Working from home as a “freelancer.”
Is that something you dream of doing?
Many are attracted to the concept of doing something they enjoy for income from their home office–working in their pajamas.
There’s a lot of misconceptions about people who freelance from home. Most are not working in their pajamas. Most freelancers take it seriously and work hard to get ahead.
The thing is, it takes more than just hard work.
What does it take to succeed as a freelancer?
Well, besides hard work and dedication, it takes a few additional disciplines and skills–like time management, client relationships, and marketing yourself.
That’s a lot to cover. Which is why I wanted to talk with Brent Jones.
Jones devotes his blog to educating people who freelance or aspire to “live the dream.” If you want to succeed as a freelancer, let me introduce you now to Mr. Jones.
In this interview, I asked him many questions about what he does to make six figures as a freelancer and how he does it.
He provided a lot of helpful tips here in his answers.
So enjoy this interview via the video (audio) or you can read the transcript below.
And when this interview fires you up to start freelancing, you’ll need a platform to set up and I’ll be happy to help you do that.
Being your own boss is cool–when you know how to do it.
Enjoy! Let us know what you think in the comments.
Brent Jones Interview Transcript
(For those who like to read.)
The Freelance Success Interview with Brent Jones
Matthew: Hello Bloggers, today I’m chatting with Brent Jones.
He is a successful Freelancer who earns a six-figure income and enjoys helping other freelancers do the same. He is also a blogger and currently uses his blog to make those six-figures. Today I’m going to grill him on how he does this and we’re going to pick his brain on his secrets to success, notice I said we. The Build Your Own Blog audience has contributed to today’s questions, they provided about one-third of these questions. But, before we rake Brent over the coals let’s say hi to him.
Matthew: Hey Brent, how’s it going?
Brent Jones: Hey, I’m doing great Matt, you?
Matthew: I’m doing great man, it’s great to have you on here today.
Brent Jones: Always appreciate a chance to chat with you.
Matthew: Alright awesome, we’ll let’s go ahead and dive in.
First of all, Brent, when did you start freelancing?
Brent Jones: 2014, it’s just about two years ago now.
Matthew: Okay, can you share your story like, behind your decision to work for yourself?
Brent Jones: Yeah, I don’t know if it’s the most interesting story in the world, but I knew I wanted to do something, working for myself. By all accounts I had an awesome job at the time I was paid well, I had spent the better part of ten years in professional sales in one capacity or another.
It just really wasn’t fulfilling, I wanted something where I could really be in control of you my own business and sort of the “three pillars” I always use to describe freelancing which is: Freedom, Flexibility and Financial Independence.
It was funny because, my wife had moved to Canada. We got married in 2014 and she actually starting freelancing first, she moved here and she didn’t have a job when she first arrived so she kind of created her own job.
As I watched her start to build some success with that, I thought hey, “that’s something I could do, I could do something very similar here.”
Ultimately I quit my job and decided to sort of “jump in with both feet,” I wasn’t exactly sure what services I would offer and I wasn’t exactly sure if it would be a great success story or not, but I thought, “we tend to regret the things we don’t do, more than anything else.”
Brent: I thought, “this is a shot,” I’d really like to take here to see if I could do something similar and of course the rest is history from there.
Matthew: Did your friends and parents and relatives think you were crazy or what?
Brent: Yeah, I remember even my boss and leaving my last job. They’d been a little surprised by the whole thing.
My wife and I had just bought our first home, we got the keys in the hand and the same day I handed them my notice I said “hey I’m out!” and they said, “well, what are you going to do?” I said, “I don’t know, some sort of online freelancing thing.”
I was training in this great business development position for doing Fiverr gigs, and I was like, “are you sure you want to do this stuff for five Bucks?”
I had friends and family that thought I was crazed. “You’ve got a new wife, you’ve got a new mortgage and you’re quitting your job?”
I probably was a little crazy. I’m just not great at dividing my focus. I tend to do much better when I can focus on one thing at a time. I know a lot of new freelancers like to build up the side hustle while they’re still employed. That just wasn’t for me. I just knew that’s a recipe for disaster.
Fortunately, where we purchased our home in a smallish town of about thirty thousand … Fort Erie, Ontario, we’re about a mile from Buffalo, New York and the cost of living is very very low here.
To some extent we mitigated financial risk, but I certainly had friends and family and colleagues, that did and probably still do think I’m a little bit nuts, but that’s okay.
Matthew: Right, lol. When did you start a blog for your freelance business?
Brent: It was about the same time, and just going into the fall of 2014. It’s changed shapes and directions quiet a bit since then. It was kind of funny, I came online and I thought, “I should really have a blog or something.” I don’t know again it’s something like, some people follow that path where they already say, “they’re a journalist,” and they go freelancing, it’s like,”I’m going to be a freelance journalist.”But for me it was, “I’m going to freelance something I don’t know what.” I knew I didn’t want to be in sales or business development anymore, at least not directly.
Brent: Yeah, it was kind of like. I don’t know … I think I’ll throw up a blog and see what happens. I mean things have changed quite a bit since then but, earlier days it was … any generic topic related to digital marketing I can think of, “I’ll publish my two cents on it”.
Matthew: Wow, that’s pretty amazing you didn’t even have a niche – defined?
Brent: No, I had no idea. Today most of what I focus on is social media management.
Brent: Sometimes social media, almost copy writing, preparing posts and content like that for clients. I have helped today here as well which is great, it’s allowed me to scale my business.
The big draw for that was that, social media management type services, tend to involve a recurring monthly invoice.
One of the big complaints you hear from freelancers when it comes to the financial end of things especially when they’re new, is that they struggle with the incoming consistency. One month is great, they get a ton of writing jobs, everything is awesome and then the next month they’re kind of struggling to get by?
I was able to create some consistency for myself fairly quickly by focusing on social media services. It wasn’t that I had years and years and years of social media marketing experience, not by any means, but there’s a lot of free information online.
Brent: Certainly, I’ve raised my prices as my skills have improved. But no, I really did not have an established niche or idea as to what I was going to be doing when I first came online. So …
Matthew: That’s amazing, two years in, you’re still blogging right? You’re still using a blog for your freelance business. Why do you blog for your business?
Brent: The blog is almost a separate side project for me. Really if I wanted to be super clever about it I’d use my blog as more of an inbound marketing tool to speak to my ideal target customer.
The very things that I preach to my clients; “let’s get a proper inbound marketing strategy set up for you,” “let’s start producing content that your target customers would be looking for.”
I almost do the opposite of that. My blog is focused on helping other freelancers to really get started. To quit their day job to start their own online service based business.
There’s certainly a lot of avenues to monetize that, but at the same time I wouldn’t describe my blog as being directly related to my freelancing business. Unless you’d want to look at it as a social proof type perspective in terms of reach and engagement and those types of things.
Matthew: Yeah. You must have some monetization ideas in the future?
Brent: Yeah. There’s some things that are coming together. I always try to keep the main thing, “the main thing” sort of thing.
I know there’s tons of people that have success with sort of a passive income type model, but you and I both know it takes time to build up to that. Passive income is rarely earned as passively as a lot of marketers would have us believe.
