Chris: It is an amazing site – Freelance Switch is so comprehensive.
Sean: What we’re doing right now is actually micro business based because this is really interesting space because there is a lot of passion on this subject right now. It’s not like you couldn’t do this five years ago, I mean there were people that skipped freelancing and went straight to this, this was their thing. They were passionate about launching their own business, that’s the kind of thing that we’re touching on the site now because it’s a natural progression that a freelancer can take. It’s obviously not the only direction they can take, you can stay a freelancer – just a one man show, you can increase your appeal to clients and narrow down and target, niche more, and just get very specific about who you’re bringing in and you can increase your income that way. You can turn into an agency or even hire just a handful of people to help you whether you call yourself an agency or brand yourself as an individual with a couple of helpers, whatever it is. I mean that’s another way to go, but micro business is just this huge space and you can just launch an ebook and that just becomes one more level of income for you. Whether you’re an illustrator, designer, or writer, or whatever you are, if you’re working from a home office, you can dedicate just a little bit of time to basically a side project. Or even if you’re working customer service in a crap job, if you just put a little bit of time towards a product, something that you could add value in. You’ve read a lot on a topic, you’ve done it and you see just this one glaring area that would appeal to people. And you just tackle it, you know, you launch a blog on it, you release a book, you release a community.
Chris: You’re exactly right, this is one of the main things we’ve been talking about on my podcast lately. You kind of don’t have a choice now, I don’t think you have to go full on entrepreneur. I feel like you have a choice there, but I feel like you have to have some element of entrepreneurship which actually has always been true for freelancers, but now that this idea of freelancing has changed so much. I feel like a bit of entrepreneurship comes with it, like that’s just part of the package, that’s part of the deal.
Sean: I agree, I mean I think at the very least the spirit of entrepreneurship is there, I mean I don’t remember what the actual definition of an entrepreneur is and I don’t know if I care. I guess entrepreneurship is usually like Silicon Valley is what we see it as, just like this big startups or something.
Chris: Venture capital and what not.
Sean: That’s how I picture I don’t know the origins of the word. So people start throwing words around like solo-preneur or something like that but it all starts to sound cheesy once you say…
Chris: Mash ups.
Sean: Are you an (inaudible)? It starts to get really lame.
Chris: So what are you exactly?
Sean: Just be you, I mean that’s a big trend right now. I mean, and it’s more than a trend. People want to follow real people, they don’t want to follow robots. They want to know…launch a site with your name and do something, you know?
Chris: Yeah. Nobody falls in love with a logo. Freelancing is still around but the nature of freelancing to me seems to have changed.
Sean: Basically you know, 2007ish is probably when there was major changes, you’re getting online portfolios. This idea of creating a space that’s your name online, you’re being able to tap international clients and be competing in an international sphere, seeing the growth of sites like The Hands where you can put your portfolio up and real art directors can easily find you. And so you’re able to compete on just such a higher plane and you can see it, you can feel it, you can touch it more. Before you’d have to go and get some kind of illustrator’s marketing handbook and what are you going to do, just mail it out to someone? I mean, send postcards? I mean that’s what people used to do ten years ago. I mean when I was taking the handful of art classes I did, that’s what was being taught, those kind of really old school tactics. You can still use those old school tactics, it’s a way to maybe touch someone in a more physical way to send something like that out, but yeah. I guess that wave, I think everyone listening already knows about all that. It’s more like what is happening in the last six months? You know what I mean? Like, because everything already knows about all that. There’s nothing really that needs to be explained. I think what it is more is like deciding how do you specifically want to market yourself because there’s too many avenues for your time. You can’t be everywhere and active. I mean you can have your portfolio up and pay attention to it and get notified, basically everyone listed, they’ve just got to come up with a workable strategy. You do not have to be on Facebook, you don’t have to ever open Facebook. But you should be somewhere and you should have a strategy that actually leads to clients, that actually leads to sales and works. And that’s what everyone needs to develop, so as you’re reading and stuff, don’t feel like you have to do everything because I think it’s easy to feel that way. It’s easy to feel like every tactic you read just sounds like oh, that’s going to be the next thing that works. No, no, just do two or three things and just bring them to fruition. Just take them as far as they need to go until you actually see results, before you try to do the next thing.
Chris: So what is a freelancer to do? How do you not get sucked into that black hole of the huge time wasters and how do you navigate that?
