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FT 011: Key Insights from Interviewing 9 Consulting Experts

Wow! The first 10 episodes of the Freelance Transformation Podcast are effectively a free mini-course featuring roughly 9 hours of actionable knowledge from consulting experts.

Each episode is filled with real actionable knowledge on its own, but it can be very instructive to look at the patterns that keep coming up when talking to experts.

I have relistened to all 10 past episodes (seriously) and I have isolated 5 key insights that are especially key to understand. And I'd love to know yours too.

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Key Insights Reviewed

Insight #1: Design a Repeatable Sales Funnel
One of the true gems that have arisen from this podcast is the number of episodes where guests have shared exactly how they aquire their clients, in a repeatable sustainable way.

There isn't one magic tactic that works better than the others or is always the right fit. Networking. Content marketing. Direct outreach. It turns out that all of these are great potential options. The difference is execution.

You will see is the same formula being applied by successful consultants over and over again. Let me break the general steps down for you:

  1. Establish target market and the real problem that you are solving (real means your target audience complains about it and wants to pay you to solve it).
  2. Determine a repeatable way to get in front of this audience with a compelling offer. Networking, content marketing, direct outreach are all approaches guests have used. The right approach is a combination of what makes sense for your market and what you are comfortable with.
  3. Take the prospect on a journey from first meeting you to wishing to invest in your service. This is any combination of marketing automation and direct sales.

Episodes with in-depth sales funnel illustration:

  • Trajan King: earns clients by making real connections.
  • Brennan Dunn: great thoughts on building a funnel and automating the sales process.
  • Kurt Elster: finding clients through content marketing.
  • Einar Vollset: direct outreach using specific signals to find likely prospects.

Insight #2: Understand the Underlying Reason the Client Needs Your Services, and Sell That Result to Them!

If you are a web designer telling clients that you can build pretty websites on fancy technologies, you are one of a million that are offering the same thing. You are a commodity.

But what if you stop talking about great design and fancy web technologies, and start understanding and proposing to solve the underlying problem that your client is trying to solve? What if you can describe that problem in the client's own words, and propose a solution that speaks to that problem?

Suddenly the playing field narrows tremendously.

You're no longer competing with providers who are charging 3-10x LESS than you are. And yet it makes total financial sense to hire you, because you have carefully established that you can in fact solve that problem, and to generate a positive return (create money) for your client.

My free Guide to Landing Higher Paying Clients talks about this at length. As do the interviews with the following guests:

  • Naveen Dittakavi: earns $200-$400 per hour as a Ruby consultant by becoming a trusted advisor to his clients.
  • Brennan Dunn: discusses how to avoid becoming a commodity and how to figure out what your clients really need.

Insight #3: It Pays to be a Specialist Instead of a Generalist

This ties very strongly with the last point. It pays to get really good at solving a very specific problem and positioning yourself or your company as the expert in that problem.

For example, let's say you need to figure out the structure of your corporation. Would you rather hire a lawyer that specializes only in corporate law, and better yet has a large base of clients who are a similar size or industry as you? Or would you hire the lawyer that incorporates company in the morning, handles a divorce in the afternoon, and prepares for a personal injury lawsuit after dinner?

Becoming a specialist is another strong way to decommoditize yourself. It makes it easier to build a strong portfolio around that one problem, and to establish expert status.

Great discussions on specialization include:

  • Einar Vollset: his agency specializes in maintaining orphaned apps, and provides a productized service based on this specialization.
  • Kurt Elster: he has built his entire agency based around significantly increasing the sales of existing Shopify stores.

This topic comes up again in episode 12 (June 8th) with Kai Davis.

Insight #4: You Can Build Processes to be Highly Productive

Productivity does not have to be left up to chance. Unfortunately most people start the day by trying to play catch-up between a growing todo list and every interruption that life decides to throw out them.

It's entirely possible to spend 8 hours in front of the computer and feel like you have accomplished nothing except a few email responses and light work.

Yet despite all of us having the same 24 hours in a day, some top performers consistently get an unbelievable amount accomplished every day.

The difference is that they engineer their schedule and environment to naturally create the productivity that they need:

  • Barry Carter: real insights into beating the challenges of working from home, diagnosing sleep problems, healthy email habits, and the surprising benefits of a dog (really!).
  • John Sonmez: combines the Pomodoro Technique, Kanban ideology, and quotas to output tremendous amounts of content each week.

Insight #5: You Get the Life that You Choose to Live

This is the core Freelance Transformation philosophy: if you take the time to define the lifestyle that you want, you can build your business around achieving it.

Freelance Transformation guests are living proof of this philosphy!

Every single guest to appear so far has created either time, money, or location freedom for themselves through the work that they do.

  • Jason lives in the Caribbean while Trajan is spending a year traveling Europe with his wife.
  • Barry and Kurt escaped from corporate jobs to do what they love.
  • Naveen, Brennan, Einar, and Ruben have created time and financial freedom to devote to their families and lifestyle.
  • John "retired" at 33 and now works because he wants to.
  • I, your host, have gone on epic trips, pursue the hobbies that I love, and I've created the time for this blog and podcast.

Yes sometimes really bad (or good) things happen through no fault of our own and they can have a disproportionate impact on our lives...

But the actions that you take will be the biggest factor in determining the life that you lead.

Or to use one of my favourite quotes:

"Reality is negotiable."
- Tim Ferriss

Bonus: Recommended Tools

The invaluable tools that Freelance Transformation guests use to get things done:

  • AwayFindGet notified by SMS when important emails have arrived. Make sure you listen to the episode to understand the nuances of how to use this service effectively.
  • Nifty appointment scheduling software that integrates with your inbox.
  • Bidsketch: Tool for creating and sending proposals.
  • Drip: The marketing automation software that Kurt uses to build his drip email campaigns.
  • Slack: Simple real-time team collaboration.

Bonus: Recommended Must-Read Books

Books are one of the most effective (and cheap) ways to keep learning. If someone that I trust recommends a book to me as a must read, I usually buy it right then and there during the conversation. It's simply a no brainer.

Naturally I often asks guests for their book recommendations. This is what they recommended:

Share Your Biggest Insight

What is YOUR BIGGEST INSIGHT from past Freelance Transformation Podcast episodes? Share in the comments below. I'd also love to know your feedback, the show is new and evolving.

Share Your Biggest Insight

Share your thoughts and feedback below: