Everything in the world of business changed in 2020. Now in 2021, we’re still seeing the effects of the changes in the corporate world and how everything is continuing to move to digital whether it’s meetings, sales calls, websites, marketing, digital strategy, etc. This puts web designers and digital freelancers in a very unique position…why? Because not much for us has changed. We now have an AMAZING opportunity to capitalize on these ever-evolving trends as companies take their businesses online.
Creator and founder of Freelancing.School Jay Clouse is back on the podcast to discuss the landscape of freelancing in 2021 and how web designers are in a unique position to freelance successfully now more than ever before. We talk sales, getting clients in a post-COVID world, digital strategy for your freelance marketing and so much more.
Jay is a wealth of knowledge and as someone who works with digital freelancers in all industries, he has a great pulse on the freelancing landscape and what is working well right now in 2021. He’s a colleague who I look up to and admire so it was an honor bringing him back onto the podcast and picking his brain to share these recent trends with you!
In this episode:
03:55 – Greeting to Jay
07:38 – Three strategies
12:16 – Marketplace platforms
15:50 – Where to find clients
17:25 – Network variety
20:55 – Hierarchy to network
23:03 – Creating clients
25:57 – Sales to serve
27:31 – Best 2021 marketing
31:36 – Build audience
35:15 – Top of mind
37:34 – Offer specific work
39:17 – Tell people what to do
41:26 – Bar of imagination
47:39 – Community opinions
55:54 – Jay’s info
57:54 – Show confidence
Connect with Jay:
Featured links mentioned:
Episode #112 Full Transcription
Hey, everybody, welcome into the podcast. This is Episode 112. And in this one, I’m bringing in a repeat guest. Somebody who is actually local to me, and somebody who is really a colleague that I look up to and admire in so many ways, because he’s a true professional. He is just a wealth of knowledge. This is Jay Clouse, who is the founder and creator of Freelancing.School, that’s at freelancing.school. And among other things, he’s that he also recently had a business that was acquired by my mentor Pat Flynn and his company Smart Passive Income. So he’s, he’s the man, he’s got a lot of stuff going on and I wanted to bring him back onto the podcast to talk with you specifically about freelancing and 2021. And what we do in this episode is because Jay has so much experience and expertise in the area of sales, and marketing and getting clients and, and project management and all that stuff. But what he has, and I think what’s different about what Jay sees is because he’s a community creator, and because he’s a coach to a lot of people in his freelancing school, he has access to the landscape now with freelancing across all different industries. So I wanted to bring him on to specifically talk about what he’s seen, that’s working well, with all sorts of freelancing not only for just web designers, but anybody in the digital age, because everything changed last year in 2020. And as you’ll hear in this episode, and I agree with Jay, there’s actually no better time than right now, to go freelance and to take a side hustle full time or to start freelancing on the side and start making money on the side, particularly as a web designer, and Jay will tell you this early on, web designers are in a unique position right now to really, really capitalize on this, because we’re used to being on Zoom. We’re used to dealing with technology. And we can help so many clients in so many different industries, grow their businesses online. So we talk getting clients, we talk strategies for freelancing and 2021, which is, you know, it’s gonna apply for years down the road. But there is something special going on right now in the freelancing world. So I cannot wait to hear how this interview in this talk with Jay helps you get the confidence. And one thing I do want to say right on the outset here is if you like this conversation with Jay, and you’d like to learn more about him, potentially check out some of his resources, you can go to freelancing.school/Josh Hall, one word, and there’ll be a discount, and a lot of special offers for you on some of his courses. That way, he’ll know that you came through this podcast episode, so be sure to check that out.
Now, before we dive in, if you are ready to freelance and you’re ready to take this seriously, and even if you’re considering taking your freelance gig full time, I would love to help you with that additionally, and we can do that through my web design business course. My business course I pull the curtain back on my entire business as I went from a solopreneur and as I scaled it, and I show you everything that I learned and I basically give you the whole playbook on proposals, invoicing, contracts, project management, working with clients, getting clients, all everything that is going to help you take your freelancing game to the next level, or go full time with it, I would love to help you out as well. So if that sounds of interest, you can join that there’ll be a link on the show notes for this page, or on this podcast episode of Josh Hall co/112. And without further ado, here is my man, Jay, and we’re going to talk freelancing in 2021 to help you capitalize on this amazing opportunity for web designers. Let’s do it.
My man, Jay Clouse, welcome back on to the podcast, my friend.
I’m excited to be back here, Josh, thanks for having me back.
It’s been well, it’s been quite the journey for both of us. Since you were on last you were Episode 67, or now into the hundreds. And man, it’s been so awesome to see a lot of the great things that have happened for you over the past six or seven months. You’re in a different spot. Now you’re in a different location. I know you moved and then business wise, you had an acquisition from one of our good friends Pat Flynn, Smart Passive income, and you’ve got a lot going on. So before we dive into our talk today about freelancing this year in 2021, maybe you want to remind my audience where you’re based out of and then what you do because you do a lot and I’m sure we’ll dive into that.
Absolutely, man, I can’t believe it’s been that long since I was here. It seems like almost no time has passed, but 33 episodes have passed. Holy moly. Well, thanks again for having me back. Josh. My name is Jay. I’m in Columbus, Ohio recently and actually where Turn Ohio, a neighborhood of Columbus. And this is my new home that we just bought, new podcast studio. Right now because one of my businesses was acquired by Smart Passive Income, I am leading community experience for SPI. But I am still very much building freelancing school, my education platform to help people make a living freelancing. And doing that independently. I have a podcast called Creative Elements where I interview really impressive creators about how they made a full time living from their art and creativity. So I do a lot of stuff. But it comes down to studying really awesome creators, how they’re building communities, empowering people to make that first step by earning a living, freelancing and excited to share what I can with your folks.
