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The 3 Building Blocks of a Fine-Tuned Freelance Business

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Do you ever feel like your freelance business could be so much more, but you're missing a few key ingredients? Imagine a world where your perfect clients are eager to work with you, your rates keep climbing, projects run like a well-oiled machine, and clients keep coming back for more. We've got just the right insights for you in our latest podcast episode!
In this episode, we'll explore the essential elements needed to create a thriving, successful freelance business. Just like a photographer needs a camera, lens, and the perfect lighting, your business calls for specific components to flourish and grow.
We'll dive into the three core building blocks that will help you craft a complete, well-rounded freelance business:
  1. An exceptional “product”: Sharpen your creative skills, set yourself apart from the sea of sameness, perfect your onboarding process, and streamline the fulfillment, revision, and delivery stages.
  2. A proven business model: Uncover the pros and cons of four appetizing business models – hourly billing, project-based, retainer/subscription, and commission-based – and choose the one that best suits your niche and goals.
  3. A process for attracting clients: Learn the art of lead generation, lead nurturing, sales, and referral processes that will keep your pipeline full and draw the clients you've always wanted.
As a passion-driven freelancer, you might find it challenging to think of your work as a “well-oiled machine.” But embracing this mindset will unlock more income, fewer headaches, and consistent growth for your creative business.
Don't miss the chance to tap into your full creative potential and turn your creative skills into a thriving, fulfilling business.
In this episode you’ll discover:
  • How your business is like a car
  • The three machines to improve your business
  • Tailoring the experience of every client for the ultimate luxury
  • Using systems and processes for consistency
  • Offering a productized service vs. a bespoke service
  • Subscription vs. single-sale businesses
  • Creating your lead generation process
  • Staying top of mind with lead nurture
  • How to qualify your leads

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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 joining us on the show, first of all, welcome, I'm glad to have you here. This show is for entrepreneurial, creative freelancers who wanna make more from their freelancing skills without selling their soul.

[00:00:13] Brian: If that sounds like you, you are in the right place right now. If you're returning listener or viewer on YouTube right now. Welcome back my six figure sexes That name, by the way, the Six Figure Sexes was what our group named itself like years ago. And for some reason it's stuck because it's such a stupid, ridiculous name.

[00:00:30] Brian: I, I need to come up with a better name for our audience. I haven't used this in forever, but I would love for people to go to six figure creative.com/better B E T T E R and fill out that quick survey. And it's just a few questions. You can answer one or all, or just a couple of the answers in that survey.

[00:00:47] Brian: Take about a minute maybe, but that will give me some really important information in order to make this show better. Like, What should I call our listeners? It's not gonna be the six figure sexes. I'm sorry, that's not gonna be the official terminology I use for this audience. [00:01:00] I'm so sorry. As much as I love to hate that name as long as it's stuck around since probably like 2019, it's not gonna continue in 2023 and.

[00:01:08] Brian: So that's my ask for our returning listeners. If you're new, let's just get to the point of what the show's about today. So today I wanna talk about what goes into building, for lack of a better term, a freelance machine for any of our creatives out there, especially you. Enneagram four s. The thought of your business being a machine is probably the most soul sucking idea possible, but I cannot think of a better terminology to use for what is really going on underneath the hood of a struggling freelance.

[00:01:30] Brian: And I want to paint the picture first in a perfect world, what does your business look like as a freelancer, when all things are working, when the engine is homing smoothly, when all the elements are finally tuned, everything is in place that needs to be there. What does it look like? What does it feel like even? And here's the perfect freelance business, in my opinion. Your perfect clients send you inquiries every single month, preferably one a day or more. To the point where like, you have more than you can possibly handle.

[00:01:55] Brian: That's the perfect freelance business. You have way more demand for your services and your time [00:02:00] than you actually have in supply, which means you're naturally gonna raise your rates over time. projects run smoothly. Every single client that comes to you, they're happy with what they get from you.

[00:02:07] Brian: They have very few revisions, if any, they refer their friends to you, they come back to you again, again and again and again for life. Or if it's a recurring kind of client, depending on your business model, they stay with you for life. They never cancel. They never say, Hey, we've gotta move on.

[00:02:20] Brian: Our budgets are getting cut back this year. Or, Hey, it's just not really working out. We need to cancel and then the way that would feel is you would feel stability. You would feel confident.

[00:02:29] Brian: You would feel less stressed because you know that clients are coming in every single month. You know that the clients that you are getting are running smoothly. It's not eating away at your soul. You're probably doing less of the things that you don't wanna do and more of the things that you do wanna do.

[00:02:40] Brian: Right? That's how it should be. Now, there's always gonna be things you have to do that you don't wanna do. That's just the reality of any business on Earth ever. You're never gonna find a perfect business, and your business is probably never gonna feel exactly this way.

[00:02:50] Brian: But chances are, the further you are from this ideal, the more pieces of the entire machine you are missing. And I wanna talk about three missing or maybe broken pieces [00:03:00] of your freelance business machine. And I wanna compare this so we're all on the, same page here as to my thought process behind this And how this might actually play out in your business.

