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“It’s One Of My Favorite Places To Visit During The Work Week…”

Here’s what Bryan Strawser, Principal & CEO, of Bryghtpath, has to say about Freelance Camp (https://freelance.camp), my community for freelancers and consultants:

I was concerned that perhaps I didn’t have the experience or approach as a freelancer to participate and add value in the forum. I’m a little different than many others in Freelance Camp in that I’m running a small-sized “boutique” firm.

It turned out that my hesitation was completely unwarranted. I’ve learned much from everyone here at Freelance Camp, regardless of the size or specialization of their work. It’s one of my favorite places to visit during the work week — and I always feel welcome.

I like that the forum has grown thoughtfully with carefully vetted membership — this is led to a strong sense of community that I believe serves the forum well.

I enjoy being a part of a safe discussion forum where we’re all focused on personal and professional success. We’ve gotten tired of working for others and have built our own niche as business owners and freelancers. Everyone brings their own unique perspective and personality to the discussion.

I would highly recommend Freelance Camp to others. Whether you’re just branching out on your own, or you’re an experienced freelancer or consultant with a decade or more under your belt, this is a highly valuable community — come join us!

— Bryan

Applications for Freelance Camp (https://freelance.camp/) are now open. If you’re interested in joining, you’ll want to:

  1. Visit https://freelance.camp/
  2. Fill out the application form
  3. Reply to the follow-up email from me

Excelsior!

Kai

p.s., if anyone asks, your invitation code is jade.

Think Like A Prospect

Stop thinking like an expert. Don’t show off to your prospects.

Prospects have their own problems.

Focus on those problems

You want to be writing, talking, publishing, sharing, and answering questions about the problems your prospects are facing.

Prospects care about solving their problems.

If you want to help your prospects solve their problems, then you want to deeply understand two things:

  1. The problem they’re facing
  2. Their hopes, fears, and dreams

Once you understand these two things, you’re equipped to help them solve their problem.

  • You know where they currently are – the problem they’re facing
  • You know exactly what they’re worried about – their fears
  • You know where they want to be – their hopes and dreams

As a consultant, your job is to help your prospect better see how to get from where they currently are to where they want to be, avoiding what they’re worried about.

“Small Business” Positioning

It sort of makes sense, right?

  1. You, as a consultant née freelancer, solve an expensive problem for your clients
  2. The more businesses you market to, the more prospects you should be able to reach
  3. The more prospects you reach, the more you’ll be able to sell, and the more money you’ll make
  4. Therefore, it makes sense to market yourself to  A S   M A N Y   B U S I N E S S E S  as possible, and
  5. 🏦 💰 💎 🤑, right?

Not quite.

If you’re marketing to everyone, you’re diluting your marketing message and making it relevant to no one. 

The #1 most common positioning issue I see as a business coach for freelancers and consultants?

Consultants picking too broad of a target market:

I help businesses…

I help small businesses

I help startups

Too broad!

In “The Secrets of Consulting,” Jerry Weinberg shared his Law of Raspberry Jam:

The wider you spread it, the thinner it gets

The Law of Raspberry Jam applies everywhere in your business.

And it especially applies to your marketing.

When you market yourself to everyone, you’re spreading your marketing too wide!

The more people you try to reach with your messaging, the less effective your messaging will be. Why? Because you’re trying to appeal to more people across more industries, diluting your messaging.

The wider you spread your marketing, the thinner your marketing gets.

Let’s get specific about who you’re reaching

Let’s say you decide “Hey, Kai, love the letters, but I’m going after small businesses with my marketing!”

Please pause for a moment and consider the scope and complexity of your goal here.

In 2010 there were 27.9 million small businesses in the US(Source: SBA.gov, https://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/FAQ_Sept_2012.pdf)

What’s a ‘small business’? Under 500 employees.

That’s 27.9 million small businesses from many different industries.

If you’re marketing yourself to “small businesses,” you’re setting yourself up for a long, uphill challenge.

The challenge? Standing out!

How can you even stand out in that situation?

You can’t.

When you spread your marketing so wide, when you’re trying to reach everyone, you end up diluting your marketing message and reaching no one.

Picking a target market/niche for your positioning and marketing is about focusing your marketing efforts on a specific, small market.

To use the comparison that my Excellent! friend, consultant, and educator in arms Phillip Morgan (https://philipmorganconsulting.com) shared with me:

Positioning is about making yourself a big fish in a small pond

When you focus your marketing on a specific, small target market, you’re marketing yourself in a smaller pond.

This means it’s easier for you to:

  • Learn your target market’s language
  • Understand your target market’s needs
  • Establish your authority as an expert
  • Identify “Expensive Problems” plaguing your prospects

As you become the big fish, you become the natural choice for your prospects.

Don’t accidentally dilute your marketing message by focusing on everyone or too many people.

Focus on a small, specific market.

What should you do?

When in doubt, ask yourself, “What industry am I trying to reach?”

Is there a particular type of industry that comes to mind that you want to work with? That you enjoy? Focusing on a small industry will be much more helpful with your marketing.

Pick a specific industry. Have conversations with ~10-12 people in that industry. Do they work with consultants? On what types of problems? How do they find consultants?

This market research will help you decide which industry to pick for your target market and positioning.

Email Marketing for Freelancers and Consultants

Starting an email list and working at email marketing has been one of the most valuable things I’ve done for my business as a consultant in the last five years.

