Jason and Chris talk about maintaining long-term client relationships, project-based pricing, and how to create a stream of referrals business
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Cablevision out of college, got some good experience
Worked at a variety of projects/startups/technologies
Small money projects to start with
Woken up by https://signalvnoise.com/posts/2219-jason-calacanis-vs-david-heinemeier-hansson-on-this-week-in-startups
Learning to price-anchor
Quarterly check-in calls to maintain a long-term relationship w/clients
Chris: Welcome to another episode of the $100K Freelancing Podcast, I’m your host Christopher Hawkins. Today my co-host is Jason Resnick, WordPress developer long time freelancer. Son of New York and the host of the Live in the Feast podcast and creator of The Feast course for freelancers. Now I must apologize Jason and I got to chatting before we actually started recording, so we’re just going to hit the ground running today. Jason go ahead and finish your thought and we’ll just proceed from there.
Jason: I love web development and when I was in college the web was really at an infancy, but I love the instant gratification not the hardcore compiling and all that other stuff. I like the fact that I could write something and refresh and done. I worked full time right out of college doing that, doing web development but I knew that I was going to do, run my own business so to speak.
I had a skill that people didn’t have back then or it was a nice to have skill. People didn’t hire web developers because they needed it, I always looked at it as like having a pool in your backyard; you want a website rather than you need a website. I did the hustle on the side all the while doing full time.
Then when the dot com era imploded in itself in the early 2000s I said, “Hey I have a skill, I have work that I’m doing right now I can run my own business,” and I was sorely mistaken because of all the other business kind of stuff. Inside it two years I went back working full time, I worked for a couple of agencies over the course of next several years. This coming August I’ll be full time for seven years.
Chris: That is awesome, that’s bad ass. Now you go all the way back to the late 90s you said?
Chris: Okay. That’s really cool because the last several episodes that I’ve recorded there seems to be a cluster right around the five year mark with freelancers. I keep talking to people when I say, “How long have you been doing it?” “Four, four and a half years,” and I’ve been waiting. I said, “Okay eventually one of these guys is going to come along and just blow me away in terms of time and industry,” and congratulations my friend you just did it. I love it. Now I don’t have to feel like the old guy in the room for once right?
Jason: Yeah. That’s what I always say when people ask me how long I’ve been doing it, I’m like okay this is getting to that age where like where is my gold watch. I have been doing this since the beginning.
Chris: You are like I remember a time when a solo web developer could not process credit cards online.
Jason: Yeah I do.
Chris: People go, “Really,” that’s like saying you remember when cars didn’t have seat belts.
Jason: I remember when PayPal came around.
Chris: Oh man PayPal yeah. I think I still have my very first amazon.com auto confirmation email archived some place.
Chris: I remember it was like what was that like 95, 96?
Jason: Yeah, probably around there.
Chris: I thought that was the most amazing thing ever. Dude I actually printed out one around the office showing people, “Dude look at this, look at this I just made this order and they just emailed me a receipt man. That’s amazing.”
Jason: I had a site on GeoCities I was pretty old school.
Chris: Oh God I love it that’s so funny, oh man. All right I don’t want to get this too far afield, we can do an entire nostalgia episode.
Jason: It’s the eight bit version.
Chris: Just about the computing of the 90s yeah the eight bit theme song, yeah that would be great but another day. Here is what I want to know – I also started freelancing on the side of a regular gig. I know before our fore mentioned technical glitch you mentioned that you did some freelancing on the side and your reasoning was really interesting. Can you repeat that now that we’re actually recording?
Jason: Yeah. I mean I always did freelancing on the side because I didn’t want to warm somebody else’s seat. I wanted to live the kind of life that I wanted to and for me it’s; family oriented, being able to drop an afternoon because it’s nice out and just go do something outside for four, five hours. That was something that was always internal.
I remember even as a freshman and sophomore in college having this complete blow up fight with my mother to say, “I’m quitting college and I’m going to go out west to San Jose where all this stuff is happening,” which I lost that fight. For me it was always that internal thing that I always wanted to live my life and I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to do that working for somebody else. I always did something on the side having a skill that not a lot of people had at that time.
