“Why I have to sell myself each time I apply to job? I have top rated status with 96% so called bullshit. Clients come upwork on their last resort if they didn’t find anywhere and they don’t believe they will find. And that’s why they don’t bother to respond.”
Being a top rated freelancer with a good job success rate doesn’t somehow magically absolve you of needing to compete for work. You’re always gonna have to sell yourself and compete. Even outside freelance sites. You’re still competing… you just don’t see it so directly.
Let me make this more clear.
If I go on Upwork, into my client account…
And, search freelancers for the term: “wordpress”.
Probably a pretty common thing a client would do if they need somebody to work on their WordPress site. If I filter for freelancers who have a 90% job success rate or higher, guess what? 27 of the first 50 freelancers all have the “Top Rated” badge.
That’s just over 50%
If I remove that filter…
It’s still 19 of 50… so, 38%
Lots of freelancers on there have those designations.
You’re still gonna have to compete with them.
But, beyond that even…
Look, clients don’t undergo some sort of uber-logical decision-making process when hiring a freelancer. Buying decisions are emotional. So, they’re not gonna do a search and just pick the freelancers with the highest job success rate and the pretty little “Top Rated” badge.
They’re gonna look at your picture…
Skim your bio…
Read a few reviews…
Look at your portfolio…
All very quickly and just try to “get a feel” for you.
And, like it or not… they’ll make their decision to invite you based on that.
I’m simply trying to get you to give them a “good feel”…
(Ok, not like that, you perv!)
As for Upwork just being full of desperate clients…
That’s just so obviously false.
If I do the same “wordpress” search from my freelancer account, one of the first projects is from a client who has hired 92 times before. They’ve spent 30k+ on the site and have a 5-star rating from the freelancers they’ve worked with.
Sounds like Upwork is their FIRST resort, not their last.
A client that’s spent 100k+ and has 4.98 rating.
Another that’s spend 80k+ and a 5-star rating..
None of these clients seem desperate or to be using Upwork as a “last resort”. And, imagine if you landed a project with one of these clients and really impressed them. How much would work might you get in the future from just that one client?
So, I’m the one calling “BS” here.
These clients are there.
You just need to get over yourself…
And your “Top Rated” status…
And realize you gotta compete.
If not here, then out on the open web.
Nobody is going to give you the work.
You gotta go get it.
That said, there are ways you can stack the chips in your favor. Subtle tweaks you can make to your profile, your bids, your entire approach on Upwork… that will tip the scales in your favor and make it much easier to get hired and paid more for your work.
Not to mention be more appreciated and valued.
I show you all this in my Upwork 101 course which you can get FREE on SkillShare. Just sign up for the 2-month FREE trial… that’ll give you plenty of time to get through the course and then if you want, cancel before the trial is up. And VOILA… you got my course free.
“Especially considering I basically had to harass them to get paid each month for the work that I’d done (probably Bernie supporters… ya know).”
Those of you who been round these parts a bit know how that went.
This is ONE of the responses I got:
“I am a supporter of Bernie Sanders. One od the few USA politicians I have respect for. Since John Morris really likes to throw around really stupid and insulting associations regarding Mr. Sanders, I do not want to have anything to do with John Morris or what he represents. I support democratic socialism of scandinavian type, Sweden, Finland, Norway and other civilised countries that really care for its citizens. I do not support nor like USA type of capitalism, it is horrible. So good riddance John Morris, the smart ass of web development, have fun under Trump.”
Like taking candy from a baby. (Ahem… I mean “redistributing”.)
See how easy that is?
I talk about this all the time… and whenever I send one of these I get loads of unsolicited “advice” from no-nothings about how I shouldn’t talk politics or make fun of this or that candidate.
I do it on purpose y’all.
I know it pisses people off.
That is the point.
And, you should be doing it, too.
Because… I know these people are a pain the arsimuss. They write big long paragraphs about stupid ish based on one wise-crack in an email I wrote. (I actually got a two paragrapher from another dude.) They say stupid ish like “capitalism is horrible” which means every time I sell something they’re going to have a hissy fit. And, they tend to be big on opinions but small on taking action… so they rarely ever get anything from my or anybody’s courses.
If this isn’t a clear case of “drama I don’t need”…
I don’t know what is.
I don’t want them as customers.
I don’t want them on my list.
I don’t want them anywhere near me.
And, talking politics and throwing out wise-cracks like that… scares them off. Good! Good riddance. Go away. If you’re one and reading this right now… buzz off.I don’t want your money.
And, you should do the same with your clients…
Or when picking what jobs you want to apply for.
Don’t just sell your soul to make a buck. Have some standards.
Know what clients/employers you don’t want…
As much as you know the ones you do.
Anyway, that’s one of the greatest business lessons I ever learned…
If you can cut through all “be professional” B.S. you’ve been taught and see it.
Now, onto biznass…
So, apparently y’all are some freaky freaks… people are lovin’ the freak-bot course I mentioned the other day. Here it is again in cased you missed it. It’s actually a course on machine learning, a segment of AI.
And, like I said the other day…
This is one of the areas of our industry that is still wide open… where “noobs” can still make a real impact and a name for themselves. So, if you want to be on the cutting edge of our industry, this is it. Plus, the average salary is 120K per year. Not too shabby.
Anyway, there’s a whole course on this AI/Machine Learning stuff.
That will teach you machine learning so you can actually get involved and have that impact and make that name. It’s from a guy who did this for Amazon and IMDb, so knows what he’s doing.
“How do I create a client base outside of freelance networks?”
Actually, I get this question a lot. And, usually, it comes from someone who’s about to send letters full of anthrax to the owners of Upwork (or Freelancer, Guru, etc) because they’ve tried everything and can’t get clients.
Let me tell you a story…
I often talk about what happened to me after I changed my approach on Elance and how I started sucking in clients like kids to a candy store. But, I talk less about what happened before.
That’s because it kind of sucked.
When I very very first got on Elance… I bombed.
I made all the mistakes I always tell you not to. I marketed myself as a “do-everything” web guy. I practically begged people to hire me. I had a terrible picture. My bio was about two sentences. I talked only about the languages I knew. And, I just sat there waiting for clients to land in my lap.
I’ll give you eight guesses what happened.
But, then I got lucky.
Several years before that, I’d uploaded a couple tutorials on YouTube and pretty much forgot about them. They got like 30 views initially… and since they didn’t instantly go viral, I had just moved on.
But, now several years later they were gaining traction.
I started noticing I was getting notifications from YouTube about comments… every other day or so. So, I decided to login and see what was up. To my shock, one of the videos now had over 10K views.
And, my channel was getting several thousand views per month.
Seemingly, out of nowhere.
So being the opportunistic little devil I am, I immediately started trying to figure out how I could use it. Eventually, I figured out how to push people through my website to my Elance profile. And, I never looked back.
Eventually, I went off Elance altogether.
And, just got all my clients through my website.
And, that’s the answer…
It doesn’t have to be YouTube, but you should absolutely be building up your audience outside of the freelance sites. Every serious business in the world is realizing this and starting to create content and build their audience.
Freelancers are no different.
It’s the cost of doing business.
Before the internet, the cost of doing business included buying a building, getting a big sign and advertising on the radio, newspaper, billboards, yada yada. Today, the cost of doing business is creating content.
As Gary Vaynerchuck says:
“If you’re not creating content online, you basically don’t exist.”
And be glad that’s all it is. You don’t need to go into debt 100K to start a business.
So, you should absolutely, never ever, not in a million years… rely solely on a freelance site to bring you all your clients.
That’s asking to go broke.
Thing is… leveraging your audience for your freelance business is simple:
Figure out who your target audience is and what content they want
Create the content and promote it like crazy on social media
At the end of each piece of content, point them to your profile
(Pro tip: Don’t point them straight to your Upwork profile. Point them to a page on your site. At first, it can just be a redirect to your Upwork profile. But later when you want to “exit” Upwork, you can turn that page into a sales page. Mine, for example, is johnmorrisonline.com/hire. That was a redirect initially but now is a sales page. Now all those links from the initial content are still valid.)
Now, I think a lot of freelancers know this.
They know they need to be creating content.
But, they’re scared to put themselves out there.
Thing is… you don’t have to do YouTube videos like I do. You can do written tutorials, answer questions on StackOverflow or Quora. Then, find someone you trust and have them look your stuff over before you post it.
What you’ll find is the web isn’t the big scary monster you imagined.
And when you do get some jack!@# who “know-it-alls” one of your posts… just block ’em. Hell… even if they’re right. You don’t have to entertain them. Just block them and move on. I do it all the time.
But, when you build a content-to-profile funnel like this…
Beating the algorithms on Upwork or whatever site is easy. You’re building your own job history, testimonials, rankings… without relying on the network. And then eventually, you’ll rank high enough that the network starts sending you clients…
And then it’s all over.
