How to Position Your Freelance Marketing Business (& Stop Feeling Burn out)

Are you feeling burnt out at the end of your workday? Do you feel like your flailing around with no direction when working with your current clients? Kaleigh Moore was in your position not too long ago. Now after taking a leap as a niche freelance writer, Kaleigh runs a successful business writing blog content for e-commerce platforms and SaaS tools.

Kaleigh joins the show today to help us understand how to find work your passionate about and make money doing it. We discuss how to find your niche and properly position your brand so people remember what you do and you can work with clients on your own terms.

Listen to this episode:

We covered:

  • Why being a specialist will get you more business
  • Two reasons to be selective when bringing on new clients
  • Keeping variability in your projects when selecting your expertise niche
  • How Kaleigh conquered her fears and burnout when she repositioned her business
  • The trigger that pushed Kaleigh to reposition her business
  • The online freelance course Kaleigh took to figure out the work she truly enjoyed
  • Why you need to have some hands-on experience before positioning your business
  • Three questions that can help you find work you actually enjoy doing
  • Kaleigh’s advice for setting up your project fee structure
  • The best way to discover work you are passionate about
  • Potential red flags from clients and how to tactfully move away from those clients
  • A formula for creating your really simple positioning statement
  • Why you should ask your mom if she understands your positioning statement before you publish it
  • Simple ideas to keep your network updated on your brand

Resources:

Full Transcript:

Louis: Bonjour, Bonjour, and welcome to another episode of EveryoneHatesMarketers.com, the non-fluff actionable marketing podcast for marketers, marketing consultants, founders, and tech people who are just sick of shady, aggressive marketing. I’m your host Louis Grenier. In this episode you’ll learn how to position your freelance marketing or consulting business to get better clients and be paid more and be happier.

Even if you’re not a freelance marketer or consultant you will definitely find this episode interesting because positioning is definitely one of the core things you need to do in marketing to get better clients, to get better customers, to grow faster, and all of that.

So my guest today started freelance writing back in 2013 so that’s almost seven years now, before freelancing she was a writer and photographer for a statewide magazine, she worked as a PR manager for a hunger relief organization, she even owned a successful e-commerce business that specialized in vintage jewelry.

And the reason why I got and invited her on the podcast today is because she’s now specializing in long-form blog content for e-commerce platforms and the SaaS tools that integrate with them. And as you can see, it’s a quite narrow positioning that allowed her to be quite successful and we’ll talk about that in the next few minutes.

So Kaleigh Moore. Welcome aboard.

Kaleigh: Thank you for having me.

And I have to apologize right off the bat because I do sound kind of froggy today but I’m going to power through this. So hopefully it’ll be all right.

Louis: Don’t worry about it, I’m sure it’ll be all right and if you need a break, let me know as well.

Kaleigh: Okay.

Louis: So why is positioning in the freelance world, in the consulting world, such an important concept?

Kaleigh: Well, I think the most important thing when it comes to positioning is that it helps people remember who you are and what you do. So there are a ton of people out there who freelance or who have a side project or whatever it might be, and the question is how do you get somebody to hire you?

And so, I always think of it through, I guess a little anecdote or an analogy, I always ask the people that I’m talking to about positioning, if you were going to hire somebody to paint a mural on the side of your business, like on the wall outside, would you want to hire somebody who positioned themselves as just a general artist who could do a lot of different types of art? Or would you want somebody who positioned themselves as an expert muralist who is very good at doing the one specific thing you wanted to have executed on your building?

And it’s always the expert, right? You always want the person who really specializes and is very good at that one thing because you know that they have deep knowledge around that topic, they have a lot of practice, they probably have a lot of experience, and I don’t know, just past interactions that they can pull from when they’re working for you.

And so, that’s the methodology that I take with my business too is rather than being a generalist or a jack of all trades who can do a lot of things, I would much rather be the specialist who has a lot of subject matter expertise and authority around something very specific, who can really do a great job for the people that hire me.

Rather than, I guess, just kind of doing anything for anyone.

Louis: So that all makes sense in a very rational setting, when you think about it rationally, that all makes sense. But emotionally, deep down, people are afraid, right? They are scared shitless of doing it because, and maybe you have a few insight on that, usually what I hear is they’re afraid of missing out. They have a huge FOMO about but if I specialize in e-commerce platforms only then I won’t be able to work with all of the other business that might contact me, right?

So what do you say to that?

Kaleigh: Yeah, I’ve been there. I totally get that. And when I first started my business, I tried the everything to everyone approach where I offered a lot of different services, I basically would work with anyone who came my way and what I found was that it just, it didn’t translate that often. And the results just weren’t that great. People didn’t really hire me, the referrals didn’t really come my way.

And so, it is scary to say no to opportunities but when you say yes to the right things, one, you’re not resentful about the work so you can really enjoy it and lean into it and like the hours that you’re spending every day working. And number two, you get more referrals and you get more recommendations that way because, like I said, it’s a sticker concept to specialize in one thing and be known as the go-to person for that very specific thing, rather than trying to get other people to remember all of the different services you offer. That’s just not realistic.

And so, yeah. It’s scary to specialize and say, “Okay, I’m only going to say yes to opportunities that come my way that fit within this very small window or set of criteria.” But when you do that, that’s when people, again, remember who you are and what you do and you start getting recommended because people are like, “Oh, yeah. I know Kaleigh. She does blog content for software companies and the e-commerce platforms that work with them.”

