The Vast Majority of Freelancers are Trying Hard to Succeed While Sitting on a Two-Legged Stool

I’ll try to not to turn this into a rant, but it’s something I feel strongly about.

Essentially, there are just three elements you need to master in order to be a hugely successfully freelancer.

  1. Learn your craft.

    We all know about this. For myself, I worked for a few years in an ad agency before striking out as a freelance copywriter. But for most people, learning their craft involves home study, usually in the form of a program or course.

  2. Get new clients.

    This can be a scary moment for new freelancers. But most make the leap and find the best strategies for marketing their services, approaching prospective clients, and landing as many of them as they can.

  3. Build a successful freelance business.

    This involves establishing a clear vision for your business, setting goals, identifying the waypoints along the way, working productively and maximizing the revenue from the hours you work.

If you were to score yourself out of ten, how would you score for each of these?

Based on many years working with freelancers, as friends, colleagues and coaching clients, here is how I would rate the average freelancer.

  • Learn your craft – 10/10
  • Get new clients – 8/10
  • Build a successful freelance business – 0/10

Yes, most freelancers are working at a huge disadvantage. They score 0/10 on the business side of being a freelancer.

And here is why …

You can keep busy and make a reasonable income just by learning your craft and getting new clients.

You don’t have to address the business-building side of being a freelancer in order to make a modest income. You’ll work hard for it, but you can do it.

It’s because a freelance business can survive without this third element that the vast majority of freelancers work harder than they need to and make a lot less money than they could.

It’s weird when you think about it.

Think of a three-legged stool. If you take away one leg, it simply falls over. It no longer functions as a stool. It’s useless.

But with freelancing, you can carry on with only two out of three legs. The “stool” doesn’t fall over. It may not be very stable, and it may not be very comfortable, but it stays standing.

And the worst part is, freelancers think that having just the two legs is normal. They believe that every freelancer is working with a two-legged stool.

But here’s the big secret …

The freelancers who also focus on building their freelance business are the ones who make $100,000, $200,000 or more every year.

It is almost impossible to make that kind of money if you ignore the third element, or the third leg.

What does “building your freelance business” entail?

It entails:

  • Establishing a clear vision of what you want your business to look like 3, 4 or 5 years from now.
  • Setting goals which are ambitious, achievable, and beyond what most freelancers would ever dream about.
  • Setting waypoints which need to be reached on the way to achieving your goal.
  • Planning every step of the way, with targets, projections and tight schedules.
  • Being wildly productive – which means being focused on achieving your goal, and never being distracted.
  • Maximizing your billable hours by choosing only the most profitable clients and ignoring the rest.
  • Being self-aware and identifying all self-limiting beliefs and bottlenecks.

So why doesn’t every freelancer pay attention to this third leg of the stool?

For the most part, it’s lack of awareness. The vast majority of freelancers sit on their two-legged stool and don’t know it could be any different.

Put simply, nobody ever told them.

As you read this, I hope you are thinking, “Aha! That’s what I have been missing!”

Believe me … as soon as you add that third leg and start thinking like a small business person, everything changes.

From the day you commit to building a profitable business and stop being just a struggling freelancer … you’ll be on your way to a strong six-figure income.

Building this third leg is the hidden secret of true freelance success.

Profitable Freelancing

Profitable Freelancing: The Definitive Guide to Earning More Money as a Freelancer

Often freelancers are in constant cycle of feast or famine. But a clever few are growing their income every year without working harder or marketing more. Nick Usborne explains his proven system and how you can use it too. Learn More »


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Published: March 22, 2011

4 Responses to “The Vast Majority of Freelancers are Trying Hard to Succeed While Sitting on a Two-Legged Stool”

  1. Great article, Nick! It's important to understand copywriting as a business-building tool and then apply it to your own freelance business. Once your make that transition in your thinking, everything's easier, including getting clients.

    Guest (Kathryn Aragon)March 23, 2011 at 9:44 am

  2. Great stuff. After being the technician, Manager Entrepenuer and coffee and tea man in my copywriting and marketing Centre for the last 7 years I am now evolving into Entrepreneur only who focuses on planning for future growth. Thanks Nick, as usual your experience and articles are worth their weight in gold.

    Guest (Eddie Bryant)April 14, 2011 at 6:55 pm

  3. Very precise and educative article.Building a freelance business could be very challenging and difficult for people who are just getting into freelance writing business.with the steps explained in this article,newbies like me will find an easy way to launch a successful web writing career..nice job Nick..

    Guest (Akan)April 2, 2013 at 12:59 pm

  4. I know this is an older article but it's so right on. I would strongly recommend the book Emyth by Michael Gerber for anyone who wants to approach copywriting or any other pursuit as a business. He expands on the 3-leggest stool concept as it applies to every business, and it has been fundamental to my success in private enterprise. Following his guidance will set the foundation for business growth as a writer as well.

    DrGregMarch 14, 2015 at 1:04 pm


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