Student Success Story with William Durkin

By Brennan Dunn

This is an ongoing series where we share how a past student has been able to significantly grow their freelance business by applying the concepts they learned from Double Your Freelancing. If you feel your story would be a good fit, share why.



William Durkin offers SQL server consulting. He’s been in business since the summer of 2014, but has kept it very low-key and spent the majority of his time concentrating on his full-time job. He’s got a great story to share, which I’m sure a lot of you side hustlers that are still working for the man can relate to!

Running it this way has meant that I am limiting myself in the development of my business, but I want to be able to walk before I can run.

What got you into freelancing? And was it what you expected?

I began speaking at technical conferences a few years ago and participated in industry specific forums, which led to people asking me if I was for hire. As I am a full-time employee at the moment, I’m only really working freelance on the side.

The conference speaking convinced me that I had the necessary skills to be able to freelance, so I thought I’d start saying “yes” to some of the requests. So far, the engagements have been small projects, but that is a good “foot in the door” to possibly taking the next step into full-time freelancing.

What’s been most challenging thus far?

The most challenging aspect has been actually ramping up prospecting and communicating that I’m available for work without being explicit. Because I am in full-time employment, I really don’t want to get into a sticky situation with my employer.

I have turned down more work than I have accepted.

Through the long ramp-up I have read into how others have done this. I have accepted the idea of charging what I am worth and due to it being a side business, I have less pressure to take on any work that comes my way.

I can turn down work with much less nerves than if this was my only source of income.

Did you ever want to quit or give up?

I have wondered a few times whether I should just silently disappear and concentrate on being an employee, especially when the leads fizzle out after the initial conversation. Each time this has happened, I have thought about just not mentioning that I am for hire. And I have a few days of feeling crappy.

Then I realise how fun it really is to get stuck into fixing problems that customers have and get sucked back in.

What were you struggling the most with when you ran into Brennan’s free email course?

Being new to this game, I have run into a lot of different challenges, but converting a prospect into a customer was the most challenging. Actually moving the conversation from informal chit-chat to the real topic was almost uncomfortable to me.

It felt almost rude or slimy to try and move the process along to a sales discussion.

Obviously, this is something that all business people have to talk about, but it felt alien to me. Having read Brennan’s course, I was able to realise that what I provide is a valuable service, that people should be and are willing to pay for cleared up the uncertainty and the bad feeling I was wrongly associating with it.

What are some big successes you’ve had recently?

My biggest success has been acquiring a customer using ideas/lessons learned from the free email course.

I have “niched down” in an even smaller subset of IT than just MS SQL Server and focused on a group of features inside the product. I initially thought this would be a limiter, but it has worked out nicely so far, with pre-filtered leads coming to me for specific help.

This makes the whole pre-sales work shorter or even removes the requirement altogether.

This culminated in a recent customer request where I quoted a price that made me nervous. I followed the lessons of socratic questioning and value based pricing and the customer accepted the proposal without any discussions. This works out to be a rate of over $1,000 per day (which feels insanely high to me).

If I can get a few more of these under my belt, it may not be a side-business for much longer.

What are some specific strategies, tactics or pieces of advice that helped you grow?

Follow Brennan’s advice…

Keep the price of your services out of the discussion and focus on the customer. What is their pain, what do they want to achieve and how can you help them succeed?

It is difficult if you are not talking to the person who signs the contract/pays the invoice, but you have to be brave and only talk money when they have already decided you are the right person for the job.

What are you most excited about for your business in the next year?

Now that my thoughts are straight about how I want to conduct myself in a business setting, I am excited about building on what I have started. I want to flesh out more products around my consulting business and take a step up in how I present myself and my business.

I plan on writing for industry related blogs and websites and presenting at more conferences to increase my visibility.

williamWilliam is an independent SQL Server Consultant, born in England and living in the Emsland in North West Germany since 2001. He has over a decade of experience working with SQL Server as a database developer, database administrator and system architect.

During this time, William has helped organizations create and manage systems ranging from single user, single database stock control systems, up to multi-continental, multi-thousand user order and project management systems.

In his limited free time William also regularly speaks at IT conferences around the world and also runs the Emsland SQL Server User Group as a Chapter of PASS Deutschland e.v. You can contact William via Twitter.