We’re continuing to share a different story each week of how a past student has been able to significantly grow their freelance business by applying the concepts they learned from Double Your Freelancing (check out last week’s with Franz Sauerstein).
If you feel your story would be a good fit, share why.
“I’m a very enthusiastic student and have just landed a contract at $300 an hour (Australian). The highest I’ve ever been paid for business hours work was $180, and that was very rare. This job was priced as a direct result of Brennan’s material and encouragement.”
This week’s student success story is with Anthony English. How could we not interview him after what he sent us above? Anthony runs a software and business consultancy appropriately called, Anthony English. We’re excited to share his story!
How long have you been in business?
I last worked as a full-time IT employee in 2008. As a father of a young family in Sydney (my wife and I have seven children), the big attraction for me to go into contracting was the money, and the big concern for me was security. Looking back, the times when contract work was drying up forced me to learn new areas that I would never have considered: creating video courses, podcasts and working with small businesses in areas well outside my area of expertise.
In the last few months I’ve gone from, “What’s my five day-a-week job?” to declining the offer of a well-paid five day-a-week gig, so that I can keep a larger number of customers happy.
You work with “Amapreneurs.” What are they?
As well as my technical skills, I very much try to be creative in working with businesses and understanding the business drivers behind their projects. I write articles for magazines and focus on the customer service side and how to work with non-technical people.
It seems pretty much everyone is trying to break into the “amapreneur” market. That’s my term for people who are trying to get some extra income as amateurs and entrepreneurs. The word “amateur” isn’t meant to be an insult. It comes from the Latin word “amar” meaning “to love,” so I see myself as one. I also try to encourage others who are entrepreneurs doing what they love: amapreneurs. (Can I patent that word?)
What’s been most challenging so far?
Cashflow. I’ve certainly been undercharging, significantly. (I hope my customers don’t read this). It’s not just the rate I’ve been charging. I’ve also done a lot of free work, which my customers would have been happy to pay for if I’d told them.
The thing is that most of us try to do the penny pinching for our customers or second guess what our audience would or wouldn’t like. My biggest lesson is to offer something small, concrete and that offers a step-by-step guide, especially for true amateurs.
Once people see the value of what you do, they can translate that into money well spent. Do I spend 40 hours late at night designing my own ugly logo or get someone else to do it for me so I can focus on making great pizzas or creating web setup screencasts or whatever I do best?
I know that as a customer myself – of plumbers or dry cleaners or mechanics – I understand that it’s worth my while to pay to have my problem solved and have them make my pain go away, instead of trying to do it myself. If I want to keep them in business, I can’t short change them. It’s important that you and those you deal with see the value of the business relationship. My customers understand the value I give them, so I have no concerns that someone is going to come in at a lower rate and take away my business.
It’s really, really important to be able to show businesses how they provide value (and by “value” I’m not talking about discounting their price). Most customers only see one small aspect of your business and even long-term customers can be surprised when they find out that you also do something else as part of your friendly service. That’s a great space to be in, because you already have an established trusted relationship with your customers, so it’s less risk for them to use you for something else. They already know you.
If you provide a high level of service – really personalized – and you have concrete milestones that your customer can see, it works well for both parties. You don’t want to charge more than you’re worth … or less. If you’re well known in your field (I have written a lot of articles in my space of IT, so I just tell people to Google “Anthony English AIX”), then if your price is too low, people may think there’s something wrong, that you’re taking shortcuts when you thought you were just being nice.
Did you ever want to give up?
I think the hardest part is keeping up momentum in the times of famine. But once you see the vision and get your customers on board, the feast can come very quickly.
It’s taken me awhile to see things through my customers’ eyes and understand that if they can see the pain go away thanks to your efforts, it’s not hard for them to want to keep you in business. They understand that it doesn’t help them if you’re struggling to find work, if you have to do long hours with lots of poor-paying customers just to stay afloat. That’s no recipe for any of them to get the best of you.
One of the most encouraging things is when I even offer to introduce someone else to do the work, and the customer goes cool on the idea because they want me because I know them and I know their systems.
What were you most struggling with when you came across Double Your Freelancing Rate?
Cashflow. And the anxiety about losing whatever secure job I already had. I could see green grass on the other side of the fence where I could serve a number of customers, but I had to fight the idea that it was a pipe dream, that we had better just sell our home for something cheaper and get back to working for the boss.
Don’t tell Brennan, but I didn’t actually finish the whole paid course. Even implementing the amount I did already made me want to send him the price of the course again as a thank you. Before I took the course a couple of months ago, I was delighted if I found a customer who was willing to pay $800 a day (US). A few weeks later and with a lucky break, I was confident asking for $2,000 a day and happily risk losing the customer.
I should go back and finish the course and implement the rest of Brennan’s advice, but business is going too well. I still do lots of much lower paid work and even will do free work for friends and decent businesses that I know are struggling but really need to have my help.
How has the course helped your attitude in your own work?
Thanks to Brennan’s course, articles and podcasts, I now have confidence with two things. One is charging more because I can articulate the value of what I do. If the end client asks me, “What’s your day rate?” I’ll focus on two things: the scope of the work and how we’ll all know it’s a success. The milestones are important, or else you’re just getting paid to keep a seat warm, a kind of availability fee.
I find I work best when I’m working closely with people who can see what success looks like for their project. Sometimes my role is simply to help them articulate that, so that they don’t head down rabbit trails that are really not going to help their business.
The second thing that Double Your Freelancing Rate has done for me, is to give me more confidence in declining work. I will often tell a customer: “I don’t think I can add value here,” but I’ll try to point them in the right direction of someone who can.
How has your business grown thanks to DYFR?
I’d love to say I’ve got a six-figure business and that I’ve put a big banner across my web site saying: “Don’t bother asking. You can’t afford me.” Definitely not yet. Still, I have four things that have me much more confident about the security for my family:
- Variety. I work with customers across lots of different industries. I work with giant companies and tiny one-person businesses. That gives me a lot more security in the event of downturns. There’s also a lot of cross-fertilization that comes from working with different businesses. It’s also a lot more fun.
- Focus. I’m better able to concentrate on what I’m good at and hand off to others in things that I’m never going to be interested in – areas where my energies would really be diluted.
- Offering value. Nearly every business I come across, if they’re not too busy, I’ll ask them a non-technical question: “How’s business?” I usually will come up with some ideas that will help them see their business in a different light and I can suggest some ways they could turn that into an online opportunity.
- Cashflow. Knowing the barriers to getting your foot in the door is probably the biggest hurdle. By making that process easier for the customer – for example, by solving a simple problem for them even before they’re a customer – it makes it very easy for them to agree to a bill for prepaid hours.
I think it’s important to be a good customer yourself. So if someone gives you a quote for a job, respond quickly and thank them. That helps you to see that you’re a person interested in them and that you’re not just treating them as a resource or a commodity.
I’ll sometimes see a website or a spreadsheet and think: “They could do that better,” so I might drop them a line with a sample new page or video or typo correction. As far as possible, I’ll try to show them exactly how to make the change, so that it’s really easy for them to fix. And once they’ve thanked me, I’ll send them a LinkedIn invitation.
I’m very, very hopeful about the future and I largely have Brennan Dunn to thank for it.
Anthony English has recently gone completely freelance, helping small businesses bridge the gap between business ideas and technology. He writes articles for magazines focusing on streamlining processes, especially for non-technical people. He has strong experience with large and small companies, building on his history working on IBM Power Systems. Anthony is based in Sydney and has a regular blog pitched at freelancers and small businesses. Follow along at: http://anthonyenglish.com.au.