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My "Stable Income" to "Freelancer" Story
“Are you mad?!”
That’s the first question my mother asked when I quit my retail job. Because, somehow throwing away a $1000 a month ‘stable’ income was the craziest thing I’d ever done in my life.
Not the time I threw myself off a cliff into a pool full of Jellyfish, apparently.
But, I was done selling shoes, taking instructions from managers and getting absolutely no joy from going to work at all.
I wanted to be a writer. And, no matter who told me that I was Mad, Crazy or Bold to do so, that’s what I was happening. Evidently, stubbornness seems to be one of my more favourable character traits.
However, to an extent, those concerns were right. As a Freelancer, whether a writer, a graphic designer or anything else, there is no such thing as a ‘stable’ income.
You’re paid for the work you do (if you get hired at all), and you’re constantly fighting an uphill struggle to try and get yourself enough work to make a living.
But, here’s the thing about Stable Incomes: they’re not all they’re cracked up to be.
A stable income guarantee’s you a paycheck at the end of the month, but it wont guarantee you anything else.
In fact, there are some limitations to having a stable income that completely cancel its benefits out:
- The amount you can earn is restricted
- Your free time is limited
- You have little room for progression
- You can’t watch Cat videos and Sip Coffee all day
Thankfully, as a Freelancer (or Start-Up Owner) you’re not bound by of these conventional premises. Because, well, you’re in charge.
However, it’s important that you learn to build a guaranteed income. Because, you still have bills to pay, mouths to feed and coffee to buy.
And, it is possible to guarantee yourself a monthly income, without ever having to worry about when a job is coming to an end. Or maybe you are unexpectedly fired.
How Do You Do It?
I’m going to show you how I and all of my coaching clients manage to do it month after month.
In fact, I’m giving you the whole contents of my paid training course, because I’m just a swell guy (or, really like helping the StartUpBro’s community–you decide).
In this article you’re going to learn:
- How to build a simple, effective business model that works
- The difference between a Stable and a Guaranteed Income
- How to pitch to absolutely anybody
- How to play the ‘numbers game’ to guarantee yourself an income
- Why Phil Collins shouldn’t be allowed to make CD’s anymore
- How to never worry about losing Freelance work
- How to grow your business as much (or as little) as you want to
It’s going to be a long one, so if you’re looking to build from this, I’d suggest giving it a bookmark and coming back when you’ve completed each stage.
What Is a Guaranteed Income?
Taking this right back to basics, a Guaranteed Income is a little different to a Stable Income.
A stable income is the exact amount an employer is going to give you, each and every month right into your bank account. That number is usually your yearly salary divided by 12.
However, a guaranteed income is your income for that week/year/month that you’re going to get paid from multiple clients and income streams.
It’s guaranteed because you’ve calculated that’s what you’re going to earn, but there is always room for expansion, growth, and change.
If you say you want to earn $2,000 this month in income, you generate work that equates to that amount.
With a stable income where you would have to find a way to prostitute yourself to add extra to your pay packet.
This article is going to focus on how you can build a guaranteed income from doing work that you love.
First Things First, Let’s Make A List…
The biggest problem I find with freelancing is that your mind wanders.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re using content mills or more established websites, you get lost in the clutter that is the job boards.
You’ll bounce from one job to another, without really knowing what you’re looking for. Just that you want to find work, and get paid for it.
By adding structure to this initial job search, you can increase your productivity tenfold. And, find work for the right price in the area’s that you love.
Considering you probably don’t really enjoy creating anything for Alabama Chicken Farmers, that’s only a good thing.
In order to bring this laser-targeted job search, the first thing you’ll need to do is create a list of everything you want to build your work around.
For example, this is how I started freelance writing, I’d first create a list of all the topics I love to write about (this is how I teach it):
When it comes to my job search, I only look at jobs in these niches. If it doesn’t explicitly say it, then I don’t spend my time applying for it.
If you’re working in a different sector, such as Graphic Design, then you can base the list on the categories that you would like to build a business around.
The second part of this list is to set yourself a minimum price that you’re willing to work for.
By having a minimum income rate, you’re able to exclude all work that doesn’t offer to pay what you’re looking to earn.
If you’re worried about excluding people from your freelancing reach, don’t be.
