Freelance Portfolio Review: Ransom Patterson

Ransom’s question: Is it focused enough? Are my client testimonials too long?


  • Good use of bolding & formatting throughout!
  • I think it’s currently focused enough, but you could hone in more by specifying that you tend to work with authors in the B2B or B2C realm, or financial, or educational industries, etc. – depending on how specific you want to make it.
  • The client testimonials are a little long. In general, when working with testimonials, you can cut a lot of the “before” stuff, as your potential clients are already familiar with the before. They already know they don’t have the time/energy to handle writing, or that they’re not good at it, or what happens when they send out something with typos.
  • To help mitigate that, if you wanted to, you could add some of the “setting the stage” type copy at the top of the “portfolio” page. Something like, “My clients come to me because…” or “Whether you’re X, Y, or Z, my services can help…”
  • The biggest thing: there aren’t any writing samples anywhere! It looks like some of this is probably ghostwritten, so this might be a little trickier to work around. But if you can, add a few writing samples for each of the showcased clients – knowing that you have happy clients is great, but potential clients want to see what you’ve actually done.

Reader takeaway + homework: Show potential clients what you can do! Make a list of the three things you’re proudest of as a service provider (whether it’s your flexibility, your ability to mimic different writing/aesthetic styles, your ability to work with CEOs – whatever) and make sure that your work samples showcase those different traits.

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Want to get a more in-depth version, with plenty of action steps & homework? Head here.

Kickstarter behind the scenes, part two: Marketing

Did you miss part one, with all the background on this series? If so, head over here to catch up!

Aside from having a solid product, marketing is what’s going to make or break your Kickstarter. Below, I’ve covered everything I did (and it’s a lot, so buckle in and grab some coffee!), along with what worked & what didn’t.

No advertising? 

Nope. As I’ve mentioned a time or two (and probably will again, because it explains why I did or didn’t do some things that would just be super rookie mistakes otherwise), I was on a very tight budget.

I will say that after getting a look at the analytics that Kickstarter has, I think it would be difficult to run a PPC campaign and be able to link your campaign directly to results (as there’s no way to embed a tracking pixel on the confirmation page). You’d be stuck using correlations, which would get tricky if you were doing several marketing efforts at the same time (which you should be!), because you won’t know what’s working and what’s not.

If you go that route, I’d recommend doing it for a few days at a time, then stopping for a few days, then starting again to see if the backer numbers correlate with each start/stop – that’s probably the best you can do.

Content & social media marketing – what I did:

The biggest thing I can say with marketing for a Kickstarter is that you can’t let up. I’m assuming if you have a PR or marketing firm working for you, there’s probably less of that pressure – but for me, working as a team of one, I had to spend at least a few minutes a day on marketing for the whole duration of the campaign. If I stopped the marketing for a day or two, there was a visible downturn in backers.

That said, let’s move on to what I actually did:

Content marketing: 

On the content marketing side of things, I:

  • Kept up regular posting on my site while the campaign was going, with topics related to the campaign and linking back to the campaign
  • Recorded several videos for YouTube (then crossposted those videos to Bombchelle) with call-to-action embeds to check out the campaign and back it
  • Reposted older content on Medium (that had previously performed well on Bombchelle) to get more mileage out of it
  • Guest posted on several sites, including Puttylike, the Freelance to Freedom Project, and Millo, to drive traffic back to campaign

Obviously, running the campaign solo (and also with health issues), I was looking for higher-leverage things to do – so wherever possible, I was repurposing content. The YouTube videos I recorded were revamps of older text posts that had done well, and the posts I was posting at Medium were lightly edited versions of previous text posts.

In general, video is a lot faster for me to create than writing (because I am a wordy motherfucker and I talk fast), so I was also using a lot of video. You’ll notice below that all the posts I did here at Bombchelle were video posts (that had a note about the Kickstarter somewhere in them), which I of course uploaded on to YouTube, and embedded cards/links into to prompt people to head over to the Kickstarter page.

