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The Freelancer's Problem According to Seth Godin

The following article is an extract from a recent Tim Ferriss podcast with Seth Godin. An incredibly successful author and marketeer, Seth shared some incredible insight with regards to building a client portfolio that is challenging, fulfilling and financially successful. Such insight was too good not to note down and share here.

Everything hereafter is Seth’s wording with some very minor editing for flow.

The Freelancer's Problem

Freelancers have a long work problem which is that if you do work where I can find a substitute, the only way to move up is to work more hours. Now, that sucks because it ends up being a race to the bottom and then you’re on Fiverr bidding, you know, $10 for a day’s labour.

The Solution

But some freelancers do great. Why do those freelancers do great? There are two reasons.

They have better clients.

Better clients challenge you to do better work. Better clients take your better work and run with it. Better clients put you in front of better work. So if you are frustrated as a freelancer, begin by getting better clients.

Now, the way you get better clients is by turning down lesser clients, so that you are freed up enough to do the hard work necessary to be appealing to a better client. If you have a lousy client, fire them — even if it means you’ll be doing nothing — so that you can go back to looking for better clients.

Secondly, and this is really important to understand and it’s not just businesses, it’s human beings in their daily life as well —

Price is a story.

It is not an absolute number. Take a Tiffany’s ring for example — $6,000 if you buy it brand new. If you buy that ring and walk six blocks down to the NYC Diamond District, you can sell that brand new Tiffany’s ring that you paid $6,000 for, for $1,000.

Where’d the other money go? It’s not used. Where the money went, is the person who bought it at Tiffany’s was paying for the privilege of buying it at Tiffany’s and so, when I think about the market for, in this case speaking, there are tons of peope who can give a very good speech but they are not famous and as a result, the person who hires them cannot go to the people who they work with and say: “great news! We hired Jimmy Bluestein!” because they would say, “who is Jimmy Bluestein?”

So what’s actually happening, when they’re hiring you to give a speech, they’re hiring the story of “they had enough money to pay Tim Ferriss’ current high price to get Tim Ferriss to come on a plane and be in the room”.

There’s a lot of value in selling that product because it’s a signalling strategy and its worthwhile.

So the hard work here of building a career as a freelancer, where you’re going to get paid fairly, is firstly doing the work to get better clients and then secondly, having the guts to turn down people who don’t value your reputation when they want to hire you.

You can follow Seth's daily blog here.