You ride off into the sunset… tell bossy boy to shove it and your life is yours.
You’re free… and because you built it… it’s secure.
Anyway, I know you might want a more detailed walkthrough of how to set all this up… because details do matter. That’s why I created Module 3 in my Lightning Responsive course which you can get as a supporter over on Patreon.
When I was in Iraq, I worked in a hospital. Whenever we had a “mass casualty” event, I would run up there and help out in whatever way I could. As you can probably imagine, I unfortunately saw a lot of people pass away.
More than I’d ever care to really think about.
That always stuck with me.
How fragile and brief this life really is. How quickly it can all be taken away from us. And, I’ve always tried to live my life as if today could be my last. Because, the truth is… it very well could be. Nothing is promised.
Then, there’s my parents.
I’ve watched them grow old with regret. My dad is an entrepreneur at heart… but never really could put all the pieces together. Every time, I see him I can see the pain of the missteps and missed opportunities in his eyes.
And my mom…
She just wanted to provide for my brothers and I. I think watching us suffer the way we did just killed her inside and she’s always has this look of “I’m sorry” in her eyes every time I see her.
It’s painful to watch.
Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook out of his college dorm room. Apple famously started in a garage. Many of the giants of today were started from very humble beginnings yesterday.
That means there’s nothing stopping you from being one of the giants of tomorrow.
Whether that’s a giant for the whole world… or just for your kids and your spouse.
You are smart enough.
You are capable enough.
You do have what it takes.
But, the last thing you want is to grow old with regret. To look back and wonder, “what if”. The question you should be asking isn’t, “How do I make a buck today”… which is what I get so often… but how will you be remembered tomorrow?
What will they say about you?
What will your legacy be?
Every day, the time just keeps ticking away and it won’t stop for anybody. What you need to build that legacy, as a coder, is a solid foundation of skill. And you need to get it fast so you can move on to building great things. Get that foundation in PHP fast here: http://www.johnmorrisonline.com/php
I sent this out in an email the other day and I wanted to share it with you. But, BEWARE… read it before Hillary deletes it! 🙂
So, alot of hub-bub here in the good ‘ol U.S. of A about Hillary Clinton. Seems there’s two sets of rules… ones for the Clinton’s and ones for everybody else. That’s the word on the street anyway.
Funny because this is true about a lot of things.
In the US, the top 1% of Americans earn 19% of all income.
In Hollywood, the top actors always seem to get the best roles.
And, in my experience, the top freelancers tend to suck up most of the clients.
For example, if you go on Upwork in to the “web development” category there’s an agency, Mobiloitte Technologies, that’s clocked 63,866 hours of client services. The next closest on the front page is Ron Zvagelsky with 5,488 hours.
That’s how things tend to work.
Because… once you establish a certain threshold of credibility and authority, you stick out like a sore thumb as being more trustworthy, and you end up getting a disproportionate share of the clients.
It’s like how the 1st position in a Google search result gets 33% of the clicks.
And, just like the Clinton’s, there’s often two sets of rules for those on top versus those struggling to claw their way up. Let me be straight. I’m not saying it’s right. But, it is reality. And, my job is to tell you the truth… not opine about how I think it should be.
Now, don’t get me wrong.
Ronnie ain’t doing too shabby himself. 5488 hours clocked at 75/hr is 411,600. I think most freelancers would take that. But, freelancers with this kind of experience, job history and skillset just get treated differently.
They rarely have to go out and find work on their own.
Because, they come up at the top of most of the web development related searches you’ll do on Upwork… the clients just automatically flow to them.
They also don’t have to work hard to sell their services.
63,866 hours logged with a 93% job success rate speaks for itself. Potential clients see that and immediately trust them more.
And, the clients they work with will rarely give them a hard time.
Because, those clients know that these developers are uber-experienced, they know what they’re doing and when they speak… clients listen.
In fact, from my own experience…
I can tell you that after I worked with Michael Hyatt, my client experience changed dramatically. He’s not only really well-known but highly respected and trusted. So, having him on my resume brought an air of authority with it.
Client looked to me for guidance instead of always trying to boss me around.
My point is…
You shouldn’t necessarily be-grudge the fact that these two sets of rules exist (for developers anyway… feel free to be-grudge the Clinton’s all you want). Instead you should be focused on joining that elite group of developers.
Now, I talk all the time about the “outside factors” that affect this…
Things like how well you communicate, how reliable you are, how well you provide wisdom and guidance, etc. These things matter.
But, it’s also true that skill is at the center of it all.
I mean the refrigerator repairman can be the sweetest fella in the world, but if the chicken goes bad because he jacked it up… it ain’t gon’ matter.
So, let this weekend begin your journey into “Clinton territory”.
PHP represents 82% of all websites whose scripting language we know. PHP developers, on average make 87,000 per year (Indeed.com). And, in the time it’d take for you get through a montage of all the “untruths” Hillary told about her email server (~1 hour), there’s been 36 new PHP jobs posted to Upwork.
Why spend another day in the “little people” club of developers… or another moment stuck haggling through another one of your boss’ “brilliant” ideas…
Check out the video for the full story, but let me summarize what I think Mike Locke is ultimately saying:
Freelance income is not sustainable and scalable because you’re ultimately just trading time for money like a regular job
You shouldn’t focus on it as your end-all be-all for your career
Use it as supplement to a job and focus long term on building a product for residual income
Now, while I agree with a lot of what he says in the video and I appreciate what he’s trying to get you to do (which I think is good)… I have to say I disagree with some of his primary points.
The problems with freelancing aren’t freelancing itself… it’s how it’s used.
Let me give you an example.
Shortly after I built Michael Hyatt’s membership site, Platform University, as you might imagine I had a lot of people contacting me to build them a similar kind of site. In fact, so much so, that I came up with a new service offering called a “Clone”. And I sold it for three grand.
Building those sites took me between 4-6 hours.
Because I already had all the code. I wrote down an “implementation checklist” of exactly what steps to take to build the clone. And, I was clear with clients from the start that I was basically giving them the same site with colors and logos changed. No custom coding or any of that.
And they didn’t care. That’s what they wanted.
And, I built a lot of these.
So, if you look at what I made hourly it was somewhere between 500 and 750 per hour. When, my normal hourly rate was around 100 at the time. So, I was making five times my hourly rate on these projects.
And, clients couldn’t care less.
They weren’t paying me for my time.
They were paying me for access (to the code I already had). They were paying me for my expertise. And frankly, most of them were paying me for speed… because I could crank the site out so fast.
So, if you think of freelancing from a purely “hourly rate” standpoint…
Then, sure it’s just trading time for money like any old job. And, doing the math… you’ll probably find it hard to see how you can reach your income goals.
If you don’t want to trade time for money… then don’t trade time for money. In fact, go to my “hire me” page right now (http://www.johnmorrisonline.com/hire). Do you see an hourly rate on there?
I don’t even offer it.
When you start thinking of your services as more than just your time… and start thinking in terms of “end results” and offering them more as products… you can start to see how you can make the kind of income you’re after with freelancing.
And, you can see how easily it can scale.
This is why I harp on “end results” all the time.
You’ll make more money.
You’ll work less.
It’ll be easier to market.
It’ll be easier to deliver.
And (ninja s!@# here) if you choose, it’ll be easier to outsource or hire someone to do for you so you can rake in the dineros while you sit at the beach sipping on some rum and Coke.
Can you see what I’m saying?
Here’s one more example…
A few years back, I saw how big the responsive design thing was getting. So, I decided to throw my hat in the ring and I focused mainly on local small businesses. They were easy to sell and easy to make happy.
And, as I started building mobile responsive sites for local businesses…
I developed a PHP “framework” that let me do it faster and faster each time. In fact, by the time I had it fully developed I could go grab a bootstrap template and port it into my system in just a few hours.
Plug in some variables specific to that client and have their site out the door in less than a day. And, it’d be a major upgrade from their previous site.
Now, I know that won’t make you feel better than everyone else because you hand-code every site you build from scratch…
But, it will put food (lots) on the table.
Anyway, I put that framework and a full 3-module course up over on Patreon. It’s called Lightning Responsive and you can get it as a supporting listener here:http://www.johnmorrisonline.com/patreon.
“I have NO EXPERIENCE in PHP. I applied to a Job that said this: ‘Experience in PHP, MySQL, Ruby, or Haskell, and web languages such as CSS and HTML, are a plus.’ I only have basic experience in HTML5, CSS3, & Bootstrap3. No JS or PHP. I met with the owner today. Showed him my website (ChrisSeanLife.com).
