The Good Kind of Cheating - How a Positioning Statement Makes the Freelance Game Easier to Win
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In this episode, Freelance Cake host Austin L. Church explains the show’s core concept—better leverage. Freelancers find it easier to grow when we stack up advantages. A positioning cheat code is one advantage that gets us better results with less effort.
“Work harder is only good advice when the person that you're talking to is straight up lazy.”
“How could spending even more time on the wrong things fix the problem? To spend even more time on the wrong strategy or weak strategy would simply be pouring water through a sieve at a faster rate.”
“Freelancing is a real game with real money when you win and a positioning cheat code makes the freelance game easier. You can make more mistakes and still win.”
What Is Better Leverage?
The 80/20 rule is at play in every business. I’m sure you’ve heard of it: 20% of your effort produces 80% of your results.
An Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto figured out the 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto principle in 1563. You can see it everywhere once you know the look.
Another way to think about it is finding points of leverage. When you apply more effort in the exact spot, you’ll get outsized results.
If you’ve ever used a long crowbar, then you have a good visual for this 80/20 better leverage, points of leverage idea:
There’s a boulder in the ground. It’s nested into a depression in the ground. Using brute force, you can barely budge it. You push on it. You cuss at it. You’re flinging sweat everywhere. It doesn’t go anywhere.
But if you go find a little rock and you set that little rock next to the boulder, now you have a fulcrum. If you wiggle the crowbar down into the crack beside the boulder, and you heave back on it against that fulcrum or that little rock, then you can lever the boulder up out of the hole.
That combination of lever and fulcrum creates what scientists call a mechanical advantage.
And what does that have to do with freelancing and entrepreneurship?
Well, freelancing is hard. When you don't have the momentum you want in your business, the default option is to try harder, work harder, hustle, or use brute force, which in business looks like attacking the problem with more and more time.
Why Working Harder Is Usually Not the Answer
A while back, I was coaching a freelance illustrator named Meredith and she shared with me some advice that she got from some dude who sounds like “You need to work harder.”
Work harder is only good advice when the person that you're talking to is straight up lazy.
Meredith isn't lazy. Meredith was already working hard, and if working hard wasn't working, then her problem was strategy and not time.
To spend even more time on the wrong strategy or weak strategy would simply be pouring water through a sieve at a faster rate.
How could spending even more time on the wrong things fix the problem?
I wish that when people gave us terrible advice, God would make a giant red police siren appear over the person's head. I wish when we got bad advice, a great big red light would start flashing above the person's head, so we know, "You're safe to ignore this. This is terrible advice."
Maybe then we'd think before we spoke and be less likely to leave piles of discouragement in other people's front yards.
I think what Mr. Business Mentor meant to say is, “Oh, Meredith, you're trying to get a boulder out of a hole and brute force isn't working for you. You don't need to push even harder. You need better leverage."
A Real-Life Example of a Freelancer Getting Better Leverage
Once you understand the concept, I think you'll have the experience I've had. You'll see it everywhere.
Here's an example from when I first started freelancing back in 2009. I started reading daily newsletters and blog posts from Seth Godin. I'm sure you've heard of him - you maybe have even read several of his books.
He always seemed to be launching a new book, program, or product, and he always seemed to be selling them out in 30 minutes. No matter what he wanted to put out into the world, it was doomed to succeed just because it had his name on it.
I wondered why.
Well, he started blogging back in something like 2003 when very few people were blogging. Godin had maintained this steady, really unusual commitment to publish every single day for years.
So you fast forward however many decades, and he has thousands upon thousands of blog posts out in the world. His commitment enabled him to build a really big audience. And that audience gave him the ability to sell things out quickly.
So when you think about audience, when you think about platform, it's a really big crowbar.
At Craft + Commerce in 2018, I heard Casey Neistat speak. He's a filmmaker and a YouTube godfather and he was talking about the importance of an engaged audience.
Here's a quote from him: “Platform is not a stepping stone. It is the finish line.”
Because of the audience he built, Casey Neistat still makes - last I read - a million bucks a year on YouTube and he hasn't even published new videos on a regular basis.
Because of the audience he attracted, Seth Godin can sell out his altMBA program simply by mentioning it at the end of each Akimbo podcast episode.
So you can probably see why I have gotten so excited about this concept of "Better Leverage."
