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Client work can be a great way to make money.

But it can also be a headache.

  • You don’t have 100% confidence in your prices.
  • You’re frequently running into problems.
  • It seems like you just don’t get to work with great clients.

Essentially, what was once a passion has turned into a job.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Whether you’ve been doing client work for a while and are having problems or you want to start doing client work and need some guidance, we’re here to help you.

Today’s episode is a crash course on setting a professional foundation for client work so you can actually enjoy it!

Highlights, Takeaways, Quick Wins
  • Value-Based Pricing will eradicate your client problems and help you prevent them.
  • You first need create awareness. A prospective client needs to know you exist.
  • Being known starts with publishing consistently and making yourself known in your space.
  • To get someone to like you and potentially hire you, provide no-strings-attached value.
  • Prevent 90% of your problems with your clients later on by establishing trust beforehand.
  • Your portfolio is not a place for all the work you’ve ever done, it’s a place for the kind of work you want to do in the future.
  • Great clients want to work with professionals, so act like one!
  • A professional always takes responsibility for every single problem that occurs.
  • When you take responsibility, you also build trust.
  • There’s no such thing as clients from hell.
  • Say no to the wrong clients to get the right clients.

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Show Notes
  • 07:02 Sean: It’s been nearly a year now since we launched our flagship program, Value-Based Pricing. We are reopening enrollment soon here. ValueBasedPricing.com. Cory and I are creating a new mini course. We have Getting Started With Value-Based Pricing that’s free for people right now. That’s a three part series. We’re going to make a new mini course, a new video mini course, to give to people for free when they sign up at ValueBasedPricing.com.
  • 07:42 We’re being totally transparent. We’re leading up to the reopening of enrollment for this program, and we couldn’t be more excited. This is a life-changing program. Value-Based Pricing is not just a course, it’s a system. It’s a complete system to doing client work and actually enjoying your work. Make money from it and actually enjoy the clients you work with. We have solved every client problem. That’s what I mean when I say that Value-Based Pricing is a system.
  • 08:12 It’s not just a methodology. Yes, it does include educational material in the form of a course, but it’s so much more than that. There are three custom developed pricing tools included. It’s not just for fun. If it could be simpler, we would have made it simpler. There is just a lot that goes into this. What’s going to make this program, this system, life changing, is this:
  • Value-Based Pricing will eradicate your client problems and help you prevent them.

  • 08:40 Even if you encounter something because of a mistake, some problem you run into, we teach you how to fix it and how to avoid it in the future, how to patch your process. It’s the best program we’ve ever put out and we’re so proud of it. We spent two years developing this. We went for an additional half year, going through the program with a pilot group of students, refining it based on their feedback. We’re very excited about it.
  • 09:08 The purpose of today’s episode is to take a few steps back and say, okay, what does someone need and where do they need to be to be ready for something like Value-Based Pricing? It’s a significant change to the way people are doing work right now. It’s going to solve a lot of problems, but they have to be prepared. Today’s episode is about setting a foundation, laying the ground work for doing client work professionally, and setting yourself up to enjoy client work and have it be something that you love doing again.

Take the Time to Learn How to Do Client Work Right

  • 09:45 Sean: I have two people in mind. The first is a person who has been doing client work, and they’re running into problems. They’re encountering issues with their clients. They may have been doing this for a while, but they’re running into issues consistently. It feels like they’re never able to work with great clients and they don’t have 100% confidence in their prices. The second person I’m thinking about is the person who has not yet started doing client work and wants to know the best way possible to do it.
  • 10:15 It’s not just for people who are totally seasoned and running into problems. It’s for people who haven’t even started, but they want to do it the best way. When I wrote my book, Overlap, I wrote it with my younger siblings in mind. Yeah, it is going to solve a lot of problems for people who are in situations where they don’t want to be, but for my younger siblings, they haven’t made the mistakes yet. I’m wanting to help them avoid those mistakes.
  • 10:42 Ben: I think there’s a common misconception when you’re getting into client work that you have to pay your dues, you have to make those mistakes and allow clients to poke holes in your process and stuff like that.
  • With what we’re telling you today and the information available through Value-Based Pricing, you can avoid a lot of the headache of bad client work experiences.

  • 11:14 I could share a metaphor. I was really excited about this piece of equipment I got for shooting video. It’s a stabilizer, a weighted stabilizer. You put the camera on top, and you’re supposed to balance it and make sure it’s tilted correctly, stuff like that, to offset the weight center of the camera. I was so excited. I pulled it out of the box, put the camera on top of it, and I held it in my hand, and it was just a little bit off center.
  • 11:54 I made some adjustments, and I was like, “Hey, that thing is up and down. That’s good.” I didn’t bother to watch the DVD that came with it. Don’t watch that anyway. It’s terribly produced. Go on YouTube, which is what I did later.
  • 12:07 Sean: I did that for installing different things in my office, like my office chair. It’s so much better to go on YouTube and watch someone like you set something up.
  • 12:19 Ben: I was so excited and I wanted to dive right into using it, so I did what I thought was a sufficient job of getting it balanced. I took it out and I took a bunch of shots. Really, they were better shots than I have been able to produce. It was still really smooth, but someone who knows what they’re looking for can still see that it wasn’t weighted properly. There was so much weight on the bottom. Had I spent the time in the beginning to really understand that piece of equipment, yeah, it would have taken me a lot more time in the beginning, but I would have had better results immediately.
  • 13:07 It’s the same way with client work. Whether you’re doing it right now and you’re in the middle of it—you’ve got clients—or you’re thinking about getting into it, it’s worth your time to do this work of calibrating, making those fine adjustments, and understanding how it actually works. Don’t just say, “I’m going to throw myself in there and hope it goes okay.” Seeking a little bit of understanding of how it actually works and making those fine-tuning adjustments is going to go a long way in helping you experience success, better results sooner.
  • 13:38 Sean: 100%. I already know what you want. You want to make more money and enjoy your work. You want to do your best work. You want to work with people you enjoy working with and you want to make more money. That’s what everyone wants, and I want that for you. I want to help you get there. It requires several things upfront, which is what we’re going to be talking about today—setting that foundation for professionalism.