[00:03:08] Brian: I wanna compare this to a car cuz most of us, especially Americans, we love our cars. we have probably more cars than people in this country at this point, but every car has pieces that are just nice to have. But they don't make or break the vehicle. Things like a sunroof radio a backup camera in your car, like when you're backing up the camera comes on like a remote start so that you can start your car.

[00:03:27] Brian: If it's sitting outside and you want it to warm up or cool down before you get in. These are all like nice things to have. None of these affect whether or not the machine will run, there are things that you absolutely have to have in a car for it to run. You need wheels obvious. You can have everything in the car, but if the wheels aren't on the car, it's not gonna go anywhere.

[00:03:43] Brian: You need an engine or a motor or a drivetrain, all of the power of the vehicle or else the car will not move. Obviously you need a steering wheel, not so obvious, but you tend a steering wheel so that when you move, you can go more than just straight ahead. Because if you just go straight in a car, you will eventually hit something and the car will no longer run.

[00:03:59] Brian: [00:04:00] You need brakes as well because you can have steering wheel, you can have an engine, you can. All the other components, but if you don't have brakes and you can't slow down and stop, you will inevitably run into something and crash, and your car will no longer work. You need gasoline. Another thing that you obviously need in order for the vehicle to run, if it runs outta gas, the machine stops.

[00:04:17] Brian: Now there's obviously more crucial components to a vehicle than just this, but this illustrates the points that If there's one missing piece of these crucial components of the car, it will not run. It is unusable. It is essentially. As far as getting from point A to point B, it is worthless.

[00:04:33] Brian: It is the same in your business, and this is for any business, not just freelancers. By the way, All businesses are relatively the same when it comes to these three key components. But some things are just nice to have and other things are absolutely crucial to whether or not your business will succeed.

[00:04:47] Brian: And a lot of us, we get distracted on those things that are nice to have. The sunroof, the remote entry. We spend a lot of time, effort, and energy in these areas, and we completely neglect those core components that are going to either make or break our [00:05:00] success as a freelancer. and if you ignore these three things, Especially in favor of just focusing on those. Nice to have things. Your business will not work, or if it does work, it'll be a grind. It will be fits and spurts, ups and downs, constantly going back and redoing things. So I wanna talk about building what I consider a complete, well-tuned machine.

[00:05:19] Brian: And for all my passion driven freelancers that are listening right now, the ones who are more, creative than entrepreneur, this is a soul sucking idea. I know. But it's crucial to your success. And the more you invest into these three areas of your business, the more you'll be able to enjoy the creative parts of your.

[00:05:33] Brian: Because you're not constantly bogged down because you have a broken machine, because the better the machine, the more well-tuned the all the pieces are there. You're gonna have less headaches, more income, and you're gonna have less of these fits and spurts and these feas famines that I think most freelancers are struggling with right now.

[00:05:49] Brian: So let's dive into this. Let's talk about the first of the three building blocks of what I would consider like a fine tune freelance business. this first one obvious, but you have to have an incredible product.

[00:05:57] Brian: It's the same whether you're selling widgets, physical [00:06:00] items, whether you're selling software as a service. Cause I have two of those companies, or whether you're selling freelance services, you have to have an incredible product. So this starts obviously with your creative skills. Most of you listening right now, you've invested a ton of time, effort, energy, and maybe even money honing those skills.

[00:06:14] Brian: But it takes much more than that. You can't just be the best creative and still be successful. in the music world. I see this all the time. You see these musicians that are incredible at their craft. They're very talented, and yet they're, for lack of a better word, broke.

[00:06:27] Brian: They're broke. And it's because they, focused on just their incredible talent, their amazing creative skills, and not how to actually utilize those skills in the best way. there's the other two components that will actually help with this. But when it comes to the actual product, you're offering your creative services, there's still more things you can do to increase the value of that so that you're not the broke musician on the street corner playing incredible instruments.

[00:06:49] Brian: Ignoring the other elements of what makes an incredible product. So this first thing, creative skills, obvious. The second thing when it comes to having an incredible product is some sort of unique differentiator.

[00:06:58] Brian: so many [00:07:00] freelancers, myself included when I first started offer. Just copycat freelance services. You look around to the other people in your niche, in your area, in your circle, and you say, I'm gonna do that. And I like the way they do that, and I'm gonna have this website like this because that's how they do it.

[00:07:15] Brian: And I saw this a ton in the music production communities when I was upcoming, and I fell into this trap a few times, and it's hard to get out of this trap. when you're a copycat freelancer,

[00:07:24] Brian: It can be a decent place to start, so you're not starting from ground zero and trying to reinvent everything, but at some point you have to step above and out of that into what makes you unique and what makes you different. I have something I call the cornerstone question. That is something that you have to think about because your clients are absolutely thinking about this.

