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EXECUTION [Progress] Graphic Designer Going Freelance & Fastlane

Discussion in 'Progress/Execution Threads' started by Nicoknowsbest, Oct 25, 2016.

  1. Nicoknowsbest
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    Nicoknowsbest "Next time, there will be no next time" - Eminem Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    Total number of downloads of my assets: - 2,53%
    Sum of paid downloads: + 194,44%
    Royalties earned: + 38%

    Interesting fact: I didn't touch anything - neither did I add assets, nor did I drive traffic whatsoever.
    Oh, and despite the total number of downloads decreasing, my paid downloads nearly tripled.

    Digging deeper...
     
  2. Nicoknowsbest
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    Nicoknowsbest "Next time, there will be no next time" - Eminem Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    The Calm After (Or Before?) The Storm

    Chasing Paper
    Over the last 4 months (counting June too), I was able to stabilize my income. Due to a big project that is about to come to an end, my revenues were in a steady mid 4 figure range. I was working crazy shifts, long hours, early mornings, late nights and everything in-between, while juggling some smaller projects and this one, bigger one. Jumping up a level in income compared to my first 4 months was a mental test to my ego, my plans and the answer to the question: "How bad do I really want it?".

    Suddenly making a comfortable amount of money made my mind go places it shouldn't go. I was catching myself checking new cars, making excuses to go to the mall and go "window-shopping" and thinking about a new phone. Talking to my accountant quickly put this day dreaming to a halt. Even if I made a good amount of money, that would be needed to balance out the weaker months when it comes to paying taxes, health insurance and such.

    What is more important though is the fact that I never relied on this big project (and future big projects) to keep up the pace of my income development. I have been working quietly on the side to develop monthly recurring revenue - not by myself, but as part of a great, great team. I am about to invoice the company I am working with on the big project for the last time. Knowing that next month money will come in without me even selling anything gives me peace of mind.

    A period of weakness was immediately interrupted by a wake-up call. Now I can say: "Been there, done that." Not that it won't happen again, but I learned a couple of things about myself, my inner workings and how to deal with them.

    A Moment of Unsubscribe
    I was catching myself sitting at the table with my better half, checking my emails over dinner, manically waiting for client feedback, a new email introduction, a new idea, a new prospect, a new payment... I was taken back to reality when she made noise already on the couch. She had left 15 minutes ago without me noticing.

    Last week some day in the city, after meeting a client, I was sprinting through the streets. After almost crashing into a biker, I had to collect my notepad from the floor and suddenly realized...

    "Why the hell are you sprinting like a maniac?"

    I realized that it is not normal to be able to go for a coffee in the sun at 11 am, because I can. Of course I knew it was not normal. But it took me a while to realize it. That was a small taste of the power of being "unscripted". I didn't have to rush back to the office to punch in my meeting time in front of my boss's eyes.

    Because I am my own boss.

    The script is everywhere. Running a business and talking to other business owners doesn't automatically mean you enter the land of the "unscripted". I had an eye-opening meeting with fellow local business owners the other day:

    Just yesterday I had a networking/collaboration meeting with two people in my industry.

    They have been doing this for 6 and 13 years.

    They still struggle to pay bills.

    "This industry just sucks."

    "Well, I wasn't born to have a better life."

    Trying to suggest something productive, I was thinking of things that work for me.

    "Nah, this is not how you do things." was the answer.

    Uhm, really?

    Thanks, but no thanks!

    (Original comment: When did you realize the system is rigged?)

    It was a realization that hit hard.

    It hit hard because I realized that the script is EVERYWHERE.

    But it hit even harder because I knew the difference that moment.

    It hit harder because I know I have the CHOICE.

    Thank you @MJ DeMarco for leading the way. And thank you for sending rep the other day!

    I decided to hurry less, because as @biophase asked correctly, Why does everyone want to get there so fast?.

    tl;dr:
     
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  3. Nicoknowsbest
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    Nicoknowsbest "Next time, there will be no next time" - Eminem Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    UPDATE:

    The summer has been interesting, but also showed me that I need to move on and develop myself further.

    Let's see what happened:
    • I finished a big, ongoing contract at the end of June and was left with a significant drop in income and some more time to think about what happened over the last year.
    • For the first time in around half a year, in-bound leads were drying up a bit and I needed to find some ways to generate leads and sales again.
    • Before I could get into serious strategic planning, the company I worked with over the last couple of months on the big project called me up again - they'd need some more help in the coming weeks.
    • I put the strategy back into the drawer and worked away at my tasks.
    • August was again up in terms of revenues, since I also got a new referral job. The amount of hours worked was crazy and left me wondering if that was it at the end of the month.
    • I cleared out almost all remaining work and the beginning of September left me again with a serious dip in revenue.
    • Now, finally with some time for strategy, I sat down and thought about the last months.