He liked my personality. Knows I’m not the best PHP developer but would like me to focus and grow in it. I literally only made my website on Monday and made the finishing touches 20 minutes before my interview. I got hired. And accepted an offer for $45k for the first 3 months.
If I do well (and I will! As I study your PHP Courses) It will go up to $60k a year!! And I have been only studying code for 3 Months while working full-time! I just went for it like you said, and I got hired. I would have never thought in the span of 3 months, I would double my paycheck and not have to live in Silicon Valley to do it.“
Honestly, I’m not surprised.
I’ve said this time after time… what you need to know in order to get hired is likely much less than you think it is. In this case, it was simply a willingness to learn, an easy-to-work-with personality and some initiative.
He followed up by saying:
“Like you said, i decided to focus on one thing. I focused on specializing in making one-page websites & bootstrap which is what the company needed.“
He’s not the only one either.
I talk about my little brother all the time. He got hired as a Java Application Developer at IBM… and didn’t know Java. Still doesn’t really. As he puts it, “I can read it, but never really written any.”
And, he makes six figures.
Then, there’s Jen who sent me this awhile back:
“I’m panicking here. I just got asked to come in for a “talk” about what programs I have worked with for a company that is looking to hire an independant web designer. Big company. I don’t feel I know enough. OMG. I use too many “templates” when I work! it’s sad, but true.”
And, I told her:
“Confidence is key. You know what you know. If you don’t know an answer you just say I don’t know but this is my hunch and that’s something I’d be willing to figure out. They’re going to be after confidence, commitment and reliability. They probably already have a good idea of what your technical skill is and wouldn’t have invited you in if they weren’t comfortable with it.“
She got the job.
I could go on and on with examples.
You can do this… and you only need a small set of basic skills to get started. Again, understand what I’m saying. You absolutely should learn more as you go… but to get started, that list is short.
Chris proves it. Jen proves it. My little brother proves it.
I bet if you told most new developers that it was going to take them a year to learn a language like PHP, they’d throw themselves on the floor into fits of rage and desperation… frantically repeating, “Not me. Not me. Not me.”
It just seems like too long for most.
Then, there’s this email I received from Seven the other day:
“Hey John I just wanted to say thank you for all the emails you sent out and all the hard work that you continue to put in to help others. I really appreciate your concern for guys and girls who need a guidance in the world of web development. Just a few lines about me. I am a front end developer. I am working as a front end developer intern. I just got this position a week ago. I really like this coding stuff. I have only been learning to code by myself a year now. Anyways thank you for your tips and help. I greatly appreciate it.“
One year… and landed himself and intern position.
Should he be disappointed or frustrated?
Let me frame the same question another way.
Let’s say you’re 25 years old. Or 30? Whatever.
What if I told you that one year from now you could acquire the skills to propel yourself down an entirely new career path? That you’d love the hell out of what you did on a daily basis. You’d work on projects that mattered. You’d work with people who were like you and really got you. You’d make good money doing it. And, you’d have the whole rest of your life to do it.
Would that one year seem like such a big deal?
The point is…
Like Gary Vaynerchuk says:
“In early 2006, I started Wine Library TV. For 19 months, I did that show five days a week and nobody gave a s!@#. So when I get emails… which I get 50 of them a day from entrepreneurs who are like, ‘Hey. I know you always talk about patience. I’ve been doing this. It’s not working. Should I give up and do something else?’ I’ll email back and be like, ‘How long have you been doing it?’. They’ll say, ‘Oh. 4 months.’ And I’m like f!@# you. You want this to be your life and you’re giving up after 4 months? Are you out of your mind?“
Now, here’s the real problem with being impatient.
I got started online way back in 2004. I was in Iraq. I was nearing the end of my tour and I was in the Army Reserves. So, when I got back home I’d be off active duty orders and have to find a civilian job.
My wife and I were getting divorced.
My dad had been diagnosed with cancer and diabetes while I was there, so I had used all my leave to go home and see him. I had about 3 days of leave left. So, I knew I’d be about a max of 3 or 4 days back from Iraq…
And, I had no job. No car. And, no place to live.
Honestly, I was terrified.
I remember the day I got released from Fort Riley and was officially done with my Iraq tour. I drove about 2 hours to my brother’s house. My mom and a few nieces and nephews were there.
When, I got there they’d made a bunch of cards for me.
I couldn’t handle it.
I went in the bathroom and just bawled for about an hour.
Then, I left.
Needless to say, I was very impatient.
And, I spent the next 5 or 6 years hopping from “opportunity” to “opportunity” online. I tried several different products and businesses. I jumped at every shiny object, course, tool… because I was desperate for a way out.
And frankly, it wasn’t all that long ago that I got my s!@# together.
I forced myself to learn how to be patient. I blocked out all the noise and I focused in on what I wanted. Since then, things have turned 180. Now, I won’t say it was overnight or easy. Things have been tough and at times… slow.
But, I’m miles further than I was just spinning my wheels… being impatient.
Thing about what you really want 5 years, 10 years, 20 years from now. When you think in those terms… 1 year ain’t s!@#.
It’s a step in an overall strategy.
And, strategy requires discipline… patience.
Now, let me get a bit “weirder” for a second. I do some things on a daily basis that others might think are strange to help me build up my patience. See, to me, it’s not something that happens. It’s like a muscle… you have to build it up.
And, you can.
Anyway, I just uploaded a PDF over on Patreon that steps through the exercises I do to build up my patience. It’s been one of the most powerful parts of transforming my life… and you can get it as a patron over on Patreon at any level.
So, just the other day I had this Vault guy come to my door.
Vault, if you don’t know, is a home security service. They install door and window sensors, cameras, wifi locks… that kind of stuff. And, this guy was offering a free system if I put their Vault sign in my yard.
Afterword, I looked it up and I guess their systems run nearly two grand.
So, this was a very appealing offer.
And, having been in the Army for 11 years and traveled around the world a bit… security is something I take serious. Anybody who knows me… knows I’m semi-paranoid about that stuff.
Anyway, I told him no.
Because I didn’t believe him.
Usually when someone shows up with an offer that sounds too good to be true… it is. I wondered what the catch was. How was I gonna get screwed?
Turns out, it’s totally legit.
My brother has Vault. I knew he had a system but not what. And, he got it through that very offer. Free system if they put out the yard sign.
Of course, you have to do the monitoring fee which is like 50 bucks/month. Which I expected. And, you have to sign a 5-year contract. Again, totally expected… and nothing real shady about it. They gotta pay for the system somehow.
That’s a legit deal.
But, I said no.
There’s a lesson here for your web development career.
People are naturally skeptical. As they should be. And, if you want to get hired to write code for people… you have to address that skepticism head-on.
Let me give you an example…
The other day, I had a guy on YouTube ask me to look at his Upwork profile and let him know what to change. Now, the real answer to that question is everything… but there was one part that really stuck out:
Now, first off…
Notice how this fits what I almost always say about developer profiles on Upwork. He starts by listing what language he knows. 90% of clients are already gone at that point. They just don’t care that much about that stuff.
But… let me stay on track here. 🙂
Towards the bottom, he talks about working hard to satisfy his clients… and his loyalty and effort, etc. Trying to make a pitch on why someone should hire him.
We could talk about if that’s stuff even worth putting on there…
But, the larger point is… saying it means nothing. People don’t believe you. You could say “I’m the baddest coder on the planet”… nobody would care.
You have to PROVE it.
And, this is what so many developers are missing when it comes to marketing themselves. Proof. You’re loyal? Prove it. You’re reliable? Prove it. You know XYZ skills? Prove it.
Every single claim you make needs to be backed by hard evidence.
Otherwise, clients will just gloss over it.
You just sound like one of the millions of other developers spouting off about how great they are. The truly good ones… can prove it.
Think of your client’s natural skepticism as a rock that you have to chip away at piece by piece with your proof… until eventually it just crumbles into dust.
And then, you can sell yourself.
Funny thing is…
When you only say things you can prove… you’ll notice the things you say tend to shrink. But, that’s okay. That’s how it should be.
You only need a handful of sales points… that people actually believe.
What’s likely missing from your pitch isn’t more sales speak… it’s more evidence.
So, you build badass-looking contact forms? Prove it. Show me your portfolio full of those contact forms.
You’re a PHP genius? Prove it. Show me your test scores or accolades.
You’re reliable? Show me a testimonial of a client saying that.
Proof! That’s what matters.
Let me give you one last example:
This is a picture I took from one of the top floors of One World Trade Center tower in New York City. I was in the Inc. Magazine offices.
I was there for a mastermind of some of the top internet marketers on the planet.
Little old me… sitting “courtside” for an exclusive meeting of some of the best business minds on the planet.
What’s this proof of?
The power of PHP.
I got there because I’d built a website for an Executive Director at Inc. at the time. And, he asked specifically for me to be there. So, I was flown out… hotel paid for. Meals paid for. And free attendance at this event (while they all paid).