List of everything: 

Social media marketing:

On the social side of things…

  • There was a “pay with a share” option to download a one-page printable (the $1 backer level reward), which generated over 50 shares
  • I posted regular (daily, or close to it) updates on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook (and changed my Facebook page’s cover photo to reflect campaign…which I haven’t changed back yet, oops)
  • I changed social profile links (on Instagram, Twitter, Quora, and Medium) to drive traffic back to the campaign
  • I embedded “click to tweet” buttons on the campaign page, and shared social share links with backers regularly via campaign updates (not just the click to tweet link, but also a link to a specific Facebook post they could share and a specific pin on Pinterest they could repin)
  • I also reached out to Twitter users who had tweeted about freelancing, productivity, or similar Kickstarter campaigns with a quick tweet telling them about the campaign & offering to send them a downloadable printable
  • One particularly effective tactic was posting thank you tweets, where I’d find the backer’s Twitter username and giving them a shout-out that day on Twitter – people loved these

The thank-you tweets, like I said, were very effective. For the first hundred or so backers, I included their specific backer number, so that it looked like:

Big thanks to backer #83 [username]t! Learn more about the Freelancer Planner & back it here:

Eventually, this got a little unwieldy (and was becoming an admin headache in and of itself assigning numbers to backers), so I switched it up to say “Big thanks to backers [2-3 usernames].” Aside from it just being good form to thank people who are supporting your work, people really liked being thanked publicly, and they often retweeted the tweets. Plus, it helped keep me tweeting about the campaign, without just tweeting the same “check out my Kickstarter” message over and over again.

The Twitter outreach made me nervous at first – I’m normally very non-salesy on social media, and I didn’t want anyone to perceive me as being just another spammy asshole. But reception was pretty positive, and several people took me up on the offer to check out the planners (and then became backers or shared about the campaign).

Other marketing notes (video, copy, photos):

Obviously, having a good Kickstarter video is crucial. I was on a tight budget, but I was really happy with the that Jeff at Catch Frame made for me. Although, for the record, having another person in my home recording video makes me way more nervous than recording something alone with my iPhone or iPad. Stage fright is real, y’all. The goal for the video was to:

  • Give people a sense of the personality/person behind the project (me!)
  • Show them what they’re getting (and, tying back into #1, show them that I understand their problems and that’s why I made the planner)
  • Ground the planner in a larger issue (the growth of freelancers in our current economy, the lack of planning products for us)

Here’s the video playback stats: 


Of the 4,576 views, only 105 were off-site – which makes sense, as I didn’t really embed the video anywhere. Those are probably views through Facebook shares. The video completion rate was 39.16%, which is pretty solid. It’s a little lower than the completion rates showcased in this Kickstarter blog post, which ranged from 48.77% to 56.5%. Those videos also went along with three of the biggest projects in Kickstarter history, though, so…I’ll take my 40% and be happy with it!

The only thing is that for the main video, shorter is better. My goal with my video was to keep it under three minutes, and it clocked in at 2:27. However, I couldn’t possibly go over all the pages of the planner in that time, or give people a really concrete sense of what they were getting. So on day two or three of the campaign, I recorded an additional video that went over all of that in detail:

I uploaded it to YouTube (and added an annotation directing people back to the campaign + a link to the campaign in the description). It got a little over 1,000 views during the campaign, which definitely confirms my belief that people wanted + would watch a more in-depth video explaining the planner. Most of the views during the campaign were from the Kickstarter page, but a not-insignificant-minority (12%) was on the YouTube watch page:


For copy, I just tried to stick with the basics of good copywriting. Keep it simple, keep it scannable, keep it concrete – that sort of thing. I recorded a video teardown of the campaign page so you can see/hear some of my thoughts:

The product photos for the campaign were completely DIY’d. Which is obviously not ideal, but again: tight budget, y’all! And, in general, I think people will forgive less-than-fantastic photography if they know it’s a true indie crowdfunding project.

I will say that lighter backgrounds are a lot more forgiving. If you compare the photos on the campaign page to the photos on the current planner site, the new photos look 100x better. And they’re still DIY’d, just with white posterboard as a background and lots of natural light.

