How To Scale Your Freelance Business and Maximize Profit

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My presentation from 360Flex in DC, 9/22/2010. We talked about how to scale up, how to reposition with clients, how to interview and manage freelancers, and lots more.

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  • Where a freelancer will admit it or not, they are running their own little business complete with employees, vendors, clients, marketing, and sundry other obligations. The upside is unlimited. The freedom is dangerous. The kicker is that you don't have 1 boss, you have a boss in every client. Here are practical principles learned in the real world of freelancing that will help you excel to the next level.
    What a freelancer provides
    It's NOT about the code

    How to estimate
    How to communicate an estimate
    How to integrate and work with a team
    How to invoice and get paid
    How to manage time
    How to talk to clients and client's clients





  • Who this is for: freelancers. If you want to own a business and W2 people and do all that fun stuff, that’s a different deal.
  • it is a business and we are here to make money
  • Let’s get over it. We aren’t just programmers and designers when we decide to freelance. We are business owners. We have a brand, identity, and we have a roster of services.
  • Let’s get over it. We aren’t just programmers and designers when we decide to freelance. We are business owners. We have a brand, identity, and we have a roster of services.
  • Let’s get over it. We aren’t just programmers and designers when we decide to freelance. We are business owners. We have a brand, identity, and we have a roster of services.
  • Law of the Lid: McDonald bros were successful, but only to a point. They tried to franchise and failed, only 15 restaurants. They partnered with Ray Kroc. 1955-1959 Kroc opened 100 restaurants.

  • fraud is intentional, malicious deception.

    look at your business and work on it in terms of iterations. Try something, give it appropriate time to succeed or fail, and then improve it.

    You’ve now learned a new way to succeed or fail.

    Don’t get hung up on failures, keep pushing forward.

  • a way to look at your own business, as well as the business of your clients.
  • scaling goes both up and down
  • my iPhone
  • First break all the rules
  • First break all the rules
  • First break all the rules
  • First break all the rules




  • your clients are business owners after all, talk to them about challenges they face with staffing, hiring, growing their business. This will build instant report and help your relationship also.

    dad chose ortho a) our of need for his own daughter. Saw my mom’s ortho treatments as too harsh and not as effective, so decided to start his own. Yrs b) profitable c) stopped serving because the kids became too much of a hassle and dentistry was more profitable and satisfying

    contractor
    - hire business owners, people of character and passion that understand follow through and delivery
    - estimating - based on prior similar work, small increments of known work, manage scope and scope changes
    - qualify opportunities...don’t just take any opportunity, consider what it means to his business and if he really should pursue it


  • your clients are business owners after all, talk to them about challenges they face with staffing, hiring, growing their business. This will build instant report and help your relationship also.

    dad chose ortho a) our of need for his own daughter. Saw my mom’s ortho treatments as too harsh and not as effective, so decided to start his own. Yrs b) profitable c) stopped serving because the kids became too much of a hassle and dentistry was more profitable and satisfying

    contractor
    - hire business owners, people of character and passion that understand follow through and delivery
    - estimating - based on prior similar work, small increments of known work, manage scope and scope changes
    - qualify opportunities...don’t just take any opportunity, consider what it means to his business and if he really should pursue it


  • Pricing on Purpose

    accounting is concerned with cost
    value is the domain of the economist


  • Pricing on Purpose

    accounting is concerned with cost
    value is the domain of the economist

    Customer’s are real people, Focus on those individuals

    Customers are indifferent to the internal workings of your company....Value is only created when you have produced something the customer voluntarily, and willingly, pays for.
  • Know your core business and value. Add tools and services that
  • we all suck at stuff. Client’s suck, we suck...always room to grow.

    Banyan
    years of failed, incomplete Flash projects
    string of low rate Flash freelancers and Creative Group contractors making a huge mess
  • this requires deeper conversations with the client to locate their beliefs

    The deeper the pain, the more relationship and trust are required.
  • jumping to a no may skip right past an opportunity to
    a) show your client value by making them better at what they do...understanding their own issue
    b) capture that value and $

    Clients often cannot articulate what they really want, that’s why they engaged you

