In case you are just joining us. This is part four in our five best business models series (you can find parts one, two, and three here), and in this article, we are going to be discussing a business model called freelancing. As an aside, I think for most small businesses freelancing and client consulting are one and the same. Some people might look at this and say, “you know, those are two separate business models,” but in actuality, for most solo and small businesses, the day to day is very much the same, you are servicing clients.
The biggest difference you’ll find is how you deal with clients. Freelancers mostly work on a project basis using marketplaces like Upwork, and Fiverr. Whereas digital marketing consultants, for instance, have clients that are on a month to month basis over a longer period of time, not just project-based like a freelancers tend to do. That, to me, is the primary difference between the two.
That doesn’t mean that those rules are set in stone because you can be a freelancer with longterm clients or a consulting agency with short term projects. However, in general, client consultants are not trying to take on shorter projects, even though the work itself is the same.
In my opinion, the word agency is overused, and most of these “agencies” are just freelancers trying to look bigger than they are. When you get to a place where you actually have employees and payroll etc. then you are no longer a freelancer. Mind you, that’s my opinion, and I’m sure plenty of people will disagree with me, and that’s fine. Since I’m familiarizing you with these business models, I figured I would explain why I group them together.
Freelancing is when you get customers, and you solve their problems. Whether that’s technology, marketing, or sales, it’s all about figuring out what their problem is and helping them fix it. Just like all the other business models online, you have to choose a niche. You have to know what type of person your services are geared towards. One size fits all is for amateurs and broke people. Period.
What you find a lot of times is that you have agencies that want to be a kind of general agency where they do everything. For larger organizations, it can work because the backbone of their company is their sales team. But as I’ve said before, for 99% of businesses, the trick is to specialize.
It’s said that niches, equal riches, and broad equals broke. So if you’re going to go to a dentist, and you need to have oral surgery, do you want to go to a regular dentist, or do you want to go to an oral surgeon?
If you’re having heart trouble, do you want to go to a regular doctor, or do you want to go to a cardiologist? When you do choose to go to these specialists, the oral surgeon and the cardiologist, what ends up happening? You usually have to make an appointment weeks to months in advance. If you want to see a regular dentist, you can generally see them the same or the next day.
If you want to see a regular doctor, you can usually see them the same day, but if you’re going to see a heart specialist, you’re going to wait a while, right? You’re not just getting in to see them, and they’re not calling you up. You’re calling them to say, “Hey, when can I see you?”
That’s what comes along with being a specialist. On top of all of that, what also happens with specialists is the law of supply and demand, you have fewer specialists and more people who want to see them. So they are in demand because there is a smaller amount of the skills and services that they provide, which also means that when you have less of something, it is more valuable.
So being a specialist means that you can charge more money and you can set terms for how things are going to be. The problem is, that most people when they go into this method of making money they’re always chasing after customers or giving them very low pricing and acting like they are the ones who have a need. As a result, customers are the one that can set the terms, and then they end up being very unhappy with the results that client consulting brings them.
I know this for a fact because I’ve been there. I’ve made those mistakes. But when you believe in your product, when you believe in your ability to solve a person’s problem, you are the one that they should be trying to convince to work with them, not the other way around.
The problem is because it’s online and people are working from behind a website, or video. Everyone wants to go out there and say that they are an expert when half the time they don’t know what the heck they’re talking about.
Then they convince people to work with them, and they do a terrible job, and then they lower the standard for everyone. Now customers are expecting to get burned when they work with a digital marketer.
That leads to these businesses going to these corporate agencies. They have good sales teams, but usually, their fulfillment and the quality of the work that they do is terrible because they outsource it overseas or you’re just a number, and they just don’t care enough about their smaller clients. And so the work, if it gets done, is done very poorly.
So once again, the digital marketing space and digital marketers as a whole take another hit. Now we’re in a day and time where it’s challenging to come out and say, I’m a digital marketer and have people take you seriously. That’s why I say it’s so essential to become a specialist. Just like medicine, digital marketing is now so broad that you genuinely do need to be a specialist if you want a better than average chance of succeeding.
Because if you try to do everything. You’re not going to be able to do everything well, and you’re going to get paid less. Unless you work for one of these corporates, or unless you build one of these corporates, which usually, you’ll need a lot of money to do that.
