- How many other freelancers are “bothering” you about hiring them?
- How many old acquaintances are reaching out to you about meeting up for dinner or drinks to catch up?
- Hell, how many potential love interests are sliding into your DMs?
- How to prepare yourself for an economic downturn
- Positioning yourself as a freelancer to replace your day job
- Solving problems as a method of sales
- The rule of 7
- The importance of meeting people in person
- Competition at the top levels of freelancing
- Understanding the market you're in to provide a valuable offer
- Balancing between big city freelancers and “cheap” options in other countries
Join The Discussion In Our Community
Click the play button below in order to listen to this episode:
Send Us Your Feedback!
Related Podcast Episodes
Tools and Apps
Companies and People
[00:00:00] Welcome back to another episode of the six figure creative podcast.
I am your host Brian Hood. And today we have a wonderful guest that goes by the name of Michael Janda. Actually, if you get to know him, he, he prefers to go by the name, Mike, and the reason Mike is such a wonderful guest is because, you know, I might call myself the six figure creative, and we talk about running a six figure freelance business for the most part or creative business for the most part.
Or I might talk about six figure creative. Mike is a seven figure creative. He started off as a freelancer and within like a year or so, he was making six figures, but he actually quickly scaled that into a seven figure design agency. he actually had something. Very few design agencies ever have is a successful exit where he actually sold his agencies to someone else in 2015.
And since then he has just been out there putting out books. He's got a couple books. One is called burn your portfolio, which I suggest people go check out. He's got another one called the psychology of graphic design pricing, but we head might come on the podcast, not to tell his story, which is wonderful.
We get into a bit of that, but actually to just come teach us. I don't very often get to speak to seven figure agency owners. Usually if I'm talking to somebody who's earned seven figures, it's through selling courses [00:01:00] or through selling software or something. That's a little bit more scalable, but I really get to speak to someone who's did the freelance thing and scaled it up to a seven figure income through having an agency.
So there's a lot that we get to talk about in this episode. But the things that I wanna point out and the things I want you to state and pay attention to are when we get into something called the rule of seven. This was his key to success, in my opinion. there's a bunch of things he did. And we talk about some of those things, but this was one of those key things I think were a huge takeaway from me is this thing called the rule of seven.
And I'll give you a quick spoiler. It's basically the seven touchpoints you need to have with somebody before they're ready to buy from you. And we talk about what some of those touchpoint are. And we talked about how he implemented those in his business. He talked about how people have implemented those.
To him as he's hired people And we get into also how he had differentiated himself from all the other people in that industry. So whether you're making four figures, three figures, five figures, six figures, whatever range you're at as a creative this, episode's got a little bit of something for you in it.
And I can't wait for you to dive into this and learn from Michael. So without any further delay, here is my conversation with Mike Janda. Mike thank you so much for coming on the podcast, man.
Hey, thank you. I'm excited to be here. I've [00:02:00] listened to some of your episodes and your past guests and stuff, and you're doing a great thing for the creative community. So I appreciate being part of it.
I'm glad I have you here. You actually have been recommended by a couple of our past guests here. And that's one of my favorite types of people get on the show is when a past guest that I love talking to recommends another guest. That's who we prioritize above everyone else, because I can just say if I already like talking to this person, I know I'll like talking to Mike and I might actually accidentally call you Mike.
And we talk off air before this, that you prefer to go by Mike, but you go by Michael on the internet, which is a fun thing. And. Your name on the screen is Michael. So if I go between Michael and
it's all good, man. just don't call me late for dinner and I'll be fine. That sounds like an Alabama joke. Are you an Alabama?
I am from Alabama. Yeah. And I can, I can turn the accent on if you want. It's
up to you.
love to hear it. Uh, yeah, so yeah, just don't call me late for dinner. Everything else is.
Got it. So I'm really excited to talk to you today specifically because you are already, what I would consider graduated from the freelance world. , you're still a creative, you're still creating a lot of cool stuff. You're still doing a lot of what I consider.[00:03:00] Really high level creative tasks and projects and fun things, but it's just shifted a lot over the years and bringing someone on who has been through what I consider the full life cycle of a freelancer is some of my favorite people to talk to because you've seen it all.
You've done it all. You've experienced it all. You've been through the highs and the lows, the entrepreneur rollercoaster, the ups and the downs. You have learned how to make things succeed, where it may others may. Quickly off and given up and you've seen it out to the other side. And um, I already mentioned this in the intro, but you started as a freelancer, you formed an agency, you sold the agency in 2015, and now you're you're doing a lot of education and teaching and doing high level stuff there on different platforms, but I'm excited to chat with you today.
And I wanted to start where I start with a lot of my guests. And this is a little further back than a lot of my guests for you of your first freelance dollar.
It sounds like
old man jokes. These, these sound like old man
no, it's it's I look at
it this way. It's you're like Moses coming down off of
the mountain with your tablets to show us young kids how to do it and it's no disrespect whatsoever, but I like talking about the first freelance dollar, just because so many of our audience has either just gone through that [00:04:00] or is still working on that. And it just helps them ground themselves of like what the experience was for you on your first freelance dollar. And I like, starting there for everyone because it, it really helps us start from a place that everyone understands.
