#337: Austin L. Church on Money Mindset, Living Well and Using Pricing as a Key Lever for Financial Prosperity as a Freelance Professional

We truly don’t talk enough about money and prosperity in the freelancing community. And that’s too bad, because the more we talk about this issue in positive and productive ways, the greater the chances our businesses will succeed.  

I mean… imagine companies like Microsoft, Apple, Walmart or Ford Motor Company ignoring money discussions and decisions. It would spell disaster! 

Many solo professionals avoid the topic because they were raised to believe that money is a taboo topic. Or because of other long-held beliefs about money that no longer serve them (and perhaps never have). 

Or because they’re overwhelmed and not sure where or how to even start to address the issue of earning more (and more consistently), keeping more of what they earn, and giving more to causes they care about.  

In this week’s episode, I’m joined by my good friend Austin L. Church, founder of FreelanceCake.com, a freelance marketing strategist and copywriter, and author of the brand new book, Free Money: 9 Counterintuitive Moves for Life-changing Freelance Income. 

We dive deep into the topic of financial prosperity and how to achieve it. Among other things, we discuss:

  • Where our beliefs about money come from 
  • Why most of them don’t serve us 
  • How we can achieve real and lasting financial success as self-employed professionals 
  • Why our pricing is a key lever to getting there 
  • Why reaching financial prosperity is about much more than just making more money 
  • Austin’s thoughts about the future of freelancing 

The episode is packed with useful ideas and powerful reframing. I think you’ll really enjoy it.  

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 on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Key Topics and Bullets: 

  • Austin Church’s career background and emphasis on the need for financial literacy and strategic pricing
  • Personal experiences of blindly setting prices and facing tax issues
  • Discussion on the negative reinforcement faced by artists aiming to make money from their talent
  • Emphasis on pricing and understanding survival and dream rates in freelance work
  • Recommendations for accounting for potential setbacks with a 20% buffer in pricing
  • References to relevant books as resources for freelancers
  • Societal silence and shame surrounding open discussions about money
  • Influence of cultural attitudes and axioms on beliefs about money
  • Role of AI tools like chat GPT in ideation
  • The value of human interaction and discernment
  • The future of freelance creative services and the importance of mastering tools
  • Impact of negative feedback loops around pricing
  • Embracing conversations about price changes as part of the negotiation process
  • Required skill sets for managing money and the importance of acquiring these skills
  • Reevaluating the mindset of working hard for what is deserved and misconceptions about money

Timestamp Overview:

06:38 Austin– So we live in a modern society where money is required to live, we cannot barter. And most of us make it to adulthood with very little education in financial literacy. And then when you become an entrepreneur, whether you meant to or not, because you’re a freelancer or consultant, well, by default, you’re a small business owner, and you may also be very entrepreneurial. Well, you suddenly find yourself with this business model, but not necessarily having this core competency with pricing. Like, none of us Ever has a class on how to make money as a writer. Right? You may take creative writing courses, or you may take a class in, Like, African literature or Shakespeare or whatever. But where is the class on well, here’s how you price A creative project that involves writing.

12:55 Ed– It’s like being a really good CFO, chief financial officer for your business is, is one of the most important things you could ever do. But I find that a lot of creatives, especially writers, don’t, like, they’re not really…they’re not really interested. Everyone wants to know, okay, how to do okay. Great. How do I land more clients? You know? Do you find the same thing?

Austin- Oh, 100%. Yeah. And I like, there’s a whole chapter in the book devoted to how Oh, we form beliefs about money, and it just makes a simple observation that we can’t outperform our beliefs. And, also, I delve into why is there this sort of gag order around talking openly about money? A lot of us grew up in households where money wasn’t talked about openly. And when it is, those conversations are charged with fear, anxiety or embarrassment. So a lot of us come into adulthood with these backpacks full of heavy beliefs, And we don’t even understand that other people are telling themselves an entirely different story that empowers them to go make whatever money they want to make. And here’s the thing, a lot of us Would love to give away more money. We would love to be more generous.

19:11 Ed– You’re shining a spotlight on this. Do you have a practical tool or tactic that could help people Kind of unpack the way they were brought up to think about money. Just so it’s, you know, So it’s not kind of this ugly thing, and now I recognize it. But because I feel like if you don’t address it, Austin, it will keep coming up. You know what I’m saying? Like, recognizing it is one thing, which is good. That’s positive momentum. But, how do you find a tool, a tactic, you know, some kind of journal prompt to start unpacking it that could help someone kinda start recognizing how they thought about this for a long time.