You are able to negotiate and adjust prices as time goes on. But, starting from ground zero it’s good to have a minimum price in place so you don’t sell yourself short.
Value Your Time (You Can Never Get It Back)
There is no gimmick or right method to picking your prices.
There is only what you feel comfortable charging, and what you feel that your time is worth. And, it’s always worth a lot more than you think it will be.
Trust me, you’re a lot more valuable than working for $10-15 an hour, but if that’s all you feel comfortable charging that’s fine (and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise).
Set your minimum price in alignment with what you want to earn that month, and how many hours you want to work.
If you want to earn $2,000 this month, but only want to work 40 hours, your minimum hourly rate would be $50.
As long as you’re happy with the price you’ve set, and how much it’s going to bring you then you’re onto a winner.
Another route here is that you can create your, ‘ideal world’ price and your ‘real world price’.
You may want to earn $600 per hour in the ideal world, but you may only feel comfortable asking for $50 right now. And, the gulf in price doesn’t mean anything in particular.
But, this does give you a goal to shoot for so you can start to bridge the gap.
Task #1: Create Your List
Spend the next 10 minutes creating a list around the topics you’ve just read about.
- Pick 5-10 topics or elements you want to build a business on
- Set your minimum price based on how you work
o Project Based
o Per Month’s Work
When you’re done, move onto the next section. You’ll see how this list can really benefit you a little later on.
Where To Find Work
If you’re completely new to the scene and are using this post as a guideline to build from, then here’s a list of great places you can look for work in different niches.
I’ve kept this to three main niches and a general one. However, if you can think of a niche and want a respectable job board, comment below and I’ll provide you with a list.
Regardless of what anyone tells you about content mills, they’re a great place to start your freelancing career.
They give you thick skin, a great idea of how to interact with clients, a tonne of practice pitching, and some real momentum to build.
However, for the rest of the article, I’m going to overlook content mills a little, but all the same, principles apply.
Best Resource for Freelance Writers: Job Boards, Tools and More
- Smashing Jobs
- The IT Job Board
All of these boards are free, and I don’t believe you need to sign up to a paid job board to make a living as a freelancer.
So, don’t worry about that.
The Most Simple Business Model You’ll Ever Need
This process starts with the most simple business model in whole entire world.
This model is going to guarantee you an income, ensure you never have to worry about running out of money, and gives you the tools you need to achieve total freelance domination.
All you have to do is learn how to play the Numbers Game.
The Numbers Game
There is a mathematical solution for absolutely everything in the world, and your freelance business is no different.
However, here’s a secret, I’m not able to count past 10 without taking my shoes off terrible at math.
So, that’s why this business model is so insanely easy to use.
In order to find your solution, you’re going to need to identify and track three separate areas.
- How Many Jobs You Applied For: This is a tally chart of how many listed jobs you’ve applied for.
- How Many Responses You’ve Got: How many people reached out to you and said, “Hey, I’m interested in working with you”.
- How Many Guaranteed Pieces Of Work: This is where the terms have been agreed, and you’ve actually started the work for them.
You can track this through Excel, Evernote, or go completely old school (like me) and use a tally chart and a piece of paper.
How This Works
Let’s use really simple numbers to illustrate this point, so you can see what I mean:
If you applied for 10 jobs, and 2 clients responded to you, which resulted in 1 piece of work, how many jobs would you need to apply for to guarantee yourself some work?
That’s right, 10 jobs.
If you wanted to obtain a second piece of work, how many would you apply for?
Another 10 jobs.
Now, your numbers make be better than this, and they may be worse than this. But, once you understand your numbers, you can cater your time to maximise this.
Even if you were to apply for 10 jobs a week, you would guarantee yourself one new piece of work each and every week.
Where Does The List Come Into It?
The list mostly serves to keep your mind focused and targeted for all the jobs you’re applying for.
But, it’s also a great asset for helping you form a daily habit of applying for jobs in the niches you want to work in.
Take the following scenario:
You’ve decided to look around the job boards and find some jobs to apply for. But, you can’t find anything in your price range in the niches you’ve chosen. This is where you’d usually throw in the towel right?
“Oh, there’s nothing to apply for today, maybe tomorrow then”,you say to yourself as your drag yourself off to get another coffee.
But now, you don’t have to. Because whilst there may not be something to apply for in your top choice, you just check down to the next one.
