6 Figure Creative Icon

The 6 Levels of Freelancing – Part 2

Episode art
Last week we introduced the first of a two-part series about “The 6 Levels of Freelancing”. The 1st level was “yes mode” and the 2nd level was “the generalist”.
This week we're walking you through what it looks like to move up the ladder into levels 4-6. If you feel stuck and you're ready to move up a level or two, fire up your favorite podcast app and let's dig in…
In this episode you’ll discover:
  • How good systems will avoid Chris' Poopocalypse 2.0
  • Avoiding survivorship bias: don't always listen to the “old dogs”
  • The word-of-mouth death trap
  • Your hourly rates aren't your actual rates
  • Why Disqualifying bad leads to focus on good leads is great for your income
  • The difference between systems and automation
  • What the best automations have in common
  • Why experts focus on one specific area rather than learning everything
  • Growing your business the smart way: using SOPs
  • How to remove yourself from your business

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[00:00:00] Welcome back to another episode of the six figure creative podcast.

I am your host Brian Hood, and I'm here with my big bald. Beautiful, weird kind of weird co-host. If you could see what he's doing right now on camera. Uh, Christopher J. Graham, Chris, how are you doing today? My dude.

Brian. I'm great. And in great, because yesterday I had a return credit at best buy

Wait, wait, wait. wait. You shop at best buy who shoves it. People still shop at best buy.

I love best buy, which brings me to a second level of conversation that maybe we shouldn't have yet, but I've started recently shopping at a place called micro center and

micro center. It smells like nerds, dude.

it smells like nerds. So it's like the sweatiest shop on earth.

It is. And it's like a build your own computer.

It's like, oh cool. They built like a VR racing rig or they've got a computer monitor. That's 360 degrees around your head. Like it's just a nerd store. And they've got lots of good audio gear, but lots of great computer gear. And I want to get us a [00:01:00] sponsorship.

No, I

I will say no. Thank you, sir, please. Good.

I don't know, hang up the phone. Cause they'll call me on a, on a landline. I'll have a landline planted somewhere in my house. Cause no one's shots at best buy or whatever compete. What is this place called? I'm not even gonna give him


time of day.

Tell me your story, Chris.

You had a story

for me and that's the only thing you drew me in. And then you push me away with this just trash story about.

it's true. But I created anticipation for the actual story. Well, I went to micro center. I had a blast with my kids. They were freaking out. I bought him like cool gaming computer stuff. And then the next day I had to return something that I bought and didn't, that didn't work out for me at best buy. And so I had a store.

And I was looking around thinking of what I should send my, spend my store credit on. And I was like, you know, my last apartment, I had a robot vacuum and it was pretty nice. And every day at two o'clock, this robot vacuum is very cheap and expensive robot vacuum would turn on and it would vacuum my house.

And then I got Buster, I got my dog and it was [00:02:00] amazing until one day Buster was home alone at two o'clock and he made a little poopoo.

Chris you've told the story on the podcast before this

is already a story we tell, why are


telling us?

it has a resolution. that vacuum cleaner, ate the poopoo

Yeah. and it's

smeared it around your

house. And it had got that video, got some views on take talks. So thanks for that. But what's the point for our audience? Who's already heard the story.

Well, I went to best buy and they just so happened to have a brand new robot. Brian, I'm going to introduce you to her, her name's Jill.

Oh, ours is named tipi.

oh, you'll ponder. Well, let me turn her on. Of course. She's she she's shy right now guys, but Joe Palmer. Oh, oh boy. Brian. I'm so excited because my apartment is ridiculously clean right now.

We are not sponsored, but I got the one with poopoo protection.

Wait, there's a poopoo protection. robot.

Yes. The I robot J seven has a camera in front of it. And they tested thousands of piles of poop to make sure that the vacuum cleaner would be like, yo, I'm not going to smear that into the carpet. And it was like [00:03:00] half off and I had a store credit and I picked that sucker up, man.

And I'm so excited to have a system that I don't have to think about, which is my freaking apartment gets cleaned.

And so I can focus on

everything else.

I like to pay off for those who are longtime listeners. You've heard this story. Our Chris got a a dog he adopted and then it pooped on the floor and it got smeared everywhere by his old vacuum. And it was a system that ran a mock and it turned into a beautiful story that was actually relevant to the podcast episode.

And now we have a resolution which is the new Jane Palmer or whatever her name is. What's her



Palmer, whatever. And she now is, has poopoo protection. So when you come home and there is clean everywhere, except the pile of poop, you can now think that wonderful technology

I'm so looking forward to that day, when I'm like, wow, my apartment was vacuumed, but not right in that spot Buster, but dude, I'm excited. It costs considerably more Well, I had a $200 store credit and it was on sale for like three 50.

Oh, that's [00:04:00] not bad.

Like it was so like, I think it was 200 bucks to not have to vacuum my apartment anymore, which is covered in carpet.


I have the, I have the rubber rock SX and that thing was like six or 600 or so when I, when I bought it years ago, so, and it's held up great, but it doesn't have poopoo protection, but we also don't have anything in our house that would poop on the floor unless one of us went insane.

I mean anything's possible bran,

All right. Well, should we get into an actual topic today? Cause I don't want our


I guess so, but yeah, this is I'm excited because the story art for our audience with this is that I tried to use a cheap off-brand system and it bit me, because it was terrible

It literally pooped all over your house. Yeah,

Yes. It literally my worst, the worst product experience I have ever had with any product in my life was the I don't even remember like echo B or ASIS.

It was like an ASIS brand. It was a cheap. Nice. If you don't [00:05:00] have a dog, I'm probably gonna do a mediocre job, but it's worth spending multiples on a better system because not just because it does a better job, but because you don't have to worry about it.

And that means you can focus on more important.

Yup. So if you are, if you're in the market for a good vacuum spending the money on it and don't try to cheap out

or it'll bite, you. Yeah. Yeah. And this is actually it's good advice. And we're gonna get to the episode in a second, but this is good advice for just pretty much anything. If you try to get the cheapest thing, it's usually not going to work out well.

The most expensive thing is usually not even the best option because it's just the diminishing returns is to get a certain price, but there's a sweet spot somewhere in the middle. And There's usually only a few options in that sweet spot price range. And if you just pick one. of the, three options, you're fine.

So just pick one and move on and don't spend 30 hours researching which poop free backroom to get. There's probably only a

few that are. Okay, there you go. This easy decision. If you have a creature that poops in your house, that's the only vacuum you get, period. So let's move on to our episode today.

This is part two of these six, as of right now, six levels of freelancing, unless we [00:06:00] add a special seventh level, the six levels of freelancing part two, if you missed last week's episode, go back and listen to that. It was a really good one. And we talked through the first two levels. And if you were just like, I'm not going to listen to that episode.

I only want to listen to this episode, Brian, then we'll give a quick recap of the first two levels of freelancing and they're going to get the last four. We got four to get through this episode and hopefully we can, we can do it justice in the amount of time we have today. Chris.

Cool. Let's do it.

So, let's, Let's recap through the first two levels level one, a level one freelancer as someone who is in constant yes. Mode. This is when, where we all start out at. There's nothing to be ashamed of if you're in this level and this is just where we are trying to figure out what we like to do what we're good at, where our people are.

And we're saying yes to pretty much any project that we could possibly get is yes. Yes. And there's a lot of negatives that come with this area. There's a lot of pitfalls in this area if you're in this level. And if you stay in this level for too long, you're going to spread yourself thin. But people who.

Graduated from this level and get to level two or what we call the generalists. they said yes, enough to where they have clients and a lot of different [00:07:00] areas, a lot of different genres of music. If you're a producer or a different types of business, if you're working with business owners or just different types of clients in different niches, you haven't really solidified who you are working for yet.

