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How To Set Yourself Apart From The Other 500,000,000 Freelancers In The World | Part 1

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“But they do it for less”.
If you've heard lines like that over the past year, get ready to hear it even more over the next 5-10 years.
Well here's a terrifying stat: There are an estimated 500,000,000 freelancers “coming online” by the end of this decade.
WTF can we do to set ourselves apart from all those people WITHOUT resorting to dropping our rates?
It all comes down to one unsexy word: Differentiation.
Why should someone hire YOU vs alllll the other options they have?
If you don't have a damn good answer for that, you're going to have a bad time…
Stick around for this new series where I'll dive into all the nitty-gritty on how to stand out, earn more, and keep doing what we love for the rest of your life.
In this episode you’ll discover:
  • How freelancing grew in recent years
  • Why should someone hire you?
  • How low pricing hurts you and all other creatives
  • The dangers of trying to appeal to everyone
  • Making sure we don't lose our creativity while running a business
  • The importance of differentiation in your business

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[00:00:00] Brian: Hello, and welcome to the Six Figure Creative Podcast. I am your host, Brian Hood. If this is your first time ever listening to the show, first of all, hi, hey, hello.

[00:00:06] Brian: Welcome, so glad to have you here. You're in the right place if you're a creative who offers freelance services, and you want to make more money from your creative skills. If that sounds like you, you're in the right place. if this is your first show, you're probably a fan of big round numbers because this is our 300th episode.

[00:00:18] Brian: Cue confetti stupid effects, maybe a crowd cheering. Leland can put all the cool stuff on the background here to make this sound like some big celebration. Maybe we'll have some quotes from the movie 300 this episode. I don't know. But fun fact, if you've been listening forever and actually shout out to, Mr. Steven who just emailed me this morning he just listened to episode 297. He said he's been listening to literally every episode of the show. He's listened to all 297, and I'm guessing that if he's listened to 297, then he's also made it to the 300th episode here. So kudos to you, but many of you have been with us a long time. the first episode we ever put out was November 6, 2017. That was more than six years ago. Almost six and a half years ago we put episode one out. If you've been with us for any length of time, I am [00:01:00] so grateful to have you here.

[00:01:01] Brian: I don't have some crazy big celebratory thing happening here. it's kind of more of the same. Episode 200, I kind of had the same attitude of like, sometimes you just got to put your damn head down and get work done and just be consistently showing up every single day, every single week. This podcast is a testament to that.

[00:01:13] Brian: Three hundred episodes later, I finally feel like I can say that I've been consistently putting out episodes for years and years and years. I have very rarely let you guys down, or girls down, if you listen to the show regularly, and I want to continue to do so for hundreds of episodes moving forward.

[00:01:26] Brian: I do not take this lightly that we have thousands of people, maybe even tens of thousands of people, that listen to the show, and Trust me for whatever reason to bring you advice and topics and sometimes guests who Usually know way more than I do to help you with the freelance business. So I don't take that lightly I take a lot of personal responsibility for this and want to make sure that I'm always growing learning trying To get better at what I do and bringing you stuff every single week that will help you with the freelance business And this episode is no different.

[00:01:49] Brian: We're actually gonna start a new series this week I just for some reason can't stop doing series but there's a reason I'm doing this series. And let me back up a little bit and just say this. the freelance industry has grown significantly.

[00:01:59] Brian: Especially since [00:02:00] we started in 2017. 2017. You might even feel like you relate to the game a lot back then, but back then when we started this podcast, there were people that had just started who are crushing it now. So it's never really too late, but with every single year as the industry grows and there's more freelancers coming to the market, it's going to get more and more competitive.

[00:02:14] Brian: And I found some stats. I'm just looking this up. I was like, is the freelance market really growing? our market is really this muddy water area because it's really ran by solo freelancers and solo freelancers. are not the best at first of all, doing things legitimately and reporting their income correctly and reporting even categorizing themselves correctly.

[00:02:30] Brian: So there's not a whole lot of great industry trends and statistics that are out there. And the best ones that we have actually come from marketplaces like Fiverr and Upwork and Freelancer, some of which are publicly traded companies. I believe if they're not, they're at least huge private companies. And so they have a lot of finances and resources to put behind studies.

[00:02:46] Brian: So some of these things came out. I'm just going to read some studies that I found. Some of them by, again, these marketplace sites, some by third party kind of data center, data companies, but they're interesting to us at least. So research by Emergent Research, shows that the number of full time freelancers in the U.