Austin– Great question. So you mentioned journaling. One of the journaling prompts is, what do I believe about money? The next one is, What experiences and moments produced those beliefs? Can I trace them back? Right? So I’ll tell one very quick story. I won’t push any one of my family under the bus, But I was listening to a couple of members of my family, discuss family, friends, and say, quote, what they waste each year, we could live on, End quote. And that shaped me. I mean, maybe I was 8. Maybe I was 9. I did not even realize that I was through osmosis taking this in.

25:53 Ed– And this is why people who win, you know, the lotto, I think only 11% Still have wealth after 20 or 30 years. 89% lose it. And that’s because these are people who didn’t. They, you know, hadn’t grown inside to match that level of financial wealth.

Austin– And then meanwhile I go into this quite a bit in the book where I just kind of break down the 3 different skills. Like we have 3 different skill sets, I should say. You have the set of skills that help you make money. You have the set of skills that helps you manage and keep money. And then there’s a set of skills required to grow money. So they make, keep, grow, all 3 of those distinct skill sets. If you’re one of those people who wants more money and yet you aren’t able to quite admit that to yourself or to other people, Well, you’re not gonna go acquire any of those 3 skill sets. Meanwhile, you have people out there who make less money than you do, who are growing the money they do have because they gained some financial literacy.

31:56 Austin– I came out of a master’s program in creative writing, thinking that I was, like, bastardizing my talent if I used it to make money. That, like, I needed to be, Like, committed to pure artistic expression, and that I was gonna compromise my artistic integrity if I use my writing skills in service of mammon. You know? To, like, oh, perish the thought that I would actually go into the business world. I dismantle that whole idea of art versus, like, the dichotomy of art versus commerce in the book, because it’s, first of all, totally bogus. But second of all, if you were to unpeel A lot of that stuff that, you know, other people have put on you, do you truly, truly believe that if something makes money, Then that makes it less artistic. Anyway, we can move on, but I’m just like, this is complex. It’s emotional. It’s highly personal.

34:31 Ed– Maybe get you know, maybe you can share a couple of tactics or ideas with us, from a pricing standpoint just so folks can understand how you can positively impact your income just by focusing on pricing.

Austin– So I love that you chose this word lever because I 100% think that pricing is a lever that you can pull and it’s like it’s a force multiplier. It gives you better results with relatively little effort. So I mentioned earlier that I think people should start in terms of tactics with knowing what they need to make across the year, that survival number. Also think you need to have a realistic Idea of how many weeks in the year you expect to work, how many hours in a week you expect to work, And how many of those hours you can realistically expect to bill to clients? Because we’re not all gonna bill 50 hours every single week or even 40 or even 30. And I just don’t think it’s realistic to base your prices on A 40 hour work week with, like, 90% of those hours going like, you’re passing that cost onto the client. Right? You’re billing clients for those hours. You have to start with honest numbers. And for me, those honest numbers are like In an average week, I might be able to bill a client for between, like, 18 and 28.

39:45 Austin– If you don’t know what your dream rate is, then you can’t use your dream rate to calculate your prices. But a couple more tactics. And then Ed, I’m sure you’ve got some ideas. I call it pessimistic pricing. Don’t ever set a price that assumes the client will be on their best behavior during the project. I mentioned how financially, like, nothing is more predictable than curve balls. Well, like, how many of your projects have ever gone exactly as planned? Like and yet, when it comes time to see… 1 out of 100. Right? It’s like 0.001%. So Pessimistic pricing is like, okay. Fine. My prices will assume that my clients will be on their worst behavior, not because they’re bad people, but because life happens, and the client goes dark mid project, then 3 weeks later, they come back, and it takes you an hour to refamiliarize yourself with the project. You wouldn’t have lost that hour If they had just given you feedback when you first asked for it, like, this stuff happens. So build a buffer of at least 20% extra into your price.

46:34 Ed– It’s like we sold a deal, and then the delivery team implements the software. It’s up to them. You deal with that, you know? And it wasn’t that way, but of course I cared, But future Ed has now gotta do the work. Charge a fee or or run your number you’re thinking about quoting through the lens of future Ed, what would future Ed be grateful you charged? Okay? Or maybe another way to think about it is, In a week, when you’re neck deep in the project, will future Ed curse your name, Or will feature Ed wanna take you out for a beer?

Austin– One thing that I’ll throw in, like, a price that you quote is meant to start the conversation and not end it or continue the conversation and not end it. I think so many of us are so averse to negotiation that we will quote a lower price just to avoid pushback. Right? Because we’re so uncomfortable with it. It causes so much cognitive dissonance. One of my coaching clients, and he’s a writer, and I was coaching him through the process of putting together a content strategy proposal that was, I think, 3 x bigger than anything he had ever done before. And It was for an agency, and the agency came back. And the president of the agency was like, hey, I wanna hop on a call with you and talk to you about the price. And he was so nervous. And I said to my client, like, don’t be nervous. You’re already telling yourself a story about a conversation that hasn’t happened. This is an opportunity to learn. And how cool is it that if your price is way off, the president of an agency, like, treat this as a mentoring opportunity, whatever. Anyway, they hop on the call. It turns out their client had changed the budget. They had no issue with his price. They just needed him to find a different price because they didn’t have the budget they thought they were gonna get.