Sean: Well, I think for most people there’s phases in their career. For me it was 2007-2009 where I did waste a lot of time. But it’s almost like I had to go through that. A buddy of mine, Chase Reeves teaches people this kind of micro business stuff and a really good web designer, he calls it the digging phase, like you’re going through something that you’re just digging through information and you’re kind of lost but that’s okay because that’s kind of where you need to be. And it sucks if you’ve got financial responsibilities and can’t meet them or something but that aside, it’s not a bad place to be in. There’s so much growth that can happen by just reaching for everything at once. So I don’t want to discount that, but at some point you have to start limiting your input.
Chris: Wow, that’s great.
Sean: So, what I did was I just turned off my feed reader and I stopped buying books for a while. I now have my feed reader back on this year but for a couple years I just turned it off and I started focusing on blogging.
Chris: Yeah, me too.
Sean: Just that, and I can’t do everything at once so a big part is just finding that focus and stop reading every productivity tip out there. I love 99New, it’s a great site but don’t read like a hundred sites like that. Maybe take one, and don’t try to implement every single tip, just pay attention to like there’s okay, there’s another possible productivity thing or this is another system I might implement. Do I actually have time for this? Is it actually going to fit into what I’ve already got structured? So you start to look at your thing that you’ve built, your business and does this advice improve it or not and then is it easy to implement, is it quick or is it going to take me like a year? Is it worthwhile to put this much time into and it’s going to take away this much time that I could be like making direct income from freelance illustrating? So you get more savvy with your business thinking, your planning and that kind of thing, and seeing things more strategically.
Chris: I think the longer you do it, the more you get a sense of what’s working and the more attention you pay to the things you suspect are working, the more clear it becomes whether they actually are working or not. So you get a hunch that something was effective and then you sort of…that maybe starts to get more of your attention and then it’s over time that you realize okay, actually that wasn’t as effective as I thought it was, that was a fluke that everybody liked that post. It starts to kind of filter things for you. For example, I was investing in Tumblr a lot and I still do because I like it but it’s more of just for fun now. But I was doing that for a while and at first it seemed like oh, this is going to be…whatever…20% of my energy is going to be devoted to that. And over time it just kind of plateaued and just held steady. If nothing else was working, I could just go insist on figuring it out. But because so many other things are working, meanwhile my YouTube channel was growing and I wasn’t doing anything about that. I wasn’t investing in YouTube and yet, I was increasing in subscribers and people were commenting and there was all this activity going on over there that I was basically ignoring because I had my mind made up about Tumblr. So anyway, as I kind of backed out and just went okay, again maybe we need to prune the hedge a bit here. What is definitely working and then you know, you start to realize what is worth your time and energy, your very limited time and energy, and then you can kind of…it sort of starts to speak to you after a while. I think a lot of students especially that are starting out with social media, they feel all this pressure because they feel like they have to know their entire strategy starting out. I think it’s more like riding a wave like surfing, you kind of have to…part of it is taking you somewhere that you don’t really get to decide but you do get to decide whether you want to get off the wave or not?
Sean: 95% just do stuff, just do stuff you’re passionate about 95% of the time. Structure everything so that you are going things, literally set aside schedule for yourself 5% of the time that you can track, you can analyze and you can plan. This is one of the best tips that I have received. For me, I just set aside a Friday afternoon for two hours where I pull out my business plan and (inaudible) freelancers for my side project stuff and I see what progress that I made and whatever statistics I’m able to track, if you’ve got your own blog, it’s ridiculously easy to track what’s working and what’s not working, what’s being commented on, what’s not being commented on, what’s getting great traffic. Can I repeat this success? Is there a formula there that worked, what’s really resonating with my audience and can I dive deeper? And once you’re setting aside this kind of time, it’s like you just naturally start to think that way more too. So you can be just as creative but you’re starting to add just a little more strategy even when you’re doing creative stuff, maybe not drawing, maybe before you draw you plan what it is. But when I draw stuff, it’s not very good but I just forget about time and space, it’s just like pure pleasure to draw something. The point is to make real relationships, like reach out to people whether they’re like best friendsies or it’s just a professional friendship, the more of those you have that’s just killer. Those are the things that really drive your career forward and it just makes everything more fun man, I mean the more people you’re chatting with and sharing and isn’t that the whole point?