Freelance fish

I’m currently working on a program to help freelancers with 3-5 years of experience double their income. This is the intro blog post where I'll explain why I'm doing this, how I'm going to try and double one's income, and the timeline.

I've selected 2 fishes for the first cohort.

Why am I doing this?

There are many courses out there that tell you what to do, and some of them are great. But my intention of doing this was to actually take action rather than preach.

When I was brainstroming on how I can productise the service, an idea that came up was on how I could help freelancers with email outreach service. Another idea that came up was how I could help freelancer specialise and position themselves.

Both these ideas together had synergistics effects done together and the final outcome of it would be a client contract that pays double the hourly rate in the hands of the freelancers. Delivering actual value instead of subjective value.

A lot of freelancers also have a hard time transitioning because they have to take a risk of not having work for a while when they are transitioning, but because I'll be helping them with this, they can do it as a part time thing.

Also, outreach and sales are quite often overlooked. I believe I can help freelancers with that.

In the process, I’d like to document what happens and share it with people on my blog. This would keep me accountable but my learnings on the journey will also be helpful.

How am I going to double a intermediate fish's income?

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to take three freelancers aka fishes through the program I've defined below. I will help each of them specialize and position themselves.

In the process, I'll create a productized service that solves an expensive problem. After this, I’m going to help them with cold outreach to their target market.

By the end of it, the fish will land on at least one customer that pays double their current hourly rate.

I’ve expanded each step in detail below. I’ve also taken the freedom to put down some numbers on how much time each step may take.

After recording the podcast with Brian Casel, I started brainstorming about the ways freelancefish could productize a service. And now, I'm productizing how to productize your services as a freelancer. So meta.

The whole program is influenced by guests on the podcasts and the people I've interviewed for posts on the blog. I've added a list of courses and books that have helped me at the end of this post.

Program structure

1. Specialization and Positioning:

The goal in this step is to understand which type of client the fish can add most value. The direct way to do this is look for old projects where the fish has delivered a lot of value for the client.

Philip Morgan has an amazing framework for making this decision. You can also listen to our podcast where I had a very interesting conversation with Philip on the same.

I'm going to focus on where the fish has a head start of some kind: Based on their experience, and past clients.

If there are common dots between the type of work you've done and the clients you've worked for this may be the best fit.

It's ideal to narrow down where the fish has delivered tons of value for the client. Also isolate the types of clients or industry they've enjoyed working in.

After this, I factor in the risk and upside between the different alternatives.

If possible, connect the fish to people they look up to in the field. This will help them get more clarity

I hope to do this in 1 week.

The first conversation will be going through past work and listing down projects by value delivered. Then let all the options marinate and add more information around each alternative. By then end of it we'll know what problem the fish can add most value to.

The fish and I are then going to narrow the target audience as much as possible. This will help you find leads better and serve those clients much better.

There are two ways the fish can go about this :

  1. Clients/industries the fish's services in the past have added the most value to the business - Preferred
  2. Potential clients and industries where the services could add a lot more value.

Doing this will give the fish a better understanding of the clients business.

Positioning to a certain audience also means that you're a more appealing to that market. They'd prefer to work with someone who is an expert in solving their problems vs a generalist.

At the end of the day, you are giving the client lesser reasons to worry about execution and delivery of the service.

Here are some examples of what happens after you position yourself :

Before: I build Websites After: I build Websites for plastic surgeons

Before: I am an SEO consultant After _I am an SEO consultant for content-heavy online publications that depend heavily on ad revenue _

Before: I’m a copywriter After I’m a copywriter for life coaches who sell their services online

I'll work with the fish to create copy for the landing page/ LinkedIn profile and email pitches. Then we'll work on creating a simple landing page through clientree.

Make sure it's concise, crisp and clear. By the end of the exercise, this copy should be able to appeal to 1000 people you can help in this world.

Once I understand the market, it will be easier to create a packaged service that can solve the client's problem.

Then host a group session for the cohort and one on one sessions to help narrow down the positioning.

By the end of this step, the fish will have clarity on a very specific problem they can solve for a very small group of people.

An elevator pitch of sorts.

This should take about a week especially because we'll iterate atleast a few times over a lot of the copy.

By the end of this milestone, the goal is to help you figure out the single most expensive problem that you are in the best position to help people solve. The problem you focus on should build on your unique stregths and cater to your ideal client's specific problems.

This step will form the foundation for the whole program.

2. Building the leads list:

By the time the fish reaches here and has completed the last two milestones, it becomes very clear who I'll have to reach out to.

Ideally, I'd like to reach out to the decision-makers in those organizations the fishes want to serve.

There are different tools I can use depending on the industry I'm going after.

Here are some tools that will be helpful

  • LinkedIn,
  • Searching online directories,
  • Look at events/communities that serve this industry
  • Online forums where your target audience lurks
  • Fish's personal network of old clients
  • Crunchbase

The tools may obviously change if the target audience is very different. I’ll also look at the fish's Linked In network and see if there’s any person in their personal network that could refer them to a potential client.