Again, when you start to look for the 80/20 rule, when you start to look for these levers, you will notice them everywhere.
Some of my levers or advantages can't easily be shared with you or with anybody else. It's not like I can reach into my mind, extract my two degrees in literature, roll them up in a blue linen cloth and say, “Here you go. Enjoy.”
Some advantages simply aren't transferable. But others are repeatable, transferable, and shareable.
Let's call those shareable advantages the figurative crowbars. With a relatively small amount of effort on my part, I can pass on those ideas and beliefs and principles, and habits that get freelancers better results with less effort.
If you think about it, the idea of Better Leverage is itself a lever, right? Once you know about it, you can train yourself to start sniffing them out.
Why Your Freelance Business Needs a Positioning Cheat Code?
I want to share with you one specific, shareable advantage. I call it Your Positioning Cheat Code.
Back in the day, my favorite Nintendo game was Super C. My little bitty mind was blown when I read in a Nintendo Magazine about a cheat code. If Player One punched in the cheat code right at the start, you got 10 lives instead of 3.
The game was a lot easier to win if you had 10 lives instead of 3. You could make at least seven more fatal mistakes and still get to the end and still win.
Freelancing is a real game with real money when you win and a positioning cheat code makes the freelance game easier. You can make more mistakes and still get to the end, and still win.
When a consultant named Jake started my coaching program, he didn't have a cheat code. If a potential client gave Jake an hour to talk about his mix of financial analysis and inventory controls and business strategy, most of them would want to hire him.
Jake was pretty good at sales. He had a good close rate (to use the salesy term). The problem was Jake didn't and we don't always get 60 minutes to explain the problems.
We solve the outcomes. We deliver the value. We create along the way. We're just not going to get that much time with certain people.
When a prospect takes a look at your LinkedIn profile, what do you get? 60 seconds or maybe 6 seconds.
I told Jake, “Man, you're making the game harder on yourself than it needs to be. Let's get to work on your positioning cheat code.”
Amazing things can happen once you get clear on what makes you special and what your differentiators are.
A Step-by-Step Process for Creating Your Positioning Statement
With that in mind, I want you to grab a pad of yellow sticky notes or a stack of three-by-five note cards, then go through these four steps:
- Set a timer on your phone for 15 minutes.
- Write down all the different ways you create value for your clients. Include your education, your background, your skills, your training and certifications, any process or secret sauce, all these experiences that enrich your ability to help clients achieve their goals. Use a new note for each thing that you think of and don't stop until you have at least 30.
- Set a new timer for 5 minutes and force yourself to pick your top differentiators. You may be proud of the fact that you got a 4.0 GPA in college but if you think about it, that accomplishment won't directly impact your ability to make a client's project better. What you want to do is identify or pinpoint the differentiators that are most valuable or most important to your clients in terms of how you can help them achieve their goals.
Narrow down that final list to the top five to eight differentiators that are going to matter most to them.
- Stitch those differentiators together into your positioning cheat code.
I normally create three different versions.
The short version works well in casual conversation. You can think of it as your elevator pitch.
The medium version, you might paste it into an email or put it into a pitch deck that you send to a client.
The long version goes on your LinkedIn profile or your website, or maybe you would even use it if you get interviewed on a podcast.
The Real Benefit of a Positioning Cheat Code Isn’t What You Think
The real benefit of a positioning cheat code based on my experience in Jake's and some of the other clients I've worked with is confidence.
The best clients want to hire confident freelancers, not bombastic or braggadocious, not charismatic or cocky, not aloof or aggressive.
Don't you want your auto mechanic to be confident? I do.
What about your surgeon? What about the pilot up front in the airplane?
Once Jake really knew that he was communicating the value of working with him clearly and succinctly, his confidence soared.
He had two big wins, a three-month retainer worth $25,000, and another 12-month retainer worth $165,000.
Don’t Let Those Unusual Numbers Distract You
A cheat code and a bucket of confidence can bring a significant lift to your freelance business. The question is, have you created your cheat code?
It took me years to do it for myself. But I'm telling you if you go to the effort, it will be worth it.
If you haven't created your cheat code aka positioning statement, what are you waiting for? Do it today!
Go grab my copywriting templates and create your own positioning cheat code!
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