Know

  • 14:07 Sean: People are going to do business with you if they know, like, and trust you. You’ve heard this before. We’ve talked about it with product sales, we’ve talked about it with copywriting. It applies across the board. People do business with those they know, like, and trust. Let’s break down those three things for how they apply to client work. People “knowing” you, this is attention or awareness.
  • A client needs to know you.

    A prospective client needs to be aware that you exist at all.

  • 14:40 How do you generate that awareness? How do you get that attention? You have to post a lot. You have to publish consistently. You need to be putting out content to become known in your space. A lot of people are trying to skip this part. They skip the “know” part. We’re going to get to the “like” and the “trust.” A lot of people are doing the other things, but they skip the “know” part. They’re like, “As long as I’m likable and I can convince them to trust me…”
  • 15:19 They don’t know you! They have to know you in the first place! How are you getting attention? Maybe you have your whole process dialed in, but how are they finding you in the first place? It doesn’t matter how great that process is if you never get to work with someone.
  • Being known starts with publishing consistently and making yourself known in your space.

  • 15:40 Ben: As an extrovert, I still find that I have difficulty putting myself out there, talking about myself, and doing that consistently. Sharing your work can be a way that you raise awareness, but you also need to insert your personality and talk about yourself a little bit and let them get to know you as well. That’s an important component to it. You have to feel comfortable with that. Your work alone isn’t going to speak for itself. People need to be able to connect your work to a person that they’re going to do business with.

Like

  • 16:32 Sean: You need people to like you. It’s not just something where it’s like, “Oh, you’re my friend. I enjoy you.” It is partially that. You want to be likable, but it’s not just a surface level thing. I’m talking about a deeper, intrinsic, reciprocity thing. I could say, “Ben likes me,” but to know that Ben likes me, I need to provide him with some kind of value. Who do we like that hasn’t provided us with value? Do we like someone that hasn’t, in some way, directly or indirectly, given us some kind of value or good feeling? You want to provide that to other people.
  • To get someone to like you, you need to provide value.

  • 17:20 How do you do that? Put yourself in your client’s shoes. Who is this client? What are they wanting to accomplish? What are their goals? When you write, write to them. Think of this person and write to them as a singular person. Instead of writing about the things you want to talk about or your services, write to them as a person. We’ve talked about it before. B to C, business to consumer or customer. B to B, business to business. All of it is H to H. It’s human to human. There’s always a human on the other side.
  • 17:57 Write to that person. Put yourself in their shoes and write to them. Then, provide no-strings-attached value. I’m not talking about helping them out and then saying, “Alright, so, do you want to hire me?” I’m not saying that you should help them out and then say, “Let me know when you want to do business.” I’m not saying that you should help them out and then ask for something in return. I’m saying that you should provide no-strings-attached value.
  • 18:24 Put yourself in their shoes. Try and figure out what they want to accomplish. What are their goals? Where are they trying to go? How can you help them get there by providing no-strings-attached value? What is no-strings-attached value? That can come in a number of forms. It could be personalized advice. It could be consultation. It could be an observation you made that would help them do better business or help them make more money.
  • 18:49 It’s a great way to get on someone’s radar. Just do something nice for them. I’m not talking about, “Hey, let me know if you have any projects. I’d be happy to do free work.” That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m saying, do your homework and show initiative on something you found.
  • Don’t ask for permission or assignments from the people you want as your clients, but go out of your way and give with no strings attached.

  • 19:13 Ben: I think, by default, that also causes you to be a little bit more selective and intentional about who you reach out to. It is going to take your time and your effort, and it’s not 100% guaranteed that it’s going to result in something, but you don’t want to spend that time and effort on someone you wouldn’t want to do business with. It has the benefit of making you more intentional about that interaction. It’s killing two birds with one stone. You’re raising awareness for yourself, but you’re also doing something nice for them. They’ll like you for that.

Trust

  • 20:00 Sean: You need this person to trust you. We’re establishing the foundation here. I know you want to make more money. I know you want to work with great clients. I know you want to enjoy your work again, but you have to establish the foundation. We can get there, but you have to have this foundation. There must be existing trust.
  • You can prevent 90% of your problems with your clients later on by having trust.

