“Work on your business, not in your business.”
For the cash-strapped freelancer, this has got to be the most out of touch advice someone could ever utter. On any given day, you see it plastered across social media and credited by six-figure earners as the one thing that took their business to the next level.
I’m an advocate for paying other people to do the stuff you’re not good at, but the reality is that most new freelancers can’t afford to hire employees, nor do they possess the leadership skills it takes to effectively manage a team.
Until you find the right mentors and increase your income beyond covering monthly expenses – these three things will prove to be invaluable to the growth of your freelance business.
What was the last thing you did to make a sale?
Adding an SEO plugin to your site, joining a Facebook group, and various other busy work disguised as income-generating tasks don’t count. These kinds of things can eventually lead to people finding you, but when starting out – you have to execute on tried and true sales tactics:
- asking for referrals
- offering add-on services to existing clients
- contacting potential customers directly by phone, email, or direct mail
- providing maintenance, upgrades, and next-step consultations to past clients
Capitalize on every opportunity to have 1×1 conversations. Listen intently and respond with exactly how working with you can solve their problems.
This is how you get buyers and increase profits.
Invest In The Right Automation
Depending on your individual business needs, this could potentially be the most affordable way for you to buy yourself some time.
Replacing manpower with technology isn’t limited to large-scale enterprises and mass production.
The problem arises when freelancers and small business owners spend money on the wrong tools. Paying for subscription services and systems that don’t support the phase of business you’re currently in is a waste of money.
Convertkit, an email service provider that allows you to deliver forms and create segments is the ideal all-in-one solution. For around $30 per month, you can use it to centralize list building and simple customer relationship management.
You definitely need processes in place from day one. However, getting bogged down learning new software to automate onboarding (when you haven’t established a full client roster) is costly and time consuming. You can get by using customized templates and checklists.
Outsource Projects That Produce An ROI
Partnering with someone to help reach your business goals is a must. When the time comes, dependable contract labor is the route to take.
When I started planning the setup of my online business, a graphic designer was the first person I sought to bring on board. So much has changed since I started out in 2008. Back then, you could get away with DIY-designed downloads and digital products.
Not today, though. We expect visually appealing marketing materials and ignore anything that doesn’t look professionally put together. The immediate assumption is it lacks quality if it’s not polished and cohesive.
The graphic design work Jessica does for me is money well spent. Not to mention the mutually beneficial relationship we’ve established…because as long as I’m creating – I need her expertise to complement my online presence.
How Will You Use This Information?
If you started a business that requires you to have professional photography, you can either teach yourself how to do it or hire a photographer. If the industry you’re in expects you to produce literary-level content, working with a copy editor and proofreader is an investment.
Ultimately, you have to determine if and where it makes sense to cut corners.
You’re a business owner. Think like one and make informed decisions that move you forward.
Sidenote: The link shared above is my ConvertKit ambassador link. It was the first automation tool I invested in that saves me time, so I can focus on money-making activities. If you decide this product can help build your business, signing up using this link won’t cost you any extra. I’ll actually get a modest referral payout as long as you’re a customer.
I’m a huge fan of social media and how, when used the right way, it can benefit small businesses and freelancers. What I’m completely against is relying on twitter, Facebook, and Instagram as the sole means of communicating with your audience.
Yet, in this day and age when we’re all aware of algorithm changes beyond our control and the inevitable shut-down of a platform altogether – people continue to put every single one of their relationship building eggs in a basket they don’t own.
Be it a public business page or private group, let’s look at two problems you encounter when trying to use Facebook for one-on-one engagement:
Competing For Attention
Whenever a platform tweaks its algorithm, it’s typically not to the user’s advantage. No matter how many likes your page has, these changes result in fewer people seeing your published content. An overall decrease in reach.
Before the days of paying for Facebook ads (which can produce an ROI when done effectively), you could bet on your stuff being seen by those who wanted to see it most – folks who opted in by clicking the like button. The free, organic model was replaced with a pay-to-play system. Marketers and freelancers with advertising spend are the only ones guaranteed to get more eyes on their products and services, and the cost to do so continues to go up.
On several occasions, a client and mentee who are subscribed to my list responded saying they didn’t realize the email they had just read wasn’t sent to them individually.
You can’t achieve this level of personalization with a “one size fits all” status update.
Segmentation Is Impossible
This is the most overlooked aspect of relationship building, which leads to missed opportunities for customer retention and repeat business.
Everybody is all lumped together on Facebook.
You can’t differentiate between someone who clicked on your page because they’re interested in one particular service or product vs. the loyal customer who buys everything you package and sell.
You need to tailor and distribute content that speaks to each demographic and their unique needs.
If you spend the majority of your time and effort focusing on a large social media following, but haven’t put any thought into building your email list, you’re doing it wrong.
The only way you’re guaranteed to intimately connect with your audience is through personalized messages delivered to their inboxes.
