So today I want to talk about one of the biggest mistakes I see freelancers making (I’m including aspiring freelancers who aren’t quite there yet)…
Ladies and gents, you are making this waaaaaaaaaayyyyyyy more complicated than it is.
Good business is simple… it’s just that simple doesn’t necessarily equal easy.
Easy is skipping steps. It’s taking shortcuts.
Simple is CLEAR, even if clarity has 20 more steps than the “easy way”.
Why do we make it more complicated than it is?
It usually stems from comparing your backstage shit show to someone else’s finished production. When you do, that you make a lot of assumptions about what it took that person to get to that stage… and it’s very rare that you’re going to be anywhere near accurate.
Your brain loves to bridge gaps when it’s missing information.
Think back to the last time it simply inserted a missing word in a piece of copy you were reading (and this is why you read out loud or hire an editor).
When you are missing a piece, your brain works hard to fill in the gaps so that the big picture still looks pretty.
So essentially when you see someone successful, you’re often making up what you THINK they did to get there.
And the fact is most successful people didn’t have a bullet-pointed plan with backups A thru Z in case one failed. Most of the successful people I know wound up on a completely different path from where they thought they’d be…
And that’s because instead of being stuck in the “perpetual planning” trap… they’re out there taking action and letting results (or lack thereof) inform the next step.
When you spend a ton of time creating plans (and backup plans and backup backup plans and backup plans to the backup backup plans…), you’re not actually LEARNING anything.
You’re not learning what you like to do.
You’re not learning what red flags appear when a client isn’t a great fit.
You’re not learning about the opportunities available if you stop TALKING about hustling and start ACTUALLY hustling.
There’s this saying I like about exercising…
It doesn’t matter how slow you go around the racetrack. You’re still lapping everyone sitting on the couch.
The same thing applies here. If you’re taking action, you’re still lapping everyone who’s waiting until the perfect plan and some sort of permission from the universe to be an expert.
You know what it takes to make it to a client’s short list? Just four (SIMPLE, not EASY) things:
- Be a pro. This means believing in your skills and your ability to help people with what you know. Pros don’t ask clients for permission to do good work and pros don’t seek validation from clients. Pros know how to look at their work and objectively evaluate whether it’s good enough for the client to see… in other words they don’t turn something in that’s half-assed. That brings me to the next on the list…
- Do good work. This means that you are doing the necessary research in order to produce a good piece. It means you’re allowing yourself enough time (and setting internal deadlines to keep the project moving forward)… vs waiting until the last damn minute to come up with something and producing a bunch of garbage in a fit of panic.When you do that, you’re not giving yourself the brain the space to mash ideas together until something good comes up. Doing good work requires discipline, which means procrastination is NOT your friend. If you have been using “I produce my best work under pressure” as an excuse to put things off, you are playing with fire. Eventually you’re going to turn in something subpar to someone you’re really trying to impress, and you’ll have no one to blame but yourself.
- Be dependable. There’s a reason John Carlton’s always railing on the “Pro Code”… hardly anyone follows it! If you don’t know, the Pro Code simply means you show up when you say you would, having done what you said you would do. SO many people out there don’t honor their own promises that it’s really easy to stand out by delivering what you promised when you said you would.There are so many unreliable, undependable, excuse-making people out there that simply showing up and doing good work immediately puts you ahead of 90% of the pack. As someone in a hiring role, I will take someone I can count on and who does their best every step of the way over the latest flaky hot shot who creates great hooks but disappears at the drop of a hat.
- Be cool to work with. Instead of treating clients like a paycheck, treat them like anyone else that you care about. Communicate. Ask questions. Get to know them as people and not just the people that sign your paycheck. Really give a shit about their company and their results, because it shows in your behavior and in the work.If you’re a diva, if you talk over me, if you disregard my expertise and act like a know-it-all… then I as a client am just looking for a reason to get rid of you. It makes me dread working with you instead of looking forward to all the good work that we could do together.
If you really internalize these 4 behaviors (because they’re conscious choices) as a way of doing good business, then you automatically stand out from all the people out there who dream but never do.
Show up. Do good work. Be dependable. And be easy to work with.
That is the REAL secret to repeat business.