Freelance Coaching - To win the game you must open more of the right doors.

Photo Credit: Dil via Unsplash

A freelance business coach can help you clarify your goals, remove obstacles, and grow your freelance income faster. In this post, I will share a success story from Robert, a business consultant who signed up for my freelance coaching program. I’ll also send you away with some key changes you can make in your own freelance business.

First, I want to explain why many freelancers fail to market their businesses effectively, make more money, and enjoy more freedom.

Freelance Coaching Tip #1 – Acquire the right skills (which probably aren’t what you think).

Imagine you’re on a gameshow. You are standing with the host and looking down a long hall with doors on both sides.

With a wolfish grin and a wink, the host explains the game. Behind each door you will find either a prize or a painful lesson.

A trip to Fiji sounds awfully nice, and you could certainly use a new car. But getting locked into a long project with a startup founder who proves to be a narcissist? What about missing another client’s deadline due to your own poor planning? Ouch.

You can only open one door at a time, so making your way down the long hall requires daily trial and error. Over time, you begin to recognize patterns on the doors themselves. You get smarter. You avoid certain doors altogether.

This is the gameshow of freelancing.

Perfect performance is impossible, and the freelancers and consultants who win aren’t necessarily the most skilled or hardest working.

I’ve seen it happen time and time again. Sandy Sandwich has B- skills, and she sails past Tina Pizza who has demonstrated A+ talent.

Tina is frustrated and confused. She cares deeply about serving her clients. She does high-quality work and delivers positive outcomes.

Yet, Sandy made $40,000 more than her last year, and to make matters worse, Sandy just intercepted a client Tina really wanted.

Tina thinks Sandy’s work is just okay, and she doesn’t think it’s fair that freelancers and agencies who make promises they can’t keep continue to dupe new clients.

Tina is right. It’s not fair.

The question is, what is she going to do about it? What about you?

The fact is, the skills that got you into freelancing aren’t the same as the ones you need to grow your business. Simply getting better at the work itself—refining your skills and methodology—won’t be enough to take you to the next level.

I hate to break it to you, but the most valuable new skills you can acquire tie into marketing and sales (aka, making money). In his book Million Dollar Consulting, legendary consultant Alan Weiss puts a blunt edge on that truth:

“Too many consultants fall in love with their own methodology. Success in this business comes from marketing, not from the depth of consulting expertise. I know that this is heresy to many of you, but all the non-rainmaking consulting gurus are working for somebody else and merely earning a paycheck.” (emphasis mine)

As a freelance coach, I put special emphasis on marketing, sales, and smart pricing.

Freelance Coaching Tip #2 – Follow a proven framework.

I mentioned Robert, one of my favorite freelance business coaching clients. He didn’t hire me because I know everything.

He hired me because I convinced him that creatives and consultants can achieve extraordinary results by leveraging The Four P’s:

  1. Positioning
  2. Packaging
  3. Pricing
  4. Pipeline

Think of The Four P’s as performance levers. The same way a lever gives you a mechanical advantage when moving a heavy object, The Four P’s produce disproportionately good results in your business.

Your freelance business will always have problems, ranging from low-grade annoyances like bookkeeping mistakes to mission-critical issues like a cashflow shortage.

Freelance business coaching lifts you out of the daily crush of problems and points you to the root causes and real opportunities.

Or, to put it another way, I bring outside perspective and guidance and help my clients major in the majors. For example, Robert wanted to make more money and do more fulfilling work. Though existing clients kept him extremely busy, he made time to lean into The Four P’s and make definitive progress.

Freelance Coaching Tip #3 – Figure out where you make your highest and best contribution.

Robert is sharp, experienced, and hard-working. He goes, and he gets it done, whatever “it” may be.

That was the root of the problem. Though Robert’s consulting clients had hired him to help them fix expensive problems, he had proven himself so capable they kept delegating more and more tasks to him.

Though the predictable cashflow was nice, too much low-level implementation work was preventing Robert from making his highest and best contribution.

Cursed by his own competence, Robert was on the verge of burnout.

He signed up for my freelance coaching program because he wanted outside perspective and guidance. In our Kick-Off Workshop, we spent 90 minutes unpacking Robert’s specific situation, including his immediate problems and his long-term goals.