And there are pitfalls with this as well. If you stick around too long, we went over those last week and we went, I mean, we went a long time on these first two, cause there's just so much to discuss. But at generalists, typically they're just not earning that much. They're struggling to say no to things and they have, they're not charging what they could charge if they were a specialist.

So anything you want to add to these first two levels, Chris for yes. Mode is level one and generalist for level two. Before we move on to level three here to start our episode today.

I think you nailed it, man. I'm I think it's a really exciting format that we've got here to talk about these different levels, because I know for me and for everybody else, I know there have been inflection points in their business when they've graduated, when they've gone up a level, when it's become really clear, like, oh, okay.

That changes. Everything running ads on YouTube years ago was one of those inflection points, learning how to write apple scripts, like automate my business was an [00:08:00] inflection point for me, there were all these different things where all of a sudden I was no longer in level three. I was in level four and started to figure out what it took to get to level five.

And yeah.


So let's talk about level three, because level three is what we call traction. This is the level where you are probably part-time to low full-time living. You're starting to actually get some success and repeat customers. You've got word of mouth going, like you've got some people maybe you've got success, some success within some niche, specific niche, and people start telling you that you're actually good at what you do, but let me be very clear because I don't think that there is a, a time when you were like, I'm now level three traction, I think level one, two, and three is a spectrum.

And I think you're just somewhere on the spectrum between those first three levels. So I just wanna make sure that people, if you sound like you're in a lot of different areas from this list, it's because again, business isn't like, it's not as defined as levels. And maybe we should have said the six, the six spectrum



that's true. Isn't it? Seasons probably is a better analogy. Cause it, with seasons, you have this transition point where, you know, [00:09:00] maybe some days it's hot, some days it's cold and that's kind of fall for you, you know, and where you're transitioning out of summer into fall and fall to winter, we have wonderful days and then really bad cold days.

And so if there are transitions and there's some growing pains between these stages, but level three is traction. And that's where a lot of our audience is. And it's worth talking about this because there's a lot of pros for this. Like there's, it's, it's a worth celebrating when you're in this phase. As someone who's finally having traction in their business and they feel like they're having success and they're building a little bit of confidence, but there's a lot of pitfalls in this area as Well, because you get complacent, you get comfortable, we start making enough money to pay the bills like that low full-time income that we talked about.

But the pitfall is like, you don't really know. Ever get out of this. And so many people have been stuck in level three, what I call the traction phase or the traction level for so long. And it's because of some of the pitfalls involved with that. So I think the first thing to talk about in this, Chris is just worth addressing one of the reasons, one of the big reasons why people are stuck in the traction mode is because of their marketing efforts is [00:10:00] they rely 100% on hope marketing.

And I've had some content about this on our Facebook community. I've talked about this on YouTube videos and probably in some podcasts episodes here and there, but hope marketing is where you're just hoping clients come to you. And if you've reached traction mode, you've likely gotten there 100% off word of mouth.

And in these situations, it can lead to this false assumption that I will always have clients coming in from word of mouth. And that's all I have to worry about. And the problem with that is that's not the, that's not reality. So many people and Chris, you can back me up on this. Like so many people.

It's feast or famine was word of mouth.

You have no control over it. And the people who are preaching the word of mouth gospel saying that that's the best way to get clients are the ones who made it to the level that they got to completely off word of mouth. And the problem with that is not every, not everyone is good enough to get to that level

let's dig into that idea,

Brian, cause you made, you made a post recently. I think it was a YouTube.

About survivorship bias. this is an idea that we've talked about in the podcast before, but back in world war two, there were these you know, bombers that [00:11:00] were flying over Europe and some of them came back and some of them didn't.

And so what happened is they would look at the bombers that came back and someone was like, you know what, let's take a picture of a bomber. And every time we find a bullet hole, we'll mark it on our big picture of the bomber so that we can see where all the bullet holes like group

on the planes. And then we'll add

bolt, bullet holes,


you're saying bullet holes.

Oh yeah, that sounds about bullet holes.

Bullet bull.

You're right.

That's an Ohio ism

Wow. Okay. I was wondering I'm like, is this, is it, did I just miss hear him? And he was just like messing up for anyone wondering, okay. So Chris is talking about, I love this story. This is actually one of the videos that kinda went uh, one of The clips from our podcast or for my YouTube video that went kind of viral on Tech-Talk mid viral.

The bag

we got like 50, 50, 80,000 views. We get a few followers on it.

I'm kind of a mid viral sensation on


were mid viral with tic-tac in a

but you're talking about the planes would come back from these, from these missions and they would have [00:12:00] bullet holes, bullet, not bullet holes all over them. And then, so they, they falsely assumed, okay, this is the place. These are the places we need to put the armor onto the planes, because these are the places that are getting shot the most.

Why is that a problem, Chris?

Well, you see, those were the planes that it didn't matter that, that they got shot with a bullet. The planes that came back with no, let's say like, if you look at this, if you look at this picture and you look at the I'm, self-conscious about the word

bullet now.


the way you want to say it, Chris, and we'll just make fun of you.

If you look at a picture of like all the common places where these B 30 sevens wouldn't get shot.

Surprisingly, not too many bullets were hitting the cockpit where the pilots were.

And they weren't hitting the engine either.

orienting the engines. And the reason for that is that the planes whose cockpits were hit by bullets crashed.

And same with our engines. Yeah.

So the, what they realized was they needed to reinforce the areas that the bullets were not. And that was the, that was the mistake they almost made, which they fortunately did not [00:13:00] make the mistake. They realized that their survivorship bias was stating if the, if the plane comes back and there's bullet holes in this area, those are the areas that the plane can be hit on an actually survive a mission.

So those areas are fine not to reinforce. so the reason this comes back to marketing is because as freelancers, when we look to these high up people, these people in our, in our niche who are crushing it with word of mouth and they that's all they've ever had.

It's because they survive long enough for the inevitable word of mouth snowball to grow to the point where they have a full-time list of clients that are paying them top dollar and anyone who didn't understand marketing never survived to get to that point. So it makes sense that most. Who don't understand marketing, who still made it successfully are the ones who were good enough and lasted long enough to make it that position.

And that's survive. That's survivorship bias. One-on-one right there. So to get to this point of that, we all want to be in, which is full-time word of mouth, no marketing necessarily whatsoever. A lot of times, for a lot of people that does require some form of client [00:14:00] acquisition, some form of marketing to get the word of mouth snowball, large enough to where you never have to market.

Again, my goal for people is not to get to where you have to market your entire life. You don't want to be a marketer. That's not a fun world to be in. You want to be a freelancer. You want to be a creative, but you have to be willing to put in some work to get to that point and not listen to the people who are making six figures or multiple six figures a year, completely off word of mouth, because they're one of the ones that survived.

They won the war of attrition and you may not. And that's the issue we're trying to address.


and I think you could look at this from a farming perspective, from a farming meadow. There's a lot of, there's a lot of like ego and arrogance and defensiveness

What do you mean? I don't know what you're talking about. I'm not defensive.

within our creative community, within people that are self-employed creatives, they generally tend to have some pretty strong ideas, especially concerning marketing.

And you find some of them are like, man, if you ever do real, you know, free work, you know, you should be ashamed of


seen that I've seen that too. I've seen that attitude.

if you ever do paid advertising, you're [00:15:00] a fraud

I seen that as well. And that's a belief that a lot of people have. Yeah.

And I, I think that the thing that we have to understand is that marketing, like everything else is completely a spectrum.

If I'm a farmer and I want to grow crops, I can use fertilizer. I can use shovels. I can use a machine that digs rows. I can use another machine that plants the seeds for me. And I can decide at what level of farming I'm going to come in.