[00:07:42] Brian: And the question is this, if I'm somebody analyzing you as a potential option to hire, why should I hire? Over all the other options that I have as far as whatever service you offer. If, you're a wedding photographer, why should I hire you specifically over all the other wedding photographers in my area?

[00:07:56] Brian: If you're a music producer, why should I hire you to produce my album over all the [00:08:00] other music producers in my area, especially here in Nashville, where I can throw a rock ahead of music producer? What makes you different? What makes you better? Sometimes it doesn't have anything to do with our skills.

[00:08:08] Brian: Sometimes The bar is high, and there's a ton of people with the skillset, like the street performers on the, side of the road who are incredible at their craft, especially here in Nashville. the street side musicians are actually really, really good. What actually else goes into this than just being great at our craft?

[00:08:21] Brian: Sometimes it's our personalities. Sometimes it's who we are as people. Sometimes it is the way we can make people feel. When we're freelancers, it's above and beyond just our skillset. A lot of it is our personalities. us personally. And if you ignore improving yourself, if you ignore working on the soft skills as a person, if you ignore the people skills, making people feel important, making people feel seen and heard, if you ignore those elements, you are ruining or tainting at least a very valuable, talented skillset that you have honed over the years because you failed to invest in the other areas of what makes you you. The number one differentiator for freelancers who are solopreneurs essentially is you, yourself. You are the differentiator. So there are many things you can do[00:09:00] above and beyond just investing in yourself and becoming a better person to differentiate yourself from other freelancers in your. But it starts with you, and you don't have to have a perfect answer for this. This is one area that trips up the people that I coach more than anything is they don't really have any unique differentiator, but it starts with just wanting one. It starts with keeping an eye out for what makes you unique so that you can spot those opportunities as you're going through your career to find what is it that is actually unique to me.

[00:09:25] Brian: Cause we've all experienced this when we're buying a car and. We're searching for different cars and different models and different colors that we like, and all of a sudden we start seeing these cars everywhere on the road. Everywhere you see this specific vehicle, it's because it's top of mind for you.

[00:09:39] Brian: It's on the forefront of what you're looking for and what you're considering right now. And as soon as you buy the car, weeks, months later, you just stop noticing that because our brains are amazingly ignoring the things that we consider non-I. And I cannot think of a thing more important, more crucial to your long-term success as a freelancer than finding a unique differentiator.

[00:09:55] Brian: What sets you apart from the rest? What makes you a not copycat freelancer? And that has to be top of [00:10:00] mind for you at all times so that you can spot those things as they appear. Because there's so many things surrounding you that make you unique, that if you're not actively looking out for those things, that they'll pass right by you.

[00:10:11] Brian: Just like every other car on the street, they'll pass right by you never to be seen again. And you'll miss out on what could be an opportunity to start adding to those things that differentiate you from all of your competitors.

[00:10:20] Brian: Part of machine number one is your incredible product. We have amazing creative skills that you have to have. That's one part. We have the unique differentiator. That's the second part. But we also have some of the nuts and bolts of the actual product, and that's where we get to the onboarding process.

[00:10:33] Brian: Lot of freelancers, their idea of onboarding is send a couple emails, maybe you have a call, whatever, like there's no process behind it. And your onboarding process with a new client is essentially your first impression with them or their first impression with you. Yes, you might have had like a sales conversation, but they've never actually worked with you in the professional capacity and this is where they've already paid money.

[00:10:51] Brian: In most cases, you should have taken some amount of money up front before you start working with him. So at this point, if you aren't showing up professionally, With all your ducks in a row. With a good [00:11:00] process for onboarding clients, they might start getting buyer's remorse. And the last thing you want to do as a freelancer who wants to make this their career long term, is put a bad taste in your client's mouth at the very start of the project during the onboarding process.

[00:11:12] Brian: And not only that, this can make or break the success of a project because if you didn't get all the elements you needed, if you didn't set the project up for. If you didn't think through all the elements that are necessary on the onboarding phase in order to make the project successful, it can falter and flop just because you didn't do the onboarding process, right?

[00:11:28] Brian: So onboarding is one of those things that most people. Think of an afterthought of this, but it's, actually one of the most important parts of having a great product, is making sure the onboarding experience feels as luxurious as the price point that you are trying to charge. And I personally always wanna be near the top of the market when it comes to pricing.

[00:11:46] Brian: Think about pricing. Is elastic band? There's like, The middle of the road price that most freelancers charge. There's the extreme low that the people trying to undercut charge. And there's the extreme high that the top of the market charges. I wanna be as high as I can and still provide the value that clients want me to provide.[00:12:00]

[00:12:00] Brian: And when you're at the top of the market, the expectations are higher. So the onboarding process is one of those things that has to fill as luxurious as whatever service you're trying to, provide.

[00:12:08] Brian: Then there's the fulfillment process. when it comes to selling a service or any product for that matter, there's the actual like fulfillment, which is the bulk of the actual product.