    They aren’t stupid because of it, it’s not their core business

  • How To Scale Your Freelance Business and Maximize Profit

    1. 1. How To Scale Your Freelance Business and Maximize Profit
    2. 2. Who @davidortinau davidortinau.com 15 yrs web, interactive, software development Flash, iPhone, .NET, WP7
    3. 3. Gospel Media Network 1996-1999 Audio Streaming Startup Initial Investment approx. $30,000 Sold 1999 for $450,000
    4. 4. BEMAS Software 2001-2007 Healthcare Software Grew from 2 to 16 employees Acquired by Evolution Benefits in 2010
    5. 5. Simply Profound 2007-Present Freelance Interactive Development Annual revenue growth recently doubled 62% Flash 30% Web 8% iPhone
    6. 6. who I work with • Advertising and Creative • Roster of 14 senior Agencies developers, designers, • Publishing copywriters • Education • Always looking for more! • Fashion • Beer
    7. 7. What are we talking about • Why Scale The Freelance Business • Scaling • Growing
    8. 8. why scale a freelance business
    9. 9. we have finite • Hours • Rates • Customers
    10. 10. better projects require more • People • Time • Skills
    11. 11. you don’t want to do • W2 • Benefits • FICA • Insurance
    12. 12. you are your own limit • Capacity • Energy • Concurrent Obligations • Capability • You’re a successful technician that is becoming a manager and an entrepreneur. That can be difficult and frustrating. • Law of the Lid: Leadership ability determines effectiveness.
    13. 13. common misconceptions and fears • If you read it in a book or heard it on a podcast, it’s somehow cheating or less valid • If you ask for help, you’re weak and default any opportunity for real success • You need to know what you’re doing • If you have failed in the past, then you don’t have what it takes
    14. 14. don’t disqualify yourself from growth • Past failures do not disqualify you from future success • We’re all faking it, making this up as we go • Improve your business in iterations. • What can you do today to improve? A week, month, quarter?
    15. 15. healthy businesses grow • Naturally, if you do well you will grow • Remove hindrances to growth • The top 3 buttons to push • Efficient systems • Control costs • Increase profits
    16. 16. a business lens
    17. 17. scaling
    18. 18. subcontracting • Benefits • Multiply the hours you can bill in a given period • Best subcontractors are often current or former business owners themselves • Increase the capabilities you offer • Can make you more efficient at delivering - 2 heads are better than 1
    19. 19. subcontracting • Challenges • You’re now a Manager in addition to a Technician • Interviewing, hiring and firing • Positioning with clients must change • Responsible for things outside your direct control • Project management instead of self management
    20. 20. interviewing for capabilities • Talk tech, do they have a proper understanding of fundamentals • Code review • Code test, provide a quick challenge to assess their knowledge and problem solving • Portfolio
    21. 21. interview for talent • Find recurring patterns of thought, feeling, or behavior that match the job • Ask open ended questions • How closely do you think people should be supervised? • What do you enjoy about… • Listen for specifics: Past behavior is a good predictor of future behavior • "Tell me about a time when you…"
    22. 22. interview for talent • Clues to talent • Rapid learning - ask the candidate what kinds of roles she has been able to learn quickly. • Satisfactions - • Ask him what his greatest personal satisfaction is. Ask him what kinds of situations give him strength. Ask him what he finds fulfilling. • Give credit to top-of-mind responses
    23. 23. qualifying opportunities • Success or Failure often determined here • Qualifiers • Availability • Money • Relationship • Subject Matter • Future Story
    24. 24. “See client projects in terms of building your brand identity” Jim Coudal
    25. 25. innerleprechaun
    26. 26. growing
    27. 27. relationships • It’s who you know... • You’re not alone • One conversation will open your eyes • Clients choose people, vendors they LIKE, are COMFORTABLE with, and they feel they can TRUST. • Talent doesn’t guarantee any of that
    28. 28. look outside your market for ideas and inspiration • Start with your clients • Other business owners • Dentist takes up orthodontics • General Contractor on hiring, estimating, and qualifying opportunities
    29. 29. capture value • Are you providing value to your clients that you are not being compensated for • value is “the ultimate determinate of price in any transaction”
    30. 30. increasing profit “profit is nothing more than a lagging indicator of what is in the hearts and minds of your customers” • The purpose of business is to create a customer • Focus on customers, not profit
    31. 31. add to your offerings via acquisition • Know your core value to your clients • Learning a new language or framework is not the only way to expand your services • Build relationships with other freelancers or partners that can • Satisfy a need • Catalyze your learning process
    32. 32. sell the pain • Example Client A • Years of incomplete projects • String of bad freelancers and contractors leaving a ton of technical debt • Continuous stream of government contracts • Where others see a horrible client, can you see an opportunity?
    33. 33. can you change a client? • Identify the pain points. Look at the business lens and determine what blocks are in need of work • Belief is the hardest to change, and near impossible from outside. • If belief is present, and processes or tools are needed, then you have a fighting chance • Trust actions more than words when assessing beliefs • The bigger the pain you alleviate, the bigger the value you provide
    34. 34. learn the yes-no • Clients will ask for things you don’t want to do • Before you answer, seek to understand • Why they want it • What the expect to get from it • Can you answer yes with • A price? • Impact to timeline?
    35. 35. Contact Me @davidortinau davidortinau.com dave@davidortinau.com

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