Content & social media marketing – what I used:

  • Buffer saved my life – at one point, I was on the free plan, but with how many backer tweets I was having to save, I just paid the $10/month to upgrade
  • I used aText to create text snippets for the thank you and outreach tweets
  • I tried Mention to help with the Twitter outreach, but didn’t find it that useful here
  • Instead, I used a search tool (that I cannot for the life of me find now) where I would search for people who had recently tweeted about freelancing (or productivity, or related topics), or who had the word “freelance” or “freelancer” in their bio, and reach out to them. You could easily do something similar with Followerwonk and/or Hootsuite.



The backer report shows the following: 

  • 31.52% of the backers were attributed to “direct referral” traffic
  • Backers from Facebook & Twitter combined made up 23.87% of backers (Facebook being 16.26, Twitter being 7.61)
  • 3.4% of backers came from guest posting efforts
  • 2.35% of backers came from content at Bombchelle or on Medium

For reference (and as you can see above), 20% of backers came from Kickstarter, so out of the backers that actually came through my marketing efforts, over 25% of those were from social media, about 7% came from content marketing, and nearly 40% came from that mysterious direct referral traffic.

Conclusion: the content marketing I did wasn’t very effective compared to the social media marketing I did. That said, 7% of backers that I actually had a hand in isn’t too bad either – and that number probably would have gone way up if I had been more aggressive with CTAs in the content marketing I did do. It’s also worth noting that traffic sources 2-5 on the shortlink (see below) are from the content marketing, which could mean that they actually drove more backers than just 7%.

What about that direct referral traffic? 

Since the direct referral traffic makes up such a huge chunk of backers, let’s dig into that a little more. Apparently, depending on the link shortener used, shortened links can count as direct referral traffic…or links (shortened or not) that were opened in a new browser tab. (More on direct traffic here & here.)

That probably explains why it was such a big chunk of traffic…and why YouTube doesn’t show up anywhere in the referral list. I’m guessing that at least part of the 1,389 “unknown” clicks on the bitlink were from YouTube. At any rate, here’s how the bitly stats break down:


Once again, Facebook & Twitter were at the top of the list. It’s interesting to note that, based on this, Twitter drove two-thirds of the traffic that Facebook did, but less than half the backers that Facebook did. In this case, it seems that traffic from Facebook was more likely to convert to backers. (Not too surprising, especially as I know a lot of the backers knew me personally and probably clicked over from Facebook.)

Here’s what the “other sites” dropdown looks like (some of these are mentioned above in guest posting efforts, some are from PR/press efforts, which we’ll cover in the next post):


Other benefits:

A secondary benefit of actually keeping up with my own blog posting (vs focusing on client work) is that I had a small spike in newsletter subscribers during (and after) the campaign. The pink box below highlights June-August 2015 (the campaign ended at the end of July):


Overall, it didn’t hugely help grow my email list, but it did help avoid the summer slump in email signups that I’ve experienced before.

Other secondary benefits: 

  • I gained 294 followers on Twitter over June – August 2015 (for comparison, I’ve gained 111 followers since the beginning of the year – obviously, the more active you are on Twitter, the more followers you’ll get, assuming you’re not being a magnificent douchebag)
  • My Facebook page got 46 net new likes during that same time period (compared to 2 net new likes since the beginning of the year – though obviously, I’ve been pretty quiet lately, which is skewing these numbers)

Whew. That was a monster post, so thanks for sticking with me. Next week, we’re covering PR/press (which I separated from marketing to keep this from getting any more unwieldy!). Then it’s product development/manufacturing/fulfillment, and then lessons learned + resources. Stay tuned!

Other posts in the Kickstarter series:

Behind the scenes of a successful Kickstarter: everything you wanted to know (part one)

How to use Trello to stay motivated on your side projects

Every three months, like clockwork, I have an existential crisis about my work.

But lately, I’ve been having mini-crises too. A few weeks ago, after I got back from a trip, I had another one – except that (partially due to emotions and cramps) it was less “mini” and more “lost an entire day to crying and wondering why everything is futile.”