I know a lot of people set up a blog with the idea of like, “I can set it and forget it …” “tons of money is going roll in overnight,” or whatever, of course that’s the dream. But the main thing for me has always been the active income, actively serving clients, providing services for people.
My main focus always goes there, serving my clients first.
But certainly I do have some monetization strategies built into my blog currently with some affiliate marketing. A product that I’ve launched earlier this year on increasing and scaling your prices as your business grows and chances are you’ll see your course in the next couple of months as well gear towards helping newer freelancers sort of get their footing.
Matthew: Yeah. So, you have a new book?
Brent: Yes. The product that I launched here a couple of months ago was sort of a content up-grade. I put together an expert round up post of seventy freelancers, discussing where they find their new clients. It’s usually a big question for newer freelancers, “where the heck am I going to find business?” “How am I going to find new clients and build this thing out?”
Brent: I think there is a lot of value delivered in there for free.
I asked those seventy participants to answer a second question which is; “once you start to establish yourself, how do you increase your prices?” “How do you grow your revenue?” Sixty-two of those seventy people contributed a second answer that there’s an upgrade there for nine dollars from the round-up posts. There’s kind of a neat value add on there to that.
Matthew: Okay, if you’re not using your blog for inbound marketing, what would you say your content marketing strategy is?
Brent: My content marketing strategy for my freelance business is almost non-existent. I know that probably sounds absurd, but it’s very different I’d say now that, two years ago when I first started freelancing, I would take any job I could find anywhere.
Now that I am a little bit more established, I guess I shouldn’t say “it’s non-existent” but a lot of my business now comes through referrals from other connections that I’ve made with other freelancers.
I still actively look for work on platforms like UpWork for example, which I know is a little bit contested amongst professional freelancers. Does it take advantage potentially, content mill type of idea? That hasn’t been my case because I find I am able to be selective about the clients I pitch and the people I apply to work with. It’s a little different because I‘m not aggressively pursuing new business the same way I was two years ago.
For me, I’ve always found … maybe it’s just the sales background in me … that I’d rather proactively go approach and pitch clients I’d like to work with, rather than focus the time and effort on having business come in and surf through an inbound marketing channel. That makes sense.
Matthew: Okay. This next question is from our mutual friend Doctor Rin.
Matthew: Can you describe your steps to locating and finding new clients?
Brent: Yeah. So, what I will do every so often is, at least once per quarter… and this has been very successful for me is … a lot of the contacts that I made either through blogging in the last couple of years is through social or through different forms like communities or groups whatever… I will put together, I don’t want to say like a flyer, (it sounds like, some junk mail you get that you toss in the garbage,) but I certainly will reach out to my network of contacts and then incentivize them to refer clients to me.
I like to pay a finder’s fees that is excellent, when I’m aggressively sourcing new clients and then as I touched on before, I stay active on some of these sites like, PeoplePerHour and UpWork. Where in my mind you got businesses, solopreneur’s, you’ve got people proactively looking to hire freelancers. I think it’s just absurd not to be on one of those platforms.
Those are the two main channels my warm network of contacts that I’m continuing to build and getting on some of these platforms to see what sort of new postings are available, at least a couple of times per week.
Matthew: Yeah. What is your advice for finding quality clients like on PeoplePerHour or Fiverr versus finding people that you don’t want to work with.
Brent: (Lol) Some of it is just trial and error my friend, it depends a lot on the work that you want to do. I’ll start with Fiverr because it’s a bit of a funny story.
Fiverr is the fastest easiest way I think for a new freelancer to make cash. I interviewed Jaime Buckley on my show about freelancing … I guess a month or two ago, his average gig size now is just over a thousand bucks.
He finds some awesome clients on there, he’s got great, great ratings, five star reviews, but it starts small, some people are fixated on services starting at five dollars. Just because it starts at five dollars, doesn’t mean the only thing you should offer is five dollar services.
Brent: I have a post that I plan on publishing on my own blog in the near future. I was looking back through some of the clients I’ve worked with now for a year a year plus and a number of my best clients today are people that I first found on Fiverr. I used to offer a gig when I was new like, “I’ll write five tweets for you for five dollars,” there was such a great segue to deliver that work and mention, “Oh hey, by the way I offer complete management solutions,” and it evolved something from there.
I was looking at something like three of my clients. If I added them up they were worth thirty-five thousand dollars in revenue this past year they started with a five-dollar gig on Fiverr.
I think there are too many people that are quick to dismiss that platform. If you structure your gigs properly, you can get the right clients to buy from you and they can lead to follow up business, even if you made nothing on that platform at all and you made zero dollars per gig.
The way I always looked at it when I was brand new was, I was trading my time for leads. I’m getting to connect with people who are actively looking to hire social media help. “I can’t think of a better use of my time.” That’s my thought on Fiverr where you’re actually posting gigs that people can buy.
When there are platforms like UpWork and PeoplePerHour where people are actually posting jobs that they want to apply to, there’s sometimes a lot of red flags you can look at in the description of the job. Sometimes the client has no history on that platform. That’s fine, but sometimes you see their total budget is fifty dollars and they want you to manage their Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn. Tumblr. You kind of get a sense of what client you’re going be working with here. If you’re brand new it might be worth the experience it might be worth taking it. If you’re a little bit more established, you’ve got to read between the lines a little bit.
That been said, I will offer a bit of a caveat on that. I’m always willing to have a conversation with somebody. The worst thing you’ll do is decide at the end it’s not going to work, and I take that approach with every perspective client that, “hey maybe we’ll chat and as much as you’re interviewing me and my skill sets, I’m interviewing you.”
If you’re somebody I want to work with, I would always be willing to at least have a conversation with somebody and find out if there’s potential here to work together. Sometimes you end up talking to somebody where you find out there’s needs that they didn’t even know that they had. Maybe there’s a surface you can offer that particular client, that they’ve never posted or they just never knew. Again I’m just willing to have conversations with people and see how it goes.
Matthew: Okay so, how much time would you say you spend on these conversations in working and dealing with a client versus actually doing the work?
Brent: A lot of the day to day tasks I don’t do myself, and a lot of the social media work. I’ve been able to hire help as my business has grown so it’s not to say that I’m completely hands off and I never look at it. Now it’s almost more of a review process than actually diving in to do some of the day to day tasks, and that’s been immensely helpful for having some of the bigger picture conversations with people.
In a conversation, if we get to the point where say, a face to face Skype conversation and I want to learn more about your business, I want to learn more about your objectives, that may be a longer more detailed conversation.
Sometimes it starts with an e-mail or something as simple as that. Some pre-qualifying questions like, “what are you looking for? Or, what are your expectations? That might qualify or disqualify somebody. But, if I were to look at the amount of time I spend say in a week on new business development in general, at this point a couple of years in … I’d say three to four hours of follow up calls, conversations applying or pitching the jobs potentially online that’s probably a pretty fair assessment.
Matthew: Yeah, that’s interesting, and it’s great that you’ve reached a level where you can outsource some of your responsibilities to other people.
Brent: Well, I’m certainly happy about it. It’s kind of one of those myths I think as people go into any kind of solopreneurship whether they want to go more the “I’m going to build a blog and monetize my blog,” or whether they want to go the more active income route. I think the perception sometimes is that you just have unlimited flexibility if you want to be a webpreneur.
