I recently finished reading Stop Thinking Like a Freelancer by Liam Veitch. The author is a web developer who grew his ‘doing okay’ freelance business into a million-dollar operation. In the book, Veitch begins with a story of his freelance failure which turns in to a silver-lining corporate job where he learns how to actually run a business. Learning the skill of running a business is a crucial step that most freelancers miss. Many freelancers are doing nothing more than engaging in a hobby that almost pays the bills.
Stop Thinking Like a Freelancer is a quick read that will help you stop running a ‘hobby’ and step in to the world of running a business. The business world is where you need to be if you want to enjoy a life that’s more than just scraping by.
The core of the book is centered around 5 phases of running and growing your business.
1. Get evolution ready
An evolution-ready business owner has foundations for success, she understands what her vision is, she has mapped out a strategy to get there, and she understands that “getting better” never stops. – Stop Thinking Like a Freelancer
The core of Phase One is addressing your mindset and building a strategy to move your business forward. It starts by realizing you run a business and starting to act like it by setting goals and creating a plan to achieve those goals.
If you’re not ready for evolution then you’re not ready for the rest of the cycle.
2. Repel bad apples, attract dream clients
I have an inconvenient truth to put to you. If you have lower-paying, frustrating, impatient, throw-them-out-the-window type clients, it’s your fault. – Stop Thinking Like a Freelancer
I love how Section Two of the book begins — with a challenge for the reader/freelancer to start taking responsibility. All of the freelancers I talk to who are struggling have things ‘happen to them’ and seem to feel helpless when it comes to controlling their circumstances. If you’re one of those, remember — you said yes to that bad client.
In the second phase of building a business, Veitch describes how to position your business for your ideal client. That comes down to you doing intentional marketing for your ideal clients, once you’ve identified them, and saying no to the ones that don’t meet the criteria you’ve defined.
3. Multiply exposure, build your platform
I know the feeling of hopelessly refreshing the screen of a virtually blank Google Analytics profile, only to see the blue-line chart keep looking more like low-lying hills than an epic mountain range. – Stop Thinking Like a Freelancer
How many of you blog…weekly? Yup almost no one.
If you blog, are you actually writing content that answers the questions your clients ask? I’m even at fault on this second one. Sure I write lots for my peers here, but I’ve slacked a bunch on writing for my clients on my agency site which is something I’m changing in 2015.
Veitch writes that Phase Three is all about generating content that your clients want to read. If you do that you’re going to be in the top 1% of businesses that actually practice what they preach, adopting the same habits for success that they recommend to their clients.
4. Level out the income roller-coaster, build predictability
Some weeks are great, but in others you feel the pinch. The difficulty is that you want the good weeks to be more frequent, but instead it’s more bad weeks than good. This up-and-down uncertainty is usually the reason freelancers give for throwing in the towel – Stop Thinking Like a Freelancer
I’ve been there and many of you are there.
Phase Four is all about building some more predictability into your income streams. Maybe you offer backup and recovery services for $100/month. If you sign on 10 clients for that service, you’re $1000/month closer to your income goal for the month.
Maybe it’s clients on a retainer for conversion work (A/B testing on their site), or maybe it’s something totally different like some other product (Hrm like I sell here?).
Start thinking creatively about recurring services you offer and sell some of your by-products. More clients on recurring plans means more predictability in your model.
5. Loosen the reins, work less, earn more
Freelancers wear lots of hats. We occupy every role in our businesses. It’s exhausting. We’re responsible for sales, marketing, customer service, production, accounts and everything in between. – Stop Thinking Like a Freelancer
Phase Five is all about building a team to do some of the work. I’ve got a great assistant that sets up my emails for the email list after I give her content. She also enters all my receipts and sends out many of my invoices.
I’ve automated my appointment scheduling with Calendly and send those receipts above from Evernote to Redbooth via Zapier.
This phase is all about where to do that in your business. It talks a bit about outsourcing but can’t be as complete as a book like The Virtual Assistant Solution though you do get a great starting point in a few pages of content.
Wrapping the book up
Veitch wraps up the book by addressing 10 mistakes he believes he made in his first run at freelancing. Simply avoiding these will help you run a better business.
Two of the failures I see all the time in other freelancers are:
1. Magic Bullet
This is where you sign up for 9 courses and 12 email lists, then you experiment with bits and pieces of advice from all these different sources, looking for that one solution that will finally help you turn the corner in your business.
There is no magic bullet. Instead of constantly searching for one, pick one well-known program or strategy and stick to it for a year or two. Stick to your specialty and keep telling people about it.
Then you’re going to win.
2. Ambiguous Goals
Sure you want to make ‘more’ next year, but how much is more? Technically if you make $20k this year and $21k next year you made ‘more’ but is that really the goal you had? Did you invest the time and thought to come up with a real number for how much more you wanted to make?
I’ve learned that many freelancers avoid setting concrete goals because if they miss them, they feel like they failed.
Stop coddling yourself, set a goal and make a plan to hit that goal.
Yup I recommend this book for freelancers of all levels and types. Even if you think of yourself as a business owner and not just a freelancer you’re still going to pick up a few tips which will help you run your business better. The aggregate of all those tips you pick up is how your business becomes extra awesome.