Dude. If anyone who uses machines to farm is of the

devil, that's not the way God created us. They want us to do as good, honest work with your hands.

Not no automated machines.

bill, Billy. Doug, Billy though. Did you hear about Steve? Oh, down the street, man. Hey, is using fertilizer on his crops

they are putting on the crops. Can you

He's got a machine that literally mixes the with water and sprays it all over the dang day field.


He ain't a real farmer.

Can you imagine that? But that's the thing is we're essentially saying something similar when it's like marketing is a part of business. Every, like you see marketing everywhere.

You make your art in the digital realm. You hack piece of


You don't use


we've got to tone down the accents, man. We're going to offend our Southern listeners. I'm from Alabama, so I can do it. You're not from Alabama. You can't do that. Those are my people. But okay, so marketing in a nutshell is putting the right message in front of the right person at the right time.

That happens everywhere. Even the people who are at the top level, do some form of that when they're networking or when they're, when they're meeting with, I mean, there's, there's some form of marketing happening, but what we're talking about is just finding what, what ways you can get the right message to the right person at the right time.

And that's the key to getting out of the traction phase into level four, which is the pro level. And we'll talk about that in a second, but it's just worth talking about this because so many people get stuck in this level because they get, they get, they buy into that lie that you [00:17:00] shouldn't fertilize the plants.

Right. Or it could be the opposite of that. And I think in this traction level, there's a lot of confusion. Brian, have you seen the movie? Idiocracy

Bits and pieces. I

don't know if I've seen the entire movie. I think I have,

you got to watch the whole


I know it got too real too soon and I, and I probably stopped watching

It's so, so, so good. And you know, you're watching it for comedy. It's not like it's a, you know, a surprise twist or something at the end, but I'm going to kind of like plug your ears for the next 10 seconds. Cause there's a little bit spoiler here at the end of the movie. It turns out that they'd been watering all the plants with a Gatorade knockoff called Brando and it's Rondo, it's got electrolytes, it's what's plants crave, and it turns out it's killing all the plants They're religiously doing the wrong thing and it's destroying their society. And hopefully I'm not too far down a rabbit hole year, but we do the same thing. Let's get back on course. I think it's so hilarious when we're doing an interview and I say something and you're like, all right, let's get back on course. As if it's [00:18:00] like,

half the



way off, dude,

It's a button that you could push.

and let's get back on course, Chris. So this is one of the things that gets people stuck in the level of tracking level three, which has traction.

But another thing is and this is just a pattern I've seen more And.

more and more. The more people I talk to who are at this level is they have terrible price at terrible pricing model for their business.

So what Brian's talking about here is people just being basic and being like, well, everybody in my industry does this. So therefore I will. A good example of that is that it doesn't matter who your doctor is. He's going to be running 30 minutes late.

When you go to see the doctor, he will not be on time. And that is his privilege as a doctor and in our society, we accept that. but like if you showed up at any other business and they were like, they're like, yeah, I'd be here at three o'clock. And at three 40, you still have not been received yet.

You were going to be pissed. For doctors that's okay. Except that extremely poor level of customer

[00:19:00] service,

how's this relate to our listeners.

relates to our listeners. Cause people that are often in traction are focused on what the old timers in their industry are doing. They're like, well, just industry best practice is to intentionally be 40 minutes late.

Even if you're the, if they're the first appointment of the day, you make their ass, wait for 40 minutes, you go drink coffee.

It's a power


Yeah. It's like, it's, it's a strange thing, but that's something that there's blindness within the medical industry to be like, maybe people would be healthier if we didn't do this as a society, maybe

just an


here's the thing. I don't know if that's the best example I get what you're trying to say, but I think with doctors, they're just trying to juggle too many things to make the most money possible. And that's why they're always late too. And make you sit in that room forever because they have like six clients in six different rooms and they just pop in for like three seconds to each one.

So I get what you're saying though, Chris, but let's move on. Cause I that's, that's, that's our view of marketing and why people are stuck at this level, but there's another issue that holds people into the traction level, a level three here, terrible pricing . Model and [00:20:00] absolutely no systemization whatsoever. And so I'm going to talk about the pricing thing, Chris, you can touch on the systemization part cause that's kind of your, your avenue, but for the pricing model, I've, I've talked to so many people that we dig into their business and they are pricing things in a way that they think they're making one thing.

But the reality is they're making something completely different. so it was a guy that. And I was digging into his story and learning more about him and I'm gonna throw him completely under the bus right now. I'm so sorry, dude, but I'm not gonna name you specifically. So there's a little bit of solace here, but we were digging into things and he was telling me his rates and they're around 50 to $60 per hour.

And he was telling me what he does with his clients. And then we did a little bit of an exercise and this was a fun little exercise for any one of our listeners to do. We said how many hours per week do you typically work? And then we added that up for the full year and got his total hours for the year minus like vacations and out of town for Christmas and holidays.

And then we looked at his income for that year as well. And we divided his income total income by total hours. And it came out to $17 and 86 [00:21:00] cents per hour. This is the reason so many people are stuck in level three traction it's because they think they're making 50 or $60 an hour. But at the end of the day, they're actually actually making $17 and 86 cents an hour.

And his, his, and his skillset and his, in his ability to do things he could earn at least twice to three times that at a day job somewhere. And so this is the thing we have to get past. If we want to do anything beyond level three here, which is low full-time to high part-time income is figuring out our pricing and our systems because the systems are the reason his hours were so high lack of systems, no repeatable outcomes in place.

And his pricing model at $50 an hour was the reason his income was so low. And those two things alone are what caught him cut his, his hourly rate into a third or a quarter of what it actually was. Chris, would you want to say on the system side and

Yeah, there's so many things here because this was my story is that I was like I was a little farther along when I started the mastering business, where I was charging a flat rate and it was very, very.[00:22:00] But I had no systems at all. And what I started to learn as I was working as an audio mastering engineer, it was like, man, if I can come up with something that saves me a little bit of time, just a tiny bit of time on each song.

Then the reality of the math that you just went through instead of making $17 and 86 cents, I was making $17 and 87 cents and then $17 and 88 cents per hour. And it just kept snowballing.

I hope it snowballs faster than that though.

it did, but here's the thing. If you want to make one penny more per hour for the entire next year, it doesn't take that impressive of a system to do that, to start to think about, Hm.

Maybe my files should all come from the same place. Hmm. Maybe I should have all my comp conversations with clients in one silo so that I'm not comparing notes when you start to build. Things that give you creative superpowers by letting you not have to do at least some of the stuff that you don't like doing so that you can [00:23:00] spend more time doing this stuff that you absolutely love and are good at.

That's where that dollar per hour starts to creep up. And boy, you know, I, I talk about this quote all the time in the podcast, but Henry Ford and his biography, his autobiography that was written in like 1926 talks about that when there is something that you do consistently day in and day out repetitively, and it's inefficient and either time or money or energy, that every time that you do that task. Instead of working on your business instead of for it so that you can make that task more efficient.

You can automate pieces of it. You can systemize some of it. You can make, you can systemize it enough that you can actually begin to delegate that to other people and get consistent results from them. When you began to do those things, the benefit to working on your business, instead of for it, it's that you don't have to pay an inefficiency tax.

Every time you do that task, if you are [00:24:00] taking 57 files and dragging and dropping them one at a time into a piece of software that you use, rather than building an automation that can do all that for you at the push of a button on your stream deck, or with Siri or the light. I mean,

not sponsored by yet.

And there's so many different things that you can do that take a task that was 57 clicks and 57 drags, and turns it into one. When you begin to do that work, your hourly goes up. And if you fixate on this and you just think constantly, how can I get my hourly up without compromising quality, nay with improving quality, because I'll be smarter when it comes to the part of my job that requires my particular type of creative genius.

