#001: Smarter Freelancing Is a Choice

Summary: Smarter freelancing is all about how to earn more in less time ... doing work you love ... for better clients. That way you have the time and financial freedom to live your purpose.

Welcome to the Smarter Freelancing podcast!

In this first episode, I discuss why I've decided to take International Freelancers Academy in a new direction. I explain our new purpose and how I think we can serve you best this year and beyond.

The notes that follow are a very basic, unedited summary of the show. There’s a lot more detail in the audio version. You can listen to the show using the audio player below. Or you can subscribe in iTunes or Stitcher to get this show delivered straight to the Podcasts app on your smart phone, tablet or iPod.

Why I've Decided to Launch This Podcast

International Freelancers Academy started as a community membership site dedicated to helping freelancers get higher-paying clients. Most of the free educational content we provided in the first few months was either video or text.

Over the past three years, however, the number of blogs in the freelance and self-employment arena has skyrocketed. There is WAY too much information out there, and readers are feeling overwhelmed. There's simply not enough time to consume even a small fraction of the good stuff. And feedback from our subscribers indicates that the solution is not necessarily to publish shorter articles.

Yet when you looked at the typical week of many freelancers, there's still a good amount of idle time available to consume new information—it's just not "office time." Activities such as driving around town, working out, going on a walk, folding laundry, cooking—these are all great opportunities to consume valuable audio content.

That's how I think I can serve you best: by providing you with quality audio content that teaches, inspires and motivates you into action. And that's where this podcast comes in.

Don't worry, I'll provide you with show notes to summarize the key points covered in each episode. These notes will also contain any items, websites or resources mentioned in the show. And you'll be able to easily download episodes that interest you — either directly through:

  • Our website
  • iTunes
  • or by using the "Podcast" app on your smart phone (available for iOS, Android and Windows).

I'll still publish the occasional blog post. And when I do, it will meaty, detailed and highly practical. But most of the free content you'll see in 2014 will be in the way of audio podcasts.

What in the World Is "Smarter Freelancing"?

In the The Wealthy Freelancer, the book I co-wrote with Pete Savage and Steve Slaunwhite, we defined "wealthy freelancing" as getting the projects, clients, income and lifestyle you want.

Our challenge was that the word "wealthy" was throwing a lot of people off. Our definition was much more holistic than material wealth. But people weren’t taking a closer look. Many dismissed the book based on the cover image alone (a red, convertible Corvette — an image the publisher forced on us). And ... who can blame them??

But even once we got past that obstacle, the description of "wealthy freelancing" still didn't feel right to me. I loved the concept, but our description was missing something. It had no real soul.

I've been wrestling with this concept ever since — looking for the real essence of the idea. Looking for what I really stand for ... what my purpose is ... what I really believe in. And here's what I discovered...

It's not just about those other things I mentioned. It's a deeper purpose that also involves time and how you manage yourself and your resources. And it involves how you use your business profits to create not just a better living (materially), but also how to make a difference at home, in your community and in the world.

So here's how I define Smarter Freelancing, the core concept of this show and of International Freelancers Academy:

Smarter freelancing is all about how to earn more in less time ... doing work you love ... for better clients. That way you have the time and financial freedom to live your purpose.

It's about working smarter NOT harder!

You Need a Big WHY to Achieve Sustained Success

Whatever the case may be for your decision to go solo, there will come a point in your business where the "newness" and the excitement is going to wear off. It's going to start become routine. And you're going to start noticing the "ugly" side of self-employment.

At that point (and going forward), if you don't have a really big WHY for doing what you do — a really big, important and meaningful purpose (meaningful to you) — you're in trouble. Because you've just turned your business into the worst full-time job in the world.

  • Your Big WHY can be at home, in your community or in the world. Whatever it is, the important thing is that it means something to YOU.
  • My Big WHY is the ability to be with my wife and kids every day, and the ability to do that while fully expressing my true genius at work.
  • Other Big WHYs: Grandkids, see the world, go on mission trips, slow down and improve physical health
  • Can also be about funding or having extra time to volunteer for a side project. Examples: entrepreneurial education for kids, faith-based project like www.315project.com or www.athentikos.com (initiatives that was started by friends of mine)

A Big WHY gives you the kind of strong foundation that keeps you going, that gives you strength, energy and creative mojo when times get tough. Smarter Freelancing starts with purpose. Because only through a strong purpose can you create a sustainably successful freelance business.

The Core Enablers to Living Your Big WHY

After purpose, there are three core elements of smarter freelancing. And they are really the core enablers for running a business filled with purpose:

  1. Earning more in less time
  2. Doing work you love
  3. Working with great clients

We're going to be addressing each of these three key elements in more detail over the next few months. In fact, everything in this podcast will revolve around these elements and around the idea of having and defining your purpose.

But I want to give you some general thoughts and ideas today. Let's take these one at a time. And in the audio version, you'll get some questions to start asking yourself today — questions that will help you uncover hidden opportunities and key areas for improvement.