Yeah, and I think this talk, this topic is more timely than ever. Jay right now, just because I’ve seen so many people, particularly in the wake of COVID. Even being that it’s well over a year later get into freelancing and take their side hustles full time, a lot of people found out that their quote, unquote, stable corporate job was not so stable. So you realize that there’s more opportunity than ever to freelance. And like I said, before we went live, you know, my audience. Now we’re web designers. Most everybody are entrepreneurs and freelancers. So what I figured we could do in this one is dive into what you’ve learned, which is gonna be really valuable, because you see in depth and in the weeds of so many different entrepreneurs, and freelancers, I think what you’ve gleaned from a lot of different experiences are going to help my audience, particularly those who are starting in early on in the journey, but even those who are a little more advanced and are just continuing on with their freelancing journey, I figured we could kind of focus on three areas, getting clients, how to market ourselves now in 2021, and then maybe support and community and how important that is, when you’re freelancing. So yeah, man, without further ado, I would love to just start out with what you’ve seen when it comes to getting clients. And like I said, my audience are web designers, but the way web designers get clients is not that different than a lot of other different industries. So what are your thoughts on getting clients? Now? You know, is it different with the fact that zoom has taken over the world and people aren’t meeting in person as much? What are your thoughts on that?
Well, let me just say that for web designers, I think you’re at an advantage as far as freelancing goes, because you have a skill set that for people who don’t have that skill set, it’s very clear, then they don’t have that skill set. And also, there’s, there’s a really good opportunity for recurring revenue, what that skill set, which is something that is not true for all freelancers, and that puts you in a really great position. So I want to start with three strategies for client acquisition as kind of a base level foundational understanding of three fundamentally different strategies that you don’t have to pick one or the other, you can blend all three. And in fact, if you’re starting out, I would recommend that you do have a blend of all three. But just to introduce some terminology that I think will be helpful for the rest of conversation.
The first being direct to client, that is the traditional bread and butter. When you think of freelancing, you’re probably thinking of this. I meet you, Josh, you have a problem, I have a solution. You and I work together, I work with you directly. I deliver the project to you, you pay me that is direct to client. And that’s where I think you should try to get to as much as possible if you’re trying to really have a sustainable, profitable freelance business long term, because that puts the most control in your hands, and also gives you the best margin on your services because you can charge whatever you want. There’s no middleman, you own the relationship with the individual. It’s It’s long term where you want to be the hardest to get there, though.
So let’s go to number two. Number two is sub contracting. That means you work with other freelancers or agencies to help them fulfill work on their behalf. A good example here. If you are a web designer, you might find that there are some copywriters and your network who are really good at identifying businesses that need copywriting help, but then in the process, realizing you could do some work on your website to and those copywriters or even agencies could sell a full project of I’m going to help your website go from A to B, both in the copy and the look and feel and they may hire you as the person to come in and deliver the website work on their behalf. That’s really good because it takes away some of the need for you to sell. It kind of feels like magic. When someone comes to you and says, I have a project I’m going to pay you x Do you have time to do it. Awesome. Sign me up. Love that. But you don’t have a lot of control on when that comes in. You can’t control when those projects come in. Often you are doing that on behalf of the other individual or agency. And so people don’t even know they’re working with you or that you did the work and you may not even be able to share the work on your own website. So those are the drawbacks.
And the third is marketplaces like Upwork, like fiber. This works because there are a lot of people out there looking for work, you can provide that work, it’s a little difficult to get started there and build a reputation and one that allows you to charge what you think you’re worth. So if you haven’t already started there, we can talk about getting started on those platforms. But that out of the box can be where you can very quickly start to generate some clients, some revenue, build a portfolio for yourself, but long term, you want to be direct to client because marketplaces like Fiverr, and Upwork, keep a percentage of what you sell. And that’s not great.
Yeah. And it can be easy, it can be seen as a commodity to Okay, if you’re in an art place, it’s flooded. And I do think it’s a little bit different than potentially Facebook groups, or even communities that you’re a part of where you could almost do one of the two, you could be in group number one where you are working with clients directly who have the need, or you could be a what’s common in web design is a white label web designer, where, like you said, they’re fulfilling the sales and the project management and you are actually doing the project, which is really common, we’ve talked about that a lot on the podcast recently, I did it when I got going, I worked with a with a local company, they did all the sales, I just did the actual website designs, and it’s a great way to go to get your feet wet and to get better at web design and get used to freelancing. And a lot of times, I’ve found I’m not sure what you’ve seen in regards to that middle tier, but a lot of times you get used to project management, because if a company trusts you enough, they may very well hand over the project management aspect of things. And then Ding, ding, you become a little more valuable. And you can up your rates in there. So yeah, I totally agree. It’s, I think it’s a good way to frame up the the kind of the three different avenues. I think what’s more common is the first two I don’t know too many web designers who are starting their their businesses and taking things to six figures on Fiverr or Upwork, or some of these other places you can be done. But yeah, I guess yeah, let’s start there. Just because that’s not an avenue, I took myself for somebody who does want to go that route? What are some tips that you would have for that to not be seen as a commodity, to not be seen as the bottom of the barrel? Where you got to reduce your rates? You know, because that is tricky. It’s something I personally don’t have much experience on. So yeah, what would you say to somebody who wants to take that route?
Unfortunately, it’s harder than ever, in my opinion. Because people on those marketplaces are looking at two very distinct ends the spectrum and not really in the middle, they either want the cheapest, fastest option they can find, or they want the absolute highest quality, best Freelancer they can find on the platform. And when you’re starting, it’s really easy to be the cheapest, but nobody wants to be and it’s really hard to be the top because you need to build credibility and reviews and trust on the platform. So really, and I would honestly rule out Fivver wouldn’t do Fivver unless you have something that can be so productized, that people can tell you what they want, you could just drag and drop into a template and export and there you go, I would not do fiber, I would do Upwork. Because Upwork has more customizations and lets you charge more for your work and actually invest time and energy more into the creative work itself. So if you’re gonna get started on Upwork, you need to get reviews. And that means both like literal written reviews, and testimonials from clients, their star ratings and number of hours worked on projects. So how do you get that if you’re just getting started, you’re going to have to unfortunately, probably price yourself pretty low, you’re gonna have to bid on a ton of projects, which is called sending proposals. And you’re going to have to do really good work, and it’s gonna be a grind in the beginning, because you’re not gonna be able to charge the rates that you want. But I do know people who have been on Upwork for years now who it’s their almost entire source of business, and they built long term relationships with the clients, you can eventually take clients off of Upwork and work with them independently. And it can be really viable. It just takes a while to get there. And unfortunately, Upwork has a system now that you actually have to pay for the proposals you’re putting on projects. So in the beginning, you could actually be paying small amounts of money, like in the dollars to put in proposals that are being rejected, and it feels like I’m paying for No, no benefit here. It’s tough stuff to get started.
