#98: Six-Figure Freelancing: The Benefits of Selling Strategy and Outcomes, with Austin Church

Today’s guest is Austin Church from Knoxville, Tennessee. Austin helps e-commerce founders stand out online with their brand strategy. He also coaches freelance creatives.

After Austin got laid off in spring 2009, during the U.S. recession, he became a freelance copywriter. Does Austin consider himself an agency? Not exactly. He likes to pull in other creatives as necessary, and he serves as the project manager. He calls it the “antique shop” model — bigger antique shops don’t own all the antiques; they provide the space for other dealers, sell their products and earn a commission.

When he first started freelancing, Austin wasn’t great at keeping tabs on his income and expenses, and he didn’t save for or pay his quarterly taxes. When his accountant sister fired him as a client, it was a wakeup call. The book “Profit First” by Mike Michalowicz helped Austin figure out a better way to handle his money, mainly by getting several checking accounts and allocating each one toward certain things, like quarterly taxes.

Austin is also a fan of the book “Atomic Habits” by James Clear. Clear says if you make habits obvious and easy, they’re more likely to stick. That resonated with Austin and helped him institute some better business and personal systems.

One system he highly recommends is to create email templates, especially when you’re asking clients for referrals. After a project goes well, at the end, when the client is happy, customize that referral template quickly and email it to your client.

Austin also recommends tracking every client and project lead imaginable and having a simple way to track them. Check in with that spreadsheet every week to see what leads you need to follow up on. It can take several “touches” or interactions with a potential client before you land a project, and without those multiple check-ins you could lose out on great projects and clients.

Austin says we have to put in a statistically significant number of activities. We often give up too soon. But, for example, if you are using Instagram to get clients, you need to have conversations with 100 people, not three.

Austin builds his business on selling strategy. He recognized that about 3 out of every 10 clients know exactly what they want, and he helps them with that. But most are unclear. For example, they might ask for a new website, but what they really need is an entire marketing strategy.

Austin started offering strategy, or strategic planning, which he now calls a “wayfinding workshop.” After talking with the client, he gets the sense of whether they’re lacking clarity and need strategic help. If they’re not willing to pay for that, it’s a red flag for him and isn’t a fit for him as a client.

He also sells “strategy retainers” where he meets with clients every two weeks to work on their strategy. With those packages, he’s not responsible for the implantation phase. He says most freelancers probably skew toward one or the other — they either like the strategy or the implementation. But going back and forth between the two with the same client can cause whiplash.

When Austin sees other freelancers struggling in their freelance business, their challenges often fall under one of the six 6 Ps: positioning, packaging, pricing, pipeline, psychology, process.

Biz Bites: Get a Text Expander App (atext) and Don’t Open Your Email Until 11 a.m.


Austin’s website and his free freelance course: AustinLChurch.com

Austin on Twitter

Austin on LinkedIn

Episode #79 of Deliberate Freelancer: Six-Figure Freelancing: Consistently Sending LOIs and Using Upwork, with Laura Pennington Briggs

Episode #80 of Deliberate Freelancer: Six-Figure Freelancing: Writing B2B Tech Content, with Satta Sarmah Hightower

Episode #81 of Deliberate Freelancer: Six-Figure Freelancing: Focus on a Niche and Partner with Other Freelancers, with Lynne Testoni

Episode #82 of Deliberate Freelancer: Six-Figure Freelancing: Embracing an Entrepreneurial Mindset, with Gresham Harkless

Book “Profit First” by Mike Michalowicz

Book “Atomic Habits” by James Clear

Book “The Business of Expertise” by David C. Baker

Book “Give and Take” by Adam Grant

Book “Million Dollar Consulting” by Alan Weiss

Book “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown

The Chef Show” on Netflix

iKamper rooftop tent

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