#067: Am I a Credible Source of Freelancing Advice?

Fully 90% of my income these days comes from teaching, training and coaching freelancers to earn more in less time, doing work they love for better clients.

But what does that say about me, when so little of my income comes from working directly with freelance writing clients?

It’s a great question. And in this week’s episode, I address the issue head on.

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 on Stitcher to get this show delivered straight to the Podcasts app on your smart phone, tablet or iPod.

The Core Issue

Lots of coaches and teachers have sprung up in the freelance community. Some of them no longer have clients of their own. This gives off the impression that the only people earning a good living are those who teach, rather than the ones doing the work.

But that’s simply not the case. There are many reasons why some successful freelancers have chosen to help others. And even if they stop doing freelance work, the right coach or teacher can still offer tremendous value to freelancers at all levels.

Why Do I Teach and Coach?

If you haven’t heard my story, I detail my journey in episode 6 and episode 7 of this show. For me, teaching and coaching has become a passion. It’s not something I planned to do—I stumbled into it. And over the past few years I’ve discovered that it’s something I want to pursue further.

From the outside, it might appear that teaching and coaching is extremely lucrative. And while it can be lucrative, I admit that I could be earning much more in less time (and with less stress) as a freelance writer.

The teaching and training business is a lot harder than it might appear. It’s taken me years to build it up to a level where it’s finally viable. In fact, 2014 was one of the most trying years in my business (which is why I’m making some big changes in 2015).

Bottom line: earning a good living is important. But doing something I’m immensely passionate about is a top priority. The key is finding where these two criteria meet.

Think About It This Way…

Back to the main issue. If I spend 90% of my time teaching, training, coaching, am I still a credible source for relevant, valuable and results-driven information, ideas and strategy?

Rather than answer that directly, let’s reframe the issue. Say a restaurateur opens an Italian restaurant that becomes wildly successful. After a few years, he starts shifting most of his focus to consulting for other new and established restaurateurs. His famous restaurant remains open, but he now works mostly with new and established restaurant owners to launch and grow their businesses.

Is he credible? Would you see him as someone who could help you, assuming you’re a restaurant owner who needs help growing your business?

Here’s how I think about this question when I’m personally looking for help:

  • Can this person help me solve this specific problem?
  • Has he done it himself?
  • If not, has he helped others solve the problem?
  • Can he bring a unique perspective to the table?

By “perspective” I mean:

  • Can he help me see things I’m not seeing?
  • Has he worked with enough people to understand more than just his own experiences and know what’s truly possible (and how to get there)?
  • Is he a creative problem-solver, or is he offering only cookie-cutter ideas?
  • Is he a good teacher? Will he help me understand ideas and solutions at a deeper level?
  • Will he take the time to understand me, my business and my situation before prescribing possible solutions?
  • Will he help me come up with solutions in a collaborative fashion?

Based on that criteria, how do you think I’d rate a teacher or coach when:

(A) He has only his own business to pull from?
(B) He has a broader set of experiences, insights and examples to pull from?

I don’t really care that he’s no longer doing what I’m doing 100% of the time. That’s not necessarily what I’m looking for.

Don’t get me wrong—it’s great to learn from those who still practice their craft every day on a full-time basis. But I also think there’s great value in learning from those who don’t necessarily do your same exact work all day long … yet can offer a perspective you’re not considering.

Let’s Look at Professional Sports

I think it’s interesting that in the major leagues many of the best coaches and trainers never played professionally—or at least they no longer play.

In Major League Baseball 83% of managers who led their teams this past season played in the major leagues when they were younger. In the NHL, just 60% of the head coaches reached the league. And in the NBA it was 43%.

In the NFL, only 19% percent of the head coaches in the 2014 season played in the league.

Vince Lombardi, who is often considered the greatest head coach of all time, never played in the NFL. Neither did Bill Walsh or Paul Brown.

This trend is even more pronounced in golf, where the overwhelming majority of swing coaches were NOT pros on the tour. In fact, here’s what golf pro Phil Mickelson had to say about his swing coaches:

“What has been important to me working with my coaches, whether it is Butch or Dave, is that they give me all the information and advice from their years of experience and then help blend it into my approach and the way I’ve been doing things. And that’s what makes it work, because it is collaborative.”

Note that Mickelson values the fact that his coaches have worked with many other players in many different situations. He also understands that they’re not there to tell him what to do. Instead, he blends their advice and insights into his “approach and the way [he’s] been doing things…”

The Bottom Line

So, am I a credible teacher, trainer and coach? I hope so. I really don’t believe you have to be a FT freelancer to help others. The right teacher or coach can bring a unique perspective and set of insights by working with so many different self-employed professionals.