Email marketing is one of the most valuable channels for freelancers.

Imagine having a list of 100, 500, or 5,000+ subscribers who are interested in what you’re writing about and considering working with you.

You can email these people and tell them about a new service offering you have that solves a painful problem in their business or a short-term opening in your calendar that is available.

Email marketing can print money for your business. But email marketing is a long game.

You don’t start email marketing today and in two weeks have a 5,000 person list eager to hire you. You continually work at building a list, writing consistently, and getting subscribers.

You start working on email marketing today, work at it consistently, keep it up even when you feel it isn’t going anywhere, and see results over time.

“Hey, it’s like going to the gym!” you might be thinking.

It is quite like going to the gym, my friend.

  • It’s one of the most valuable things you can do
  • It’ll pay dividends for you over time
  • In a few weeks or months, you’ll start to notice small positive changes
  • In a few years, you’ll see large positive changes

I’m writing you this letter to answer the question “What do I need to focus on to get started with email marketing?”

If you’re already doing emails marketing for your business, excellent! You’ll pick up a few tips in here. Hit reply and let me know what questions you have about growing your email marketing.

“Why email marketing?”

Email marketing is great because it gives you an avenue to develop and build a trusting relationship with prospects who aren’t ready to work with you today but will be ready to work with you in a few weeks or months.

Email marketing gives another path for prospects to interact with you.

Email marketing lets people who visit your website but aren’t ready to apply to work with you or schedule an appointment to speak with you subscribe to your email list and learn more about you, the outcomes clients experience working with you, the services you offer, and how you think.

You’re giving visitors the option to sign up for more information from you before applying to work with you. A first date before marriage.

Email marketing is great for helping you:

  • Exercise your writing muscle
  • Exercise your critical thinking muscle
  • Build up a body of work

When should I do this?

If you’re searching for your next client today and are facing a lack of high-quality clients in the short-term, then, my friend, I do not recommend email marketing for you today. There are more valuable short-term actions you should focus on:

If you have the time, the revenue, and the desire to focus on something a medium- to long-term, then email marketing is a marketing strategy you should consider.

Email marketing will pay out for your business but will take months of effort.

Not hard, backbreaking effort.

Showing up and writing and hitting that send button even when you don’t feel like it.

(Hey, like the gym again!)

It’s valuable to get started with the basics of email marketing early on and build a list over time.

It will take awhile to see results. Will email marketing immediately generate prospects, leads, projects, and cash for you by sending an email?

No.

But it’ll move you in the direction of generating prospects, leads, projects, and cash for your business.

It takes awhile to see results. That’s why focusing on the basics and then consistently writing is important. That builds the core habit. Everything else is an optimization on top of that.

Once you have the basics set up, then you can focus on the writing.

Once you have the habit of writing developed, you can look at other parts of the system, like:

  • How to get more subscribers on your email list
  • How to better convert subscribers into prospects
  • How to better educate, inform, and entertain over email

But for now, at the core, if you’re looking to get started with email marketing, there are only a few things you truly need to do.

What you don’t need to do

Here’s a list of things that you 100% do not need to think about for the next, say, 6 months.

  • Lead magnets, creating them and optimizing them
  • Free Email Courses, building them and marketing them
  • Paid advertising to get people on your email list
  • Segmenting, split-testing, and personalization
  • Elaborate multi-part story-driven campaigns that lead buyers to purchase a product or service

A lot of the optimizations and techniques you encounter online do work — but are best for someone who already has the basics on lock:

  • Their email marketing software set up
  • A consistent habit of writing and sending
  • A list they’re working on growing

Email marketing is valuable to start with earlier rather than later (and it’s never too late to start). Write consistently. Publish consistently.

If you do that, you’ll start to see initial results.

Then, once you have the writing and publishing habit on lock, you can start asking and answering the more advanced questions about optimization and growth.

But until you have the habit of making the clackity-clack noise and sending a letter to your subscribers with frequency, don’t think about the more advanced stuff. It’s a distraction from doing the actual work.

What you actually need to do, a list

Here’s the simple list I wish I had 5 years ago. It would have saved me a lot of time, frustration, and hassle getting started with email marketing.

Step 1: Sign up for an email marketing tool  

I recommend MailChimp (https://mailchimp.com) or Drip (https://kaidavis.com/loves/drip/, https://drip.com).

They’re both affordable and easy to use.

Drip is more complex and a bit more powerful. MailChimp is simpler and a little easier to get started with. Both are great. You can always switch later.

Step 2: Make it easy for people to sign up for your newsletter

You’ll want to make it easy for people that find your website (prospects, clients, friends, colleagues, etc.) to sign up for your email list, so add your opt-in form to:

  • Your homepage
  • A standalone newsletter page (“/newsletter/“)

And, if you have the time and the know-how, the individual articles on your site.

Great! Now someone who shows up at your website can opt-in and subscribe. But what will you send your subscribers?

Step 3: Write down ten ideas for short (500-750 word) articles

These can:

  • Answer a common client question
  • Explain the benefits and/or outcomes of one of your services
  • Promote a case study of a client that had great results with your service
  • Share a contrarian opinions about your industry

That’s your ‘ideas’ list. Those are short articles you’ll write and send to your list.

Step 4: Write three practice articles.

Take one of the ideas you identified and write 500-750 words on it. Now do it again with another two articles.

