My first months as a freelancer
Straight when I finished university, I registered as a freelancer. I grew up designing logos and apps, and my mom is a freelance designer too, so starting my professional career this way felt like the obvious decision.
I started designing brands and websites for clients that I found online. I had a steady pace of about one new client a month. Things were going well. Until March 2020.
My design projects were put on hold. New client stopped reaching out. And it became clear: I had to turn things around, or my business would die...
So I started looking at how other freelancers that I admired made their businesses successful... Nathan Barry, Daniel Vassallo, Laura Elizabeth, Pieter Levels.
I realized that they all followed the same pattern. And it all boiled down to having three activities simultaneously: consulting, education and building products. I decided to call this the hyper freelance model.
A primer to hyper freelancing
Here's how it goes...
They start with consulting to grow their network, refine their positioning and spot recurring pains among their clients. But only doing consulting work is not great... Because the inconsistent flow of new clients is a deep source of anxiety for freelancers.
So after a while, hyper freelancers start sharing what they've learned with their clients publicly. They share their knowledge. They write blog posts, they make videos and sell their ideas in courses and books.Like magic, this brings new clients to the consulting activity! Their public content means they don't have to do prospecting anymore.
And finally, through the audience they've grown and deep market knowledge they've formed, hyper freelancers build products to scale themselves. Apps, tools, anything anyone in their market can use.
Essentially, these three activities are just different ways to sell a unique specialization: for the masses (with a product), for the rest of the knowledge economy (with courses) and for individuals (with consulting). Hyper freelancers essentially juggle between being freelancers, creators and entrepreneurs.
So I decided to write an article about this model. And the article took off. I received hundreds of messages from freelancers that were inspired. It was great!
But then, I realized, I wanna walk the talk. I wanna live the hyper freelance model myself and see if I can save my business that way. To go from theory to practice.
Creating my first course
So I created a Webflow course in June 2020. I locked myself in my bedroom. I announced the course with a LinkedIn video. I had 10 students sign up within a week. It earned $4000 and I got to meet and help awesome designers and entrepreneurs. It was the first time in my life where I felt viscerally good about a business model. Earning $800 from teaching someone something feels 10x better than $800 charging for client work.
Creating my first product
Then I set out to create my own product. My mom wanted to send a client proposal in Notion, and so I built her exactly that. I packaged other documents I used with my own clients and decided to sell everything in a pack. I wrote, designed and launched the product in 2 weeks. It generated $30,000 in 5 months. It works! Hyper freelancing works!
I started receiving emails, requests, customer support messages, client work referrals, introductions, business opportunities, interviews, past clients who want changes, feature requests... It got completely out of hand. So much stuff to do. It got so intense: I couldn't sleep at night, I was anxious, I didn't eat well. It turned into a total nightmare.
I told myself I have to stop everything as I realize I've become a prisoner of my own system. The hyper freelance model, which I thought was a great way to become more free, really just made me more captive to clients, students and customers.
I need time. I need to turn things around and adapt my model.
Turning things around
The first thing I do is I hire a part-time assistant. If I want to grow my business, I need to keep my head focused on creative tasks, not maintenance tasks. I find Dan and I'm super happy.
The second thing I do is turn down clients. All clients. I say no, thank you. Client work, I realize, takes most of my headspace. But working with clients is a great to meet new people, discover new industries, solve new problems. So instead of charging per project or sprints, I decide to take 2h consulting calls instead. Therefore, whenever the call is finished, I don't have to think about that client anymore. These 2h sessions are intense, hands-on video calls where I help with brand and web design. And with just two or three of these calls per month, I can pay the rent.
I realize I also have to change my online courses. My webflow course takes A LOT OF my time. Not only do I have to prepare the weekly videos and materials, I also have to organize the live calls, invite guests, prepare the slides. It's too much. So I'm now slowly moving towards a model where students can learn at their own pace, and I reply asynchronously to their questions too.
Finally, the last thing I decide to do to turn things around is to only build tiny products. I'm blessed because I can design, code and market apps from beginning to end. But that pushes me to start a lot of projects which I never finish. In my life I've built hundreds of zombie projects: side projects that are neither really live or dead. So to force myself to ship projects, I decide I should only work on products which I can build and launch in 2 weeks, that generate revenues and that do not need maintenance work. I decide to launch the Supercreative radio to validate that tiny products work, and they do.
I'm far away from the instable business I had when the pandemic hit.
I have 3 things for you:
- Firstly: I compiled a list (link below) of all the hyper freelancers I found with a breakdown of their consulting, education and product activities. Download the list.
- Secondly, if you want to switch to hyper freelancing, I challenge you to make 100$ this month from a course or a product.
- Finally, if you’re doing this challenge, I created a group chat so we can share our learnings and motivate each other. Join us!
As freelancers, as entrepreneurs of ourselves, it is our duty to cultivate our own freedom. And diversifying our revenue streams lets us put free back into freelancing.