[00:12:17] Brian: Now, there's kind of two main approaches when it comes to freelancers. There's like the bespoke approach where you are doing everything unique to that client. It is. A true masterpiece, right? you are customizing every little element, like a custom tailored suit from scratch, I've purchased a few of those and the whole process from like selecting materials to being fitted multiple times, it's a luxurious feeling, experience compared to going to like Joseph A. Banks or, Brooks Brothers or whatever, where they have pre-made suits and yeah, they may be tailored a little bit to yourself, but it doesn't feel as luxurious as getting a custom-tailored suit.

[00:12:49] Brian: The second type of business is the productized service. That is the Joseph Hays Banks. that is the Brooks Brothers, although I've never purchased from them. I'm just using the, as an example, not sponsored by the way, you're going into the store and picking out the [00:13:00] product that's already pre-made, and those are two completely different approaches.

[00:13:03] Brian: Now, there are blends of the. But generally speaking, that's the two major approaches in freelancing. either way, no matter whether you are entirely bespoke, custom made for that specific client, where very few templates or resources are used, or very few, reused elements or assets or you are the fully productized service where you. So many different elements that you're reusing for every single project because all projects fit into a box, no matter what your business model is, you need to have a process driven approach to fulfillment.

[00:13:31] Brian: Otherwise, you're going to be scatterbrained, you're going to have inconsistencies in project quality. And honestly, I would really, really encourage you go back to episode 245 where I talk about the tots method. T O T S. Where it's essentially an episode about how to create recipes as a freelancer absolutely, if you're doing productized services, this is a hundred percent necessary, but even if you're a bespoke freelancer where every project is custom made from scratch, essentially, even if that's the case, you can still create process and recipes around some of those different creative things that you're.

[00:13:59] Brian: [00:14:00] And the gist of that episode is essentially if you don't follow a recipe, you are going to get mixed results. I've seen so many music producers, for example, in my background, where they're the bespoke approach to recording an album for a band, and every album sounds unique and different. Wonderful. The problem is those producers continue to be hit or miss.

[00:14:18] Brian: Some albums are incredible. Some are just absolute flops and just sound terrible because they don't have a recipe approach to what they do.

[00:14:25] Brian: So we've talked about your amazing creative skills. We've talked about having a unique differentiator. We've talked about onboarding process and the fulfillment process. And then the final thing when it comes to having an incredible product is a revisions and delivery process. So this is like the final mile. You've been working with a client for sometimes a long time, maybe you're working with a client on retainer month to month, where you're delivering files every single month.

[00:14:46] Brian: But either way, this is where you're sending in the assets to the client for revisions and ultimately in delivery and sometimes final payment if you haven't been paid in advance for your work. This is the point where many freelancers peter out. depending on how you schedule things, you might have actually brought on more clients [00:15:00] to take on as this one's starting to, trail off.

[00:15:02] Brian: So now your focus is on the new client and this old client is old news, and you're letting the, project slip away. And this is the, last impression your client's going to have for you. So if you don't end this in a strong way, they leave the project with a bad taste in their mouth. You could have been incredible during the sales process.

[00:15:17] Brian: You could have been incredible. During the onboarding process, you could have been incredible during the fulfillment process. The product might have been great, but if you slide away and let that taper off the final mile, this final experience for, revisions and delivery. It could still ruin the entire experience for them because they left with just a bad taste in their mouth, and this can ruin their chances of coming back to you again.

[00:15:37] Brian: This can ruin their chances of referring clients to you because the final mile that deliverable the, project wrapping up is one of the best places to get referrals from your client. But if you do this wrong, you ruin those chances. So those are some of the major pieces of this. Building block or this first machine in your overall business is having an incredible product.

[00:15:57] Brian: And there's so much that goes into each and every one of these that I can't [00:16:00] really do this, even the justice that it deserves. But there are resources on six figure creative.com. If you just go to our free resources tab, If you search the podcast backlog, we have episodes on onboarding. We have episodes on finding your unique differentiator. We have episodes, like I said, on the Tots method, how do you create recipes around your creativity, but have an incredible product. This is the foundation of your business.

[00:16:20] Brian: And so many people come to me for coaching and I have to reject them because their product is just straight up. And I cannot help somebody whose product is bad. I can take people with an incredible product and help them build the other elements of their business, but I cannot help a bad product because you're just fighting an uphill battle at that point.

[00:16:38] Brian: So now let's move to building block number two.

[00:16:40] Brian: And that is making sure you choose a proven business model. this kinda goes back to the bespoke versus productized service. that's kind of a part of a business model, so you kinda have to make that determination ahead of time cuz you can build your business around a productized service.

[00:16:54] Brian: This. High volume, relatively low price in the grand scheme of things because you're spending less time with [00:17:00] each client and you can take on more clients, and it's a really efficient process that you're going through. And because of that, you're charging relatively lower rates. That doesn't mean you're at the bottom of the market.

[00:17:09] Brian: You still wanna be at the top of the market for that productized service, but it just means, in the grand scheme of things, more clients less dollars per client, The bespoke process where everything is custom made has to be at the higher end of the pricing spectrum. because of the time it takes to, do that for clients, it's going to be less clients overall.