That’s a sticky idea and so I think having something specific is a great way to get people to remember you for the thing that you do. And yes, you’ll still have to tell them 13 or 14 or 15 times before they actually remember but, it’s going to be a lot less of an uphill battle than if you’re just a generalist.

Louis: And it’s rooted in psychology, in people’s psychology, right. In human psychology.

Kaleigh: Right.

Louis: The fact that the more specific something is, the more likely you are to remember it. And that’s how people think. When you work in your business, day in, day out, you remember every single facet of it, right. You remember the costs, you remember your packages, all the different packages you have, you remember all of the different segments you serve. But no one else does, right.

People have very little time for you and if they can remember one thing, what would it be, right? And it can’t just be oh Kaleigh’s a writer because that means you are literally competing with millions of people and that brings commodity pricing. It’s just impossible to compete, right.

Kaleigh: So true. And I think, I see this on my end of things too. So, when people try to pitch me on their services or they say, “I’m X person who does X thing,” unless it’s very specific, I don’t remember. And so I have just learned that from being on the other side of the equation too that, if you can’t pin down specifically what you specialize in for somebody else, they don’t remember. And I’m guilty of it too.

So, you have to make it easy to be associated with that one thing and be the go-to person for that one thing.

Louis: Then, another thing I hear quite a lot is okay I’m going to pick this niche, to take your example again, because I think it’s a fantastic example of vertical positioning, it’s the boredom it’s like oh, I’m going to pick this niche only, I’m going to pick this e-commerce niche but I’m going to be bored out of my mind. It’s going to be the same type of work every day. What do you say to that?

Kaleigh: Yeah, I hear that all the time too. And so, here’s what I’ve found. So for somebody like me for example who specializes in e-commerce and software that works with e-commerce platforms, there’s a lot of variability as far as what I can write about within that world.

And so, as an example, one of the things that I’ve kind of spiraled off on as far as side projects go is specializing in a different area of e-commerce. So now I’ve been doing some reporting on direct-to-consumer brands and the trends and news-related pieces that are coming out of that world. So that’s kind of a sub-culture of the e-commerce environment and with any niche there are always those little sub-communities or sub-focuses that you can find out and explore as you stay within the specific niche.

So, yes, it can, if you only focus on a hyper-specific niche and you don’t have any wiggle room, I could see how that would be frustrating. But if you have a niche that’s so wide enough where there’s some opportunity for exploration as far as, like I said, sub-communities or even more specific niches within that heading, I think that there’s a lot of flexibility as far as subject matter, as far as news, as far as types of work you could do. There’s just a lot of opportunity out there. You just have to be willing to find it.

Louis: Yeah, and it’s always the same, right. From an outside perspective when you’re not an expert in a specific field, you think the field is small enough but, for example, you wouldn’t believe how many, I don’t know, I’m going to come up with something shitty right now, but I don’t know how many people you believe would be specializing in organic salt making who are based in the U.S.

It’s like there’s so many niche out there, so many small niche of people coming together around the same interest that the niche that seems very small for you, I almost can guarantee that it’s much bigger than you think.

And then there’s this fear of well, if this niche is too small then I’m not going to make enough money out of it, right.

The e-commerce platform and the tools that connect with it which is your positioning, is probably, do you know how many companies roughly fit this description in the world?

Kaleigh: Oh, my gosh. There’s so many and there’s more every day. A lot. Thousands.

Louis: All right. Thousands. And how many clients do you work per month with?

Kaleigh: Anywhere from seven to twelve.

Louis: So that’s like, what, less than, at top, top in the very, very optimistic proportion it would be like one percent. You’re working with one percent of the market every month which is incredibly small and extremely optimistic. I think it’s way less than that. It’s probably .1 percent. So there’s always room, right, to grow.

I want you to talk about those fears because I know that people have that. And I think that rationally speaking people understand the concept of positioning, they understand why they should pick one thing, why it should be niche enough so that you don’t compete on price and you just show your value. But I think, again, emotionally speaking, this is where the confidence starts to shrink, where the fear starts to happen, and all of that. So let’s talk through your experience of doing it because, as you said, when you started you did not have it.

How you actually conquered the fear and how you got the confidence and perhaps the methods you used to pick this horizontal positioning plus vertical positioning.

So, to go back to step one and tell me a bit more, let’s paint a picture of Kaleigh a few years ago, before this new and improved positioning and new view on business. Where were you? What was your situation?

Kaleigh: Yeah, so I would say the first year of freelancing, I touched on this a little earlier but I was pretty much saying yes to anything. So anything that came my way, I would try it and so that meant that I wrote for a lot of different industries and did a lot of different types of writing work.

So for example I did some writing for the healthcare industry, I did some social media for the construction and HVAC industry, I worked with a clothing retailer, I worked with a tourism organization, I worked with a local PBS station, which is the public broadcasting like the BBC in the U.S., I did a lot of different things and there was some value in that.

So I learned a lot about what I liked and what I didn’t like, as well as what I was very good at, as well as what I wasn’t so great at also. So that was good experience as far as experimenting to find out where I really excelled.

But the money wasn’t great. I’ll be very honest about that. I did make more than I was at the full-time PR I had before but it was very stressful, I worked a lot of hours, I didn’t really feel a lot of satisfaction out of the work I was doing. And so, I found myself at the end of that first year feeling really frustrated and really lost.

