Freelance Your Way To Wealth (But It’s Boring)

PHOTO CREDIT: Flickr, Nicholas Raymond, Boulders Beach — HDR, Creative Commons License

People in my town ask me, “What’s a way to get wealthy in freelancing?” I do know a way that’s actually not terribly hard. This career can be done anywhere in the world, including from a beach, a clifftop, a cabin, a riverboat, a yacht, and many other places where you can find some kind of Internet connection. However, it can be rather BORING, and although I have helped on many projects doing this work, it was not my sole source of income. Instead, I’ve got other irons in the fire in some startups that are a more profitable track for me and far more interesting. However, some of the people who helped me get started in freelancing 10 years ago were helping me in a pay-it-forward kind of basis. So, I’m returning the favor. And not to say I didn’t enjoy doing those projects — my enjoyment was helping people and getting paid for my expertise as they did their career.

Why I Know It Can Work

In the past 10 years, the number one way I was paid as a Senior PHP/C++ coder was through online marketers. They consistently earned more than me. These came in different forms — guys with a product they sold, guys doing consulting on ads, guys doing SEO consulting, hotshot affiliate marketers, and similar one to three man startups in this field. So, what I plan to do here is explain a technique I’ve learned that can give you a new career so that you can perhaps leave your window-less cubicle where traditional jobs overwork you without paying you extra, and waste your time and talents in worthless meetings.

What Is It?

It’s simple, really. Become Google certified in Google AdWords and Google Analytics, and then help businesses worldwide start or improve their online ad campaigns. This means placing image and text ads applicable to certain regions and devices (mobile, desktop, etc.), selecting high-performing but client-affordable keywords, and then providing consulting on the entire marketing workflow from ad click to first thing they see on the client website (landers), to the homepage, to the EULA, refund, TOS, and privacy pages, to the purchase workflow, and the follow-up workflow. Then, you’ll focus on the ramp-up of investment and tweaking of these campaigns, as well as livening up stale campaigns. To do these projects, the client pays for your consulting time, but then provides you a charge account for buying the advertising, and another small one for buying some outsourcing for things like graphics and web page design (unless the client has those services).

Why Is It Boring?

Well, unless you think helping clients sell air conditioners or baby products is exciting, then this can be kind of dull work. You have to consider the pay and the freedom this career gives you, not the dullness of the tasks. If you think the TV series Mad Men was really interesting from beyond just the personal interaction issues, then you just might find this job something that you can handle.

How Much Does It Pay?

In the USA, the usual consulting fee is around $1500 to $2500 USD per month per client, plus some percentage of product sales commission and with or without a cap. On hours required, it’s usually intense until you get the hang of it. So, you’ll likely spend around 3–5 hours per client per day for the first couple weeks, then begin to slow that down to 3–5 hours per client every other day, then every third day, and then perhaps only once a week. As you get better at this, you’ll shorten that time down greatly. Now, imagine if you had 10 active clients each paying you around $1500/month plus 5% to 10% commission that totaled to around $6000/mo per client. That comes to around $75,000 per month gross income, and in many states, you don’t need to pay sales tax on it, just income tax. Think you can handle that? And that’s just getting started. Imagine when you’re a full-blown agency with 3 people working under you, you’ve added SEO, social media, and web presence/design to your offerings, and you’ve got 50 clients.

The Lifestyle

If you can get over the boredom of that, then there are great benefits with this lifestyle once you get it going. You’ll be able to work anywhere in the world that you want as long as you have decent Internet speeds and reliable power and working conditions. You won’t have to relocate, or wear a suit. You can perform this task in your pajamas or workout clothes. You’ll be able to set your own hours for the most part, take as many as 5 short vacations a year (I’d say) without much fuss, and perhaps 1 long vacation. Plus, as you get more experienced, you’ll be able to spend less time per client to give them a profitable online ad campaign. You’ll make so much money that you’ll be able to add staff to your company, even if it’s offshore staff at first. This can be highly suitable to you if you have issues at home and need to focus on your family, or if you simply want this lifestyle.

The Failsafe

One of the interesting aspects of this new career is that you don’t actually have to be fantastic at it at first. See, unless you’re an absolute goof and not actually trying, then most businesses will try you for at least 2 months before they decide if it’s a worthwhile investment with you or not. By then, you’ll have picked up 2–3 more clients if you’ve hustled. So, if you’ve got the two Google certifications (which is an absolute requirement in my opinion), you’ve pretty much got a guaranteed $1500/mo + commission guarantee per client for at least one or two months (often 2) until you get really fantastic at this. See the failsafe here? The job is kind of like helping your client gamble. And, like most gambling, it may take a couple months to see if things pan out. Unless you’re an obvious goof who doesn’t care about your career, then if things don’t pan out well for the client, it’s not your fault — the client knows that he’s taking a gamble on you. So, that failsafe is that you’ll at least likely get a couple months of income from a single client.