#1: Earning More

This is all about going after higher-paying work, with higher-paying clients, getting more repeat business, and becoming a trusted and invaluable partner/advisor/resource.

Earning more is not reserved for the elite. Most freelancers with a good set of skills can start earning more in a relatively short period of time. In fact, most of us undercharge for our services! And I've seen too many freelancers with "latent" value they're not leveraging at all.

We're going to be discussing this issue at length in future episodes.

#2: Doing It in Less Time

Freedom is the biggest gift ... AND the biggest curse. Because it leads many of us to waste time.

We don't need more time. Instead, we need to learn how to use the time we have more wisely. And we need to do that by managing ourselves better — not by trying to manage time. In fact, most freelancers could easily boost their productivity by 30% or more by simply making a few simple changes to their work habits and rituals.

How can we do that?

1) Better planning

2) Greater focus periods throughout the day

What if you could complete your current workload in 30% less time? What would that mean? The ability to work 4 days a week only? Start work later in the day? Knock off earlier? Both?

Here again, we're going to be discussing this issue at length in future episodes.

#3: Doing Work You Love to Do

Many of us run on autopilot for years. Until we realize that we hate most of the work we do! But we can't just let it go because it pays the bills.

A key component of smarter freelancing is doing more the work you love to do. Because real joy as a self-employed pro comes from doing work that's aligned with your gifts, talents and preferences — what I call your "true genius."

When most of your work requires you to leverage your true genius, you'll be happier, produce better work, earn more and get better clients. Oh, and you'll be insanely more productive!

This is not about luck or chance. You really can start getting more of the work you want. But it starts by getting absolutely clear about what it is you want to do. Start paying attention to the projects and tasks that seem to get you (and keep you!) in a state of "flow." What types of projects or tasks engage you to the point where you seem to lose track of time?

We'll dedicate a few shows in the very near future talking about this issue.

#4: Working With Great Clients

There's a strong tendency to fall into what I call the "retail store" mentality. By that I mean taking on whatever clients come your way. That's a big mistake. You're running a boutique business, not a high-volume shop.

In fact, think of yourself that way: as, say, a boutique transportation service. You have a very limited number of seats in your custom van. Do you really want to fill them with ungrateful and miserable people?

Making the shift to this kind of thinking starts with self-respect. It's starts by looking at yourself and your value differently. For instance, when talking with a prospect for the first time, rather than approaching that conversation hoping and praying that they'll hire you, it's about approaching it with a mindset of, "I'd be fortunate to have this as a client. But they'd be just as fortunate to have me as their designer/writer/developer..."

Here again, we're going to be discussing this issue at length in future episodes.


So that's a high-level explanation of Smarter Freelancing. It's what this show is all about ... what International Freelancers Academy is now all about ... and what I hope you devote yourself to studying and applying this year and beyond.

I'd love to hear your feedback on this new format, direction and message. Please leave me a comment below.

  • Jon P

    Great episode, Ed.

    Even for guys like me who help clients develop their own brands, this is a great reminder. Staying true to one's purpose takes constant attention and focus.

    I'm currently working with a client to create seminars and materials to help golf course superintendents discover their ‘WHY’. It's fascinating to see how they use this new-found awareness to master their jobs, and further their careers.

    Maybe that type of seminar makes sense for freelance creative people as well.

    About media consumption: Your podcast is a great way to reach freelancers in a format they can easily digest. But the valuable information you provide creates a hunger for more. Blog posts, emails and courses add frequency and depth to the messages, not more noise.

    Thanks again for all you do to support the freelance community. It's nice to have a friend who gets what it's all about.



    • edgandia

      Great point, Jon. Yes, I agree that freelancers could benefit from such a seminar. Maybe it's something you and I should explore offline at some point. Seriously. 🙂

      RE: my decision to stick to podcasts, I agree with you that when someone really likes your stuff they want more. It's no longer noise. Here's how I'm thinking about it, though...

      1) I'm trying to reach people at the margin. Big fans like my stuff already. And the big skeptics are too hard to convert. However, there's a big group in the middle that could go either way (very much like I discussed in http://www.internationalfreelancersacademy.com/episode7). I'm trying to increase the chances that they'll consume some of my free material and come back for more. So the "front end" material needs to be very approachable and consumable.

      2) As you suggested, I should also have a plan to deliver more content in other formats. I don't have one currently, but that's a longer-term thing. Trying to maximize impact with limited time and resources.

      But you're absolutely right -- that's the way to go. Thanks for the feedback and validation! Great to know this stuff is making an impact. 😉

  • Hi Ed - I just finished listening to your this podcast, and just like Jenn, I found myself nodding my head in agreement to everything you were saying. I especially liked your comments on how to find a way to gain greater freedom and more income in what you do. That nugget made me brainstorm a new approach to taking on a certain category of clients moving forward. While I may not quite be at the point where I can turn away those types of projects, I can package the terms differently so that I am working smarter, not harder! Thank you!

