From staying hungry to leveraging your downtime, learn the slash podcast 10 rules for a successful side hustle.
00:16 Julian: Hello Nanci.
00:17 Nanci: Hey Julian, welcome to episode 7: Slash Podcast Guidelines for Gigging. You want to do Number One: Never take a gig for granted.
00:30 Julian: That’s a great one. If you’re out there as a freelancer, you already know this that gigs come and gigs go, good clients come, and good clients can go. So you’ve always going to be the focus on delivering your best work and treat your current contract as maybe your last one with that client because you never know if they even come back. Case in point, I’ve just had happened to me, sadly. Maybe my best client I’ve ever had in my life, unfortunately, been taken over by a larger corporate entity and is no longer in business and although I never take that gig for granted, I did have it as my, part of my financial plan for this year. So we’re going to have to fill in a few holes. I need to point here is that you can’t control what your clients are going to be doing. They are operating independent of you, and they are subject to the same market forces or different market forces that you may be in. So you’ve always gotta be respectful of having that gig.
01:29 Nanci: you also never know whom you were going to refer you to. I took a very small client about five years ago; it’s a small website. I thought to myself, do I need this? And that client has gone on to refer me over and over and over again to larger clients for web development. I always said, plus it’s just one of the golden rules is just to be nice. Do your best work, never take a gig for granted and I think you’ve touch on number two about what just happened to you recently, which is to diversify your client base.
02:02 Julian: It’s like the old age, you don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Which you want to have, is a lot of eggs in a lot of different baskets. If you’re into that kind of business, I mean as a photographer, you get to work with a huge variety of clients across industries because every industry has events; every industry has people that need their headshots taken. So in that sense, it’s immediately and automatically diversify, but it’s even more important if your niche or more specialize and you work within a specific industry because if that industry gets hit with something negative, that’s going to shake out throughout the industry. It’s going to affect you, just proportionately more. So you’re always looking for not just different clients but clients within different industries, to protect yourself the same way, you would be managing your stock portfolio.
02:48 Nanci: I just want to add on to that, which is to diversify your revenue streams because there’s going to be opportunities where you do have one big client and that actually, That works for you and it’s not realistic to have several clients. In that case, you can maybe take some steps to have some automated income, some passive income, we’ve talked about it a little bit, will be talking about it more. Maybe you have guides for sale, maybe you have an online course, different ways so that if you ever do run in into a situation. Like Julian, I’m sorry that this has happened to you, but if you ever do run into that. You’re covered at least in the short term of having, not all of your income dry up at once. Because yes, most of us who have done freelance have experienced the loss of a client often through no fault of our own.
03:36 Julian: Speaking of looking out for more clients, you want to take this one, responding quickly and being available.
03:43 Nanci: Yeah, just be quick. Julian has a quote here, think crouching tiger hidden dragon. Be ready, have proposals like blank proposals ready where you can just fill in the gaps. There is a great program if you don’t want to make your own called Bidsketch and you can just go there and bout thirty minutes tick off the boxes change the terms, hit download PDF and an incredible looking professional proposal. I’ve won proposals I think because of Bidsketch I was quick to respond. One of the things you want to do is listen. Listen to what your client wants and in the proposal feed it back to them. It shows them that you listened and explained to them I know what you want and these are the steps that I’m going to do to deliver it, and this is what the cost is because one thing we talked about was, in the previous episode don’t compete on price it’s a race to the bottom.