But, the gist of it was that you CAN start taking clients even if you only know HTML & CSS… and I was also kind enough to explain how to do it.
Now, I also off-hand mentioned that most clients don’t care much about languages or if you use dev tools. And, they don’t! Maybe 1 in 1000 clients will really care that you’re using PHP or HTML or whatever languages you use.
Most won’t… not really.
Well, that sent the kids into a frenzy. Here’s some of the pushback I got:
“Many clients care about what are developer skills. Even freelancing websites give weight to skill tests. Probably, if a freelancer has rich portfolio or large number of clients then they can ignore skills but then that freelancer never think about this question.”
And this one:
“Pure coders will always get the top 20% of clients. Saying that a pure coder doesn’t necessarily think about how something is used is very incorrect. As a software engineer it is what I mainly think about!”
So, did I mislead you?
I think I thoroughly debunked these objections in the episode above, but, real quick…
Clients do care about skills (note I actually said languages not skills) but ONLY in the context of: “Will said skill lead to said developer getting me the end result I’m after?”… which was my point.
Most clients won’t even really know what PHP or MySQL or whatever is…
Let alone care that much about it.
The point being… you can take clients if you can deliver end results. The languages don’t really matter. And, if you use a tool like WordPress or a good site-builder… ultimately clients don’t really care, either.
And look, I’m not trying to be a a-hole here.
I just see so many new developers who have all these mental road-blocks of what they think they’re “supposed to” do… often put there by other know-it-all developers… that stop them from chasing their career dream.
Don’t listen to the know-it-alls. You can do this… and probably a lot sooner than you think. Just trust your instincts and go for it.
Anyway, give the episode a listen for the full takedown.
P.S. Also… consider becoming a supporting listener of the show at http://www.johnmorrisonline.com/patreon. You help keep the episodes free for those who genuinely can’t afford dev training and you get a bunch of dope perks like freelance templates, exclusive courses and more.
I always have to hold myself back because I know I’ll lose them.
But, it’s just in my DNA. 🙂
This actually happened just the other day. I was at one of the local business meetup groups I belong to and was approached (again) about working on a website for one of the members.
And my gut “nerd” instinct is to go full geek on them.
But, you never go full geek.
I got about two sentences into my verbal nerd-bomb and saw their eyes starting to glaze over. And, I caught myself… reigned it in and got back to sprekin ze English.
I’ve said this probably 100 times.
Clients do not understand or care about our nerd-speak. Saying HTML, CSS, PHP, etc… to them is like saying “zaploot”, “waawaaru” and “eeepoof”…
They don’t get it… they don’t care.
What they do care about is the end result they’re after.
The membership site. The contact form. The sales page. The opt-in form. The business website. The e-commerce site.
That is how they think.
That’s not the question to ask.
The question to ask is…
Can you deliver a specific end result people want?
If yes, then yes you can take clients for that specific end result?
And you should market yourself appropriately.
Now, here’s the crazier thing…
Clients don’t even care how you deliver that end result. Not really. I said a few podcast episodes ago that I believe the future of site-building for people like you and me will be less about code and more about tools.
There will always be a place for coders. And, there will always be value in knowing how to code. But, I think more and more the pure coders will migrate toward tool-building and site builders like you and I will migrate toward tool-using.
So, it’s likely you don’t even need to know HTML and CSS to get clients!
You just need to know how to use certain tools to deliver the end result.
Matter of fact, I know really successful “developers” who do just that. Now, I’m not encouraging to not learn how to code. What I’m saying is in almost every case you can start taking clients sooner than you think.
Speaking of tools, yesterday I just released another “epic” freelance template over on Patreon. This one is for YOU. It’s based on my 12-Step Freelance Profile Template and uses WordPress and the Layers theme.
No coding required.
And, it’s all pre-built for you. You just fill in the blanks.
If I had a nickel for every time some random person sent me this:
“Hey John. Send me your Skype ID and let’s chat.”
“Hey John. Here’s my code. Can you fix it?”
“Hey John. Send me some clients.”
I’d be sitting on a beach somewhere, slurping a tall rum and coke, listening to some old-school hip-hop.
My answer to all of these: NO.
A few years ago, I was on the verge of giving up freelancing and web development all together. Funny thing was… it wasn’t because I was lacking for work or income. It was the opposite.
I had more than I could handle.
And by the end of that year, I was waaaaay burnt out. I ended up taking a 2-3 month sabbatical. I told all my current clients that I wasn’t taking any new work from them. I stopped taking new clients.
And, I just crashed.
What I hadn’t yet learned was how to say: NO.
I bring this up because at some point in your career, NO… will become the most important word in your vocabulary.
And, so many people struggle with it.
Hell, my wife still has a hard time saying NO to friends and family. I’ve noticed my kids struggle with as they get it older. I mean, I had a hard time with it.
But, you’ve got to do it.
Because the NOs YOU are going to say will be hard ones. Saying NO to a $3,000 project because it’s not a good fit. Or because you already have too much work. Or because the client seems like trouble.
Trust me, that is HARD to do.
But you need to do it. Otherwise, you’ll end up like I did. Overworked, overwhelmed and on the verge of throwing it all away.
And, that’d be bad.
Now, let me give you a little tip on HOW to learn to do this.
Of course, start saying no to little things now. Doesn’t even have to be related to web development. The more practice, the better.
But, the real trick is to learn how to say NO without giving any reason.
Just NO… and that’s it.
It’s harder than you think. Because, often times, the “askers” will expect a reason. They’ll kind of look at you like, “why”. Cause. That’s why.
Try it… and see how uncomfortable it can be.
But, if you can get good at that… you’ll have a good foundation for later when you need to say NO to one thing so you can say YES to another… that’s a better fit.
As always, I want to give a shout out to supporting listeners of the John Morris Show on Patreon. I appreciate all the support you’ve been giving and I love chatting with you all over on Patreon. So, again… thank you!
If you haven’t heard, Upwork just changed the fees it charges to freelancers. It moved from a flat fee of 10% to a “sliding fee structure” like this:
First $500 of lifetime client earnings – 20%
$500+ up to $10,000 – 10%
$10,000+ – 5%
And boy oh boy did the kids get angry!
Check out some of these comments:
“go hang yourself. I hope all your people leave and you are dead.”
“U evil. Stahp.”
“This is the worst policy any market place have ever taken.”
“Moderate your greed. (Even God has commented on this move)”
“Stop this greed.”
The most sane comment of them all (even though this person probably doesn’t quite realize what they’re saying) was this one:
“Time to collect personal clients!”
Funny thing is… everybody who has asked me about this only told me Upwork raised their fee to 20%. They conveniently forgot to mention the rest of the fee structure. Hmmmm. Should tell you something about their approach.
Like I said, nobody owes you anything.
Upwork offers a service for freelancers and clients and they’re absolutely within their right to change their pricing… even if it were terrible.
You don’t like it… don’t use it. No sympathy from me.
Thing is, though… it’s not terrible. At least not for me.
When I was on Upwork if this had been in place… the majority of my revenue would have quickly crossed into the 10% range. So, they got an extra 50 bucks per project. Meh. If that’s what they need to stay in business… so be it.
You should actually be excited about this.
If you’ve been listening to anything I’ve been saying… this should be welcome news. Why?
Because, it seems clearly aimed at the lowballers.
The developers that go around just lowballing project after project, giving terrible service (so the lifetime earnings with that client never break $500) and moving on to the next sucker they can lure in with their low price.
If those people are angry and “vow” to leave Upwork… GOOD! Hell, I might even jump back on there if they really do.
But they won’t.
That’s because they don’t have anywhere else to go. They don’t have a long-term mindset, so they’re not building a real freelance business. And, they’ll find life “off” the freelance site is even less forgiving.
I tell you this all the time…
Go get your own clients. Do NOT rely on Upwork or whatever other site to bring you all your business. Because when they make changes… it hits you hard. You are at their mercy. Why do that?
Anyway, there’s a way out of all of this. I teach it in Module 3 of my course, Lightning Responsive. I show you how to build an actual freelance business… not a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, whine-when-Upwork-changes wannabe business. Get that way out as a supporting listener on Patreon here:
I remember what it’s like. When I first started freelancing, I had no clue what to write on my profiles and services page. What was I supposed to say? What questions did clients need answered? Was there some big secret?
Let me now go deeper into the full 12-Step Freelance Profile Template I use, cover the ten questions your clients need answered, and share the tricks I’ve learned for answering them in a compelling way so clients say YES to hiring you:
If you’d like access to the exact template I showed in the video, become a supporting listener on Patreon at the “Template Level” and you’ll get this one plus each new one I release very month. Go here:
But, it’s also good to take it a bit deeper and get personal. I like to start my profile pages and bios with this line:
“Hey, I’m John Morris. I’m a freelance web designer of 10 years from Omaha, NE. I’m married with four kids and I’m a rabid Husker fan.”