I’m Scared To Do This

It’s okay to be scared. That’s great energy. Feel it — imminence makes you wiser to the disconnected transcendence of success. That’s why, below, I don’t recommend you quit your job full-bore at first, and why I recommend transitioning into it smoothly. Plus, I also shared the tip about “the failsafe” that makes it even easier to consider this type of career. Also — not to say that you won’t have to hustle. At times, you may. With any type of self-employment, you may be stuck with a situation of no income for a couple months. I should know — there were a couple months I couldn’t pay my mortgage when I got started in freelancing, and a local church was kind enough to bail me out, of which I’ve now switched to their church and returned the favor back to them and other members in the church. Over time, I learned to stop focusing on the chances of failing, and focusing on the chances of winning. (I’ve also become more serious about the power of prayer.) I learned how to ride out the lows and hustle more. Heck, on Twitter alone I’ve made client connections that earned me $30,000. You have to think about the sheer power of the Internet — it’s massive. Every day, thousands of new people get on the Internet. Every month, thousands get their first website up. So many businesses need help. And what worked 5 years ago with their website and online ad campaigns might not work today, and may need your advice.

What If I Don’t Know Web Design or Web Page Creation?

That’s what outsourcing is for. You can get some offshore services for this extremely cheaply, and your clients will pay for this if you can recommend a reliable, good place. As you need more reliability and experienced staff to work with you, and as your business profits grow, you can move some of those offshore tasks to onshore tasks with consultants in your country who may or may not be in your same town or state. You’ll be amazed how many answers you get back for a simple query you place on Twitter and Facebook for someone to help you with web design or coding in HTML or PHP. I’ve had offshore guys as young as 21 years old work for me as cheap as $9/hr and do a fairly decent job, to my wild surprise. You won’t get that kind of luck for small tasks, though — the rate I most often see right now is around $15 to $25 an hour, depending on task, from offshore consultants. English communication will also be a challenge sometimes — I’ve often had to re-clarify a task twice because it was done completely wrong twice. However, there are some offshore consultants that you will eventually find that you like the quality of the work, the reliability, the rate, and even their communication/understanding skills — you’ll eventually build rapport with them.

What If I Don’t Have An “Eye” for What Works in Online Marketing?

To be honest, no one has an “eye” for what gets consumers to buy stuff online. You’d be amazed what actually works — it’s not so straight-forward. I’ve seen ugly hand drawn red arrows pointing to offer boxes that actually drove up sales (which in the online marketing world they call “conversions”). What it comes down to is learning from designers and marketers online who seem to be making a success at it, and trying your hand at it in A/B split tests until you find what works. It’s the A/B split testing that is key in figuring out what works best, and continuing those tests over time to make things even better for your clients.

Getting Started

To get started, I don’t recommend you just quit your day job just yet. Hold on there, Tiger. Instead:

  1. I recommend continue working there to save up about 4 to 6 months of paychecks in the bank.
  2. Then, at night, work on your two Google certifications: AdWords and Analytics. Lynda.com has free training (easily searchable), as does Google. Google AdWords: https://support.google.com/partners/answer/3154326?hl=en Google Analytics: https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/3424287
  3. There’s a whole lot of acronyms in this career. You should google various sites on “online marketing acronyms” and “affiliate marketing acronyms” and learn things like EPC, PPC, CPA, CPI, PPI, PPM, landers, impressions, clicks, creatives, and so on. If you’re in this space — these acronyms are used heavily and you’ll be in the dark if you don’t learn them early.
  4. Next, research states that have low income tax and decide if you want to incorporate in one as an LLC, and if your CPA in town can help you do that. Since you’re online, you can pick a state — it doesn’t have to be the state of your residence. Note that some states have a law that even if you assist a sale online as a consultant and get a commission, you may have to file sales tax. So, consult with your CPA on that. (I can’t imagine doing business without my CPA!) There are some states like Montana and Delaware that have no sales tax — this may be more preferable to you.
  5. Then, find at least two local businesses that will allow you to do free online ad consulting with them for a couple months to help you get established. By placing ads for them on Google and YouTube, you’ll move from being just a hack into being a true consultant.
  6. If you can, try to attend a conference or two in this field in order to pick up improvement tips. Some conferences are AffiliateSummit, IRCE (Internet Retailer Conference Expo), and many others.
  7. From there, place an ad on Facebook and Google for your consulting services. Then, place your ad in various other locations like SitePoint, Warrior Forums, Twitter, Reddit, and anywhere else that you can afford and find. There are also free places where you can discuss what you do and pick up sales leads, like Twitter, Reddit, Facebook pages, and so on. Another great advertising opportunity is to take like 3 good articles you like on online ad marketing, rewrite them in your own words and with your own embellishments, add a couple references to your LLC name and your website domain, and then publish up on ArticlesBase.com for free. Within about a week, your article will be republished on a gazillion blogs.
  8. Once you’ve done all these previous steps, and have at least picked up two paying clients to test the water after you did the two clients for free, then and only then do I recommend you consider leaving your current day job. Even then, I recommend that you get a part-time job at first just to keep the money even for awhile until you transition 100% into this new career.

Getting Good

Now, I don’t want to give you the impression that you can be an amateur at this and continue to get paid over and over. That should never be your goal, of course. What should be your goal is to continue to research online on how to do this job better for your clients, and to expand your skills in other areas, even if all you’re doing in those other areas is managing the outsourcers (such as web design). With many clients and practice, continued study, then unless you’re an obvious goof, you’ll get rather good at this. You might even form an agency with people working for you. If you’re lucky, you can migrate from that business into simply “owner” in a kind of Four-Hour Work Week kind of way, and then do something neat like angel investment in your retirement.

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