Yep. so I think that's a good place to move. To the last point we have on level three here, and I'll, I'll make this one short because this is uh, an important one to talk about. People who are stuck in level three, the traction phase making high part-time to low full-time [00:25:00] income are typically not

working with the best type of client for their service or for their skillset. so, I'll, I'll do a quick example is for my, one of my businesses. Good fortune. When looking at the clients I could work with as a podcast production agency, which is one of my businesses, is I could work with anyone starting a podcast, which could be someone like two guys in the basement, just talking sports for their friends, for their podcast.

Or I could take that same skillset, same service, same person, me doing it all. Or my, my team doing it all and put it towards a corporate client who has a budget. And they have a big email list and they have ad dollars and advertising dollars to get that podcast out into the world. Which one do you think I can charge more?

Which one do you think is going to be a better client? Who's taking it more seriously. This is an extreme example, but this is one that, that people neglect to think about all the time. They just think I'm good at something who will pay me. Okay. This person will pay me. Good. I'll keep finding more of those people.

And they don't think through, is this the best person for my skillset? Now one caveat is as creatives. We don't always just pick the most profitable customer group [00:26:00] to work with because as creators, we have to have something called fulfillment. We have to be enjoying it. But I will say if you're working with someone who will pay you.

A hundred dollars, but you're passionate about it versus $10,000, but you're not as passionate about it. You will likely be better off at least doing some of the $10,000 work so that you can do more of the a hundred dollar work for fun. That fills your cup up. So, Chris, did you have something to add to this?

Or can we move on

I do have something to add to it. I'm trying to find a Facebook post in our, our community that really I think spoke to this, but I found other posts I want to share with you from our dude, Steve baker. And he said listening to the pod at 0.8 X speed on Spotify game changer.

Point eight X speed.

I love that.

How has that. have to do with anything that we're talking about

right now?

really fast,

I watch videos at like three X speed and I listen to podcasts at two X speed. So I figured I'll save the trouble. If I just talk twice as fast, you don't have to listen to me in two X speed.

Only when Chris talks you have to,

three X it, cause he talks slowly.

it's true, but I [00:27:00] make more sense too.




I will slow things down a bit to speak

to our slow thinkers.

So we had a guy in her Facebook group, I'm going to shout him out. His name's Eric Anderson. And he took a risk here and he posted and he said, please delete. If not permitted, I had a lead start, a conversation. And it led him to not trusting me. Where did I go wrong?

Any thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated any posted like a chat, you know, he posted like some of the chat in here and one of the things it's like, I started to read through it. And one of the things that popped out immediately was Eric brought up this question, you know, budget and asking, you know, what he had in mind and the client said back, that's the thing. I don't have a lot of money right now. Not the amount a person of my age should have, you know, and, and half the money, I have a say for my sister's wedding, there's the kicker right there.

And so Eric's asking a question about what did, [00:28:00] where did I go wrong with not being able to land this client

It's com lead qualification.

right, is that you shouldn't try to land this client. You are aiming your efforts at the wrong people. This guy straight up told you he doesn't have money. And I know this feels weird, but you are trying to make money as, so that you can stay in business as a creative.

And if you're like me provide for your family too. So money's going to be part of this equation. And when you get a soul sucker like this, who's just kicking tires and just coming in and being a pain in your bun skis, you got to learn how to be. You know what? I should probably be spending my time looking for the right customer, rather than figuring out how to close the wrong customer, who a is either not going to pay you or B that you're gonna make 17 cents 0.8, six and per hour at the end of the day, because this person, they don't know what they want.


And so this is, this is the type of stuff that will bring your income down. It's it's taking your skillset. What you've spent, time, money, effort, energy honing, and crafting, and [00:29:00] developing and improving, perfecting, even in some areas. And then you take that skill set and put it to someone like this who.

openly says they don't have money. They have literally disqualified themselves because as a business, we're not a charity. So we have to take budget into consideration. So by a client who does not have money to do anything is by default, not a client, they are a bad lead. And so you move on and you put your time, effort and energy into people who are good fits.

And I've made this mistake myself. I maybe continue a little bit occasionally to make the same mistake and I've definitely made it my past, but this is, this is one of those things that we have to, we have to, no matter how much we like the client, if the budget's not there there are a slight exceptions to this role, but for most part, they're not a good, they're not a good fit and you should move on.

There's caveats for everything. It's a gray area in certain situations where maybe they're well connected or maybe it will actually be a good exposure and this and that. But by and large, you should not try to land a client who is a bad fit.

Totally and sort of last thought on level three, back to one of the O G you know, things that we would quote all the time on the podcast. Back in the day, [00:30:00] again from Henry Ford's autobiography, is it Henry Ford talks in that book about this idea that there are people who struggled to walk past a small pile of money in order to get to a bigger pile of money.

People at level three can not walk past the smaller pile of money and when an opportunity for, oh my gosh, this guy might pay me, even though it sounds like it would be in my nightmare. What does he need money for his sister's wedding? Half of his money is.

Yeah. Wait, What

Okay. A little weird, but


marrying her. Right? Like,

He might be from Alabama. Who knows?

I love, I love throwing Alabama under the bus. It's a hobby of mine.

Alabama is a crazy, crazy place. anyways. So yeah, getting to level four means starting to recognize that your time is limited. And when you wasted on somebody who is not the best use of your time, that you could have spent it doing something else, you could have been working on your business instead of for it, you could have been [00:31:00] sitting down and writing out what are all the characteristics of the perfect customer?

What is the perfect customer look like? Have I ever worked with them before? How old were they?



live locally? Did they speak my language? How did they find me?

this is a lot of these. A lot of these things are what you do to create what you call a customer quality, like a lead qualification

checklist. Um, You don't have to get too technical with this. This is usually something for more advanced people in like bigger businesses, but it's basically like what are the bare minimum things I have to have in a client?

Before I'm willing to work with them.

my cousin I love my cousin Scotty and he is, he's a ladies, man. He is, he is a player and I had dinner with him the other day and he was telling me about all the dating apps.

And, you know, I'm an old geezer and I was just like, oh God, that sounds terrifying. And I'm so glad I didn't have to go



all the new and modern ones, like, uh, like a harmony and a Christian mingle, right? Like those are the


Christian mingle. It looks like it has been, I'm just kidding. But he was telling me about his systems and he was like, look, and [00:32:00] this is going to be offensive guys. I'm sorry, this is just, this was Scotty telling me things that he had noticed by dating a lot on these apps. And he's like, look, if there's no picture like of their whole body on their rest assured you probably don't want to go on a date with them.

There's a reason that they decided not to do that. If they immediately like friend you outside of the app or something like that, that's a red flag. He's going through all these things. And I'm thinking like, oh, that's interesting that you can immediately filter down to a perfect match. One of those things might be no like leopard print clothing.

Yeah, that's a

good one. That's a good one. So here, here's the thing. Now that you've offended some of our audience, Chris, I do want to say that there's a.

really good analogy there. I like that, which is in marketing.

We have to be just as quick to exclude. And there are certain criteria that your cousin has that he excludes people. So he's not swiping right on the wrong people. However, the reason he's able to do that is because he has virtually an unlimited amount of leads in his hand. He can swipe left as many times as he wants.

He can swipe, right? As many times as he wants, it's so low risk. And that's why a lot of these newer [00:33:00] dating apps have taken off because it's so low barrier. It's just like, I can make Snapchat. And then I can have a deeper conversation go to the next level and find out is there maybe a little bit more potential there?

And then I can take things deeper and go on a date and find out, is there a potential here? And then I can go on multiple dates, the same exact thing in, in marketing, which is you should have enough lead flow coming in. So you can virtually unlimitedly swept, swipe left, or right just on snap decisions about whether or not you want to work with this client.

