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Early Exit #21: I've failed (a lot)
Chronicling the mistakes I've made so we can learn from them.
You’re reading the Early Exit Club — a newsletter about leaving the 9-5 workforce to build a $20k/month solo business by Nick Lafferty.
Last week: October finances (6 month update)
Next week: How to find clients (while working full time)
Subscriber count: 953 🙏🏻
I still remember my boss’s exact words:
This is the worst campaign I’ve ever seen.
I launched a new Google Ads campaign on Friday and didn’t check in until Monday.
I wasted $10,000 of my company’s money in a single weekend and had nothing to show for it.
I thought for sure I’d get fired.
I wasn’t (thanks, Seth) but I learned two hard lessons:
Don’t launch new ad campaigns on Fridays
Mistakes are the best learning opportunities
You might see my income numbers and think that I am just fucking crushing it in all ways.
You’d be wrong.
Y’all, I have made so many mistakes in the last 6 months (and in my entire life but we’re not talking about those today).
So today we’re going to talk about what I got wrong after starting my solopreneur journey.
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1. Not quitting my podcast soon enough
I started a podcast interviewing people making thousands of dollars a month selling Notion templates.
While the largest Notion creator, Easlo, has made more than $500,000 selling templates the average creator earns a few hundred to a few thousand dollars a month (and the market is very saturated right now).
Before starting the podcast I had an affiliate marketing business where I sold other people’s Notion templates via my website and I’ve helped sell over $100,000 of them.
So I thought it would be a good idea to build awareness around my affiliate business, plus I knew these people already and had established business relationships.
I shipped 7 episodes and while it was fun it also took so much time.
Planning, recording, editing, and posting took hours of my time every week.
It was part of my growth strategy for Twitter (more on that later) and while it was a good idea I had way better things to spend my time on.
The audience for that podcast (current + aspiring Notion template creators) is so small that it never had a real chance to monetize.
I should’ve stopped it sooner and only after a few conversations with my Dad did I finally stop.
And it’s a good thing I did because I have zero time to keep doing that right now.
My takeaway: Kill your darlings. I enjoyed the podcast but that time was better spent on other areas of my business. Avoid chasing shiny objects and if you find yourself spread too thin then drop the projects that have low income potential.
2. Diversifying too soon
LinkedIn has been my main social media platform for years.
I dialed in a consistent posting strategy and it was working: I grew to over 6,000 followers and one of my posts got 1.6 million views when I was at Loom.
And instead of doubling down on what was working I tried to diversify to Twitter.
This was a bad decision for several reasons:
I was starting from 0 on Twitter which is very hard
Twitter has a dubious future (they’re not exactly growing right now…)
I was posting different content on each platform
Notion content on Twitter
Marketing and consulting on LinkedIn
I hardly grew on LinkedIn during my Twitter experiment and I wish I could go back in time and tell myself to double down on LinkedIn instead.
I recognized that splitting my time (and content strategy) was an issue when I diagramed it out a month after quitting my job.
What a mess!
So I stopped posting on Twitter along with the podcast.
I’ve restarted my LinkedIn growth and, more importantly, I’m on pace to hit my goal of 1,000 newsletter subscribers by the end of the year.
My takeaway: Building an audience on social media is a great springboard toward other projects. Pick one platform and focus on it wherever you see the best eaerly results. Avoid the distraction of diversifying to other platforms, it’s probably too early for you to do that.
3. Saying yes to bad clients
Early on in my consulting journey I said yes to clients that I would say no to right now.
This was the easiest mistake to justify because I wanted to make money right now.
But everyone loses in this situation:
My client loses when I can’t deliver for them
I lose by wasting time on a client that wasn’t the right fit
I am now very clear on the type of clients I work with because I know the pain of of a bad client fit.
Here’s how you can avoid this: get crystal clear about your offer.
Define exactly what you do and who you serve and keep it focused on your best and most efficient skills.
While I can do multiple areas of growth marketing I’m best at only a few of them.
When advising other aspiring consultants I call this finding your X.
My X is:
Something I'm very good and efficient at
Something that I can do mostly without a lot of client communication (My time is not best spent in meetings)
Something I know is a pain for companies that they're willing to pay for (which often means tying my work back to their revenue)
Anything outside of my X is not a good fit for me.
My takeaway: Be honest with yourself about how you can best help potential clients. Write down your strengths and decline or refer work that doesn’t fall into your wheelhouse. Sounds easy but can be hard in practice when the money is right there.
4. Not charging enough
I still believe every freelancer could charge more for their services today, including me.
I’m definitely undercharging for the value I’m providing to my clients and in my short stint as a full-time freelancer I’ve learned this is just part of the journey.
No freelancer is capturing 100% of their value because you grow and learn while delivering work for each client.
And while it’s hard to raise rates with current clients, it’s easier to raise them for future clients.
Set yourself up for success next year by raising your baseline rates by 20%.
I wrote two related newsletters on this topic that can help you:
How to raise your rates (with example emails you can use)
I learn way more from mistakes than I do from successes.
I need to screw up before I really internalize something.
I hope some of you aren’t like me so you can learn from my mistakes before you make them yourselves 😅.
If you made it this far, hit reply and send me your worst mistakes either as a freelancer, full-timer, or human being.
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