So, if you’re really not able to find something in, say, ‘Database Management’, you can move onto the next choice in your list. Until, you’ve filled the quota of jobs you need to apply for.
How Many Jobs Should You Apply For?
I call this method Intentional Freelancing, because everything is done with intent.
This really depends on what you’re looking to achieve. If it takes 10 applications to find work, but you’re only looking to expand in the next two weeks, you may only apply for five each week.
However, if you’re furiously trying to build up a portfolio and get some work, you may apply for four or five each day.
It solely depends on you, your numbers and what you’re looking to gain from your time in the trenches.
I’d always suggest youstay applying for at least a few jobs a week, though. Even if your dance card is full.
It’s much easier to turn down work, than it is to pick it up at the drop of a hat.
Common Red Flags
The beauty of this model is that as you become more efficient at what you’re doing, your numbers will begin to come down.
For example, I’m now at the stage where if I apply for three pieces of work, I’m guaranteed one paid job.
However, if your numbers start to go up and get worse, you can identify a few common red flags:
- Sloppy Pitching: You may have started to take some slack on your pitching, and become lazy.
- Poor Job Choices: You’ve started to apply for jobs on the cusp of your niches, as supposed to jobs you can or want to do.
- Insufficient Portfolio Pieces: You’ve got a portfolio; you’ve just not presented the person with the right ones.
But, regardless of the way your numbers are going to go, you’re going to learn how to be on-point all the time.
Task #2: Create A Spread Sheet
Build a spread sheet with three separate columns:
- Job Applications
- Guaranteed Work
You can do this on paper, Excel or anywhere you see fit. But, you need to be able to access it and input data into it the whole time.
Once you have that set up, you’re ready to lock and load on pitching.
How To Pitch To Anyone, Any Time
Neil Gaiman once said, “People get hired because, somehow, they get hired”. Which, I’ve come to learn, is a pretty true statement.
But, it is possible to give yourself the optimal chance and really up your chances from, ‘somehow’ to ‘almost certainly’.
The answer to that, is pitching.
The best article I’ve read about pitching to influencers comes from this site. The How To Blast Out Of Obscurity guest-post is a treasure trove of information, and I suggest you check it out.
However, when it comes to pitching for paid work, the tables turn a little bit.
Whilst the basics of pitching never really change, it’s important to differ your approach slightly to have the largest chance of getting work.
There is one place where freelancers almost always fall down.
Stop Pitching Lists, Start Pitching Solutions
I can almost guarantee that 90% of the time, your pitch is mostly you blowing smoke up your own behind.
Because that’s how you think you’re supposed to pitch.
The general thought process being, “If I can prove myself to be the best person applying for the job, I’m going to get it”.
But this is entirely the wrong way to think about pitching for work. Instead, you need to pitch about how you can solve that person’s problems.
How, all the wonderful work you’ve done (and can do) is going to absolutely rock their world. Why, all those guest posts, previous designs and time spent practicing your craft is going to help that person achieve their goals.
Your standard pitch probably looks something like this:
And, to be really blunt, it sucks.
Because, you’ve essentially listed all the things that you can do, and that qualify you for a job:
- I’ve worked for ‘X’ client
- I’ve created work about ‘Y’ subject
- I’ve got experience doing ‘Z’
Which is all well and good, but you’ve not helped the potential client achieve anything. And, they honestly don’t care about what you have done in the past.
They care about how you can help them solve a problem.
And, most of your pitches don’t do that.
What needs to change so that you can begin to help your clients, then?
Start Asking Yourself A Different Question
When you’re writing your pitch at the moment you’re answering the question, “What can I do to get the job?”
Instead, you should be answering the question, “How can what I’ve done, help this client?”
That means that when it comes to writing your pitch, you’ve got a completely different set of answers to what you had before.
Think of it in terms of this:
- Instead of saying, “I write in a conversational tone”, explain how that can help them engage their audience.
- Instead of saying “I create up to date designs”, explain how it displays professionalism and authority.
- Instead of saying “I create software that’s unique”, explain how your software will set them apart from other in their niche.
Once you start doing that, you can create a proposal that looks like this:
By answering questions and showing how your skills can have a greater effect on their outcomes, you’ve suddenly created a pitch that is much more powerful.
Other Pitching Tips (To Make You Shine)
Here are a few more elements to consider whilst writing a pitch, which will make stand out from the rest of the Freelance World.