And I was just like, you know I don’t know if this is sustainable for me. I don’t know if I can continue to just flail around and try to desperately quickly learn everything I can when I get a new assignment because I don’t know anything about these industries that I’m writing for. I’m just doing the work. And so everything takes longer. I have to do a ton of research to get up to speed, there’s no existing knowledge base that I’m building upon when I go to start an assignment.

And so, that very quickly led to some serious burnout and a lot of resentment toward the work that I was doing as a freelancer.

Louis: I don’t mean to dig into the problems that you were suffering from like the burnout and whatever but I think it’s important to explain to you, if you’re listening to this right now and feel that you’re in the situation that Kaleigh used to be, how impactful it could be not to have the right positioning.

So when you talk about burnout, what do you mean exactly? For example I burned out a few years ago and for me it was going to work, looking at the screen for eight hours, without being able to do anything. Like, I couldn’t fucking do shit on it. I just couldn’t do, for weeks and weeks on end. And I was getting super frustrated. So what about you? What do you mean by burnout?

Kaleigh: So for me I was working really long days, like maybe eight to ten hours a day sitting at the computer, which I hated because I’m somebody who likes to get up and move around. And so I was doing the work but I was fucking angry all the time. I was so resentful about the work and I was just like, I don’t like this, I don’t care about these topics. The people that I’m working with yeah, they’re nice but this work… I would almost rather mow lawns. I would just rather do anything else than this right now because I’m banging my head against the keyboard, like I said, trying to get up to speed on stuff, trying to research and learn and really soak up all this expertise that I don’t have so it looks like I do.

And it was just exhaustion. Pure… way too much time in front of a computer and not talking to other human beings. I was just a very angry, tired, person.

Louis: Yeah, after a while when you work with people you don’t necessarily enjoy working with, maybe it’s their personality, their values, the industry that they are in that you couldn’t care less about, you start being very resentful, right.

A few years ago, I used to work for a car manufacturer company and I couldn’t care less about cars. Never did, never will. And I started to really resent it because people around me were so excited about it, about the topic, and I wasn’t.

I just felt like I was wrong, something was wrong with me and in fact, it was just I was in the wrong place. And people can enjoy cars if they want to but it wasn’t for me.

So let’s talk a bit more about the trigger then. What made you decide fuck it, I need to make a change? And why did you decide to go narrower in your positioning.

Kaleigh: Yeah, so about that time, year-end mark was when my husband was like, “Hey, you should check out Paul Jarvis’s creative class.” And so I ended up taking the very first version of Paul’s course for freelancers, Paul’s creative class, at that point in time and really did the work, really sat down for an hour or two every night, did the homework, did the exercises that were the additional modules that he provided, where you did outreach to people, you did a lot of interviewing, you connected with people through social media and asked them questions and things like that.

And through that work, that’s where I really was able to figure out one, the work that I enjoyed doing. Two, what niche made realistic sense as far as who’s hiring freelancers and who has a budget to pay them well? And then as far as what’s the type of writing work I like to do.

So I had done e-books, white papers, emails, website copy, but what I really enjoyed doing was the blog content. And so, through just really sitting down and taking the time to figure out what made the most sense for me and what I would enjoy doing most. Literally just asking myself those questions and working through the answers with Paul’s course, that’s how I figured out how to shift things.

And so I went from also using a brand name, I was using Lumen Ventures LLC, which is still the LLC I operate under today but I shifted focus and started marketing myself as Kaleigh Moore Freelance Writer. And so, no more social media, no more website copy, none of those things.

It was just blog content for e-commerce and SaaS companies. And it was really that course that changed things for me and forced me to sit down and think long and hard about what I wanted to do moving forward to make this one, more enjoyable and two, more sustainable.

Louis: Right. So let’s talk through that in detail because now you have with hindsight I think you can select the things that helped you the most from this course. And perhaps teach people listening right now how you actually practiced and executed on those tasks. So if you had to teach someone right now to go through this step again, what would be step one?

And I just want to say one thing before you start, and I think you agree with me on this and you mention it, positioning, picking a market, works well once you’ve started to work with a few clients and dipped your toes into the water. Because if you don’t have experience and try to pick up positioning from the start, it could be very difficult for you to pick the one that you would enjoy the most because you haven’t done the work, right?

Kaleigh: Right, yeah. I think that that’s a good point.

Louis: So I think the advice would work better if you’ve already worked with clients or you’re already working with clients for a while now. Or you have some decent experience, work experience. It’s probably not as good if you’re brand new to it and you’ve never ever worked with a client before, right?

Kaleigh: Right.

Louis: So, what then would be step one for you? What do you advise people to do to get from point A to point Z?

Kaleigh: Yeah, so anytime I do freelance writing coaching which is something that I do a little bit on the side, the first questions we always ask are, where does your interest lie? What existing subject matter expertise or knowledge do you have that you can pull from?

Who are the clients you enjoy working with most? And who pays you the best? So that very short series of questions is a great way to get some initial direction on where should I be focusing my energy moving forward. And the toughest question of those four is often, who has the money to pay you? It’s very hard often to be realistic about answering this question because, one of the things I’ve found is that, in working with freelance writers, sometimes the area or the audience they want to focus on doesn’t have a lot of money.

So Paul talks about this too. He talks about how back in the day he wanted to work with bands and how bands don’t often have a lot of money to spend on hiring a great web designer or a great writer. And so, being realistic and doing some research and digging into do these types of clients have the budget to afford the prices you want to charge?

That often is a good way to cross some options off the list because if you are wanting to work with nonprofits or you want to work with yoga studio owners or, I mean, obviously there are subsets of all of these communities and some of them do have money but, you have to think long and hard about what is truly viable for your business and for you as how you’re going to position the services you offer.