04:41 Julian: A friend of mine, it was just in the process where she was interviewing different agencies for a new contract with a new job. Having been in the industry, she has contacts in the agency world. So she invited agencies she worked with previous in the past, and they had sent a preliminary proposal to which she had responded saying it’s a little bit too much focus on your capabilities and rather you focus more on our organizations and what you can do for us. They completely ignored the advice and gave the pitch base on their original proposal. I guess they have a formula that works for them, most of the time but in this case, it did not work, and they didn’t get the gig. And I think it’s exactly to your point, had they listened to advise. If your client is telling you, what they want to hear in the pitch, then put it on the pitch. Just responding to the quick part, again it would depend on a little bit of the freelancing you do, but I know for a fact that my business model relays on the last minute, probably 30-40 percent of my revenue. I mean lots of jobs come to me with relatively short notice, and I know that if I’m not the first one to respond to that email that has been sent out to a few other providers, I likely won’t get the job or if I do, I have to hustle really. Just being on top of your basic net etiquette, responding to emails when they come in, answering voicemails, calling people back, and getting the client on the phone as quickly as possible I think is a really good way of consolidating your response and putting yourself first in the client’s mind.
06:15 Nanci: You know, you don’t have to answer emails at 11 p.m. But trying to get back to your clients within a few hours, 24 hours, most of your client’s bosses as well that they have to get back to, and if you don’t answer your emails quickly then you’re making them maybe in the bad light, and that can reflect on you. It sounds obvious, but it’s easy to get an email from a client that has a few questions and think I’ll answer that later and you know three days later the client sending like an FYI have you seen this. So maybe develop a system, maybe we can do an episode on that later of how to keep track of incoming client queries so that you are answering them in batches a few times a day, rather than having your work interrupted and answering them immediately, which also doesn’t set a good precedent.
07:05 Julian: Let us move on to Number Four: Which is you’re only as good as the last gig. I think the point here is similar to not taking anything for granted. As much as you’ve done great work for a client in the past, you can’t relay and cause in that reputation. You have to do your best work every single time you’re working for a client, and there are some reasons for this your client may change, your contact within the organization may become somebody differently and the next time around. So you always want to be delivering your best works, that’s the last thing they remember is the last job because frankly, that’s all they ever think about.
07:40 Nanci: I like what you said here about, you screw up once with the client, and they will remember it. So even if you have done five consistently good projects, good contracts and then you screwed up once that sixth time there going to be like has the tide change with Julian Haber? I don’t know why I used your name Julian as an example, Julian. I know that you never take you clients for granted.
08:03 Julian: I think your speaking to the next point, which stays hungry. For every freelancer that’s out there if you screwed up once a hungrier freelancer is standing at the door waiting to take that job from you. I mean I don’t want to make it sound too cut throat and horrible because it’s the opposite. I think it’s fantastic, it’s a fantastic way to live your life but if you’re not hungry for the work don’t take it.
08:27 Nanci: Yeah, I like what you said about the fantastic feeling. It’s almost like a personal sense of integrity to do your best work and be quick and be on time and respect your clients as well. Staying hungry for me comes back to me feeling uncomfortable when a client ask for something that I didn’t know how to do was to say, I can do it. And take the time to actually, to learn how to do it. I went from building a small website where I could have stayed to building large-scale websites with galleries and integrating Microsoft 365, like every single time I take I took a client they always seem to be two or three more question what can you also create graphics for us. Instead of trying to learn how to create graphics, I push myself to hire a contractor, which was the first time that I ever sort of grown the business. Stay hungry for sure always means keeping your eyes open and ears for new opportunities be first to reply, be energetic but it also means somethings to push yourself out of your comfort zone and learn new skills which then you can add to your toolkit and charge money for. Which also can make you more valuable to your clients over time. Moving on Number Six: Teach. I think the best way that you can get started as a freelancer or as an entrepreneur is to start teaching what you know. A lot of people struggle with this because they think who am I to teach? I don’t have the credentials to teach; there are people that now more that this about me, get over that right now. If you know 10 percent more, than the other guy, I don’t think you can teach him, I think you have an obligation to teach him. Whether you do that through client work, whereas you’re working for your clients is not always appropriate, but you educate them on why it’s important to introduce social media into their marketing. That’s something that I did, and I get the contract for social media. I did it with full integrity because I believe that, it would benefit the client. But you have to teach that, and the examples and the analogies that I gave them about content marketing worked for their business, not a random business, not an example business, their business. Which goes into stay hungry when your giving proposals about teaching them, what can help them with their business and what do you know you offer that service. Be hungry and take the time to put a proposal together that speaks to them and their needs.