    Things I don't like and that I'd need to change:
    • Work was so much at some points that I barely could handle it. This felt good initially, but I was wondering if I should hire some help. Good thing I didn't, because I wouldn't be able to pay for an employee only a few weeks later. My margins were a bit too tight to be able to outsource the work to somebody external, and since I am still building my reputation, I didn't want to risk a bad result.
    • My revenues have been jumping like crazy, month in, month out. I'd need to find a secure stream of leads and work coming through.
    • Sometimes, it feels I created another job for myself, just with more responsibility and less security in terms of money coming through at the end of the month. Also, I haven't been able to really make strategic decisions since I my workload didn't allow this.
    • Not having many leads/sales lined up for September is a blessing and a curse. I need to watch my spending for now. On the other hand, I was able to put my AdWords knowledge to work, which opened up completely new worlds for me. I talk about my journey of creating leads with AdWords here: Progress Thread - Paid Traffic For Creatives
    • I started buying media and found out, what people are looking for in my vertical locally. I will run the same experiment globally and see what the market wants.
    • I should again do more of what's already working for me: diesel and coffee.
    • I'll finally start documenting my journey to create more content that might help more people.
    • I started engaging and helping people more on Social Media.
    • I have been working from home for the last year, but I am starting to be done with it. I feel I need a regular change in environment to help me keep up my performance. I'll look into finding a cheap (shared) office somewhere close.

    Short-term tasks:
    • Get a blog online to store all my content.
    • Develop a social media presence across all channels and produce content regularly, following the rule of doing the actual work 50% of the time and talking about it the other 50% of my time.
    • Refine my local lead gen AdWords campaigns, setup a targeted landing page serving the need I identified as well as update my generic website and send visitors to these.
    • Collect more global data with AdWords, identifying more needs to fulfill.
    • Meet more people again - I locked myself up at home to be able to cope with the work load.

    Adapted course slightly and now full steam ahead - let's see what changes.
     
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  4. Nicoknowsbest
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    Nicoknowsbest "Next time, there will be no next time" - Eminem Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    Quick Update:

    I restructured my days and I now spend 50% of my time doing, and 50% of my time talking about it.

    Things accomplished since my last post:
    • Founded an umbrella brand who unites all my single service.
    • Built a website for the umbrella brand and the first single service landing page.
    • Started preparing content and case studies from the previous year to be published on my blogs and social media handles.
    • Made the promise to myself to reach out relentlessly.
    • Dived into LinkedIn and connected with around 200+ people.
    • Got invited to a business owner event with 50+ CEOs to pitch my services to.
    • Got approached randomly in the street by a local entrepreneur who I'll meet for coffee next week.

    Less technical work, more hustle.

    This is fun!
     
  5. Azure
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    Azure Perpetual Motion Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED Speedway Pass

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    Great work man. Love the post formatting too - so easy to follow and concise.
     
  6. Nicoknowsbest
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    Nicoknowsbest "Next time, there will be no next time" - Eminem Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    Thanks for reading and for your awesome feedback @Azure!

    Happy this helps one way or another :)
     
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  7. AdamMaxum
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    AdamMaxum a worthy successor indeed Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    Great thread, although your latest posts indicate that something has to change and it sounds as if you're making those changes so that's good.

    You mention you considered hiring someone to do work, but didn't because you may not afford it, I would advise you to find someone who can do what you do at the same price or ideally lower at the same quality. Test them with some small projects. Once they pass those tests, use them to sell your service so that they start doing the work and you sell / oversee. As work increases, you simply scale the people to grow with demand. When you bring people in, pay them a fixed cost for the project if possible so you can break out the costs/profit.

    Basically, you want to outsource as soon as possible and focus your energy on sales/material/managing. It sounds daunting when you don't have a lot of money to pay people but as long as they are charging fixed prices and only working when a project happens, it's hard to lose money. I do this with website design, development and various marketing services.

    I know my web developer charges me $600 a site or a custom quote when needed. I then sell the website for 3-4k. Repeat. As long as you have a solid understanding of the service you're selling, you can begin outsourcing pretty quickly and scale as you grow/sell.
     
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  8. Nicoknowsbest
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    Nicoknowsbest "Next time, there will be no next time" - Eminem Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    Hi @AdamMaxum!