[00:17:24] Brian: it's a spectrum. It's not just a black or white thing. There is a lot of like gray in the middle. But you are choosing whether you're a high volume, low price business model or a high price, low volume business model.

[00:17:36] Brian: But beyond that major consideration, there's four typical options when it comes to your pricing.

[00:17:41] Brian: There's the hourly billing model, which a lot of freelancers start out at. It's not the one that I, choose, and it's not the one that I, tell anyone to choose if you can help it. But hourly pricing model is typically for like butt in seat kind of work. the kind of jobs where you are, filling a role that 30 different people could fill in your area.

[00:17:57] Brian: If you are using this model for pricing, this is [00:18:00] typically the person who has no differentiator at all. They haven't thought through these other things that we talked about in creating an incredible product. And so you default to just saying, I charge 30 bucks an hour for this service. Not very compelling and definitely not value-based pricing.

[00:18:13] Brian: you can't be successful with that. I'm not saying you can't make money from that, but it's just not my preferred method at all. The second pricing model is project-based model. This is where. You're charging for a deliverable, essentially.

[00:18:25] Brian: So in my background as a music producer that's the way I went. It was you have a certain project, you're coming to me with three songs, five song, 10 songs, a single, and I'm gonna charge you a price for that specific project. And we're gonna do that project. You're gonna pay me that money and then I'll send you the deliverables for that project.

[00:18:40] Brian: It's a one and done. Wash your hands and move on. This is great for those of you who has boundary issues. If you stick with a client for a long time and you struggle with boundary issues, eventually they'll start with an inch, and then they'll take a mile and they'll take a hundred miles and they'll start asking for more and more and more and more from you without compensating you for more and more and more and more and more.

[00:18:58] Brian: That's why [00:19:00] retainer and subscription model, which we'll talk about in a second, is not always the best choice if you have boundary issues. I know freelancers who specifically do this, they only do project-based work because they struggle with boundaries and they don't wanna get walked all over. So when they have a defined end to the project, And they have the defined deliverables for the project. They can do the work and then they wash their hands with the client.

[00:19:20] Brian: They don't get too close and too friendly and they don't care about the clients as much. as some of the people who are doing subscription-based models or retainer clients where they're working with 'em over a long period of time. You just develop a relationship. You're much closer to them, and so you start to give up things because you value the relationship and.

[00:19:35] Brian: Again, it's great to have a relationship with people, but you can get walked all over. So project-based model works in a lot of businesses where it's just a one and done. It's just the natural order of things like music production. Weddings are another area where it's just gonna be a project-based model.

[00:19:47] Brian: You're not gonna get a recurring client unless they're habitual divorcee, but depending on your niche that's the model that a lot of freelancers fall into. And then, I've already talked about this a little bit, but the next type of proven business model is subscription models or retainer models.

[00:19:59] Brian: I kinda lump those two.[00:20:00] This is where you're working with a client month over month, and they're probably paying you month over month There are negatives to this. Again, I already talked about this, where if you get close with your clients and you have boundary issues, they can start to ask for things that are outside of the scope and you just feel bad asking for more money.

[00:20:14] Brian: I'm gonna throw my wife under the bus and say, she's that person. she's had retainer clients. She's moved away because now TikTok is a bigger and bigger portion of her income, which is great. Go follow her on TikTok Meg's tea room, if you wanna follow her on, cozy Fantasy stuff. But she has struggles with some of her clients where she's gotten really close to over the years.

[00:20:30] Brian: And then they start upping the things that they're asking from, are they outside of the scope of things? And she struggles to ask for more because she cares for her.

[00:20:36] Brian: the other side of things, if you have no problem setting boundaries and specific parameters on what is included and not included in the price you're charging for your subscription or retainer service, this can be wonderful because it's recurring revenue.

[00:20:47] Brian: One client keeps paying you every single month. And some of my most successful clients, this is their business model, they have clients paying them one to two to $3,000 per month, and that client is now. What is that? 12 to 24 to $36,000 per year for [00:21:00] one client. How hard is it to break six figures? If that's your business model, you need maybe 3, 4, 5 clients and you're a six figure business owner.

[00:21:07] Brian: Now, some niches, this is obvious, like your business will be retainer model in some niches. If you're a podcast producer. You are a content creator, meaning you're a videographer or a, copywriter for social media or, an influencer or something like that or, business just doing content marketing and you're helping them with that as a freelancer.

[00:21:22] Brian: Those are going to be recurring services. So you're going to have a retainer model for those, and that's, natural, Or a podcast is every episode, every week, that's going to be a recurring revenue service for you as a lance. Other niches, this is not so obvious. there's some niches that are gaining traction in converting their, business model of project based or hourly based pricing into subscription pricing.

[00:21:41] Brian: I, I encourage you to go check out episode 233 where I talk to anime Tonkin about her family photography business. She does family photography, and she shifted that from a project-based thing where clients would come in and she'd take photos of their families and send 'em to them for.

