#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.