  • 20:28 If the person trusts you, it smooths out everything else in the process, all the bumps. When someone’s skeptical and you didn’t do the upfront work, the investment of making sure you’re on the same page, getting them to trust you, providing no-strings-attached value, setting yourself apart as an authority and showing your expertise through writing and publishing consistently, they’re not going to trust you. It seems like, “Well, maybe they won’t enter into a relationship with you. They signed the contract, obviously they trust me.” That’s just not the case.
  • 21:04 Ben: They’ll sign a contract with somebody they don’t fully trust.
  • 21:07 Sean: You’ve experienced it, Ben. All of this stuff, I’ve experienced. I messed up for years. I did it the wrong way. In fact, there’s a related question I’m going to get to in a minute on that note. This third and final piece, trust. You want to establish your track record. “This is a person who is trustworthy. I want to do business with them.” How do you establish a track record?
  • A huge way to establish a track record is to write case studies.

  • 21:34 A lot of people create a portfolio. That’s good. That’s something you want to do. But more than a portfolio, it needs to be a curated portfolio. Your portfolio is not a place for all the work you’ve ever done, it’s a place for the kind of work you want to do in the future. It’s not a place for the work you’re most proud of, the work you worked the hardest on, or everything you’ve done in the past. It’s the type of work you want to do in the future. People are looking at your portfolio, wanting to find reasons to trust you.
  • 22:25 Ben: Another thing people like is efficiency. When they’re looking for somebody to do a video project for them, they already have something in mind, either stylistically or at least a level of quality they’re looking for. If you have a portfolio serving many different types of businesses in many different styles, they’re having to do more work deciding whether or not you will represent the kind of work that they need from you.
  • 23:09 Sean: It doesn’t show confidence. Show me you have the best pizza in town, not that you have pizza, fried chicken, and steak. I need to know you are the best at the thing I want you to do.
  • 23:25 Ben: There are going to be people who show up on your website who are not going to be represented in your portfolio items, and they may still end up doing business with you because they see the confidence you show in that one thing.
  • 23:38 Sean: It’s also going to lead to referrals. I’m using the word “curate” to mean selectively projecting a single, focused thing—not everything you do, but a single, focused thing you want to be known for. When you curate your portfolio, even if someone doesn’t work with you, they know what you’re good at. You become known for something. I may not want this super specific pizza, but my friend is a pizza connoisseur. He’s like, “Where’s the best?”
  • 24:14 You’re like, “Well, I know this place.” It automatically becomes a part of our recommendations. You get referrals. The last thing is testimonials.
  • To build trust, use testimonials from past clients to bake into your case studies.

  • 24:29 I kind of glossed over case studies, but more than putting up images as visual eye candy, you need to tell a story with your work. The story is what’s memorable, not the image, the story of the problems you’re solving. Where was the client before? Where did they end up after you worked with them? What challenges did you encounter along the way? How did you solve those? How did you work together? Incorporate elements of the hero’s journey and all of those things. That is what’s going to be the hook in someone’s mind. That’s what’s going to make them remember you.
  • 25:09 Ben: That probably means your best case studies aren’t going to come right after you’ve finished a product. You’re going to have to let them implement it and experience the intended success, and follow back. Making that part of the story, the final chapter, is really powerful. Then, people get to see that your work is actually producing results. It’s not just that you did what the client wanted you to do, but it actually performed in the way that was expected.

How to Attract the Right Clients

  • 25:42 Sean: Ed says, “How do sales funnels play into this process? Is it enough just to post blog content, or is it a further step required to start generating real leads?” Great question. Here’s the thing, though. We’re establishing the foundation. You’re going to want to tune into the second part. I believe next week is a sabbatical, so I have something special prepared. I have recorded one of the chapters of my book, Overlap, in audio form.
  • 26:11 I’m giving you a free chapter of my book next week. We’re off for the sabbatical, so part two for this client work series is actually in two weeks. You’re going to have to hang on for dear life, but we’re coming back. Sometimes shows on TV take a little break. You know when they come out and you tune in, and you’re like, “What’s this rerun garbage?” At least we don’t have reruns.
  • 26:40 Know, like, and trust. Next, I want to get to this question from Sarah. “From your unique perspective, what was the habit you put in place that helped you the most with attracting the right type of clients? Is it only about showing up every day for two years and putting out your best work, or did you do other things?” I did multiple other things. Rather than try to condense it all into one habit, I did a little brain dump.
  • 27:05 I came up with five things or so, and I’ll put these in the chat. I’ve been dumping my raw notes in the chat, so apologies that it’s not totally clean and formatted. I do this for myself, but if you’re wondering, the chat is in the Community. We stream this show live. People ask questions beforehand, it influences the show, they’re having discussions throughout, and I’m sharing my raw, behind the scenes notes with them.
  • 27:32 They’re starring it a bunch, so I think they like seeing it. There’s something about seeing the words. Sarah, number one is to curate what you share. We just talked about that. This can’t be overstated. I know we talk about this a lot, but 80% of people still don’t do it.
  • Selectively project a single, focused thing—curate what you share.