Can you charge the price point you want and do they need freelance help? I think that those are good qualifiers for really digging into those questions.

Louis: So before I ask you to repeat those questions that are super valuable, it seems like step one is actually to figure out how much you want to be paid, right?

Kaleigh: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Louis: So before even asking those questions because one of the question is about how much, what are the markets that have the money to pay what you want. So how do you first of all then figure out how much you want to be paid?

Kaleigh: I think it’s a good idea to have some general goals set as far as what you want to earn on a monthly basis or an annual basis or both.

If you’re not sure what to be charging for somebody at your skill-level or expertise level there are always good communities that you could pose those questions to. Whether it’s a Facebook group or a Slack channel or just going to Twitter and being like, “Hey, for somebody who’s a year into freelancing for blank type of companies, what’s the average you charge for something like that? Or if you’re on the marketing side, what do you pay on average for that type of service?”

There are places that you can go online to get those answers and to get some ballpark ranges that make your goals a little bit more realistic.

Louis: Right. So first of all you need to yeah, agree on your goals. Just say you want to earn 100,000 dollars a year then you divide that by twelve which is a bit less than 10,000 dollars a month, right. And then you need to work out your capacity and say, look maybe that you can only work maximum 20 hours a week on it, and so therefore you need to, then you have kind of a roughly ballpark figure of the per project fee you can charge or the per hour fee you can charge.

Kaleigh: Right. And I always say stay away from hourly if you can because that kind of shows you, as you get more efficient, and as you get better and faster at the work you’re doing, it’s always better to have the project-based rate where you’re being paid for your expertise and the value you provide, rather than your mere time.

Louis:   Yes. And I am glad you mentioned that because this is a big big issue for a lot of freelancers, people who are just getting into this. It’s very easy to discount yourself and not believe in yourself 100%, not believe in your capacity, and just charge 15 dollars an hour.

But as you say, the more efficient you get, the more penalized you become. And also you’re being seen as a commodity. And people compare you to others and then they start saying, “Well, this one is at 14 hours and you are 15 hours can you bring the cost down?” So yeah, absolutely.

And it’s all about the value that you provide and not the work you do which is also a concept that is difficult for people to get around.

So to get a ballpark figure of what people are willing to pay for, you’re talking about basically going to forums and other place communities and even maybe interviewing people directly to understand okay, I’m interested in the SaaS kind of industry, I have no fucking clue how much they pay their writers, so let me interview someone who’s in charge of content in a SaaS company and see how much they’re paying for them.

Kaleigh: Absolutely. That’s the smartest thing you could do. I think you’re going to get the most realistic and honest numbers that way and you can google it and look that way but you’re going to get vastly different numbers and so it’s better to go to the exact person who you’d like to hire you and get some ballpark ranges from a source like that.

Louis:   Okay. So now that you know roughly how much you want to be paid, you know that this is where you want to go to, you start having a better idea of how much you want to be paid, again, can you repeat the four questions that you need to ask yourself please?

Kaleigh: Yeah, so what is the work that you enjoy doing most? Who has the money to realistically hire you as a freelancer and has the budget to pay you what you want to be paid? What type of work do you enjoy doing the most and, oh, gosh, now I can’t remember the fourth.

Louis:   I really thought you were reading it because it was so like-

Kaleigh: I wasn’t.

Louis: … perfect.

Kaleigh: I’m not. We’ll have to go back but I can’t remember the fourth question. I was close though.

Louis: So do you enjoy it? Does it have the budget? What type of work, and yeah. If you come up with the fourth we’ll tackle it, but let’s start with the first one.

How do you identify the type of work actually, the work you enjoy doing or who you enjoy working with?

Kaleigh: I think you touched on it earlier. I think it’s a little bit of experimenting and trying a lot of different things to figure out who are the people you enjoy working with the most or what is the type of work you enjoy doing most and just really kind of making mental notes on that as you go.

It’s a very good idea to do a lot of different things and to get your hands dirty with trying different things. There’s somebody, Casey Neistat, the blogger on YouTube always says he did a lot of crappy jobs to figure out what he didn’t want to do.

And I think that that’s so true. I think it’s good to even do some work that you feel like is kind of shitty and that you don’t enjoy so that you have a more clear picture of what you do want to do moving forward.

Louis: You’re right. And then, in terms of signs that you can’t really ignore. I know from experience that I know when things energize me, let’s say at the end of this interview, I’m more likely to be more energized than I was before. Because interviewing people is really what excites me, I love doing it, I could do it every day all day.

But if you ask me to write a blog post, I will be extremely, it will be impossible for me to finish it. I’m going to fucking curse all the way. I hate writing, all of that.

Therefore energy is gone out of me. Apart from that, do you have any other, I don’t know emotional things that you need to watch out for in your own psyche in your own energy levels?

Kaleigh: I think it’s good to try different things for an extended period of time. Even for me as somebody who focuses on blog content now, I find myself getting into, I don’t know just kind of a slough with work where it’s hard to do.

I think that’s true of anything that you do for an extended period of time but, I think it’s good to make sure that what you’re experiencing, if you have those positive energy-boosting feelings around the work you’re doing, is that they’re not just temporary.

So make sure that your brain just isn’t lighting up because you’re learning something new. Make sure that you can sustain it over time and it’s something that you’re going to continue to enjoy to do.