You may think your first few articles are terrible. That’s okay!

You’ll get better over time.

Don’t be afraid to send the article because it isn’t perfect. Better to ship it and move onto the next thing.

Remember the directive:

The point of being done is not to finish but to get other things done

Practice writing. Get done with those first few articles so you can get onto writing other things.

Step 5: Email 10+ friends, clients, colleagues, connections, etc., and let them know that you have an email list.

You’ll want to tell them:

  • You’ve starting an email newsletter
  • Weekly, you’ll be sending out a short article answering a common question about your industry or specialization or teaching something new and interesting
  • Link them to your newsletter page so they can sign up

Step 6: Send the first article to your subscribers.

It doesn’t matter if you have 1, 10, or 100 subscribers. What matters is developing the habit of showing up, writing, and sending something.

Step 7: Repeat writing and sending every week.

The goal is to get consistent with the writing and the sending. The goal at this point is not to break X subscribers.

Every week, write a thing. Then, send it to your subscribers.

I have a colleague who is a consultant who made $X,000/month off of a small <200 person email list.

The secret? They were people in her target market who matched her positioning and who were interested in the information she was sharing and the work she did.

When she mentioned that she had time available for a project, people replied saying “I’d love to work together. How do I get on your calendar?” and she was able to convert readers from her email list into prospects and clients.

That happened because she was consistent about writing and sending.

That built a relationship with her subscribers and kept her top of mind.

When she had an opening, or a prospect had a need, she was the person they immediately thought of.

What should I remember when I do this?

  1. Building an email list is a long game. The two most important things to focus on is being consistent about writing and sending.
  2. There are a ton of things to optimize and tweak over time but forget about all of that for now. You want to focus on the habit of writing and sending to your subscribers.
  3. First comes communication. Then automation. Then personalization. When you’re getting started with email marketing, focus on communication. Ignore automation and personalization until you’re ready for them.
  4. Develop the habit of writing and hitting send. Even if you feel like an email is below average. Even if it’s been a crappy week. It doesn’t matter. What matters is writing and hitting the send button consistently.

Excelsior!

Kai

Charge More

Let’s look at four different ways to charge more for your work.

Raise your rates

Charge more. Take your prices. Now raise them.

If you’re writing Proposals…

If you send proposals, on your next proposal, raise the prices you’re quoting by 20%. Just raise ‘em. That’s it.

See if the new prices stick.

If they do, great, that’s your new minimum rate. If they don’t, understand the objection the customer had and adjust.

If you’re billing hourly…

If you have an hourly rate, raise it. Here’s how I did it whenever I raised my hourly rate:

  • I took my hourly rate
  • I increased it by 25% on my websites and in all new proposals
  • I kept billing my existing clients at the existing rate
  • When someone approached me for work, I quoted them the new, higher rate

If you have fixed prices for your services…

If you have fixed prices for your services (Example: https://kaidavis.com/work-with-me/), then increase them. Edit your website and raise your prices.

All new work is at the new prices.

What happens if someone says “Hey, a month ago your price for this service was $750. Now it’s $1,000. What’s up with that?”

You simply say:

Yes, I raise the price due to demand and overwhelming positive response.

How much should you charge?

I don’t know. It’s your business.

How about this: You should probably be charging 25% more than you’re currently charging.

I remember talking with Patrick McKenzie (Patio11 on the interwebs) on Hacker News years ago.

I mentioned I was going to raise my hourly rate to $100/hour (from $75/hour) at the start of the next year.

patio11: What will change between now and then justifying the higher rate?

Kai: I don’t know.

patio11: Then raise your rates now.

If you are waiting for permission to raise your rates, first, you don’t need permission from anyone. It’s your business, friend! Raise your rates! Charge more.

Second, if you feel that you do need permission, then I give you permission.

You have permission. Charge more.

Raise your rates.

Minimum Billing Units

How do you bill your clients?

  • Hourly? $X/hr for each hour you’ve worked?
  • Daily? $X/day.
  • Weekly? $X/week.
  • Per-project?

One question that freelancers often ask is “How can I attract better clients with bigger projects.”

What I’ve discovered is that by increasing your minimum billing unit (the smallest unit you bill in), you’re able to better pre-qualify prospects and projects and work on better, higher paying projects.

What does this look like in practice?

Go from billing hourly to billing in half-days or full-days or weeks.

Let’s talk about making the jump from billing hourly to billing half-days.

If you’re billing hourly, you can start quoting a half-day rate to your prospects. Just take your hourly rate and multiply it by 4!

That’s now your minimum project size and minimum billing unit.

When someone asks what your rate is for a project, you can say that the minimum project size you accept is a half-day project and you bill in half-day increments.

This small adjustment to the minimum project size that you’ll accept has a range of positive effects:

You’re pricing yourself for the larger projects that you want

By positioning yourself as accepting half-day (or day, week, etc.) projects, you’re positioning yourself for larger projects.

If someone needs, say, a logo uploaded on their site, great! You can help with that. You have a new rate for this work and the client gets to decide if they want to work together.

Which brings us to the second point….

Second, you’re leaving the value decision in the hands of a client.

Let’s say that someone approaches you with a small task. In all honesty, it will take you 30 minutes to do.

If you’re billing hourly, you’d quote this as an hour project, do it, bill it, and be done with it.