Yeah. So for me, I didn't decide to go and be a freelancer. I wasn't the guy who was like, I am gonna go conquer that mountain of being a freelancer. I was working at Fox studios. I was a creative director there back in 2000, 2002, that, early two thousands era and the dot bomb happened and the economy crumpled and.
People started laying off internal teams. And during that time, Fox sold our division Fox kids and Fox family to Disney, and then Disney started dismantling it our division as they acquired all the assets and rolled them into the Disney family of brands. So. During that time, I was like looking for jobs because every [00:05:00] month I'd have to I had a team of like 50 people and I had to give names to HR of the next batch of people that were gonna get, let go.
And I knew that the hatchet was gonna fall on me someday, but during that time, people were leaving other people. So everybody was looking for jobs. Everybody knew that someday was gonna be their last day on this rounds and rounds of layoffs and our marketing director. At Fox kids, Fox family ended up working at Sony and I had a good friendship with her and she trusted me.
I was a creative director. She was a marketing director. We had this, you know, symbiotic relationship and she called me because I had built so much stuff. with her doing the marketing side and me uh, responsible for the creative side. She called me and said, Hey, I've got this site that I need to do for the Sony Metreon, which is the mall was the mall.
They've renamed it since, but was the mall in San Francisco anyway. So I was like, okay. Yeah, I would love to do it. And that was my first freelance dollar. [00:06:00] She gave me the budget. She told me what to charge. She knew what I was gonna create because I had created so many websites with her in the past.
And so I never was looking for it. And then that turned into another project from her. And then another person left. Fox and started sending me work from Warner brothers and then another person left Fox and started sending me work from a division of Disney. And that's how it all kind of started. And when I finally got laid off after a year and a half of these rounds and rounds layoffs, and just massive trauma watching this.
Dismantle and me thinking, oh no, what's gonna happen to me next. After a year and a half of that, I finally got laid off and I was working full time as a freelancer because I had these three clients who used to be my friends who were in decision making roles with a budget, and they were spending the money with me.
and that was how it kind of played out for me.
So were [00:07:00] you doing some of the similar services for Fox and then Disney that you were then offering as a freelancer? Were these things that you had already honed and crafted and learned? Okay. So this is, this is an area that a lot of people are in, right? The second, who knows where their economy's going.
It's not looking great right now. So far this year layoffs are starting to happen. And a lot of people right now, Already have skills that they've developed and they've honed and they've been trained on that. They can then take in freelance and, I can promise you right now, like anyone in that similar position, your company is making a lot more off of you than they're paying you.
So for you, how long did it take for that transition to actually replace what you were making at
your, I don't wanna call it a cushy course per job. Cause it didn't sound cushy, but at your
it was good. I was, I had a six figure salary and I was making six figure. I was making 10 grand a month or so as a freelancer right out of the gate. but it was a six month run. It took six months from project number one until I had three clients feeding me staff that was giving me replaceable income my freelance.[00:08:00]
Now, you know, you mentioned this economic situation we're in inflation stock market tanking. I didn't look at it yet today, but. don't even look at my, I have a big investment portfolio. I don't even look at it. I haven't looked at it for like two and a half, three months because I just don't want to know what it is because I'm not retiring tomorrow.
I'm like, I love what I do. I've got 15, 20 years of life blood left in me to do stuff relating to what I do now. So I don't care what the stock market's doing right now. It does sting to know that I'm hemorrhaging, value in my portfolio. Anyway, I don't look at it. The thing with this that was interesting is I've been through two economic downturns and they both played out differently.
Economic downturn. Number one was this tech bubble burst dot bomb, early two thousands. And during that time, they downsized internal teams and they sped up freelancing. They still had work to [00:09:00] get done to sustain their business. So they cut internal, overhead and freelanced out.
And that's what made my freelance blow up. It was fortuitous timing. Me as a scared person, not knowing where my next paycheck's coming from. It was traumatic, but now I look back at it in hindsight, and it was like the most perfect time to start freelancing ever because nobody had internal teams. our team at Fox was 50 people.
And then on the last day we were six, All those people got downsized. So the internal teams downsized, the freelancing increased 2008, 2009 was a little different. 2008, 2009. My revenue at my agency got cut in half because during that era, what I saw is that my clients were retaining their internal teams in a wait and see kind of manner and not doing all the layoffs and stuff.
But they were reducing the external spend. They were [00:10:00] cutting external budgets. So I've seen it go both ways and we don't know which way it's gonna go this time. My assumption is that coming off of the post pandemic. Remote team work from home kind of world that we got accelerated into. It was an inevitable thing anyway, but now we're accelerated into it because of COVID.
My assumption is that freelance opportunities are only going to increase in the future. And this is probably a great time to start freelancing because businesses have to spend money to make. So they have to do their marketing. They, and most creatives are doing some form of marketing, the stuff they do relates to marketing in some fashion.
These businesses have to do that. And if the economy downturns, then they have to spend more money to stay solvent. Not less, [00:11:00] they have to spend more. So I think, and this is just me being optimistic. I think it's a great, great time and a great opportunity for freelancers to go for it and see what happens.