Gotcha. Yeah. And it’s definitely not a pathway that I recommend necessarily, especially for web designers. I think we as web designers, particularly. I don’t know if you know this j but I’m heavily involved in the Divi community itself. And as you’ve seen, I think you actually are a member of my Divi web designers Facebook, yeah, just kind of keep an eye on what I’m up to. But that is a massive community, the Divi community and there’s a ton of different Facebook groups. So you’re almost like you’re almost better off doing that immediately than then getting into Fiverr or something like that. However, I will say I had one of my buddies, Chris Misteric, who was on the podcast recently he started…
I know Chris.
Oh, that’s right. You were on or did you have him on your podcast? Or were you on his?
I was on his podcast.
You’re on his Oh, that’s right. That’s right. So he He started that way, he started on what is now Upwork, and it can be done. He’s kind of a rare breed as somebody who was able to work that out. He also got involved in in the early days. So I think, you know, as a little bit different back then, but that’s a good example of somebody who did do it and, and was able to build a business through that. But yeah, Facebook groups are definitely the way to go. And then it kind of leads us down to the path of where do we want to go from here, Freelancer working with businesses directly or white label web designer? So for the white label aspect of things, that kind of middle option you talked about? What have you seen work well there because that sounds awesome. But again, you still The trick is you still have to get clients that way you have to be you have to find these connections of people who might be a marketing agency or a digital marketing agency. It can work really well. But where I actually what I want to ask you is where are those people? Where are those people? Now? Are they on LinkedIn? Are they on Facebook groups? Are there more in person meetups going on? Where these type of agencies are? What Where have you? Where have you seen these folks these days,
I see them everywhere. The thing is, you want to go with an agency is getting a lot of work. And usually they’re getting work because they’re doing something right. And that means that they’re probably being visible, they’re probably being top of mind. So just look at your own feeds. First and foremost stuff that’s being surfaced to you. Agencies love to share their work, the work they’re doing for clients. But they’re they’re really all over. I do think that LinkedIn is underutilized. I think that Instagram is probably a place you could find them. But it’s a little hard for me to think through actually how you parse Instagram. Dribble is probably a good place to honestly, place I haven’t spent a whole lot of time.
You need to have a lot of relationships built with different agencies. – Jay
But I would just say like sharpen your eye for everything you’re looking at, we’re looking at screens, we’re looking at feeds all day. So when you come across a post from an agency or somebody who is doing Client Services, look at that, and start engaging with that you don’t immediately send a DM and say, let’s work together necessarily. You want to start curating your own feeds and your list of people and maybe put it in a CRM on the back end of agencies you’ve identified that do good work that you’d like to work with. Because ultimately, this strategy requires a lot of almost like diversification. Because since there is no control for you to push these agency owners to say, hey, send me work, it’s been a while, you need to have a lot of relationships built with different agencies. So odds are at any one given time one of them as a project you can work on. Yeah, and you don’t, you don’t have to go so broad if you’re able to build a really strong relationship with a couple that seem to have really good workflow, and you are like a preferred partner of theirs.
But it’s a relationship game. And it takes a minute, they have to trust you that you can deliver good work. But let me tell you, in that world, even more important than your skills in web design, are your skills with deadlines and communication. Yeah, because ultimately, they’re taking a little bit of a risk to work with you and bring you into the project. Like they want to look good to the client. And they don’t have as much control over you as they do somebody in house or themselves. So the more that you can prove that you are communicative, and you hit deadlines, and you’re great to work with, you can become one of those preferred white label partners, that these these agencies or these teams, love to work with. A lot of stuff comes in with, like very little warning, and it’s last minute for both them and you. So the more that you can turn things around, the better off you’re going to be
Sure. And what’s great is it can work in combination with the first option, which I’m sure will segue to next. And because that’s what I did, I worked with a company called Rev. Local here in Columbus, who I think you’re probably familiar with, trying to take care of let’s see. So the CPA, my CPA at the time, referred me to one of their sales reps, because she knew I did web design. And I guess she heard through the grapevine that they were looking for web design help. Web design was not their main service. It was like an ancillary service that they offered along with digital marketing. So I ended up meeting with him, we hit it off. And that’s how I made the connection to be their trusted white label web designer. And at one point, I was doing two to three websites a month for them alongside my web design business. So ended up being really great for a little while, I did end up moving on from that just because I didn’t need them anymore. But it was a great experience and help me get my feet wet with all that. What’s interesting about all that, though, is that Yeah, there’s definitely it’s there’s more complexities there. But I think one of the good things is is you often don’t need that many people trusted partners, as you said, I mean, it’s good to have diversity, but at the same point, if you do a really good job, you’ll likely get a steady stream of work from two to three sources. My web design agency right now, we have two main white label partners that send us a lot of work. And one is here in Ohio ones in Chicago. And that’s it Like, I think right now I have to double check on my CEO, Eric. Because how about I think I sold my web design agency since last time we talked Jay, it’s it’s been a little while. But
News to me, yeah.
Oh, shoot. Yeah. Sold my website agency here again, congrats. Surprise! I think it happened right after we talked actually last time, so. But I still oversee my CEO, Eric and oversee the company to see what we’re up to. But I think as of right now, it’s about 50% of the income is through white label partners, and the other 50 is with organic client to client leads and project. So there’s a lot of pros and cons to that. But there is a lot of great ways to go about that, like you said, What about in person as far as white label partners, and maybe this will segue to working with businesses directly. But I personally found a lot of digital marketing agencies were in networking groups, and in Chamber of Commerce is where Oh, yeah, you can make some great connections like that.
Yeah, yeah. There’s like a hierarchy of how quickly you build relationships, right? The best is having a conversation in person. And typically, those are easier to make happen through serendipity than trying to manufacture even with an email. Very possible. And you should try to do that. But when you have a chance to go to a meetup, whether it’s a chamber of commerce meetup, or an American Marketing Association, meetup or something, you can have these interactions when people have already slotted in their mind, I want to meet people at this event. They’re open, they’re looking to do that. So those inversing events are definitely the fastest way to build relationships. And it seems like we’re getting close to being able to viably do that again, very, very soon. Video is the second best because it’s as close to real life as we can get without being in real life, followed by phone and then obviously, like pure, direct message communication. That’s probably pretty intuitive. But it’s worth calling out that there is a spectrum of how how much you can build relationships or how quickly you can build relationships through these different mediums.
