Ep. 1 | Freelance Cake Podcast
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Episode 1|

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.

Notable Quotes

“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.”

Really?

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:

  1. Set a timer on your phone for 15 minutes.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Confident.

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!

Links and Resources from this Episode

Positioning Cheat Code + Copywriting Templates

Episode Transcript

[00:00:00.850] Hey there. Welcome to the Freelance Cake Podcast. I'm your host, Austin L. Church. The goal of this show is to help fulltime, committed freelancers get better leverage.

[00:00:13] As the sworn enemy of busyness and burnout, I have no desire whatsoever to see you work harder. I reveal the specific beliefs, principles, and practices you can use right away to make the freelance game more profitable and satisfying. So chill out, listen in, because the best is yet to come.

[00:00:38] ”Better leverage.” That's a phrase that you're going to hear quite a bit on this podcast so I wanted to take the chance now to tell you what I mean by that. The 80/20 rule is at play in every business. I'm sure you've heard of it.

[00:00:53] 20% of your effort produces 80% of your results. Some guy, an Italian economist named (I'm going to get this wrong) Nikolai Pareto figured out the 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto principle in 1563. It's been around a while. It's still true.

[00:01:13] And like I said, you can see it everywhere. Once you know to look. Another way to think about it is finding points of leverage. When you apply more effort in that exact spot, that one right there, 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.

[00:01:40] There's a boulder in the ground. It's nested into a depression in the ground. Using brute force, you can barely budget. You push on it, you cuss at it, you're flinging sweat everywhere, and then 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.

[00:02:05] 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. You don't have the momentum you want in your business.

[00:02:32] And the default option is to try harder. Work harder. Hustle. Use brute force, which in business, looks like attacking the problem with more and more time. So a while back, I was coaching a freelance illustrator named Meredith, and she shared with me some advice that she got from some dude. Sounds like "you need to work harder."

[00:02:52] Really? Really? 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.

[00:03:20] Let me put it a different way. How could spending even more time on the wrong things fix the problem? Hello, Mr. Bad Business Mentor. Go smoke a turd.

[00:03:32] That's impolite. Probably shouldn't use the word turd. Pardon my English, but pleaseee. I wish that when people gave us terrible advice, God would make a giant red police siren appear over the person's head. You see it on game shows, right?

[00:03:51] The person gives the wrong answer and the siren goes off. 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. Or maybe it could work like in Willy Wonka where a bad egg chute opens up in the floor and the person who gave the bad advice just disappears. Maybe then we'd think before we spoke and be less likely to leave piles of discouragement in other people's front yards.

[00:04:21] 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." Once you understand the concept, I think you'll have the experience I've had.

[00:04:42] 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 a man named Seth Godin. Sure, you've heard of him. Maybe have even read several of his books.

[00:04:57] Anyway, he always seemed to be launching a new book or program or product, and he always seemed to be selling them out in like 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. Why? I wondered why? Well, he started blogging back in something like 2003 when very few people were blogging and Godin had maintained this steady and I think really unusual commitment to publish every single day for years.

[00:05:29] 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.

[00:06:06] This is 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, the 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.

[00:06:36] 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, some of my advantages I can't easily share 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."

[00:07:11] It's impossible for me to transfer everything that I picked up in six years of post-secondary education. Some advantages simply aren't transferable, but others are repeatable, transferable, 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?

[00:07:53] Once you know about it, you can train yourself to start sniffing them out. I want to end this episode by telling you about one specific shareable advantage. I call it Your Positioning Cheat Code. This will give you a taste of what's to come. Okay, so back in the day, my favorite Nintendo game was Super C.

[00:08:15] 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 - right, left, down, up, AB, start - you got ten lives instead of three. The game was a lot easier to win if you had ten lives instead of three. You could make at least seven more fatal mistakes and still get to the end and still win.

[00:08:43] Freelancing is a real game with real money when you win and the positioning cheat code makes the freelance game easier. You can make more mistakes and still get to the end, 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.

[00:09:14] 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.

[00:09:34] When a prospect takes a look at your LinkedIn profile, what do you get? Like, 60 seconds? 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."

[00:09:49] Amazing things can happen once you get clear on what makes you special, what your differentiators are. So 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. They're pretty simple.

[00:10:05] Number one, set a timer on your phone for 15 minutes. Number two, write down all the different ways you create value for your clients. Include your education, your background, your skills (like jazz, flute), your training and certifications, any process or secret sauce, all these experiences that enrich your ability to help clients achieve their goals.

[00:10:32] Use a new note for each thing that you think of and don't stop until you have at least 30. And one piece of advice, I just find I have a lot more fun with this process. My clients do too. If we make it physical, we're using physical three-by-five note cards.

[00:10:49] We're using physical sticky notes, because it's more like we're kids playing. So get physical stuff, throw it up on a wall, and like I said, don't stop until you have at least 30.

[00:11:03] Number three, set a new timer for five 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.

[00:11:24] I'm proud of my children's book, but most of my clients honestly don't care about that. So 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.

[00:11:43] Narrow down that final list to the top five to eight differentiators that are going to matter most to them. Number four, stitch those differentiators together into your positioning cheat code. I normally create three different versions.

[00:12:00] The short version works well in casual conversation. You can think of it as your elevator pitch. The medium version, you might paste into an email or put 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.

[00:12:21] But 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, or not aloof or aggressive. Confident.

[00:12:45] 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 knew, really knew that he was communicating the value of working with him clearly and succinctly, his confidence soared.

[00:13:06] He had two big wins, a three-month retainer worth 25,000 bucks, and another 12-month retainer worth 165,000 bucks. 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?

[00:13:28] 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. what are you waiting for? Do it today! Shoot me an email at hello@freelancecake.com if you want to save some time and use my list of differentiators, the one I use with Jake and all my other clients.

[00:13:50] I've also got some copywriting templates that will save you some time when you actually write that positioning cheat code. That's it for this episode. Better leverage. It's all around us. Freelancers have specific ways that we can get better results in less time. Stay tuned for interviews.

[00:14:09] Stay tuned for more monologues like this one. More trainings based on a specific topic. And also we're going to have some interviews with some of the smartest, most talented, and most interesting people in the freelance space. They're going to pass along their shareable advantages. I want you to know what they do to make things easier on themselves.

[00:14:32] Freelance Cake isn't going to give you an easy way out but the show will make it easier for you to win the freelance game. Stay tuned!

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