So that takes a little bit of self-exploration and it’s not an overnight thing but you have to really commit to practicing on, even a day-to-day basis, to make sure that it’s something you could do for the long haul.

Louis: Yeah, that’s something I’ve been guilty of in the past where I got excited with something for a week and then I stopped. But in this day and age, more than ever, if you want to build trust with your people, with your audience, you need to show up, right.

You need to show up every day, every week, every month, every year. You need to show up consistently for a long, long time. So it’s not because you decide that you’re positioning is X this week that next week people are going to update their brain and start to remember you.

And it’s not because you decide this week your positioning is X and you’re going to do work with clients that maybe in one months or two months time, as you said, you might get sick of it. So you need to be extremely careful of this because positioning is not something you can change every month because people don’t change every month.

You take a while for people to update their brain and even care about you to think oh, this positioning is much better or I feel like it’s much more aligned with what I want as a business.

Kaleigh: Yes. I think that’s so true and so many people don’t do that or they don’t consistently practice before they launch with this new direction and then they get into it and they’re like, “Oh, shit! I don’t actually like this.”

So even if you’re doing it on the side and you’re not fully leaning into this new shift or this new approach or this new niche, it’s good to be exploring that maybe in the evening when you have some free time, or be reading about like news articles from that niche, or just staying immersed in it in a day-to-day experience over several months’ time so that you can be sure that this is something you’re really going to enjoy. Rather than, like you said, jumping to conclusions and making a major shift in your business that weeks down the road you’re like, “Oh, no. I made a major mistake.”

Louis: Yeah. So to go to the budget which is an important thing that people tend to forget as well. So apart from talking to people to identify how much they’re paying for stuff.

What other things you need to watch out for when it comes to this particular question?

Kaleigh: Things to look out for. I think the hourly pricing is a big red flag. If somebody wants to pay you for an hourly gig it means that they’re looking at you as a time-based worker and so there’s not a lot of value in that conversation.

So you want to work with people who are willing to partner with you on a project-based basis. I think that that’s a good testament to the fact that they see value in your knowledge, your experience, and the specific outcomes that you can provide as a unique individual.

Other things, I think it’s important to consider how you’re going to package your services too. I think that when you say project-based pricing that’s kind of ambiguous, right? What does that even mean? So talk to other people who are already doing the type of work you want to do and see how they package their services.

Are they doing day rates? Are they doing bundles of a certain number of posts? Or what does the normal scope of work look like for them when they start a website project? Things like that.

It’s good to talk to other people who are already in it and get their perspective and then incorporate what you think works well into your own approach.

Louis: In terms of the signs that certain clients that you’ve been working with are not the best with money and don’t really necessarily respect your range or your pricing, the red flags, apart from the ones, as you said, they just want to pay you hourly, what other red flags can you see?

One, for example, from experience I remember is people always being late to pay invoice. You always had to catch with them and ask them, remind them many many times before they pay you.

Kaleigh: Yeah, that’s definitely one. Another is asking for you to do little extra things for free. That’s not really a good indicator that they respect your time or your knowledge.

Other things is they push back when you send over an initial quote. They’re like, “Oh, no no. That’s way too expensive. I can find somebody who does it cheaper.”

That’s a big red flag. They obviously just want the cheap option, not the expert option. Let’s see, other things they don’t respect your process around communication. So maybe they’re emailing you at three in the morning or they want you to get on a call on their schedule.

Things like that I think are big red flags as far as who you don’t want to work with.

Louis: Right. And let’s say you’ve been a freelancer consultant for a year now and you can clearly see that there is a pattern, like you list all of your clients and you have maybe 20 of them and maybe 15 of them fit these patterns of red flags, right.

Maybe not all of them but some of them. And then five of them they all feel like they don’t annoy you this way, they don’t contact you out of business hours, they don’t expect the world like the moon out of you, they respect you, you have great relationship with them.

Then it’s all about trying to understand what are the things that they have in common, right?

Kaleigh: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Louis: So how do you move from those questions that we have answered? So we know who we enjoy working with, we know who have money and who don’t necessarily respect you as a consultant or freelancer, we know the type of work you enjoy doing, how do you move from there to I have a positioning that I can start launching?

Kaleigh: Yeah, so maybe with the old clients that aren’t a great fit or that don’t super respect your boundaries that you’ve established for your business, it’s time to start phasing those out. And that’s kind of step one. And the most tactful way I’ve found to do that is to let them know that you’re booked up with new projects and then introduce them to another writer or another freelancer who can maybe take your place.

So that’s one way to phase those clients out. The other way is to reach out to your existing network and let them know exactly what you’re looking for moving forward. So something as simple as an email that’s like, “Hey, I’m kind of going in a new direction with my business, I’m really looking for clients who fit the bill of X, Y, and Z. If you know of anybody who needs some type of help with that type of work, I would love an intro. Or maybe if you need that type of work, I’d love to start a new project together.”

But I think that those are nice initial steps to get the ball rolling. As you get into this a little bit more and you maybe have the old clients phased out and you’re actively looking for new clients, rather than just using your existing network, you’re putting out some asks through channels and forums and places like Twitter, Facebook and saying, “Taking on new clients, here’s exactly what I do and who I work with.” And again, just putting some feelers out and looking for connections through the places that you already spend time, that’s a good secondary network to focus on next.

Louis: Okay. So that’s a great answer but I think there is one step in between. One step between this step that you mentioned and the step before. Because even if we have answered those questions we still don’t have necessarily a positioning to go after, right.