No, I think that’s great, it is more important than ever, right now, because we are kind of at that we’re in a bridge to where there are more and more in person meetings, but they’re definitely not the same. And they’re not like they used to be. But at the same point, there is some opportunity there. And I always found that was the best way organically to get clients, real business owners face to face. So now on to option one here, we kind of worked our way backwards from your spectrum. I always found networking groups, Chamber of Commerce, stuff like that was was the quickest ROI because people got to see you face to face, and got to know you. The other aspect is how do we get these direct projects and business owners online? Because you probably immediately start to think about Facebook ads and things like that. But I’d be curious to see what you’ve experienced and seen with all of the people you work with Jay, especially here in 2021. Where are these business owners hanging out online? Is this where LinkedIn and some of these other platforms can really shine for us? or what have you seen?
Yes, but I take a little bit of a different stance on this than most because…
I love it, love it already.
If you’re looking to try and find clients, you and everybody else, like take a number get in line, you can do that when people are raising their hand and saying, hey, I need a web designer to help me with something, there’s going to be 30 other people swarming to that person, and it’s gonna very quickly become either like a trust game or a pricing game. And it’s just, it’s tough to win out. So for me, I really focus on creating clients, people that have a looming need that they may or may not even realize, and being that spark for them to realize, oh, life would be better. If I did this, I want that. And I have the solution right in front of me who’s saying that they’re ready to go and make this happen? Then you avoid competition entirely. You don’t have to worry about price shopping. people genuinely want to have their problem solved. They want the problem, their problem solved as quickly as possible. I think about this conversation I listened to with a guy who worked as a producer in Hollywood. And he was he said, You know, when we do auditions, what most actors and actresses don’t realize is we want them to get the roll everyone that comes to the door, we hope it’s them. Because we want to stop doing this. And we want to find the answer as quickly as possible. So if you go into interactions and opportunities, realizing that people are actually rooting for you, they want you to be the answer. It takes a little bit of pressure off, you can just kind of be yourself and reassure them that you are that answer.
And the way that manifests is having conversations with people and being thoughtful, and asking them questions about what’s on their mind. What’s hard for them in their business today, what they’re struggling with. People love talking about themselves and their problems. And more often than you would think those problems are things that you can solve and help with. And they may even be symptoms of a greater problem. That is something that you can solve and help with. And even if it’s not you solving the problem, you could probably refer them to somebody else to your network that can solve it for them and just building this web have strong relationships with everybody involved. And sooner or later, either you’re going to touch on a problem that you can solve for somebody, or one of these other people that you’ve built relationships with is going to say, hey, Jay, I just talked to this person. Sounds like you could really help them. I’m going to send an intro. Is that cool? And so instead of trying to zoom around the internet, and figure out like, Where’s the person looking for help? And how do I be the first person to comment and get that that gig, I would instead focus on building deep relationships, asking thoughtful questions, helping people identify problems, and then being the person to solve those problems.
If you’re just starting out, and you’re terrified of sales, replace the word “sales” with “serve” and you can figure out how to serve your leads and your clients. – Josh
Well, and it’s a perfect time to plug our first episode together, because Episode 67, on the podcast was about how to be confident in sales, especially if you’re starting out which that’s the tricky part. It’s like, I’m terrified to sell. But here’s a little, I think this phrase I heard recently kind of encapsulates our previous episode together. Because if you’re just starting out, and you’re terrified of sales, if you replace the word sales with serve, and you can figure out how to serve your leads, and your clients, that will alleviate a lot of the stress and pressure you have, if you just think about what you just said, J thinking about how you can solve problems and how you can serve them. That’s, that’s really the key that I’ve found it. I think this is a great segue to the second aspect of all this that I wanted to get into was marketing. How do we market ourselves now that, you know, there’s which I think there’s probably more opportunity than ever for web designers in particular, because there’s such a need for web design. And we are generally a little more comfortable with the tech aspect of things. We’re not all super comfortable on camera yet, but I’m really passionate about sharing what I’ve learned. And in that space, we’re getting comfortable on camera doing videos. But yeah, let’s let’s segue to marketing, because I think this is something that can apply to all three of those, getting clients avenues. With marketing in general. There’s a lot of different avenues web designers in particular can take whether it’s doing webinars or hosting workshops, or doing content marketing, having a blog having YouTube videos doing a podcast even. What are some of the top marketing trends you’ve seen, especially in the wake of COVID-19? and analysis or into 2021? What are some things that you’ve seen be successful for freelancers, when it comes to marketing, particularly online?
I’m trying to organize my thoughts in real time. So I can answer this as succinctly as possible. Let me go,
It is a big question, I guess?
Well, I just have a lot of thoughts. So they go forest level, now we’ll go down to the trees. At like the top top level zooming out. You need people to be aware that you exist, and that they want to work with you, frankly, because people like to work with people they like to work with. And if we think about like that communication and deadlines thing I was talking about earlier, at the other day, people are people, they know that if I’m going to work with somebody, I want to enjoy the experience. So they need to know you exist. And they want they need to believe that working with you will be a good experience. And so to me, that means you need to be top of mind and visible. You don’t need to be visible everywhere. You just need to be pretty consistently visible somewhere to people who you want to work with. So if you’re working with business owners, probably right? They are on LinkedIn, they’re in their email inboxes. They’re in slack communities, they’re in Facebook communities, they’re in communities of all kinds, because business owners are always looking to grow. They’re always trying to meet other business owners, because typically, their clients are also business owners. So hang out in those communities. Be a good, like kind, generous, thoughtful person, that seems nice and doesn’t rub people the wrong way. And more likely than not, you’re going to build awareness around yourself, and people will want to refer others to you. To me, that also looks like being fairly human in your own social media.
Like I do think that as long as you don’t have an allergy to these things where you just absolutely can’t stand thinking about being present on any given social media platform, I think you should pick one or two that you really do like and work in public a little bit. Josh, you do a phenomenal job of on your YouTube channel like showing, showing what you can do. It’s a show and not necessarily tell type of thing, actually, you do both really effectively. But when you can show what you do in video or, or photos, that’s really powerful if that’s the medium you work in. So as a web designer, consider showing your work on LinkedIn or Instagram, people don’t realize how well those two things map together. If you’re, if you’re doing so well on Instagram, just copy and paste that over to LinkedIn. And vice versa. If you’re doing well on LinkedIn with images, like do it over there.