[00:02:59] Brian: S. grew by [00:03:00] 90 percent between 2020 and 2023. That's an insane amount, nearly doubled in a three year span. and then part time freelancing grew by over 130%. that means just between 2020 and 2023, there are like two to three times as many of you that could potentially listen to the show.

[00:03:16] Brian: McKinsey, which is another like big consulting firm, they had estimate that they published. It said, 500 million freelancers. We'll be working through platforms and they just mean like marketplace platforms like Freelancer and Fiverr and By 2030. So that's 500 million of you will be working through those platforms or have worked to those platforms by 2030 which just shows how large that market is and then the largest platform which is freelancer.

[00:03:38] Brian: com Has a population of over 60 million freelancers on their platform. Just that one platform alone, which is It's insane. It's massive.

[00:03:47] Brian: So it doesn't really matter what industry you're in, what niche you're a part of, how long you've been doing this every single year. It's only looking like it's going to get more and more competitive, So if it's going to get more and more competitive every single year as a freelancer,

[00:03:59] Brian: The [00:04:00] big question is looming that I'm sure you've thought of by now. I've definitely thought about it because I've been planning out this series, is how are you going to set yourself apart? AKA, how are you going to differentiate yourself from all these competitors that are coming up right now?

[00:04:11] Brian: But beyond that, how are you going to differentiate yourself from all the people that have been competitors up into this point? those competitors probably aren't going to go anywhere. If they're doing anything good as a freelancer, they're still going to be there. And then you have all these new people coming in this, fresh talent who's eager and hungry for things that'll probably put up with more and do it for less.

[00:04:26] Brian: What are you going to do to compete against those?

[00:04:28] Brian: That's what this entire series is about. I don't know how many episodes is gonna be I've got a lot planned for this but it's essentially going to be answering what I call the cornerstone question and the cornerstone question is The answer that every single freelancer needs to have and if you can't answer it, then you are going to probably die That's a freelancer not literally die.

[00:04:44] Brian: You won't die Hopefully I don't want anyone to die But I think your business might die if you can't answer this question if it won't die You'll be limping along at the very least and that question is this Why should someone hire you over all their other options over all the competitors are out there over all the other people that they could Hire, why should they hire [00:05:00] you if you can't answer that question then?

[00:05:01] Brian: I'm hoping by the end of this series You will have a damn good answer for that because you need a damn good answer to compete against all those numbers that I shared Again over 50 60 million people on freelancer comm by itself. The industry is has already grown Nearly double in just the last few years alone, since we have that data, it'll probably keep growing year after year after year. And then when you see a lot of companies doing layoffs, which is kind of what happened end of 2023, early 2024, when you see companies laying off. These incredibly talented people who have great creative skills, designers, developers,

[00:05:29] Brian: videographers, editors, people that have these creative skills, if the job market dries up, what do they do? A lot of people nationally move to freelancing. So I don't see this slowing down anytime soon. the need to differentiate is going to become more and more and more important every single year

[00:05:42] Brian: So let's talk about a few mistakes I see so as competition starts to heat up as competitors come into the market here's the common response that I see from freelancers There's a few different things that unsophisticated freelancers or freelancers who just find themselves in a tough spot, they tend to do this, one of these three things when it comes to, increased competition.

[00:05:57] Brian: The first one is it's a race to bottom with pricing. And that's because [00:06:00] obvious pricing is one of the easiest ways to differentiate. that is an obvious duh differentiator when it comes to. Why should I go with you instead of the person down the road because you are cheaper?

[00:06:10] Brian: but when this is your first or primary way of differentiation, it sucks It's not good. There is a way there's a tiny place where pricing can be a differentiator We'll talk about that in the series. This is not it just race to the bottom first gut instinct I've got to compete so I need to lower prices because Timmy down the road does it for a thousand and this guy does it For 800 I've got to do it for 750.

[00:06:27] Brian: I've got to be the cheapest price

[00:06:28] Brian: This race to the bottom of the prices is unsustainable. because it attracts some of the worst clients. people who are attracted to the lowest price are generally the worst ones to work with. And it's also unsustainable because it hurts your reputation. We've all seen that person out there that we just cringe at.

[00:06:44] Brian: Or just like Not talk great about behind their backs to other freelancers or to our friends or to our peers. When we see their prices are like Rock bottom. I've seen this in our community.

[00:06:53] Brian: I've seen this in just about every niche possible. There's always that one person who has bottom feeder rates, [00:07:00] and they're not really well respected in the industry and generally again because of the unsustainable nature of it. Charging less and doing more, which is what you end up doing with that kind of client who is attracted to that.