Simple, but it accomplishes a few important things:
“I’m a freelance web designer” communicates that I do what they need and I’m likely available for hire.
“of 10 years” subtly communicates experience and stability.
“from Des Moines, IA” communicates I’m an American because right or wrong many clients are looking for someone from the U.S.
“I’m married with four kids” speaks to reliability and a reason to deliver because I have mouths to feed.
“rabid Husker fan” communicates some personality and a special affinity from anyone who happens to like the Huskers, as well. (There’s lots of us, ya know!)
So, those three simple sentences communicate a lot and do it in a way that is subtle and likely to get past your client’s “skepticism radar”.
3. What Do You Do?
Again, specialization is something I harp on constantly.
Saying you know PHP, HTML, CSS, MySQL, etc… means nothing to most potential clients.
Plus, every other web designer and developer on the planet says that same thing.
To stand out, you need to position yourself as a specialist. Now, understand what I’m saying here because I get a lot of people who misconstrue what I mean.
I’m NOT saying you should only a very narrow skill set. I’m saying in your marketing, you should position yourself that way.
You should learn everything you think is important for you to know. But, when you market yourself and sell your services, you want to position yourself as a specialist.
Specialists naturally stand out among the sea of “me-too” developers
Specialists naturally get paid more
Specialists are often appreciated more for their work
Specialists only work on projects they enjoy and are good at
Specialists can change what they specialize in to fit a changing market
Specializing will make your life a heck of a lot easier and you’ll make more money.
So, in this section of your profile, bio, etc… you want to talk about your specialty. You want to cover two things:
What you do
What you don’t do
Each is equally important but I often say that I spend more time telling people what I don’t do than what I do do.
On my own hire me page, you’ll notice that I spend a good portion of my introduction video talking about the projects I won’t work on.
Clients actually appreciate that because it naturally positions you as someone who knows what he’s good at and does that one thing extremely well. It creates a deeper level of trust than somebody who pretends they know how to do everything.
4. What Work Have You Done In the Past?
Your portfolio is the single most important piece of “on-site” sales material you can have. Clients almost always look for your portfolio first. THEN, if they like what they see, they might read your copy.
But, if your portfolio stinks… no amount of slick copy will change their mind.
Now, if you’re a seasoned web designer with a number of projects under your belt, then you simply need to put your best work on display.
But, if you’re brand new and don’t have any clients… that’s okay. Nothing says your portfolio has to be filled with projects you did for clients. A portfolio is about showing off what you’re capable of.
So, build up a bunch of samples that showcase your talent and use those as your portfolio. They can be made up companies or a “study” of what you would do for an existing company.
Then, your clients will be able to see what you’re capable of and make an more informed decision about whether or not you can help them.
5. What Do Your Past Clients Say About Your Work?
This is the second most important piece of “on-site” sales material you can have because clients don’t just want to see what you can do… but also what it’s like to work with you.
Are you a pain in the butt to work with?
Are you reliable?
Do you communicate well?
Are you open to ideas?
Can you adapt to change?
These are some of the key non-technical questions clients will have about your character and you want to work toward having testimonials that answer these questions.
It’s one thing for you to say you’re reliable but if you have a real client testimonial that says it, that’s much better.
If you’re new, you likely won’t have these from web design clients. However, you can acquire testimonials from people you know or have worked with who can speak to your character.
For example, I served 11 years in the Army. Do you think that my direct supervisor’s comments about my work ethic during those 11 years would be relevant to someone looking to hire me?
Just make sure you don’t pretend these are client testimonials. Be upfront and let people know these are general testimonials and be sure to include exactly the context in which that person knew you.
Then, over time, replace these with client testimonials.
6. What Are the Benefits of Your Services?
When you consider the context of someone who’s viewing your profile or services page, you’ll notice there’s two primary things you’re really selling:
You. So, why they should hire you.
Hiring. That is, why they should hire anyone
Try as you might… to target as efficiently as possible, your sales pages will inevitably have people with two different mindsets:
Someone who already knows they want to hire someone and they are just figuring out WHO.
Someone who is still a bit uncertain about hiring someone (vs doing it themselves) but would hire if presented with the right who.
The mix is substantial enough that it’s worth taking some time to sell the idea of hiring an expert in the first place.
And, that’s when you get into talking about the benefits of your services. Here’s where you get to hit them with a 1-2 punch of why they should hire AND why they should hire YOU.
So, why should a client hire a professional?
It’s worth taking some time to think about this on your own because it helps you more clearly see what your core value proposition is; however, here’s a few reasons I’ll share with you:
They’ll get their project done faster
They’ll avoid the potential for serious mistakes
They’ll be able to do things they likely wouldn’t do themselves
They’ll avoid hassling with technical stuff that frustrates them
They’ll have re-course if something does go wrong
And, there are plenty of others. The key is to speak to benefits not features. Notice I didn’t say anything about SEO, optimized code, responsive design or any of the other buzzwords you’ll find on many freelance profiles.
That’s because those things mean nothing to potential clients. For every one of those buzzwords a client will ask themselves, “What does that mean?”
So, just skip the middleman and answer their question the first time.
Once you’ve sold them on hiring then you can sell them on hiring YOU. Again, you want to stick to benefits not features… and you want to look for things that make you unique AND better.
Now, keep in mind EVERY developer will say:
I communicate well
And, so on. Saying those things alone won’t make you stand out. You need a way to distinguish yourself. One technique I like to use is the “Weird Personality” trick.
So, instead of saying “I’m reliable”… I say “Blame my 11 years in the Army, but I have this thing about doing what I say I’m going to”.
That stands out more because there’s something unique to my experience incorporated into it. How many other developers have spent 11 years in the Army? Some, but not many.
And, people naturally associate reliability with the military, so it bolsters the claim.
Another way to do this would be instead of saying “I’m detail-oriented” you might say, “I’m a bit OCD… so yeah… me and details we’re like this: ||”.
It add personality and gives a subtle element of proof (someone who’s OCD will obviously pay attention to details). Again, these things alone won’t win you clients but they’re just enough to set you apart from what everyone else is saying.
And, when you couple them with a great portfolio, testimonials, sales copy, etc… they add up to make a difference.
Never put yourself in a position where you feel ashamed of your pricing. You’re worth it!
Not only will it show to your clients and cause them to get antsy about working with you, but if you’re charging people more than you think you should, you’ll start to feel REAL guilty. And, it will kill your productivity.
Either lower your prices or own them.
Chances are, you’re not charging enough, though. It’s a major problem in the web design community. Designers and developers who aren’t sure how to market themselves and lower their prices to ridiculous levels to get clients.
Let me state this unequivocally so there’s not mis-understanding:
NEVER, Ever Compete on Price
As long as you’re a web designer (or in any services industry, really) don’t do it! It rarely works and you’ll make yourself miserable.
How do you figure out what’s the right price? I ask myself two questions:
What’s everyone else charging?
What’s it worth to me?
You DO need to have a sense of what the market price is. If everybody else is charging $3,000 for a site and you charge $5,000… unless you’re bringing something compelling to the table you’ll likely struggle.
Then, you have to ask yourself if the market price is worth it to you. I’ve turned down plenty of projects because the going rate wasn’t something I was willing to accept for the work.
8. How Is It Delivered?
Have you every bought anything online? Especially, outside of a big trusted marketplace like Amazon?
Maybe it was some obscure site or a seller you don’t know on eBay. Do you remember what that was like?
I remember the first time I bought something from nomorerack.com. It’s a legit site and a Google Trusted Store, but it just looks like a rip-off waiting to happen.
I obsessed over every detail of their TOS, checked all their security badges and ready every detail of how my purchase would be delivered.
I’m guessing you’ve experienced this before.
Now, put yourself in your client’s shoes. They’ve found somebody they know nothing about online and are about to drop several thousand dollars to have you build their “baby”.
You NEED to tell them exactly how you will deliver!
Tell them step-by-step how the process will go, at what points you’ll make sure to communicate with the, what will happen if something goes wrong, etc.
They need re-assurance.
And the more detail you can give them, the better. Then, make sure you actually DO deliver in that manner.
8. How Are Payments Made?
Here’s what I used to do:
10% for me to start doing anything.
60% once I have it built and they want it on their servers
30% once everything is done
First, ALWAYS have a contract. Don’t do anything until you have a signed contract. Then, still don’t do anything until you get 10% down.
I didn’t start anything until I got that 10%. There’s too many people out there who don’t have the money and will waster your time. If they’re serious, they’ll have no problem paying the 10%.
