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Don’t Be A Desperate Freelancer

Desperation repels the things you want.

It applies to just about everything…

  • Finding love
  • Making money
  • Making friends

…but it’s worse if you’re a freelancer.

The more desperately you need a result, the harder it is to make anything happen. It creates a spiral of misery.

Desperation is difficult to hide, too.

Sometimes, even if you think you’re not acting desperate you actually are. The slightest slip of a word or change in body language can give you away.

The trick, therefore, is not to be desperate at all.

Here are a few ideas I suggest – ranging from the sensible, to the unusual, to the downright audacious.

1. Marry a Government employee

This is, hands-down, the most effective measure you can take.

Move to the capital of whatever country you live in. Put on your fanciest pair of shoes and go spouse hunting. You’ll find all sorts of attractive people you can mooch off.

Many of their jobs won’t make sense to you.

They’ll say things like: “I work for Internal Comms.” Or, “I work for the Department of Feather Dusters.”

Just smile and nod.

Say things like: “Oh really?” and “Goodness, that sounds technical.”

Keep working them until they accept your proposal.

Once you’ve married your Government employee you’ll have access to all sorts of free goodies. Mine has delivered free checkups, free dental, free eye exams…even free massages!

It’s the life of Riley.

“And what if I fail and go broke?” I asked.

“Meh, don’t worry,” she said. “I make enough each month.”

It’s true. They do.

If you’re a freelancer, you mustn’t feel guilty. Not only are you contributing to the economy, and jumping the Government’s unending hoops, you are probably also paying a much higher rate of tax. You are paying more than your fair-share for all the Government’s silliness.

So get out there and marry that money back!

(Here’s one I caught earlier. Government employees are most plentiful in capital cities. If you prefer, they also come in male varieties. Pick one which suits your requirements and watch your taxes come flooding back.)

2. Learn how to mix cocktails

Not just any cocktails. Expensive ones. The kind rich people order.

If you’re a struggling freelancer, bar work can be an enormous help. The pay and tips could cover your expenses. You never have to grovel for crappy jobs again.

But it must be the right kind of bar work.

You do not want to be serving food, because that is – to be frank – lower status. A potential client might see you.

You also do not want to work in a student bar, because students have no money.

No. You need to be working in one of those dark places with soft lighting, where minted people go after work. The sort of place which has lots of oak and mahogany. Maybe there’s a jazz pianist in the background.

Maybe you’ll even meet a potential client. You could probably steer the conversation in your favour. For example, here’s how an exchange might play out:

Big Expensive-Suit-Wearing Drinker (BESWD): “Vodka Daiquiri, please.” 

You: “Certainly, sir.”

BESWD: “I seen you in here before?”

You: “I’m new to the city. Just moved my business from [insert smaller town of your choice]. I thought this would be a novel way to meet some interesting people.”

BESWD: “Oh yeah? What’s your business?”

You: [Insert what you do. Make it snappy. For example…] “Copywriting. I write words which boost businesses’ sales and lower their customer-acquisition costs.”

[Take a short pause, then deliver some results while shaking the cocktail.] “Tell you the truth, I’ve been a tad busy for cocktails. I just helped this one client quadruple his sales, you see. And another one just…well, I won’t bore you with the details.”

BESWD: “No, no. That sounds impressive. What did you say your name is again?”

You: “[Say your name while sliding the drink across the bar.]”

BESWD: “That’s one helluva daiquiri.”

You: “And may I say an excellent choice?”

BESWD: “You may. You got a card?”

Blah blah blah blah blah… You can take it from here.

3. Go for clients who bring you clients

I’m always focussed on working with advertising/marketing agencies, marketing professionals and ‘growth hackers.’


Because you only need 1 or 2 of these clients for a continual supply of work. They bring in the business so you don’t have to.

Every week I get an email from somebody with the subject: ‘Got a job for you, Alex.’

Even better, they negotiate and deal with the client, saving hours of administration work which doesn’t pay.

Consider your profession.

Are there any larger business doing what you do?

Offer your freelance services as a ‘pay-as-you-go,’ ‘there-when-you-need-it’ solution.

The overheads involved with taking on new employees are oppressively high, so your offer could be exactly what they’re looking for.

4. Set up a ‘fuck you’ fund

I read this idea from the great John Carlton.

Save enough money to keep yourself afloat for 6 months to a year. Stash it away somewhere safe, zero-risk, where you can easily access it when needed. And don’t touch it. Not ever.

Now you have the power to say ‘fuck you,’ to anybody who treats you badly.

You have a safety net of cash to fall back on.

Hopefully, you will never use this money. I, personally, have never fired a client. In the 7 years we’ve worked together, I’ve only seen my business-partner fire one client. (And I could write a 10,000-word post on her. You would not believe some of the stories.)

What the ‘fuck you’ fund does is give you power and control over yourself.

You never have to grovel for money. You never have to jump through some lameo’s hoops, or do ‘speculative’ work for cheapskate losers who treat freelancers like performing chimps.

You’re courteous. You treat people with kindness and respect. But you are always in control of yourself. When this shows in your manner and body-language, you attract better clients.

I’ve found the best clients actually want to pay you lots of money, because they want to prove they’re serious and respect what you do. When I look back at all my favourite clients, they have always suggested the rate – and it has always been higher than I would have quoted.

But I also had the power to turn them down. This is the vital ingredient.

5. Go to a networking event for the drinks

If you’re desperate, the WORST place you can go is a networking event.

However, if you’re not desperate, networking events are a blast. And I’m telling you this as a convert.

I’ll be honest, I don’t like ‘networking.’ Meeting new people saps my energy.

Then I went to one – just to have a few drinks.

I came away with a bunch of contacts who wanted to work with me. One bloke became a client. That job paid for my drinks many hundreds of times over.

But I wasn’t actively looking for business.

I got the business because I was there for the drinks.

Try doing the same.

Go for the drinks. Relax. Just have some fun talking to people.

It’s amazing how much business you get when you just stop trying to get it.