It’s multi purpose that content Yeah,
Odds are like it’ll work really well. Especially if you’re going on Instagram. That’s such an opportunity to use LinkedIn if you are but be top of mind for people by showing up in their feeds in their inbox, whether you want to write email newsletters or something but be human, you know, show you’re doing show your work. People want to work with people that they seem like they might like. And people don’t like people that look like they’re trying too hard, or being too perfect all the time, just be human and show that you do good work.
Well, it’s a great concept and idea to have, particularly when, because there’s a strategy that the worst thing somebody can do is do every platform possible and do a terrible job at each one. And not have that strategy in mind. Because there’s, there’s no sense of being on everything. If it’s not gonna be done. Well, I would much rather take the approach and I do what you just said, I only focus on a handful of things now. I do not utilize Instagram. Could I use Instagram? Yeah, it’s basically just for personal stuff. And I might look into it eventually. And the same thing with LinkedIn. I don’t utilize LinkedIn at all, mainly, because I’m sure my audience is there but it’s just not the biggest priority. What I’ve found is that the podcast works extremely well, for my web design audience. My YouTube channel is a biggie and I haven’t utilized that as far as tutorials as much over the past year, but I do plan to I plan to do a lot more tutorials and stuff. But those are the two biggies, but podcasts and YouTube. Facebook a little bit as well. But that’s about all I can handle right now, honestly, and I don’t want to stress myself too thin. I think that’s where this can get dangerous, is you can run the risk of stretching yourself too thin. And I find it would you agree that it’s much better just to focus on a couple avenues that you know, well, and you know, working?
Definitely, and I want to do a couple a couple things here, Josh, because you and I, we also we also look through things, the lens of building our audience, it’s not all about clients for us, right. And it’s something I have to check myself on a lot as I work with freelancers. For a lot of folks getting started, they’re just like, I just need a client next month. And so when you think about social media, it’s really easy to put pressure on yourself to say, How am I going to get this following to a place where it matters. But let me give you an example of why you shouldn’t think that way. My fiance is a realtor, that’s essentially a freelance gig, like that’s an independent contractor, she has to find her own clients sell the projects. She’s only active really on one social media platform, and that is Instagram. her Instagram has a couple 100 followers. And you know what, that’s plenty, because she works with one or two clients a month. And they are long interactions and valuable transactions. And if you engage those couple 100 followers that you have, or even 100 followers, and you’re posting content that makes you seem likable shows that you’re good at what you do. Eventually, those people who are following along even if it is like 100 people, they’re thinking to themselves, and you don’t know this, but they think themselves, I can’t wait to have a reason to work with Josh. And when that comes, they’re gonna come knocking. We’re seeing it right now, you know, it’s gonna, it’s gonna be a few months down the line. But she’s saying right now like every, every week, now she’s getting inbound leads on her type form, that she has an Instagram bio, to help people find a home. And she’s like, I don’t know who this is. And it’s a magical feeling when people reach out to you. And you’ve never heard of them. But they seem to know you because they’re like, oh, I’ve actually been following you on Instagram for three months. And I love this stuff. And maybe they like a couple of your photos. But that’s all you know. So you have to be consistent and show up.
That’s great. I think an important kind of addition to that as well, is you can’t always put stock in those likes to where like if only two people like a post that you put out. Yeah, maybe two people liked it. But think about how many eyes that came across. Sometimes you never know what kind of reach your posts are having. And I think this is really, really important for LinkedIn and Facebook or any social media. It’s that idea of top of mind like you said, just because somebody isn’t liking the post doesn’t mean that they haven’t seen it and they haven’t thought about working with you at some point when they’re ready or referring you like there is still a lot of value in that and I have to remind myself all the time with Facebook in particular because sometimes I get a little discouraged I’m like man, that’s all that little video clip guy like it only got you know, three likes or something but I do think about how many times that’s been showing up on people’s feed in it and it reminds them and I do the same thing I all the time I’ll see something and I don’t engage with it necessarily, but it will remind me to check that out later or if it’s a snippet of a podcast or remind me Oh, shoot. Yeah, mentalist. I literally just did this last week. There is a new Disney Disney podcast about soundtracks I forget what the podcast is called. But I saw this clip this teaser about the interview they did with Ludwig the guy who did the Mandalorian soundtrack and I love that soundtrack. And it took me like five times to see that teaser to remind me and I like I was like okay, I finally have the time. Now I’m taking a walk with my dog. Now I can turn this on. And I did and I didn’t like the post or anything. It just reminded me it took five times for it to scroll across my feed. And then it finally reminded me to check this interview out. And that’s the perfect example of how this works. Like, don’t put too much stock in every, like, Don’t get discouraged. Just remember that there’s a lot of power and being Top of Mind, so I totally echo you on that, I think it’s a great mentality to have.
Out of sight out of mind is a real thing. And people are either going to do one of two things, they’re going to, they’re going to be following you so closely, that they’re going to manufacture a reason to work with you, or like really look hard for a reason to work with you. Or someday they’re going to realize, oh, shoot, I need someone who can help me with this. And they’re going to go into the recall bank, and the first person they can think of is the first person gonna reach out to. And the best way to do that first person I think of is to be someone they’ve built a relationship with, or saw recently. And and that’s what being present on at least one of these social media feeds or your their email inbox. That’s what that can do for you.
Yeah, and I would think about it often, because I’m a hockey fan, I’m always watching Jackets games, you think about the logos that are on the ice. And you have to wonder, like, how much is AP spending to have their logo on an NHL ice rink? You know, I’m sure I can’t admit 10s of 1000s, hundreds of 1000s, maybe millions, I don’t know, a lot of money. So being that that is the case, it has to trickle down to this level of freelancing and small business owners that being Top of Mind freaking works. I yeah, I’m sure it can be like, why would I pay that much to do this. But it definitely there was so much power and being Top of Mind, which is definitely really important. And there’s obviously multiple levels of how to go about this, whether it’s sharing, you know, a snippet of a video or a recent project or resources, but anything you can do to continually be there. Even if it’s just once a week or once every couple weeks, something consistent. Would you say that consistency is really the glue that holds it all together as well, because what’s the use of posting something once and then not hear from somebody in six months.