After I calmed down, I realized that over the last few months, I’d basically eliminated all of my projects to focus on client work nearly all-day-every-day. I know this is a no-no – I require variety to thrive, and this makes me crazy – but it still happens sometimes. Burnout was looming on the horizon and with so much client work (not to mention a several-hundred-dollar vet bill & taxes) coming up, I knew I couldn’t afford to get to that burned-out, hate-everything state.

So I decided to do a habit reset and refocus on the following: 

  • I was going to start getting up earlier to make more time for working on my stuff (I was waking up around 8-9, I’ve been waking up at 7:30, and this week I’m aiming for 7)
  • I’m sticking to my 15 minutes of drawing a day (and longer blocks of art time on weekends, ideally) and an hour of personal work every morning, before I start on client work or anything else
  • Mondays & Fridays are back to being only for my work (still doing admin/marketing/biz dev/email these days, but also blocking them off from client work and doing things like blog posts, working on my longer form stuff like the next Kindle book, etc.)

I’ll be doing a recap on this experiment here in a month or two – but so far, I’m feeling much more fulfilled and much less burned out, even just two weeks in.

My bestie Shenee (who just published her first nerd pop-culture interview last week! go watch it!!) is in a similar boat, in that she has a lot of creative side projects and was having a hard time keeping them all organized (and staying inspired to work on them). We talk every day anyways and encourage each other, but as soon as she suggested we set up something more organized, I was on it. The original idea was a Google Doc – but of course, in true Michelle fashion, I took it, ran with it, and made a full-fledged Trello board complete with a color-coding system.

We’re only a few weeks into using it, but so far, I’m loving it – referring back to it when I’m making daily, weekly, and monthly plans has been a lifesaver and it’s super motivating + inspiring to see everything laid out. Here’s how it works: 

The cliff notes: 

  • There’s a color coding column to keep both of us on the same page
  • Then there’s columns for daily, weekly, and monthly habits, with a card for each habit (and any associated labels are attached to the card – on these cards, that’s just one of our names)
  • A sort of “brain dump” column for projects (also color coded)
  • Columns for Q2, Q3, Q4 of 2016 with projects broken down onto them
  • All projects are color-coded by whether they’re currently in progress (pretty self explanatory), a longer term project (something that will take more than 4-6 weeks of work), and a sprint project (something that I can focus on for 1-2 hours every Monday & Friday and knock out in a month or so)
  • Part of the idea is that we can comment on the cards associated with habits/projects and post our updates/progress/struggles and have a private place to talk about it

Want to use this with your own accountability partner, or flying solo? I created a template board so that you can snag it. You should be able to “join” the board by clicking this link. Commenting is set to admin only, so I don’t think you can do anything on the board (this feature is still in beta, and this is the first time I’ve tried creating a public Trello template, so we’ll see!).

You’ll just join it, then copy it to create your own board, like so:

How to copy a board in Trello

Here’s how to copy the board:

  1. If the menu isn’t already visible, click “Show Menu” on the upper right hand corner, underneath your name
  2. Click “… More” underneath “Stickers”
  3. Click “Copy Board”
  4. Add a new name/team and click “Create”
  5. Voila!

If you’re not sure how Trello works & want to find out more, you can watch the very first-ever Trello review I did:

Any questions? Hit me up on Twitter or Facebook – let me know what you think & how you stay inspired on your side projects!

Behind the scenes of a successful Kickstarter: everything you ever wanted to know (part one)


Last summer, I ran a Kickstarter campaign to fund a first print run of my Freelancer Planner. And it was successful: funded to 156%! It was easily one of the biggest projects of my career to date, and I’ve been planning on doing a breakdown blog post series for ages now. That day has finally come.

First off, everyone tells you a Kickstarter is all consuming, and I’m here to say: that is the truth. And not just for the time you’re running the campaign, either. Expect it to eat a solid six months of your life, minimum, the way a naughty dog steals leftovers, without mercy or remorse. 

Does that sound dramatic? Probably, but it’s warranted – and this was a relatively small/simple campaign, all things considered. There is a reason that this recap is only just now showing up, over six months after the campaign was technically “over.” It’s because trying to market and fulfill a Kickstarter campaign on top of a full freelance workload (and editing a novel whenever I had a minute to breathe) didn’t leave a whole hell of a lot of spare time for anything else.