I'd have to agree with you. I, I know that the same exact story played out for so many of my peers, because I started in 2009, which was the bottom of the last recession. and it was, Not a good time to start a business, but it actually was because there was no other options out there.
I couldn't get a job somewhere. I wasn't employable. I didn't graduate from college. I had a 1.9 GPA in high school, like I was unemployable. that was the only option I had and I had to make it work. and I think the reason so many people are held back from.
Excelling and freelance is because they have those golden handcuffs on, at their cushy corporate job, making that six figure salary or high five figure salary. And they just can't make themselves pursue the full-time thing. So what would you say for people that are like on the fence? Maybe they are, they're good at what they do.
Like obviously you were good at what you do and that's like table stakes, six, figure creative. You have to be good at what you do. you're not gonna just like market your way to six figures with an awful mediocre service. So you have to be good at what you do. And Michael or [00:12:00] Mike was good at what you did starting out or else you wouldn't have landed those types of clients, above and beyond that, What other skills and things did you learn were super important for you as you transitioned from that cushy corporate job with a salary that you could depend on every single month and the, the nice benefits to come with that, like insurance, remember health insurance, Michael, remember when you could just get that on your employee now you have to pay for it,
Man. And remember, remember, when it was affordable and
now bigger than a mortgage payment. I remember those days.
but let's talk about some of the skills that you had to learn and adapt. And some of those you already gained working in corporate. That's one of the things that I actually kind of envy about corporate background people is like, you learn much structure and processes. You understand how people work and how to work within teams and things like that.
And that's the training I never got, which is why I've always struggled so much to actually grow a team myself. But what are some of those things that were like the school of hard knocks you learn transitioning out into the freelance world.
okay. The, the hustle factor and I was always ambitious, but you have to sell your services. and selling isn't. What people think there are a few [00:13:00] creative mentory leadership people out there that say don't sell, don't sell, don't sell. But man, that is a crock. You gotta sell.
You gotta sell. Now how you sell is what it is. And then in creative sales selling is mostly just about showing up and not being afraid to tell people what you do. That's the extent of it, not being afraid to tell people how you can help their business. if we take sales and we bundle it that way and say, look, you just gotta show up at the networking event and you gotta meet new people and don't be afraid to ask them about their business and then position your services to a pain point that they are seeing.
And that's all sales is.
you explain that a little bit more? As far as like the talking to the pain?
Yeah. So you meet a plumber, let's just use a easy plumber, but Hey plumber, what challenges are you facing in your business? You know, you small talk about their business [00:14:00] and then they say, oh, well, it's really competitive, you know? Or. Our competitors do this, this and this.
And then you say, you know what? One of the things that my agency does is we help our clients differentiate from their competitors. And so there's really a value in understanding your competitive landscape. We'd love to sit with you and do a little strategy.
Engage. Where we research all your competitors and try and identify ways that you can differentiate and stand out and then create some marketing materials to help you grow your business. and that
simple little conversation right there
is sales it's not me saying knocking on the door saying, Hey, you need a website 49 99.
You know, it's not that just talking about what is your pain? And how can we solve that for you? And if they say no, then good luck to them on their business. If they want to go it alone fine. But don't be afraid to try and position yourself as a solution to pain points that somebody's feeling.
just to [00:15:00] speak to what you said a little bit there, I call this this is the freelance friend zone. So many of our listeners are in this right now where you, you refuse to sell. That's essentially what it is. you may be going to networking events. Again, just to talk about a networking event and let people have a bad taste on their mouth.
From that phrase, it's just being around your ideal clients, just anywhere you're around your ideal clients, no matter what you're doing, if you're in any space where you're around multiple people that are your ideal clients, if you are having conversations with them and they would be a good client for you, never asking the questions that, that Michael's talking about here and never diving into their pains, talking towards solutions, things like that, never making an offer is essentially keeping in the friend zone because they may be a perfect person that's that would love to work with you.
They may be. The, they may be wife material in my case, but you're not, you're not making the ask. You're not asking out on a date. And I think that that's where we get to sales here and it doesn't have to be a dirty word. And I, think, there's different ways to approach it. Everyone can have their own say on what they do here, but the point is you gotta to make some action, right?
You can't just be around people and hope that they come to you. And that's one of the big things we've been talking about a lot on podcast lately is with client acquisition. you're just trying to manifest clients. You're just trying to hope and pray. They come [00:16:00] to you.
Let me get my crystals out. And my crystals will manifest those, the energy of those clients towards me. I'm sorry. No, that that's not how it works in reality.
Yeah. Relating to sales. Another thing you gotta understand about sales while we're on that topic. And then we can go back to, you know, some of these key superpowers that you kind of need to have, relating to sales. You gotta also understand that it is unlikely that somebody decides to marry you on the first date.
You always hear the story. to use your metaphor of friend zone and dating and blah, blah, blah They don't decide to marry you on date number one, but after seven dates, and this is the rule of seven in marketing, after seven dates, somebody knows if they're, at least courtship material where you're gonna be exclusive, you're gonna give this a run for a few months and see if it's gonna work.