So if you’re going to do freelancing, which is the way I suggest you start your client consulting business. You can go out and, in a weekend, bring yourself up to speed on how to do a particular thing within the digital marketing space.
So let’s suppose you decide you want to be a social media manager. A lot of people can make this step. The reason being is that a lot of people already use social media regularly. That means there’s a high chance that you know how to use YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. If that’s the case, then all you have to do is take the time you’re already spending on that platform and learn a little bit more so you can use it to do marketing for businesses.
You’re probably already familiar with most of the tools that you need to know. You’re just going to focus on doing what you already do, create content, engage commenters, and grow a following for a business that pays you to use the platform you already use all the time.
That’s great because there’s a very low learning curve, and there’s hardly any barrier to entry. You can also go out and purchase a course, or you can go online and figure out what are the best practices for doing marketing in any number of niches.
It could be helping people create YouTube videos, commercials, or running Youtube ads, whatever the case may be. If you’re looking for how to run Google ads for people, Google has a certification program, and it’s free! If you want to run ads on Facebook for people, several reputable guys make Facebook ad courses and things like that.
Facebook even has its own certification course for this. That one costs a couple of hundred dollars, but if you are Facebook certified, you can get work as a full-time Facebook advertiser for some agency, and they’ll probably pay you very well for that skill.
What I’m trying to say with that is there is always a way. Let’s suppose that you know how to do Instagram ads, or you know how to grow and run Facebook groups. That is a marketable skill. There are tons of businesses out there that will pay you to help them build good communities on Facebook, where they can market to their customers regularly because they are part of the group. If you know how or are willing to learn any of the skills mentioned above, you can sell this to local businesses very easily.
Let’s suppose you make a Facebook group about hair and makeup. Once you get a couple of thousand members, you can go around to local hair salons and get them to advertise, and run different promotions to the group. Of course, they will have to pay you for the privilege, not to mention the affiliate opportunities. Now imagine doing this over and over again in different niches or doing it for various local businesses. The possibilities are endless.
Assuming some people don’t have the confidence to do these things off the bat. You can go to upwork.com, create a profile, and start taking the tests that they have to qualify you and see how good you are at a skill.
Then, you’ll find out where it is that you need to improve, and you study and improve. You come back and take the test until you can get up into the 90th percentile. It’s not that hard. We’re talking about a couple of hours worth of work right. Then all you have to do is have a couple of people in your personal network hire you for a few bucks ($10 to $20) on the platform and leave you a positive review. Once you have a few reviews under your belt and you’ve done the actual work that you’re hired for, showcase it in your portfolio, and start offering your services for like five to ten bucks an hour.
I realize that it’s less than minimum wage. But its all part of your plan to get up and running and charging real money for your services. You’re not just going to flip a switch and have success. You have to put in the work.
Once you’ve done a couple of jobs, let’s say five at $5 bucks an hour. Now you can do another ten at $10 an hour, then you can do another ten at $20 an hour, and now you’re up to speed. You’ve got 20-30 reviews under your belt, proving the work, showing that you can, service the customer successfully (not to mention the repeat customers you’ll get) and you have money in the bank from real customers who have paid you, left you reviews and will likely refer you if you ask them to. Win, win, win!
It’s not great money, but your business has taken flight, and now you can take it where you want to go. Plus, you’ve gained good experience, and that is priceless. Now two things will happen. One is you can charge a lot more money for your services, and you can hire an outsourcer to do some of the work for you so you can offer your services to more businesses.
Savvy marketers will tell they’re clients, “Hey, the next time you need work done if you refer me to two customers, I will do the work for you for free.” Now, these business people are sending you qualified customers. All this leads to the rates you charge continuing to increase.
So that’s how you can get started freelancing. Once you’ve been doing freelancing for a while and you’ve developed your skill, you can just focus on just having a couple of clients a month. Charge them $3,000, and hire a couple of virtual assistants to service the customers.
Now all you have to do is focus on generating sales. You talk to five people a day, and you close one, right? If you don’t, you keep going 30, 60, 90 days. By the time you’ve talked to five people a day for 90 days, you’ll probably have more customers than you know what to do with. Even if you’re charging them $3,000 a month.