51:29 Ed– And the other thing I was gonna say is, because you’ve thrown some great imagery out there that I think will help people remember these things. I was taught years ago, never sell with your wallet. Something that sounds big to you. You know, if you were the buyer may sound,not just normal and reasonable to somebody else. In some cases, it even sounds too low. And it could even create doubt and fear. So don’t sell with your wallet. You know, don’t ask yourself, if I were in their shoes, what sounds too big? You’re not the one in their shoes.

Austin– If I forgot. I’m screwing up the quote, but it’s like, your price needs to make you laugh or crack a smile because it all, it seems borderline absurd. But it’s just such wise advice to say, don’t think you know what other people can afford.

56:13 Austin– You and I are both very gung ho about having an initial strategy, planning, or diagnostic offer. I also think there’s something to be said for learning about your other competencies, aptitudes, personality, and character traits. When people hire you, they are not buying your skills. They are not buying a whole person, but they are renting an entire mind and life with these diverse experiences. So, like, when people hire me, you know, they’re not paying x number of dollars an hour for my writing skills. Right? Because I can’t actually decouple those skills from all the unusual connections I’m able to make in my sense of humor, And my ability to break down complex ideas and make them easy to understand. Right? So I think the final thing is the writers who are gonna be not only competitive, but the writers who are gonna thrive are gonna be the ones who look beyond their skills and beyond high quality work and say, what are my other differentiators? I need to bake those into my positioning. And when people hire me, it’s because they want to hire Austin.

01:02:11 Austin– You can use ChatGPT for ideation, But it also makes sense to get really, really good as a facilitator in pulling stuff out of other people. If only so that you can then turn around and use the tools at your disposal to sharpen, improve, iterate them. You know? And you and I have had some, like, offline exchanges where we’re like, hey, check out this cool thing I just did with ChatGPT. So Maybe there’s something to be said for humility. Because if you have the humility, you’ll go use the tools to the best that they can be used. Again, I don’t think that you’ll use the tools effectively. But, and, you’ll do better work for your clients, and you won’t be threatened that you’re about to lose your job, so to speak, because you’re focused on the things that really only you can do.

Ed– I think And, you know, this is maybe not the best. Yeah. I think we are. This may not be the best analogy, but just, I hope everyone bears with me with this because I know this could be a sensitive issue. It’s almost like, you know, you can do a lot of self therapy by journaling and asking yourself some great questions, Just like you can get some great ideas by going to ChatGPT and giving it some good prompts, but you cannot do as good a job with therapy as you would with a good therapist. Yeah. It’s that interchange. Right? That dynamic experience.

01:05:44 Austin– Like, what is the money even for? Like, what do you want your life to look like? It gets into the money mindset. How do you make the unconscious conscious? Which limiting beliefs about money are most common to freelancers? And What are some alternate beliefs that may serve you better? Then I get into what I call vitamins, but it’s just how do you, like, what are the principles and best practices? How do you, like, negotiate and advocate effectively for your needs? Like, some people are just better at Winning bigger projects than others, let me give you some of those insights. And then the final chapter Is, actually, there’s an FAQ section where I’m like, I think people just need to get some questions answered in a very matter of fact way. So I did that. And then the final chapter I call it victory lap. It’s the pricing process again, but distilled way down because guess what? Over the course of your freelance career, you’re gonna change your prices multiple times. You don’t have to reread the whole book.

By the way… whenever you’re ready, here are 4 ways I can help you grow your freelance business: 

1. Grab a free copy of my book. 

It’s called Earn More in Less Time: The Proven Mindset, Strategies and Actions to Prosper as a Freelance Writer. The title says it all. 😉 — Click Here   

2. Get my Business-Building Toolkit.

Too many freelancers lack a critical set of business skills that would enable them to earn more in less time doing work they love for better clients. I’ve taught these skills to my coaching clients for years. And now I’ve packaged it in a way that will enable you to start getting results FAST. — Learn More   

3. Join my implementation program and be a case study.

I’m putting together a new implementation group this month. If you’re earning $5k+/month (or the part-time equivalent) from your freelance business … and you’d like to grow your income quickly with better clients … just hit reply and put “Case Study” in the subject line. 

4. Work with me privately.

If you’re a 6-figure writer who’s trying to earn more in less time, with less stress, I might be able to help you get there faster than you think. Just email me at [email protected] and put “Breakthrough” in the subject line, and I’ll get back to you with more details.