You're gonna. make that bigger commitment that happens after seven dates and it happens in sales, creative sales, after seven touch points, you can use that same thing. [00:17:00] It's unlikely that even talking in conversation, number one, with the plumber at your networking event. You offer up a solution to their pain points.
That was touchpoint. Number one, you just met this person. You had a conversation, you positioned yourself as a solution to their problem, but they don't trust you yet. They haven't researched you. They haven't been to your site. They haven't asked their friend who worked with you, what you're like to work with.
They haven't had any other touchpoints, those other touchpoints come over time and it is true. That after multiple touchpoints, the likelihood of somebody buying from you is significantly higher. So you have to play that game. And we talked about this at the start, you know, it's, it was six months for me from start to replacing my six figure income.
And I know that's an accelerated timetable compared to a lot of people. But I had those relationships. That had stretched over years of time with the people I had already had so [00:18:00] many touch points with these clients that were gonna be deciding where they spend their freelancer budget. I had had all the touch points over a couple years of time, and I did it in a way that I had, I was never doing it because I was using them for future clients.
it was just interacting in positive business. Scenarios with people and then you gotta give it some patience.
just to reiterate the rule of seven that, that Michael talked about here I'm just gonna read the Google definition, cuz I, this is one that we haven't really talked about in the podcast, but it's one that I, I think rings true in a lot of ways states the prospect needs to hear the advertiser's message at least seven times before they're ready to take action and buy to translate that to freelancers is a little different, but seven interactions.
Helps them get a good average feel for whether you're not or you're right for them. and in dating, it's a similar thing. Like after seven dates, you should have a good feel if there's a future with, with this person or not. Whether you're looking for a long term relationship, whether you're looking for a marriage, whatever, you should have a pretty good feel doesn't mean you're gonna make that decision right there.
but it gives you a much better feel than just one date because everyone can put on a front for one date and [00:19:00] then just not be that type of person. so speaking of. What are some of the touchpoints that you've seen work well in your agency and in your freelance business that go above and beyond just meeting in person, especially I'm sure you've had to deal with a lot of this over COVID where, like the touch points aren't in person anymore.
They're on online. what are some of those that you've seen are good touch points for that rule of
I swear. I built my business, taking my clients to lunch. I'm in salt lake city. and I started my agency in LA when I was freelancing there, cuz I was living there working at Fox. But shortly after I started, I realized I was doing everything over the phone and email at the time anyway.
So I didn't really need to live there. And when I had a face to face client meeting with LA traffic, it would take me an hour and a half to get there anyway. So why not just move somewhere? That has this lower cost of living. My wife has family in salt lake area. I'm from Chicago originally, but she had family here.
Grand, her mom was here and her dad had recently passed away, blah, blah, blah. We moved here to raise our kids and it was an hour and a [00:20:00] half flight from here to LA. So no big deal. It was the same as me driving essentially. and living in LA, but my cost of living got cut in half. most of my clients at the start were in LA and then it spawned into some of the other major markets, but I'd fly to LA at least once a quarter and I'd stay for three days. And I would stack my, my days with face to face meetings with my clients. Sometimes we meet at a Starbucks.
Sometimes we meet at. For lunch sometimes it'd be like an early dinner. Sometimes it'd be a meeting about a project, but it was FaceTime. And you have to have that FaceTime interaction with your clients. And it's a little different in COVID because there's so much video conferencing now. So you don't get the small talk aspect quite like you did before, but you and I, Brian spent 10 minutes on this call before we even clicked record. And we've never met face to face and you're in one state [00:21:00] and I'm in another. And through this conversation, we'll now be connected for years and years ahead, and we'll have collaborations and introductions to other people we know, and it all comes out of this super solid interaction that we're gonna have here.
That's gonna lock us together. So this kind of a touch point is invaluable. To create a relationship that can turn into work opportunities for people. that's number one, you gotta get out from behind your computer. Go up the stairs from your basement freelance office and actually go somewhere. And be face to face with clients, or don't just email the client to talk about their potential project.
Say, Hey, I'd love to jump on a zoom call with you. Thanks for your interest in working with me. I'd love to jump on a zoom call. Don't hide behind written email. Because you're not gonna build a [00:22:00] relationship with somebody through written email, the way you can, just in 10 minutes of small talk before you even dig into the project details.
So touchpoint number one, and it's the biggest one you need to do is just get out of your hole and go. And I didn't mean that negatively, not, not a hole like you might think, but a hole like a hole dug in the ground. Anyway, get out of your hole in the ground and go get in front of the clients, get in front of the clients because it that's how you're gonna build the relationships and they're gonna buy from you because they trust you and like you.
to, touch on a couple things there um, One of your YouTube videos, you said with your agency, your average project price was $16,000 and some change. that's why Mike was able to fly to LA to meet his clients or fly to New York, to meet his clients because the amount of money he was making from a project was.
made sense with that. And, and again, if the 16 is the average, that means he had some that were much higher than that. and that's not even counting lifetime value of a client, so that FaceTime with a client [00:23:00] that client could be worth hundreds of thousands over the
lifetime of working together.
and a lot of our listeners don't have that. So don't feel like you have to fly to your clients, but you do have to have face to face interaction. And so if it's not 16,000 average price per project just makes whatever you can do work for the types of clients you're working with, but also.