It was kind of I wouldn’t say easy to get work, but there was plenty of people with ideas right so like the thousand dollar job or $2,000 job was always there. I could always build up the skills that I was learning on the full time job and really go bleeding edge doing the side hustle, learning the new tactics and new skills and stuff like that. That’s why I always did that as part time.
Then God forbid something happen which it did and I didn’t have a job anymore, I had a little bit of a cushion to fall back on. I had clients that I was doing work and I knew at least the very basics of how to get work and doing contracts and waiting in the mail for checks, because at that time that’s what you did. It was what it was and hey now I’m here doing my own thing for seven years full time and I’m able to support my wife, my newborn son living in New York City.
Chris: Nice and by the way congratulations on the newborn.
Jason: Thank you.
Chris: Everybody Jason just had a son. He and his wife have a lovely little baby boy, TJ yes?
Jason: Yes, thank you.
Chris: Awesome, congrats man that’s a huge moment bravo.
Jason: Thank you.
Chris: That is why we do it as they say.
Jason: Yes it is.
Chris: I’m curious you mentioned that you had a cushion way back when you were freelancing on the side of your regular job, I love that. One of the things that I talk to freelancers about is before you go full time have a cushion. Now when you are a young guy though and you’ve got a job with a steady paycheck and you earn that consulting money on the side, were you real disciplined about … Were you stacking chips or were you going, “Awesome now I have money to buy a jet ski and I don’t have to touch my paycheck?”
Jason: A little of both. I mean obviously yeah spending cash being a single guy; I was taking vacations, I was buying gadgets, I was doing all that kind of stuff. I had learned that you couldn’t deplete a bank account real quick. The thing is too at that point in time anyway when I was doing a lot of the side hustle, I was taking that $500 project or that thousand dollar project then it should have been a lot more. I felt that, “Hey here is somebody that’s willing to pay me money let them drive the negotiation instead of the other way around.”
It was a lesson learned that I had back then that even $500 or $1,000 extra if I need a new computer there goes that. I just spent four weeks building somebody’s website and I needed a brand new computer there goes that whole entire revenue right out the window.
Chris: I know that in my case and it’s probably the same for a lot of freelancers, when you are new to getting money directly from a client rather than a paycheck a thousand dollars in client money seems like, feels like a much bigger deal than a thousand bucks in your paycheck. Possibly because we don’t yet understand how big of a bite Uncle Sam is going to take out of that thousand dollars we get from the client.
It just it feels different, it’s like the first time you sell a product online while you are asleep and you wake up in the morning and you are like, “Oh my God I made 29 bucks,” and that’s like the sweetest $29 that has ever hit your wallet.
Jason: Right. That thousand dollars that you like oh that’s a thousand dollars. Now I have a thousand dollars that I didn’t have five minutes ago. Then when you actually look at it from the perspective of owning a business rather than just a hobby like okay 30% you got to put that away so now you are down to $700. How much time did you actually put into the project where you couldn’t do something else? Let’s say there goes another I don’t know 500 bucks and now you are down to 200 bucks you know what I mean?
It’s like, “Wait where did, so I just did all this work for $200,” and that’s a night out on the town, a steak dinner and some drinks. It can be eye opening but it’s a huge adrenaline rush too like you are saying. You get that check like the first time you sell something online or you are like, “Hey how do I make that happen again?”
Chris: It’s like a big button that’s wired directly to your dopamine. You just press that and you get that big dopamine spike in your brain and you are like, “Yes we’re doing this again, we’re doing this every day.” Then we realize we’re only pocketing 20% and we are like, “Okay hang on a minute maybe I need to, let’s think through a little bit.” How did you transition out of doing jobs where your pricing did not indicate the true value of the job? How did that light bulb turn on and what did you do about it?
Jason: To be honest with you when I really started to look at my business like a business rather than a hobby, I think it was probably when I saw and I don’t know if you remember seeing this. When DHH and Jason Calacanis had that huge disagreement on Jason Calacanis’ TWIST.