  • 28:00 What do you want to become known for? You can become known for one thing or you can become known for nothing. These are principles that I touch on in the Audience Building Course. We produced this course as if we would sell it for $199, and we’re giving it away for free. We touch on all those principles of curation, so I’m going to leave it to you.
  • 28:26 That’s your homework. If you haven’t gone through Audience Building Course, I’ve given you two Benjamins, two hundred dollar bills. I’ve given you two of them! They’re on the table, and you’re like, “Eh.” Why would you do that? It’s free money! AudienceBuildingCourse.com. That’s your homework. Curate what you share. Second thing, yes, it is to show up every day. That’s part of it. There are a lot of things.
  • 29:19 Publishing consistently. Here’s the third thing: don’t use no client work as an excuse not to do work. What I mean is, do self-initiated projects. Always be doing work. Always be cranking things out. It doesn’t matter if clients are hiring you for video, Cory. You should be making videos.
  • 29:40 Ben: This is something I’ve been struggling with, and what you said about always doing some kind of work made me think of it. I have this back and forth thing I do where I feel like I’m either in work mode, where I’m working on a client project or a self-initiated project, or I’m in development mode or marketing mode. I’m trying to raise awareness. I feel like I’m flipping back and forth between those two. I’ve been more and more convinced of the necessity of always having room for each of those things.
  • 30:23 At some point, hopefully, you’re going to get busy enough that you’re going to have clients coming to you. You’re going to have consistent work, but you still need to be able to set aside the time necessary to take care of your business. If you’re not making room for that, your pipeline is going to run out or you’re going to get completely burned out on the other side. You’re not going to be putting out any work.
  • Find a rhythm that allows you to focus on both client work and marketing and to do both of those things well.

  • 31:04 Sean: The final thing, Sarah, is to write, write, write. It all starts with writing. I’ve said it a lot. She said, “What’s the habit that helped you the most with attracting the right type of clients?” Write! If you want to establish a name for yourself, write. If you want to be known in your industry, write. If you want to attract great clients, write. “What do I write about, Sean?” Write about your process! How do you do your work?
  • 31:31 There are a lot of details to that. You could self-interview and get a bunch of them. “What do you do in this case, in that case? What if the situations are this, what if the goals are that?” There are so many things you can write about with your process. Write case studies on past client projects. Write about your industry. What’s going on in your industry right now? What are some things you could be sharing about that? What is your unique perspective?
  • 31:56 Write about anything related, any story. This touches on copywriting, but this is applicable for anyone writing, doing newsletters, blogging, or anyone who wants clients. Keep a notebook where you capture stories. As you go throughout your day, you especially, Cory, as a film maker, capture stories. You should have an archive of stories. Things that happened to you, stories other people told you, ideas you got from movies or TV shows, write down stories.
  • 32:34 Have this massive archive to pull from. You can do this when you’re writing newsletters. You want to come up with something compelling. That’s all we’re doing. We’re story telling. To make it relevant, you have to connect the dots. Ben, you’re really good at this.
  • Tell a story and then connect it to a call to action, your industry, or your specialty.

    People connect with stories.

  • 33:00 Ben: I could definitely connect growing up in Colorado and working with cows and chickens and stuff to working in the film industry. I could totally do that. I’m not going to do it right now, but I’m saying, I could if I wanted to.
  • 33:27 Sean: That’s probably the biggest tip, Sarah. Write. For most people, it’s just to write, period, because they’re not doing it at all. For everyone else, it’s to write more. Do more. Keep writing. If you don’t have a writing habit, that’s why we made 30 Days to Better Writing. We have the resources for you. Go sign up at 30DaystoBetterWriting.com, or it’s free to members.
  • 33:48 Become a member. You get free access. Our members have written millions of words, collectively, as the result of this course. It’s a great course, a great way to help you build that writing habit.

Responsibility

  • 34:16 Sean: We are laying the ground work for doing client work professionally, enjoying your work, making more money, and getting better clients. Where does responsibility come in? This is the core of professionalism. If you want to make more money and work with great clients, guess what? People pay more money to professionals. Great clients work with professionals. If you want all of those things, you must become a professional. Now we need to dive into what a professional does.
  • A professional always takes responsibility, every time, for every single problem that occurs.

  • 34:52 Every problem that occurs is your responsibility as a professional. That includes anything and everything your client does wrong. Everything your client does wrong is your responsibility. It means that there’s a point in your process where you allowed or did not prevent this problem from occurring. For some reason, this happened because of a question you did or did not ask.
  • 35:18 It’s because of a red flag you ignored. I always say, red flags are like roaches. If you see one, there are 50 that you don’t see. Red flags, with clients, are like roaches. If you see one roach, it’s not like, “That’s a bummer.” You have an infestation problem. It’s bad news.
  • 35:41 Ben: This is absolutely true. What if there is a red flag? What if the client does something, and it obviously was their mistake? When you start asking questions like that, when it becomes, “Well, isn’t this an exception?” That’s the wrong approach, and that’s going to lead you to trying to give away responsibility, when really, what you want is to take as much of that on yourself as you can.
  • 36:13 That’s the only way you’re going to fix your process and avoid encountering that problem in the future. There’s a difference between responsibility and fault. There’s a subtle difference. Responsibility doesn’t always mean blame, like, “It was completely your fault. You’re completely to blame.”
  • Responsibility means that you have control in the future by making different decisions.

    Responsibility is ownership.