Brent: It’s just like,”set it and forget it, you can take every day off,” and certainly there’s a lot of less scrupleless marketers that would have you believe you can just sip Piña colada’s on the beach all day and just watch the cash come in.
Matthew: Right, Yeah.
Brent: Then again it’s not like that. In my mind flexibility doesn’t mean I choose to take every day off, it means I choose when to work. Then in the early stages until you’re satisfied, at least marginally satisfied with the revenue that’s coming in, it’s just not time to start abusing that flexibility just yet.
Matthew: Alright, do you outsource any of your blogging work?
Brent: On my own blog?
Brent: No, not directly, sometimes there’s smaller tasks that I might look to outsource, potentially a research piece or getting help with a graphic or something like that. Design isn’t my strong suite.
Brent: Generally speaking, anything that’s published on my blog as me, I’ve written.
Matthew: Okay. How often do you publish?
Brent: My schedule now is about once per week. Sometimes I’ll resurrect and republish an older post, kind of modify it, upgrade it, update it and publish that on a Thursday.
Generally it’s a new post every Monday. A blog post one Monday then a new episode on “Better Freelancing” the following Monday.
Matthew: Okay. At this point after at least two years, I think you did some “ just for fun blogging” before your freelance career?
Brent: Yeah, right, I did. I did actually … funny enough I ‘m wearing one of my branded T-shirts from back then, today as were like having this conversation, it’s laundry day over here, but that’s a funny story if we’ve got the time …
Brent: That’s how I met my wife, was through that bizarre “blogging just for fun” sort of thing that I did, “blogging and blogging” with the YouTube channel. It was just like rancid and outrageous jokes and some offensive things that I would never repeat today.
It was a lot of fun, as I was looking to collaborate with other YouTube video creators to do fun videos, or whatever it was. I ended up meeting this content creator from Atlanta who also “blogged and blogged” for fun.
A thousand miles away, I was in Toronto at the time and lo and behold, I kept in contact with this video content creator afterwards and we ended up getting married. So, it’s a little strange.
Brent: I don’t know if you knew this story? Yeah, that’s how I met Andrea, we were both YouTube content creators back in the day.
Brent: Just for fun you know going to YouTube conventions like VidCon and things like that, we just happened to meet up working on a video remotely. So, I met my wife online but not in the plenty of fish kind of way.
Matthew: Alright. Yeah, Wow. I’ve got another question for you about that coming up here in a little bit
Matthew: So, what would you say is your favorite form of content that you enjoy creating?
Brent: My video interviews are the most fun, the most engaging. I like writing blog content don’t get me wrong, I think to still be doing it two years later you have to have some fun with creating content.
I do like getting to chat with people that have common interests, that are similar experiences and always have a different take on it.
Brent: I just published an interview with Geena Horkey this week on Monday. The whole theme of our interview was about quitting your day job to start freelancing. As I mentioned earlier, like I just took the approach, “I’m going to jump in with both feet,” I asked her a bit about what would she would say about people that are nervous to quit their job and start freelancing, and she said something to the effect of, “I’d tell them they’re an idiot,” “that’s just not a very smart thing to do,” ” build that up from the side.”
It’s fun sometimes to get that challenge of speaking with other people who just have a different perspective on the same things.
Brent: Like I said it before, you know video interviews and interviews in general are just such a great way to get in front of other people’s audiences as well.
Matthew: Yeah, absolutely, so, do you recommend making the blog your website, or do you recommend having a blog separate from a website, you know what I mean?
Brent: You’re talking about having a blog and then having a different separate freelancer website, is that what you mean?
Matthew: Some people like their homepage as their blog. Basically there’s sites and then other people have a blog attached to the website, it’s not their homepage, but I mean I was just curious what do you think about that?
Brent: Yeah, I think it depends on your objective. If the main thing is the blog, then absolutely make it the homepage. Particularly for passive revenue streams, aggressively publishing new content and so on, keep that the homepage then, if your website is more of a corporate or business type website.
When I first started freelancing I only had one website. The homepage was pitching my freelancing services and then there was a separate blog area. Now, it’s really separate, I’ve got a higher – Brent Jones dot com, that’s my portfolio website, that talks about what I can do, what I can offer you as a client.
Again, my blog is a separate project – Brent Jones online dot com, now it’s just blog content from the homepage, that’s really what that website is and what it’s about now.
Matthew: Okay, now you’re quite a prolific guest post blogger, is that right?
Brent: I try to be, I try to release at least one guest post per month on other sites, such as yours!
Matthew: Right, yeah, you just did one a few weeks ago.
Matthew: Are you getting good results with your guest posts?
Brent: Yeah, I mean I guess it depends on terms of how you’d measure results, but certainly there’s an up take in new followers and new people I engage with when I publish on other blogs. It’s really funny, I’ll publish even before I really took the focus of, “hey, let me use my blog to help other freelancers to get started posting on various digital marketing topics.”
The very first time I published on your blog, which was like I don’t know … fifteen months ago or whatever, I had somebody reach out to me. The same day they wanted to hire me and talk about social media management.
I post every week on my blog too, but there’s just something about getting in front of other people’s audiences. You just never know who’s looking, especially for a freelance writer. That to me is if, you’re really focused on the inbound marketing piece of it, guest posting just has to be part of your strategy. It’s one of the easiest ways to show off your writing talents. Yeah I hope that answers your question?
Matthew: Yeah, and like you say, getting in front of a new audience.,yeah.
Matthew: This is actually a question from one of our listeners, do you plan to scale your business or run mostly without your constant attention or why or why not? They want to know and I know you just touched on this earlier, it’s kind of a myth, but I mean there is some truth to it, to some extent as well?
Brent: It’s not a myth when you work for it.
Brent: I think a myth is all the; “sign up for my course,” “sign up for my membership site,” “I’m going teach you to become a “multigajillionaire” by tomorrow.” That’s the “hypey” stuff.
Even if you want to build a completely passive business that brings in … and a lot of people do it successfully … But it takes time. The thing is if you’re going to quit your job, and you’ve got a mortgage to pay and kids to feed … I don’t know if building up the passive affiliate marketing blog is your best strategy.
The next day I might look at some of the active income to keep that going.
For me absolutely. I mean, the goal is the more hands off I can be on the business the better. I recognize that I ‘m not running an agency, so it’s still always still going be my name and my face that’s attached to the results. So, I have to deliver to my clients, I have no choice. I’ve got to make sure that everything is done correctly, but that doesn’t mean that I have to do everything myself all the time.
Brent: There’s a big difference there. So, I mean I’ve taken some pretty big steps in the last little bit to be a little bit more hands off. I have the help in place to get things done and I’d like to keep moving in that direction. It takes time like everything else. By the way if I can add this in, I think, this is another ploy, “when do you hire help?” I wrote a guest post on blogging wizard that was about not too long back … Outsourcing to freelancers without getting burned.
Whatever your online business is you’d want to outsource at some point, but I think too many people want to outsource too quickly, they want to act like they’re a high roller because they’ve been online for you know … two weeks. It’s like I’m going to start outsourcing all my stuff. Well, you don’t want to overload your profit too quickly, because it gets to a point where you’re outsourcing everything and you don’t have a solid profit coming in, you’re going to give up or get sick of it. At some point you’ve got to eat.