I suppose that when you answer your questions it took you a while to, and I might be wrong, but it probably took you a while to summarize your thoughts and gather them and gain the confidence to say, “Fuck it. Let’s launch as Kaleigh Moore specializing in e-commerce companies or companies that integrate with them.”

How do you go from those answers to those questions to something that you feel confident about?

Kaleigh: I think it’s good to have some assets that you can share with people. So maybe that’s a new website, maybe that’s a new portfolio that showcases you in this new direction you’re going. I think it’s good to have some assets that you can share with people as you start making those asks. So developing those and launching those is a good in-between step.

The other thing is get feedback from other people and say, “Hey, this is the new direction I’m thinking about going, what do you think about this? Or are there holes in this that I’m not seeing right now?”

So before doing the outreach and, like you said, going on to that next step, making sure that what you’re doing makes sense and getting feedback on areas for potential improvement. I think that that’s kind of a nice way to save you from making some silly mistakes as you go into launching those new things and taking that new direction.

Louis: And usually asking for feedback is a great way to be non-salesy to potential new clients, right?

Kaleigh: Right.

Louis: You ask them can you give me your feedback? And therefore you get some feedback but they’re also hey, hold on a second, I’m happy to help but actually it sounds like something we need help with.

Kaleigh: Exactly, that’s so true. And like, you said, it’s such a non-marketery way to get your foot in the door with a potential client.

Louis: Right, so now can you give me an example of, I don’t know, a positioning statement or something around those lines that if you are listening to this podcast right now can use to decide okay, this is what we need to go after?

Because the way you explain it on your website from Kaleigh the writer a few years ago, to Kaleigh specializing in all of those areas, it really seemed like you’ve done this homework.

So what other things that from experience, talking to freelancers almost every day at this stage, should be included in your positioning. And maybe what should not be included?

Kaleigh: I think it’s pretty simple. I think the formula is, here’s my name, here’s what I do, what is the thing that I specialize in, and who I do that service for. I think that that sentence is what summarizes in a really succinct format your positioning.

And so for me, I’ll use my own example, I’m Kaleigh Moore. I’m a freelance writer that specializes in long-form blog content for software companies and e-commerce platforms. Super simple, very clear, very easy to understand.

The things to keep in mind as you work on a statement like this though, are some things that can add ambiguity and that can get in the way of clarity as people try to understand your positioning.

So things that you don’t want to do are use jargon or marketery terms like business solutions or custom solutions or anything that’s not immediately easy to understand and that you can point to and be like oh, like this exact thing.

So I think it’s important to just keep it really really simple and bare bones and if you’re not sure how to get to that final point, start with 10 sentences that explain what you’re wanting to do moving forward.

And then whittle it down to five. From there go down to two sentences, and then when you get to that last sentence, you’ll have a very clear, very easy to understand, sentence that defines your positioning moving forward.

Louis: Yeah. That’s great advice. And when it comes to using non-jargony and non-markety vocabulary what are your tips there? How to make sure that you use the words, and I guess I’m going to answer the question within the question, but how to make sure that you’re using the words your customer actually use?

Kaleigh: Run it by somebody who has no idea what it is that you do and see if they can understand it.

So for me, if I said something to my mom who is very much outside of the world that I work in on a day-to-day basis, would she understand what it is that I’m trying to say?

So get somebody with no existing context around what it is that you do, and ask them, “Does this make sense to you? Do you know what this means?”

Louis: All right that’s a great tip. Another one would be, you interview a few customers or you’re used to talking to a few people who are in the space, maybe you already work with clients, maybe look back at the email conversation you had with them to see the words they use when it comes to describing the work you want them to do for example.

So that’s always a sure way to use the words people actually comprehend and understand.

I’m curious to one thing though, about the positioning, your positioning in particular because that’s the example we are taking. What are your thoughts about positioning, not only in terms of demographics or the type of work you do, so the horizontal and vertical positioning, but also more on the psychographic side of things, maybe about I want to work with e-commerce companies who believe in something, right. Who believe in something and not something else. So not all the e-commerce platforms out there. What are your thoughts on this?

Kaleigh: I think that’s great. I think the more specific you can be, the better. So for that example, maybe you want to work with only e-commerce and software companies who have a strong mission value of increased sustainability or supporting women. Maybe they have a strong focus on female leadership or something like that.

You can get even more specific that way and I think that’s great because again, that’s adding to the stickiness around the idea of what it is that you actually do.

Louis: So let’s summarize a bit what we’ve talked about so far. So you’re talking about first of all understanding how much you need to be… reverse engineering how much you need to be paid in order to reach your goals. Then you need to ask yourself three massive questions, unless you have the fourth one, we’re going to stick with three.

So do you enjoy the people you are working with? Do they have budget? And what type of work do you enjoy working? And then once you have that you need to come up with this massive positioning statement of 10 sentences and you bring it down to five, to two, and then finally to one, and then you need to ask for feedback, right. You need to ask for input from other people, not keeping it for yourself. And then you’re almost ready.

And what you mentioned after, I mean actually that was before, you mentioned the fact that you start to make it public, right?

Kaleigh: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Louis: And people won’t notice you until you get out there which is why content marketing, content in general is so powerful, if you want to be noticed, you better just reach out to people. You better post on Twitter if you’re active there. On LinkedIn if you’re active there. You better reach out to people and you better be patient about it.

So outside of that, outside of those steps mentioned, do you feel there is anything else that we have forgotten to mention?