[00:07:10] Brian: It's not sustainable. You, fizzle out, you burn out, you die, and it's hard to get help from friends or other peers because they don't respect you. They probably don't like you and they kind of want you to go. So raise the bottom on pricing. That's the first kind of go to that a lot of freelancers go to.

[00:07:22] Brian: That's not an option in this world, in this scenario, not in the future when there's going to be even more competition that comes out because with all new competition, it drives the price down if that's your only differentiator. the second issue I see in the freelance community when competition rises is you try to appeal to everyone.

[00:07:37] Brian: The quote I've said over and over on this podcast is if you try to appeal to everyone, you end up appealing to no one.

[00:07:42] Brian: I'm not the only one that says this. Most podcasts there in the business space will say that but it's kind of two issues surrounding this

[00:07:48] Brian: and they both stem from fear the first issue is you have really bland vanilla generic messaging Because you're scared of excluding people

[00:07:55] Brian: an example for my background in music production would be the recording studio who's trying [00:08:00] to appeal to rap artists and country artists and rock artists and solo singer songwriters, they're trying to appeal to podcasters, pretty much anything to do with audio or recording.

[00:08:11] Brian: They're trying to appeal to all these different avatar types or niche, types that are out there and they don't really appeal to any of them because there's no real way to appeal to all those people. at the same time. The only way to even quote message to those people is to just have really bland generic messaging.

[00:08:24] Brian: Level up your sound, something like that. That would be the messaging of trying to appeal to everyone. And you can see how bland that is. You can see how no one would really be attracted to that. You can see how no one really care about you if that's your messaging and how you end up looking just like a diamond doesn't freelancer.

[00:08:39] Brian: that's a guaranteed way to get swallowed up and all the clients lost to other freelancers who are not making this mistake.

[00:08:44] Brian: the other issue close to the related thing to the bland messaging where you try to appeal to everyone is trying to offer too many services. It's the same exact thing. They both come from a place of fear. One is you're afraid of excluding people and the other is you're afraid of turning down work.

[00:08:58] Brian: So if somebody comes to [00:09:00] me that wants. service A and someone wants service B and someone wants service C and someone wants service D, I'm going to say yes to all of these services because I need the work. and since I've gotten these four services or five services that people have come to me for, I'm also going to advertise those on my site.

[00:09:13] Brian: I might have 10 things or 15 things on my site that I listed I do and I can go find examples right now. If I look hard enough, there's always the freelancer out there who has 10, 15 services listed on their website it's exact same issue. They're scared of turning down work.

[00:09:26] Brian: They're scared of not offering that one thing that somebody might've come to the website that they might want. and anytime I've ever peeked behind the scenes of someone's business. And they offer more than a few services, almost always one to two services is the vast majority of their work.

[00:09:39] Brian: It's the Paredes principle. 80 20 rule. 80 percent of your income comes from 20 percent of your services. 80 percent of your income will come from 20 percent of the types of clients that you could appeal to.

[00:09:48] Brian: So not only just having 15 services on your website. Confuse people and give them the paradox of choice where there's so many options I don't really know how I want you to help me. You're making this too difficult for me That's a real thing that people struggle with

[00:09:58] Brian: but also you're not particularly great [00:10:00] at any of them. There's just no good way There's no realistic way You could be great at 10 15 different services or even three or four different services because you haven't put in your 10, 000 hours on any one service And someone else down the road likely has.

[00:10:13] Brian: Someone out there has only offered that one service for the past five years, the past 10 years. And they're the best at it. They're faster than you, they're better than you,

[00:10:21] Brian: and they're known for those things as well. that's another one you people don't think about when it comes to services certain people are known for certain things. And when you offer 10 to 15 different services, you're not known for any of them. So you can start to see how this adds up, how you're not known for anything.

[00:10:35] Brian: You're not good at anything. there's a big gap between good and great as well. So even if you are good at something, you're definitely not great at it. I can guarantee that if you're offering 10, 15 different services.

[00:10:44] Brian: So that's the second big mistake when it comes to differentiation. As competitors come in, you try to appeal to all of them.

[00:10:49] Brian: And that leads to the third big mistake or big issue that I see in the freelance community as competition comes in and things get harder to compete. And we don't have a great answer for that cornerstone question of why should someone work with me instead of all [00:11:00] the other options that they have out there.