11:09 Julian: You want to be the expert in your line of work, although that sounds presumptuous. I think as you said, if you’re passionate about what you’re doing and you’ve bothered to learn about your craft really, you are going to develop an expertise and you clients are going to look to you for that and respect you for that. They not going to want to look beyond you, they actually what you to be the expert they don’t want to have to do the extra work of verifying and looking beyond your recommendations. The reality is they do not have a time for it. So if you come in with the confidence and the knowledge and having done the work of actually learning your trade, your craft, your domain and you’ve mastered it then you are the expert. And you are, as you said you have this obligation to teach but I think by teaching it you are just reinforcing your position as the right hire for the job.
11:56 Nanci: Yeah and that’s for the freelancing. So when we talked about diversifying your revenue stream teaching could come down too. Julian could teach, Julian could have a guide $49 everything you need to know about how you use your camera, your Canon 5D Mark IV. The point is for 49 dollars you go on their maybe there are a couple of videos, and suddenly if his selling 10-20 of this guides a month, he has another automated revenue stream. If and when he loses a client like we said there’s a backup revenue stream and who knows his teaching, his guides, his video courses it could grow into a whole other business. Number Seven: Be frugal. You don’t have to start out with expensive tools. You don’t have to go out like for instance let’s use this podcast as an example were using our existing computers. We went out and bought; I think we’re looking at tools or software or even contractors. You want to hit the intersection between quality and value, but you don’t need to think that you have to the best tools. There are microphones out there; they are highly recommended, Sher Aset Shure I believe that they are about 700-800 dollars each. I can’t speak for Julian, would I like to have a Shure Microphone? Sure but instead, I think our microphone each cost about 170 dollars they are blue yetis and they are just fine. When this podcast takes off, I’m sure we’ll have a sound studio with mixers and Shure microphones, but right now we have USB blue yetis plug into our Mac’s I hope you agree the production is just fine. Just to summarize, that goes across the board, whenever you’re looking at an expense, I don’t care if its 49 dollars or 499 dollars, ask you self-do I need this to shift? Do I need this to launch my Minimum Viable Product? Is there a cheaper but still quality option? Or is this something that can wait until I have revenue or more revenue coming?
14:18 Julian: And if I could this also speaks to our previous episode about fake problems. I think a lot of people can get hang up on this, I need to spend on acquiring gear, or I need an office space somewhere that I’m renting out. They get worried about all the cost that they are going to be incurring and they feel are necessary for them to start getting to work that they have to do.
14:41 Nanci: I think that it feels like I know because I feel into that trap for about four years. I think that it makes you feel like you have credibility. We are sitting in my home office right now, and it’s perfectly fine. You find this hard to believe, but I used to rent an office because I felt like it would give me credibility. We don’t have to go to the whole details of it, but it was a shared co-working space. There’s nothing about it works for me, and after three months I was just like, I pay to come here, and I don’t like the environment, and I don’t like the people, I don’t get work done here. Why would I do this? And I thought it just felt, people would ask me what do you do? And I would tell them that I rented an office and they were like that’s not what I asked you. Anyway, it takes me awhile three months in that case.
15:26 Julian: Listen, another point on rounding of the frugality concept in gigging is that it gives you a much longer runway. If you’re not spending like a drunken sailor. The reality of going out in the world on your own is that it’s going to be difficult in the beginning to earn revenue particularly if you’re trying to replace a paid salary job and you want to give yourself the greatest chance possible at success. It will take longer.
15:55 Nanci: Julian and I also touch on a this were on the previous episode, which is that clients don’t always pay within 24hours. If you’re doing a freelancing business and your clients taking 60-90 days to pay, you going to make sure that you’ve spent wisely, in starting your business because you may even have to wait awhile to recoup that money.