Being referred is always a better start because of the trust that comes from association.

What not to go after :

  • Companies/startups that are cash strapped.
  • Businesses that are very new
  • Businesses that have no cash flow
  • Businesses where you can't add any value

I will do most of the grunt-work here and build a list of people that fish can approach. I'm aiming to make a list of 50 cold leads for each fish.

I expect this to take 1 day per participant, so 3 days for this.

3. Outreach:

I've had my fair share of successes and failures along my way with cold outreach.

Kai Davis' outreach mastery course has helped a lot.

People buy from you for one of two reasons: they’re either convinced (either by you or by others, e.g. a referral) that hiring you is the best option; or alternatively, you’ve shown them that you’re the best.

So in outreach we're going to first work on looking at your personal network, and checking if you can possibly get referred to a potential client.

This is always much quicker and much better than cold outreach because there is some trust that is pre-established. We will also do cold outreach in parallel.

The outreach emails are going to be simple and straightforward. The fish and I have already figured out how and who the freelancer can help.

The goal is to convince the decisionmaker that the fish can solve their problem and the fish will explain how on a free consultation.

The call to action on the email will be a consultation call. If there is no response in the email, I'll follow up asking for a connection to the right person in the organisation.

Why the introductory call?

If you find a lead via cold outreach, we have to try and get on a call with the lead to explain to the client how he/she can solve their problem. This is when you can convince them that you're one of the best persons out there to solve the given problem.

Here is where you'll have to show them how you can solve the problem their currently facing.

The fish gets to establish expertise and the client gets a lot of solutions to his/her problems.

The potential client could go find someone else to do the same work, now that he knows what the solution is. But that's highly unlikely.

The goal in the outreach emails is to establish trust. No one is going to buy a 5 figure service from a cold email. They need to get to know you better before they commit even a dollar. Scheduling a call helps with that.

The email signature on the outreach email can have have a helpful piece of content. This can be a case study on how you've solved a problem for a previous client of a similar profile.

If potential client responds with more questions or if they schedule a call, all well and good. If every batch I send out has no responses, I'll have to rethink the fish's positioning and specialisation.

I'd like to have at least 10 positive responses. I'm aware that cold outreach to the right target audience can lead to higher conversion rates sometimes but I'm aiming for a 20% conversion rate.

Depending on how personalised the emails are here this can take anything between 1-2 weeks. I'll send emails in batches of 10 to optimise for conversion rate. So 5 batches would take 2 weeks, or so.

4. Call with potential clients  :

First step in the call is to understand the clients problem. Then its to deduce whether the fish can solve it. If the answer is yes, the call is mostly then to establish that you're the best person to solve this problem.

If your skillset won’t be able to solve the problem, then there’s no point of beating around the bush. We'll just let the client know that we won't be able to solve that problem.

By the end of this call, the client gets to know us really well and more importantly has an understanding of your expertise.

The client walks away with a bunch of new ideas that could help them improve their business. The client also learns that the big fish understands their business and understands what at stake if the project fails.

By the end of this milestone, the big fish either has a client who's interested in his/her services or not. If they've expressed interest, the next step is to send proposals.

By the end of this milestone, the I hope to have converted at least 3 of those 10 email responses to clients who are interested in the service and want proposals.

I'll do this in parallel with outreach, so whenever a client responds affirmatively, I'll set up an intro call.

**5. Proposal and Pricing :  **

The big fish and I will then work on a proposal which has

  • The problem or pain
  • The solution
  • The offer
  • Overcome objections
  • Find some social proof
  • Asking for the sale

The big fish will anchor his entire proposal against the problem and the financial upside for the client.

I'll deduce the amount of value the fish is adding to the client's business.  This could either be new revenue or savings.

I will also pitch at least two options in the proposal. One small package that has much lesser scope of work, and one large package that takes care of everything. There could also be a third option that's somewhere in between.

The reasoning here is the client has an option to pick the smaller engagement if they want to test out the waters before they fully commit to a large sum.

I'll help the fish craft the proposal here.

By the end of this milestone, I'd have sent out the proposal and would have at least one customer paying double the fish's previous hourly rate.

This will also happen in parallel to outreach, or after outreach depending on when the clients will respond. But I'd like to have a paid engagement within 2 weeks after outreach ends.

Onwards and upwards

I estimate the whole program will take around 6-7 weeks.

I do understand there are a lot of unknowns. But I'd like to see them for myself by actually executing on this plan.

If you're interested in doing this by yourself and following the course as the fishes and I go about it, signup to the email list. You can also email me, and I can help keep you accountable.

If you'd like for this service to be done for you, you can sign up here.

Courses and people that have influenced this program

  1. Double your Freelancing by Brennan Dunn
  2. The Positioning Manual by Philip Morgan
  3. Specializing Without Failure by Philip Morgan
  4. Productize and Scale by Brian Casel
  5. Outreach Mastery by Kai Davis