DHH went on about revenue is great like you can make a hundred grand, a hundred grand, a hundred grand that’s awesome but what’s the profits. What does that look like at that at the end of the day, like what you take home and stuff like that? That was one point at which I was like, “Hey, wait how I’m I looking at this thousand dollars? What does this really look like? What is my take on what’s my profits?”
Then as I started getting more projects because of what the value that past clients and projects were saying that I was worth I was like, “Hey look I’m I able to affect other people’s businesses in a positive way? How do I correlate that to a price?”
Essentially it took me a long time to get off the hourly, because the thing is that’s easy. It’s easy to look at somebody else that’s been doing this for three years or whatever number of years that you’ve been doing it. They do the same job, what are they charging? They are charging a hundred dollars an hour then I must charge a hundred dollars an hour. That’s the easy win.
The thing to look at that I learned was to be able to price anchor yourself to the value of what you are giving to your client. In other words what I mean by that is e-commerce is easy to do this. If an e-commerce client comes to me and just for the sake of argument they say, “Hey I have $50,000 of revenue last year I’d like to be able to increase that to 100 grand this year by doing x, y and z on the site. I need you to do x, y and z.” If I can deliver that now they are making $50,000 more, even if it takes me two hours to do wouldn’t it be a no-brainer for them to pay me 15 grand to get 50?
That’s why I start looking at how do I price anchor myself to the value of the ROI that I give to a business. When you do that then it’s funny because people are always like, “What’s your hourly rate?” I’m like, “Well if I go to the last project let me see what my effective hourly rate was,” and it’d be like $300 or something like that.
If I say that to somebody they are like, “$300 are you nuts, I’m going to pay you $300 an hour that’s not going to happen,” that’s because it’s all out of context. That for me was as huge game changer and figuring out for my business to be able to build the sustainable freelance business.
Chris: Actually there is a lot that there to unpack; number one my friend if it only takes you two hours to optimize a WooCommerce site to the point where you can double the revenue, then you and I need to talk. We need to talk because I need to learn that.
Number two, although with my own business I’ve got some productized consulting stuff that’s flat fee fixed scope. I’m not all in on project based or value based pricing, but I sprinkle little bits of it here and there with the productized stuff. I do know that it’s very important however somebody sets their pricing to even understand their value first.
Like you at some point you realized, “Okay wait a minute when I put my effort into a project it imparts a certain value to the client.” There are a lot of folks out there; competent developers, smart folks, good analysts but they don’t really understand how the transition from I build this thing and then my client receives money happens. They don’t know where the in between part is.
This thing starts running and then my client makes money, but they can’t quite put it together. I suspect that that’s why a lot of folks struggle to either price themselves properly even if it’s hourly or if it’s flat rate or what have you. I think just knowing the business; understanding how a business works, understanding where your widget where it fits into the overall picture of value creation that’s really important.
A lot of freelancers particularly the ones who don’t have a lot of regular job experience, who haven’t had a lot of exposure to businesses large and small tend to struggle with that. At least that’s what imparted to me when I talk to folks every day.
What kind of a process was it for you to just get hip to, “Okay here is how business works and here is how I fit in and this is how the whole value creation chain goes down.” Did that come easy to you or was that something you had to feel around for?
Jason: No, it was definitely something I had to feel around for because I could assume what my value is to my clients and I did that for … We all do that, we all say, “Hey my value is way up here,” but what does the client see? How do they understand it and it’s always a lot lower than you think it is. The thing that I wanted to know is I wanted to understand my clients a little bit better like why did they choose to hire me and if they are a recurring client why did they stay with me.
I feel like I couldn’t make this up, like I must have come up with it or read it somewhere. Both like it was I don’t hear a lot of people talking about this though but is to just have a phone call with your clients on a regular basis, I do it quarterly. It’s just a quick 10 or 15 minute phone call and I call them my quarterly temperature calls. It’s just not a technical call at all so leave the projects aside and all that kind of stuff. It’s just a open conversation where I ask, “Hey how is business? How is everything going,” and that’s how I always start it off with.
“Is there anything you are struggling with? Outside of the project itself is there anything you are struggling with,” just so I can get that ball rolling. Then I’ll ask the question, “Why are you still here with me?” Like, “Just to be perfectly frank I just want to know what it is about me and my services that you enjoy or that you like,” or whatever that terminology is.