If you're hiding in your basement, trying to do all of your wizardry on the computer and you don't wanna go see the light a day and you're not willing to go to meet at a good high quality non Starbucks coffee shop to get a good locally roasted cup of coffee, all black, no, no cream or sugar in it.
That's my preference. If you're not willing to meet that person there at the coffee shop and get out of your little hole in the basement, then you, you may not win the project. It's not gonna be one of the seven touch points and the arguably the strongest touchpoint. some of those other areas, we don't have to go through, like what would be seven here?
Cause I don't wanna make this whole episode
other touch points. You know, your website is a great touchpoint. They meet you. They go to your website, your website highlights the work that you've done and positions you as [00:24:00] a solution to their problems. It's not just a portfolio. It's carefully written. You solve a client's problem this way, and you speak to that.
your website, super great window, shopping, touchpoint, social media, having one social media channel that you're actually active on trying to push because people go there. Brian went to my Instagram and peruse some of my content before this. That's a touch point that Brian had with me that I didn't even know happened before we got on this
And I watched a full interview. You did with another designer all great stuff. They helped me kind of research for this episode, but these are all touch points, which is
they're all touch points. So not every touchpoint has to be. You actively sitting in front of the client. Some of them can be these touch points that you don't even know that are happening. An email list. email is still one of the best converting. Marketing tools for any business of any type.
This is why you get [00:25:00] so many emails from Eddie Bauer. I buy tall shirts at Eddie Bauer and Eddie Bower, freaking emails me every day. Every day, I get an email from Eddie Bauer. Now, most of them I delete before I even read it. But Eddie Bauer drops into my inbox every single day. You shouldn't be that. But man, start a little email newsletter and every week send out a little article about, Hey, here's seven ways that you can grow your brand internally without hiring an external designer.
And you just give them seven points. It's just value to them. And it's a great reminder, touchpoint. We did a thing that was, I was trying to come up with creative ways to do touchpoints and. At my agency, we started a thing called overlooked holidays. This was one of our email chains and it was all the, like, did you know today was national cow day.
And did you know today is national pizza day and there's so many overlooked holidays. So we would make a little marketing celebration thing. Sometimes we'd send out like a desktop [00:26:00] picture or something that we designed something and we'd send it to 'em and say, Hey, it's national pizza day, go get your pizza.
And here's your pizza desktop. Wallpaper, so it was just a simple little touchpoint. We weren't selling anything. We were just trying to be in their inbox in a way that they wouldn't immediately delete us. And those kinds of things were good. Little reminders that we exist. Hey, we're here just a little putting your hand up every, every week or every month saying, Hey, I'm still here.
If you ever need anything, I'm still here. so the big touch points. Are these face to face interactions or project engagement interactions, but man, there's all these other little creative touch points that you can do. And if you start looking at the marketing world based on touchpoints, you're gonna see the great companies do this all over the place.
And Nike is probably one of the greatest touchpoint companies of all time. And they do it by sponsoring athlete. After athlete, you can't watch tennis without seeing Serena Williams wearing a Nike visor. You [00:27:00] can't watch basketball without seeing, of the, the 10 guys on the court and the 20 players, half of them are wearing Nike something.
And all the jerseys I think are still Nike just by default in the NBA. So those are all touch points. You're driving down the freeway and you see the billboard, LeBron James billboard, and it's a Nike billboard, just do it. And LeBron James is on there. They just created a touchpoint with you that you didn't even know was a touchpoint, but it reinforces their brand and makes you more apt to buy from them in the future
I love. this challenge. Cause I I've noticed this a lot lately. And people listen to this podcast will likely experience this sometime soon with me cuz I'm, I'm ramping up my ad spend again is if you've ever gotten on a retargeting list and for those who don't know, it's like if you hit a website The pair of, I was looking at some new shoes and, and all of a sudden that pair of shoes followed me around the internet everywhere. And so these are different touch points. I love having that challenge of like, keep your eyes open to this. so that you can utilize these same or similar strategies in your own business.
Yeah. We [00:28:00] did it a lot with giveaways. Let me just show you somethings, cuz we're doing video. We started thinking, okay, how can we have a leave behind? That's a touch point that somebody's not just gonna Chuck. And we got these nice now gene bottles, and we didn't make this, the riser agency. Now gene bottle, we made it the creative juices bottle.
Because people didn't want a riser bottle. They wanted a creative juices bottle. We would fill this with M and Ms. And we would go and take these and leave them with our clients. We'd take 20 of these with us to a different client visit trips. And we just give them to all the people.
like infinite, touchpoint.
It's infinite touchpoints. I have my office filled with infinite touchpoints. I've got a skateboard hanging right here that you can't see that a freelancer gave me and it has my company logo on and it's custom design for, I'm never gonna throw that away.
I've got those pictures, those star wars pictures, right there from an Instagram person in my community. Dan, who was like, oh, Mike, I love your, your work so much. Thanks so much [00:29:00] for all the value you've given me. I wanna send you something. Can I have your address? And. Design those and sent those things to me.
