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Vast worlds

There are some things that if considered too often, or too carefully, can quickly become overwhelming.

For instance:

Every person you cross paths with today is a complex human, full of thoughts, emotions, fears, hopes, desires, failures, and so on. Walking around a crowded city, you’re surrounded by entire worlds, inside the vast sea of people you wade through.

Drilling down even further, it gets all the more mind-blowing: every person you see walking around is carrying around some measure of fear.

Fear that they’ll get fired. Fear that they’ll lose an important relationship. Fear that they won’t be a good parent. Fear that they aren’t a good child. Fear that they won’t do what they’re meant to with their life. Fear that they’re wasting time in a relationship. Fear that people will see them for the fraud they think they are. Fear that people will see them for the fraud they actually are.

Of course, each of those people is also carrying around positive thoughts and feelings, too. At least, I hope they are. They are loved, respected, cared for, thought well of, missed, adored, and cherished.

Consider your world: all the physical spaces you inhabit, the friends and family you interact with, the people you touch in a myriad of various ways large and small. Your life is a vast expanse of depth, complexity, and nuance.

Now consider that all around you, there are thousands of worlds like that, inhabited by people who are both quite similar to, and vastly different than you.

But don’t consider that for too long. It can be a bit much.

Using Drip trigger links for fun and profit

In a recent email to my list (sign up if you run a membership site or if you like awesome gifs), I recommended that any membership site without a discussion forum should seriously consider setting one up (building community is one of the best ways to keep members sticking around for longer). My forum software of choice is Discourse, so I put together a very quick post on how to set up Discourse. Nothing fancy, just some basic instructions, and more importantly in the context of the email, it was something to link to.

Then, in my Drip broadcast, I set up the link to that post as a trigger link:

trigger link

I then set up a workflow to run when that link is clicked:

discourse workflow

Now, I’ve established that there’s interest in setting up Discourse, and I have an extremely targeted list of people to market to, offering to do that for them. I’ll likely promote that service more widely as well, but I can push it more heavily to that list. Repeat with multiple other products & services, and using trigger links in your emails becomes a pretty powerful tactic.

Watsi for my birthday

Today’s my birthday! I made it another year, and I am extremely blessed, most especially by my wonderful wife Amanda and our son Kyle.

I have one request for all of you today: please consider donating to, my favorite charity. Watsi funds healthcare for those in need around the world, and does so in a radically transparent way (all of their financials are publicly visible). 100% of your donation goes directly to fund medical care; operating expenses are covered by foundations, philanthropists, and donors who leave an optional tip.

If you don’t feel called to donate or can’t afford to right now, that’s totally fine! But please share this; perhaps someone else will. And have a great day!

And if you do donate, please comment here or let me know on twitter!

Mastermind groups are awesome

December 2015 update: I wrote a book on freelancing/consulting with my mastermind group. Learn more about that here.

Freelancing Consulting can get lonely

As a freelancer (don’t use that word!), more than likely you work alone a lot of the time. Whether that’s in a home office, from a coffee shop, or a shared office space, you’re the only one working on your business. Now, working alone can be great, of course; it means you’re the sole decision-maker, you have complete autonomy over how you run your business, you get to decide how to deal with difficult client situations, etc.

The problem is, sometimes outside input can be immensely valuable! Other people often have valuable perspectives to offer, based on their experience and their lack of emotional investment in a situation.

Having a business partner (which I do) helps with that, but even so, it can still be great to get input from another trusted source. That’s why I think being part of a mastermind group is one of the most valuable changes you can make in your business.

A little over four months ago, Michael and I joined a mastermind group with Nick, Jane, Philip, Zack, Kai, Kurt, Jeremy, and Jonathan. Joining this group has been the single most valuable change we’ve made to our business in… ever. That may sound extreme or flippant, but I believe it’s true. We continually push each other to be better at what we do, help each other communicate better with clients, deliver (and charge for!) more value, and encourage each other.

Convinced, but don’t know what to do next? Read on.

Talk to people

The only reason I’m in this mastermind group is because Nick somehow knew of me, and knew we were working on a productized consulting service (inspired by his, as a matter of fact). I think perhaps Philip also knew of me, and they colluded on starting the group, but I can’t remember the details. However, I do know that it only happened because I’d interacted with them on Twitter at various times. If not for that, none of this would have happened.

If you know a few people local to you who is also independent and at roughly the same point in their journey, great! Start talking to them and suggest you formalize things somewhat and form a mastermind group.

Don’t know anyone local? No problem. Hop on Twitter, make some connections, and ask a few folks once you’ve built a relationship with them. Don’t know anyone there? Follow me on Twitter, see who I follow, see who follows me, etc.

Once you do get a group going, if you’re not sure what to talk about (especially if you’re all fairly new), I’d suggest reading a book or two together to give you some structure. Brennan Dunn’s Double Your Freelancing Rate and Alan Weiss’ Value Based Fees are both great choices. That will give you something to talk about, and help you improve your consulting acumen and pricing fairly quickly.