And for a lot of stuff that might be like your personal business where you’re not creating quote, unquote, content as like a podcast, or a YouTube video or an email newsletter, you don’t have to necessarily be like, on the clock every Tuesday, at this time I posted, it could be really useful for you and your own budgeting of your time to do that. But I think you should think like, Okay, once a week, or twice a week, and kind of go back that way. And you touched on something, Josh, that made me want to get into a super tactical thing here that I think is really important, as you’re being human and showing your work throughout your life on whatever feed or medium that you so choose.
Do not be afraid and in fact, embrace making specific opportunities offering to work with people and say, like, Hey, I have a spot open next month to work with a new web design client. If you want a website, like this client that I just showcase on my testimonial page, or in this video, reach out to me and we’ll talk about it. You may do that. And you may get absolutely no response. And most people who have that happen, they say that’s didn’t work, I’ll never make that offer again. But we need to understand is people are looking at that they’re already looking at you as a business owner and kind of in awe, like, that’s awesome. This person is great. I wish I was brave enough to go out on my own. A lot of people are thinking that, but they think that you’re being successful if you’re posting consistently and you’re saying hey, I have a spot available next month, great. Even if you get no inbound response, everyone who sees it and chooses not to engage that time assumes other people are. So you just keep doing that. You don’t need to say hey, guess what guys? 10 people reached out to me, or Hey, guess what, guys, nobody reached out to me. You just say I have this opportunity. And you pepper that in, people are going to assume that you started working with people. And in their mind, you’re becoming more legitimate, more seasoned, more attractive as someone that they could work with in the future, just consistently do that. And it’ll pay off, you know, you’re getting a very specific call to action to engage with you in a certain way. And it won’t work and will work for everybody and every opportunity. But you’re starting to build a desire for them to work with you at some point.
The What a great point. I’m so glad you brought that up, Jay cuz I was gonna ask about promotion when it comes to marketing because there is a difference in creating content and showing off your designs or whatever you’re working on. And then plain old, offering a service or asking for work. And I love that because I think that is probably one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned as an entrepreneur. My journey is you have to tell people what to do. And there is no shame in saying I have an opportunity join today or sign up or get your project started. I think so many people are terrified of that because it’s feel salesy, but here’s one thing to remember. People and business owners are very busy. If they see something from you, if there is no clear call to action, they’ll likely you know, it’s good to be top of mind like we talked about and there’s definitely a place to do that. Kind of posting along with a strong call to action, but you do have to have an offer that you are telling people to do. One thing that I learned as a freelancer for a long time, is, a lot of my clients would have paid me a lot more money and would have worked with me, if I had just freaking lay the opportunity out there. Instead of just like waiting for the phone to ring or hoping I would get a referral, you’ve got to literally promote your services and put it out there and don’t be ashamed to. Now, there’s definitely a balance, you don’t have to be one of these marketers or people that’s going on over the top with like, non stop, oh my gosh, give me a give me give my email inbox a break, you know, but you can do something regularly, that is a very clear call to action about a service, or about something you’re offering. And I think that’s where a lot of people fall short. And quite frankly, I think a lot of people’s businesses are not where they could be, because they’re just not putting their offer out there. So I love that point.
And, you know, like you said, you don’t want to be annoying with the same pitch over and over again. But you can like, what you should do is make very specific offers related to your service. Instead of saying, I do web design, say, Hey, I can help make your homepage look really awesome. Here’s an example of somebody I just did that for. If you want to do that next month, I’m working with three people, I’m going to charge 1500 a person, if that’s interesting to you reach out, this does a few things. It lowers the bar of imagination to like zero, I can see this I can say Do I want that? Yes, no, if yes, I know the clear action, I say let’s do it. A lot of times when you just have services available, people have to think well what that look like in my case, and then they might even get into choice paralysis. paralysis is too many things. And if you just are very specific, this is why sales work. You know, if you just say like very specifically, this is an opportunity that’s available for this period of time, and it looks just like this, do you want it? Yes or no? It’s okay. If you say no. The more straightforward you are about that. The more it just feels like a natural order of business and people like this the way it is, Jay seems like he’s busy, busy, he’s doing well. He doesn’t need my business. Isn’t this like needy, please reach out and do this thing. It’s like, here’s what it is, if you want it, let me know. People are drawn to that, because it feels like an opportunity. It feels scarce. And it’s like, oh, that could be me. I could work with Jay on this thing. I had a friend of mine who does headshots as a photographer, he did this incredibly well, like once a month, you’d say hey, I’m doing kind of like a headshot Bonanza. He’s local. He was doing like a headshot Bonanza 75 bucks a headshot, you just book his whole day full. And he would show the past headshots, he did. And it’s like, oh, I could use a new headshot. And it’s only this price. And it’s this day. I’m gonna jump right now.
Yeah, and I think the value in this too is that it is very tricky often for web designers. Because we often do a variety of services under the umbrella of quote unquote web design. So that might include website builds from the ground up with different sorts of companies, it might be a website redesign, it might be just work on existing websites, it might be hosting and maintenance, it might be SEO content, you know, there’s all these different types of things, which actually, for us lead into a lot of different opportunities, because you can highlight each one of those. One month, you could promote a website redesign does your website freakin suck right now, then maybe it’s time to get it. Maybe you don’t put freakin in there. But that’s something I would see myself doing. But you know, you can really target each one of these. And it could be, is your website not getting found on Google, we can help you get higher rankings on Google. So there’s a lot of different ways to utilize this, this approach. Target, like he talked about being very strategic and targeted on one example, it is, I think, a little bit easier for some industries like realtors, to where you’re probably going to work with buyers or sellers.
There’s not too much ambiguity in what you do there. Same for a photographer, if you are a wedding photographer, that’s the service wedding photography. Well, again with web design there there’s a challenge with this. Because if you just say, I can help you with your web design needs, you know, contact me today, it is too vague, because a client isn’t going to know exactly what you do and what I ran into when I did that, because I did that. Before I really got clear as far as what I offer. And what I do is then inevitably, somebody would reach out and they’re like, hey, I need graphics from my facebook or I need somebody to do our social media, or I need somebody to come into our business and do headshots and record video. I’m like, well, that’s not really what I do, you know. So being really clear about exactly what you do and offering it. There’s so much power in that.