I don’t care what they tell you! If a client won’t pay you 10% upfront, they’re NOT serious.
Move on before they waste your time.
Also, I NEVER build on a client’s servers. Once something is on their servers, it’s their property and you can’t legally remove it without their permission. You’re asking for disaster if you build on a client’s servers.
Build on yours but make it available online so they can see and use it for demos. They’ll be more comfortable because they can actually see what you’re building, but you’ll eliminate the risk of them not paying.
They had to pay another 60% for me to transfer it to their servers.
Once that payment was made, I moved the project to their servers and if they run at that point, at least I’ve got 70% of the payment. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than 0%.
I helped them with any setup and polishing that’s necessary and once they were satisfied with everything, the remaining 30% was due.
While I have had clients disappear after the second 60% payment, I’ve never had someone have me help with all the setup and polishing and then NOT pay the final 30%. If they’re going to run, it’ll be once it’s on their servers.
Did I mention… NEVER put a client’s project on theirs servers until you have a majority of the payment!
Finally, this entire payment schedule should be in your contract. If you don’t have a contract, here’s the one I use: Contract Killer.
10. What Happens If Something Goes Wrong?
The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.
At some point in your career, something will go wrong with one of your projects. It may be your fault; it may be your client’s; but ultimately it doesn’t matter.
You need to have a process for handling issues.
Now, if you use the payment terms I laid out previously you’ll eliminate 90% of your problems. If you or your client backs out at any point, you’ll know exactly where you’re at in the process and whether or not a payment is due.
I should mention that I make my 10% upfront payment non-refundable. That way, if my client backs out after I started I’m not completely out of luck.
That said, you make sure you want to address explicitly how you handle issues. Think of this as your guarantee. What do you do if something happens:
While you’re building their project?
After it’s on their servers?
Months after the project is complete?
Address each possible scenario and specify in advance how you’ll handle those scenarios and alleviate your client’s fears upfront.
11. How Do I Get Started?
Finally, tell your client exactly what they need to do next. Don’t think this is obvious. You need to include language on your services page that tells them exactly what to do.
Often times, this will involve a potential client sending you a quote request. Make sure your quote request form is simple.
Your goal is to get submissions so don’t make it like crawling over hot coals covered in shards of glass!
Another one to dive into the video on, but even with everything you’ll now have covered in your sales page some people will still have questions.
Make sure you have a way for them to get those questions answered.
Whether an FAQ section, a contact form or both (recommended) you’ll want to tie up any last objections and push your prospect over the edge to hiring you.
So, there you go. Use this 12-step template and follow the advice I’ve shared and you’ll be light-years ahead of most of the developers you’ll be competing with for clients.
If you’d like access to the exact template I showed in the video, become a supporting listener on Patreon at the “Template Level” and you’ll get this one plus each new one I release very month. Go here:
They just don’t. Clients, bosses, customers… whomever you plan to get to pay you for your code… it’s not your talent they want. It’s another 6-letter word that people have paid endless amounts for since before the first computer sparked a single bit across the interwebs.
When I built the Business Owner’s Council website for Inc. magazine, their guy who was managing the entire project had blasted through a litany of “talented” developers. A few of whom I knew.
And, they were talented.
Smart people who could build most anything you might want. Yet, two years later he didn’t even have a functioning beta site.
Well, to put it nicely… he was a bit opinionated. And, I could see how quickly a project might get derailed if you had a developer who had a problem saying no… strongly… as in hell no.
Once I got an idea of what he was after… I just ran with it.
Didn’t consult him on too much… and had a working beta site within a month. A site they launched to their clients (who paid quite a bit for membership) and is still the same site they’re running to this day.
And, what were his comments at the end of it all…
“I can’t thank you enough for the excellent work and WISDOM you’ve brought to this project.”
That’s what they really want.
Direction… NOT information.
The people you write code for want someone who can inform and guide their decisions. And, that takes a certain bit of risk. It takes having an opinion and not being afraid to put it out there.
You will always earn more respect (and business) by having an opinion.
You’ll be wrong at times… but if you’re willing to admit that… you’ll earn even more respect.
Unfortunately, I see too many developers who want their clients to tell them exactly what they want. Most clients don’t know exactly what they want. They need someone to guide them.
Anyway, let’s get down to business for today. To get access to source code, freelance training and PHP tutorials that will make you a much wiser developer, become a supporting listener of the show here:
They have a way of bringing the know-it-alls out of their mom’s basements and into the light for everyone to see (or point and laugh at). This guy, though… as far as trolls go, he takes the cake. Here’s a snapshot:
Normally, I’d let this twitty-bird fly off without a word from the J-meister… but I see a lot of freelancers who deep down believe this same non-sense.
Be honest, a lot of you reading this right now believe this:
That’s the crux of it, isn’t it?
It’s just way too easy to believe, “It’s not MY fault. It’s that cheap SOB client!” That line of thinking is alluring… seductive. And WAY too many freelancers fall for it hook, line and sinker.
And that’s why they HATE me when I say, “au contraire!”
I got some statistical-ese for you here in a second, but I want you to just think about this on its face. Put your anger and your bias aside and just imagine it was YOU about to spend a few hundred or a few thousand dollars to hire someone.
To build your baby…
The website or application you’ve dreamed of getting up and running… you’ve spent months… maybe even YEARS… planning, tweaking, adjusting, re-configuring… to get just right.
Would you really only be concerned with finding the lowest bidder?
I mean yes… budgets matter. You have the money you have. You can spend what you can spend. But, I’m telling you right now… most clients don’t lowball because of their budget. Some do… but not most.
They lowball because it’s less money they’re risking. Period.
Now, as far as I know nobody has done a comprehensive study and statistical analysis of freelance clients to determine WHY they lowball. So, to Stevey-poo’s point about not having “quantifiable evidence”…
No s!@# Sherlock!
But, let’s see if we can not be nit-picking twits and take a look at some related data that might help us figure this out.
According to research done by Defaqto, 55% of customers would pay extra to guarantee better service.
89% of consumers have stopped doing business with a company after experiencing poor customer service. (RightNow Customer Experience Impact Report)
Ugh with them only caring about cost!
A customer is 4 times more likely to buy from a competitor if the problem is service related vs. price or product related. (Bain & Co.)
Wait… I’m starting to sense a pattern here.
In 2011, 7 in 10 Americans said they were willing to spend more with companies they believe provide excellent customer service (American Express Survey).
Hmmm… I’m starting to think Stevey-boy might be confused.
Look, I could do this all day.
Fact is… clients WILL PAY if they believe it’s worth it.
YOU have to make them believe it’s worth it. That’s all there is to it. If you don’t, then yeah… you’ll be stuck competing on price. And, when you get kicked off Upwork like poor little Stephanopolous you’ll find someone on Twitter to harass to try and make yourself feel better.
Of course, you could avoid all the heartache. You could take the J-meister’s advice. You could join the inner circle of web developers fast-forwarding their careers. You could start actually living the life you dreamed of when you first got into coding. You could get my step-by-step freelancing blueprint, The Upwork Checklist, as a supporting listener on Patreon… right cheer:
Here’s the big thing to get to succeed as a freelance web developer:
If you and your buddy are hiking in the forest and are suddenly attacked by a grizzly bear… you don’t need to be the fastest guy in the world. You just need to be faster than your buddy.
There’s your uber-secret, stop-the-presses secret to success.
Freelancing is a competition. To win, you don’t need to be perfect… you just need to be better than the next guy. And, let me tell you… most of your competition is epicly bad at this.
The grizzly would be five bites into a thigh bone before they took two steps.
You just need to do some simple things that others aren’t willing to do. Here’s my 5-point “dominate freelance sites” checklist. Don’t overlook this. It’s nothing earth-shattering… the gold is in the doing:
1. Pick a Niche
Ohmahgawd John! Quit talking about this niche thing. It’s all you ever talk about… blah, blah, blah… I get it.
I get that response all the time. THEN, I check their profile:
Everybody says that… and it means NOTHING to a client. They don’t even know what half that stuff is. They do not “understand the words that are comin’ out of yo mouth!”
What is the end result you deliver?
“A profit-generating membership site your members will love.”
“A smooth registration form that’s a dream to complete.”
“A dead simple blog you’ll crank out quality content on.”
NOW you’re speaking my language.
Pick a niche, specialize in it and best the best at it. This is the 2nd most important thing you can do to be a wealthy freelancer (#1 is coming).
2. Build a Compelling Profile
You can’t make people hire you. There’s no magic secret to make every client hire you every time. Instead, it’s about making your best case… and, believe me, most freelancers do NOT.
Here’s some obvious stuff most aren’t doing:
Fill out the whole profile.