Brent: I definitely want to continue to scale it, but there’s just smart ways of doing it little bits at a time. Not just hiring on a new person like a virtual assistant in handing over your entire business to them in week one. You’re setting yourself up for failure and you’re setting them up for failure at the same time.
Matthew: It sounds like you’re really enjoying the whole freelance, solopreneur gig, right? Oh go ahead … I’m sorry.
Brent: No, I was going to agree with you, absolutely!
Matthew: Yeah. Do you have any thoughts on, one day creating an agency maybe you and your wife, together something like that?
Brent: It’s funny yeah, because we’ve talked about it a bunch of times. The possibility of doing that, the thing I like about freelancing and about the online marketing piece is if you go back decades … like I’m a millennial … I’ve never known life without a computer, I’m thirty-one years old now, so I’ve never known life without technology, but if you think back to like. “okay, if it was 1980 …” and I wanted to start a business of my own. I pretty much was going to have a brick and mortar business. I was going invest up front capital. I needed staff, I needed supplies, I needed insurance … all kinds of stuff …
The barriers to entry to get online are so low, I keep always coming back to that point. Okay I was able to get online for, what? … I bought a domain, I bought some hosting, I bought a few credits or connex or whatever on UpWork, Elance at the time for dollars.
I got online and got my business started. I always wonder as one of my core values as wanting to stay true to the freedom and the flexibility piece. I’m in control of my own business. Do I want to have the responsibility of having office space and paid employees and having those fixed expenses every month?
I’m torn on it, my wife is too, we always have talked about it and say,” yeah that would be a great way to really scale up our business and add a little more professional credibility to what we do,” but then we come back to it … “alright if we want to go travelling through Europe for six months or something, that’s going to be very difficult to do when we’ve got a new business back home that’s really got started from the ground up.”
Matthew: Yeah, exactly. So Brent, somebody wanted me to ask you this question; How do you separate yourself from your competition?
Brent: From my competition? I’m going to strictly answer this question from the perspective of social media management, because there’s a lot of different types of competition for different things we do, but that’s my main service. It’s my primary source of revenue so let’s address that one. I think my competition really breaks down into categories.
There’s other freelancers that offer social media services, to small businesses or solopreneurs, and then there’s agencies, and I don’t find that there is lot of great competition from other freelancer social media managers. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of them out there and they exist, but the good ones are already busy.
I think the way that I separate myself from a lot of those guys is that I’ve been very clear on terms of whom I serve and by in large my ideal client is a … they don’t have to be a solopreneur on the online sense … but a lot of the times solo professionals. So… accountants, real estate agents, mortgage brokers, a lot of those professionals where they are a one person or sometimes a two person show. They don’t have the time to aggressively market themselves online, they need to focus on doing what they’re great at, and that’s where I’m able to jump in and help. So, how does that stack up against other freelance social media managers and community managers?
I’m not entirely sure to be honest, because more often than not, the questions I get are more related to agencies, because what’s the difference? I can hire you for a few hundred dollars a month, I can hire an agency to manage my Facebook page for like two-thousand dollars a month, what’s the difference? A lot of the times the difference isn’t that pronounced, I’ve spent a fair bit of the time, mystery shopping, agencies, firms … to find out what they’re doing, what are they offering, and it turns out really what I’m offering is very similar to an agency, but at a fraction of the price.
Now I’m not in the position to represent StarBucks, McDonalds, Walmart … I actually joke about that on my portfolio website. Those businesses need an agency to work on their stuff twenty-four hours a day and stay on top of it.
For most small businesses or individual professionals, they don’t need that. So, for a fraction of the price, it’s like, “hey, I can offer you a daily posting strategy,” ” I can moderate comments,” ” I can include some weekly outreach as well that continue to grow your presence.” So, those are things that I’m able to do with a daily focus to it, without having to have the hefty price-tag attached of an agency. So, I don’t know if that directly answers the question or not, what do you think?
Matthew: Yeah, I think it does. Yeah good stuff, you’re right, you need an agency for a big brand like that. It takes more than one person or even two people, but It really takes a team of people, right?
Brent: It does, there’s a lot of listening and trending like capitalizing on trends that are happening right then and there, if you’re a mom and pop shop, like a diner in a small town that I live in.
Brent: You don’t need somebody paying attention to what’s trending on Twitter right now, and I know there’s probably people that would listen to this and say, ” you know Jones you’re an idiot, what are you talking about?” Of course we should always … Yeah, okay maybe a business at a certain scale, but it’s also a question as to what you can afford, right? So I’ve never positioned myself as like, I’m going to get you vaynermedia level results. It’s just not going to happen, that’s not what I do. I focus on the small businesses the ones to organically build a local, engaged, loyal following.
That’s really where I focus in and sometimes, I mentioned earlier, when I have conversations with perspective clients as I said I’m interviewing them as much as they are interviewing me, and sometimes they start dropping the little hints and things like, “I want to take this concept and make it go viral or I want this hash-tag to … like … seven million times by next week.” Well I’m not the person to help you then. That is not what I do.
I guess the short answer to the original question is if you want to differentiate yourself from competitors, it’s not all about sometimes saying what makes you better.
Sometimes it’s just about being honest, these are my limitations and this is why I’m the right fit for you, this is what I do to help your business.
Matthew: Yeah. That goes … really segues into my next question, what do you do differently then as a freelancer as most others don’t do?
Brent: What do I do?
Matthew: Yeah, to differentiate yourself?
Brent: From freelancers, or from agencies?
Matthew: Well the question is, and this is actually a reader’s question, what do you do differently as a freelancer that most others don’t do? Maybe they’re talking a little more behind the scenes, actually.
Brent: One thing that I do, I haven’t spent a lot of time focusing on what other freelancers are doing, because I think where this questions stems from is, a lot of people that are thinking of building an online service based business, are afraid of competition. They’re afraid, they probably think I’m nuts because I offer tips to freelancers on my blog. It’s why would you help your competitors? The honest to God truth is, that’s the way the markets are going and studies repeatedly show that. I think it’s up like fifty percent of the American work force supposed to be freelancing, by the year 2020.
Brent: Freelancing and contracting in some capacity … it’s insane. I really don’t consider other freelancer’s competition, because there’s just so must business out there for all of us. Everyday there’s a million new startups that are launched. There’s people who need services. I’m not sure exactly where you are … it’s Missouri, right?
Brent: Here where I am … my wife and I were amazed, we moved from Toronto, which is of course a massive city, compared to Fort Erie, three quarters of the businesses in this town don’t even have a website, you can’t even find them if you Google them. They don’t even have a Facebook page setup.
Brent: In my mind there’s a lot of small towns like that, I remember talking last year to Wade Harman about that and the small town that he lives in and he said some of these guys don’t even know what the internet is. It’s just crazy if you start moving into some of these communities.
For me differentiating myself from other freelancers, has never been an issue. But, but, if I were to give a more direct answer to the question, I’d say that, “freelancers come and go the same way bloggers do.”
How many abandoned blogs do you know?