Robert wanted to do more consulting at the C-level because that is where he delivers the most value.

Freelance Coaching Tip #4 – Fix your positioning and messaging.

We began working side by side on four core areas: Positioning, Packaging, Pricing, and Pipeline.

We analyzed Robert’s past successes to identify his target audience’s most painful problems and their most common needs.

Spend enough time online and in marketing land, and you’ll find various terms: customer avatar, ideal customer profile, buyer persona. The real key is to dig into psychographics—the motivations and emotional drivers your preferred clients have.

Most messaging falls flat because we freelancers do little more than describe our services and credentials and talk at our would-be clients.

With a bit more cogitation and elbow grease, we can uncover how they actually experience the value we deliver.

For example, venture-backed SaaS startup founders need to keep their blogs and socials vital. Content marketing helps with customer acquisition, and it shows investors that the founders are dotting their i’s and crossing their t’s.

By contrast, dead blogs and socials send the wrong message to both prospects and investors. SaaS founders who aren’t producing high-quality content thus feel anxiety and embarrassment, even if they know they’re focusing on higher priorities.

If you produce content for venture-backed SaaS startups, then you’d be wise to touch on these emotions in your messaging.

Back to Robert. We spent some time exploring the goals, needs, pain points, and potential objections that occupy his prospects’ minds.

We used those insights to craft all-new positioning that spoke to the transformation CEOs want for themselves and their companies.

Freelance Coaching Tip #5 – Change your packaging and pricing.

Once you understand what is keeping your prospects up at night, you can figure out where their heartburn and your solutions overlap.

The process seems obvious once you think about it:

  • Pinpoint the profitable projects you most enjoy.
  • Identify the outcomes your prospects value most highly.
  • Package up your services as those valuable outcomes.

Robert and I discussed his most profitable projects in depth and identified two primary pain points: many CEOs lack margin, and they lack a clear, scalable business model.

Could Robert offer these CEOs what they lacked? Yes.

We then sketched out the “anatomy” of fixed-scope consulting engagements.

  • What tools, resources, and methodology did Robert need that he didn’t already have?
  • What should his onboarding process look like?
  • What phases, steps, and tasks would the project have?
  • How much of Robert’s time would each task take?
  • How could he minimize his own time investment without sacrificing quality? For example, could an intake questionnaire and self-guided exercises replace multiple meetings?
  • What was the timeline from start to finish?

We also talked through the functional and emotional benefits of Robert’s new productized services, as well as the total time required to deliver the desired outcome.

Once we had prototyped the offerings, we turned to pricing.

Robert had been charging hourly, but he wanted to transition to value-based consulting. We used a very aggressive rate—$500 an hour—to put a price on two different offerings.

The final step was picking strategies and tactics and building out a repeatable, systematic method for attracting leads that turn into high-paying consulting clients.

Freelance Coaching Tip #6 – Implement a clear marketing plan.

Robert is a doer. There’s no question about that.

He ramped up his content marketing, and he began hosting more meetups and events. He overhauled his website and updated his LinkedIn profile to reflect his new positioning: “I help CEOs escape tactical hell and gain real traction in 90 days.”

We wrapped up our engagement in July, and by mid-August Robert had sold six of his new offerings. With the last five he was batting 1000%: five proposals resulted in five new clients.

He quadrupled his effective hourly rate, and more importantly, he felt reenergized. He got his passion back.

Here is what Robert had to say about his experience with freelance business coaching:

“Working with Austin was key for me and my work. He is an incisive thinker. Together, we were able to rework my products and pricing which was instrumental to the growth of my business. By shifting to productized services, I was able to generate $60,000 in new business in five weeks, effectively quadrupling my rate. That’s a big win in my book.”

Putting All the Pieces Together

Are you acquiring the right skills and following a proven framework? Have you changed your messaging, packaging, and pricing so that you’re in a position to make your highest and best contribution?

Is marketing something you do deliberately each week or has it become more of an afterthought?

Putting all the pieces together by yourself is very difficult. If you know you could use some help clarifying your goals, removing obstacles, and growing your freelance income faster, then I encourage you to use this link to apply to my freelance coaching program.