Use a professional-looking picture
Write more than two sentences in your description
Have a portfolio
Take relevant tests
Brain-busting stuff I know… but you’d be shocked how many freelancers just don’t do it. Then, of course, come to me bewildered about why they’re not getting clients.
Here’s a hint…
If you’re not willing to spend more than 10 minutes on your own profile… chances are you’re not going to put much effort into my project. True or not… that’s what a client thinks when they see it.
Now, I have a video (I’ll tell you about in a moment) where I give you my 3-step formula for writing my service description that I’ve found works like gangbusters… but simply being complete is yuuuuuuuuuge!
3. Bid Intelligently
Here’s another head-scratcher…
I get a lot of freelancers who complain to me about all the “junk projects” on Upwork or Freelancer.com, etc.
You can filter all that junk out right? In fact, there’s a filter right on Upwork when you search for projects… that lets you only see projects from clients who actually hired someone before.
And you can toggle it between:
So start off by only toggling the 10+ hires option.
Those are presumably the cream of the crop in terms of clients… and avoid all that junk. Plus, there’s filters for client Experience Level, project Budget, Job Type and a lot more.
Finding the right projects to bid on is the “dirty secret” to winning at bidding.
Of course, writing your bid is a whole other animal. But, I recently made a video for you where I go into that. I’ll get to that in a minute.
4. Do Good Work
The #1 most important thing you will do to have success as a freelancer is to do make your clients over the moon about working with you.
It’s about the code you write…
It’s about how fast you get stuff done…
It’s about how well you communicate…
It’s about how easy you are to work with…
It’s about how reliable you are…
It’s the WHOLE thing. You can’t use one to Trump the other. All of them combined will ensure clients love you, hire you again and again and tell everyone they know about you.
But, you’ve likely heard a lot about that… so let’s move onto:
5. Build a Funnel
This is the thing almost every developer balks at:
“I just want to put up my profile and get work.”
“I don’t want to do all this marketing stuff.”
“Selling is evil.”
(Said in my whiniest Gilbert Gottfried voice)
But, it’s THE fastest way to start getting clients.
Let’s say you build those dream-like AJAX forms…
Put a video on YouTube showing how you built. The exact code. Point people to your profile at the end of it if they just want it done for them. Throw a $1/day in YouTube advertising at it for a month or two until it gains traction.
Just don’t give away the source code like I do.
And, that’s it.
You’ll start getting viewers, subscribers and eventually clients. And it’s cheap and easy as hell.
Don’t be afraid of this.
You don’t need to be Tom Cruise. You just need to have something that actually works and be able to explain it fairly well. And, clients will see you can do exactly what they need and want to hire.
I get multiple quote requests every single month doing this.
So, that’s all simple stuff… but the trick is in DOING it.
Now I mentioned a video where I get into more detail about this. It’s a 30-minute whopper where I go into a lot more detail about these five steps, including:
My 3-part formula for writing my service description
How to write your bids to get hired
The critical part of your profile everybody gets wrong
And a bunch more.
It’s this month’s Patreon-Only e-course. If you want to keep going with this and get access to the video, just become a supporting listener of $10 or more per month over on Patreon… and you’ll get it.
I’m finishing editing it and it’ll be up on Patreon in the next few days.
My first few months on Upwork (Elance) were a disaster. I wasted a lot of time bidding on dead-end or low-payout jobs, working with horrible clients and making much less than I wanted (read: needed).
About a year later, I was doing well enough to leave Upwork forever and get all my clients through repeat business, referrals and my own website… charging what I wanted and clients seeking me out.
I’m not special or overly smart. I just figured out how Upwork works and changed some simple things about my approach and it made all the difference.
Anybody can do this. If you’re struggling on Upwork or would simply like more from your effort, then study this page closely. I’m going to share what I learned.
Step #1: De-Mystify Upwork
Upwork seems to confuse a lot of freelancers. They think it’s this overtly complex system with convoluted goals and impossible for newbies to break into.
Upwork’s goals are simple: connect the best clients with the best freelancers (for their project)… profit.
Trust is the most important currency on Upwork and every feature, algorithm and best practice is designed to increase the trust potential clients have in a) the freelancer they hire and b) as a result Upwork itself.
They want to be the go-to network for hiring the best freelancers.
So, the two most important things for you to focus on with Upwork is:
Building your credibility
You build your credibility by having a killer portfolio, looking professional in your photo, communicating fully and clearly in your bios and descriptions, taking relevant tests, having a long, successful job history, getting 5-star ratings, good client testimonials, etc.
There’s no trick or gimmick to get around this. You have to put in the work, wow your clients and do a good job.
So, does every other freelance developer on Upwork. And frankly, most clients don’t even know what those languages really are or what they mean.
The words you use are critical. You should be saying things like…
“I specialize in building membership sites.”
“I’m a user-friendly forms expert”.
“I build the best e-commerce sites on the web.”
Those phrases are specific to the end result a client is after… and clients actually understand what they mean.
Once you get this about Upwork, you can start to see how you need to rework your profile and your entire strategy to maximize your opportunity to get hired. But, we’ll get more specific…
Step #2: Research and Craft Your Brand
Now that you know how Upwork operates, it should be obvious that the first thing you need to do is hone your pitch to attract and convince your most ideal clients.
That is, you need to know:
What end result can I give my clients?
Who wants that end result the most?
What do they need to see to believe I can do it for them?
This takes research and a little bit of soul-searching. First you need to uncover your niche. Your niche is that perfect space in the market where you can do what you do best and others will pay you handsomely to do it for them.
You uncover that niche by accurately answering these questions:
What do I love to do?
That I’m great (or willing to work to be great) at?
That others will pay me for?
If you’re honest with those questions, you will get a much clearer picture of the value you have to offer and exactly what you should be doing.
From there, you need to research your ideal client. Who are they? What is their life like? What are their hopes and dreams? What’s their ideal scenario? Where to they hang out online?
Everything you can uncover about them to know them intimately…. better than they know themselves.
So, you can accurately implement the last part which is to craft a brand that naturally appeals to your most ideal clients and messaging you know speaks to them and will convince them you are the man/woman for their job.
Step #3: Build Your Profile
Now armed with an attractive brand and loads of intel on your ideal clients, building your profile is a cinch.
You know how to get their attention.
You know exactly what your ideal clients want to hear.
You know exactly what matters to them.
You know exaclty how to speak to them.
You know exactly what portfolio items will appeal to them.
You know exactly what testimonials will influence them.
You know exactly what tests they’ll check for.
The keys here are simple:
Fill out your entire profile in fine detail
Make your entire profile relevant to the specific niche you’re targeting
You’d be surprised how many freelancers who contact me asking what’s wrong with their profile… and when I check it’s only half or three-quarters filled out.
Look at that from the client’s perspective. If you’ll half-ass your own profile what makes me think you won’t half-ass my project?
Also, be relevant. Everything on your profile should speak to the specific niche you’re targeting. If you’re a forms-builder… then the only items in your portfolio should be forms you’ve built.
Nothing less. Nothing more.
Step #4: Win Job Bids
A great profile will help you to show up in the search results when clients search for freelancers related to their project. And, you’ll get invites to bid on jobs as a result.
Also (especially at first) you’ll want to search for jobs pro-actively and bid on the ones relevant to what you do.
To win the bid, you need to do these things (in this order):
Verify it’s a real job (unfortunately, there’s a lot of riff-raff)
Get the attention of the job poster
Get them to trust you
Get them to decide for themselves you’re their best bet
Get them to act now using scarcity
Blow them away and make them never want to hire anyone else and say all kinds of great things about you
Before I get into the details of this… know this… the way you succeed on Upwork (or anywhere else) is through repeat business and referrals. So, 100x more important than the other 5… #6 is above is where 99.9% of your focus should be.
Everything else is pointless unless you’re doing #6.
That said, clients do need to go through a fairly standard emotional process in order to hire you.
First, you need their attention. The key phrase here is: “stick out in a good way”. I’ve found the most fail-safe way to do that is to simply be overly helpful.
In my job bids… instead of telling them all the reasons I’m awesome and why they should hire me, I would just try and help them a little bit.
Give them info, point out anything I saw could be a problem with their bid (in a nice way), answer questions and so forth.
Yes… some clients would take advantage of me. But, the overwhelming majority ended up hiring me and I know I got more work than I would have had I not taken this approach.
This also happens to be how you get them to trust you and convince them you’re the best option as a freelancer. And, it’s simple. Just be helpful.
You have to think about clients beyond the one job they’re posting right this second. Don’t worry about getting that one job. Worry about winning the client over and establishing a relationship with them.
Then, you get all their jobs. I’d gladly give up the one job they’re posting right now for the 10 they’ll need help with down the road.
Take that mindset and it gets easy.
