work in an hour if you’re doing it at the right time of day.

So protect that and block that on your calendar. Say, “I work best in the mornings so mornings are totally dedicated to client work. All of my meetings, all of my business development activities, that happens in the afternoon when I don’t have that creative energy anyway.” You got to lead yourself and you got to set boundaries for yourself. If you don’t have a lot of experience doing it intuitively, literally time block your calendar on where you’re going to get things done.

Pat:
Perfect. You’ve obviously helped loads of people with freelancing. And this is one of your specialties. We’re going to talk about a special offer here at the end of this podcast for something where you can get a special deal, especially if you want to get deep into freelancing and make more money, but also staying balanced as well. Jay, this has been amazing.

I do want to talk about one more topic related to freelancing. Something that I know even though I’m not a freelancer is something that is absolutely important, often can be the driver for more sales for you, and reduce the amount of work you need to do for marketing, which is a great equation. And that’s this idea of referrals. When it comes to providing great work for your clients, your client can provide you more great clients.

What is your stance on referrals? How do we best manage that? Sometimes I’ve seen people ask for referrals in a very sort of just, I don’t know, it’s just a not very personal way. And sometimes it’s very offputting. How would you recommend to best have the clients that you’ve served help bring new people in?

Jay:
I think this should be very, very natural and very, very relational. Because at the end of the day, if you do great work, it’s likely going to result in a referral anyway. Because you’re going to be the first person to mind when that client talks with someone, one of their friends, who’s probably in a similar business having similar problems. And they say, “Who did you work with who did this? I can see that your brand is fantastic, your copywriting is amazing, your emails are so great. Who wrote them?” If you do great work, it’s going to stand out and you’re going to get referred anyway. So I don’t think you have to be very pushy. I think it is worthwhile to follow up on successful projects and ask for testimonials. Say, “I really enjoyed this work we did together. Would you be willing to give me a written testimonial? And if you want, I can take some of the comments you’ve made for me throughout this project, put them together, and just get your approval on it.”

If it seems like a heavy lift to ask someone to write a testimonial for you say, “A couple of weeks ago you mentioned this. Could I put that into a testimonial?” And they’ll say, “Yeah, that’s great.” Testimonials are this amazing … It’s as close to a referral as you can get without it being an actual referral. Because putting that on your website, putting on your social media, it’s social proof, it’s a third party validation that your work is great. Of course it’s going to mean more coming from somebody else because of course you think your work is great and you want people to think that your work is great. But testimonials go a really long way and then just simply tell people at the end of a project, be like, “This was so great. I would love to stay in touch, if any other needs like this come up in the future please let me know. I also love referrals. So if anyone comes to you looking for this type of help, please keep me in mind.”

It can be that simple. You don’t need to be more pushy than that. You don’t need to throw on a bunch of affiliate agreements with them for it. You could if you’re working with sub contracting agencies or things like that, you absolutely could say, “By the way, anyone you send my way I’d be happy to give you X dollars or X percent as a thank you.” But you don’t have to do that. Most of the time people are going to be very happy to recommend you if you did good work, because it looks good on them. If you are recommended to somebody else and you do great work for the person that they recommended you to, it looks good on the recommender that they made such a good suggestion. So you don’t have to push too hard if you do great work.

Pat:
Absolutely brilliant. Jay, this has been absolutely incredible. And again, I’m just so grateful to have you on the team now to help support our community. And speaking of supporting the community, for anybody listening who is interested in diving into the world of freelancing, Jay, I know we have a special thing. One of your courses, actually several of them in fact, in a really special deal that I don’t know if it’s available anywhere else. So can you talk about that a little bit and where people can go and what they can expect?

Jay:
Yeah, absolutely. All of these lessons, much more than I could fit into a 30 minute conversation as much as I would love to, Pat. So I’ve wrapped these into three courses underneath the brand Freelancing School, where I teach people to make a living freelancing. Business for Freelancers, Marketing for freelancers, Selling for Freelancers are three separate courses. However, Pat, you and I were talking, I bundled these together and I wanted to make this available to the SPI listenership and community. And so for the next seven days, you can save 25 percent on that bundle which is already a discounted amount for each of the three courses together. You can save 25 percent using the code SPI25. The link will be in the show notes, but you can also go to Freelancing.school/spi. [Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.]

Pat:
Cool. Well again, we’ll have all the links and such in the show notes, but thank you for putting that together for us. And although Jay, of course you’re on the SPI team now, you still have your own thing going on and your focus on freelancing is still continuing to help people. And this is a great opportunity for people to get in. And if you like Jay’s style, you like what he has to say, I definitely recommend checking it out. That link one more time in case people are sort of on a run or on a walk and aren’t in front of a computer right now?

Jay:
Freelancing.school/spi. [Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.]

Pat:
Cool. Jay, thank you so much. We appreciate you. I’m sure people are going to hear more and more from you here now that you’re with us and just really incredible to work with you. Thank you. It’s been a pleasure so far and we have so many great things that we’re going to accomplish together.

Jay:
Thanks so much, Pat.

Pat:
All right. I hope you enjoyed that interview with Jay. Didn’t I tell you that was value all the way through? Wow. So if you want the links to everything we talked about and also the special deal that happens – and that, like Jay said, it’s only available seven days from the day that this is published. So if you’re listening to this afterwards, you can still go to the same link and check out Jay’s course and such. But we wanted to provide a special deal for those who are very interested in starting right now, especially in February, 2021, we’re moving on some stuff. We’re trying things out for the first time. Definitely check it out and again, the links and all that great stuff and more info about Jay and how you can connect with him as well as other members of Team SPI, you can go to SmartPassiveIncome.com/session460.

Again, SmartPassiveIncome.com/session460. Awesome. Thank you so much. I appreciate you, take care and I’m looking forward to seeing you and serving you in the next episode. We got more heat coming your way, so make sure you hit subscribe if you haven’t already and can’t wait to chat with you then. Cheers, take care. Team Flynn for the win. Peace.

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Smart Passive Income Podcast

with Pat Flynn

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