A few notes for context: 

This was my first time ever doing a physical product. Some of my mistakes were probably super-n00b mistakes, but I’m sharing them all anyways, so that others can learn from them.

It’s also worth noting that my goal was fairly modest ($5,900) – some of what I did is probably not scalable for a project with a much larger goal or scope.

I also didn’t have without a super-developed PR/marketing strategy going in, because this project was my oh-so-very-healthy coping mechanism for being super sick for weeks on end and getting dumped at the same time. (I really do not recommend those two life events together, by the way.)

Because of that “omg I need something to work on or I am going to lose my damn mind” urge, I just kinda jumped in with both feet – if I had taken another 30-90 days to dig into my PR strategy and do more research, I’m fairly confident I could have raised another couple thousand dollars, at least. But you live and you learn.

All that said, let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of this whole project…

The apps that kept me on top of things:

I’m going to go more in-depth on each of these in the following posts, but overall, I couldn’t have run the Kickstarter and maintained any shred of dignity without:

  • aText (to save snippets)
  • Evernote (to save notes on who to pitch, where, and resources on running a successful Kickstarter campaign)
  • Asana (because it’s what I always use to stay sane)
  • Buffer (to schedule social media updates)
  • Streak (to keep track of who I’d already pitched)

I’ll get super granular on how each of these saved my bacon, in turn. But overall, if you’re looking at doing your own Kickstarter (or launching any kind of concentrated marketing campaign), I’d check these out.

The results:

I did a 35 day campaign, based on research I’d done that indicated 30-40 days was the ideal length for a campaign. Any shorter and you risk running out of time before getting funded, any longer and you risk losing momentum. That makes sense, since I had to keep actively marketing it or backer levels would drop off – it was already exhausting, but it’d be near-impossible to keep up over a 60 or 90 day campaign.

The campaign was funded to 156% of its goal and we passed the goal with well over a week left to go:


Here’s an excerpt of the backer report:


As you can see, social media and content marketing/guest posting drove quite a bit of backer support during the campaign – I’ll get into the details of what I did there in future posts.

General wisdom on backer levels says that fewer is better – which is the same as any kind of salesmanship: if you give people too many options, they tend to get overwhelmed and don’t use any. So with that in mind, the tiers were as follows:

  • $1: One page printable
  • $5: Printable version of the planners
  • $25: Planner
  • $45: Two planners
  • $95: Two planners + digital bonuses ($373 of digital bonuses – everything from the Bombchelle shop, previous JVs, etc.)
  • $115: Three planners + digital bonuses
  • $150: Five planners + digital bonuses

Here’s how the backer tier popularity broke down: 


A few notes:

  • I included the $1 tier because it’s a commonly recommended Kickstarter best practice (having a tier so low that everyone can contribute), but only 7 backers used it
  • The $5 tier was far and away the most popular as far as backer numbers went – but since it was the second-smallest tier, it was only 11% of the money
  • Next most popular was the $25 level, which was 39% of the money raised
  • The $95 tier was more popular than I expected, making up 35% of the money
  • The $115 tier only had two backers
  • And of course, the $150 tier had one very loyal backer…my mom! (Thanks mom, love you!)

All told, I thought I had trimmed down the tiers a fair amount when I launched, but I could have cut another few (see above – the $1 and $115 tiers would be easy eliminations).

So that’s what the overall outcome was – but what, exactly, did I do?

Stay tuned…

In an effort to keep this post from becoming a ludicrously long behemoth, I’m splitting it up into a series. Coming up, we’ve got:

  • Content & social media marketing
  • PR/press
  • Manufacturing & shipping
  • Lessons learned

At least one a week for the next few weeks. Keep checking back (or sign up below) to get all the details!

Freelancer Portfolio Review: DesignItPlease

I wanted to do more videos that weren’t straight-up app reviews, so here’s a new thing I’m trying: freelancer portfolio reviews. (Sign up for yours here.)

