“It’s been 3 months and my invoice still hasn’t been paid. What do I do?”
“My client changed everything I wrote and handed it off to a designer who just learned Photoshop yesterday. Now I can’t even use this in my portfolio!”
“They said they couldn’t afford to pay my rates right now, but can offer lots of ongoing work and more money when the company grows.”
I hear stuff like that every day from freelancers who are just getting into the game. It’s so common my eyes pretty much glaze over.
Oh. You mean the client who hired you because you were the cheapest possible option offering the maximum amount of “extras” (free samples, trial emails, etc.) doesn’t have the money to pay you?
Excuse me while I feign shock.
I wish more freelancers knew there’s a whole world of respectful and high-paying clients who don’t run their businesses that way. I wrote this post so that other businesses like mine can know what’s possible. That there’s more to life that schlepping $50 blog posts on Upwork.
Being a service-based business is one of the best gigs in town, but only if you know how to show up like a A-player and attract great clients.
I know you think you’re supposed to launch an online course.
That you’re supposed to get away from “trading hours for dollars” and look for passive revenue streams that allow you to sip margaritas while the money rolls in.
But I’m not giving up my service-based business anytime soon. Especially not when I get to work with people like Amy Porterfield.
She has the most efficient team I’ve ever worked with. Amy doesn’t hire get-the-job-done-and-go-home types. She hires the most capable and talented people she can find.
When everyone else is bringing their A-game, you can’t help but bring yours too. But at the level Amy and her team play at, that’s not always easy to find people who can keep up.
On our first team call I presented a big funnel audit I’d been sweating over for weeks. Amy’s business partner Devin Duncan said, “I crossed my fingers this was the kind of presentation we were getting today, but you just never know. Most people don’t meet expectations.”
You can tell they’ve spent time curating a team that DOES meet expectations.
They have each other’s backs. When you need something – a google doc, a report, a tweak to the stock email template – it’s all hands on deck until it’s done.
Most teams I’ve been on don’t work like that. They work like this.
Contractors and freelancers have such a “lone wolf mentality” that it’s a wee bit counterintuitive to work on such a supportive and connected team.
But as a result, things get done faster, better and more effectively.
Most of our communication happens in Slack. I almost never email anyone on the team unless it’s something non-work related like to say “happy birthday” or “hey, you look beautiful today.”
When I suggested we add the Slack extension Recordify so we could send audio messages more easily, Amy’s project manager Chloe had it up and running within a day.
We also use Asana, which sends me email notifications if I have a deadline coming up. Plus I can check the dates for upcoming projects.
Because all communication is in one handy place, it’s easy to refer back to if I’ve forgotten some specific instructions or lost a link. And if I need to snooze it, I can. (Unlike FB or email which, no matter what, I can’t seem to train myself to shut down.)
I made Amy a long list of everything I needed for our funnel audit. Chloe came back to me with this folder. Well before our predetermined start date, I had absolutely everything I needed to get started.
Each one of those folders as multiple sub-folders, btw. And when I asked for updated stats or to run a report on this or that, Chloe always made it seem like it was her first priority.
When I sent a project proposal that didn’t make sense for the business budget-wise, she made me a video, explained in the most loving way how much she wanted me on the project, and could I please send over another quote with a few line items removed.
It was the most loving and respectful negotiation. I’ve never negotiated like that. I’ve never seen a client negotiate like that.
I negotiate like a hardened Mennonite. You should see me in a car dealership. If the price is too high, I make a fuss. I bargain for deals like they’re my birthright.
This was a lesson in humility—which, while we’re on the subject, is one of Amy’s finest qualities.
I always show up to meetings cameras-on. When I first started working with Amy, her team was strictly cameras-off. Not as a company policy, just because it was their habit.
Amy and I have a standing meeting I call our “heart-to-heart session,” where I get her to share personal stories that I can use in her weekly newsletters. When I suggested we do cameras-on, since it’s a big connection and trust-builder, she readily jumped on board.
She also jumped right on board with her team. I don’t know what their policy is when I’m not around, but any team meetings I’ve been on since are cameras-on. And you can feel the difference.
I nearly cried when I had to turn down a project. It was my first shot at working with Amy, and given that I had her on my dream client vision board, you can imagine how hard that was.
(Yes, I signed it in blood. I accidentally pricked my finger on a tack and chose to see it as an opportunity.)
But I couldn’t say yes without either a) taking time away from my family or b) rushing through someone else’s project to make space for hers.
So I said no.
I explained in the most loving way what my process is, how far in advance I usually book, and that I’d most DEFINITELY leap at the opportunity to work with her sometime in the future.
…and she listened.
A few weeks later I got another shot. A bigger, even more exciting project that completely worked with my schedule. I was elated.
It’s easy to talk about “getting on the ‘no’ train,” but it’s quite another to allow others to say “no” without getting offended or reactive.
When something doesn’t go as planned, Amy is the first one to suggest how she herself may have been at fault. It opens the door for the rest of us to consider how we might’ve done our parts better, and what we can do to fix the issue.
She’ll assign tasks to fix whatever the problem is, while at the same time affirming that everything is sure to work out now that we’ve diagnosed the issue.
This makes my job as a copywriter a lot less scary. If something doesn’t work out as planned, I can trust that as a team we’re going to look at ALL the factors that might’ve played into that.
Of course, it might be the copy.
But when it comes to an underperforming sales funnel, 9 times out of 10 times there are a whole bunch of factors involved. Knowing that we’re all going to take collective responsibility for making every project a success makes everyone on the team better able to play their individual parts.
People talk a lot about businesses that are run with love.
I’ve used those phrases liberally in my copywriting work. I’ve never heard anyone on Team Porterfield use such a phrases, but they practice them every day. The engine that runs the whole machine is deep love and respect.
Respect for each other. Respect for the customer. Respect for the whole mission of the Porterfield brand.
I’m basically in love with my clients. Amy is no exception. The fact that I get to work with entrepreneurs like Amy is why I wake up excited on Monday morning and walk to work as fast as my legs can carry me.
Sometimes I’m so excited that I drive, just so I can get there 7 minutes faster.
Amy isn’t just changing the lives of her students. She’s changing the lives of everyone who enters her sphere of influence.
And she’s not the only one on my fabulous roster of clients.
Every time I get on the phone with my client Ingrid Arna, it feels like sitting at the feet of a great sage. It’s an honour to stand as a witness to her work.When you learn how to play at this level it’s not about the money anymore. (But yeah, the money’s great.)Click To Tweet
It’s about doing meaningful, important work.
It’s about making an impact.
It’s about the message and the movement.
My movement, and the movement of all the entrepreneurs I’ve been lucky enough to work with.
If you want a service-based business that’s lucrative and enjoyable to run, don’t go in halfway. Don’t make it your side-hustle. Don’t bother bidding for low-paying jobs and competing with the hoards of other get-the-job-done-and-go-home freelancers.
Go all the way.
Figure out how to be an A-player and go for gold.