Abby Sims is passionate about growing small and mid-size businesses through well-done websites and custom software. She has 18 years experience in the web and software development industry. She has worked in every developer position imaginable on a broad range of web and software development projects for non-profits, governmental agencies and public and private companies, really large and small. She is a pragmatic developer who likes to get things done.
Double Your Freelancing Conference 2015 Recap, Part 2
In September, I attended Double Your Freelancing Conference, put on by Brennan Dunn in Norfolk, Virginia. It was 2 and half days packed full of networking and learning. Not just learning, but it was full of actionable take-aways. I left with tons of notes on things to do, books to read, and people to start following. I found myself not only challenged to implement new behaviors, products, and tools for myself but also motivated to implement many of these strategies for my clients. Now I share some of the lessons I learned with you.
If you’re an entrepreneur, small business owner, freelancer, contractor or thinking about being any of those, you should be hearing what these freelancing pioneers had to share. In this second of article (see the first here), I am sharing some things that really impacted me about each of the talks, without giving away the conference. I highly encourage you - purchase video of the entire Double Your Freelancing Conference sessions. It’s only $99 and it’ll make your week or maybe even your career. Really, go do it. (Know that I don't get any kind of kickback promoting the videos.)
Nathan Barry started off the day with a message focused on selling more by being an authority. He says the best way to become an authority is to teach and to start now, before you feel ready. He went over a few ways to decide what to focus on. One way included an exercise of identifying 10 people from your current network that are within the audience you’d like to reach and issuing them a survey. It starts with a brief explanation that you’re starting a new venture to teach about a topic and asking questions such as “Where do you go now to learn about this?”, “What is your biggest frustration with the topic?”, and “Would new lessons on this be interesting to you?”. From there he suggested some simple steps to get to a writing and marketing strategy. Come up with a list of topics and just write 500 words every day. List communities where you can promote your content and answer questions there and link to your content, when appropriate. I left ready start now because as he focused on - you don’t need to feel ready. Becoming an authority is a process, not a place you just arrive to one specific day.
Next up was Ed Gandia, creator of International Freelancers Academy, with tips on improving focus. Ed proposed that we could improve focus on tasks by creating periods of flow within our day. He supposed that flow does not just happen on its own and is not something we can command to begin. He really encouraged us to take an assessment to “discover our true genius” and let the result of that guide what we choose to express our works. Another takeaway was that we should stop multitasking and commit to one thing at a time. He recognized that things come into his mind while he’s focusing but that he uses lists to help him jot those distractions down and forces himself to revisit those later. He suggests we use a 50/20/50 format of work blocks. Do focused work for 50 minutes, take a 20 minute breather, and follow up with another 50 minute focus time. He says naturally people were limited to about 2-3 of these in a given day. The last two big points he made were that we need to purposefully flush our systems and take Fridays off. Flushing the system entails having times for internal rest and gratitude, like having a morning routine of journaling, reading, or meditation. Taking Fridays off is about giving yourself permission to take some you time - it can just be an afternoon at first. Ed says, you’ll be more productive in your focused time with that to look forward to.
The next session came from Julie Elster of Just Tell Julie. Julie left us with some fresh perspective on our invoices. She suggests giving a “discount” for upfront payment or doing two 50/50 invoices without a discount. Her business focuses on collecting those unpaid invoices we have. She let us know that most of the time, we can fix unpaid invoices by just picking up the phone - that it’s easy for emails to get ignored and put off, which often leads to the delay. Ultimately, she really promoted that we should be more confident about our payment terms and approach this from a “Buy it. Don’t buy it. I don’t care.” attitude. In other words, these are the terms, take it or don’t but stick to you terms on how you get paid. If people know, they will work with it and if they haggle about it - you probably should take that as a red flag.
Following that were fun and colorful lessons on “brainwashing” from Amy Hoy. She proposed that we should really stop trying to repeatedly build a better widget. Rather, we should focus on building better users of our widgets. It’s a long game, she says, so we need to build a better client to keep them using. To her, the biggest cause of failure is inaction. Failure to learn, think, act, win and ultimately build trust. She said that we need to first identify how our clients suck at achieving what they want (within the sphere of where we already help them) and then give them a manual for your process of achieving that thing on their own. Amy says most people won’t have time, experience, or staff to accomplish all those steps that you know achieving it takes. This is why she says give them an emergency exit in the manual - a “hire me” option. She suggests that if they take the time to read the manual - they will already know how you work, what you’ll do, and so the sale is much easier to make. They are effectively brainwashed to work with you.
Next up, we had Brian Casel. Brian and co-host Jordan Gal produce Bootstrapped Web - I’ve been listening to this great podcast for a long time and you should check it out. Brian’s talk gave us tips for productizing our service to 10k/month. He encouraged that we can find ways to transition from hourly billing to productized service offerings by building an level of service offering that combines using a tool plus a certain level of service monthly. He focused in that we should be selling the results of the service, not the software tools themselves. People want the experience of the win so the tools can be mostly manual at first if we need them to be. He shared insights from what he’s learning while building his productized service, Audience Ops.
Then we had Kai Davis who proposed a few mindshifts for us to try. Kai was one speaker that I had not heard of before the event but he totally blew me away. Mindshift #1 was for us to realize that we are an expert. People are paying us to solve problems in an area and that makes us enough of an expert. We should teach toward solving problems. Our teaching should share our expertise and, he suggested, that sharing controversial examples is a good way to get people talking. Mindshift #2 he proposed is that we stop thinking leads and think about audiences. By working together with people with audiences similar to that we seek, such as through guest blogs and podcast appearances, we can help those people grow their content and gain access to valuable audiences and authority by association. He then offered us a specific, actionable plan for pitching to gain these opportunities with these other authorities using one simple email a day.
Lastly, Brennan Dunn, the creator of the Double Your Freelancing conference (and a book, a course, and a podcast) wrapped up the event with a look at “The end of consulting.” He suggested that we can build a business that fits the life we want to live. He covered three of the major different models he sees us all doing. 1 - Becoming a premium consultant. 2 - Scale and building an asset that doesn’t require you. 3 - Using client work to subsidize your other assets or “being your own angel.” He encouraged us to go ahead and choose what we want and then plan our journey along that path. We should rank decisions by effectiveness - what’s going to produce results the soonest. Do those things. He encouraged us to journal often and document things that we can use to reflect later. Answer these questions. What did I do? What worked? What did not work? What financial impact did a decision have? Lastly, he encouraged us all to join or start a mastermind group and use that to continue to grow.
The conference wrapped up with a networking / after-party at the Granby Theater, a couple blocks from the conference. The venue was beautiful and spacious. There was plenty of standing area for milling about with other attendees and also areas to sit and relax. Of course, there was a bar. Again, I was that person and brought my husband and three year old along - in an effort to try to balance work / family attentions and all that. The music and huge dance floor entertained my daughter while I stole opportunities to talk more with speakers and attendees. Some highlights of my night was getting to hang with Amy Hoy and and her husband, Thomas Fuchs, taking a selfie with Allan Branch, and doing weird dance routines with my husband and daughter.
Overall, the whole thing was well worth the money spent and the time away from client work. I feel like I made some awesome new contacts, friends and people who I need to hit up when I travel to certain parts of the country. I definitely left ready to be a better consultant, business owner, community leader, software developer and authority.
If you want to experience a little of this for yourself, do go buy the DYFC videos from Brennan. They’re only $99.