Our first volunteer: Samantha Fagan of Design It Please. Her question?

What do you think I could do to increase conversions/build trust/prove credibility?

I had a lot to cover (my original goal was to get it done in two minutes, but…obviously I went over!) so clearly I was talking a mile a minute. Here’s a quick recap, in case you had a hard time keeping up:

Increase conversions: 

  • Email list signup + contact form – put these everywhere you can (okay, not everywhere, don’t be annoying, but visitors should be able to get in touch or signup to your email list from any page on your site)
  • Streamline categories on portfolio and services page – people get overwhelmed when they see more than three options, in general
  • More details (and using price anchoring, which I kind of glossed over in the video but you can read more about here) on services pages where pricing is included – by leading with the price, you’re training clients to look at that first and comparison shop, so instead, lead with benefits, features, and details on what they’re getting

Build trust + prove credibility: 

  • There’s inconsistent I/we language across the site – either/or is fine, but choose one and stick with it, otherwise potential clients will have no idea who they’re dealing with when they get in touch
  • Instead of having mentors featured on the about page, have client testimonials or mini-case studies – it’d also be great to scatter these throughout the site, too

Want to get your own freelance portfolio review on the blog? Sign up here.

Want to get a more in-depth version, with plenty of action steps & homework? Head here.

Avoiding Mediocrity in Bed and Business

What separates productive people from business owners that are constantly stressed? This post is part of weekly feature, Workflow Wednesdays, that aims to find out, with a weekly post going in-depth on a specific part of a business owner’s workflow and what they do that makes it rock. Interested in being featured in a post? Sign up here!

This week, we have Nick Armstrong, founder of WTF Marketing and creator of my favorite business PSAs, with some tips on creating great testimonials (and doing better business in the process). Take it away, Nick!

There’s nothing better than doing good work for a great client – except maybe mind-blowing sex.

When you know what they want, how they want it, and wrap it all up in a nice package when you deliver, you deserve – at the least – a high five, if not a standing ovation.

But what happens when that great client shrugs off all your effort? What a huge rejection, especially if you did everything right. Doubly-so if they think you did everything right. That’s an awful feeling.

If you’re finding that your clients shrug off good service, good work, and good delivery – it might not be you (at least, not your work). It might be your process. Even great sex can become mediocre sex if you just sigh and roll over afterward.

“Great, I came, so did you – what, do you want a cookie?”

Sex shouldn’t be some sort of half-assed commodity transaction. And neither should your business.

What’s missing? My bet would be emotional resonance.

What if I told you that emotional resonance would give you a standing-ovation level testimonial almost every time you worked with a new client?

There’s a trick to it – it’s nothing crazy or complicated. It doesn’t rely on bribery, charisma, slickness, questionable behavior, or shady contract terms. It’s not about changing up your work, undercutting yourself, or working yourself to death, either. I’m going to make the assumption that your work is solid and your dance steps are smooth.

Are you ready?

All you need to do is ask two questions at the start of the project:

  • What’s the problem you’re hoping I can help you with?
  • How does the problem make you feel?

That’s it. 

Two questions, asked at the start of your contract, will give you the perfect groundwork to get a solid testimonial once you’ve wrapped up your work.

Step One: Define Winning

The first question addresses something crucial to your success – how the client defines the problem, in their own words.

It’s not enough to “build a website” or to “design a logo” or “write product sales copy” – especially if the client is wanting to build a community, develop a cohesive brand, or cultivate uncontrollable Apple-like desire for a new product segment.

The work between each of those things might be the same, right? But the wording, the subtlety, the attention to detail is there – just like the huge difference between getting laid and making love.

The client’s definition of success is critical to your ability to deliver it.

If your client wants to just get laid, by all means – deliver that level of service. But if your client is seeking something more, nuance becomes important. Unrealistic expectations can also be laid to rest at this stage if you’re paying attention.

You have to understand how your client defines success before you can help them get there. Hints as to why they hired you and not your competition are also hidden in their wording. If you have a marketing problem, this is a good place to find out.

It can seem kind of cheesy, especially after you’ve had your initial meetings, or maybe after your contract has been signed, to ask these questions.