I’m not for everyone … nor do I want to be! There are many great teachers and coaches out there. But if what I’ve shared here resonates with you, I hope you’ll continue to invite me into your Inbox, smartphone, or mp3 player. It would be an honor. 😉

What do you think about this issue? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments area below.

  • joseph

    If I had more money…. I’d sign up for more of your courses… as it is… I consider you a huge resource for my education goals.

    • edgandia

      Thanks for checking out my content, Joseph. Good to know it’s been helpful.

  • bsaunders

    Realistically, one can’t do both. A full-time freelancer would not have the time to attend to professional development, marketing, and product development as a teacher and coach.

    • edgandia

      I’m proof that you can do it. I didn’t make this transition overnight. I did full-time freelance work for 4 years while also maintaining my blog, writing a book, and co-creating training courses. But it’s a LOT of work. And the freelance portion of your biz has to be very strategic (retainers, repeat clients, etc.) in order to make room for your sideline.

  • Hey Ed! You are a wonderful teacher and that is what matters most to me. As a graduate of your coaching program, you’ve given me the confidence to charge professional rates. As a matter of fact, I just signed a contract for a $3000 job, and I have another $1500 job in the works. My investment has paid off! Not a bad way to start 2015! Thank you for sharing your teaching gift with us.

    • edgandia

      Oh, wow — that’s awesome news! Way to step out there, Halona. Thanks for sharing that win with me. 😉

  • edgandia

    I forgot to mention the following in the show…

    1) I still average about one new writing client per year. I’m very particular about what types of clients I bring on board. But if the situation is just right, I will take them on.

    2) I still write a ton of copy and content every week. It’s mainly for my training biz, but the point is that I’m still practicing my craft on a daily basis.

  • Kate Frank

    Good for you Ed. Anyone who doubts you are qualified to teach and coach freelancers doesn’t understand the profession. They are simply looking for a way to drag you down. Don’t let them. I have been a follower of you for about 4 years and I know my business has benefited from your generosity. Keep up the good work.

    • edgandia

      Thanks, Kate! Not sure they drag me down. They used to, but I’ve learned to see it for what it is — folks who have been burned by unethical info marketers way too many times.

      I appreciate your being such a loyal listener, and I hope I can continue to add value to your business in 2015 and beyond.

  • Excellent answers, Ed. While I haven’t been a freelance copywriter or coach as long as you have, nor at the same level, I get this once in a while, too.

    What I like is your passion and your ability to help others solve their problems. I’m inspired to do the same.

    • I agree with Steve here Ed. Your passion shows through in all of your training, emails, newsletters, etc. I certainly find it infectious in a good way! =)

      That said, passion alone aren’t the only thing I look for in my mentors, resources, coaches, etc. For me, it’s passion + experience + proof that are the keys. It doesn’t need to be extension experience or proof, but you need to have walked the walk at some point in order for me to take you seriously. 😉 *Especially* if you’re looking to get me to buy something from you.

      IMO, you fit all of those Ed, and I’ve used your advice & training as I grow my business. So thanks, and keep at it! I’m sure you’ve got even more wisdom I can use.

      • edgandia

        Great points, Julia — thanks for your feedback! Interestingly, I look for the same things when I hire a coach or consultant. 🙂

    • edgandia

      Thanks, Steve! Means a lot coming from you, my friend!

  • justin pugsley

    Hi Ed,

    You don’t have any issues over credibility and the proof of the pudding is the great content you share with us every week, it really speaks volumes about you and your commitment. I have personally benefited from it as someone who is a successful copywriter, there’s some great ideas that get discussed.

    And maybe you don’t do that much copywriting anymore, but that’s fine as well. The fact is you have done it and done it very successfully. Besides the world is full of consultants who are industry veterans who help companies and I know from experience that some are very good. They have a valuable role to play and lots of experience which is why they can make a living.

    Plus you probably have a better overview of the copywriting market than most us as you talk to and coach many copywritters and get insights into their businesses.

    I think another point about being a very active copywriter training aspiring copywriters is the potential for conflicts of interest. Basically, there could be issues, real or imagined, over competition, which could make some people feel uncomfortable.

    Besides, you use copywriting skills to market your own business — so it’s not as if you don’t write anyway.