Brent: Like millions of people that just gave up, “I started with a blog I gave up,” “it wasn’t for me.”
Brent: Freelancers work the same way. My competitive advantage is, is this is not a hobby or a game or something, it’s not just something I do on the side, this is my full time business and this is what I do. This is why I provide weekly reports to my clients, about growth so they have something accurate to measure week after week and realize that, “hey, we are generating results here.”
You are getting something in exchange for what you are investing. So, that’s why a lot of my clients I’ve worked with now for well over a year… I don’t generally … unless a client goes out of business, I don’t lose them.
Brent: Because what differentiates me from somebody else? They might find I’m “UpWork,” well I’m not … this isn’t my weekend hobby. This is what I do full time.
Matthew: Now when you talk to a client for the first time do you say, “I’m a freelancer,” do you use that term?
Brent: I do, yeah.
Matthew: Okay. The reason why I’m asking is, you know, I noticed on your About page you were talking about how many people think – quote on quote – freelancer means, “one step above broke?”
Matthew: And Brent, I’m trying to understand how anyone could still think that way in 2016?
Brent: You’d be amazed!
Matthew: I mean, what you’re just talking about as far as the way the trends are going, the economy and the U.S has like, a hundred and ninety million Americans that are out of the labor force right now.
Brent: Yeah, yeah.
Matthew: I don’t know how many millions of freelancers are in the U.S. I know that they don’t get counted in the those labor statistics.
Matthew: But, I know it’s like millions upon millions, and probably, you know there’s a large amount in Canada as well.
Brent: Yeah, yup!
Matthew: So, what I’m getting at here is, why’s there’s still a stigma about the term “freelancer” today?
Brent: You know; freelancer is like one of those terms “entrepreneur,” entrepreneur is like, it depends … there’s two very different ways of looking at it. When you hear entrepreneur you think either this person is like a successful serial business owner or you look at it and go, well okay, you’re an entrepreneur what have you done lately.
Because there are a lot of entrepreneurs that aren’t successful, a lot of businesses don’t make it, and I think freelancing is one of those things, that people hear “freelancer” and they go, okay, so basically what you’re saying is that, ” you don’t have a job.”
You apply for loan at the bank and you write down your job description, you’re a surgeon or you write down, you’re a freelancer, it’s like, well you’re a freelancer what exactly?
Brent: Freelancing means a lot of different things to different people. One of the big, big segments of people I see that are in the freelancing space, are stay at home mom’s. They have kids, they don’t want to go back to their corporate job or they want something with a little more flexibility, and because of that there’s certainly a number of freelancers that freelance specifically to fill a small need, some extra spending money or to bring in some extra cash at the end of the month.
Brent: Not everyone freelances with the purpose of saying; “I want to build a six figure plus, plus business.” Not everybody does that, and a lot of people don’t even realize that it’s possible. They think, “freelance writing” like, okay maybe I can pitch somebody and write an article this month, you know, and I brought in however much you charge for an article, 100 bucks … 150 bucks, whatever it is, and go, great it’s a little bit of extra spending money. I think that’s where the disconnect is, is that a lot of people, even though they except that you can make some money, being a freelance whatever, freelance designer, freelance anything.
There’s an understanding that you can do that and you can turn it into a viable career path as well.
Matthew: Yeah, and we’re going to get into a little bit here about discipline and stuff, but I think a lot of people just have a hard time with working from home, right?
Brent: Oh, of course, yeah! Yeah, different people react to it different ways and … I was chatting to one of my clients this morning and you know, I mentioned to her that,”I’m an introvert,” “a huge introvert.” I don’t want to say I dislike people because that’s not fair, but, if it were my choice on how to spend a Friday night? It would be, stay in and watch Netflix, that’s my ideal Friday night.
Matthew: Are you saying you are?
Brent: I am. I am a complete introvert.
Matthew: Okay, I just … I didn’t realize you are a complete introvert.
Brent: Nobody ever does, my client said this morning too, “I can’t believe it we talk all the time,” “you seem so personable,” and I’m being an introvert doesn’t mean that I don’t like people or that I can’t be personable.
Brent: I recharge my batteries by getting some alone time. That’s how I do it, other people work.
Matthew: Right, me too.
Brent: Yeah, you see, you get it, right?
Brent: You know so, sometimes people go stir crazy, they have to work from home.
Brent: They don’t go anywhere, it’s like it’s tough enough to stay disciplined when you’re got your fridge and your T.V like ten feet away.
Brent: On top of that you talked to almost no one all day and if you do it’s like responding to a tweet.
Brent: I think it takes a certain type of person to be able to freelance successfully, but on the other side of the coin, I know that there are a lot of freelancers and … I don’t do this I focus on sourcing my business from anywhere I’ve got clients all over the world, but a lot of freelancers choose to focus in their local communities, you know they want to go out and have the client meetings, or they want to go to local networking events, it’s a great happy medium, you work from home or you work from a co working space, that’s also another option to get around some other people.
It doesn’t have to be sitting at home by yourself, that’s the way I like it. I am most productive when it’s silent and I ‘m at home by myself.
Brent: Somebody that wants to work on harvesting some local business, get out to those networking events or look for a co working space. They’ve got some money coming in and meet with their clients face to face. It doesn’t have to be as isolating as it sounds on the surface.
Matthew: So Brent, can a freelancer succeed without a blog?
Brent: Depends what they’re doing. For instance, a freelance graphic designer, say, they don’t have to have a blog necessarily, but they at least need to have a portfolio or some samples.
Again my blog has nothing really to do with my freelancing business, other than I talk about freelancing and somethings that has worked for me.
I’m still able to freelance and generate revenue so, if you’re a freelance writer and that’s exclusively what you want to focus on? I think it would be a bit like trying to lift weights without arms, I think you kind of have to blog to make it work really well. But again even the freelance programmers, you know somebody that’ll build you an app … do you need a blog for that to promote it? I don’t know I think it comes down to how that person wants to promote the business, and how they want to find new clients.
Matthew: So, you’re doing a lot of the more traditional networking type stuff, to get clients, is that right?
Brent: Yeah, I’d say so.
Matthew: Okay. What if someone knows they’re not good at self-discipline, going back to what we were talking about, you know working from home, how can you become more self-disciplined?
Brent: Well, you know it’s tough for me to answer this question, because I think there’s a point to which there are certain soft-skills you’re going to need to succeed as a self-employed person, regardless. Whether you’re a freelancer or you want to open up a local diner, whatever the case is, at some point you have to have a level of discipline to work for yourself. Because, nobody is telling you what you have to do. If you’re a complete train wreck and you have no self-discipline and whatever, then maybe being self-employed is not for you.
That’s my first initial thought, but what I will say is that tasks that I find a little less pleasant, or maybe more tedious to do… for starters as my business has grown I’ve been able to outsource some of those tasks, I don’t have to do them all myself. Secondly, I think it gets a little easier when you’re doing them for yourself. You know it’s kind of when you’re working for yourself, you’re your own boss, it’s easier to sort of draw a line and say, “you know what?” “this isn’t my favorite task but it just has to get done so let’s get it crossed off the list.”
Matthew: Yeah, it seems like some people actually need accountability or need somebody breathing down their neck.