Don’t get all tied up about it, though – you’re not asking from a place of uncertainty, inexperience, or doubt. You’re asking because you’re confident in your competence to deliver exactly what they want, exactly how they want it, in-scope, on-budget, and on-time. Ultimately those two questions can save you a whole lot of pain and wasted work – a little bit of discomfort as you remember your confidence is well worth it, especially compared to the financial pain of a full refund.

You can also identify whether or not your solution will legitimately address the problem as the client understands it. If not, you’re at risk of a disappointed client (or worse).

Once you know the client’s definition of success, you can create what Chip and Dan Heath call a “destination postcard” – or a vivid description of what done looks like from their perspective through the lens of your experience. Being able to define done, in a way your client understands, agrees with, and feels good about is the most powerful sales skill you can learn in your own business.

A destination postcard also lets you work backwards from done to define the steps needed to get there, ultimately giving you the ability to give the client a roadmap for success.

OK, so – maybe I’m going a little crazy about the power of just one question, right? Especially if your systems are solid enough that you know exactly what steps to take each time you take on a new client. On the off chance your systems aren’t that solidified yet, you can build the bones with this method.

Step Two: Find the Emotion

The next question is: how does the problem make you feel?

You want the client to assign an emotion to the problem and its complications. The reason is – when work is just a money-for-commodity transaction, neither side puts much effort into it. And you, my friend, are not a commodity.

Which would you rather be: a brand new, game-changing iPad or shampoo? Sure, both confer some benefit… but while I’d probably not notice if the shampoo fell out of my cart, I want my hands all over that iPad the second I’m out of the store.

Asking about feelings also gives you almost superhuman insight into your big-picture value. It’s a hell of a cool thing to say, know, and believe: I make people less frustrated, less humiliated, less angry.

If your client is beyond frustrated at the symptoms of their problem, but solving the problem won’t alleviate the symptoms right away, you’re heading down the path to issuing a refund. Especially if the client’s understanding is that your solution will not only solve the original problem, but alleviate the symptoms right away.

If your client doesn’t understand what you do, how you do it, or how you operate, you’ll be facing down a “hey, that’s the wrong hole” situation soon enough. This is doubly-true if you don’t understand what your client does, how they do it, or how they operate, too. Missteps are easily forgiven as long as you and your client believe each other to be operating with honest intent – and that only comes from trust, which is developed by understanding and caring about the emotions driving your acts.

If one party is greedy, the other party is going to feel used. If one party feels the work is sacred, but the other thinks it’s run-of-the-mill, there’s a huge gap in expectations and delivery that will need to be addressed. Preferably, when it’s cheap: up-front and not when the project is over and one party still thinks there’s a lot of work left to do.

Whoa. We got a little heady there.

Yeah, there’s a lot of theory, because cognitive dissonance (when what we believe comes in conflict with how we act or how others act toward us) is a heady topic – and that’s really what we’re combatting when we ask these two questions.

You want to get a testimonial every time? Remove the cognitive dissonance, ensure that you’ve got emotional resonance, make sure your work matters by delivering exactly what they need.

What do you do when they answer? Document their answers to those two questions thoroughly. Repeat it back to them, to make sure you heard correctly without adding your own spin.

“I think what I hear you saying is that you’re [emotion] about [the problem]. So what I think will alleviate that frustration is this: [destination postcard]. Does that sound like a good plan?”

Rinse and repeat until you either decide you’re ready to proceed or you discover you’re not a good fit for the client.

OK, so how does this lead to better testimonials?

As part of your wrap-up/off-boarding procedure, show your client their answers to the first two questions from when you started. Then, you ask the third and final question: “How do you feel about the solution?”

Did their emotional state change? Did they find a new problem to obsess over (that maybe you can help them with)? Was their problem something different than was defined? Was your solution not as promised? Were there complications? Is everything happily settling into a new normal?

When they’ve got these 3 questions answered, and – assuming you’ve done good work and made the client happy – you can ask them if you can use their answers as a testimonial for your service.

Why would that be an effective testimonial?