Often times initially you are going to get like, “Oh we needed this kind of thing,” and it’ll tail back into the project but you have to pull them back out, because you want to know what that hook is. There is a reason why they hired you, they could go and hire any other PHP or WordPress developer or Ruby developer but why did they hire you? Why did you they pay you some money? I wanted to understand that a little bit better because then that’s what you can capitalize on getting other clients.
Similarly at the end I wanted to know what it is that I can be doing better. Because if they have a certain expectation of what I’m doing and I’m completely oblivious to that or maybe it’s something that I don’t offer but they are waiting for, then it gives that opportunity to clear the air and set the expectations back on an even plane and all that kind of stuff.
If it’s something that I can offer maybe I can somehow work that in and then you look like a hero because they have said, “Hey I really need this from you and I don’t think that this is something that you offer or this isn’t something that I’m going to get from you,” or something like that. It could be something really easy and you could loop that into your services not a problem, maybe a little uptake on the price or something like that but they are getting something that they want.
That temperature call there allowed me to see the value to my current clients that I provide in a way that is not my assumption, this is what they are telling me my value is. You can turn that right back around into marketing material for yourself, change up your services page or change up whatever you are tweeting about or whatever it is. That allowed me to see the value of what I was providing to my clients.
Chris: That seems to be a practice that a lot of us come to naturally by I guess just from getting beat up enough to realize that we need to do it. I believe [inaudible 00:17:43] calls those strategy calls, I call them a checkup you call it a temperature call. It’s definitely one of those things that appears to be a ‘best practice’ or at least common practice amongst the folks who sustain a career over the long term, that’s smart. I’ve got a concrete example of what happens when you don’t do that, I’ll share this really briefly.
I have a long term client, at the time we’d been working together for about five years and I had been consistently working to maintain and update this old clunky piece of software that a previous consultant had built. We’d been working together regularly, they are constantly calling me, “Hey let’s do this, let’s tune this, let’s add that, let’s change this.” In the absence of having active work to do I didn’t really proactively call them; I didn’t seek them out, I didn’t check up on them much.
Well one day I noticed that they have a new website, a beautiful new website. A big splashy well designed gorgeous new website that I’m sure they allocated a fair amount of budget for. I was like, “That’s awesome that’s good for you guys,” because they’d been stuck in 1998 before that. Then I thought, “Well wait a minute I have been working with these guys for,” you know I’m counting on my fingers, “Almost six years now. I wonder why I didn’t know that they needed a new website or wanted one.”
I began wondering why they didn’t call me and I asked my point of contact and you know what you says Jason, “We didn’t know you did websites.” I thought wait what, they didn’t know how could they know. Because they had had me working on holding this legacy VB6 app together that was basically held together with duct tape and my own ingenuity. It had never occurred to me to talk to them about other parts of their business, to talk to them about, “You need to do this guess what I happen to do that. Here is …”
I just wasn’t doing it and I really felt the burn in that minute. I just so stupid and that’s when I started to change things a bit how I do things around here standard operating procedure. Now I ask loads of questions, I probably annoy my clients. I check in with them and I ask so many questions about; what other parts of the organization does this current project touch, I’ll ping them on email, I’ll call them like with your temperature checks and now it’s very different.
Now it’s very different, now I’m at the point where I don’t even prospect for new clients all that much because I get so much repeat work simply because we are constantly in dialogue, that’s incredibly valuable. I’m glad you brought this subject up because I had to learn that one the hard way. I just got, I didn’t get burned they didn’t do anything wrong, but I basically let a lot of opportunity and a lot of opportunities to help just slip through my fingers just for not knowing any better.
Jason: Yeah, I know and that’s the thing too is that that little bit of a check in that you do and you can get recurring work that way and not like monthly recurring but like recurring projects over and over again. That builds up that solid foundation for referrals too and that’s everybody gets referrals. Word of mouth is especially when you are starting out that’s like 100% of your clients.