    Good spot - I am changing things up a bit and started to see some first, small results.


    Great advice. My work is very time intense and I pay the price for not spending some time on documenting what I am doing, talking to more people and start implementing sales processes.

    My key task is to find somebody I can outsource some tasks to, apart from getting a steady stream of leads.

    I somehow only really felt that work was achieved when I could deliver a project to a client, and not when I was on LinkedIn chatting to people.

    Big mistake.


    Freelancing by yourself is a tough game, because if you don't create assets or processes that you can re-sell or outsource, it's basically just another job - without any scaling opportunities whatsoever.

    You are working away, but not really building a business.


    It's been quite a thunderstorm over the last two weeks, but I started seeing some patterns emerge.


    Thanks for your comment!
     
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  9. Nicoknowsbest
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    Nicoknowsbest "Next time, there will be no next time" - Eminem Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    Hi guys.

    It's been a while...

    It's been crazy hectic months since I last posted.

    What has happened recently?


    Feeling Stuck
    I felt that I was turning in circles before Christmas. I felt that something I couldn't get my hands on was holding me back. I also realized that it has been bugging me for a while. I looked around for a while and then decided to start working with two coaches on different levels to solve it. The experience was interesting and I learned quite some things about myself. It seems I had been held back by my self-image and hadn't given me permission to succeed before. This is a very complicated matter, but if you think you are struggling with something similar, I suggest to read @eliquid's excellent thread here: Not Fulfilled? Depressed? Maybe You Need An Alignment.


    Spirituality
    "When the student is ready the teacher will appear." - Buddha

    I was somebody who never gave a thought about spirituality. My religion was work and my church the office. I thought enlightenment will come if I only work hard enough. Well, that didn't work so well. Around Christmas I then met somebody who introduced me to meditation. The effect it had on me was incredible. Slowly, step by step, all my negativity, stress and nervousness started to calm down and I felt power from within. Regularly meditating changed me and the way I interact with people quite a bit. It made me more grounded. It's now part of my morning routine and it works really well for me.


    Offer
    In the past year I have been doing nearly everything for everybody. I had around 40 clients or so in year 1 and worked on close to 100 projects. It was mostly one-off bespoke work, which was quite a pain. Week by week, you need to go out and hustle for it. Year 2 started off very promising. I met a key client who helped me refine my offer as well as my business model and connected me to some great people locally.

    I am now reducing one-off bespoke work to almost a minimum, because I have been signing up 4 new clients over the last weeks who pay me MRR, monthly recurring revenue, for me to take care of what they need. Imagine it like a membership for design & marketing services. I am currently expanding my skill set and learning Facebook/Instagram ads, because I got the feedback from the market that this is where I should be going, taking my current skills into consideration.

    The next step will be to do less of the actual work and start outsourcing to free up my time again.

    MRR, though not passive, is amazing, because I finally can do some calculations and forecasting. Thank you @Andy Black for showing me the power of this.


    Morning Routine
    I finally got into a rhythm of a morning routine that is inspired by Hal Elrod's Miracle Morning. It's a great way to ground yourself before you start your day and calibrate your mind. Leaving the house after some silence, thoughts of gratitude, affirmations and visualizations, meditation and some stretching is a game changer.


    Diet
    When I am under stress, I tend to fall into bad eating habits. Mix in some tiredness, and I eat whatever comes along, in huge quantities. I also tend to overspend on food in these moments, just because I couldn't control it properly. I knew I needed to fix this, so I got a custom meal plan from a friend who is a nutritionist. The change was huge in the beginning and it took quite some willpower, but at the end feeling better was well worth it.


    So far, so good.

    Happy Tuesday everybody!
     
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  10. GregDott
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    GregDott Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED

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    Just came across this thread today. Thanks for sharing your journey. I recently (a few months ago) started freelancing as a web and mobile developer, so your experiences have shed a lot of light on some things for me. I have found some great information from your process. Thanks... Will be watching this.
     
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  11. Nicoknowsbest
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    Nicoknowsbest "Next time, there will be no next time" - Eminem Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    Hi @GregDott, thanks for reading! Awesome to hear that you got value out of it - feel free to ask away and I'll try to help.
     
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  12. GregDott
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    You are most kind @Nicoknowsbest!
     
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  13. Nicoknowsbest
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    Nicoknowsbest "Next time, there will be no next time" - Eminem Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    How I cleared my mental fogginess

    If I get into a rhythm of working long hours, not getting enough fresh air, postponing my workouts and not sleeping enough, I tend to lose control a bit. When I am stressed and overly tired, I neglect health. I don't workout and I eat fast food, because yeah, clients are waiting, right?

