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12 Things You Can’t Ignore If You Want to Thrive as a Freelancer

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Ready for some tough love? This week's episode of the Six Figure Creative Podcast is a wake-up call for freelancers stuck in “survival mode”.
Here's the big question… are you letting your emotions run your business? If the answer is yes, it’s time to change that.
In this episode, I break down:
  • The 12 things you can't ignore to build a thriving freelance business.
  • The brutal truth about why most freelancers fail.
  • A powerful mindset shift to turn your business struggles into triumphs.
Stop letting feast-or-famine cycles dictate your life. It's time to build a sustainable, fulfilling freelance business that doesn't crumble at the first sign of trouble.
In this episode you’ll discover:
  • Why emotions are ruining our businesses
  • How running a business adds tasks to your plate
  • The 12 roles and responsibilities of any business owner
  • Why Brian almost passed out during his first gym session
  • Your choices if you can't go back to a day job
  • Getting a personal trainer for your business

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[00:00:00] Brian: This episode is going to be a tough love episode. This is going to be Brian on the soapbox talking through how to build a thriving freelance business. just because make money doesn't mean you're thriving. And if you are not making money as a freelancer, you're definitely not thriving. So there's a definite threshold where you can claim to be a thriving freelancer. It's when things are stable. You have margin in place buffer or financial runway in place, meaning that you could take a hit financially and you're not going to stress. You don't have constant fires to put out as a freelancer and you find fulfillment in what you do.

[00:00:29] Brian: those are all signs that you're a thriving freelancer. And I would venture to guess that a lot of the people that listen to or watch the show on YouTube. Thank you. That does not really sound like their business. if it sounds like you're not thriving right now, then this episode is absolutely for you. If you're thriving, there's better episodes for you that are out there.

[00:00:42] Brian: And the reason I call this a tough love episode is because

[00:00:45] Brian: What I'm going to talk about today is something I see sabotaging freelancers again and again and again from the clients that we coach to the people that email me in, to the people I talk to day to day, have lunches with all the time.

[00:00:55] Brian: It's the same thing over and over and over and over again, And it really frustrates me [00:01:00] because this thing that holds us back, this thing that keeps us from thriving is the same thing that makes us such great creatives. It's that we let our emotions run our business. That is a toxic, horrible thing.

[00:01:10] Brian: And as freelancers, we need emotions. We need that emotion to drive our creativity, to push us forward. when we let our emotions run our business, that's when so much just gets dropped. So many balls get dropped. So much stuff gets avoided, and you just let things fester for weeks, for months, sometimes for years, before you ever actually address it. And sometimes those festering wounds can infect your freelance business to the point where you die as a freelancer, a.

[00:01:34] Brian: k. a. have to go get a day job. some, the day job might be the better move, honestly, I'm like, For some people, that is legitimately the better thing for you. For others, it is a death sentence. Like I am utterly unemployable as a human being. so self employment is literally the only option I have as a person on earth.

[00:01:50] Brian: And just to give a concrete example here, I talk about client acquisition all the time on the podcast because that's the area that a lot of freelancers struggle with. And it's an important part about having a thriving freelance business. It's not the entire point, but it's [00:02:00] a huge point of it. And even within the bucket of client acquisition, there is like lead generation.

[00:02:04] Brian: And that's just like one example of things that freelancers tend to avoid. They drop the ball. They don't have any consistency or systems or process or strategy behind. And so they let that Just be a thing that is festering for weeks, for months, for years, and you go through these constant feast or famine cycles that eventually one of those famine cycles might last so long that it kills you.

[00:02:22] Brian: So today I want to talk about on my little soapbox episode, my tough love episode. I want to talk about the things that you are avoiding right now. So you understand what you're avoiding. And then I want to talk about how you can stop avoiding those things.

[00:02:32] Brian: I want to give you a big mindset shift that is something that I've talked to my own clients about that I think is really helpful way to approach this sort of stuff mentally. Those things that we avoid

[00:02:40] Brian: because we don't want an unhealthy freelance business, nobody listened to the show. Nobody even who lets their entire business run purely off emotion. It's not because we want this out of our business. It's not because We want to be unhealthy. We all want the same thing.