But if you’ve followed Kai’s advice, you’ve raised your minimum project size (your minimum billing unit) to, say, a half-day or day.

Now when this prospect comes, if you’re interested in the project, you can say that you’d love to work on the project.

Your minimum project size is a half-day and this will be a half-day project. A half-day is $X.

Now the client is able to make a value based decision.

The client has two factors known to them:

  • The price, which you’ve quoted
  • The value (quantifiable and qualitative) to them in having this project completed

If Value exceeds Price, then it makes sense for them to work with you.

“But,” you might be thinking, “Isn’t this just a 30-minute project?”

Yes!

And your minimum project size is a half-day.

So if the client thinks “Excellent, we need this taken care of, we can afford this price, and the value in getting this completed is very high.” then they have determined that value > price and should move ahead with the project.

Where it can feel confusing for us, as freelancers and consultants, is balancing the fact that this is a 30-minute project with charging a half-day rate.

And that, dear friend, is because you have confused the cost, price, and value.

The cost of a project is the cost, to us, in doing the work.

The price of the project is what we quote the client to do the work (price > cost).

The vale of a project is the value to the client in having the project completed (value > price > cost).

As a freelancer, it is very easy for us to understand the costs and prices associated with the project. 30-minutes of work. A half-day of our time.

But what we lack is an understanding of the value of the project to the client.

This small 30-minute project? While it may look small and tiny to us, perhaps it’s something the client has struggled to do themselves.

Maybe they have a high amount of quantifiable or qualitative value attached to this project being completed.

Perhaps they’ve spent hundreds or thousands of dollars already working with other providers and they’re struggling to get it finished.

Who knows?

The client knows.

Which is way the decision on working together is in the client’s hands. They’re the party best equipped to compare value and price and make the decision:

“Is there enough value in this project for us to invest in it?”

When you raise your minimum billing unit and project size, you’re optimizing for larger projects. You’re charging more by optimizing your pricing and billing for larger projects.

If someone comes with a small project and you say “Great, it’ll be a half-day, that’s $X.” Now they can decide if the value exceeds the price. If it does, great! You just sold a half-day project.

If the client decides that the value is less than the price, then they will pass. Great! You just avoided a smaller project!

And that’s what you want.

You want to be optimizing for better, larger projects.

And one of the easiest ways to do that is to increase your minimum billing unit / minimum project size.

So, what should you do now?

If you want to work on larger projects, better projects, or higher paying projects, raise your minimum billing unit.

If you’ve been charging hourly, start charging by the day or half-day. When a prospect comes to work with you, say “Great! My minimum project size is a half-day and I bill in half-day increments.”

If you bill in half-days already, try moving your minimum billing unit to a full day.

If you bill daily, try switching your minimum billing unit to a week.

What will be the effect be?

When a prospect comes to you with a project, you can — early in the conversation — let them know that you don’t bill hourly, your minimum project size is half-days/days/weeks. That’s the smallest amount you bill by.

If the project doesn’t have enough value for the prospect, then the prospect will be able to recognize — early on — that this isn’t the right fit, and go with another freelancer.

And if the prospect sees the value in the project, they’ll be saying ‘Sure, we need this done, let’s get started!’

Raising your minimum billing unit makes it easier for you to attract larger, better paying projects.

So, go and do it today. If you bill hourly, quote a half-day rate on your next project.

Offer Options

Is it a yes/no decision to work with you or a choice between how a client can work with you?

A proposal with one option, like:

Work with us. $X.

Is a choice between two things: working with you or the status quo.

There is a magic in offering multiple options to work with you.

When you offer the prospect different options (a ‘choice of yeses’), you make it easier for them to decide how to work together.

Instead of it being a yes (work with you) / no (do not work with you) decision, it is a choice between different options:

  • Work with you on a small project, including A and B
  • Work with you on a medium project, also including C and D
  • Work with you on a large project, also including E, F, G, and H

Now, for the client, working with you is a choice between different ways to work with you, not a choice between working with you — or not working with you.

How do you incorporate this into your business, your proposals, and your quotes?

First, look at your ten most recent quotes/proposals/estimates. Whatever you sent the client to review and approve.

Did you include a single option (be it hourly, a defined project, a weekly rate, etc.) or multiple options for them to decide between?

If you include just a single option in your proposals, you will benefit from switching to including multiple options for the prospect to decide between.

By doing this, you will increase the value of an average project for your business.

Here’s how:

If you go from an option of:

Work with us. $X

to

Option 1. $X

Option 2. $Y

Option 3. $Z

(where Z > Y > X)

Some percentage of prospects will see the value in Option 3 and be able to afford it and pick it. Some will do the same, but for Option 2. And some for Option 1.

Going from offering one option to presenting a prospect with multiple opportunities to work with you, at different values and price points, will increase the value of your average project.

But how many options should you offer?

In a recent discussion on Freelance Camp (https://freelance.camp), a community for freelancers and consultants, it came up that 3 option proposals performed the best for a range of reasons.

When I write proposals or quotes for work, I always try to write three option quotes:

  • Option 1: The solution to the core need/problem they’re experiencing ($X)
  • Option 2: Something more and different, providing more value in addition to what’s included in Option 1 ($Y)
  • Option 3: The big option. Something more and different, providing much, much more value than what’s included in Option 1 or Option 2 ($Z)

What I’ve found, most often — and this is a good thing — is that when you send a 3-option proposal, the prospects take the time to ask questions about the options. And, often, they’ll say “We love option 1 and this part of option 3. Can you put together a custom option?”