[00:21:54] Brian: She turned that obviously a project-based business into a non-traditional, very not [00:22:00] obvious subscription business. She's called it the yearbook Club or something like that. she charges clients I believe a yearly fee or just a flat monthly fee, and she has certain things she does with them throughout the year to kind of capture the different big memories in their lives.

[00:22:12] Brian: So this is shifting from what has predominantly been a project-based business model to now a subscription, recurring based business model. And she said on that episode that I believe she was up to six figures or near six figures, just in the recurring revenue from that yearbook club. And that's not including all of the one-off projects she still does throughout the year.

[00:22:29] Brian: There's also another episode, episode 68 on this podcast, back when we were called the Six Figure Home Studio. Where, mark Eckert, who's a recurring kind of, substitute host on this podcast, he talked through how he built his music production business up into a recurring revenue business, which is, again, very rare to see in the music production world.

[00:22:44] Brian: so again, business model is kind of a combination between high volume, low price, or low volume, high price, choosing that spectrum and then choosing how you want to charge, whether it's hourly project or retainer and subscription model. Now, there's a fourth one here. That I've never seen any [00:23:00] freelancer do, at least in this industry, and I don't think any freelancer has the bravery to do this, but there's a commission based model that some people do.

[00:23:08] Brian: I don't see this as much in the freelance world because it's hard to do. I do see this in certain agencies where it's a pay for performance where. You're getting a cut of whatever you produce for your client. So this is obviously really only works when you're working directly with business owners and something that you do is directly earning an roi.

[00:23:25] Brian: For example, if you're running Facebook ads as a freelancer for a business, you're helping them get an roi.

[00:23:31] Brian: That's probably the first area I saw people kind of doing this. there's a lot of other opportunities for this, but you essentially don't get paid unless you're good at what you do. So even if you don't go with this model, I still like the thought process of. Asking myself, what would I do differently as a freelancer if I only got paid a commission based on the success of my client?

[00:23:49] Brian: What would you do differently? And I can think of a number of things that I would do differently, especially in my past as a music producer, because clients were coming to me to get amazing sounding songs. As a music producer, I could do that, but that was not actually [00:24:00] what they were after. was a means to an end.

[00:24:01] Brian: They came to me for amazing sounding music production. So, They could gain more fans, they could get on tours, they could earn more money from MER sales, they could potentially get signed. And those are all things that I had done as an artist. I had the expertise and knowledge to help my clients do those things, and I never helped with those things.

[00:24:19] Brian: So if I were back in the music production days, truly. Only paid based on whether or not my clients were successful, I would've done a lot more in order to help my clients become successful beyond just producing their album. So if you think through these sorts of things, it brings up different opportunities for differentiation we go back to creating an amazing product.

[00:24:37] Brian: Asking yourself this question is a wonderful differentiator because most freelancers never ask themselves these things, and this is a wonderful way to set yourself apart, is when you align your service, your product, your pricing, yourself. With what the client wants. And the best way to think through that is if I were to do a commission-based pricing structure, what would that look like?

[00:24:58] Brian: What would I have to do so that [00:25:00] my client is accessible as possible so that I get my commission from them? So whether or not you ever go this pricing model, it's a wonderful exercise to just think about.

[00:25:07] Brian: So just kinda going back over this, we talked about having an incredible product that's kind of building block number one and your big freelance machine building. Block number two was a proven business model. We just talked about a bunch of that stuff. But the third part is a way to get clients.

[00:25:20] Brian: This is the client acquisition side of things. This is the stuff that I've talked about on many episodes in the past. I'm not sure how much time I'm gonna spend here, but this is the area that I see many people fall short. They probably have a pretty good product. Doesn't have to be incredible. Again, this is all spectrum based.

[00:25:32] Brian: It's not so much as ones and zeros binary. You either have it or you don't. A lot of it, You have a really good product. You have a pretty decent business model. Something that will work but then when it comes to getting clients, this part's broken. This part's utterly broken for many freelancers.

[00:25:47] Brian: And so if you can think of this, single thing as a self-contained machine, I call it your client acquisition machine, and there are four different parts of this specific machine And this is one of the most important parts of understanding that you have to have each of [00:26:00] these in order for it to run. Just like a car without an engine, that car will not run. You have to have each of these elements. So if you don't have these, you don't have a client acquisition machine. Period. Full stop.

[00:26:11] Brian: So let's talk through each of these four. Again, I'm gonna probably breeze through this because of the length of this episode, and I, I've already talked about this at length. You can go back to episode.

[00:26:17] Brian: 225 where I talked about how to build your own client acquisition machine and make 2023 your best year ever. Go back and list that episode if you want more details on this specific stuff. but here's the four parts. The first is a lead generation process.

