10 Resources That Shaped My Career
There is amazing amount of resource available on the internet if you know where to look. I’ve realized that over the past year, there are some articles, pod casts, books, or videos that have had a huge impact on my view and approach to my business. I’ve had several people ask me how I came to conclusions I have about how I run my business, and how I execute on them. I wanted to share 10 links that are all free, and have all provided me with exceptional value.
If you only read one of the articles on this list, make it this one. In this article Patrick McKenzie lays out how to go from being a programmer to a consultant.
I tell everyone who wants to get into the freelance business they need to watch this video. While some people are put off my Mike’s brash style of speaking, the information him and his legal counsel give in this talk is indispensable. In this talk, they talk about how to structure contracts that protect both yourself and your client. Spend 45 minutes watching this video, go touch up your contracts, and never deal with late or non-paying clients again.
Most people default to two ways to bill projects: hourly and at a flat rate. This article lays out several other options, such as billing daily and weekly. Billing clients in daily and weekly increments changes the entire conversation, and has been the main thing I have done to improve my own bottom line. This article does a great job of laying out your options and how they work. I’ve also talked about Why I don’t bill hourly and How to bill Daily and Weekly in other articles.
to Summarize, Referrals, Outbound, Content Marketing, Advertising, and Partnerships, in that order. The number one question I get from aspiring freelancers is “How do you find clients?”. This article gives you 5 actionable, prioritized strategies for finding new leads. Starting with referrals, which are always the most effective. Many freelancers get 100% of their work from referrals, even if they don’t realize it. Because of this, it can be easy to become complacent, and not do a lot of active marketing, which leads to the feast or famine cycle that many freelancers find themselves in. That’s what steps 2 – 5 are for. If you are ever worried about finding clients, start working down the list. Actually, due to the average length of a sales pipeline (at least in my experience), start doing these when you are comfortable, and you’ll find that those moments when you are worried about finding clients will stop existing.
Another great article by Paul Graham. I have so many clients ask about “scalability” long before they have that problem. This article points out that the most effective strategies when you are starting out are ones that you eventually have to drop later on. I had a start-up founder working on a content network ask me “How can I find authors?”. I told him that was the wrong question. The right question to ask is “How do I find one author?”. It could be going to events, talking to people individually, and then following up via phone and email. Of course this can’t be done a lot, but it can be done once. And if it can be done once, then it can be done twice, and thrice, and so on.
In this article, Nathan Barry talks about how he made a commitment to write 1,000 words every day, and how it reshaped his career. This article showed me both the power and value of writing, and how much progress you can make by making a small commitment every day. Most first drafts of books are 25,000 – 50,000 words, which means you could write one in just one to two months. I’ve also seen first hand how writing can be a value tool for marketing, communication, and learning. Spending time writing has also been one of the most transforming decisions I’ve made for my career.
I probably could have filled up all 10 of these with essays by Paul Graham, but I think this the most important one. In this essay, Paul Graham talks about how the art of writing essays has changed and became perverted over time by being confined to English departments. Our education system has taught us that essays has to structured a certain way, cite sources a certain way, and be about boring literary or historical topics (unless those subjects are your jam). In reality, essays were originally designed not to be a way for you to share information you already have, but to be an educational experience for yourself. This essay showed me that there is value in writing, even if no one reads it. This article is also meta-inspiring because I love how Paul Graham writes.
Summary: Retainers, Seminars, Paid Newsletters, Coaching. Many freelancers or consultants want to move from selling their time to selling some form of product. In fact, there is a podcast dedicated to the subject. This podcast lays out some ways to make a small shift towards productizing things. Many developers / designers seem to think that product = SaaS application, but it doesn’t have to be this way. For example, selling scoped monthly retainers is an easy step that most freelancers can do to get into the habit of selling products, and create some recurring revenue for themselves.
When people decide that want to try to build a product to sell, it’s easy to jump into a grandiose idea, that will take a lot of time and resources. I tell clients there is value in launching early because the bigger a project is, the more likely it is to fail. In this article Amy Hoy talks about picking a project that you can complete in 90 days. While I was wrong in my estimate for my project, It still gave me an idea for a smaller product, my book Bootstrap Freelance , Which I’ll be releasing later this year.
This article is a swift kick-in-the-rear that a lot of freelancers and start up founders alike need. It is easy to get caught up in the idea of building something great and unique that we ignore what it takes to get there: lots of time and energy spent learning basic skills. Many people these days want to be craftsmen without putting in the hours to truly hone their craft. Many people are looking for the “growth hack” that is going to get their start up 10,000 sign ups overnight or the one pricing trick that clients hate so they can quadruple their freelancing rate. They don’t want to hammer out the basics and get good at them.
All of this information on how to improve your business, your skills, and your life, is readily available on the internet. This is just the tip of the iceberg. If you liked these I’d recommend digging deeper into some more of the content put out by some of the people I’ve mentioned here: Brennan Dunn, Amy Hoy, Nathan Barry ,Patrick McKenzie , and Paul Graham , are all great authors who have put out a ton of great content for free.
Some people may wonder why people would be willing to divulge so much of the secret of their success online. I think it goes back to the point Amy Hoy made in her blacksmith’s article: You can be given all of the tools and knowledge in the world, but if you aren’t willing to put in the work to put them to use and truly learn to hone your craft they won’t make any difference. Well, this is some of the best tools I have, and I’m giving them to you. So get out there and make a difference.