16:13 Julian: Our next point would leverage your downtime. Most people in freelancing considered downtime to be unpaid time aka unemployment, but it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, I think it’s the wrong way of looking at it entirely. You need your downtime, not just to refresh and recharge your batteries but there’s a lot of preparatory work between contracts that needs to get done, and the downtime is the perfect time for it. That could be writing your blog post, working on your marked materials, making a prospecting list for future work that your going to go after. You want to treat every moment of your day as the real working day whether or not it’s been paid for by a client of not. I work every day, get up in the morning, sit up at my desk, of course, I have contracts when I’m out, and I’m doing my job, but when I’m not working for a client, I’m working for myself, I am my best client.
17:06 Nanci: Reinvesting back into your business in both time and energy. We went out for drinks just before Christmas and Julian’s videographer was there, Jimmy was his name. And he was sharing with me, it was just before Christmas and that it was slow period and he has creative projects, video projects that he likes to be working on. He logically knows that he could work on this project during this slow period every Christmas, but instead he spent the whole time worried and frustrated and scared that what if this is the down time that never comes back up. It prompted the conversation that was having now about maybe being more prepared in advance. This knowing, like looking at your schedule over the last year. We talked about Freshbooks in our seven to tools, Freshbooks will give you a graph of your revenue, all you have to do is look and spot that, and it’s like ‘Oh, I didn’t know that.’ It is obvious to me now in hindsight, but March and December are very slow for me.
18:03 Julian: There’s seasonality in every business. You don’t have to be just in the removable snow business to experience it. I think you were hitting a core theme here of our podcast which is there is always an underlying element of fear when you run into downtime especially with your first downtime as a freelancer. Where you finished the contract and you don’t have another one on that horizon, and this is going to hit you, this is an affliction, this will happened repeatedly. You know when you stare at the blank empty calendar and think that’s it I’m done, you going to walk through that. That wasteland, that is where you are going to be born as a freelancer, that is much more realistic than anything else. Learning how to face and deal with that ambiguity, that discomfort that lacked certainty. Then building yourself, a structure and a meaningful structure within that is going to define. I think the freelancers that become professional freelancers and people who dabble and jump back into jobs as soon as they get an offer because they couldn’t handle the stress of the ambiguity and the down time. You have to trust the universe. Not to sound so flakey about it but it takes years and years of practice. I think, and it would take a while for that habit to set in, but eventually you will get to the point where January comes around, you may not have anything booked out for the year, but contracts will come, work will come to you. If you’re doing your work in a downtime, the paid works are going to follow.
19:30 Nanci: Number Nine: Ask for recommendations.
19:33 Julian: That’s a great one, this is something I think again speaks to having confidence in your work and doing your best work and treating your clients as a resource because if you, you know people do want to help each other and clients are people, they are people first. If you’ve done good work for them, they will want to give you more work and not just it, but if they don’t cut the budget for it, they certainly have colleagues, friends they work with other suppliers. There’s a whole range of people that they can connect you to, that you may not be thinking of that are just at the tip of their fingertips. It’s a wasted opportunity not to asked them for the recommendations or referrals to other potential resources of business for you.
20:14 Nanci: I think there is probably a couple of creative ways. We can probably do an episode on it Julian, of how to ask for referrals, I mean timing and when. Even just in your email signature sometimes I’ve mentioned to a client that I wanted a referral and they said ‘I didn’t know. I didn’t know if you are taking new clients.’ What are you crazy? Of course, I’m taking new clients. If I weren’t taking new clients, I’d have to work on my creative projects. I’m just saying never assume, that your clients think you want referrals, and you put a note in your email signature, or we can talk about it later, or you can always do it in your downtime. Reaching out and asking for recommendations not only gets your client knowledgeable that you want referrals, but it could also trigger them to say ‘i’ll think about that but while I have you on the phone I need’ picking up the phone and talking to a client is never a bad idea.