Brent: Yeah, well some people do and by the way there’s nothing wrong with that, the world needs employee’s too.
Brent: People have to have an employee mind set. They have to know, clocking in at nine, clocking out at five, I’ve got a half hour paid lunch or whatever it is like … that works for them.
Brent: For me I’ve always worked best under pressure, I’d rather know I got a challenging day ahead of me, and if I manage to eat some lunch, that’ll be great, but I might not.
Brent: That almost keeps me motivated, it just gives the reason to keep working hard, so…
Matthew: Yeah, I’ve always been self motivated myself. One thing I do not miss about the job scene or setting is, you know, a lot of meetings that take place were really a waste of time.
Brent: Yeah, I agree with you, meetings for the sake of meetings, right?
Brent: So, where everybody can feel productive.
Matthew: Yeah, right.
Brent: Stand around at the water cooler and be like … “that was one heck of a meeting, wasn’t it?”
Matthew: Exactly, or Monday morning, you know, people wanting to tell you about their week-end, you know.
Brent: Yup! I mean some people really have trouble with that, my wife talks about that sometimes. I guess I’m putting words in her mouth right now, speaking on her behalf, but she misses that sometimes. You know that social aspect of working. You know, I don’t know if you ever spoke directly with Andrea?
She loves people, she loves being around people, she loves to talk, it’s like it’s funny we’re kind of stereotypical that way in our marriage, in the sense that she always has lots to talk about, loves conversations and stuff and I’m like, I just don’t want to talk, I’m done you know, I’m tapping out. So, as far as the work place goes, she talks about that sometimes as she misses it, that is one of the things you trade off working from home.
Unless you do go that avenue I mentioned like co-working space, but even then it’s not quite the same thing, so you don’t have the same gripes necessarily you know, you’re not all working for the same company.
Matthew: So, you would describe your wife as an extravert?
Brent: I would yes.
Matthew: Okay. So she does well at home, working from home, is that right?
Brent: Yeah, but she goes out to do more of the things, she looks for the local networking meet ups, you know she looks more for the co working spaces. There’s even a coffee shop not too far from us that even does the co working thing in the afternoon. So, she gets out to do a lot more of that face to face stuff. I tend to keep more of my affairs strictly online
Matthew: Yeah, when I was doing more direct client work, I used to go to a monthly local networking group, but once I got into, you know Build Your Own Blog completely, then that wasn’t really necessary anymore.
Brent: Sure, do you find … I know it’s maybe weird me asking you a question, but do you find that people have trouble understanding when you say, “I run a successful blog, that makes money.” Do more and more people get that now. I still feel sometimes when I tell people about blogging, it’s like I don’t really understand, you know what I mean?
Matthew: Yeah, I think a lot of people are intrigued by it, but they don’t understand. They still don’t really understand it. But, I think today verses seven years ago, they believe it more that it actually exists, it does happen. Yeah, but they still don’t understand it.
Brent: Right, It’s the same way you asked me about that idea about freelancing, earlier. When you say freelancer, it’s like freelance … what? Can you actually make a full time living out of freelancing? I find sometimes people are a little quick, friends and family that want to pick up the tab. We go out for drinks or something and they’re like … “are you sure you can cover this?” Like … “can we buy you a beer or something?” and I’m like, “I’m doing okay, I’m alright don’t worry about it.”
Matthew: Wow. Yeah, I used to add, you know the term copy writer to my introduction. You know my title was “freelance copywriter” I think it depends on what niche you’re in, right?
Matthew: You can just add that to the title freelancer, because if you just say, “I’m a freelancer,” that could mean anything.
Brent: It does yeah. I try to be very specific, like at least on my Skype profile. I’m looking at freelancer, social media manager and copywriter. These are the main things that I do.
Matthew: Yeah exactly. You know, going back to your wife, I ‘m just curious ‘cos I think this in and of itself could be like an episode all to itself. I’m just curious you know, you’re both working from home and how do you guys make this work?
Brent: Is this like a marriage advice question or a business question.
Matthew: Well, both. You know, maybe somebody listening out there, or maybe it’s a couple considering working from home together.
Brent: Sure, my wife was my biggest support system when I started. Like I said she quit her job moved to Canada. Showed up and wasn’t sure what the next steps were. Thankfully I was working in a position at the time that more than provided for both of us, but she really took a shot at this. I kind of pitched her the idea one day I was like “hey, you know I’ve seen some people make some money with some Fiverr gigs.” ” Maybe you wanna give that a try?”
We still had some paper work and things to sort out before she could apply for a traditional job after arriving. I was like, “hey, maybe you could try something in our online space?” That’s where it all started. It was just because of that stupid idea, I remember like just over lunch one day I was like, “why don’t you give that a try?” She did it and actually started making some decent money coming in, she branched out from Fiverr like it’s the way we all do eventually. When I started going down that path, she was a huge help to me. She was able to show me the ropes, and help me get up to speed, quicker than I would have been able to do it on my own. So, I never take that lightly.
Brent: We have very different styles of working, we have very different approaches to working with clients, we have very different strengths, so it’s not uncommon to play off each other’s strengths. Sometimes we’ll invite each other into a client call and just … I mean you and I were just like talking about this the other day.
Pinterest it’s like, I’m on Pinterest, I could be a traffic generator, I get it. But it’s not my favorite platform. So, for her sometimes, she loves Pinterest, she’s on the other end of the spectrum. Sometimes we even end up trading off clients. We have a conversation with the client just to say, “you know what, I’m not the right fit for your project, but I know who is.” So we try to really respect each other’s strengths in that category.
I mean as far as relationship stuff, I think you need to openly communicate. Sometimes we need to vent, but there needs to be times and places, at the end of the day we both have separate spaces in the house. We don’t work in the same room. I’ve got an office set up on the main floor, she’s got an office set up upstairs. It’s when we leave our offices, whatever point in the day we call it a day, it’s like the works got to stay in the office. If we sit here talking about this, we going talk all night, right?
Brent: Yeah, and it’s not healthy to eat, sleep and breathe it twenty-four-seven, maybe at first, but at some point you need a break from that.
Matthew: How do you guy’s separate the two?
Brent: More than anything it’s just an understanding, sometimes it’s just … you know end of the day, I don’t know if you ever heard of the five-minute rule, but people use this, I think busy married couples do this anyway. It’s like they get home at the end of the day and they’re like… “Okay, you got five-minutes to talk about your day and then let’s move on and pick something else.” But, I think it actually works out to our benefit that we’re both freelancers.
You mentioned being on my About page I listed some of the travel and things we did last year in 2015 and there’s more stuff coming up this year. We can plan to do that, take trips together and do some travelling and take our dogs on a road trip for example, like we did last Fall. Which was sort of like a coast to coast trip.
If one of us were in a more traditional, demanding corporate type job, and the other one were a freelancer, it would make things awfully complicated.
Brent: If anything, it’s actually a huge perk that we both do similar styles of work. We just have to draw lines sometimes like, Okay no more watching x-files, we going to talk about what happened with our clients today. You know what I mean?