It sounds hard. But it really isn’t that hard once you’ve spoken with 30 people and offered them your services (always focusing on what their problem is). To make it even easier, you can create a questionnaire, the same basic questions every time. You’re going to go through this same sales script routine with them, every time. You’re going to start to hear the same answers to your questions, the same problems, and the same complaints.
Just remember, you never want to answer their questions. You never want to solve the problem. You’re going to feel compelled to solve their problems. But that’s not what the call is for; the call is to diagnose their problem and make sure that you’re a good fit to work with each other. Some potential customers will try to run the call, and all you have to do is clarify that the call is to diagnose their problem and make sure you are a good fit to work together. If that’s unacceptable to them, you can just politely end the call since they will never give you money anyway.
You only deal with people who are willing to comply with the way that you will manage your strategy session. You will end up memorizing the whole process after some time, and the whole process becomes super easy.
Let’s suppose you’re the kind of person that doesn’t like talking to people, or you don’t feel that you have the confidence to make sales and things like that. Not a problem. Go out, get on Craigslist, and hire someone who’s good at doing that kind of thing. Let’s say you are looking for someone to make sales over the phone, just split your first month’s commission with them. Tell them I’m paying this amount of money per sale. You’ll have a ton of people calling you up.
Of course, you’ll have to go through the process of vetting these people and trying to decide which one you want to work with, calling their references, etc. Ask them for references and call their references. It’ll save you a lot of headaches in the long run. If you know who it is that you’re going to be dealing with.
You draw up a straightforward contract (this is not legal advice) that explains the person will be working with you on a commission-only basis, and when they generate a sale for you and you’ve been paid, then after 30 days, you pay them. You do this to give yourself time in case the client decides to cancel and not payout salespeople who bring in bad sales.
As time goes on, this kind of thing will happen. Sometimes the customer will cancel; you’ll have already paid the commission, but then at that point, you can charge that commission to their next commission check that they have coming, and you can deduct whatever loss was taken (not ideal but what is).
That’s basic sales 101, and it’s one of the many ways that you can very quickly get up and running with a business online because it’s simply providing a service to clients. The best thing is you need very little startup capital to get started. All you really need is a phone and an internet connection.
When you’re trying to make sales, all you have to do is say to yourself, “I’m going to make 30 calls today.” In terms of reaching out to people you have to join all the relevant Facebook and Linkedin groups where your target customers are talking about their issues. Then all you have to do is provide solutions to their questions and problems.
If you can create short videos (you don’t even have to show your face) that answer their questions in detail, that’s even better. You can share that on different social channels or put it in a membership site and charge for access to a library of questions and answer videos related to that niche.
The idea here is to provide amazing value. What results is that it also creates credibility for you because people are going to say “I posted this question in this Facebook group, and this guy made a video and posted that answer to my question in the Facebook group.” How cool is that?
People will always want to reciprocate when you do something nice for them. Returning the favor is human nature, and they also see your expertise and recommend you to others. So right there, that’s the best advertising you can have because not only is that person going to see that video, but many people are going to see that video.
When you’ve done this for a two to three-week period, people will start to know your name and clients will begin to reach out to you. Obviously, you can just do it with a text response, but if you make the videos, those videos will have a much higher value.
You can make one video per day, and you can create an offer where you say, “Hey, I’m doing Q&A’s and if you have a question, just tell me, and I’m going to make a video to answer your question.” Then you can take that Q&A series and charge people money to access your Facebook group or to access your membership site.
For instance, you can charge $25 a month, and each day answer one new question from the group with a quick five-minute solution to a problem. Sometimes you’ll get questions that you don’t know the answer to; you can use this as an opportunity to learn something new or pick a different question because you’ll get a ton of different questions to choose from.
Eventually, you’ll realize there’s like 30 or 40 questions that people always ask. Since you keep getting those same questions and you keep answering them with different examples, your level of expertise continues to increase. Meanwhile, people are paying for you to educate them and yourself.
After a while, what ends up happening is that you put out so much content helping other people, that you will become a thought leader in your industry. When you say, “if you have more questions, just DM me.” Your DM’s are going to fill up with potential clients. Then you can tell them you have a whole list of questions that you can check out on my website, and it’s just $1 for the first 7 days or whatever. So these are some examples of the way you can start a membership site while working on getting clients for your freelancing business.
In our next article of the series, we’ll be discussing how to run a membership site. See you soon.