    So overall you have nothing to justify, you’re doing a fantastic job, I hope the changes you’re planning will improve your life & business and I wish you a very successful 2015! You deserve it!

    • edgandia

      Thanks for the feedback, Justin — and for being such a loyal listener! You make a great point that many of the best industry consultants are veterans in their respective industry. That’s why I used the example of the successful restaurateur. For some reason it’s perfectly acceptable (and expected) in other industries. But in the “freelancing advice” field, it’s often met with cynicism.

      I think one of the biggest reasons this happens is that the “make money from home” industry is known for having its share of con artists. Many of these shysters bleed into the freelancing community, which naturally creates a high degree of skepticism among solos.

      Happy New Year to you as well!

  • Doug

    I have no problem with it. You’ve paid the price: a successful copywriter first; and, add to that you’ve learned from others as you went along. Keep an open mind, keep learning, and hopefully sharing. From what I’ve seen from your sales letter examples, you know of what you talk.
    Kudos to you and a good 2015.
    …From a writer who’s been at it for 50 years, when he wasn’t busy holding executive positions in publishing, radio, and so on. As you indicate, credentials count.

    • edgandia

      Thanks, Doug! Appreciate having you as a listener. 🙂

  • Kevin Short

    Hi Ed,
    As a buyer of your warm email prospecting program and a regular listener to your program and its great advice, you indeed have no credibility problem in my mind.
    Your podcast reminds me of the old saying, “those who can do, those who can’t teach.” Although often viewed as a negative it can be turned around to “those who don’t do, can teach” (which doesn’t apply in your case) and your reference to Vince Lombardi is a great example of this – someone who wasn’t the best player, but an excellent coach.
    I think many who are often not the best at something are forced to really figure out things the way that those who sometimes are naturally gifted are not.
    Keep up the great work Ed!

    • edgandia

      Thanks, Kevin!

  • edgandia

    I hope this show didn’t come across as a need for validation. It was not meant to be that — not at all. My only motivation was to address an issue I get asked about frequently. The fact that some people ask tells me that there are many others who are wondering the same thing but aren’t approaching me with the question. Plus, by publishing my honest thoughts on the topic, I’ll have something I can point people to when they ask in the future.

    Anyway, thanks for checking it out! I truly appreciate all the comments, kudos and words of encouragement. 😉

  • Marjorie Turner

    HI Ed, getting to this late, but glad I read through this. I’m reminded of my high scool springboard diving coach, who never went off a diving board in his life. Yet he coached several top notch divers to state championships. And was willing to work with me too (even though I was, and still am uncomfortable with heights!) Being able to have an outside perspective, understand what is needed to achieve a desired result, and be able to express oneself are all key. The those who can do, those who can’t, ,teach is wrong, wrong on so many levels. Great discussion.

    • edgandia

      Great example, Marjorie! Thanks for that perspective.

  • Steve Lee

    Can’t remember where I saw it but just recently I read an article claiming that “experts” who only teach are in danger of losing touch with their market, they soon become “former experts”.
    90/10 – 50/50 – so what? Percentages aren’t critical.
    Maintaining a small presence in the freelance circus, along with all your industry contacts, will make you aware of changing trends in the marketplace. No one can question your knowledge base as long as you are still in the business, even in a small way.
    Go for it and do what you enjoy, you don’t need to rationalize or apologize to anyone.
    Thanks for your willingness to share your knowledge.

    • edgandia

      Thanks, Steve! This is one reason why I like to keep a couple of freelance clients … and why I still average about one new freelance client per year. Thanks for your feedback!

  • Mark Soroka

    Ed, you are a great resource for freelance B2B writers. Let me explain why. Research shows that people have different preferences for learning. And that breaks down to the four learning modalities: reading, listening, watching, and doing. You use all four learning modalities in your teaching programs and you do each very well. I also think you are a great teacher because you are spending most of your time in that area: you are giving teaching your full attention. At the same time, the fact that you continue to do some copywriting on a limited basis gives you greater credibility. You are continuing to develop your craft and get a chance to practice what you preach. I know nurses who are spending most of their time working as administrators or teachers; however, they also continue to work a few hours each month as clinicians. They never want to lose touch with what goes on with nursing at the front lines. And I think your approach is very similar. And it is working very well! Finally, I want to thank you for producing your two podcast series. Both are a gold mine of information! And your expertise is benefiting me tremendously!

    • edgandia

      Fantastic! Thanks for the kind words, Mark! Great to hear this feedback. 🙂