[00:02:52] Brian: We want a thriving business that we love, that we enjoy that has consistency, that has margin as safety, but also some freedoms that a day job won't give [00:03:00] you.

[00:03:00] Brian: And before I dive into the main topic of the show, I just want to say, if you're new to this podcast, this podcast is for you, if you are a freelancer who offers creative services and you want to make more money from those creative services without selling your soul, this episode is definitely for you and this podcast is for you.

[00:03:14] Brian: so let's dive in most freelancers. I love you to death. You don't understand what happens when you start taking money for your skills. The second you start taking any money in exchange for your services, there are instantly. A million roles that just appear out of thin air, and in a big corporation, those roles are all filled by like a department head and then managers and middle management and individual employees under each individual department.

[00:03:40] Brian: As a freelancer, we don't have that. And there's not really a million roles. There's like, 12 here that I got on my list here, but here's all the things that appear out of thin air as roles, responsibilities, things that have to be done in our freelance businesses. The second we start to do this.

[00:03:52] Brian: As a business, the second we start accepting money for what we do.

[00:03:55] Brian: And there's probably more than this, but these are the 12. First is fulfillment. Fulfilling on the thing that you just got paid for. [00:04:00] That's obvious. You have to keep doing that in order to keep accepting money for what you do. But then there's the role and responsibility of client relationship management communication.

[00:04:08] Brian: there's also the role of sales. You have to actually sell yourself as a freelancer. That's a role that appeared. Some people don't take it seriously. Some people avoid it. Some people don't do anything about it to improve it. But it is there. It is a role exists. There's the roles of like marketing or client acquisition.

[00:04:21] Brian: That's a whole other role and skillset and thing that has to be done. There's the operational side of things and systems and processes side of things. There's financing and accounting, bookkeeping creative director and designer. If you're not a designer as a freelancer, you still have to think about the brand and the visuals of you as a freelancer, especially if you have a website, if you're putting these on socials

[00:04:40] Brian: And just because you've invested nothing into that doesn't mean that role doesn't exist. It just means it's a completely avoided thing in your business. It definitely exists. So, There's a project manager.

[00:04:48] Brian: There's a whole project management role that opens up of the person who's supposed to manage the projects and make sure everything gets done on time and doesn't get out of scope. There's the IT tech type of person or role, which is how does the software work? What [00:05:00] ties into what? How do things get done or moved around or used? How do we fix something if it's not working? How do we investigate in troubleshoot these issues? There's legal another area another role that opens up the second we start taking money especially in America where like to sue people where we have to make sure we're we have our legal ducks in a row the next one is management You Actually managing the creative that is in your business.

[00:05:19] Brian: going back to the E myth revisited Michael Gerber, there's the entrepreneur, the manager and the technician creatives we're kind of like the technician, AKA the creative or the fulfillment type person. But there's also the manager that has to manage the creative. And so that is a role that actually exists in your business that appears at a thin air, as soon as you start doing work for money, some of us are really bad at self management and then the last and final and honestly one of the most important roles here is the CEO, the person at the top of the org chart, the person who's in charge of the overall vision and who prioritizes what gets worked on, what can be strategically avoided for now.

[00:05:54] Brian: now it's obvious if you're not paying attention, how overwhelming this is, as solo freelancers to think that [00:06:00] all 12 of those roles we are responsible for. Maybe you have a cousin who can do the design, whatever. Maybe you only have 11 of those roles. Maybe you have somebody who can help with the tech stuff.

[00:06:07] Brian: Okay. You only have 10 of the roles. That's still 10 things that you are responsible for in your business by yourself.

[00:06:13] Brian: And if your business isn't where you want it to be. This is a tough love part. It's because you are failing on this. You're filling on one of those 12 roles somewhere. It could be that you're not as good as you need to be as a creative. So the fulfillment's big issue. It could be that you have no leads coming in.

[00:06:26] Brian: So it's the client acquisition or marketing side. That role is failing. It is almost certainly the CEO role because the CEO is the one who's responsible for steering the ship, and if the ship isn't going in the right direction, it is on them to make sure it is turning to the right direction, a.

[00:06:39] Brian: k. a. what do we need to put our focus on and start fixing.