[00:26:30] Brian: I have this underlined in my outline lead generation process. This is a marketer's fancy terminology for just saying, people have to be coming to you for interest in your services. That's a lead, someone who's expressed interest in working with you,

[00:26:42] Brian: and there has to be a process. To actually get these. Most people don't think about that. They just wait for clients to come to them. They get referrals, they get word of mouth and they fall into the word of mouth. Death trap, I've talked about this on the podcast. Go search our backlog for word of mouth, death trap, or search our YouTube channel.

[00:26:55] Brian: But there's a waiting for clients to come to them. They don't have any actual activities they're doing to [00:27:00] generate leads. They don't have a process. So this is the first area that people fall short, is they don't have a process for this lead generat. Is not a result. It is an activity.

[00:27:08] Brian: It is a process that has to be done, I can't think of a single thing that you just do one time and then never have to touch again. When it comes to lead generation, it's an ongoing thing. Now, the better you are at this, the more efficient you are, the better you are at finding the one or two things that really move the needle for this, the better you are at spending less and less time. But this can be time consuming for many people when they're just getting started with this. Because to go from zero to one is a ton of energy, just like a, spaceship.

[00:27:31] Brian: It uses the most fuel, to go, like the first mile in the air to get to space compared to actually moving around in space. Again, that's a horrible analogy, but you get what I'm saying here. A plane taking off uses more fuel than it does just coasting in the.

[00:27:44] Brian: At high altitudes as far as the amount of fuel spent over time. So when you're getting a lead generation process off the ground, it can be intimidating, it can be time consuming, it can suck up energy, it can suck your soul away. For some of you who are not natural to this, but once you have it running, it's much easier to maintain. [00:28:00] It's easier to keep up momentum than to get it started from ground zero every.

[00:28:03] Brian: So if you want more info on how this actually works, just go back to our backlog. And there's different episodes on lead generation, but the second part of building a client acquisition machine, which is the third building block here, is a lead nurture process. Again, process is underlined in my outline because process is what makes a machine run without a process.

[00:28:20] Brian: It is a one and done thing, which means you're gonna have fits and spurts if you have feas or famine leads. you have no process for this. It is either an accident or it is a fits and spurts approach to lead generation or lead nurture. So lead, nurture, just for anyone who doesn't know that terminology, doesn't like that terminology.

[00:28:36] Brian: This just literally means nurturing a relationship. You're either building trust or you're staying top of mind with somebody.

[00:28:42] Brian: Many clients when they first find out about you as a freelancer, whatever service you offer, they're not ready to make a decision right now. If you're a wedding photographer, they may be just looking into wedding videographers or wedding photographers right now, they haven't even chosen their date for their wedding yet, or they haven't even considered whether or not they're ready to make the decision yet.

[00:28:57] Brian: So maybe they reached out for pricing, but they're not ready to [00:29:00] make a decision. So staying top of mind and doing everything you can to build trust. Whether it's revamping your website, please God, don't be another photographer that just has a massive grid of photos on your website. on your landing page when I first go there, that is the worst thing you could possibly do.

[00:29:14] Brian: Read to the website, build an email list, like there's a bunch of stuff you can do. reach out person to person, send texts build case studies, anything that builds trust. Anything that stays top of mind. Social media is another way to say top of mind. And anything that does those two things, either building trust or staying top of mind is the key to making lead nurture work. But it has to be a process driven approach, meaning that you have inputs and you get outputs. If I do these things, then this stuff happens. If you can't say, if this, then that.

[00:29:41] Brian: It's not a process. Or if you're not actually doing the process, if you're not doing the, if this, the input part of. Meaning I post on social media every day or every week so that people who are following me are reminded of my existence. That's a process you can follow to help nurture leads, build trust, build credibility.

[00:29:58] Brian: If you're not doing that though, it's not [00:30:00] a process. It's a thing that you started and gave up. On third part of a client acquisition machine is a sales process. sales is a process.

[00:30:09] Brian: And that process has to be great at doing a few things, finding out whether or not a lead is qualified, meaning are they the right client? For me, it's a two-way street. You can't just take anyone who comes your way. It has to be right for both of you. So are they the right client for me and am I right for them?

[00:30:23] Brian: Because sometimes, The client may not really need your service, or sometimes a client may not be ready for your service. Or sometimes a client is a nightmare client, a red flag client, a walking nightmare that you are falling into the trap of selling your services to, and you're gonna greatly regret it, and it's gonna be a ghost in the machine.

[00:30:42] Brian: It's gonna be a thing that is going to ruin your life for a small amount of time. We've all made the mistakes, but the sales process is a great time to weed people. a great sales process also helps your client understand the value that you provide for them. So if you are getting a lot of pushback on your pricing people are saying you are too expensive, then [00:31:00] most likely you failed in two areas.

[00:31:01] Brian: You failed on building trust with them and you failed on explaining the value and having them understand the value that you provide as a lance.

[00:31:08] Brian: And much of that is in the sales process. sales process can build trust as well. It should build trust, and that's why I prefer either in person or zoom. Or worst case scenario of phone sales, some kind of live conversation for sales so that you can really get a feel for each other, especially, oh my gosh, especially for recurring clients where you're working with a client for a long amount of time for high dollar amounts, like in podcast production.