If you can leverage that exact way that you are getting clients instead of going down another road like ads or something like that that you just go waste time on because you don’t really know what you are doing with that. Leverage what you are good at and figure out a way to do that and those calls like you said it’s proved positive that you keep getting more and more work from the same client over and over again. You don’t have to sell them again because they know that you do good work.
Chris: Yeah and that’s a big deal, you mentioned running ads. It seems that freelancers in general struggle with the whole idea of; how do I make leads aware of me? How do I get them to reach out to me? Once they’ve reached out to me how do I close them? That whole chain of marketing and then sales and then you have to execute and manage the work that is difficult for a lot of us.
I’ve found I’m able to skate on a lot of that stuff. Think about it this way, I was talking to somebody I mentor the other day, if you sell each one of your clients just one extra project, they hire you for one project, you do a good job of managing a good relationship. You find out about their other needs, you find out what else your project touches and you sell them one additional project big or small.
Well guess what, you just doubled your business and you didn’t do any advertising. You didn’t write any blog posts, you didn’t do anything, you just worked with what you have in front of you. Now sure you are not going to be able to do that every time, suppose you sold every other client one additional project or even one in every five clients one additional project, that’s a huge difference in your business.
All too often I see the emphasize on how do I get; more clients, more leads, more prospects, more clients, more leads, more prospects. I think back to way back in the day one of those jobs I mentioned before, those crappy jobs you take just to get through college. I worked as a jewelry salesman in a mall.
Jason: At one of those kiosks [crosstalk 00:22:36] in the middle?
Chris: No, I was in an actual store and I had to wear a suit. It looked from the outside like a pretty cliché job, but it was totally like minimum wage plus commissions if you can make them. I remember I was complaining one time about our product mix I was like, “You know this are all the same wedding sets and the same bands and the same tennis bracelet, this is all the same stuff, are we ever going to get any new products in?”
He goes okay, my manager says, “Hey do you have your contact card on you?” I go, “Yeah,” and I whipped out my contact card and it was all the people that I had called to make appointments with to come in and try to pitch them on something there. He goes, “Okay, have these people seen every product that we have in the store?” “No.” “Great then you have new products all for them,” and I had never thought of it that way before like that client that didn’t know I did websites.
Good God Jason all I had to do is pick up the phone, “Hey guys yeah, project is going great thanks a lot. I really appreciate you being able to help out with this. Hey look, I noticed you are still using a GeoCities site,” and just have that conversation. “Oh, you can help with that?” “Yes I can help with that.” “Well, that’s great. Why don’t we set a meeting and we’ll come in and talk.”
That’s all I had to do is just reach out and maybe I would have gotten the business maybe not. I didn’t even open my mouth because it didn’t occur to me that maybe I just need to put a new product under their nose and see what they think. Just so clueless in the early days but I think we all go through that phase.
Jason: The thing is it’s funny too because you always think the grass is greener. I think that that’s why a lot of freelancers or just business in general much rather spend the money on the people that aren’t even customers, those leads, prospects whoever they are might be out there rather than really just putting, “Hey, let’s put some emphases on our current clients and what we can do to serve them better.”
On my fault to that too I’m always looking to see who else is out there, but the same time like you said to be able to have that foundation to get maybe every other client. To get them on the hook for another project that just means that I don’t have to go get another one. I don’t have to get a new client for that because I already have that project and I’m booked up for that.
I’d like to tell a lot of the people that I talk to consulting wise and help coach and stuff like that, is look I have seven clients I don’t have 100 clients, I don’t need 100. I just serve those seven clients to the best of my ability and beyond, I try to exceed their expectations of what I do and they hang around. Just be human about it, don’t be like a call center or something like that where you are just, “Okay this project is done, where is the next one?” Let’s see if how we can serve our own existing clients better.
Chris: A lot of this is going to deal with a freelancer’s personal capacity. I know that over here at Cogeian Systems at the peak, I think I’ve had a head count of six maybe eight. I think those last two were kind of on a [inaudible 00:25:35] bit. My point is at one point I had six-ish people, two dozen open client projects at any given time all for different projects.
