FT055: Building an Independent Consulting Business with Nick Disabato
For Nick Disabato, freelance consulting in not a temporary between-jobs solution, it is his life. Listen to how he created a successful independent consulting business, Draft, with just him and an assistant while making decisions along the way that have improved his work-life balance, his mental health, and his overall happiness.
Nick loves his job, but he knows that he has to maintain boundaries between work and life to keep from being overwhelmed by work, so he is very careful about setting expectations about off-hours and vacation time so he can take time off and keep his clients happy. To do this, he has also been very careful about who he accepts as clients and has set up a careful application process to only work with the clients he knows will be best for him and allow him to provide the most value to. But Nick also knows that he doesn't want to be stressed out and selling all the time. He lets loose on his mailing list and writes about what ever he feels like, sometimes business related, sometimes about sandwiches! He gets to have fun, and also gets leads and an audience to sell his ideas to, such as his new Kickstarter book.
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Nick shares with us:
- How a comfortable business leads to a happy lifestyle:
- Every business decision has ramifications on your life and mental health, so you need to decide what in life is most important to you so you can make decisions to achieve the lifestyle you desire. Nick knows that he is happiest when he develops and maintains relationships in and out of business, not necessarily building a 20 person consultant agency or making millions a year. So he has made decisions to keep his business small, just him and an assistant, so he can focus on what he wants.
- Nick also values freedom and travel and takes 12 weeks of vacation each year. To get the time off, he sets expectations several months in advance so clients know he will be away. He works hard before and after vacations so his clients are prepared and can survive while he is away. But after 5 pm, on weekends, and on holiday, Nick is unreachable, which is how he planned it.
- Nick's golden tip when you finish work for the day or go on vacation: No phone, no email, no worries.
- How to qualify your leads:
- To achieve the lifestyle he wants, Nick has spent a lot of time working on qualifying his leads and clients. He will only work with the people he wants to, turning down 95% of leads that come in, and even firing clients when the time is right, when he can't provide the value that the client is seeking, or when he can't work the way he wants to. Nick is very strict when it comes to accepting clients and has a whole application process. He wants to make sure potential clients can follow his directions, respect him and his assistant, are considerate, are able to communicate well, and can actually utilize his services fully.
- Nick's golden tip: Once the potential client has made it through the application process, your first contact should be face-to-face or video chat on Skype. Nick demands video so the clients know they are dealing with a real person. It has never worked out when he has done voice only or IM.
- How to create a successful and unique mailing list:
- Nick is known for his off the wall mailing list where he sends his followers a letter every Monday. That is every single Monday no matter what! He has been sending these letters every Monday for the past 3 years and counting. Consistency is crucial! In Nick's words, “It's a marathon that never ends.” That's how you play the long game!
- Nick has now written enough that he has consolidated his letters into two books (one is on Kickstarter right now!). Product created, ta da! But that's an added bonus. The main point of his mailing list is to build friendships and relationships. For Nick, it's fun! And he lets his personality shine, telling all sorts of random stories as well as how he executed certain business ideas or analyzed how other businesses achieved something cool. Though he doesn't necessarily recommend following his style of mailing list, since he admits that it is weird, he does recommend:
- Nick's golden tip: Never waste your reader's time, always provide value. But also have fun with it. It shouldn't always be about selling, selling, selling.
- Draft Evidence: On running a sustainable, independent design business by Nick Disabato on Kickstarter
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