And then I've got pictures like made by James, James Martin. My buddy sent me his hat and, and his little stickers and I got 'em all over my office. And so I got swag from so many people. Every time I walk in my office, I got touch points with all those people. It's like, Hey. James Martin. Oh yeah. I remember James.
James is my buddy and he's become a really good friend over the last couple years,
He was on three
episodes ago, episode 204.
Perfect. Okay. So so he's so great. And he's so talented, but man, he's mastered touch points and he does it through social media and he sent me his stuff and I have a reminder of, of him every single day. can get creative on this stuff. it's a fun exercise because a lot of people listening to this are creative entrepreneurs of some sort. So get creative, come up with the thing that you can give to your clients that they will never throw away. I heard of one person do this.
the person [00:30:00] loved rowing. They found out that this person was like a, a rowing, whatever they call that in the, Yale and Harvard things, Anyway, this freelancer bought an a It was branded like burned into it, the logo of the person's business or something, and sent it with the hooks so that that person could hang it somewhere in their office.
That person who loves the rowing sport is never going to throw away the a with their logo burned into it, not the freelancer's logo, but the logo of that person's business. Never gonna throw that away. And every time you walk into the office, Great reminder that you are there, so you can get creative with these touch points.
and it becomes fun. And man, when you give a gift like that, the client, that's a great touchpoint that they start to be like, man, that this person really likes me. I remember the name of all these people that have given me swag that I have sitting [00:31:00] in my office and I love it every time. they go from just another person in my community of thousands of people that I know to being in the top tiers of people that I'll always remember because of that, that little thing.
And what did it cost them? A hundred bucks,
this is how you're able to have a relationship with a client that is high paying enough and last long enough to reach the million dollar plus lifetime value, which again, most of our audience may not get to that level, but it's something to strive towards to have your $10,000 lifetime value client, your a hundred thousand dollars lifetime value client and things like this.
These fun, personal touches are the ways to do that. And. I literally just added to my click up account in my ideas area to brainstorm with my operations manager, different sorts of touch points and ways that I can add more touch points to our ideal people, because like, it's a fun exercise to go through.
And as again, as creatives, we should Excel at this above and beyond everyone else. Who's just handing out business cards like they're candy. I don't want your business card. I want a literal jar of creative juices candy sitting on my desk. That's literally [00:32:00] seven touch points a day because I can't stop going back and getting M and MSS out of it.
That's. a great way to do touchpoints.
I mean, that was like a massive tangent on the original question, but it's so important. For creatives to start thinking outside of the box a little bit on that. And that thinking outside of the box is a cliche phrase, but man, it's so true.
You really gotta, how do you differentiate yourself from the competitors that are out there? The competitive landscape for freelancers has never been bigger than it is. There's so many freelancers post COVID. So many people started freelancing over the last couple years. Why should a client pick you over any of them?
you do the same quality work. You're just as good as all the other people. Why are they getting the work and not you oftentimes it's because of the relationship that they've built with the client. Not because their work is better. Most of the time, it's the relationship. They figured out a way to connect on this little bit deeper level with these clients, and that makes the client buy from them instead of you.
So you've gotta do the [00:33:00] exact same thing. You gotta figure out how do you differentiate and create that bond that makes them pick you over the other thousands of choices they have that do the exact same
So I, I think that's a good point to kind of transition a little bit to your agency because this is one of your specialties. I think you found a way to differentiate yourself enough to where you scaled your agency to over seven figures. And I feel like that's something that. Probably no one else listening right now.
Maybe there's a one or two of you listening right now that has done something similar to that, but most people have not reached that level. And so to do that, to be an agency that is able to break seven figures a year is probably pretty difficult. I think that's why most people don't have it.
Right. So let's talk through what you did to differentiate yourself, cuz it's the same exact thing. agency is just a freelancer on steroids. It's a whole team of freelancers, all working with bigger and better projects. And you had to then not just separate yourself. freelancers, who for the most part, don't really know what they're doing from a business and differentiation standpoint to now you're in a much more sophisticated, higher end world where you're competing with other [00:34:00] agencies who get it, they're switched on.
they understand business and marketing and differentiation. How did you set yourself apart? How did you differentiate? Can you talk about some of those things that you did.
Yeah. So to differentiate ourselves from the lower end solutions, it was all about systems and processes being organized, systematic. Scheduled timelines, milestones, structured proposals, structured contracts. That was the differentiator between us and the more organic willy-nilly freelancer out there that's trying to grow.
So if you want to grow your creative business, you have to start acting like the agency. You wanna be not the freelancer that you are right now. So get the structure in place. When I say structure, I mean, SOPs standard operating procedures for all of the work that you do, checklists for every type of project that you do.
And then you follow those checklists rounds and revisions for every type of project that you do, defining what they [00:35:00] are putting those things into your contract for your clients, so that they're signing off on not a one sheeter that says we'll design your logo $400 and just sign the bottom. No, a seven page contract that defines exactly the process.