Matthew: Right. Yeah, that’s good point, you brought up about corporate job, people wonder how you guys do what you do you know. But, if one of the spouses or both of them have high stress corporate job, I mean that could even put even more strain on your marriage.
Brent: Of course it can, yeah and it’s because you both have so many stresses, sometimes the person can’t relate. If I’m a lawyer … I ‘m just going to pick like awesome jobs I guess, awesome based on what T.V shows make it look like. I’m a lawyer and … I don’t know, my wife’s a doctor. We have very different challenges during the day and it makes it tougher to relate. Sometimes it’s kind of neat because we can have a challenge and it’s like we don’t even really need to explain it, it’s like I get it, I know what’s going on I’ve run into the exact same issue before too.
Matthew: Yeah, this is good stuff, I really appreciate you talking with us here. I’ve got a a few more questions for you.
Matthew: So, what does a typical day look like for you?
Brent: So, a typical day, let’s see … well, I generally get start around seven in the morning. I like to start earlier and if I can, finish earlier, and you know now that I’m not doing all the day to day tasks myself, sometimes my day is wrapped up in three to four hours, sometimes it’s twelve to fifteen. I mean it’s just … I plan my weeks ahead on Fridays.
So every Friday I plan out my tasks, my to-do stuff Monday to Friday and sometimes the weekend for the following week. I very rarely deviate from that schedule when the week gets started.
If something new comes in and I need to on-board a new client, it’s just going to get scheduled for next week. Interruptions from my opinion are one of the biggest productivity killers you can imagine.
So, when I get up I put the coffee pot on at seven, I get started and I just work straight through until my tasks are complete, and you’ve probably noticed here in the last little bit I’ve got into cycling. So, that’s kind of a thing I look forward to at the end of the day it’s a great way to clear my head and draw a line between when I’m working and when it’s time to unwind a little bit more, so yeah, I think I’ve answered your question
Matthew: Yeah, yeah, exercise is good I need to get back into that myself.
Brent: Yeah, tell me about it.
Matthew: So, what would you say to the three great benefits to freelancing?
Brent: Well, I referenced sort of my three pillars earlier and you see them on my website there – freedom, flexibility and financial independence, these are … I call them pillars, I don’t know what people call them? Philosophies, whatever … the three F’s I don’t know, but for me, every business decision I’ve made regarding my online business has always had to pass those three sort of tests, right? So, if I make this decision do I have the flexibility to work where and when I choose? If the answer is no, then the answer to the bigger question is no. If it’s freedom, am I able to have complete freedom, over my business completely, the control over my own affairs?
What I mean by that is … and I think that this is important to say that, a lot of times people ask, you know, why do you focus on some of these really smaller businesses or an individual professional, why don’t you work with some of the bigger companies where you could charge them a lot more? And, the answer is because it’s a lot more work.
In a sense I’ve created job security for myself because, by having a larger number of lower paying clients in the grand scheme of things, I’m not at a particular risk if I lose a client.
If you’re at a point where you’re working with one or two clients, well then you might as well get a day job again, right? You’re depending on one person to write your pay check.
Brent: For me it’s always been a smarter strategy to say I want to set up my business so that I still have complete freedom to move as I want. I’ve had to do this before where I’ve had to let go of a client, because our interests are not lining up anymore, like, thanks so much I appreciated serving you, but this just isn’t going to work going forward. I don’t like to do it, but it’s happened.
So, freedom, flexibility and the last one financial independence, that’s the third big thing to me about freelancing. I’ve got friends in corporate jobs that are hoping to get a cost of living increase this year. Or, two percent bonus or whatever it is. I can take my income from sixty thousand in one year for instance to two hundred thousand the next year, if I want to work for it. There’s no limitations to my earnings.
So, those are the three main draws for me about why this business model made sense.
Matthew: As a Canadian, you guys don’t really need to consider healthcare costs, is that right?
Brent: Well, the truth is somewhere in the middle. So, certainly we have the universal healthcare here, which will cover doctor’s visits if I need surgery of course that’s covered, but if I need a prescription medication, that’s not covered.
If I have a hospital stay and I don’t have health benefits through work, then it’s probably gonna be quad occupancy in the room. Eye care and dental care, those things are not covered. A more traditional corporate job may have health benefits, that would cover some of those things, even something like life insurance for instance. So, I don’t have those. So, “knock on wood” like if I ever get knocked over by a bus, yeah, my direct medical bills will be covered, but, you know when it comes time to check out and I need like a wheel chair or crutches, that’s not covered.
So, that’s just one of those considerations you have to make. That financial independence category, you need to be smart and save some money too, you just never know what could happen.
Matthew: Absolutely, that could be a topic in and of itself.
Matthew: And let’s hope you never do get hit by a bus.
Brent: (Lol,) I hope not.
Matthew: Hey, somebody wanted me to ask you … do you know statistically, what are the top three niches or categories in freelancing?
Brent: We’re talking about the different services I guess that a freelancer could offer, is that the idea?
Matthew: Yeah, I think so, I think that’s what they meant.
Brent: Yeah, I don’t know statistically, on the break down. Based on observation I’d say the “freelance writing” is the one that seems to capture the biggest audience.
Brent: Because it’s one that almost everyone can do, and the amazing thing about the internet that …
Matthew: Wait, wait, wait, I should say, “think they can do” Right?
Brent: What do you mean? Oh, “think they can do” Yes, yeah. Yeah I mean we’ve all been writing for a long time, how well we write is another story. What kind of writing we’re doing?
One of the great things about freelance writing is that you’re not generally writing university level papers here. You know, professional documents, a lot of the time you doing freelance blog writing, and blog writing, many times does not follow traditional grammar rules, you can have like, you know a three-word paragraph for instance, you can use bullet lists, you can use sub-headings. So, it’s a little bit easier to break into without a lot of technical skill.
I don’t know what the other top two would be but, I certainly see a lot of freelancers excel in graphic design and illustration, web design, SEO is a big one. You know if you’ve got some talent in one of those categories that’s probably where I’d focus. There is a post on my blog, and there’s a free downloads page, a hundred and seven different freelance services you can offer.
Matthew: Yeah, I was going to ask you what are like a few real French niche ones?
Brent: I think, I don’t want to say that it’s fringe, but I mean development is not something anybody can do. If you’re talking about something like app development, that sort of thing. That’s a skill set where you can charge a whole lot of money, because not everybody can do that. That would be a big one, but freelancing …
Matthew: Development? I think of fund raising, doesn’t that also mean fund raising when you say development?
Brent: When I think of development I’m thinking “coating” that type of idea, like app development.
Matthew: Web development, app development, right, right. Okay.
Brent: Exactly, well yeah, that’s what I meant.
Matthew: But, you know what’s interesting? You mentioned like fund raising, like crown funding, that’s a whole separate category of businesses I’ve seen, like hey, we need to set up a “go fund me” page, you know, we need to hire freelancers and set this up and do it right for us. I think at the end of the day freelancing comes down to your exchanging a service for money. It’s really as simple as that.
Maybe you bake great cup-cakes, and you decide that rather than open up your own business, or sell through a bakery … you’re going to be a “freelance baker” You could really freelance doing anything. At the end of the day it just means in my mind you’re working for any bigger company, you’re working for yourself, you’re really a contractor.