RTFQ: In the Military my Father used to have a saying for all of his students on exams, and that was to RTFQ. Or, in real terms “Read the f*****g question”.
A lot of you will fall down on this, and completely exclude yourself from the running by simply not being able to follow instruction.
If a job description asks you a question, you better be damn sure to answer. Read it at least three times and make sure you understand everything that’s been written there.
Some will ask you to pitch using a certain title:
Whilst others will ask you a specific question for you to answer in your pitch:
This are non-negotiable, you have to address these in your pitch if they’re there.
Show Personality (But Be Professional): This is someone’s brainchild you’re working on here, and they want to know it’s in the hands of someone they can trust.
And, they cannot trust a robot. So, be sure to show you’re a human being through your pitch.
But, never cross the boundary of becoming too friendly and dropping your guard. They’re still going to be an employer, after all.
Never Copy And Paste: As someone who hires freelancers as well, I can smell a copy and pasted pitch a mile away. And, it’s straight in the trash with my leftover Burrito.
Reference the person, speak to them directly and take the extra 20 minutes to actually write your proposal, instead of focusing solely on the volume of proposals you’ve done.
Have Social Proof: Testimonials, guest posts and previous works all add an extra level of trust to your pitch. The less risk they have to take, the better your chances.
Have A Solid Portfolio: Because, how do they know you can do it, if you’ve not got any proof?
Task #3: Go Out
Well, sort of.
Head to one of the job boards from earlier in this post, and pick one to apply for. You don’t need to actually send it off yet. But, write it and compare against the points made so far in this article.
If you think it bombed, do it again. But, remember to answer the question, “How can I help?” as supposed to just listing what you can do.
Oh, and for the first 10 days after this post goes live, if you comment with one pitch and a link to the job you applied for – I’ll critique it and show you what you could do differently.
Tying It All Together
By now, you should have the following:
- A List: Of all the jobs you want to do.
- A Price: How you much you intend to charge a client.
- A Place To Find Jobs: Three of four different job boards you can flit between to find work, and get yourself in front of the right people.
- A Spread Sheet: With applications, responses and guaranteed income.
- Knowledge Of How To Grow Your Business: Once you know your numbers, you can take your business in any direction possible.
- Practice Pitches: And a solid idea of how to pitch to someone who is going to pay you to do what you love.
Within those five elements, you have the makings of an incredible, simple Freelance Business you can take anywhere in the world.
Wrapping This Up...
Within this article, you’ve discovered how to start a lifestyle business. And, I’m probably going to get it in the neck off some gurus for giving it all away for free.
This model has taken me around the world, and has given countless people the opportunity to start a fruitful business that grows.
But, it doesn’t happen overnight.
It takes effort, consistency and a thick skin. You need to apply for jobs often, accept rejection just as often and be prepared that sometimes things wont come off.
But, once you start to build momentum, you’ve now got the tools to create a business that caters to your world, no matter what.
My first month Freelancing, I made $600. In three months, that turned to $3,500 a month, consistently.
Now, it’s grown exponentially.
The question is, are you willing to put in the effort and grow your business, or are you just going to become another poorly fed freelancer?
Thanks alot for the article. working as a freelancer has surely its benefits and i think the world is going in this way to outsource the jobs to freelancers. Are there any companies working as freelancer?
hey nice blog by the way. It will help many beginners.
Writing about one thing is very profitable and will give you more clients. The more you learn about one topic the more you will write about one topic which will give you more money.
Excellent tips – though it’s disappointing to see the errors/typos from a writer (it comes across as quite unprofessional). One would think that must impact on your income (?). I’m guessing it would increase, though, if more care were taken so there were no spelling or grammatical errors (?)
This is an amazing post with a lot of information. I am hoping to be able to use it to start something for myself.
Does anyone know of a job board for Facebook Advertising? Or maybe a good way to find one? I can’t get past the freelancing content mills on Google.
God damn it James. You are truly awesome.
This seems really useful but it’s mostly focused on already established professionals. Any tips for when you’re just starting out and you don’t really have a portfolio yet?
I work in accounting. Do you know of any sites other than elance and odesk? I always find the sites to be filled with people willing to work for very little money, which I am not.
Thanks so much for sharing this great article. God bless you