So I do hope this is encouraging folks to to not be you know, annoying about it. But don’t be shy and offering your service and one thing I’ve learned recently, particularly as a course creator Now, one thing I’ve realized when it comes to promoting my courses is not to be shy to promote them because they are helping so many people around the world now, one of my students actually told me this, they were like, Josh, I feel like you should be promoting your courses more than you are. Because you’ve helped me like you’ve changed my life, like couple of your courses have literally changed my life. And it did make me think you know what, I appreciate that because it is so true. Like, it’s, it’s a shame that my courses are not helping more people right now. And I think if you have that mentality that like, you know, as a web designer, I know I can help a business completely revamped their web presence. It’s a shame that they’re not working with me right now. I think that’s such a powerful mindset to have, when it comes to giving you a confidence.
And don’t feel like these offers mean that you’re backing yourself into a corner that you can only do this one thing, I’m not saying that you have to change your website heading your social media BIOS, the way you talk about things, it’s more giving you the opportunity to make very specific calls to action for a short period of time. And you can cycle these in and out, you can change things around. But you got to advocate for yourself, you got to you got to make it known that you’re you’re open for business.
It’s a great upsell, too, isn’t it? Like if somebody hires you to do SEO? And they’re like, you know what? This actually Our website is not great right now, maybe we do need to consider a full rebrand. And then phase two can be the SEO. I found that to be true. Left and right in web design, which provides us as web designers a lot of opportunity. Yeah, yeah, that’s great. Jay. So I’d love to wrap up this conversation with the idea of almost support and community behind us because as we all know, freelance is often very lonely. And one reason I wanted to talk about this specifically with you is because you like myself, know and have seen the power of community firsthand. And we are in a lot of the same communities together. And we are course creators and community builders. So for freelancers who are going alone, and are finding themselves being lonely, there’s a ton of different options out there. And what I want to ask you is what are some of the best options that you’ve seen for freelancers? Because you can join Facebook groups, there’s masterminds, there’s premium communities, there’s all these different options. What have you seen work best? Have you seen, like certain communities work? Well? Have you seen a tandem of like multiple communities work? Well, for people? What does that look like?
I don’t know that I have a best answer. Because every community is a little bit different. Every person is a little bit different. So if you’re thinking about what do I want a community to do? For me? I think that’s gonna inform your decisions a little bit. If you’re saying I want a community that’s just there, whenever I have a question, I can pop in and ask a question and get an answer right away, then you probably want to join something pretty large, like a Facebook group that maybe has a ton of people in there that are seeing it frequently, questions get seen and answered very, very quickly. If you’re looking for a place where it’s a little bit more private, and your identity is a little bit more protected, you might want to look for something that is anonymized or behind either a paywall or something where you have to create a profile to do it.
If you really value in person connection, that’s also going to be different than digital communities. But I think a lot of people would say they kind of have both they have their in person communities, they have their digital communities, because community to serves a lot of different needs for people. And sometimes the in person community is serving a need of being more connected to my physical place here in Columbus or wherever you are. So to me, it really kind of depends on what you’re doing. I’m obviously a little bit biased. We have a community freelancing school that I think is great. And we made that free to make it accessible to folks, I tried to source some job opportunities there. But I wanted it to be a place where people get to have very real conversations in a safe place. To help grow their business, I think that’s what a lot of people are looking for is, is connection to one another. And a place where they don’t feel stupid asking certain questions, a place where they know they’re going to get kind, nuanced responses.
Oh, that’s the trick. That’s the trick right there, particularly with like Facebook groups and free forums.
The community that you’ll build for yourself, both locally and online, are complimentary skill sets where they can help refer business to you, and vice versa. – Jay
Yeah, it can be tough. So I like things on the smaller side, because you can build more relationships. You notice when more people jump in, you feel compelled to meet them, you feel compelled to protect the space. The larger it is, the more anonymous it feels a lot of times and you don’t get necessarily the same patience and kindness as you would in a smaller community. And you want to find people that are at your level, but also where people can teach you things because you don’t want to be in a blind leading the blind situation. But it’s good to support other people around you and have them support you because as we’re saying with like the white labeling type of situation, as a freelancer First of all, I don’t think you should ever be worried about competition. You should worry about it from the sense of there’s gonna be a lot of people who are looking for freelance gigs, but you don’t need that many clients. And chances are The people that you’re pursuing aren’t being pursued by the people immediately around you that you perceive as competition more likely than not. The community that you’ll build for yourself, both locally and online, are complimentary skill sets where they can help refer business to you, and vice versa. And it becomes this like, large decentralized network of people selling for each other in a way. That’s, that’s really great. So in that way, the more connected you are to the people in that community, the more likely that is to be true. So I would shoot for something a little bit smaller, that just feels good to you people that you vibe with, that you would want to advocate for. And hopefully they’ll advocate for you, too.
I love that what a great answer. Yeah, well, probably wasn’t the best question. But I love how I love how you really encapsulated the different types of groups that you could potentially be in. Because it’s funny, as you were talking through that I’m envisioning everything that I’ve put in place now with online communities, which had been a mix of all three, I had my premium group, my web design Club, which is more of a mastermind, like, you know, really quality professional people who are serious, you are going to get the best answer for stuff in there. I have my brand new Student Center, I think I’ll let you know that now that I’m a big fan of Circle, I decided to take a page from what Pat Flynn and SPI is doing with having a student center getting my groups off of Facebook, they’re actually coming off of well, by the time this will be live, the groups will have been off Facebook, and into this student center that’s built off circle a platform that I can control 100% now, which is awesome. That’s kind of like the in between what is my membership? And then what is also my facebook group, which we talked about earlier, at the time of this, this, my facebook group is like 23,000 members, it’s great for support from like, technical aspect, because there are 1000s of people who are active. But are you always going to get the absolute best kind answer, not not all the time. I mean, we do what we can to weed out the bad apples, but it’s 23,000 people, what do you expect? You’re gonna, you’re gonna get an answer. That’s not great all the time in there. And that’s not the best place for like, serious business type of questions that are really high level, those are like, I’ve got a tech issue on my Divi site. Do you guys know of a solution? Yeah, a great place for that.