Matthew: Yeah, right. So, if you could boil this all down Brent, what is the secret formula to freelancing?
Brent: The secret formula to freelancing?
Brent: I almost think it’s an oxymoron. I don’t think that there’s a secret to it, I think, maybe that is the secret, the like hey, all the tools you need to do this are available. Not just through my blog, there’s lots of blogs where you can find them, there’s lots of stuff you can figure out as you go. I mean you really don’t have to be an expert at anything to start freelancing. Yeah, you’re going to build some expertise if you want to win the massive client you want to be the freelancer writer and get published in Time Magazine, of course, but, to get started and start bringing in some money and exchanging your services for pay? I mean, I think the “big secret” is there’s no secret, just get started!
Really it’s as simple as like, setting up your little website, and Twitter bio and stuff and say … I’m a freelancer … fill in the blank, whatever it is, and the rest of the skill sets and things you can figure out as you go.
You really don’t even have to solidify, sort of the services or niche or industry you’re going serve. You don’t have to figure all that stuff out right away.
You can try lots of things.
Matthew: Mm mm.
Brent: One of my fast money makers when I was a new freelancer … believe it or not, was doing video testimonials on Fiverr. It will pay like, five, fifty, a hundred bucks for testimonials like say, I tried this product and it’s awesome, you should buy it too … Eventually I got out of doing that, because I literally had friends and family saying; “seeing your face pop-up on while we were on YouTube selling Viagra.”
Brent: Stuff like you know, I’m dead serious, the companies like can I send you my product? You can hold it and tell people how great it is. I kind of got out of that, but that’s a perfect example of really just like a dumb freelance service, that anybody could do. You could literally make thousands of dollars a week just doing these video testimonials. Maybe thousands are an exaggeration, but hundreds of dollars. It’s a nice supplement to get started.
Matthew: Wow, yeah, that’s something I haven’t done but, yeah I guess there are some people out there really making a killing on that.
Brent: I just signed up for a while I should have been more clear about what I was willing to offer, because some of these things were just sleazy, like promoting these really shady gambling sites and stuff, and I’m like, yaaaaak! … I probably shouldn’t have really attached my face to that, but whatever. What’s done is done now, but there’s a huge demand for that if you got a little bit of acting skills and a webcam, like man you could make money doing that for sure.
Matthew: Hopefully, some of those old videos have been erased from the internet.
Brent: (Lol,) I hope so.
Matthew: So, Brent is this a stepping stone for you, are you going to be a “hired gun” freelancer forever?
Brent: I don’t know, and this is something else I talk about, my wife and I do talk about in the times we set aside time to talk about where … what are the next steps? You know what are things going to look like five years from now? I like to think of myself as a business person first and a freelancer second. Meaning I’m always going to attempt to make decisions that make the most sense for my business and the lifestyle that I want to build.
So, does that mean being a freelance social media manager, from now until the end of time? I don’t know. I think if I found something that made more business sense, where I could achieve more of that freedom, flexibility and financial Independence, without directly running an online service based business, maybe I would explore that.
But, I guess what I’m saying is that … my mind is open to possibilities at the moment, but I also got a good thing going so there’s not an immediate rush to say, “I need a complete change gears next week.”
Matthew: Yeah. So, your mind is open to new things, but you never get tempted to go back and take a job, is that right?
Brent: Never, no. If I had it my way I certainly never would be taking a regular type job again. I mean, and maybe it’s the sales back ground in me, but if I can generate millions of dollars in revenue for a company, why wouldn’t I be good enough to make money for myself too. If you’re good enough to make money for someone else you’re good enough to make money for yourself.
I don’t see a reason or a strong enough benefit to go work hard to build somebody else’s dreams.
Matthew: I couldn’t have said it any better, that’s awesome. The final question. By the way, can you hear the thunderstorm out there on my end?
Brent: It sounds almost vaguely like a little bit of static, maybe like rain pouring or something.
Matthew: Yeah, it was hitting the house there. Okay.
Matthew: It’s, it’s kind of tapered off here. Final question for you Brent.
Matthew: Where do you think the future of freelancing, also known as, quote on quote, “the gig economy” is heading?
Brent: I can’t remember somebody asked me this question a little while back on a blog comment or something like that. I don’t know, I honestly don’t know. I think we’re going to see more people move into this space. I think we’re going to see more, not necessarily just freelancers but solopreneurs in general. We’re going to see more of those individuals in business for themselves. I think we’ve already seen more of like the telecommute jobs, now than when we did let’s say twenty or thirty years ago. In many ways just as technology has connected us it’s also driven us apart like where we minimize actually real face time with real people, so.
Brent: I think we will see more of that, I think we’ll see more companies jump on board with that, instead, you know saying … instead of hiring somebody in house or instead of contracting somebody in house, you know, can we get somebody virtually to do this job and a lot of bigger businesses are jumping on board with that but it’s taking time. So, I think we’re going see a number of things start to move in that direction and I think it’s going be interesting from a global economy perspective. That from some developing countries we’re going to see economic shifts as it really starts to level the playing field for people from all corners of the globe
Matthew: Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s been about three years ago now I had a local ad agency contact me through LinkedIn and you know I did some projects for them and now I’m working with … I’m also doing some outsourcing for people all over the globe. So, yeah I mean, it’s really going to be fascinating to see where this is all going.
Brent: Yeah, yeah. I think there’s going to be more people discovering that’s it’s not as difficult as it probably seems.
Brent: People are becoming more adaptable to the idea, as I mentioned earlier. I don’t feel like other freelancers are my competition because there’s just too much business out there to be honest. It’s insane.
Brent: There’s businesses that don’t even know they need your services yet. That’s the crazy part, you’ve got businesses coming out that are going to need you, there’s businesses coming out that don’t even know they’ re going to need you, yet in the freelancing industry, there’s just so many possibilities.
Matthew: Or there’s businesses that know they need your help or some help but they just … they can’ do it themselves …
Brent: That’s a huge, huge thing, especially in the niche that I serve you with work and with a lot of solo professionals and that kind of thing.
Brent: Not that they don’t know how to run a Twitter account, like it doesn’t take a rocket scientist.
Matthew: Right. Or, post a blog?
Brent: But they just don’t have time.
Brent: Yeah, it’s not rocket science, and people understand it’s a skill not everybody knows or has, but it’s not like they can’t be learned, and you know a lot of times some of the services we’re offering online … It’s not about I’m the world’s greatest expert at it. It’s strictly that I have the time to do it because you’re paying me to make the time to do it.
Matthew: Yeah, yeah … Brent Jones “freelancer extraordinaire,” where can people contact you or get more information from you?
Brent: Brent Jones Online, would be probably the safest at the moment, all my social links are there, contact details and the link to my “Hire Me” website; so everything there should be: http://brentjonesonline.com/
Matthew: You heard it folks go to: http://brentjonesonline.com for lots more information about “How to Become a Successful Freelancer.”
Brent, it’s been a pleasure talking with you.
Brent: Hey Matt, I’m always happy to chat with you.
Matthew: Yeah, me too! I’m happy to get you on here.
Brent: I appreciate the opportunity.
Matthew: Definitely Sir, we’ll see you around.