And then once you've swiped left or right on that client, then you take on the next level. If you still want to work with them and can jump on a call with them and talk through the process. And then if they're still qualified to work with you, then you give them a price and then you keep going down. You just keep going down until you're working with them and you're working together and your client.

So that's, that's a really good analogy. I love that.

You know, what's fun about this is one of the things that we've been able to do that we've been blessed with with this podcast is getting to watch people jump up levels. And

Hashtag blessed dude, hashtag

blessed you out, dude.

were doing the hand sign. I was like, I don't know what that sign


Hashtag did. Okay.

when, you see someone go from level three to level four, John [00:34:00] McLucas is such a good example to see John go from level three to level four was so fun. And it, it took a while, you know, we've known John for what, like three, four years,

and to see him transition in that and to see him start to like fly up this ladder is just so exciting to see people do that and to see people grasp that.

And I think probably, I think I'm speaking for YouTube, Brian, but we're probably the most excited about seeing people switch from level three to level four,

Yeah, I was, I would say so, man. we've talked about the transition from level to level. three.

We've actually talked a lot about making that transition and what you need to do to make that transition. But let's talk about what it's like to be level four. This is level four, six. So this is not even the top of the rung here, but this is what we call pro. We couldn't come up with a better name than that, but level six or level, but level four is pro.

There we go. It sounds super basic, but this is typically someone who's full-time income they're above and hopefully pretty well above $50,000 us per year or whatever your local equivalent is. And there's a reason that they're this levels because they have some solid systems in place for their [00:35:00] business.

That may be basic, but there's something in place that they're able to do. Repeatable outcomes they're able to. And Chris can talk about this more, cause I don't really talk systems. Chris will talk your damn ear off the systems if you let them. But there's a couple of other things that Chris could probably talk on is they over-complicate things.

And this is a detractor for the business in this. But they also have a decent grasp on pricing. They have a good idea of how to price projects to a level that they can actually make a good living so that if they're not making $17 and 86 cents per hour thinking they're making 50 to 60 an hour and they have some sort of source of clients, it might just be word of mouth.

Maybe there's some from social media, maybe there's some from Tik TOK

they have marketing techniques.

Yeah. They have some sort of marketing in place. Maybe they're doing retargeting ads. But that is, that's kind of the nutshell of the level four. And we do have a lot of those in our audience.

So it's worth talking about some of the pitfalls of this as well, because to get from level four to level five it's hard. It's really hard to, to get to level five, which we would call six figures, six, figure creative can call it a master level, whatever you want, but to get to level five is difficult to scale to that level as a freelancer, as a service [00:36:00] provider, And there's some reasons for that.

So Chris, talk about the systems reason that holds people back here. Cause this is, this is the big time where you start to have to work on your business to go from pro to master um, level four, level five, maybe master master sounds so, so stupid. I'm gonna change the name and I'll, I'll introduce it something else


And you guys can say like, Brian, that's a good.

name for that, but continue and tell us about why people are stuck in level four.

Well, when I see people that are stuck at level four, there's a couple of things that are common. They do have some systems they have figured out like, okay, I've got a web form that clients are filling out or. A spreadsheet that we are using to manage the business, but often these systems are thrown together.

There's no experience in building systems. There's no knowledge about what's even possible when you're trying to build an automation without using any code. Like you can do pretty much anything you want, if you know what hoops to jump through. So a lot of times people who are at the pro level they're starting to get excited about systems because they're [00:37:00] recognizing, Hey, I made myself more efficient. I have less stress. I have more time. I have more money. Interesting, but they don't have any experience building systems. And so often what happens at this level is they build over complicated systems systems that break all the time systems that are undependable.

tell us, tell us, like, give me an example. Cause I know when you were like, you were transitioning from like 50, 60,000 a year to where you first broke six figures in your mastering business. And this was years ago, what were, was, give me one example of an over complicated system that did more to detract you then.

boy, I mean, this is a huge rabbit hole to go down, but I, for a while there tried to automate like each project getting automatically added to my calendar. And this is back in the dark ages. So it was actually I cow on my Mac and then my scripts would go and look at my day and it would, you know, do a bunch of calculations.

It just was . Nuts. I Cal was not consistent enough. So I sang all this time into developing a system that wasn't dependable. So I ended up abandoning it


[00:38:00] also, what was it supposed to do? Like what was the point of


was supposed to help me know what all needs to get done today.

So you couldn't just look at your calendar and figure that


the thing I didn't want to manually enter those events into my calendar. I wanted them to be automatically entered by my system,

Easy to do now, to be

honest today, these days it's super

easy to do.

Back then it was not, this is pre Zapier.

This was probably even pre WordPress.

I had a guy one time that was talking about doing a coaching program with me for systems.

And we had a conversation about it, you know, over email. I think we had some conversations on phone and video chat as well. And then one day he emailed me and said, you know, I don't, I don't think I need coaching on systems because look at this zap, I made it as 26 steps and it was like, I love you, but that is such a classic mistake.

That's like saying, Hey man, look at this amazing professional photo. I edited that I is dramatically over edited.


looks stupid.

I ran 16 filters on Instagram [00:39:00] over and over again

because that's what I thought looked good.


we come from audio and we see this all the time for people that are like, I'm going to start recording myself at home and I'm going to mix my own vocal when

it puts

some effects on it.

every S every single insert is full with a plugin. That's

just completely wrecking it. Yeah.

And, and by . The time they get done, they haven't realized that what they did made it so much worse.

Yep. So the.

Yeah. and audio, the best mixers are a subtracting. They're not adding and B are relatively simplistic and they get it right at the source, but that's, that's another time, another tale for another day when it comes to the nerdy audio world that Chris and I came from. But I love this. I love this example of zap, because that was my thing, too.

When I first got into automation for like email marketing automation, I would create these really ridiculous automations in active campaign. And Zapier I'd create these really ridiculous zaps and Zapier, and then they would break and you'd be like, I don't know what the hell to do. And that's, and that's what the problem is.

You overbuild something happens. It wrecks your business because you built your business on this automation happening and then to troubleshoot it is too difficult. [00:40:00] And so you've just wasted your time. You basically have to delete it and start over and make it


So making a system for your business beginning to build automations, it is an art form. There is absolutely an art of automation. And when you're new to this art, like every other art, you typically do it too much. And where that becomes problematic. It's not just that you have a really ugly picture of yourself on Instagram now, it's that your business, which is supposed to be dependable, which is supposed to, you're supposed to act like an adult with clients and then your systems break and you look like a darn fool.

That's where this starts to get complicated. And where I think if you looked at the art of automation and you thought about it, like being in. There's all these different moves that you can do to automate something there's different types of punches. There's different types of kicks. There's different types of blocks where, oh, something went wrong.

Did the system tell you that something went wrong or did you have to figure that out on your own? That's a, a move with an automation. And when you talk about this idea of being an automation ninja, it ultimately comes [00:41:00] back and every no ninja legend or movie or TV show is there's always some sort of mystical power from within that the ninja can call on.

It could be cheesy, or it could be the care bear stare. Like it's

some sort of, that was stupid. Okay. It could be cheap or it could be

No, we're not. We're leaving that in. That's that's the, that's the beauty of editing

what, it's just, it's something that's internal that when they reach down and grab it, that all of a sudden, a simple punch and a simple kick that they start to do these amazing combos. You see this in the game street

fighter and the

game mortal combat.

let me push back a little bit. This is a fun topic, and I'm gonna argue with Chris on this. I love when we can talk.

well, Brian, you're absolutely right. And I'm glad that you walked into that trap because that is exactly what I'm saying. Bruce Lee is famous for saying I do not fear the man who knows 1000 moves. I fear the man who has practiced one move 1000 times,

pretty sure you said that that quote last week,

I did and that's worth saying it again, but this cheek, [00:42:00] this internal thing, this well of power, the soul that the ninja can pull from means to do the simplest thing.