[00:06:42] Brian: But the good news is, these 12 roles, almost all of them except for Midway Fulfillment, all of these have limited scope. For example, the sales role, you can literally just map out a sales process one time, and then just follow that sales process now on. Maybe you iterate or change it a little bit after you learn new things, or you're like, Hey, that didn't really work on that sales conversation, or this client [00:07:00] really reacted in this way.

[00:07:00] Brian: I want to change this, part of the sales flow up, but you can create it one time and it's done. And that's a huge improvement over what most people do, which is they just wing the sales calls or they're just sending out proposals left and right with no real system or process behind it. Or worse, like me, just sending quote based emails that weren't proposals, they weren't like thought out.

[00:07:18] Brian: It's just like, Hey, this is how much it'll cost. Do you want it or not? I did that for years and I lost a lot of money doing it that way, but that's how most freelancers approach this. They don't have anything in place for any of these roles, but it doesn't have to be that hard. So some of these are just one and done things

[00:07:31] Brian: like financing or bookkeeping. you set up a software and then once a month you go through and reconcile things.

[00:07:37] Brian: Or project management, you set up some templates and click up and then you can automate certain things and it helps you keep track of things These are all things that are relatively limited scope,

[00:07:45] Brian: legal again, maybe get like a pre bought contract from somebody. Maybe you have your lawyer look over at one time, it's a few hundred bucks and then that's done for most of your legal stuff. Maybe you get your business entity set up correctly. But again, it's limited scope. There's not a lot to do in all of these roles.

[00:07:58] Brian: So not all 12 are [00:08:00] created equally and that's the good news.

[00:08:01] Brian: But some of these are what I consider like mountains. They are these massive things that when we stare at it, we're like, how are we supposed to get over this? That is so high. How I ever even begin to climb that. And one of those is marketing or client acquisition. This is why we have an entire coaching program to help with this because it is such a daunting thing.

[00:08:17] Brian: There's so many elements. There's so many variables. There's so much to do. There's so much that has to be changed and so much that has to be built from scratch in order to actually get this to work and be running efficiently. And it is such a big part of a thriving freelance business that is a core central thing.

[00:08:30] Brian: So how do we approach these sorts of things?

[00:08:32] Brian: from my own experience, the only way I know how to get over these sorts of things, because I've gone through many of these in my life, is to treat it like the gym. That sounds weird. Bear with me. But treat it like the gym. When it comes to going to the gym, some of you listening or watching right now, you do go to the gym every day or three days a week or whatever your, cadence is.

[00:08:48] Brian: I go five times a week. I go at 615 five days a week. I go to Orange Theory and I am in the best cardio fitness in my life. Not the best strength in my life,

[00:08:56] Brian: but I go every day. Some of you don't go and it's for the exact same [00:09:00] reasons that your business is falling apart. It's because you let emotions drive whether or not you're going to go or not. And this is the tough love part. When it comes to going to the gym, we just have to set our emotions aside. I don't want to go every day.

[00:09:10] Brian: I don't feel like going every day, but I just do it.

[00:09:12] Brian: and when I say our feelings don't matter, it's not that they don't matter, it's that we can't let them matter when it is holding us back from doing something that is better for us, something that's going to improve our life, make us healthier, happier, help us thrive as a freelancer,

[00:09:24] Brian: and when I say go to the gym, I'm saying you set aside A specific time every day to work on that big mountain, that marathon, that slog that's going to take many months to get through, but we just do it one step at a time, one hour a day, five days a week.

[00:09:38] Brian: And it doesn't mean we have to be good at it. It just means we have to be consistent with it.

[00:09:41] Brian: And just sticking with this dumb gym analogy right now, my first day of Orange Theory, I had to leave halfway through the class because I was about to throw up. they had to give me like some peanut butter crackers I was just about to like literally pass out.

[00:09:51] Brian: 30 minutes in, literally everyone else is still working out. I'm just sitting over like on a bench outside of the class, which has like this big glass windows you can see through to the outside lobby. And I'm just sitting [00:10:00] there like head in my hands, eating.