In order to get them to act now… simply “always be walking away”. Always seem like you have one foot toward the door. The more you seem like you don’t care if you get the job… the more they’ll want you to take it.
It sounds backwards I know… but it’s true.
Of course, don’t overtly say you don’t want it or offend them… just don’t be overly eager. Of course, the best way to do that is to simply have a lots of work already so you’re genuinely not concerned if you get that one job or not… but you’ll get there.
Step #5: Make Your Clients Happy
I’ve mentioned this several times now. It’s that important. But, how?
Here’s the un-sexy dead simple way to ensure your clients are always happy:
Do what you say you’re going to
Talk to them
Brilliant stuff there, eh?
You’d be surprised how many freelancers (especially web developers) don’t do a great job of either one of these.
Here’s the secret to knocking these out of the park:
Build things you’re really great at
Have a step-by-step plan for how you build stuff
Have a day-by-day schedule for how you’ll talk to the client
That is… pick a niche and ONLY build things related to that niche. So, if you identified your niche as “form-building”… don’t take on membership site projects.
If you do that, you’ll be building really similar things project after project. You’ll get really good at doing it AND you’ll be able to create a…
Delivery schedule. You’ll know exactly how long it takes you to build the project and what you’ll have done on what days. Write that down and give it to your clients when they hire you.
Then, since you know the key points in your delivery… you’ll know the key points at which you need to communicate with the client. So you can build a…
Communication schedule. Write down exactly what days you’re going to communicate with your client about key points in the delivery. Give that to your clients AND actually communicate with them on those days.
Trust me… you do this and your clients will LOVE you.
Step #6: Get Traffic to Your Profile
This is my secret weapon. I have an emal list of over 24,000 subscribers, a YouTube channel that gets ~100,000 video views a month and has over 20,000 subscribers and a website that gets roughly 20,000+ visitors/month.
Any time I choose I can point all the traffic to my profile in order to get freelance work. And, it has nothing to do with Upwork’s “algorithms”.
I’ve worked hard to build that audience.
Point is… don’t rely on Upwork to bring you all your freelance work! Get out in your market and build your own audience and then leverage that audience to win on Upwork.
After a few months on Upwork, most of the work I got came from my own website… and I’d simply tell those people to hire me over on Upwork.
Those jobs still count toward my job history. Those 5-star ratings still counted. Those testimonials still showed on my profile. And, the more of all those I got… the better I ranked on Upwork.
So, bust your butt outside of Upwork to build an audience that then helps rank better inside Upwork.
Post YouTube videos, answer questions on Quora or StackOverflow, write articles on your blog, etc.
It’s the simplest way to outflank the Upwork algorithms that do reward higher rated freelancers. Just become a high rated freelancer without them.
All of this culminates with your exit from the wild world of Upwork. Look, Upwork is great and all but you’ll be miserable if you try to only get jobs from Upwork the rest of your career.
The competitive nature of freelance sites dictates that you’ll make less doing more.
Ultimately, you want to get off of Upwork and get all your clients through your own website.
You do this in two ways:
Transfer clients from Upwork to working with you directly
Get enough clients directly you don’t need Upwork
I know Upwork has terms that say you can’t encourage clients you acquired on their site to work with you directly. But I also know that clients don’t care what Upwork wants and usually move to working with you directly anyway.
Also, if you’re following step #6 like you should… eventually, you’ll get enough clients through your own website that you won’t need Upwork. That’s what happened to me. It took about a year but after that I never looked back.
Moving Forward From Here…
There’s a lot in those seven steps… no doubt. So, where do you start? Here’s the first three things I recommend you do:
Know yourself (what you love to do, what you’re great at)
Know your client (what they want, how to find them)
Start a blog (it takes time to get going so get started now)
If you do just those three things, you’ll be way ahead of 99% of freelancers out there and well on your way to a full-time income on (and off) Upwork.
It boils down to how freelance sites work. They are designed to surface the best freelancers on their platforms.
That doesn’t meant you’re not good if you’re struggling to get any traction. It means if you’re new to Upwork you’re at a big disadvantage.
But, it’s also not hopeless. With the strategy I’m about to show you, you can quickly gain momentum and rise to the top where getting work is a whole lot easier.
Think of this like an “Upwork Fast-Start Guide”.
The benefit of following this formula is you virtually eliminate the advantage veteran Upwork developers have so you can:
Rank higher for relevant freelancer searches and get in front of more potential clients…
Eliminate the natural skepticism a potential client will have about your profile not being as “robust” as other developers…
Strategically grow your presence on the platform until you end up ranking high on the list for the biggest search terms…
Here’s why this formula works…
Imagine you’re shopping for a new computer. Let’s say you’re looking for a fast computer that can handle a lot of HD video editing.
You’ve narrowed your search down to two options.
The sales page for computer 1 reads like this:
“High powered computer that can handle the most resource-intensive tasks with ease.”
And, the sales page for computer 2 reads like this:
“A 3.2GHz Quad-Core Intel I-7 process with 16MB RAM designed specifically for editing massive HD videos with ease.”
Almost universally, people will instinctively choose the second computer because it’s messaging is aimed right at what they’re after.
This is the advantage you have as a new developer on Upwork.
Most of the well-established developers on Upwork market themselves as “generalists” and have generic profiles. They’re marketing themselves as the “high-powered computer”.
You can out-maneuveur them by marketing yourself as a specialist which will accomplish two things on Upwork:
Cause you to rank higher for specific keywords because your profile is more relevant to that search
Appeal to potential client’s instinct to choose the more targeted option
This is critical when you first start because you simply cannot compete with those developers based on the authority algorithms Upwork uses.
They have a longer job history, more reviews, ratings and so on.
And, they’ll continue to suck up all the work and leave none for you unless you implement this fast-start formula.
So, here’s what to do:
1. Choose Your Target
Pick a very specific niche to go after. Don’t market yourself as a “web designer”. It’s too broad and dominated by established developers.
Instead market yourself in specific terms…
“html and css guru”
“mobile website specialist”
I marketed myself as a “WishList Member Developer” who built (only) membership sites using WordPress and WishList Member.
I was able to rank in the top 3 consistently for the keywords “wishlist member” and won most of the jobs that came through for that term.
The way to do this is to think of 3-5 aspects of web development that you enjoy.
For example: jQuery, WordPress themes and AJAX forms.
Then, go on Upwork and search the job posting for related terms. I’ve found that a new job posting once every 24 hours is usually plenty of potential work to sustain what I want to make each month.
Look at the different terms and decide on the one that is the best combination of what you enjoy, volume of jobs, and potential revenue.
2. Market Yourself as a Specialist
Relevance is how you’re going to win in the beginning. So, now that you’ve chosen a targeted niche to go after you’ll want to build your profile around that niche:
Your title should include your main keyword (WordPress Theme Developer instead of Web Designer)
Your keywords should all be related to your niche
You should naturally sprinkle relevant keywords throughout your description
Your portfolio items should all be projects related to this niche
Any test, certifications, skills, etc… should all be relevant to the niche
Everything should point to you being an expert in this very specific area of web development.
Not only will you rank higher in searches but you’ll be more appealing to clients looking for specifically what you offer.
3. Build Your Job History
With your niche targeted and your profile set up, don’t sit back and wait for jobs to come to you. You need to start building your job history so you can gain authority like the more-established Upwork developers.
Search for job postings related to your niche and bid aggressively. At this stage, it’s not about making money… it’s about building your profile.
Here’s a quick tip…
When you bid on a job you can bid whatever price you like while keeping the price on your profile the same.
So, keep the your profile price at your ideal rate. But, in the beginning don’t be afraid to discount your rated in order to get the job when bidding on individual projects.
Just be sure to say in your proposal something like: “I’m new to Upwork and wanting to establish my credibility here so I’m willing to take this job at a 50% discount on my regular rate. Any future jobs will be at my regular rate.”
That way, if a client is really impressed with your work they know that they’ll be paying your regular rate going forward and it’s easy to transition them over.
No… not all clients will hire you again because of that.
But, many will… and regardless getting the job will help you build your authority on Upwork so eventually you no longer need to discount your fee.
As you get more work, you’ll begin to notice your profile ranking higher for relevant searches and more job invites flowing in.
At that point, you can then consider reworking your profile to target larger, more general niche if you wish.
Although, I never did because I liked working the projects I was getting.
If you follow this formula, you’ll be much more likely to have success on Upwork and get clients instead of wondering why everyone else is getting them and you aren’t.
We’ve covered a lot… what do you need to do to get started with this formula quickly?
I like to think up a few niches I want to target and do the searches on Upwork to see how many jobs are there.
It gives me a good indicator of the kind of volume I can expect and whether a particular niche is viable or not.
So, write down 3-5 web development niches you’re interested in, head over to Upwork and search the available jobs to see what’s available.