Now I’ve got a head count of three and I’ve got maybe a dozen client projects open at a time but it’s only for four different clients. It’s a tremendously different mix. The quantity just the sheer number is going to be dictated by head count and personal capacity and things like that. The client to project ratio having that skewed way in favor of having multiple project going per client, that makes a huge difference in task switching. Focus, marketing focus, the actual operations, the actual execution of the work, everything has so much more leverage behind it.
Doing multiple projects for the same client, then it does if every single time you switch your focus from one project to the next, well now you are ramping up a whole new set of contact info, a whole new person that you are sending email to. A whole new style of communication because maybe the contact for this project is a little pre-clear than the one from the other project and so on and so forth.
It is such a high leverage activity to resell stuff to the same clients. It’s so overlooked I imagine because nobody can make money marketing books and courses, teaching people how to sell stuff to the clients they already have. Getting new leads, like that’s a much sexier preposition.
Jason: Well that goes back to that grass is greener thing or shiny object. Like, “Hey look, Facebook has ads now.” I remember when that came up and people were like, “We got to jump on that now because the cost per clicks on Google AdWords is a lot higher.” Like you know what I haven’t spent a penny on any ad ever and I have been doing this full time for seven years.
Chris: I don’t mean to disparage the idea of getting new leads, as a matter of fact that’s what I want to talk about next. I like doing things in kind of a well-rounded way, it always weirds me out, it weirded me out that I worked for three years without acquiring a single new client I was just only reselling stuff.
Then I know other people, well that’s great if you can do it but I had to build my business up for 10 years before I could, was able to do that. Then I know other people they will email me, “Hey man I need some advice,” and the idea of reselling hasn’t even occurred to them. I’m thinking okay, I’m picturing a pie chart in my head and I’m like, “Okay, so repeat sales and repeat business goes over here.” Some part of that pie chart really needs to be new blood, because if you are not doing that at all clients they fall out eventually.
I’ve had people go out of business, I’ve had people stop working with me, I’ve had people switch to a competitor all sort of stuff you never know what’s going to happen. If you don’t have I think you have to have some kind of a stream of fresh prospects coming in. That’s probably the next thing we should talk about because clearly we are on the same page with; maintain the client relationship, check in with your people, make sure it’s an actual relationship and not just a transaction.
Any of the freelancers out there who are listening to this right now, if you are not doing that it doesn’t take much. Like Jason said, just a phone call every quarter stick your finger in the air see which way the wind is blowing and see if there is an opportunity to offer help. That alone will probably get you some deals.
I want to switch gears now and talk about what you are doing now in terms of getting the fresh leads in the door; the new people, the strangers, the ones who don’t already know you. What is your set up look right now for attracting prospects?
Jason: I’m not a sales guy by any stretch of imagination and I’m not one for handing out business cards, in fact I don’t have business cards. I’ve always tried to leverage my own skill sets as a developer. Like I would mention before is to be able to have a solid foundation of things coming in like recurring clients or something like that.
To have new leads coming to me, I learned early on that when you are heads down in client work and you go three weeks without doing anything about thinking about bringing in somebody new, that’s going to hurt a lot more when you actually do need it. Because now you have to kind of ramp up again. You have to be like, “Oh, I have to get myself out there and pound the pavement,” kind of thing.
How do I leverage word of mouth or how do I leverage my skills to be able to attract new clients. Especially starting out even now a lot of what I get from new leads is through social media or looking on communities that I belong to, that kind of a thing.
You could spend hours just in some Reddit thread looking, reading through adding things and all that stuff and then all of a sudden the whole day goes by. You are like, “Oh, I didn’t mean to do that,” or switching Twitter or Craigslist even. People will knock Craigslist but I’ve had a lot of long term clients come from there.
What I did was, I was able to set myself up to kind of be first in line when something was posted. I use things like Zapier and IFTTT to be able to do that. Think a little bit outside the box. Hey, if I’m performing a search on Twitter, how can I automate this in some way so that it’s always going and it’s always doing things while I’m working and still be able to jump in when something appealing comes along?
I got a client through Craigslist and they were online video subscription company and they had clients like PGA, Gander Mountain big brands. I got that through Craigslist because of this system that I set up. I’ve kind of open switched this at this point there is process to be able to use Twitter and Craigslist and stuff.