[00:11:01] Brian: If you don't have a good answer for that, that leads to this issue here. You start to get desperate. You start to get needy, which not only drives people away and it's easy for them to kind of sense that, but it also leads to you. Doing one of the biggest and most common mistakes in the freelance universe.

[00:11:14] Brian: And that's over promising and under delivering. Because when you're desperate for clients, you're desperate for work, you start to say yes to whatever client wants. The client wants this thing, that thing, this thing, this revision, this add on, this bolt on, this extra. And you say yes to all of it. Because sometimes you're getting paid extra for those things.

[00:11:30] Brian: Sometimes you're just afraid to piss off the client because you need the work right now. And so you say yes to it anyways, even though it's out of scope.

[00:11:35] Brian: But then what happens? Inevitably, every single time, you struggle to deliver what was promised. You get behind on things. Things take longer. The excuses start coming up. You start making excuses for all the reasons that you're behind right now. The quality drops because you're not an expert at any of those things.

[00:11:48] Brian: You're not great at any of those things. You're rushed right now to get those things done because you're already behind on the project.

[00:11:53] Brian: If you notice a theme here. It's because this is all really based off of one big choking point I think that freelancers get [00:12:00] stuck on that keeps them from truly differentiating. And I believe that is approaching freelancing from a place of scarcity instead of a place of abundance. When someone looks at the growing freelance market, they saw that the freelance industry more than doubled in the last few years.

[00:12:13] Brian: There's two approaches to this. The first is. The scarcity place of oh my god, this is gonna be so much harder I should just go get a job or I should give up Or starting to make some of these mistakes of I need to lower prices to compete. I need to try to appeal to different genres or niches of people because I'm not getting enough clients in this one niche or this one genre.

[00:12:31] Brian: I need to expand my services because I'm not getting enough clients in this one service. And so you exacerbate the problem by making choices and decisions based on that, scarcity mindset.

[00:12:40] Brian: Instead, I believe the better way, and this has been my belief since episode one of this podcast, I believe a better way is to make the decision from a place of abundance. The place of Genuine curiosity, joy, creativity, the things that make us better freelancers or creatives in general.

[00:12:55] Brian: It is really hard to be a great creative who offers great services to [00:13:00] clients when we come at everything from a place of scarcity. It's just too damn hard. don't think creativity and scarcity can really coexist together. I think those are two opposing forces. So if scarcity is the antithesis of creativity, then we need to just.

[00:13:14] Brian: eliminate scarcity from our business altogether. instead let's reverse engineer some of the ways that the most successful freelancers differentiate from all the other people that are out there. There's a top 1 percent in any industry. It doesn't matter how close or far first place from last place is.

[00:13:28] Brian: There's always a top 1%. And the top 1 percent or the top 5 percent or 10 percent just the top of the market is always doing something different than the bottom of the market. Maybe they're working harder. Maybe they're working smarter. Maybe they're doing things that separate themselves from the rest of the pack.

[00:13:41] Brian: Maybe they're pricing differently. There's a lot of things we can do to differentiate, but they all come from a place of genuine abundance, fear, Not making decisions based on short term impact or short term gains. All of it is from a place of creativity, curiosity, playfulness.

[00:13:58] Brian: I think a lot of this comes from like a playful [00:14:00] attitude, like a childlike approach to things. And I think a lot of us lose that as we start to get into business and start getting into freelancing. And we start to let all the junk build up of That bad nightmare client. One client who turned down our pricing because we were just so much more expensive than they expected.

[00:14:14] Brian: All these things start adding on our psyche and we start to let that scarcity creep in. And that starts to kill our creativity. It starts to kill our drive. It starts to kill our desire for doing this. And when that starts to happen, that's a ticking time bomb. That's a death sentence. So we've got to just cut the fuse.

[00:14:28] Brian: Reset, and I am honestly, genuinely hoping that this series is the answer to anyone who struggles with that or resonates with anything I just said, differentiation is the key to really any source of long term freelance business or any business for that matter. The more crowded a market is, the more differentiation will matter. If you're the only solution for something, you're the only one on earth with a cure for cancer, then no differentiator needed.

[00:14:50] Brian: There's nothing to differentiate from. It's either. half cancer or get the cure. It's not cure A or B. If it's cure A or B, the questions might be like, which one's less side effects? Which [00:15:00] one maybe costs less in the US health system, but when there's only one, there's no differentiators needed.