    • edgandia

      Awesome! I'm glad to hear that this sparked some ideas. And I'm with ya -- big shifts don't need to happen overnight. In fact, it's usually smarter to make them gradually. That enables you to test the idea in a low-risk way -- and it allows you to polish it in a real-world environment. That's how I've made every big pivot in my business. It might seem like big moves on the surface, but in reality I've been chipping away at it for weeks, months or years.

      Thanks for the feedback, Tess!

  • Ed,

    Downloaded this yesterday to listen while running errands. Found myself agreeing with all of your points about moving to do more podcasting to get content consumable.

    As a busy mompreneur, when I'm in front of my computer, it is to work. I spend most of my "down time" (driving, cleaning, exercising) listening to podcasts and teleclasses more than music. (I jokingly refer to myself as a teleclass addict! More than 80% of the files on my ipod touch are podcasts/teleclasses.)

    I'm always on the lookout for great content that I can listen to on the go and I'm so happy to add this to my list. Even though I consider myself a business owner rather than freelancer, as a solopreneur the content is still relevant!

    Keep up the amazing work. 🙂

    • edgandia

      Oh, that's awesome feedback, Jenn -- thanks for letting me know. I'm with ya! I still love to listen to music, but I spend 1 hour in the car every morning taking my son to school and driving back home. He and I chat on the way to school. And on my way home, I usually consume a podcast.

      Same with my walks and workouts. I'll listen to a podcast 90% of the time.

      Here's what's cool about this: Over the course of a year, that's the equivalent of taking a few college courses. And that kind of knowledge is cumulative!

      Appreciate having you as a listener! 😉

  • Your new direction sounds absolutely wonderful, Ed! "Working smarter not harder" totally
    speaks to me regarding where I'm at right now. I've reached a critical point
    where if I don't figure out how to get "higher-paying work, with higher-paying clients," and "more repeat business," I may have to give up this dream. And I don't wanna! *stomping my feet* ;o)

    Thanks so much for all you do!

    • edgandia

      Thanks, Holly! Give it your very best. That's all you can do. I'm sure that if you approach it that way, the results will come. I appreciate your feedback and your checking out the new format. 🙂

  • Ken

    Very timely for me! On another note, surely you didn't mean "not" here: "...real joy...comes from doing work that's not aligned with your gifts..."?

    real joy as a self-employed pro comes from doing work that's not
    aligned with your gifts, talents and preferences - See more at:
    real joy as a self-employed pro comes from doing work that's not
    aligned with your gifts, talents and preferences - See more at:

    Because real joy as a self-employed pro comes from doing work that's
    not aligned with your gifts, talents and preferences — what I call your
    "true genius." - See more at:

    • edgandia

      Thanks for checking it out, Ken! And thanks for the typo alert. Oops! Just fixed it. 🙂

  • David

    Hi, Ed. Applause for your opening comments about "too much information." Amen! And not only too much information, but too little QUALITY information. There are only a few bloggers, like yourself, whom I pay attention to anymore -- those who deliver actionable information I can ingest quickly without wasting time on lengthy, content-thin videos that are mostly sales pitches for training programs I don't have time for.

    I may be in the minority, but the recent avalanche of multimedia content has made me tune out most audio and video links.

    The place I'm most likely to watch a video is in brief spurts on my phone while waiting at an airport gate. But most video podcasts seem designed for deskbound viewers with lots of time on their hands. They're long. They chew up bandwidth. They don't work well on mobile platforms. And they rarely have enough quality content to justify the time and attention to view them. If I were looking for a tutorial on how to overhaul an engine, a video would be valuable. But a video explication in our business -- well, it's rarely a value-add.

    I'd be more inclined to spend time on a 20-minute audio I can listen to while commuting or trekking from gate to gate. But if the intent is truly to share information rather than sell me something, I'd be most receptive to a brief, old-fashioned written message that I can read anytime, anywhere.

    That's why I appreciate the dual approach you've taken with your High-Income Business Writing podcasts. The audio is there if I have time to listen. Mostly, however, I just read your "executive summaries," which I find incredibly useful for grasping the essentials. Thank you for giving us both options.

    • edgandia

      Awesome! Thanks, David. That's great feedback. I know what you mean. Most of my subscribers are avid readers. They prefer written content to audio and video, which is why I've invested in getting detailed show notes drafted. I pay someone to take these notes, BTW. So it's good to know that you find them valuable.

      But as you point out, it's not just about video vs. audio vs. text. The other problem out there is that as the volume of content has increased, the overall quality has gone down. And I'm with you 100% on the video thing. It forces you to be at your desk. I don't have the attention span to do that, and obviously I'm not alone.

      Audio, on the other hand, is very portable -- especially now that you can have your smart phone automatically download new episodes of your favorite show via the Podcast app. I absolutely LOVE this feature. It's the reason why I'm a podcast fan today. Until this happened, the process of loading episodes on your phone was grueling!