If anybody is listening you can just go to rezzz.com/100k and you will get right into there and you will get a free bonus as well just by listening to Chris in this awesome podcast. To be able to have people think a little bit outside the box and leverage what their skill set is, I think that gives us a huge advantage as a freelancer to be able to do that because you can’t do that in a corporate job. There is a sales team, there is a sales team there is a marketing team you can’t go outside that box.
Let’s be a little bit more strategic and smart about it, because hey the big companies still use those kind of grassroots ways of finding people. If you can be there in front of them right away, that looks huge on you especially in a professional way.
Chris: The general level of quality that you are going to find in place of that Craigslist on average is not going to be as high, it’s a little bit like mining for diamonds. You might have to turn over 40 tons of earth to get a carats worth of jewelry grade diamond. The fact that you are able to automate it and the fact that you are able to kind of separate the good from the bad, that’s good stuff.
Being on Craigslist isn’t always so much an indicator of a low quality client as it is maybe a client who is not technically savvy. That may just mean that there are a better prospect not a worse one. Like you said, you’ve got to automate it because if you were doing that by hand the value add just would not be there.
Jason: Believe me before I did all of that I would like, I literally had it in my calendar every Tuesday night from 5 to 8 that’s when I did my lead gen. I mean I had a box called lead gen. every single week on Tuesdays. If they didn’t post during that time let’s say they posted on Wednesday and I didn’t do that again until next week, that was long gone.
I wound up seeing ads from like ESPN and the NFL and things like that I would be like, “Oh, I could have done that I fit this qualifications. They are hiring contractors, how did I miss out on this.” That for me was like my burn like, “I could have gotten this I just wasn’t first in line.”
Like you said Craigslist it is like finding a diamond, but when that diamond posts you want to be right there. Especially if they post on something that you are good at and you know you can do, you want to be first in line.
Chris: Right. Now aside from the automated scrapping for lack of a better word to check forward buying signals on Craigslist and Twitter and what not. Are you doing any of the more, I hate to use the word traditional because there is really nothing traditional about online marketing? You know the big thing these days is content marketing or doing live workshops or write these hyper helpful blog posts and then SEO the heck out of them. Are you doing any of that kind of more standard online type stuff?
Jason: A little bit I guess. On my services side I do things for e-commerce like just blogging, but it’s more I don’t that at the whole; let me SEO, let me look at that long tail key words and all that kind of stuff. For me that’s just I don’t know, it’s almost always the time for me. The reason why I say that is because I almost use my blog post is like here.
If we are not a good fit, you could just go follow this blog post and do it yourself. I’m still giving value add to maybe a prospect that finds me. A lot of what I do for new leads is warm outreach. It’s not so much that it’s prospects that know me but it’s like; colleagues, vendors, people that I’ve worked with that know what I do and the value that I provide to be able to say, “Hey look.”
By colleague I mean somebody that does exactly the same thing that I do, I never look at them as competition because there is only so many hours in the day. He’s going to have overflow work or I’m going to have overflow work and we could toss work back and forth. Also with vendors too, WooCommerce, subscriptions, affiliate WP this are all things that I work with. I let those companies know, “Hey, look I don’t know if you have a VIP consultant list,” or whatever you want to call it, “For your support team but I just want to throw my name into the hat if you do.”
I get plenty of leads and prospects coming down that route as well and that for me has allowed me not to have to go and buy ads. I do social media, I do all of that kind of stuff to stay out in front of things and to have a face out there. I’ll be honest the value of a blog post I couldn’t tell you what the ROI on that is for me, because I don’t use it in the way that some of the content marketers do.
Chris: Now why is that do you think? Is that, is there some black magic to it that you haven’t taken the time to learn. Is one of those things where your other activities are high leverage enough that that one just doesn’t seem to stack up?
Jason: I think it goes back to leveraging my skills, I’m not a writer. For me it’s better if somebody know who I am and then reads the blog post because they will be like, “Okay, this is him.” If somebody brand new comes along they will be like, “What the heck.” I throw my sarcasm in there it’s like it’s me when you read it. English is not something that I’m good at if you are looking for like a well written article with commas in the right place and apostrophes used in the right way, this is not me.