And now you’re having a conversation with the prospect about crafting an option for that’s tuned to their needs and situation.

At a higher price point than Option 1 alone.

What’s to lose?

Nothing.

Start using tiers and multiple options in your proposals. Increase the average value of a project to your business.

Should you offer options in your proposals?

Readers wrote back to share their thoughts:

I just wanted to reply with a hearty “YES” to your email about Options. I’ve been doing this since day one of my consulting business and it works amazingly well. The two key benefits I see are 1) I’ve almost never had anyone negotiate with me on price. If they don’t have much money they just choose Option 1 and 2) The exercise of creating the options forces me to think about how I could add more value to the client. — Andrew W.

and

It’s so funny, ever since I started adding multiple options to proposals (which I only write for projects worth the time of writing a proposal) – people always seem to pick the more expensive option. — Dylan K.

Adding options to your proposals is a solid strategy, my friend. Don’t just take my word from it, Andrew and Dylan both speak to the value of offering your client multiple options.

Upsells

You may already be familiar with up-sells. Here’s the core concept:

When purchasing something from you, the buyer is also presented with the option to purchase an additional thing for an additional fee.

“Would you like fries with that?” is a great example.

The customer has already decided that they’re going to get a burger. The customer is then presented with the option to purchase an additional item that makes the sale more profitable.

How upselling can make you more money as a freelancer

We talked about offering options in a proposal:

When I write proposals or quotes for work, I always try to write three option quotes:

  • Option 1: The solution to the core need/problem they’re experiencing ($X)
  • Option 2: Something more and different, providing more value in addition to what’s included in Option 1 ($Y)
  • Option 3: The big option. Something more and different, providing much, much more value than what’s included in Option 1 or Option 2 ($Z)

You can see this in action when you order a copy of Podcast Outreach, my book on how to get more leads for your freelancing or consulting business by appearing on podcasts as a guest expert:

==> https://davisindustries.samcart.com/products/podcast-outreach

And you can consider options as a form of an upsell, absolutely.

But what if I told you there were more and different strategies you could use to add upsells to your projects?

Upsell Strategy #1

When the client decides on an option for a project, then ask them if they want to add a support plan to the project.

What does the support plan look like? Here’s a general example to build off of:

  • Dedicated access to you or someone on your team over Slack, email, or phone
  • A fixed duration. “Three Months” instead of a recurring, month-to-month, ongoing engagement
  • Calls at fixed, scheduled times (once every three weeks, say) to answer any questions that they have and discuss the results that they’re seeing from the project

Does this work for every type of project?

No.

But some of you reading this are thinking “Hm, you know what, I bet I could have pitched my last client on that!” and this upsell strategy is for you.

If you’re providing strategic advice or a one-off service that the client then monitors to see how it’s going (say, a website optimization or launch) where your advice/insight/support would help, then this upsell strategy makes sense for your business.

Upsell Strategy #2

Present the client with new, additional options during the project.

Imagine this: the client hires you for a project. It’s going great.

You have a call with the client, and they’re ecstatic, couldn’t be happier.

If you said “Hey, would you also like this additional outcome? Because I can make that happen.” what would they say?

Most likely, yes, honestly.

I’ve been in that position many times when I’ve hired consultants, freelancers, and contractors for my business and it has worked on me every single time.

As the business owner, my mental state at that point is “I have found the golden goose! These eggs are amazing!”

As the client, if the consultant at that point presents me with a few additional opportunities for investment, I am likely to say yes.

This is the “In-Project” upsell. You can use this during a project after a big win to present the client with other opportunities to work together.

Upsell Strategy #3

Present the client with additional options to work together at the end of the project.

As a consultant, at this point, we’ve had a chance to look ‘inside’ our client’s business.

We understand their needs, their pains, the additional outcomes they’re looking for.

And that puts us in a gosh-darn good position to pitch them on additional ways we can work together.

My first freelancing gig after I quit my day job started off as a 10-hour/week $25/hr project.

I turned that into a 35-hour/week $55/hour project over 12-months by consistently presenting the client with options for additional things I could do to help them grow, make more money, or save money.

(Looking back now, I can see how I much I was undercharging them. Oy.)

Over time, I found enough recurring work with that client to have built a stable base of work.

Small project by small project, I presented the client with options to add more recurring pieces to our work together.

At the end of each project you work on, have a project wrap-up call with the client. (That’s a bonus tip. Start doing that no matter what.)

On that call, present the client with options for three different projects you can work on next that will help the client’s business.

Will every client say “Great! Let’s start with this one next!” when you use this strategy?

No.

But some will.

Even if just one out of ten clients picks an additional project to work on, what would that mean for your business?

In my experience, when I first implemented this strategy in my business, I had a 1/3 conversion rate.

One out of every three times I used this strategy, I sold the client on a new project.

This works best with projects that are related to the main project in some way (“We redid the copy on the landing page — now let’s look at the sales funnel!” or “We built that app, but what are you doing for backups?”).

Try these strategies and see which work best for you.

And if you’ve used any of these strategies in your own business, write back and let me know how they’ve worked. I love hearing from you.