  • 36:49 Sean: Responsibility and excuses have one thing in common. You’ll find whichever one you’re looking for every time. You will always find excuses and you will always find responsibility. It just depends on what you’re looking for. My admonition to you is, seek responsibility. Make it your goal to acquire responsibility. There are so many benefits. People want to give responsibility to people who take responsibility. That’s who we want to give it to.
  • 37:24 Be a person that seeks it, that takes responsibility. “Where can I find a way that I am responsible for this?” Someone else makes a mistake in your work place. Take ownership. Do you have any idea how refreshing that is? “I should have helped you. I should have let you know ahead of time. I wasn’t even aware of this at all, but this happened because I didn’t think to ask this question beforehand. Now I know.”
  • 37:56 I’m just going to take ownership. Isn’t that amazing? You’re sitting here feeling bad, and someone else comes along and they take all the blame. They take that weight off your shoulders and take it away from you. Do you not love that person? Are they not the greatest person ever? When you take responsibility, other people want to give it to you. You increase your ownership and your domain. You increase your authority. People want to give you more of that.
  • You can’t be a victim when you are extreme about your responsibility.

  • 38:32 You can’t. Like I said, if you look for excuses, you’ll find them. If you look for responsibility, you’ll find it. Winners look for responsibility. Losers look for other people to blame. This is someone else’s fault. The client messed up. “It’s not me!” They put their hands up until they put them down to tweet something snarky about their client. That’s someone who’s a victim. They’re being a loser because they don’t want responsibility. The problem is, they’re never going to be given it.
  • 39:00 Ben: Taking responsibility isn’t letting your client walk all over you. It’s recognizing where you could have made different decisions and choices to avoid an issue with a client so that, in the future, you prevent that from happening. That’s not only good for you, but it’s also better for your clients.

Professionalism

  • 39:28 Cory: I’m doing a client project right now for a music video that I’m directing, so I’m working with a producer, a cinematographer. We’re going to have actors. It’s going to be this whole thing. During one of the meetings, it wasn’t just me and the leader of the band. It was me, the producer, and the cinematographer. The three of us are saying how we work and things like that. The producer said, “Yeah, and once we’re done, we’ll give you access to this link that lets you leave as many comments as you want, and you can tell us what to change.” I was like, “Oh, man. That is not how I want to do this project.”
  • 40:04 Sean: Why do people do that, Cory?
  • 40:07 Cory: There are a few reasons why people do that. I’m constantly making new mistakes and learning from them, and what I should have done was got with them, my producer and the cinematographer, and said, “Hey, here’s how we’re going to approach this project. I want to make sure we’re all on the same page before we go into this meeting.” I didn’t do that.
  • 40:28 Sean: Let’s dive into this a little bit more. Why do people do that? Do you know?
  • 40:32 Cory: Allow the client to make changes? Because they don’t want to do their full job.
  • 40:38 Sean: Ben, why do you think people do that?
  • 40:42 Ben: It could be a number of reasons. I think part of it is not feeling completely confident in your work, not understanding your role and the client’s role.
  • 40:56 Sean: All of those things. It comes down to industry norms, what’s culturally accepted. What have you always seen done? What has been your experience? What have the mentors and leaders in your life exhibited?
  • We tend to emulate the practices we see in our industry, and in doing so, all of the problems that come along with that.

  • 41:20 What is the client going to do otherwise, except assume any responsibility you haven’t explicitly taken? Like you said, Ben, not understanding the roles. It’s because your responsibility, as the professional, is to set the roles very clearly. “Client, this is what you are responsible for. This is what you are not responsible for. This is what I will be responsible for. This is what I will not be responsible for.”
  • 41:50 These explicit things, “You are responsible for getting me content. You are responsible for establishing the goals. You are responsible for defining the value of the project,” which we’re going to get to in the fourth part of this series. You have to explicitly state these things. Everything else is my responsibility. Here’s the thing—no one wants to look like an idiot, and when a client is working with you and you haven’t explicitly assigned something to them but they see it not getting done, they’re going to assume they should have done it.
  • 42:24 They’re not going to ask, because to ask would be to position themselves as an idiot. They’re like, “Oh, this was my responsibility. I dropped the ball,” because the professional didn’t say they were going to handle it.
  • 42:43 Cory: When you take responsibility in saying, “If I had asked this question, we could have avoided this,” it makes you look a little bit smarter.
  • When you take responsibility, you also build trust.

  • 42:57 Sean: The other thing is, as a young or inexperienced freelancer or professional, you do not have the mindset of a client. You don’t understand where they’re coming from. Later on, when you’re a client and you pay other people, you’ll understand more of these things. You don’t necessarily have to, but you’ll have the experience of being a client. You won’t have to just take my word for it, but as someone who has been on both sides in the past decade, take my word for it.
  • 43:29 I’ve been the professional. I’ve been the freelancer. I’ve been the unprofessional freelancer before that, and then I became the client. As someone who’s the client, who’s paying thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars, both of which I’ve done, I want to assume as little responsibility as possible. Let me tell you something. When I hire someone who is some kind of contractor—I won’t say professional, because they’re not acting in a professional way, and I didn’t do my homework or I find out later—when they do not explicitly take responsibility for something, I will assume that responsibility, even as someone who understands professionalism.
  • 44:08 “Oh? You’re asking me for feedback? I guess I give you feedback. I guess that’s your process.” I’m going to give you whatever you ask for, and I’m going to assume whatever you don’t explicitly state. I don’t even want that. What you mistake is that I want those things. No! It’s that you didn’t explicitly assign the roles! I don’t want to look like an idiot. It’s not that I want those things. I want as little as possible. Ask anyone on my team.
  • 44:41 They’re like, “Sean, can you help me with this? Can you help me with that?” No, I don’t want to. I have too much on my plate as a business owner. Please take care of this for me. Ask me everything you need upfront, and then go do the work and come back. If you tell me, as a professional that I hired because I know, like, and trust you, that this will work best to reach my goals, I’m going to use it.
  • 45:05 Ben: The client may not even have any idea what kind of feedback they should give. Now, you’re putting them in the position of feeling uncomfortable, like they have to give you feedback. “Do they want critical feedback? Do they want to hear that it’s great and amazing? What do they want?” I think about that. I also think about the options thing.
  • A lot of the issues we create with clients are because we’re putting them in a position where they can’t act out of their expertise, out of the role they should be in.

