Today we answer a common question we’ve been getting from the community: “What we would each do if we were starting as a freelancer from scratch again?”. This was a really fun episode, where we each discussed what we would do in our first week if we were starting a new freelance business today. We get into the dread of cold-calling, the power of referrals, how to become a specialist, offering value, and using the power of social media to attract your initial clients.
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Meet Your Hosts
The Honest Designers Show started when our founder Tom found he was regularly chatting and sharing tips with top designers; Ian Barnard, Lisa Glanz and Dustin Lee. We soon organised a weekly call where we would help each other with areas we were struggling with and try to give each other actionable feedback. Soon we realised that the collective experience of the group was proving so valuable for each of us, that we thought ‘why not share these conversations with the world?’.
And so, The Honest Designers Show was born! This podcast is an insight into how to succeed in the creative industry, as well as giving you a totally transparent, under the hood look at some of the tougher, less glamorous hurdles to overcome! We also tend to get a little goofy along the way, so this is a chance to get to know each of us a little better :). We’ve loved recording this show for you, and we hope that you find value and enjoyment in listening to it.
In this episode we talk about what we would do each do if we were starting out as a freelancer from scratch. We discuss some successful tactics from our earlier careers and combine these with the experiences we’ve learned along the way.
[1.00] What is our advice for freelancers starting out?
[1.40] Lisa picked up the Yellow Pages and cold called!
[2.30] How Lisa transitioned from full-time to freelance
[3.40] Why it was tougher in the past, without social media
[4.50] Finding the motivation to break out of your comfort zone finding clients
[5.45] How to keep faith when struggling to find clients
[6.30] Why direct communication is the most effective
[7.15] Why your ‘conversion rate’ matters when pitching for business
[8.30] Why people hire people they like
[9.20] Why human relationships matter so much in business
[10.20] How Tom used local connections to get the ball rolling
[10.50] Referrals then start to kick in
[11.20] How Lisa just referred her developer for us
[11.50] Ian didn’t put himself out there, but still got work
[12.50] How Ian used link-backs to attract new clients
[13.30] Don’t burn bridges, as older companies can often pass on work
[14.30] Building up a web with strands to potentially reach new clients
[15.15] Sticking with what feels comfortable to you
[16.55] How Ian still to this day gets client requests from older work
[17.15] Why designers are in demand
[18.30] We don’t even know many designers who are available! This makes it easier to get referrals.
[19.00] Paul Jarvis making a name for himself to attract referrals
[20.00] A great business development opportunity for designers
[21.00] How Dustin has a mutually beneficial friendship with another designer
[22.00] Word of mouth and recommendations are the highest converting way of attracting new clients
[22.50] Stand out by offering something of value (without pitching your services)
[23.50] Tom’s story of how he offered free consultations, and his tips for how to replicate this technique
[25.30] The importance of putting yourself out there in the right places
[26.15] How Dustin stood out by combining two things he was great at, to find one thing he was best at
[27.00] How to niche down to attract early clients more easily
[28.00] Becoming a specialist, to make your services more attractive to potential clients
[29.15] Dustin’s experience of hiring a specialist
[30.30] Ian’s experience of developing a specialist style in his lettering
[31.30] Focusing on what’s in demand in your local area (Lisa’s experiences)
[32.15] Why local can be easier than global when you’re starting out attracting clients
[32.50] Defining your ideal client (who you can realistically attract)
[33.30] Quick fire round – What Lisa would do is she started out today
[35.00] If Tom started out (he would ignore the ‘fancy’ work that didn’t make money early on)
[36.30] Why the business cards, and the ‘brand image’ aren’t so important early on
[37.10] What Dustin would do starting out (guest blogging and providing value)
[39.30] Why you need to be sincere and contribute value, rather than spamming people
[41.00] What Ian would do starting out today (using his network of Facebook friends, using social media as a catalyst)
[42.00] Ian’s tip for defining the work you truly want to focus on, very early
[43.00] How Ian would post content from day-1 to build up an audience
[45.00] How we would all do what we actually did originally. But in a more focused, quicker way.
[45.30] Pay attention to what is working, and do more of it (plus Ian’s caveat on this)
[47.45] Why your level of discomfort is dependent on your time-frame to get work in the door
[48.40] How Lisa did the initial uncomfortable work, but then never had to worry about it again
[50.20] Don’t worry about business plans, just get moving!
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Let Us Know What You Think
We would absolutely love to know how you enjoyed this episode. We’ll be releasing a new episode each Wednesday, and look forward to hopefully answering many of your questions on the show.
Great podcast again this week.
You manage to touch on everything relevant to me every time.
Today, you have made me realise that my introverted nature is not doing me any favours – I’ve just got to get myself out there more.(Shudder shudder!)
I love my Thursday mornings with you guys.
Thanks Natalie, we really appreciate your support. Being an introvert shouldn’t hold you back. It can be really liberating to push outside your comfort zones (I hate cold calling too!), but there is always more than one path. Ian carved out a career from his Instagram feed for example, and probably wouldn’t feel comfortable going door to door.
We’re so happy you’re tuning in each Thursday, and I do hope that you’ll stick with us as we delve into more topics in the coming weeks :).
Ah man, when I hear “He charged for his sites fairly – between $5K and $10K” I want to break down in tears.
Hey Vladimir! Thanks for commenting. I wouldn’t let this dissuade you, everyone started somewhere, and whilst it takes time to get to this level, it’s definitely achievable, with work. I hope this show will give you some solid tips for how to get there.
I’m so grateful for this podcast! Your topics are so spot on, and you have such a good mix of opinions and experiences. As a full time freelancer for over 17 years, I completely relate to all of your topics – sometimes all of them on a weekly basis – its refreshing to listen to the struggles and solutions of others. Keep it up, please!
Thanks for the incredible feedback! I’m so glad you’re enjoying the show. If you’d like us to discuss any particular topics please do let me know.
Hi guys from Cape Town.. Great advice, so applicable to me right now… Thanks for sharing..
Thanks Nasif, I’m so glad the podcast is helping you. If you have any questions about getting your freelance business off the ground please do let me know.
Hey guys! I just want to say, that I love your podcast! I get excited every time I get an email for a new episode. I listed to every episode so far. You guys are very transparent and I feel I’m not too alone with my freelancing.
I have been doing freelance in Nashville since 1987.
And I would say that you are right.
Networking and word of mouth still work.
Thanks for the show and all your G R E A T fonts.
Thanks so much Scott! It sounds like you’ve had a great career, and I totally agree, the older techniques for drumming up business still hold up :).
Thanks so much for your awesome feedback. You’re definitely not alone, and if you ever need any support we’re here for you :).