    I had a rough cold a few weeks ago and it took me a while to get back on track, physically as well as work-wise. So I decided it was about time to break this cycle and put myself, my business and my health first again.

    Action #1
    My most important client is my own business. So I scheduled my day around 1 hour of growth work every morning during which I am not reachable for clients. Phone off, earphones in - this is where progress is made.

    Action #2
    I decided to do a reset in my body and do 2 weeks of dieting. I committed to eating only alkaline foods. This means I had to step down from 4-5 cups of coffee a day, for instance. I was vegan for a while before, so I knew what was coming up in terms of veggies and fruits. One week down, another one to go - the effects are very positive. My head is clear, I have way more energy and I feel much better overall.

    Action #3
    I am working out at 7am 4 times a week again. I am adding a couple of shorter runs/sprints after work at night - because being active outside is just irreplaceable. There's nothing too intimidating anymore after starting off Monday with 4 sets of heavy squats. If in doubt, squat :)


    Thanks to @Andy Black I look at my progress in weekly cycles and evaluate what happened last week with the following questions:

    1) Next Sunday, when you look back on this week, what needs to have happened for you to be happy with progress this week?

    2) What can you do to make a sale this week?

    3) What should you stop this week?

    4) What should you start this week?


    Here's what I am thinking about it this week:

    1) I'd be happy if I find one more client this week and get the basics of my own branding done.

    2) Follow up with my client base as well as talk to my contact who I have a referral deal with.

    3) I should stop taking phone calls at all hours of the day.

    4) I should start writing and documenting my journey and producing content every day.


    Happy Monday everybody.
     
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  14. Nicoknowsbest
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    Nicoknowsbest "Next time, there will be no next time" - Eminem Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    Looking back, here are the recent developments:

    Separating my lives, business and private
    I have clients who don't respect my privacy and text/call me at all times of the day, no matter which day of the week. After bringing this up a couple of times but nothing changing, I got a business phone number where I am reachable during office hours. Special clients have my private cell and know how to handle it.

    Cleaning out my private life
    To be able to focus on growth 100%, I needed to get rid of some obligations in my private life. I cleaned up my friends' list and stopped playing soccer. I used to be in a club, train 2 times a week and play a game once a week during the season. The management wanted to push me into a leading role and I declined and walked away. It took me around 45 mins in the car to go there, so much more time for growth and recovery now.

    Tracking clients' progresses
    I am sending my clients a weekly update now, covering time worked, problems solved and results/goals achieved. So far, my services are hard to tie to actual numbers, but getting there.

    From graphic designer to consultant
    Clients don't call me the graphic dude anymore. I added PPC skills (AdWords & Facebook), copywriting and social media marketing to my offer after clients suggested I help them with these. This means that I am getting paid to learn and refine my skills while adding more value. This shows that the fact that people buy from people is more important than actual skills. Some of my clients even call me for business advice now, before they make a bigger decision. This makes me feel very humble and shows me that I am progressing.

    Looking at my goals from last week...
    • 1) I'd be happy if I find one more client this week and get the basics of my own branding done. --> DONE: branding is almost there, new client deal might be sealed today.
    • 2) Follow up with my client base as well as talk to my contact who I have a referral deal with. --> DONE: meeting a new lead today and sent out an offer to an existing client.
    • 3) I should stop taking phone calls at all hours of the day. --> DONE: whenever I do technical work, I mute my phone. This increased my productivity drastically.
    • 4) I should start writing and documenting my journey and producing content every day. --> FAILED: I still need to integrate this better into my daily routine.

    For this week...
    • 1) Next Sunday, when you look back on this week, what needs to have happened for you to be happy with progress this week? --> Close two open leads and add MRR, finish my branding.
    • 2) What can you do to make a sale this week? --> Told my referral deal partner that I have more resources so I am waiting to hear back from him.
    • 3) What should you stop this week? --> After 2 weeks of eating clean, I fell into old habits and immediately paid the price. I should stop eating stuff I know is not good for me.
    • 4) What should you start this week? --> Writing every day.
    Thanks for reading and happy Wednesday!
     
  15. Nicoknowsbest
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    Nicoknowsbest "Next time, there will be no next time" - Eminem Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    Deal is sealed with one of the leads.

    The second lead is waiting for an offer from my side - we agreed on after Easter.

    Status Quo:
    • 6 clients paying me MRR (not passive)
    • 1 warm lead in the pipeline
     
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