  • 45:43 They don’t know what they’re doing, so they’re trying their best to appear confident and seem like they’re in control. Really, you’ve put them in a position they shouldn’t have been in in the first place.
  • 45:58 Sean: I want to empower people. The right people, listening to this, will feel empowered. Along with this responsibility comes all of the power, ownership, and authority over your work that you deserve as an experienced professional. Your clients want to give it to you, desperately! It’s that, number one, you’re not setting the expectations right. You’re not assigning roles. Number two, you’re attracting the wrong clients.
  • 46:29 You fix those two things, and you’re going to end up working with dream clients. How do you do that? You have to filter out the wrong clients. What is the filter? It’s the questionnaire. That’s part two. That’s coming up in two weeks.

You Create Bad Clients

  • 46:41 Sean: Here’s a question from Sarah, “When you have strong professional values and you don’t compromise, you get to work with less clients (because there’s only so much of the right type of clients). That’s why it works great with overlapping, but at some point you may want to take the leap. How do you keep some sort of financial stability?”
  • 47:01 I told her, as you might assume, this question is answered in the Overlap book, the book I wrote that’s coming out June 13th at OverlapBook.com. Basically, it’s going from a soul-sucking day job to doing work that you like and being supported by it. You get all these tips, tricks, and strategies. Your watch and read later lists are overflowing. This is the down to earth, practical, step by step guide on getting from the life you have to the life you want.
  • 47:33 All the other stuff taken away, this is exactly what you need to do, in order. I do talk about building up a financial foundation in there. I would say, six months of expenses in the bank is a really good place to be. It’s always going to come down to a leap of faith moment, no matter how much you prepare or how much money you have in the bank. That doesn’t mean you should be reckless. You should take calculated risks, but it is going to take a leap of faith when you make that transition.
  • 48:10 It’s not just like, suddenly, your day job pushes you out the door onto this red carpet, into your new life. It’s not a seamless transition. There is going to be that leap of faith moment, but I recommend having six months income in the bank as financial padding. The other thing I wanted to kind of zoom in on a little bit is the phrase, “There are only so many of the right type of clients.” This is true. There are fewer great clients than good or poor clients.
  • No one in the world is a client until you take them on.

  • 48:50 No one is a client until you say, “I’m going to work with you.” Cory, will you do this job for me? I’ll pay you $50.
  • 49:01 Cory: Sure.
  • 49:01 Sean: No, you’re supposed to say no. Ben, will you do this job for me? I’ll pay you $50.
  • 49:08 Ben: No.
  • 49:09 Sean: If I go to every person in the world and they all say no, am I a client?
  • 49:12 Cory: You can’t be.
  • 49:13 Sean: I can’t be! What does that mean? Follow the logic. Every client from hell is a professional’s responsibility. Maybe they’re not a professional. If they’re a designer or someone who’s not working professionally, every client from hell is a designer’s responsibility, which means there can only be designers from hell. The blame is shifting. The client is not responsible. You are responsible.
  • 49:42 Ben: I don’t know if we want to go there, but as a person working in a creative industry, that also makes me feel some responsibility not only for myself, but also for the industry standards that exist. If I’m not charging enough for my work, if I’m not demanding the kinds of things I should be from a client relationship, I’m allowing those things to become part of the expectation in the client base in some way. In some way, that’s harming the other people in my industry.
  • There are no bad clients in the world.

  • 50:20 Sean: Ben, have you ever seen The Lord of the Rings series? Classic movies.
  • 50:24 Ben: I have seen those, yes.
  • 50:27 Sean: You know the second installment, where they have the Uruk Hai, those gnarly beasts? They’re minting them underground. They’re manufacturing these creatures. That is what you are doing! There are no bad clients in the world. There are only people, people who desperately want to leech off of you, your good will, your naivetĂ©, and your unprofessionalism. They desperately want to become clients. Please, Cory, make me a client! Turn me into a client! You’re minting out these gnarly beasts. You’re making them!
  • 51:19 Ben: You’re the one making the Uruk Hai.