 

Do Less

I keep a list of directives on my computer. They’re directives to live by, consult, modify, and adapt, as necessary. The order is irrelevant (#28 is as important as #1); however, these are the top three.

  1. Treat yourself with love.
  2. Do less.
  3. What if it were easy?

Let’s talk about Directive #2: “Do Less.”

There is an obsession with doing more, more, and more.

Where is the voice saying “If you’re comfortable with where you are, the projects you’re working on, the clients you’re working with, if you’re enjoying all of that, just keep on doing what’s working and forget ‘more'”?

I want to help you get more clients, better clients, higher paying clients — but only to the extent that more, better paying, higher paying clients let you take time off to spend doing the things you enjoy doing in this world. Time spent on hobbies. relationships, and activities outside of work.

There is this invisible script — this mind rot — that I see infesting the minds of many business owners. The mind rot of ‘More!’

  • We need more clients!
  • We need more revenue!
  • We need more subscribers!

To which I, often, respond: why?

Growth is good. But growth’s for growth’s sake — I don’t buy it.

If you’re happy with where you are, with where your business is, with how you’re doing as a business owner, why focus on doing more? What do you actually gain by doing more? What would more clients, more revenue, or more prospects actually mean for your business? What would change in your life as a result of that growth?

If the answer is ‘I don’t know,’ then why not do less?

  • Calculate who your least profitable clients are. Fire them. Make space to work on your business
  • Identify your least profitable service offerings. Stop offering them. Delete them from your website. You don’t do that anymore.
  • Figure out the most profitable, most successful marketing channels for your business. Double down on those. Exclude the new hotness.

Let me leave you with this pair of questions to think on. Email me (kai@kaidavis.com) and share your thoughts and answers, if you’d like.

  • What is your vision of a successful business for 2018? What does that look like for you?
  • What’s one thing you’re currently doing that you feel you don’t need to?

Charge More: “Minimum Billing Units”

How do you bill your clients?

  • Hourly? $X/hr for each hour you’ve worked?
  • Daily? $X/day.
  • Weekly? $X/week.
  • Per-project?

One question that freelancers often ask is “How can I attract better clients with bigger projects.”

What I’ve discovered is that by increasing your minimum billing unit (the smallest unit you bill in), you’re able to better pre-qualify prospects and projects and work on better, higher paying projects.

What does this look like in practice?

Go from billing hourly to billing in half-days or full-days or weeks.

Let’s talk about making the jump from billing hourly to billing half-days.

If you’re billing hourly, you can start quoting a half-day rate to your prospects. Just take your hourly rate and multiply it by 4!

That’s now your minimum project size and minimum billing unit.

When someone asks what your rate is for a project, you can say that the minimum project size you accept is a half-day project and you bill in half-day increments.

This small adjustment to the minimum project size that you’ll accept has a range of positive effects:

First, you’re pricing yourself for the larger projects that you want.

By positioning yourself as accepting half-day (or day, week, etc.) projects, you’re positioning yourself for larger projects.

If someone needs, say, a logo uploaded on their site, great! You can help with that. You have a new rate for this work and the client gets to decide if they want to work together.

Which brings us to the second point….

Second, you’re leaving the value decision in the hands of a client.

Let’s say that someone approaches you with a small task. In all honesty, it will take you 30 minutes to do.

If you’re billing hourly, you’d quote this as an hour project, do it, bill it, and be done with it.

But if you’ve followed Kai’s advice, you’ve raised your minimum project size (your minimum billing unit) to, say, a half-day or day.

Now when this prospect comes, if you’re interested in the project, you can say that you’d love to work on the project.

Your minimum project size is a half-day and this will be a half-day project. A half-day is $X.

Now the client is able to make a value based decision.

The client has two factors known to them:

  • The price, which you’ve quoted
  • The value (quantifiable and qualitative) to them in having this project completed

If Value exceeds Price, then it makes sense for them to work with you.

“But,” you might be thinking, “Isn’t this just a 30-minute project?”

Yes!

And your minimum project size is a half-day.

So if the client thinks “Excellent, we need this taken care of, we can afford this price, and the value in getting this completed is very high.” then they have determined that value > price and should move ahead with the project.

Where it can feel confusing for us, as freelancers and consultants, is balancing the fact that this is a 30-minute project with charging a half-day rate.

And that, dear friend, is because you have confused the cost, price, and value.

The cost of a project is the cost, to us, in doing the work.

The price of the project is what we quote the client to do the work (price > cost).

The value of a project is the value to the client in having the project completed (value > price > cost).

As a freelancer, it is very easy for us to understand the costs and prices associated with the project. 30-minutes of work. A half-day of our time.

But what we lack is an understanding of the value of the project to the client.

This small 30-minute project? While it may look small and tiny to us, perhaps it’s something the client has struggled to do themselves.

Maybe they have a high amount of quantifiable or qualitative value attached to this project being completed.

Perhaps they’ve spent hundreds or thousands of dollars already working with other providers and they’re struggling to get it finished.

Who knows?

The client knows.

Which is way the decision on working together is in the client’s hands. They’re the party best equipped to compare value and price and make the decision:

“Is there enough value in this project for us to invest in it?”

When you raise your minimum billing unit and project size, you’re optimizing for larger projects. You’re charging more by optimizing your pricing and billing for larger projects.

If someone comes with a small project and you say “Great, it’ll be a half-day, that’s $X.” Now they can decide if the value exceeds the price. If it does, great! You just sold a half-day project.