Kaleigh: I think an email newsletter is also a nice way to keep people in the loop on how you’re changing things. Even if it’s just a simple list of 50 people that you know from your past life or from high school friends or we all have our own little worlds of connections and so I think it’s a good idea to leverage those and to bring them behind the scenes on what you’re doing moving forward.

You don’t even have to use a fancy service like MailChimp if you have a list of 50 people that you just want to keep in the loop on what you’re doing moving forward, that’s a great starting place for telling the story of what you’re doing with your own business. Or this new direction that you’re taking and really bringing them along for the journey is a great way to, like I said, even if it’s not super relevant, or they’re not the people who would hire you right off the bat, everybody has their own network of connections, and so maybe they know somebody who would need somebody like you or the type of work that you’re doing.

Tell that story through the format of email because the inbox is one of the few places that’s still not limited by algorithms or advertising or things like… for the most part I mean, it’s still kind of a sacred space. And so I think that that’s often something that gets overlooked or people feel like oh, I’m going to be a spammy marketer if I do this.

If you take a really authentic approach and you just want to keep people included in what you’re doing moving forward, that’s kind of a cool way to share this whole experience with other people. And people who already care about you.

Louis: Yeah, I’m glad you mention it because what tends to happen in the marketing world and with all those new technologies that companies share because they want to send more stuff and they come up with new concepts to explain old concept, is this thing about trying to automate everything. But as you said, literally, if you put down the list of all the people you know professionally or personally, you can get a lot of contacts from those people.

Like your aunts or your uncle who works overseas or your neighbor or whatever, you don’t know who they know and if your positioning is clear, if it’s clear what you offer to who, you will be in a position, when you send those emails people won’t wonder but what the fuck does she do or does he do anyway? Or I don’t really know who to refer him to because she’s just a writer and therefore just too bland for me, I don’t know who I can refer her to.

If your positioning is strong enough, they will know almost instantly oh, I know this person. One or two people in their network that fit perfectly the description you have and they are much more willing to send it them way.

So what I used to do, a few years ago when I launched my first business was to put together a spreadsheet simply of all the people I knew and then filtering them based on how likely they are to know people who actually might fit the description, and just reaching out to them one by one.

Kaleigh: That’s smart too.

Louis:   Not even using MailChimp or any email provider, just manual, dirty, outreach. Reaching out to people like you would like to be reached out to. And that led to many clients.

Kaleigh: Yeah, same here. And I use that approach even today.

It’s not filtered by… I guess it’s a short list but it’s people that have expertise around the topics that I write about and so rather than trying to depend on my own brain to remember everybody’s specialty, I have a spreadsheet that I can turn to where if I need a e-commerce analyst, I can find a person who fits the bill for that.

Or if I need new client work, who’s somebody who’s really well connected within my existing network of people that I can reach out to and make that ask to?

So having a simple Google sheet or a spreadsheet with all of the people that you have talked to in the past, is so, so, so valuable and so simple and so easy to do.

Louis:And, one thing that I’d forgotten to mention before when it comes to what are the type of people that you enjoy working with and what type of work do you enjoy doing?

There’s a good book called The Unique Ability, I don’t know if you’ve come across it?

Kaleigh: No, I don’t know that one.

Louis: It’s a method about coming up with the things that you’re the best in the world at. Like what are the top things that you enjoy doing that you’re very good at that you should never outsource because that’s really who you are? What makes you special.

And there’s a particular step in it that I find is probably the most valuable of all is to reach out to 10 to 15 people who are close to you and ask them, “According to you, what is my unique ability? What is a thing that I’m the best at?”

And I’ve done this exercise a few months ago and it’s funny because almost everyone answers the same thing without obviously talking to each other. And that’s a great way to find out what you’re good at if you suffer from imposter syndrome and if you feel like you are not as good as you think you are, this is a great exercise because that comes from people you trust and you know and who love you and like you and therefore you can answer those questions this way as well.

Kaleigh: I love that. I don’t even have anything to add, that’s so perfect.

Louis: Let’s move on then if it’s so perfect.

Right so before I ask you the last few questions in this episode, I’m just curious to talk about one particular moment in your journey and perhaps it was not a big deal for you but I know that it’s a biggie for a lot of people.

The moment when you decided to switch from this writer to this Kaleigh specializing in those industry, right. And the moment where you priced, you know you published your website with the new positioning. I’m just curious about how did you feel about it just before pressing live and what was your sentiments and emotions during this day?

Kaleigh: I think I was a little bit nervous but I really remember feeling confident with this new direction and feeling a lot of clarity around what I was doing moving forward.

And so for so long I’d just been muddling through, doing whatever. Having this new very clear, precise direction that I was moving forward in, just made me feel very secure. And so I was excited to share it with other people. I was excited about the level of professionalism that it gave to my efforts moving forward.

And so, more so than being nervous about will this work, I just remember being like, “Hell, yeah! This is great.” And so, I think that that’s a good sign I guess when you feel that excited to share it with other people.

And it was a lot of work to get to that point, I won’t say that it was something that came overnight, it was something that took a lot of homework and a lot of outreach, and a lot of planning to get to that point.

But in taking the time to do that, and in taking the time to do the leg work around all of those hard things, when launch day came, I felt great.

And so I think that that’s a really strong testament to the power of what that means.

Louis: And that’s where I wanted to bring you because this is, exactly as you mentioned, this is it, right. This is how you feel when you start getting clarity. And this is why marketing is not complicated once you do the right things and focus on what matters the most, your customer, yourself.