Make No Your Default

  • 51:24 Sean: So, yes, Sarah. They are fewer, but what I really want to get across is that there are no bad clients to start with. You’re making them. So make sure you’re attracting the right clients and saying yes to the right clients. You’re saying yes, by default, to everyone and everything. No has to become your default. Scarcity Mindset is probably the biggest problem. Let’s say 1% of the 1% of the 1% of the world are great clients.
  • 51:58 That’s still 7,500 clients. You don’t need a lot of great clients to survive. The great clients are going to say, “Take more responsibility.” Because you’re a professional and you’re smart, you’re not just performing tasks as instructed. You’re solving problems and looking for ways to create value. “Oh, this is a goal you have? Maybe you also want to accomplish this other thing.” “Well, yeah, we do.” “I can help you with that. If we do this, we’re going to create a bunch of value for you.”
  • 52:25 “Great, do the work.” You’re going to have so much work with the few clients you already have, the great clients, that you only need a few a year. If you do three client projects a year, even if only 1% of the 1% of the 1% of the world’s population are great clients, you and 2,500 other professionals are set for the year. I don’t even know that there are that many people that are actually professional out there. Sometimes I wonder. There are a lot out there.
  • 52:58 It’s like you’re in a pond. You throw in your line, and nine times out of ten, you get something on the line. It’s not a great fish. It’s not the one you want. One time out of ten, you get a great fish. If you have the wrong bait, you’re going to attract the wrong fish. If you’re busy catching the wrong fish, you can’t catch the right fish. You have to say no. “No, this is not a fish that I want. Give me some good bait.” Let’s put the hook back out there.
  • Say no to the wrong clients and get the right clients.

  • 53:36 They’re in there. The pond is stocked. 10% of it is great fish, and they’re the fish you want, but you have to say no to the fish you don’t want!
  • 53:44 Ben: I would argue that if there are enough clients in general—good, bad, great—to do the work and have a consistent income, then there are probably enough great clients to support you, because great clients are going to pay better than good clients.
  • 54:03 Sean: You want to hear a heartbreaking story? Derrek in the chat says, “When I was a kid, I did a logo for $50.” Already, you’re like, “Aw man, poor guy.” He said, “Did not get paid.” I was already sad if he got paid, but he didn’t get paid! I’m going to tell you how to solve that problem, but before I do, I want to reemphasize ValueBasedPricing.com.

Value-Based Pricing

  • 54:37 Sean: The reason we’re setting the ground work here is because we’ve created a complete system to doing client work. It’s not just a course. It’s a complete system to doing client work, and it took us over two years to develop. It includes three custom developed pricing tools. We went through this for half a year with a pilot program, refined it. Here’s how you know with certainty that you’re doing Value-Based Pricing. Here’s the litmus test. Here at seanwes, we have a marketing problem. No one else has to worry about this, but our marketing problem is that people think they’re doing Value-Based Pricing.
  • 55:10 They’re like, “Yeah, I figure out about how much it’s worth,” but already, there’s a mistake in that phrase. “I figure out how much it’s worth and I price a percentage of that.” They think they’re doing Value-Based Pricing, but let me tell you, here’s the litmus test. I’ve got a bunch of questions. They’re yes or no, and I’m going to grade you. I’ll tell you what the grade needs to be at the end to be able to know, without a doubt, that you’re doing Value-Based Pricing.
    • Are you 100% certain the price you quote is fair to you?
    • Are you 100% certain the price you quote is fair to your client?
    • Are you 100% certain the price you quote is a complete no-brainer to your client and they will thank you for it?
    • Is everyone happy with the price every time?
    • Are you always working with good clients and never working with bad clients?
    • Are you always following your process and never dealing with a client who tries to compromise your process?
    • Are you never working late?
    • Are you never making arbitrary or unnecessary changes?
    • Are you always using your contract and never signing your client’s contract?
  • 56:27 If the answer is no to any of these questions, you’re not doing Value-Based Pricing. It’s like this chair. This is a Herman Miller Aeron chair. It’s the best chair. I love it. You heard the story of the one that broke on me, right? My IKEA chair? I’m working. I did some crazy amount of work, 230 hours in 13 days, I think. It was crazy. This was back in 2015. It was a long, 18 hour day. I was so tired. I leaned back in my chair. I just wanted to stretch a little bit.
  • 57:05 I leaned back in my chair a little bit, and snap! This IKEA chair breaks. I’m sprawled all over the floor, knocking down camera tripods. They’re tipping over in slow motion. I’ve got bruises on my back. The camera is still falling down. I reach around, without looking, grasping in the air, trying to grasp on to a leg of the tripod to prevent my $3,500 camera from crashing into the ground while my back is bruised and aching, after my 18 hour day.
  • 57:38 I said, “I’m done with crappy chairs.” You know what I did? When I experienced a problem that was painful to me and I said, “Never again. I don’t want any more bad chairs.” Do you know what I did? I went and I cobbled together my own chair with some scrap wood that I had in the garage, because I knew that would be comfortable and it would not screw up my back.
  • 58:02 Cory: Something is wrong here in this story.
  • 58:04 Sean: Of course I didn’t do that! I went online, and I said, “I’m going to buy a chair, and I’m going to price filter it. I’m not going to pay less than $1,000 for this chair.” I filtered everything else out. I said, “I’m done with crappy chairs. I work too hard. I do not deserve that nonsense. I’m going to sit in a chair, know that it supports me, know that it has integrity, and I’m not going to pay less than $1,000.” That’s how serious I was. I bought a Herman Miller Aeron chair.
  • 58:33 If I dedicated the rest of my life to crafting chairs, I could not craft a chair this good. I couldn’t. This is a team of professionals, people who have dedicated their lives to crafting the perfect chair.
  • 58:46 Ben: It’s quite a beautiful chair.
  • 58:47 Sean: It is! It’s very nice. I got the carbon weave. The leather arm rests. You don’t want the plastic, rough arm rests. You get the leather ones. I got the nice chair, because I don’t want to dedicate the rest of my life to trying to make chairs. I want to focus on my work. I don’t think about this chair at all. It doesn’t come to my mind. How often do you think about working with clients? How often do you think about problems with your process? How often do you think about pricing and the anxiety that comes with that?
  • 59:25 “I’ve got to do another one of these proposals. This again.” How often do you think about that? You should not be thinking about your system. When your air conditioning goes out, you’re like, “What the heck?” When your car transmission breaks down, you’re like, “This is terrible.” You don’t want to think about those things. You want to get in the car and drive to where you want to go. You want to come home and have it be comfortable. You want to sit in front of your computer in your office and not think about your chair and it supports you. Lumbar support in the back, it’s comfortable. Leather arm rests.
  • You don’t want to think about your system, so you trust people who have dedicated their lives to perfecting a system.