Need help?

If you have any questions about starting a mastermind group, what to talk about, etc., leave a comment or shoot me an email, and I’ll help however I can.

Don’t call yourself a freelancer

December 2015 update: I wrote a book on freelancing/consulting with my mastermind group. Learn more about that here.

The other day, I tweeted some advice to freelancers, including “don’t call yourself a freelancer.” I got a few responses asking why, so here’s an explanation.

In your clients’ minds, freelancers are inherently less valuable than [professional whatever you are]. Their neighbor’s unemployed college dropout kid who has a nice camera calls himself a freelancer. Their stoner second cousin who makes a pittance on Fiverr calls herself a freelancer. Is that who you want to be associated with?

Besides being asked why, I also got replies asking if not freelancer, then what? If you’re a writer, call yourself a writer. If you’re a designer, then say so. If there’s not a succinct term that encompasses what you do, then use “consultant” as your title.

Call yourself a professional, conduct yourself like a professional, deliver professional results, and set professional prices. You’ll enjoy your work a lot more, and earn more in the process.

Web Agency Podcast

I recently appeared on the Web Agency Podcast with Mat Newton, and had a great time. Mat and I talked about our (mine and my partner Michael’s) journey building our agency. We cover having a partnership, raising our prices, changing your mindset, conversion optimization, and much more. Give it a listen, and if you have any questions, I’d be happy to help.

Advice to a new freelancer

December 2015 update: I wrote a book on freelancing/consulting with my mastermind group. Learn more about that here.

I’ve been exchanging emails with a friend about his career, which includes considering whether to make a stronger move toward freelancing over employment. Yesterday he asked me this:

I guess I’m more of at of a loss of where to get clients. I honestly have no idea. I was thinking there was two routes to go down. 1) work with agencies or 2) work with small businesses. I figured the agency route would be much easier from a developer point-of-view, but since I haven’t done either, I’m just guessing. Which do you work with? Have a preference? Advice?

Here’s what I said, which should be useful to others not in his specific situation as well:

We (The Bright Agency) pretty much exclusively work directly with the end client. We’ve been happy with that, but if I were starting from a blank slate, I’d be going after whatever I could find, and building some agency relationships would almost certainly be part of that. I wouldn’t advise making that a long-term strategy as I believe your profit would be very limited, but it would get some projects under your belt and pay the bills. At the same time, I’d be trying to find end-client work as well. I think I’d give Robert Williams’ Workshop a try – I haven’t paid for the service as we get enough work without it, but his content is great, and I think it’s a compelling sales pitch for someone in your position.

I’d also strongly suggest reading Double Your Freelancing Rate if you haven’t already – it has a pretty solid foundation on pricing, how you position yourself and communicate that to leads/clients, etc. I’m a big believer in moving beyond the “$xx/hour for ____ development/design service” model, and toward the “$xxx/hour or $xx,xxx/week for making your business big money” model. I’d also suggest calling yourself a “consultant”, instead of a “freelancer”. Again, it’s all about the positioning.

The Value of Participating

One thing I’d like to do a lot more of this year is helping others, especially in the WordPress community. I am by no means an expert developer or mover and shaker in the community, but I do know that there are things I can do to help and teach others.

In that vein, I often offer up suggestions (especially grammatical suggestions) when people I follow on Twitter publish blog posts or other content on the web. Sometimes I wonder if it might come across as annoying, but I usually get a thank-you of some sort in response. I figure having a better-written post helps them look better to more people, so it’s probably welcome in most cases.

Brian Krogsgard is one person I’ve done that to a few times, and it must have made a a good impression on him, because the last time I did that, he responded by saying he’d like me to just make those edits myself:

I told him I’d love to help:

However, I didn’t expect what happened next. Brian emailed me a few days later, and asked if I’d be interested in coming on as a Contributing Editor to help with edits, writing posts, and generally growing the site. I was surprised, and very excited! The result is Brian’s post today announcing that I’ve joined the Post Status team.

I’m thrilled with this development, for two reasons. First, I really like Brian and what he’s doing in the WordPress community, and I’m really looking forward to working with him and getting to know him better. Second, I’m excited about the opportunity to get even more involved in the community, and help more people however I can.

My point in sharing this with you? Participating in a community, whether that’s WordPress or any other group of people, can result in unexpected opportunities. Sometimes it can be easy to keep your head down all the time and just focus on what you’re doing. Try to remember to talk with people, help out where you can, and stretch your boundaries every now and then. You never know what might happen.

And finally, I’ll note that I got Brian’s email inviting me to be a Contributing Editor on January 27th, my birthday. Coincidentally, I tweeted Brian an offer to help with working on Post Status exactly one year prior:

What took you so long, Brian?!?!

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