A lot of freelancers — hell, just about every freelancer I’ve talked to — want to eventually create and sell their own products. But this is easier said than done. Usually something stands in the way: the immediacy of consulting revenue, lack of an idea, or the fear that they’ll build something and it’ll never sell.
When I first started freelancing, I was focused on all the wrong things.
And these are things you’ve heard me talk about extensively over the last few years, and especially since kicking off this latest series.
My focus was exclusively on what I thought I was good at… in my case, writing web software. But for you, that might be designing, writing, blogging, marketing, or whatever it is you’re — superficially — hired for. I saw myself as a vendor. I have something to offer, code. And the client buys that code by hiring me for however long it takes me to write that code. And when I’m done, I hand it off to the client and trust that they know what needs to be done next.
I want to talk about engagements today.
Specifically, I want to talk about what our role as a high-value consultant is when working on client projects, and what makes the details of high-value engagements different from the typical, run-of-the-mill freelancing gig.
One of the questions I’m asked the most is, “What’s the difference between a freelancer and a consultant?” I’ve never really had a good answer for this. I mean, I knew that consultants played a more active role in the business behind the project. I always thought of the distinction a bit like the difference between a chef and a cook; the former directs, combines, and creates, while the latter just follows recipes.
I recently sat down (literally!) with my friend Steli Efti, the founder of Close.io. For about an hour we talked about how freelancers and consultants can create more referrals for their business. Steli is a master of sales — you won’t want to miss this episode!
Mentioned this episode:
Whenever I tell people about how I stopped caring about what other people were charging, and am now charging my clients 10x what I was charging just a few years ago, I’m almost always asked the same question:
“How do you find clients who will pay that?”
The right response really should be, “What are you doing differently now that lets you find clients who will pay you that?”, but that’s beside the point. The prevalence of this gut response from just about every fellow freelancer I’ve talked to signals that there’s still a lot of confusion around why we’re all hired in the first place. From the perspective of a technical project, like an app that needs to be designed or a sales letter that must be written, we tend to reason that there are “doers” — people who can complete the project — and these doers are graded on a scale bound to some mixture of experience and competency. And from this scale, a person’s “worth” (and ultimately, rate) is divined.