It means to be able to look at the system and be like, you know what? 26 steps is too much. I think I can do this in three. I think I can do this in a more simple way. That'll be more dependable. And when you start to combine the wisdom and knowledge to choose the simple solution, the Indiana Jones, like thing where, you know, the guy with the sword comes out and swings it all around and he pulls out his gun and bang the end.

Hilarious, but beautiful in its simplicity. And its elegancy elegancy, we're going to stick with elegancy and its use of technology, right. And people that are stuck at level four are often they're being too fancy. And you know, I got to drop a cuss word here,

It's going to be bleeped out, Chris.

We're a clean podcast.

well, you guys, you guys will catch the drift.

Tim Ferris is has popularized the sane when it comes to systemization he's popularized the sane, what gets fancy gets

I love that quote [00:43:00] so


It's so good. And a bad ninja, a bad automation ninja comes in and does it like, whoa, whoa, whoa. They started doing all the crazy stuff. And they're going to try to like do a like flip kick spinning thing in the sky where the actual master is going to come in and take two fingers and poke them in the chest.

And their opponent falls in the ground.

Getting from pro to master is about knowing how to choose, find, and master the simplest way to build a system that makes you into a rockstar.

Yeah. So I'll also, I'll add to this cause I don't disagree with anything you said, but I will never say. Systems, our automation, those are two completely separate

things. And I'll think I'll say this. I've noticed this in your mastering business, that there were a lot of things that you automated that likely should have not been automated.

If it would have just been outsourced to someone to delegate where it was really complicated to build this thing [00:44:00] out and just putting a human's button to the seat to do that thing. It might've made sense in your business, Chris, because you were high volume, low cost. And so you have to be really, really, really efficient for that business model to work.

But for most people who are working with higher dollar projects were, I mean, at least a thousand dollars, you know, average per project, most of these things, You're not doing them so often, like 10, 20 times a day that you can literally just have an assistant to do a lot of these things for you and you create a system first.

And then eventually you can look to maybe once that person has perfected that system to then start automating parts of that system, but only once it's been perfected. So that's the, that's the one caveat I want to add to.

You're absolutely right. I completely agree with you.

I hate it. I want you to argue with


well I'm, I'm going to argue a caveat.

to my caveat.

I'm going to caveat to your caveat.


Okay. Is it caveat or caveat?


You can tell it's like 4:00 PM, 5:00

PM on a

Friday, and we're just like, we don't care anymore. We're just like,


don't know if our audience likes or hates this. Just comment in our Facebook


and tell us. if you hate this stuff.

We'll try to [00:45:00] make better content for

you, and you hit the nail on the head is that often people will automate or try to automate instead of systemize and then delegate the beauty of a system is it takes a high bar and it brings it down low enough that somebody else can do it. The reason that people often struggle with this is that there are two levels of building automations, but you know, he called this like brown belt and white belt, a brown belt.

There's a guy, no, I'm not going to say his name. But he is one of the best systems builders I've ever met.

I love that you'll throw our, our own community members name under the bus for that earlier example. And you won't talk about the guy. Who's actually a good



he he'll know who he is. But this is a more painful learning moment as shall we

say. And, and so for him, his systems are elegant. They're beautiful. They're absolutely gorgeous. He's doing unbelievable things with them. But nobody else can use those systems except. He doesn't know how to build portable systems, [00:46:00] portable, automations, things that other people can come into your business and participate with you in it.

And often those systems and those automations actually make that collaboration possible. It makes it possible to keep the conversations about specific projects siloed enough that you can follow along and know where in the life cycle this project is and what people that have just begun to get into automation haven't figured out yet is how to build a system that allows any old person off the street, any old person that they would like to work with to learn how to provide value in their business.

And this is, this is super normal businessy stuff.

Yeah, it's funny. Cause I'm just hearing in my head, I'm hearing standard operating procedures, SOP.

That's what I'm hearing and SOP on how to work the system. Yeah,

And S SOP means standard operating procedure. And for a lot of people, like right now, if you're using a standard operating procedure, that is. Piece of paper and a clipboard, which is the way it used to be. I think that's crazy, but it's a hell of a lot better than [00:47:00] using nothing.

we're using process street for hours.

I use gravity forms,

Okay. Yeah. It's, it's similar actually. They're very closely the same,

I adore, let me just shout the praises of gravity forms on your, if you're a WordPress user to gravity forms is a way to easily make forms that have logic baked in them. So like if the client answers yes to this, then show them this question. If the answer, no, don't show them this question. So you can build out even on someone's cell phone, a process where, you know, if you have an employee, that's going to show up and set up a venue for you that they pull their phone out and it walks them through first, do this, then do this and go lock the van, then go bring this inside, then plug this inside and they can check it off as they go and you can update it remotely and be like, okay, well we need to add this extra step because it's been a problem in the


that's so interesting. I've never thought about using gravity forms as an SOP.

And we need to talk about we should, we should, we should, table this cause this is okay. So this is two level six entrepreneur from people talking about [00:48:00] this stuff we needed. We needed to table this, bring it to another discussion because this is, this is super interesting for me because it's top of mind, but Not relevant for the level four pro because that's, that's stuff like we're talking about like a lot of just basic business stuff, which is hilarious how basic this is on a fundamental level in the greater world of business, but how utterly foreign this says to creatives and freelancers.

So we're hopefully kind of bridging the gap a little bit. We, we will talk about that specific discussion and, and where you hold those things and how you operate them at all and how you edit them later on. We're going to table that,

So let me, let me just give us just one example. Before we move into this, have a great system that uses an SOP that we do through gravity. One of the best, most effective systems I've ever made was to say, okay, I'm hiring people and I want to pay them once a month, but I want to make sure that you and your employee are on the same page that you guys have a good relationship. Because before the employee sends me an invoice, they fill out this form and they rank themselves and they rank me and it takes them maybe five [00:49:00] minutes. And that comes in with the invoice and I can look at it and be like, oh man, they're stressing about this thing.

I really need to create a system where this is no longer a part of their stress with their job. And that system allows us to be on the same page and it creates a stronger relationship. It's the best thing I ever did in my business in regards to working with other people. And it's when people start to do stuff like that, that they begin to be able to move into that six figure creative zone.

Because they can actually bring in help and know that you're on the same page and they're not like stewing in the background refusing to actually communicate with you that there's someone happy.

Yeah. So I think this is a good, I think this is a good place to move on to the next level. We'll come back to the SOP conversation, the standard operating procedures and system stuff. Cause I I'm super interested in this as a top of mind for me. I love that conversation. It's it's too advanced, I think for this general kind of conversation of the levels right now, but let's talk about level five.

I've rebranded from Level five master, which sounds super arrogant to level five is the [00:50:00] six-figure creative.

Oh, content.

better. Yeah. Yeah.

So tied in with the branding. All right. So level five freelancer, you were making a hundred K a year or more.

He's got in our opinion, amazing, beautiful elegant systems in place. Assuming you have not worked yourself to the bone to get here the best six-figure creatives have done these things, the systems that are portable. You talked about that earlier, Chris teachable, And Chris, what's the last thing.

And They're dependable.

They don't crap. The bed. These are hard things, and it's a lot of work to do that. And what inevitably happens at this master level with the sixth period of creativity, Is it, this person is scheduling time every week, every week to work on their business, not for it. And they might even be spending most of their time working on their business instead of four.