But if you know if your business is struggling, and you want to bring it to six figures, and you’re looking for the best strategies, that’s where my web design club is. And in the middle, if you’ve got kind of a mid range type of question, and you’re one of my students, that’s where having the students center is really valuable. So I think the example of the different types of online communities that are out there for support now is really valuable, because it’s often going to be a mix of, you know, all those three types. And I’m, I’m in several of those as well, I’m in communities that are premium, I’m in two paid memberships, I don’t spend too much time in them now, mainly because I’m so busy running my own and doing everything, I only pop in there when I kind of need them. But it has been really interesting to see how that all plays out between free, which I think the free is probably better for more tech, lower level support type of stuff at large with a lot of different people. It’s kind of the mid range, which are going to be course communities you’re enrolled in your I would consider your freelancing school, that type of mid range because it’s not a premium mastermind group. But then there’s also I mean, those, the premium stuff is what I’ve realized, like once you get to a place where you can invest in that, without you know breaking the bank, that’s where it’s super valuable, because you are automatically surrounding yourself with like minded people. And like you said, you can give and share a lot of your experience. But you can gain too. That’s super valuable.
Totally, totally agree. Community is a really large topic, in general. And we spend a lot of time thinking about that at SGI and how we support our students. I spend a lot of time thinking about that for freelancing school and how I support freelancers there. You know, you can start to feel pretty quickly, whether a place feels safe and productive, or kind of like nobody’s in charge or like overseeing things or maintaining order. And usually on that spectrum, it’s it’s kind of a red flag.
Yeah. Yeah. And it’s a great point. Honestly, there’s no harm in trying something out just to get a feel for I’ve got several members of my web design club who told me they just wanted to see they’ve been hearing about it, they just wanted to try it out. And I’ve got like some of those amazing feedback within a week of people being like, holy crap, I can’t believe I didn’t join this three months ago when I heard about it, which is just like the coolest thing to to see that and then to see all these connections being made, and there’s just so much power and a really good online community. So all that to say, I think having an open mind to these different tiers of online communities is really important because there are so many options available to us now. And I think if you have the right mindset, like if I’m going to join, you know, Josh, this Facebook group, it’s 20,000 people, that’ll be a great place. for support, it will not be the best place for like asking high level business questions more than likely because you’re gonna get a lot of wild answers. And then same thing for like the premium group. That’s that’s that that’s the safe place for that. Whereas, yeah, widget breaks on your site, go to the Divi Facebook group.
So I love that man, I think it’s a great way to sum this. Because we do need support, you know, it’s, it’s often a very, it’s quite frankly, entrepreneurship and freelancing. Now more than ever being that most everyone’s online, there’s less than person stuff going on. It can be very lonely. And I think it’s also really important to have some support as you market. And as you get confidence in sales and stuff like that. So I have one last question for you. Before I do for ask you that, where would you like my audience to go? Jay, you’ve got a lot of great resources. Is there one particular place you’d like folks to go after this conversation that you think might be beneficial to them?
Yeah, if this is jive with you, you can check out the freelancing school community. It’s free at freelancing dot school. You can also go to freelancing.school/Josh Hall. And I’ve put together a little bit of a discount on our courses there, if that’s interesting to you, but we’d love to help you in any way that I can reach out. I’m very easy to get in touch with online elsewhere. But freelancing school probably makes the most sense.
Awesome. Yeah. And I know what’s really cool about that is, we’re a bit of CoOppetition, being that we have some similar courses and stuff. But what I found is if you do courses that are similar, they can be really a complement to each other. Like I know in the freelancing school, you go into that framework of the sales in much more detail. And that’s great, because it’s a perfect combination with what I teach with sales. It’s more specific to Web Designs, if you broaden your reach, there’s a lot of value in that too.
Yeah, yeah. Well, thanks for having me on the show. Josh. It’s been great to be back excited for you and the sale of your agency. And you’ve had a big month podcasting we just talked about. So good stuff, man. Hopefully, it doesn’t take us 34 episodes to catch up again.
Yeah, no one you actually will be? Let’s see, you were 67. I don’t know when this episode will come out. Exactly. But you’ll likely be like 113 something. So yeah, it’s, although I did two podcasts a week for a long time. So that helped me amp up the numbers, for sure. But I’m looking forward to connect with you again, Jay, I always love having you on. I would love to know, in your experience as a freelancer or an entrepreneur, what is maybe one of the top lessons you’ve learned in this conversation, if you could kind of put a cap on all this? What’s maybe one really, I’m sure there’s not like one top lesson. But what is one of the most important things you’ve learned as a freelancer that will apply to folks who are either starting or increasing their journey. Now as a freelancer in 2021.
I would boil most of the things that come down, come to mind to me down to confidence. You really need people to have a sense of this person doesn’t need my work. They are really good at what they do. And I I want to work with them. You know, you want the client to work with you more than you want to work with the client in terms of that power dynamic. Because otherwise, they’ll start to get this little spidey sense of why are they pushing so hard? Why aren’t they more busy? So be confident in the value you bring to the table? put things out there on the table. You know, think about like Starbucks, when you walk into a Starbucks. Nobody is pushing coffee on you. They say here’s what’s on the menu. Do you want something that should be the opportunity for you when you’re having sales conversations as well, so that it feels natural, and it feels like an opportunity rather than a sale, an opportunity to solve their problem. lead the conversation when you’re having them lead the sales call, ask them questions about their business so you can start to boil down what really matters to this person. How can I help make a difference? And you’ll start to see some results.
Beautiful way to end this conversation. Jay, that’s awesome, man. David, thanks so much for coming on. I love picking your brain about this stuff. And yeah, equally. I’m so excited for what you’ve done with the acquisition with one of the things you’re doing with SBI and it’s been awesome to see your journey progress, and I’m excited for the next episode, man. Cheers.
Episode presented by:
Use code WDBC75 for $75 OFF!
Learn how to build or level up your own successful web design business!
• Learn the ins and outs of building a 6-figure web design business
• Gain the freedom to work when, where and how you want
• Learn how to get better clients and raise your rates
"Josh’s Web Design Business Course has been such a blessing as I transition from graphic design to web design. This info would have taken me YEARS to gather on my own. It has also given me the most important thing I need to get started working with clients – confidence. Josh is a natural at teaching – he explains everything in an easy to understand way, and makes learning enjoyable. I’m so glad I decided to take this course, it truly is the best investment I could have made as I start my web design business.”
“The course is exactly what I have come to expect from Josh – and more. Great content, patient and thorough approach – and no stone is left unturned. Josh will instruct you on everything you’d want to know and also will go over topics you never even thought of. He’s been there and made the mistakes (now you don’t have to) and had the successes (and now you can, too). This course is a MUST for anyone who wants to get serious about making web design into an actual business. Highly recommended!”