[00:10:02] Brian: Peanut butter crackers to try to get my blood sugar up and drinking water and just sitting for like half an hour, Over time, we can build up tolerance for those things that are initially uncomfortable for us. That first class went horribly and your first attempt at doing some of these things in your business that you know you need to do, those things you've been avoiding.

[00:10:16] Brian: The things that are really hard, you're going to suck at it and the fact that you suck at it right now is the entire reason you're avoiding it at begin with. It sucks doing things we're not good at. It sucks doing things that we're not naturals at. It sucks doing things that pull us outside of our comfort zone.

[00:10:27] Brian: But the reason you're not good at this is because you have never done it You haven't put the time effort energy in to actually do it the people in class that didn't leave that day Had been probably going to Orange Theory for months or years Even there are people with 500 or more classes under their belt at that gym

[00:10:41] Brian: And so when you give yourself permission to suck, give yourself the grace to suck at something and get through that initial learning curve, that is the worst part of anything that we do. The thing that holds us back from ever attempting it. And we just say, no matter what, every day before I even start work, I'm going to work on the most important thing that I know is my bottleneck in my business right now.

[00:10:59] Brian: I think I've [00:11:00] been avoiding one of those 12 roles, probably something in client acquisition. Maybe it's something else for you. But it's something I'm going to put an hour in every day before work, just like the gym. I'm gonna put in my gym time. I'm going to be uncomfortable. It's going to suck, but I'm going to show up every day and do it no matter what.

[00:11:14] Brian: This is how we grow and evolve as entrepreneurs. If you have a day job, you can probably just get by skating. I know many people that do that. People that just sleepwalk through life.

[00:11:21] Brian: They skate by. They do just enough to not get fired. But as freelancers, we don't have that opportunity. We can't just coast by. We can't just focus on the things we love to do that we're passionate about. We have to do those things that we don't want to do.

[00:11:32] Brian: and when we give ourselves the grace to suck, And we know that no one's even watching us, even if you're in a gym, literally, no one's paying attention to me struggling.

[00:11:39] Brian: We can slowly start to build that tolerance and that ability to get better. And as we start progressing, as I saw my mile times drop, and as I saw my cardio improve, and as I saw my

[00:11:49] Brian: VO two max hit 60,

[00:11:51] Brian: it actually made me want to do cardio more. Now we'll go on runs just for fun. And that is all in like five months. And the difference between a gym and what I'm talking about here with your [00:12:00] freelance business is that if you don't go to the gym. No one's going to say anything to you, nothing really is going to happen except maybe as you get older you're going to get more and more out of shape. Life's going to get hard in other ways, but there's no immediate consequence to it.

[00:12:11] Brian: I could stop going to the gym for a year and things would be pretty okay for me right now. Nothing crazy would happen. But there are certain things in your business that you can't wait that long. And so if you just stop going to the gym in your business, AKA doing those things you know you need to do that you've been avoiding, you can only avoid those things for so long before they kill you as a freelancer.

[00:12:28] Brian: And it'll be much faster than not going to the gym will kill you. Physically. the alternative fears is just go get a day job.

[00:12:34] Brian: And that's a perfectly valid path for many people. But if that's your path, this is not the podcast for you.

[00:12:39] Brian: I am now on 5, 606 days of unemployment. Yes. I just looked that up.

[00:12:43] Brian: And it's because I have approached my businesses the same way that I've approached the gym recently, which is. I just show up every day and I'm always working on something to push my business forward.

[00:12:52] Brian: And God, yes, there's things that I still do to this day that I want to avoid. And yes, there are times when I avoid certain things. And yes, there are times where [00:13:00] sometimes strategic avoidance is okay. Letting fires burn to put out a bigger fire right now. But in most cases, freelancers are letting all the fires burn.

[00:13:08] Brian: And so if you're unemployable like me. And you have no prospects for a day job

[00:13:12] Brian: and even if you could get a job, you don't want to put your time and effort and energy building someone else's business. You'd rather put that time, effort, energy into building your own business

[00:13:18] Brian: the only choice you have is to start climbing that mountain one hour at a time, every day, turning it into a gym routine where you just know at a certain time, at the same time, every day. This is my routine.

[00:13:29] Brian: I'm going to work on this specific thing or these set of things.