  • 01:00:10 They have built the perfect chair, created a car that works, serviced your air conditioning, come up with a bullet-proof client work system. That’s what Value-Based Pricing is. We have solved every single client problem. We are very passionate about this. We spent years on this. Justin helped me co-produce the course at ValueBasedPricing.com. We dedicated years of our lives to this. We spent three hours on a phone call, talking about a single sentence.
  • 01:00:44 That sentence is the answer to the dreaded question that you know, “Yeah, but, you know, what’s your price? Give me a ballpark.” Do you ever get that? You’re like, “This is the worst. I don’t know what I can charge yet.” “Just a ballpark.” Justin and I spent three hours coming up with the perfect, single sentence answer to that question that ensures that the client will never ask that question again, they will trust you, it gets them back on track and focused on the value, and you don’t have to talk about budgets ever again.
  • 01:01:26 That’s a single sentence, guaranteed. It took three hours to come up with that, for me and Justin. We are passionate about processes. We’re passionate about the process itself. When are you going to find time in your day to spend three hours on one question, let alone an entire process? Do you build WordPress from scratch, or do you install it on your server? It just makes sense. Stand on the shoulders of the people who came before you.
  • We’ve solved all of your client problems at ValueBasedPricing.com.

  • 01:02:18 Cory: My favorite part of what we talked about today is setting the expectations of, “Here’s what you’re responsible for, here’s what you’re not responsible for. Here’s what I’m responsible for, here’s what I’m not responsible for.” That is just so clear. That’s explicitly clear. I love that, and I wish I could say that I’ve approached every project that way. I said I’m working on a music video, and I wasn’t approaching it this way. I wish I did, because there’s no question after you do that. It’s just so clear.

Avoid Client Problems

  • 01:02:57 Sean: Robin says, “Is there a way to detect the holes in your process in advance so you don’t have to deal with all the frustrations when they occur?” You can avoid some problems by learning from other’s mistakes. Try, as much as possible, to learn from other’s mistakes, when you can. Most people don’t want to do this, unfortunately. The things I prescribe in this show, these are all lessons I learned the hard way, things you should avoid.
  • 01:03:23 I didn’t avoid them, but I had to learn the hard way. I’m trying to save you that time. They’re not comfortable things. Doing the work of prevention isn’t comfortable. It’s not comfortable, saying no. It’s not comfortable saying, “There’s a red flag, I shouldn’t try and qualify it. I shouldn’t say that it will probably be okay. I need to say that if there’s one red flag, there are 50 I don’t see, because it’s like roaches.” These things aren’t comfortable, so people won’t do them.
  • 01:03:51 Most people will ignore these things. The best way I know to avoid client problems is the Value-Based Pricing system. We’ve solved every single client problem and we teach you how to solve any problem that comes up that you weren’t expecting. I don’t actually expect everyone to follow this system perfectly every time, but that’s why we have these checks and balances built in. Even when you make a mistake or something happens, we show you how to fix it permanently.
  • 01:04:21 In theory, if you’re following this, you will avoid all of the common frustrations. That’s my answer to you, Robin. I feel like I’m holding back. I have a four-part series in my mind, so there’s so much more to talk about.
  • 01:04:41 Ben: I know what it’s like to be in that place where you feel like you have to say yes to anything that comes across your desk. On the one hand, you definitely should be looking for a way to overlap, to take the pressure off yourself so you don’t have to do that kind of work. Let’s say you’re stuck in that for now. You still have to get clients, one way or the other. Maybe you’ve taken that leap of faith and it feels very scary. You feel like even though you have money in the bank, you can’t afford to say no.
  • 01:05:20 My experience, consistently, is that is costs me way too much time. I end up having to work much harder to get paid. I end up doing work I’m not as proud of, that’s not as effective, when I work with clients I should have said no to. All of that time and effort I’m putting into that client I should have said no to is time and effort that I could have been pouring into getting the right kind of client. I’m convinced that, today, I would be better off had I not said, “Oh, but I need that money.” I can point back to several people I should have said no to. I would have been able to do better work and get to the right kind of clients sooner.