Three Steps To Get You Up And Running:
- Determine what type of information you want to share.
- Draft eight emails for your campaign; this is two months worth of content if sent out once per week.
- Sign up with an email service provider that fits your business needs.
Apply This Rule To All Areas Of Your Business
When you start something new, execute on simple tactics. Develop more complex strategies along the way. You can always go back and make changes.
No need to overthink it. Now get to work.
Sidenote: The link shared above is my ConvertKit ambassador link. It was the first thing I invested in to save time, so I can focus on other money-making activities. If you decide this product is right for your business email marketing, signing up using this link won’t cost you any extra. I’ll actually get a modest referral payout as long as you’re a customer.
Not in a million years did I think I would self-publish a book. Yet, here I am as a proud independent author.
If you’re a freelancer considering writing a non-fiction book as a passive income stream or to establish credibility, I hope you find some value and encouragement in what I’m about to share.
THE STEPS I TOOK TO BECOME A SELF-PUBLISHED AUTHOR
Start With Content You Already Have
When mapping out the process to build on online business – as an extension of what I do offline – a source of passive income was #1 on the list of things to create.
It made sense to start with something I already had.
Is It Worth Reading? was initially written as a free pdf download for my email subscribers. I put quite a bit of effort into making sure it was practical, and that when applied, the reader could get results.
A print book has to have 24 pages to meet Amazon’s publishing requirements. That was my goal. To add 9 more pages and if I ended up with a few more – awesome. I did not set out to write a 100+ page book the first time around.
It was written with the intentions of becoming a perennial seller that would have at least one revised copy produced in the future.
Before you write your book, know what you’re going to do with it immediately and later on down the road.
Spend Money To Make It Look Good
You don’t need thousands of dollars to self-publish a high-quality book. You do need to outsource to people who can make a book look like a million bucks.
Your finished product will sit right beside those that were traditionally published. Don’t make it obvious that it didn’t hit the market with a literary agent or nationwide publicity tour.
I hired four professionals:
- book formatter
- book cover designer
- book cover designer #2
Plan to spend the most money on an editor. Had it not been for my dear friend, Monica Dennis, this would have been my biggest expense. She said the cost to edit my short read ranged from $500-$800. I’m forever grateful that she started her editing business at the exact moment I desperately needed her services!
I didn’t choose Monica because we’ve been exchanging tweets for over a decade. I wanted to work with her because she has earned a living as an editor for over 25 years and I trust her professional abilities.
There are a ton of online resources if you want to DIY your formatting. I had zero interest in doing so.
I familiarized myself with enough of the technical aspects to make sure I could ask informed questions about the process and not get ripped off. I can’t say the same for the cover design, but we’ll talk about that next.
Deciding who would format my book boiled down to straightforward pricing and the company being able to clearly explain the process. The fact that Polgarus Studio was extremely patient with me as a first-time author is how they earned my business.
The total cost for formatting the Kindle and print versions of my book was $55.
If your book is long, and includes graphics and artwork, formatting will be more expensive. Keep in mind that you’re charged separately for an ereader format and a paperback format – this counts as two.
Book cover brainstorming began as soon as I settled on a title, months before the book went to editing.
Working with a limited budget, I risked it all and went to Fiverr in search of a designer to bring my concept to life.
I didn’t know what I wanted, other than for the cover to be minimalistic with orange font. Adding my social media handle in the background was a last minute decision. There’s no photo of me on the cover for two reasons:
- Getting updated professional headshots would delay the release.
- I’m not famous – a picture on the front would overshadow the title.
The package I purchased from the Fiverr designer included a print-ready copy. Remember, my book hadn’t gone to editing or formatting yet so I didn’t know how many pages it would be. The designer agreed to modify the print version, at no additional cost, once I had an exact page count and trim size. When all of these things were finalized, he went back on his word and asked for more money.
Another long-time twitter friend, Karen Southall Watts, had published a book and was kind enough to share resources with me (book designer #2). Having someone by my side who had gone through the process was a tremendous help. I contacted her cover designer, CoversByKaren.com, and she meticulously recreated my print-ready cover and a 3D graphic to use for marketing.
The total cost for the Kindle and paperback covers, plus the 3D graphic was $125.
After watching a couple of YouTube videos, I uploaded the book to Amazon myself. Because it was so easy and wouldn’t have saved me a huge chunk of money, I got to experience the satisfaction of seeing my book go live. A feeling of accomplishment I’ll never forget.
Within a week of its release date, my book became Amazon’s #1 new release in Business & Money Short Reads.
Is it realistic to assume you’ll be able to self-publish your book for less than $200? Probably not.
Things you have to consider include your book’s word count and what versions you want to publish. I suggest starting with Kindle. Investing in a professional editor is non-negotiable (Amazon puts warnings on ebooks that have quality issues), but you’ll save money by only needing a digital cover and one type of formatting.
Your readers will respect and appreciate you for publishing a high quality book with substance.