Let’s recap:

  • Commoditization is what makes your clients drag their feet giving testimonials (even when you did great work).
  • Emotional resonance occurs when you integrate your solution into resolving to the emotions caused by the problem.
  • Emotional resonance is what makes an iPad sexier than shampoo (and what makes you more than a commodity).
  • Being able to define not only the problem, but success using the client’s own words, makes it more likely that they’ll not only understand the problem and solution better, but that they’ll actually push back less on your solution, your process, and ultimately – your value.
  • Money is never spent without an accompanying emotion.
  • Future clients will see that: A) you work to understand the client’s problems and needs, B) you can solve the problem to the client’s satisfaction, and C) your client is articulating your value using real, genuine emotions rather than stark, cold, bullshit business jargon.

Three questions that will lead you to solid testimonials, every single time. Why aren’t you asking?

12650309_10102606528088803_1679188108_nNick Armstrong of WTF Marketing increased Library-card-wielding households by 12% in his hometown, played a co-organizer role in building the first-ever Fort Collins Comic Con (which raised $15,000 for the Library), and loves to make marketing fun for small business owners. Get to know him over at

Review: Redbooth

Review notes:

  • Teambox is now Redbooth
  • As far as the productivity features go, they’ve updated the look quite a bit (now more streamlined & much easier to navigate), added recurring tasks, and added conversation features (along with a nifty ability to customize the colors of workspaces!)
  • They’ve also added a lot of new communication features – not just the conversations/comments that go along with tasks, but video and voice calling and instant-messaging within teams.
  • And they’ve added new apps (iOS and Android)
  • Plans start at $5/user/month

Good for you if: you’re a solo user that wants something sort of like a mash-up of Asana and Trello, or you’re managing a team and want to completely get rid of email, having one place for conversations and tasks.

Review: Inflowlive

Inflowlive is a form-building tool (currently in beta, which means it’s free!). The main difference from other form building tools is that it offers automation workflows many other form building tools don’t; namely, you can set it to trigger an email or a series of emails to people when they don’t complete the form.

Other notes: 

  • The best use case I see for freelancers & service based businesses: client intake forms. No more having to nag people to fill them out – it all happens automatically without you having to worry about it, and with the ability to see who filled what out, when, from one dashboard (no more scurrying around in your inbox).
  • Once it’s filled out, there are the standard form builder features like link redirection that can send the client to your scheduling calendar, so everything from intake to booking can happen mostly automatically.
  • In the video, I mentioned that I was guessing the forms were mobile responsive – I did check on my phone right after I was done recording and they look great on mobile phones.
  • Currently in open beta, and free, as mentioned.

Review: Booksteam

This week I’m reviewing another booking tool, this one for a different audience set than Calendly (which was previously reviewed here). Watch the review to see how Booksteam works, and here’s a quick rundown of the features:

  • Free 30 day trial, plans start at $20/month
  • Manages in-person and online bookings of both classes and sessions (and bookings for multiple staff members)
  • Allows for padding after appointments so you don’t wind up with them booked back-to-back
  • Mobile version available
  • Integrates with both Stripe and Paypal to save payment information at time of booking (so you can charge in case of cancellations) or charge customer at time of booking
  • Would be good for those managing a business that does mostly in-person work or a mix of in-person online, especially if you need to juggle

How to set better freelancing goals

In short?

[Tweet “To set better freelancing goals, focus on what you can control. “]

In other words, don’t focus on how many new clients you want this month – focus on how many pitches you’ll be sending every day. And to stay better motivated with your income goals, focus on how much billable work you’re doing each day (after breaking down your monthly goal into a daily goal, of course).

Speaking of things that can help you do that…

Have you checked out the Freelancer Planner Kickstarter yet? We’re over halfway funded! You can back for as little as $1, and you can reserve your planner for $25. There are discounts for buying two or more planners, so you can even go in with a friend or knock out your holiday shopping early! (I know you have at least one productivity nerd or organizationally challenged creative on your shopping list.) If you want to help by spreading the word, you can click here to tweet about it, repin this pin, or share this post (or this image) on Facebook. Thanks in advance – you rock.

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