You're gonna go through to execute on the logo and then a signature page and terms and conditions and all the things that the agency does. And you don't. You gotta start doing those things. So that will differentiate you from the lower end solutions, all the organic willy-nilly freelancers out there now to differentiate you, from the higher end agencies, oftentimes that's relationship number one.
differentiating me from the other mega agencies, I would highlight the thing about us that was better. We are no drama. No, arrogance. We're there in a, we will serve our client mindset. We're not there to [00:36:00] be the black turtleneck, push my client around kind of agency person.
So we, we came in and we're like, we're real people. We're just gonna be nice. We wanna be your friend. We wanna work together and do cool stuff. We're not there going with the highfalutin agency kind of vibe.
what you can get. when you're working with bigger projects and you're in those hundreds to hundreds of thousands of dollar projects, a lot of those agencies are like that. So you were differentiating yourself from those people by saying we're chiller. we're not gonna be the one who's like my way or the highway we're here to serve you.
However that looks, and we're gonna do the best we can, but we're gonna make sure we shape it to the way that you want versus you shaping yourself to our business.
Exactly right. So that was a differentiator. Another differentiator admittedly was price. And, because I had worked at Fox and I had these systems and I had done big brand work before I could sell my agency as, Hey, we can do the same quality you're gonna get from the Manhattan agency.
But we're based [00:37:00] in salt lake city and we can be a more affordable choice for you. And what I found after about seven years of trying to figure out what's my niche in my agency, what I figured out was, and we made millions doing it, but we were the number one third bid option for the entertainment industry clients on digital media projects.
The number one third bid option. And what I mean by that is the client FX networks gets three bids for a project bid. Number one is from mega agency in New York. Bid. Number two is from omega agency in LA. They both come in at a half, a million dollars for the project bid. Number three is riser and riser.
My agency was $180,000 for the same project. we're the third bid. If my client didn't have a half, a million dollars to spend on that engagement, we were the number one [00:38:00] choice of the lower tier pricing because we were in a second tier market with first tier quality. when I started to understand that and embrace it as my agency positioning.
We actually started growing and billing more than we ever had because I would speak and market to those types of. Pain points of clients and it isn't that we weren't making money, man. we billed millions of dollars and had millions in profit over my agency run, but it was the differentiator.
And if you've never done a market positioning exercise, there's something to be said. About doing that for your business. Every business should do that, you take essentially four variables on an access and you say, okay, we are high quality and low versus low quality and expensive versus affordable.
And where do you fit on the access of those things and where [00:39:00] do your competitors. Well, you'll find that, oh, your one competitor is affordable and high quality. Your other competitor is low quality and not affordable. And then where's you on this spectrum of market positioning and you you analyze your competitors and you analyze your own business and you look for where you actually should be marketing.
Your business and it can open your eyes to a lot of different things. And that's just four variables on the myriad of variables that you can do. So check out market positioning, because once you start to understand that you'll know how you differentiate from your competitors and you can market properly.
Yeah. If you go to episode show notes for this episode, which is six figure creative.com/ 2 0 7, we'll have links to everything that Michael's mentioned here. I'll have my, my editor go through and find a couple links to market positioning exercises, because I'm sure there's several on the internet and it's, if you're not watching it on YouTube right now, you probably, it's hard to visualize what he's saying here, I wanna point out one thing that is worth pointing out here.
You weren't just being lower price to [00:40:00] be lower price, to accept lower profit. You were lower price because of something called geo arbitrage. That is where you are. A cheaper market. And because you're in that cheaper market, you have a competitive advantage. If you're in LA or New York, you have to pay LA New York prices for real estate or rent for talent salaries, everything is more expensive there.
the reason those quotes were $500,000 is because they're having to pay for that fancy office for that high rise for that 75th floor building for that staff. That's, people that are all graduated from high tier universities who are living in New York, having to pay their own 5,000 to $10,000 a month rents.
Inherently, they have to charge more because it's more expensive to exist in those cities where Michael existed, where Mike existed. I told you I'm gonna go back and forth between of those names. I'm just looking, I look at your name on the screen and I just read Michael where Mike existed. he could pay less to his people because the cost of living was lower.
His rent was lower for his office. you seemed like you had a pretty nice office from what I did in my research. You had a really cool space. But you were probably paying a fraction of what the
people in LA New York were
paying for their spaces.
if I would've bought it in LA or New York, it would've cost me [00:41:00] seven times what I bought it for at, in, in my market. So. it's the exact thing. And it's okay. That's the thing too. It's like, you know, I've seen creative gurus out there saying, got up your price, got up your price.
Well up your price, smart, do it, but be competitive in the areas. You can be competitive. I probably made more profit on $180,000 project. Then a comparable agency to us, would've made it a half, a million dollars in a New York Manhattan market. I probably had more profit in it than they did. and the quality was probably similar the same, or, you know, maybe even a little less, but it was sufficient to satisfy the needs of the client and the objectives of the project.
the, moral of the story there is you kept your overhead low and you had the opportunity to being in a, in a cheaper market. I had this exact same thing in my background. I came from a music production background and in the music production world, the historic route was to. [00:42:00] Build a big fancy studio, put millions of dollars of gear inside of it.