When you pick the right positioning it just feels right, it just clicks and you feel empowered, you feel like you can do anything. So I’m glad you managed to get through that and transform your business throughout the years.

Because it’s been six years now that you’ve been freelancing?

Kaleigh: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.

Louis: So, yeah. Thanks so much for sharing your story and for going through this how-to with me. I know it’s not easy to answer those questions step-by-step I think you did an amazing job.

So let me ask you a few more questions before I let you go. The first one being, what do you think marketers should learn today that will help them in the next 10 years, 20 years, or even 50 years.

Kaleigh: How to make friends. Marketing is all about networking and I hate networking as a business term, but what it really means is building relationships with people, having conversations through these amazing tools that we have today, through social media. Twitter specifically I’ve found to be really, really, useful, having, like you said, a list of email contacts for people that you can reach out to for specific things.

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned so far it’s that it’s so often who do you know and how can you leverage your existing network of connections? And so really focusing on those efforts and making a priority on a day-to-day basis is going to be far more helpful than any marketing hack or anything else that you can do as far as taking a course or reading a book. Really focus on putting people first and making friends with other people.

Louis: And do you have any maybe resources on the back of that to help people on this journey?

Kaleigh: There’s a really great Tim Ferriss interview on this called How to Build a World Class Network in Record Time from South by Southwest a few years ago. If you can find that interview that’s definitely worth listening to. He has a lot of great tips.

Louis: Nice. Never heard of it. I will check it out for sure.

Kaleigh: Awesome.

Louis: So outside of that what are the top three resources you recommend our listeners.

So that could be anything from a book, a podcast, a conference, a blog post you wrote, whatever it is.

Kaleigh: Of course, The Creative Class because it was so helpful for me. I’m the co-teacher of that now. When Paul went to revamp the course a few years ago, he brought me in as a partner as somebody who had some perspective from the student side. So that is a great resource if you’re trying to figure out the whole positioning thing.

It’s open a couple times a year but if you get on the waiting list, you can get early access. As far as books, I don’t read a lot of business books but if you’re looking to improve your writing which every job requires some type of writing, On Writing Well is a great one that’s just some very general, very practical writing tips.

And then the third thing is, let’s see here, I don’t know, I would say just listen to more podcasts because it’s something that you can learn from in such a passive way. Whether you’re walking the dog, or washing the dishes, if you can devote an extra 15 to 30 to 60 minutes a day learning something new through a podcast that you just listen to in passing, I think that that’s going to do so much for you professionally and personally.

And put you miles ahead of everybody else because you’re constantly learning. And we don’t have these traditional education school settings built into our lives after college or after high school so you have to really manually make learning part of your life, and podcasts are a great way to do that.

Louis: So outside of The Creative Class Podcast and obviously Everyone Hates Marketers, do you have a podcast in mind for people?

Kaleigh: The Tim Ferriss one is great. I just recently started listening to Joe Rogan’s podcast, a lot of different interesting people come on his show. Other ones that I really like are, oh gosh, of course I can’t remember now that I’m on the spot.

Louis: It’s all right.

Kaleigh: Creative Class has a podcast so that’s a good one for freelance-related topics. I don’t know. There’s so many good ones. It really depends on where your interests lie. But as long as you’re learning something and it’s not just pure entertainment, I think then it’s valuable. So just see what’s out there.

Louis: Yeah, and don’t be afraid to listen to stuff that are completely outside of your industry. Usually that leads to the biggest learning and that opens up your mind. I do listen to a lot of true crime podcasts and I’m not going to say it inspires me every day in my job but I love the investigation and journalism type of path and I think it’s very closely related to content part of the journey, right.

Kaleigh: Yes. Great storytelling.

Louis: Exactly.

Kaleigh: Great storytelling.

Louis: Okay Kaleigh you’ve been an absolutely pleasure. Thanks so much for going through your own experience to share the mistakes you’ve made, the lesson you learned, the methods you went through.

It’s been super interesting for me in particular so I know as well for people listening it’s been also super interesting. So thanks again. Where can listeners connect with you and learn more from you.

Kaleigh: My website is KaleighMoore.com. My first name is really hard to spell so you’ll probably have to look that up. I spend a lot of time on Twitter so my handle is KaleighF. Again, my first name, so hard to spell. And then I also have a newsletter called Cup of Coffee where I write about writing and freelancing every other week. You can find that at my website but that’s a great way to stay in the loop with what I’m working on and what I have to share.

Louis: Well, once again, thank you so much.

Kaleigh: Thank you this was fun.

 

2 thoughts on “How to Position Your Freelance Marketing Business (& Stop Feeling Burn out)”

  1. This was a very great, actionable episode. As a budding freelancer who’s hesitant to really take the plunge, this interview was a huge confidence booster.

    I’ve been using a freelance platform to get my toes wet, so I would say sites like Freelancer.com or Fiverr or something similar is a great place to get experience with different types of clients and learn what types of work you truly enjoy, as Kaleigh suggests.

    I’m trying to transition from my current 9-5 marketing position, so working freelance on the side can be a challenge, but it’s well worth the effort. I actually had a client track me down via my website link on my profile and managed to drum up some additional business outside of the platform – which mean I got to keep all of my profits instead of paying a user fee.

    It just got me thinking, “Wow…this is a great transition point,” and since then, I’ve created additional clients that I can work with one-on-one instead of going through third-party software.

    That’s my condensed journey to hopefully add some extra thought points. Thanks again, Louis!

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