[00:31:29] Brian: I cannot think of a worse thing than trying to speed through the sales process, just doing it through emails or text or dms in social media. And they mean stuck with a client for a year that you both hate each other or you hate them and they might like you. a sales process is not just about convincing every person, with a pulse that they should pay you. A sales process is two-way street. It is making sure they're right for you, making sure you're right for them, making sure they understand the value that you provide.

[00:31:53] Brian: And then being really good at overcoming objections. So everyone has objections for the service you offer. You should know like the [00:32:00] back of your hand, every counter argument for common objections that clients come to you with.

[00:32:03] Brian: And then the final part of a client acquisition machine is a referral process. Again, process is underlined. Getting referrals is a process that you can't have, and there are certain points in the client's life where they're more likely to generate a referral for you.

[00:32:16] Brian: In a perfect freelance business, you get one new client via referrals from every client that you work with, one or more. If that's the case, then every single client that you get will lead to at least one more, which means you grow exponentially until you hit the bottleneck of fulfillment where you can no longer fulfill on clients.

[00:32:32] Brian: I had a client hit this point. They, this is best testimonial. He said, if I get another client, I'm gonna shoot myself in the head. Just joking around. But he got to the point where he hit his fulfillment bottleneck, where he can no longer do this and this can happen. If you have that viral coefficient is what I call it, of greater than one.

[00:32:48] Brian: Meaning every one client refers another client. To do this, you have to have something called the Ask Journey, where during your journey with them, you have different points that you're asking for referrals from. If you want this, I can do a [00:33:00] full episode on this in the future. But those are the four major pieces of a client acquisition machine.

[00:33:03] Brian: It's a lead generation process, lead, nurture process, sales process, a referral process, all process driven.

[00:33:10] Brian: You could throw one more in there if you are again, a retainer or recurring subscription business, freelancer. it's retention. Honestly, if you even project-based retention's an important part, and that's having clients come back to you. But a lot of that comes down to just having an incredible product.

[00:33:24] Brian: So I don't necessarily consider that as much client acquisition as it does just being great at what you do, because if you are good at what you do and you truly provide the value of what you're charging for, your clients will come back to you again and again and again. So that's why this is not necessarily in the client acquisition pillar or building block, but it's still an incredibly important part of making sure clients come back to you again and again and again, are happy with your service and refer people to you constant. so to kind of sum this up, you have to have an incredible product, proven business model and a way to get clients. That is the three major things. I can help with. Two of those, I can help with the business model and I can help with the client acquisition machine.

[00:33:56] Brian: So if you need help with those areas, just go to six figure [00:34:00] creative.com/clients. and you can apply for clients by design. I will be taking on more clients soon. There's a waiting list of about 40 people on the the waiting list right now. Don't let that deter you. Not all those people will join.

[00:34:10] Brian: Those are just people who applied and I've accepted, and they'll be the first to get the offer to join when I open up more spots in the coming months. But I typically only take 10 or 15 people on, in each kind of enrollment cohort. So if you want to get on that list and be the first to get the offer, when client's by design opens, you want help with the client acquisition machine and the business model side of things, and you want personalized help where you're getting one-to-one attention, one-to-one feedback, accountability, where we're reaching out to you if you're behind on anything, trying to help you overcome whatever roadblocks that you're, running up.

[00:34:39] Brian: You wanna be part of a community of other freelancers who are all working towards this sort of stuff. And it's in a non-Facebook community by the way. We use an app called Twist, which is amazing. It's, like Slack, If Slack were old school message board where you actually have threads in there that everyone uses threads, it's amazing.

[00:34:53] Brian: But that's what use for a community. And it's been an amazing place and I have some great case studies that I can't wait to share with our audience when I get a [00:35:00] chance to actually like form and craft and create and promote these case studies. even a few people that joined towards the end of 2021, they were anywhere from $0 to, I think $17,000 was the most they had earned in 2021.

[00:35:11] Brian: And by 20 22, 2 of those three, had either come very close or broken six figures. I believe both of 'em actually broke six figures in 2022. I have to go back and double check those. And then the third, the slower one. I joke with him, the slow one. He's on track to break 75,000 this year likely, I think he'll break a hundred thousand if he can get him past that bottleneck.

[00:35:28] Brian: He's the one that said, if I get another client right now, I'm gonna shoot myself in the head. We gotta get him through some bottlenecks to get to the point where he can earn six figures. But I just love those three case studies specifically because we had to first fix the business model, make sure the product was amazing, and then we focus on the client acquisition side.

[00:35:42] Brian: And it's been an amazing transformation for all three of those. And again, I just can't wait to share those. So if you, again, if you wanna apply for that for the next enrollment period, but a six figure creative.com/clients and we can help you build your client acquisition machine. So that is it for this.

[00:35:55] Brian: Thanks for joining me this week, and I will see you next week.

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