[00:15:05] Brian: The problem with that is in freelance industry, many of us look exactly the same. There are many. When I call copycat freelancers that are out there, but when you can differentiate, this is the key to success and longevity as a freelance business, because you can attract more of your ideal clients you actually know what your ideal client is versus saying any client's an ideal client.

[00:15:21] Brian: you can have justifiably premium rates that you're charging because the client understands the value and what you bring that someone else may not be able to bring. There is actually way less competition out there because when you start adding on these differentiators I'm going to talk about in this next episode and the rest of the series that I'm going to add here, those differentiators set you up to truly be maybe a mini monopoly.

[00:15:42] Brian: You may not be truly the only option, but you may be the only option they're considering. And when that's the case. There's little to no competition.

[00:15:48] Brian: Another benefit of this is you, you just become known for something. It is so much easier to get clients when you are the go to person for X, Y, or Z versus the person tries to offer all things. You're not great at any of them being known for one thing that you're [00:16:00] amazing at, that you're the best in the world at the best in class at.

[00:16:02] Brian: That's how we start to separate ourselves from all the other competitors that are out there.

[00:16:05] Brian: And there's just so many more benefits. I mean, I've literally got an outline here. Just marketing gets easier. Selling gets easier. Fulfillment becomes easier and faster. Usually, if you do this right and because your entire business is set up from a better fundamental place,

[00:16:18] Brian: you have happier clients, which leads to more referrals, more repeat clients. And if you just listen to any of that last series we just did, it was like eight episodes, nine episodes long, the whole infinite client series. You understand that this is the key to infinite clients. It's happy clients equals repeat clients and referrals.

[00:16:34] Brian: And if every client that we work with is a static. At the end of the project, then we will always get referrals repeat clients. And we have essentially infinite clients from that. And at the end of the day, we do this for a few reasons. It's money first. I think a lot of freelancers, it's not even money first, but we have to make money.

[00:16:48] Brian: If we're doing this full time before we can really think about much else. It is really hard to not be in a scarcity mindset when we're struggling with money. So money's kind of like that first thing we tried to do. But beyond that, it's about [00:17:00] freedom and impact. And impact can mean different things for different people and freedom can mean different things from different people.

[00:17:04] Brian: But I think in a perfect world, most creatives, most freelancers would agree that the perfect world, the perfect business is doing what you love and not having any financial concerns. Both of those things require money to do the thing you love for a living and to not have financial concerns takes money and the benefit of differentiating yourself and becoming a mini monopoly. In other words, that's the key to making this work and having longevity and having a freelance business That is not just treading water, but it's thriving. So in this series, I'm going to try to tackle as much as I possibly can when it comes to differentiating yourself as a freelancer.

[00:17:35] Brian: I've got 16 different methods for differentiation. And then. Transcribed There will likely be a bunch of other things that spawn from that. Maybe some interviews based on people that are kind of differentiating in these different ways. Maybe some additional kind of topics and case studies to kind of showcase these things in action.

[00:17:50] Brian: Some deep dives down some different rabbit holes. Basically, I'm just trying to make up for the other 299 episodes of this podcast where I don't have the word differentiation anywhere. I actually have a database [00:18:00] of our episodes where I can search

[00:18:01] Brian: and the six figure creative has only one episode that even mentions the word differentiation. episode 259, how to stop being a copycat freelancer. That was our back to basic series, and it's like a 16 minute episode. So this whole series is me trying to make up for how little I've talked about something that I think is so important and so needed in this industry. As creatives, if we don't differentiate, it's only a matter of time before we are forced to go back to a day job or before we're going to be hit with some big financial issue or before we're going to be swallowed up by all the growth that's happening in our industry.

[00:18:33] Brian: so I hope you're as excited about this series as I am. Next episode, next week, I'll be diving into the first of the series. just as usual, I don't have any clue how long the series will be. They tend to go from two on the short end, usually three or four, up to eight or nine, I think is the longest series we've ever had.

[00:18:47] Brian: I'm going to predict this will be a three or four episode series and we'll go from there. if you have any feedback for me or thoughts you have or anything you want to add to this, just email me. Podcast at six figure creative. com. That's how today's shout out happened with well half I think that's your [00:19:00] last name.

[00:19:00] Brian: probably pronouncing it wrong Let me know that you listen to all 300 of our episodes so far. I love getting feedback from everybody the only issue now is like the first time i've been this far ahead of the podcast And when i'm this far ahead I get feedback, you know from three or four episodes ago, which is a little weird But it is what it is email me no matter what Anyways, thanks so much for listening, and I'll see you next week on the Six Figure Creative Podcast.

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