[00:13:31] Brian: I'm going to be totally honest with you. Building a freelance business is not hard. That's a hot take. what is so damn hard is building a thriving freelance business. That is hard. Anyone can freelance. Anyone can build a skill set, accept some money for it.

[00:13:44] Brian: Doesn't mean you're going to thrive. Doesn't mean you're going to be successful. But you are a freelancer by trade. accepted money for your skill set as a creative. You've gotten some money. But that's just step one. That just means you're officially a professional. You've just created the 12 roles.

[00:13:56] Brian: Now we have to actually pay attention to all of those 12 roles that have appeared out of thin [00:14:00] air. And that is really hard to do. If this was easier, everyone would be thriving. and no one would be listening to the show. That'd be a shame for me, but it'd be great for everyone else.

[00:14:07] Brian: So only you can decide this. will you make this work or not?

[00:14:11] Brian: And if you're not gonna get a day job Which again perfectly valid path for some if you're not gonna go down that path then you really only have one choice And that choice is not can I make this work? Again, you've burned the boats. You can't go back to the old life, right?

[00:14:24] Brian: you're like me, can't go back. There's no choice whatsoever. there is no, can I make this work? It is literally, how can I make this work? If you approach this from a, can I make this work, you are going to be second guessing yourself. It's going to lead to a bunch of dabbling, half assing, changing your mind at every step.

[00:14:39] Brian: and I can tell you from experience, as many people I've coached to this, those types of people are the least successful of anyone that I've worked with. That type of a mindset so if you approach this from, can I make this work from that lack of self belief.

[00:14:52] Brian: We've got to find a way to flip that around as soon as possible to how I make this work. You might not have all the answers. You might not know exactly what you're going to do, but you're coming at it from the approach of how [00:15:00] can I make this work legitimately? How can I? And if you have that approach, how can I make this work?

[00:15:04] Brian: And you put in that, gym time every day and you work towards climbing that mountain. Eventually you'll get to the top. And I have seen both paths. I've seen really talented freelancers self sabotage to death. And I've seen some really like So, So freelancers who are okay at what they do, but they just put their head down and they grind and they do the one hour a day like a gym and they climb the mountain and they see success. And so skill is not the only thing holding you back right now. It is almost certainly you. And that's a tough pill to swallow.

[00:15:31] Brian: We have to admit that to ourselves, but the more uncomfortable we're willing to be, the more of a chance we have to succeed.

[00:15:37] Brian: So if you're the type who goes to the gym five days a week, you've already proven yourself that you can't do that. So take that skillset and flip it to your business. And if you want us to help, we're happy to chat about it. We have averaged over 200 applications a month over the last year for clients by design.

[00:15:50] Brian: We have room for maybe 10, 15 people at a time. So if you want to even be considered for it you need help, you need a bit of handholding. You want a plan to follow, you want someone to actually [00:16:00] help you implement that plan. You want some accountability to make sure you're showing up to the gym every day, kinda like a personal trainer.

[00:16:05] Brian: maybe it's a good fit for you. Just go to six figure creative.com/coaching. Fill out the application there, see if you're a fit, at the very least. And if you're a good fit, then maybe out of the 200 plus people that apply this month, you'll be one of the ones that we work with.

[00:16:16] Brian: So that is all for my soapbox episode this week, bit different than normal, but this is a conversation I've had again and again and again with different people and having the mindset shift to, this is my gym time. And if I want to have a healthy, happy, thriving freelance business, I have to treat it just like having a happy, healthy thriving body.

[00:16:34] Brian: So hopefully you find this mindset shift kind of helpful. if not, then hopefully you'll like next week more. Thank you so much for listening to the Six Figure Creative Podcast. There are 308 other episodes for you to listen to if this one wasn't your, cup of tea.

[00:16:46] Brian: But either way, I thank you for listening. I appreciate you getting all the end, even when I'm just delaying this outro for no real reason. Sometimes it get weird like that,

[00:16:53] Brian: but I just want everyone to be successful. Not everyone will be successful. Not everyone is built to be successful. Not everyone will put in the work necessary [00:17:00] to be successful. But if that's you, which I hope it's you, the one listening right now, then keep listening to the show. See you next week.

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