If the client decides that the value is less than the price, then they will pass. Great! You just avoided a smaller project!

And that’s what you want.

You want to be optimizing for better, larger projects.

And one of the easiest ways to do that is to increase your minimum billing unit / minimum project size.

So, what should you do now?

If you want to work on larger projects, better projects, or higher paying projects, raise your minimum billing unit.

If you’ve been charging hourly, start charging by the day or half-day. When a prospect comes to work with you, say “Great! My minimum project size is a half-day and I bill in half-day increments.”

If you bill in half-days already, try moving your minimum billing unit to a full day.

If you bill daily, try switching your minimum billing unit to a week.

What will be the effect be?

When a prospect comes to you with a project, you can — early in the conversation — let them know that you don’t bill hourly, your minimum project size is half-days/days/weeks. That’s the smallest amount you bill by.

If the project doesn’t have enough value for the prospect, then the prospect will be able to recognize — early on — that this isn’t the right fit, and go with another freelancer.

And if the prospect sees the value in the project, they’ll be saying ‘Sure, we need this done, let’s get started!’

Raising your minimum billing unit makes it easier for you to attract larger, better paying projects.

So, go and do it today. If you bill hourly, quote a half-day rate on your next project.

Packaged Services

When I say “Productized Service” to you, what do you think of?

  • A product, like a book or video course, based off of a consulting service
  • A service with a pre-defined scope of work

It could very well be either, honestly. Let’s, instead, talk about ‘Packaged Services.’

Packaged Services

Packaged services are service offerings that you create that have a predefined scope of work attached to them. Essentially, it’s a service offering you sell where you’ve decided on and published:

  • The scope of work
  • The deliverables
  • The timeframe
  • The price (optionally)

With a packaged service, you’re eliminating the proposal from the equation. You are defining a packaged offering that you are making available to prospects at a predetermined price.

Ever take your car in for an oil change? That’s a great example of a packaged service. You know:

  • The scope of work (change my oil)
  • The deliverables (new oil, report on car
  • The timeframe (Pick the car up in 2 hours)
  • The price ($30)

Hourly rate doesn’t factor into it. The price is set ahead of time.

How is this different from a productized service?

So, the term Productized Consulting is used to refer to two different things:

  • Turning your knowledge from consulting into a book, course, or other type of product
  • Standardizing your offerings and selling them as a prepackaged service similar to an educational product (Draft ReviseWebsite Rescues, etc.)

Packaged services as defined service offerings

When you package up your service offering, you’re defining what the client will receive in terms of deliverables. You’re defining what you’ll do, what the price will be, and what the scope of work will be.

You’re selling a package. Like buying a Disney Vacation or a cruise, the client doesn’t need to negotiate every detail, they can just say “That one sounds like what we need.” and purchase it. No proposal needed.

Why the distinction?

Multiple times, freelancers and consultants have asked me about ‘productizing their consulting’ and it wasn’t clear if we were going to talk about:

  • Turning their consulting knowledge into a product that they sell and deliver
  • Defining and selling a standardized package for a new consulting service

Which is it? There’s a need for two different terms to refer to these two different concepts.

Packaged Services

I think the concept of productizing a service makes excellent sense for taking your service offering and turning it into a ‘do it yourself’ product for prospects and clients to buy.

But when we talk about selling a no-proposal service where we’ve defined:

  • The scope of work
  • The deliverables
  • The timeframe
  • The price (optionally)

I think it’s better to talk about packaged services.

You’ve defined a package and you’re making it available for sale. Separately, you may have a productized service, where you’ve turned the service into a ‘Do It Yourself’ product.

With a productized service, you’re creating a product – book, training, software, etc. – based off of the service.

With a packaged service, you’re defining a white-glove, done-for-you, no-proposal service for your clients.

Should I start from a clear positioning or start wider and see what works?

When it comes to getting more clients as a freelancer or consultant, the most important question to ask yourself about your marketing is The Positioning Question.

Let’s say you’re starting a new consulting business. You’re wondering if you should:

  • Start with a specific positioning (target market) and problem that you’re solving (“Shopify” and “Search Engine Optimization,” for example)
  • Start with a wide positioning (“Search Engine Optimization”) and see what markets end up working with you and then niche down

You should start with a specific positioning.

Okay, I’m cheating here. These are actually two questions, but they’re equally important and come together as The Positioning Question.

Let’s Talk About “The Positioning Question”

What target market do you serve?

This should, ideally, be an industry (e.g., “Dentists”) or technology (e.g., “Shopify” or “Redmine”) vertical. It can be a horizontal (e.g., “eCommerce”), but that’s Playing On Hard Mode™ for most folks.

Better to focus on a vertical and expand from there.

What expensive problem do you solve for your target market?

This should be an outcome which represent the client’s desired and improved conditions.

The outcome of working on an Expensive Problem are never inputs (e.g., reports, focus groups, manuals) but rather always outputs (e.g., increased sales, reduced attrition, improved teamwork).

***

Everything I know about positioning for freelancers and consultants comes from my good friend and the “Dean of Positioning” Philip Morgan, creator of the free Positioning Crash Course and author of The Positioning Manual.

Sign up and/or buy those as soon as you can.

Positioning is important because it defines every single other aspect of your marketing as a freelancer or consultant.