And then you have a $10,000 to $20,000 a month overhead just to keep the doors open and keep the lights on and keep the electricity on and keep the stuff maintained. Meanwhile, I came in at a time where gear was cheaper. I didn't have to have fancy facilities. So I had, $25,000 worth of equipment that I could charge.
Half what these other people were charging and run to the bank because my profit margins were so high, but so I was doing a different kind of arbitrage. It was gear arbitrage. I was able to take advantage of current technology to provide a similar or better service for a much cheaper price.
But my profit margins were way above any recording studio that was comparable at the time. So there's different ways to do this. It's not all about geography. there's different ways to have some sort of arbitrage opportunity as a freelancer.
And let's just hammer home that it's okay to do that. This is business, man. This is why you go to Walmart over target for some things, I also wanna hammer home that it doesn't mean that your bottom feeder prices, this isn't like $50 logos that we're [00:43:00] talking about.
I was still generating millions in revenue and millions in profit. we had. Years where it was $800,000 in profit that I had at my agency on, you know, two, $3 million of, billing. So it was still high dollar stuff. It just wasn't, over bloated pricing, we were playing this arbitrage game that you're talking about here that, it's okay.
And you gotta differentiate some way, and this is why. The designers in India, as an example are doing things more affordable and stealing work from freelancers in the United States. This is why, because their cost to do businesses lower. And it doesn't mean anymore. And it did 15, 20 years ago. It did mean that the quality was likely less, but it does not mean that anymore.
Man, there are designers in lower tiered, lower [00:44:00] economy, countries that do the same quality work that you do for less money. What are you gonna do about it?
That's why pricing. Can't be your only differentiator because there's always someone who can do it cheaper. Michael has other differentiating factors for his agency on top of pricing. Pricing was just the sweetener. It was the icing on the cake. the cake was already delicious. The icing was just that last little thing that pushed people over the edge and that happened to be pricing for him.
So don't feel like pricing is gonna be over only differentiator, cuz if that's the case,
it's not gonna work.
have to understand your competitive market, like I'm talking about. And if I was competing against another designer in India, I would play to the customer experience, convenience, attributes of why somebody's gonna buy. I would be selling, saying, Hey look, yeah, you can go with the person in India who is cheaper.
There's no question. They're cheaper. They have lower cost to do business, but. They're in a time zone where they're awake. When you're asleep, we can do meetings real time. During business hours, we speak [00:45:00] native English. We understand the us Market. We understand your customers in ways that they're not gonna understand because they're in a different country, not the United States.
So I would play to that and say, yep, they're cheaper. We're more expensive, but here's our differentiator. And so you have different differentiators between you and the different competitive environments that you find yourself in. And you have to understand all of those so that you can sell positives against the competitor's negatives. And sometimes, if that same client was looking at another agency in New York, I'd be saying, well, yeah, you can do the work with the person in New York, but we do the same quality work we're in your same time zone too. But you know what?
We're gonna be 30% less than they are because our overhead is less we're in a second tier market. We understand that. So we can be a value option to you. For the same quality work. if that's what you'd like to do, we'd love to do the work with you. So now I've positioned myself against the person in [00:46:00] India that I'm competing against and their strong suit is price and mine.
I have to play my other strong cards or the person in New York. I play a different cards in that poker game of negotiation in sales, but you have to look at your business and understand all those dynamics and then ask who you're competing with. And then market yourself properly against those things.
we'll, we'll definitely have to get you back on here, Mike, I feel like we've just barely scratched the surface of what's inside that head of yours. And Most of the stuff we talked about today, wasn't even on my outline, we just let the conversation flow naturally.
So I'm excited for what we'll have in the future with you.
wrapping up. I feel like we're just getting
I know man, we're at the hour mark here with the, with our time and I, I got respectful of your time, but I also have do you know, Peggy Dean,
Yeah. I know Peggy. Yeah.
I'm doing a thing with her uh, flock community, in 30 minutes, less than 30 minutes. So
Peggy's great. Tell her, I said hi.
Okay. I will. before we wrap this up, I gotta make sure we send people off where to go, because I, I eventually wanna talk you into launching the seven figure creative because
you're the one who's [00:47:00] crossed that threshold.
Let's do it.
launch that podcast.
Cause I was talking beforehand here, but you need me to have a podcast of your own, but uh, where do you wanna send our audience to connect with you, learn
more from You
Instagram is my primary social media. As of right now, I do plan to make YouTube, my primary social media in the future, but more Janda on both of those platforms. And then my website, Michael janda.com. I have courses I've written a couple books. I have links to My podcast that I did with Tom Ross for a couple years, biz Budds podcast. So I got a lot of content floating around out there, go to Michael janda.com and you'll be able to find links to all of it.
So from what I saw. My research, you are what we would call a prolific creator in all things. So we'll have all the links to that in our show firstname.lastname@example.org slash 2 0 7. So you can just go and pick which link. you're trying to find whether it's his Instagram account, his YouTube channel, his uh, website.
and I look through your, your catalog of courses and they all look fantastic. So we'll have to get you back on here and talk through more, Jan knowledge
so thank you so much for coming on in.
Oh, it was so fun. Thank you. We, [00:48:00] flew through the time, so that was great questions. good podcast. Thank you.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.