I think for me if I can leverage other things, I’ve always been good at the technical aspects but being able to translate business goals into technical aspects. I kind of know that that’s where my sweet spot is.
I can go out and talk to the other companies that I use their software and say, “Hey look, this is what I do.” When they get their customers saying, “Hey, we need this feature built,” and they are never going to build that or it’s not on the road map or something like that they say, “Hey Jason can go build this for you.”
Chris: That’s huge, I know that there is a big push these days in marketing circles to get away from relying on referrals, to get away from relying on word of mouth. I think that a strong network is probably the strongest marketing tool that a freelancer can have and I know there are people who disagree with me.
In fact some of the guests that I have scheduled to come on and co-host they’ll probably disagree with me, so we can have a great argument about that in the later episode. There seems to be a definite thrill line with the folks that sustain a career over the long term, there are not doing a bunch of work for strangers all the time. They are pretty steadily drawing from their own community of context.
Sure maybe you developed that community in part by doing a lot of upend marketing, that’s fine I’ll stipulate to then. The fresh complete stranger coming out of nowhere because they read a blog post type leads, those don’t appear to be the biggest component in sustaining a career. At least not from the extent of what I’ve been able to observe and talk about with people.
Jason: Yeah. Business is about people to be honest with you and like you said before it’s just, it’s more of a relationship not a transaction. If you want to be sustainable like your best friend you don’t have a best friend for three days, you have a best friend for years. If you want a sustainable business look at it like that just be able to hey look. If you have a best friend for just three days then you are not going to be sustainable.
Chris: That was another thing, it was hard for me to learn, it was hard for me to realize. When I moved to the middle of California which is simultaneously the Bible Belt and the Farm Belt I never knew California had either, I grew up in beach towns man. I moved out here and things were very different and people did not take to me.
I was coming from a culture where if you are more competent operator, then I’m going to give you the work because I want it done competently. I come out here and I’m talking to people and they are saying, “Yeah you know my brother in law he screwed up our website so I need you to fix it, but I’m not going to fire him because he is a real good guy. So if you could just fix his work and then I’ll let him go back to maintaining it and then if he breaks it again maybe I’ll call you.”
Here I am let me set the stage Jason, this is a farm town effectively. Here I am, I’m a jackass big city developer and I’m going out prospecting in a suit and tie because I’m like you got to put your best foot forward and it was really off putting to people. I had no idea for about the first six months I was prospecting business. I kept running into scenarios like this, “Like so and so is a real good guy I’m not going to fire him.”
I didn’t quite put it all together. I knew that business was about relationships but the context of those relationships, what those relationships were based on and my professional experience to them had been real transactional and real competency based. I had to get to hip to the more personal side of it real fast because it cost me I don’t know how many jobs I missed out on before I actually got a clue.
Jason: Yeah. You can play in the sand box, a lot of people talk about that too. What you do on Twitter you can’t do on Facebook and you can’t do on Reddit and things like that. For the business you kind of have to find where you sweet spot lies. There are clients out there that I would love to land and I know I could do good with them, but maybe just personality wise it’s not a fit. Business is about people and it’s about relationships it’s not two logos talking to each other, it’s two people talking to each other.
Chris: Yes, it’s not just two logos talking to each other, I love that. I’m going to let that hang in the air and go ahead and move toward wrap up here. We can find you online as Rezzz that’s three z’s on Twitter. Your primary URL is also rezzz with three z’s .com. You’ve got your rezzz.com $100k course, thank you for that I appreciate you going out of your way and setting something up just for the listeners. Then you are just about ready to launch another course called Feast yes?
Jason: Actually we just wrapped up a launch, but yes Feast and actually I will be opening up that to an evergreen model. Definitely listeners if you are interested in Feast and building a sustainable freelance business and stuff like that, check it out.
Chris: Fantastic, Jason thanks so much for coming on man. I’ve had my eye on you as a guest for a long time, this is great. I really appreciate you sharing the benefit of your experience and some of your tactics in the way you run your business. It’s really good stuff, thank you.
Jason: Thanks Chris appreciate it.
Chris: All right, take care brother.