If you do not know the target market you’re trying to reach, your marketing will be ineffective.

If you do not know the expensive problem you are solving or the outcome that represents the client’s desired and improved conditions, your marketing will be ineffective.

I’m serious. If you cannot answer The Positioning Question for your business, all of your marketing and lead acquisition will be less effective.

Sure, you can build a business, but you’re going to be pushing that boulder uphill.

Let’s look at the major marketing areas for a freelancer or consultant and see what happens if you don’t know the answer to The Positioning Question:

    • Positioning: “Who am I trying to reach with my marketing?” → If you can’t answer The Positioning Question, you, by definition, do not know.
    • Market Research: “What outcome is my target market looking to experience?” → If you can’t answer The Positioning Question, all you can do is guess at the problems they’re experiencing, not research the outcomes they’re looking to achieve.
    • Service Offerings: “What offerings do I make available to my target market?” → If you can’t answer who you’re serving or what expensive problems they’re looking to solve, you won’t know what service offerings to market in your business.
    • Marketing Messaging: “How do I communicate with my target market?” → If you don’t know who your target market is, you won’t know what messaging to use to effectively communicate with them. This is the difference between the headline on your homepage saying “Dynamic, innovative web solutions” and “We’ll turn your Shopify store into a Revenue-Generating Powerhouse of Persuasion” (n.b., https://ethercycle.com/)
    • Client Intake Automation: “How do I minimize the time that I spend educating, nurturing, and qualifying prospects and converting them from prospects into leads into clients?” → If you don’t know who your target market is and what problems they’re experiencing, you won’t be able to effectively educate, nurture, and qualify prospects.
    • Content Marketing: “What content should I create to educate prospects and demonstrate my authority?” → If you don’t know who you’re trying to speak to or what questions they’re asking, you won’t be able to effectively create educational, informative, and entertaining content.
    • Outreach Marketing: “How do I reach my ideal prospect where they already are before they’ve heard of me?” → If you don’t know who you’re trying to reach, you won’t be able to identify where they spend time online or offline or the most effective way (podcasts, guest articles, interviews, webinars, conferences, presentations, meetups, etc.) to reach them and inform them that you’re around and available to help them achieve their outcomes or solve their problems.
    • Referral Marketing: “How do I turn one connection into referrals to multiple prospective clients?” → If you don’t know who you’re trying to reach or what outcomes you’re helping them generate, you won’t be able to ask for referrals or create referrable moments in your business. (“Hey Jane, it was wonderful to help you achieve XYZ on our recent project. Do you know anyone else in INDUSTRY who is looking for help achieving OUTCOME?”)

You can build an effective 6-figure business without answering The Positioning Question but it’s heckin‘ hard.

Once you’ve identified your target market, the outcomes they’re looking to achieve, and the expensive problem they’re experiencing, it becomes much easier to market your business and get more clients.

When you have clear positioning, people start to seek you out.

Positioning. It’s very important.

I have two questions for you. Even if you don’t know the specific answer yet or your answers are aspirational (“I’m working on niching down to ____”), send me back your best guess answers to these questions:

    1. What is your target market? Who do you serve?
    2. What outcome do you help clients in your target market achieve? What expensive problem do you help them solve?

Is it easier to market to your best buyers or all buyers?

It is easier to find a list of “shopify stores” and then see if they need help with search engine optimization than it is to start with a wide positioning like “I do search engine optimization” and then niche down to a particular industry/market.

You want to focus on marketing to your ‘best’ buyers only. They will buy more from you.

Positioning is a marketing strategy. Positioning lets you know specifically who to target with your marketing.

With positioning, you’ll know who your ‘best’ buyers will be and can focus on acquiring them as subscribers. Appearing on podcasts like The Unofficial Shopify Podcast (http://www.unofficialshopifypodcast.com/) or writing in places where your customers spend their time (like contributing to /r/shopify or guest posting on Shopify’s blog).

Lots of people will want to work with you

Some people are worried that with positioning they’re turning potential clients away.

Let me set the record straight on this one: with positioning, you’re creating a client attractor. You are making it easier for your dream clients — your best buyers — to find you.

Other people will find you too.

For any business I’ve run that is heavily niched down to a specific market, I have had prospects contact me who are very outside of that market and ask to work together.

Why? Because clients see your positioning as a specialist in your market as a sign of experience, authority, and expertise. And clients and prospects both want to work with people who have experience, authority, and expertise.

So, by positioning yourself in one industry, you will still attract prospects, leads, and clients from other industries.

And if you’re niched down to a specific industry and take a client from a different industry, that doesn’t mean you need to completely change your business; rather, you can take on clients who are outside of your core positioning.

Those clients might be the sign that there are other markets you can work with or might just be a good client project and testimonial and not the best case study (because they’re outside of your core positioning).

But! Dear friend, you need not worry if you have a specific positioning and someone outside of that positioning wants to work with you.

Talk with that prospect. See if you can help them. If you can and you have capacity for a client, consider taking them on.

Taking on a prospect outside of your core positioning doesn’t diminish your positioning.

But you will be better off with a specific positioning for your business. Knowing who your best customers are. And marketing to them.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the best book you can (and should!) read on positioning. It’s The Positioning Manual (http://thepositioningmanual.com) by Philip Morgan and his advice and mentoring on positioning has helped thousands of freelancers and consultants.