At this point I was when I hit six, six figures, I spent most of my time optimizing for better growth in the future, but I had to schedule time to work on my business. Not for it specifically on simplification, because I'd add a system here. I'd [00:51:00] add a system there, I'd add another system there. And oh, this new product came out.

They can take the place of three of my systems with one new system. So what can I do to, with my business to make it more simple, to get less questions from people that I've hired, people that I'm working with. What can I do to just make this business? Not something that I need, like a 400 page. Like book, just to remember, well, it's this zap which connects to this apple script, which then you know, shines a flashlight on my sun dial, which then scares the mouse, so the six-figure creatives are beginning to understand or already have a great understanding that simplicity is the highest form of sophistication.

I love that line. It took you like six tries to get it, but it sounded perfect because our editing so I want, I'll push back a little bit here, cause I, I will say not all six-figure creatives have amazing, beautiful elegant systems in place.

Just the best ones. Some six-figure creatives got there because they focused on working with high tier clients for high [00:52:00] dollar amounts.

So I do know a good number of people at level five here who got there because they just work with high dollar high price gigs. And that is pretty much all that.

and that's one of the problems is that you can get stuck at level five. If all you've done is raise your prices. And then you got to a point where you're at the top of the market and you cannot raise your prices anymore, and you're not systemized.

So you can't take on any additional projects and you're not systemized. So you can't take on any additional help. You get stuck there at six figures, which to me sounds pretty


Being stuck at level five. Is it really being stuck? it's just

it's just a matter of like, do you

want to go to level six or not every not everyone needs to or wants to go to level six, which we will talk about in a second, but level five, you can't get there without having crazy, amazing, beautiful, elegant, portable, teachable, dependable systems in your business.

You can get there just on hard work and high prices, and, and skill like a lot of people get there just because they're incredible at what they do and they can command high prices and they have the confidence to do it.

they have a brand of some kind.

Yeah, but that doesn't necessarily mean that you have a healthy business. Some people they work themselves to [00:53:00] death to get to this level.

Some people

you know, there's, there's a million different ways, but we're, we're trying to pin pick the picture of the optimum level five creative. There's a . Six figure creative and a, and also say just on the marketing front, some of this at this level is likely at that a hundred percent word of mouth thing at this point where they have most of their clients coming from word of mouth from referrals.

Because at this point you've worked with so many people that you are starting to get referrals from every every one of your past clients. They come back as repeat clients all the time. So that at a certain point as a freelancer, you hit this ceiling. That is, we are out of time. There's only so many people we can service at this time.

So do you want to scale to a larger business and turn into a full agency, which is one path to level six? Or do you want to maybe take the skill set . That you have created and turn it into other businesses? And that's another path that level six and level six. We'll just go into it now. There's not a whole lot to talk about here because not that many people are interested or able to get to level six, but that is what we call the graduation level.

That's where you've graduated from freelancer to entrepreneur or freelancer to business owner. And that's where you actually have

a business.[00:54:00] this is where, I mean, Chris and I are kind of there. I


yeah, we're there. So one of the things that's interesting about this level six graduation is it can take a couple of forms, So I got this buddy, Sean, Sean used to be the lead singer for this band attack attack.

Toward with them back in the


You did. Oh man.

They're . Amazing. So Sean used to be the lead singer and at some point he decided he didn't want to do that anymore. And so he started a vape company and he made vape juice and he sold it

I hate that phrase. So vape juice just grow


does sound gross,

You put it in a sippy cup, Chris.

he puts in a sippy cup and what Sean found, you'd love Sean, man. He now, well, I'll tell you his full story here.

So, so what Sean found, he's definitely a level six here was that he could license the recipe and branding for the company that he created to a bigger company and they would pay him money every single month. So Sean went out and started another company and he sells cold brew coffee. He's any makes custom electric guitar pedals [00:55:00] that are the most crazy beautiful pedals I've ever seen him.

But he was able to figure out, okay, I've built amazing systems. I've got recipes, I've got processes,

I've got checklists, I've got skills. And I've created a company that's valuable without me.

That actually that is probably level seven, because I'll say this, there is a level of, I knew there would be, I knew there would be level six is like, is a wonderful place to be, but it is dependent on you being there. I don't think any of my businesses could run without me. Unfortunately, I haven't gotten to that level of sophistication of team of all that stuff.

And I am going to hire more people this year, but level seven, the level seven is not a freelancer anymore. We're out of the freelance world. You've already graduated. So it's like, it's kind of like the level two entrepreneur, I guess you


say where you now have an actual business that runs whether you're there or not.

And that's a, that is, that's a big thing to build. That's tough.

it is. And it's funny. I said same, but that's actually not true. Bounce Butler, is a passive form of income it, and to be honest, without it, when my health issues happened, I would have been in some serious.[00:56:00]

I'd take it. I would push against that. Cause you don't get new clients or customers without you. So how do you grow.

Well, that's a great question. I have done almost no marketing outside of this podcast,

Oh, so you're doing what's called hope.

smoking that hopium on bounce Butler. I will shortly. I'll be doing a lot more focused on the marketing, but that thing just, it grew through the pandemic.

It just continued to grow and continue to make it. So I was sure I could make payroll every month. And it, it was amazing to have this thing that I build a piece of intellectual property and it's out there working for me. For me. It was an AI that I coded myself for my buddy, Sean. It was a concept called big bottle and it was just a really big bottle of vape juice.

And people loved it. People were like, wow, this is the bit that you can get a lot more when you buy the big bottle. And so everybody wants the big


let me, take a step back. I do

have a couple, a couple of software companies. I do love them. I do love the recurring revenue situation. Like it's all great, but if I remove myself from those businesses, they won't grow, they will start to shrink [00:57:00] inevitably, the whole point of chaired outpaces, any word of mouth growth at a certain point, it'll stagnate and likely die off because people are not hearing about it anymore, but I just want to go back to our audience, our listeners right now, level six graduation may not sound that appealing to you right now.

And that's completely okay. When I was level 1, 2, 3, probably four. All I wanted to do was what I was. In audio and that was completely fine. And that's, if that's where you are for me, it.

was audio. So freelancing for anyone that's not in audio is who I'm talking to here. But eventually you start to develop new skills, you learn new things, you develop new passions.

You, you get around new people with new ideas. And so if there's ever a chance for you to graduate, like feel free to do that, but don't feel like you have to, but I'm just talking about like, when you get to level six, it's fun because you have so many different skills and you can utilize them in so many different ways, especially if he's built a platform like Chris and I have, like, you can build your own platform somewhere else, your own podcast, your own YouTube

channel, your own, whatever you want to do.

once you have an audience of some sort level six is even more fun because then you have a baked in marketing channel.

[00:58:00] totally. And I think what I love what you said about how you never set out to be levels, level five, you never set out for level six and I'm there to, when I'm there to, when I decided I was going to work for myself, I thought the most I would ever make was by the time I was 40, I figured I'd make about $40,000.

Mine was 70. I had heard like $70,000. I heard someone making that at a salary position. I was like, man, that'd be so cool to make that much


Yeah, I set out for 40 and I never imagined that there was any such thing as someone that was, that was a six figure creative. I didn't think it was possible.

No, I had heard doctors making like a quarter of a million a year And I was like, that's


And then the second you start making more

as a creative than someone does as a doctor. That's that's insane.

Yeah, dude. So to me, I think some of the value of this episode is to start to think about and assess yourself and say, well, what level am I right now? Well, what are the cliches?

where am I on the spectrum

from one to say.

Where am I on the spectrum from one to six? [00:59:00] And what are the cliches that are common for people that are in that same zone as me that I've been committing as well?

Maybe I'm still charging hourly,

or maybe I haven't automated my invoicing yet, or maybe I don't use forms at all, or that I

have no idea how to use Google spread, Google sheet.