21:11 Julian: And I think, this is again another core element of successful freelancing is having good communication practices and being transparent. Taking to your clients as people. The other day I was with one client telling him the story about how one of my other favorite clients is gone out of business. Then the conversation, something comes up, and we going to get you on, there’s another conference coming up we want you to work on. It can generate new business for you because again, people are good in nature and want to reach out and help you. You need to create the opportunities for them to do that and constantly remind them and yourself that you exist because you know as you said before you’re not probably top of mind, you maybe not on the third thing on their list and that’s nothing to do with you. It is just that people are busy, your clients are busy, and they are dealing with a bunch of projects at the same time. You are just one of them, and they are not going to not automatically think to refer you but if you deliberately ask for it and at the right time and in a right way made it simple for them to do it. You have a greater chance of getting those referrals that can lead to new contracts.
22:18 Nanci: And going back to number five which stays hungry, in my example where when clients push me or I push myself to learn new skills. In downtime’s I can say I learn new social media strategies for implementation on Pinterest or something. I can send a quick not to all of my clients were appropriate and said FYI just to let you know I am offering Pinterest implementation with going back to teach all of the statistics of how Pinterest is growing, and how I could help their business. So it is an individual email that I sent to each one, and if you think that this will be good for you or one of your colleagues or peers, please let me know.
23:03 Julian: What’s our tenth guideline for successful gigging? It stays in shape and while I think this physically stays in shape, stay in shape in a couple of different ways. The idea here is that if you’re an operation of one which you are probably are in the beginning you’ve going to be doing all this work for your business. You’re doing a lot of mental work but there’s the physical aspect of your life that can’t be neglected, and that involves sleeping well, eating healthy, getting the right amount of exercise, practicing mindfulness or meditation or just taking breaks where you clear your brain. They sound like they are nice to have or they are just slacking off, but you are going to treat your whole life like a muscle. You are going to be going at it every day forever until you run out of time. Which hopefully isn’t sooner than you think.
23:57 Nanci: There have been times where I’ve been like, I’m thinking of the time that I was trying to finish my online course, and I pushed myself so hard. I let go of the exercise, the mindfulness, and even just going for walks, eating healthy and what did I do with that? I got sick. I got ill and couldn’t finish on time because my online course is recording and I was coughing for weeks after the sickness. It sounds obvious, but it is so important. It’s not obvious it’s a cliché, but you have to have the preventative steps in place to stay healthy so that you can stay hungry, teach and be ready all that stuff.
24:35 Julian: A lot of companies speak about work-life balance and then a lot of cases that’s just bullshit. I think most companies would be happy to ring out as much productivity out of their employees as possible without destroying them. But when you are running your company, and you are the company, you are going to take it seriously, and you know some people would think, they are proud if they are pulling all-nighters, that they are working so hard, they’re eating pizza out of a box. The reality is that’s not sustainable, that’s probably not even sustainable for a twenty-year-old but it certainly sustainable for anybody later of vintage.
25:15 Nanci: Don’t forget you have kids, eh? Well if you do. Don’t forget you have kids, spend time with them. One thing too, you are teaching your children how to work. If you’re showing them the benefits and the positive of being an entrepreneur make sure that you show them that you do take breaks and take care of yourself, and you’re creating a sustainable business.
25:37 Julian: And I think there are techniques for doing this because maybe it doesn’t come naturally. What I do is put it on the calendar, I work out at a, I take the boot camp three times a week.
25:46 Nanci: I think that is an hour, isn’t it? It’s coming up moving in 15 minutes.
25:50 Julian: I block off that time. I don’t take paid work; I don’t take meetings, don’t book calls during Monday, Wednesday, and Friday because it’s an important part of my regime, I treat it as part of my working schedule, to go and to this class. You can do yoga, or during the day itself, you can use timers to give yourself a fifteen-minute break during which time you tune out of your work and focus on something else. You can be sitting down having a cup of coffee or could be talking to a friend over the phone but you know structuring your day where you weave in this breaks and structuring your week where there are longer, more extended health breaks is part of structuring your working life as a freelancer.
26:30 Nanci: And it will make you far more productive, in the times that you are working. All right let us wrap it up because Julian’s going to get to boot-camp. Thanks for joining us and we will see you next time.