It is a good tool. Okay. So what's funny is like there everyone listening right now, I bet most people at least was like, oh, to one or two of those,

like, oh,

I don't know that I don't do that.

And it's likely why you're probably at level two or three right now.

Well, and so let's bring this home and get some warm and fuzzy, feelings here. As you move up, these levels that we're talking about as you advance in this spectrum, you get to be more creative, not less, more. It takes a lot more creativity to make a hundred thousand dollars a year.

As a creative, it takes a lot of creativity to build portable teachable, dependable systems. It takes a lot of [01:00:00] creativity to come up with a brand that people resonate with. And you get more creative tools to play with. You're not in the situation when I was a little kid, I used to love to build stuff in my basement, but I was often limited to like, okay, I have some screws and old scrap of wood and like some Yeah. I got a MacGyver it and like it's a tetanus. The only thing that my machine that I built is good for is giving you tetanus. And, you know, I built it out of trash and yeah, it's kind of cool. My first guitar was like that. I tried to build my first guitar, never having even held a real guitar. And it sort of looked like a


audience. Our audience is trying to build a business after have never

actually knowing what a business is.

Not all of you, by the way. Not all of you, just some

of you

Not all. I was like, oh, we've got these like weird little copper nails. I bet if I like smashed down the tops of these, I could turn them into tuners on my guitar and you know, oh, we've got this piece of wood and my dad refinished the banister.

So I'm gonna use that refinish to make the neck look brown. Cause that's what a guitar neck [01:01:00] is supposed to be brown. And I'll use an old piece of the doorbell because it's got a coil in it and that's electric guitar pickups have coils in it. And I saw a preview of a movie where Einstein had a coil on his electric guitar that he made.

And it was super, is a


are you going with this, Chris?

when people are trying to build their business with hay bale and spit wire in a complete vacuum, and they're making it up all as they go, instead of finding places that are resources for them, communities, where they can learn from other people, it just, you stall out.

Inevitably the, the things that you need to break through the ceilings, you need to crush the plateaus that you need to climb above. And those are all weird ways to say that, but you know what I'm trying to say here, all of those have been done by humans before you, and they've learned ways to do it.

That's why man, freaking Henry Ford's autobiography from 1926 is still useful. He still had to work his way through plateaus and his own [01:02:00] business as a factory owner. And that's an exciting thing for us. And what we're preaching to you guys is this isn't about getting richer and less creative. This is about finding ways to leverage your creativity in different and new and exciting ways to start to build systems, to start to do marketing, to start to build branding, to find ways that you can capture a moment when a customer is excited automatically and repurpose that into a testimonial or a Google review.

There are things that you can do that require immense creativity to do them. And as soon as your brain starts to figure out, okay, if I think in this way, and I think about how to build something it's so, so fun. It's like building a song. it is as creative as any artwork I've ever done before. And in many cases more because great creativity is this amazing combination of function and form.

I'm a huge fan of Dieter Rams. He's this crazy Bauhaus Bauhaus [01:03:00] designer from Germany. And he made a watch and the watch is functional and it does its job, but it's also simple and elegant. And its beauty and Dieter Rams is famous for making machines that are both beautiful and effective. And that's our job as creatives is to build businesses that are both beautiful and have great form that they marry form and function.

So I think this is a good place to wrap this episode up here. We've gone through these five or six or seven levels. Now I think we kind of, we kind of put this the seventh one in there, but we'll just, we'll

label this as sex and whatever. But here's the thing I feel like we'd be remiss if we didn't mention this at the end of the episode, but if you need help with systems, Chris grams, your guy

Hey, thanks Brian.

can people go to sign up for whatever you're


on the system side?

Chris Graham, coaching.com. We've got a couple of coaching programs. I sometimes do one-on-one coaching. We do small group coaching, but I'm working on a new coaching program right now and I'm taking people and walking them through it. As I launch it and basically it's, it's, [01:04:00] a, it's a course.

It's a video course where I teach you how to automate your business without code. And then we meet and we hang out and we do some one-on-one coaching after.

Uh, So go to Chris Graham, coaching.com and check that out. So yeah, that's great. And Brian, we've had a lot of conversations about this, of we're on a podcast together. I've sort of become the systems guy and you've become the marketing guy. Talk about that. If people need help with the marketing that, if people want to level up and marketing is one of these ingredients that they absolutely need, where can they go to learn more from you?

Well, I'll be, I'll be honest. I'm not taking on coaching clients right now. I just take on a tiny amount at a time, but I am accepting applications if you?

are interested in this, because this is not my full-time thing. The coaching side is something I'm testing out. I'm working on and building my own systems to run that program a bit more efficiently, but it is one-on-one help for me to get marketing in a place so that you're not relying on hopium and word of mouth marketing for the rest of your life.

If That's something you need help with, just go to six-figure creative.com/. apply app [01:05:00] L Y and you can apply for coaching and then next time I'm accepting people in. You'll be the first that I contact.

Great story with that is we've got to give a shout out to Brian skill.

he's been a long stay on this

podcast. He

was, He was originally your mixing engineer for years.

well, he was my barista

first, and then I hired him to be my mix engineer and that went crazy well. And then he listened to the podcast too damn much. And he took your course and he grew his business like crazy.

And he had to fire me. And then he went through my coaching program for systemization he's in that right now. We were just hanging out yesterday and he just hired you

Yeah. He's also to say, I don't know if you knew that Chris,

but he

took me on for marketing coaching. Yeah,

he's crushing it and


gives me endless joy to see Brian graduating,

Brian's scale.


to see, to see Brian steel graduating from barista to full-time mix engineer to absolutely destroying it with his own production company.

Like what a bad-ass

Yeah. I, I, I held back on doing [01:06:00] coaching for so long. Cause I personally hate like the guru kind of thing, but man, I'll tell you right now, like I we've talked about this before, but I've spent well over a hundred grand on coaching courses consulting on my own. And so I just know the value of it.

So I fell into the trap, Chris I'm offering it and I love it. And it is what it is.

It's great. When I'm coaching somebody. I learned so much


what we should be talking about in the

same. It's great for content too.

so, Chris anything, any last words you want to say to wrap this up? Usually, usually the wrap-up



You always have something poignant.

Poignant. So let me get my burp out real quick.



keep that in. That's poignant as hell. So well-spoken

for a lot of creatives, it's difficult to look at a spectrum like this, and to think about others, different levels of creative. Because when we hear about creativity, there's an aspect of your soul involved.

And when you judge someone else's creativity or you put them in a box, it can feel weird. It [01:07:00] can feel like you said, well, your soul is not worth as much as you know an Andy Warhol soul like somebody else. When we look at these, I think it's important to realize the journey that you're on is a creative one.

You're not a photographer or a mix engineer or a podcaster or a videographer. You're a creative. And the current brush that you are using is the type of creativity that you are doing. I think that all of us has creatives are called to evolve, are called to grow and are called to look. The world differently because what we do as creatives, as we show people, the world in a different light, we take something we saw or something we felt, or we understood and we make some dope art so that other people can feel that too.

And when we look at the way that we grow our businesses, and we look at the way that we can have vision for being able to do this for the rest of our lives and to do it comfortably and to do it in a spot where our anxiety about not naming it, not being able to pay the bills actually ends up [01:08:00] destroying our creativity.

When we start to think about this, we can start to imagine what's possible. And isn't that our job as a creative is to wonder what's possible. No one's ever done that before. Maybe I could pull it off. Maybe I could be the first person to make a hundred thousand dollars a year. I don't know, a gluing Polaroids to benches as art pieces.

I don't know something cooky and creative. Maybe you can, maybe you're creative enough to figure.

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