Early Exit #31: Your Job Is To Provide Peace of Mind
Why "taking care of it" is part of a freelancer's job description.
You’re reading Early Exit Club — a newsletter about leaving the 9-5 workforce to build a $20k/month solo business by Nick Lafferty.
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This newsletter was written by a friend, former colleague, and someone who’s been a full-time SEO consultant for 2.5 years: Kelsey Reaves.
What I admire most about Kelsey is that she built a life around what matters most to her: location independence.
She’s traveled all around the world while supporting herself through her freelancing business. It is rare to meet someone who clearly knows what brings them happiness in life and builds their professional aspirations around that, and I’m lucky that we crossed paths back when we were both stuck at a desk in downtown Austin in 2015.
Her weekly newsletter, SiteSee, offers advice on achieving a location-independent lifestyle along with recommendations on the gear to get you there, and is 100% worth subscribing to for anyone with similar nomadic dreams.
Over to you, Kelsey!
When you’re a freelancer, your job isn’t just to complete a deliverable.
Your #1 job (no matter the industry you’re in) is to provide peace of mind.
It’s taken me years to fully understand this (and I credit a lot of what I’ve learned from my previous boss at OGM).
Oftentimes when you’re brought on to help with a project, your client doesn’t worry too much about the details of the actual tasks you’re doing. In their mind, they brought you on to “take care” of something.
Whether that be:
“taking care” of SEO
“taking care” of PPC
“taking care” of the website redesign
They just want to know that out of the dozens of items on their to-do list, the one that has your name next to it is under control.
So why is providing peace of mind so important?
Because it ultimately means your client trusts you to produce good work that drives results. And for you, this leads to longer-term relationships with higher-quality clients that are willing to pay you the big bucks.
After freelancing full-time for 2.5 years, I’ve figured out a solid 4-step framework that you can use to consistently provide peace of mind to clients:
Present deliverables in a digestible format
Integrate into the client’s existing ecosystem
(Over)communicate like your life depends on it
Make your clients and stakeholders look smart
Now let’s dive into each.
1. Present deliverables in a digestible format
You can’t expect your clients to make the same leaps of logic that you do when you’re both presented with the same information.
A spreadsheet full of complex SEO data might make total sense to your, but to your client it might as well be Hieroglyphics.
Make it as simple as possible for your clients to comprehend your deliverables and take actionable steps based on your recommendations.
Before shipping off your deliverable, spend time anticipating possible questions your client will ask.
Nick’s recommendation: My former bosses were great at poking holes in my work. When I want to cover all my bases, I try to channel my former bosses and approach the document from their perspective. What questions would they ask me?
For example: In my technical audits, regardless of the recommendation, the inevitable follow-up questions I receive are, "Why does this matter?" and "How crucial is it to address this?"
To get ahead of these questions, I now include a section of why it matters in the supporting one-pager and list action items in order of priority. Here’s what it looks like:
For all of my clients, I’ll send over:
The deliverable (typically a spreadsheet)
A one-pager explanation
A quick 5-minute video walkthrough on Loom
And I always keep my emails short, making it easy for them to locate documents:
I also try to do things as async as possible. If there happens to be follow-up questions that I can’t effectively answer via a short Loom video, then I’ll set up a Zoom call.
But only as a last resort.
2. Integrate into the client’s existing ecosystem
The last thing we all need is another project management tool. Your client feels the same way.
So instead of handing over deliverables using my preferred method, I ask my clients upfront what tools they’re using to manage tasks.
If they use Asana, then it's easy. I’ll just build out a workflow for SEO tasks into their existing account. Airtable? Cool, I’ll move my Excel spreadsheet over. Monday? No sweat. I’ll create a new board for my deliverables.
As freelancers, our goal is to remove any hurdle that may be in the way of sharing our work and getting sh*t done. Integrating into their ecosystem makes it that much easier for them (and for you!) to move things forward.
Nick’s recommendation: Having broad experience across a variety of tools like this is super helpful! In your discovery calls, try asking what project management tools they use to see if you’re familiar with it. If not, bake in some more time to your proposal so you can get up to speed.
3. (Over)communicate like your life depends on it
If a client starts asking questions about performance, then that’s a clear sign that there’s been a communication breakdown.
The solution? Bias towards overcommunicating.
In practice, this means actively calling out wins and preemptively communicating issues before they arise.
For most of my clients, I’m on a shared Slack channel where I can highlight achievements beyond monthly reports. So instead of solely relying on statistics like "traffic increased by X%," I emphasize tangible wins by sharing screenshots. It’s WAY more impactful to see results in the real world, versus just seeing numbers. Not only does it help keep clients engaged, but it keeps our work at the top of their minds.
On the flip side, if things aren’t looking good, preemptively call that out.
For example, when core algorithm updates are impacting my client's sites, I don't wait for the monthly report; instead, I proactively send a report detailing 1) the details of the algorithm update and 2) our observations.
Nick’s recommendation: Sharing bad news sucks, but I’d much rather proactively share it myself instead of my client sharing it first. Proactively sharing bad news means you’re already a step ahead.
Even if the response is, "We’re not quite sure what the impact is yet, but we're actively monitoring developments," this action still reminds the client that you’re on it.
Finally, make it easy for clients to get the takeaways they need.
While my monthly reports dive deep into specifics like traffic, clicks, impressions, etc. I'm aware that (more often than not) my clients never read past the executive summary.
I dedicate more time to perfecting these summaries than the rest of the report. Here are a few things I do in my reports to make sure my clients get the takeaways they need in less than a minute:
Highlight positive numbers in green, and negative numbers in red
Present everything in a positive light and provide explanations for the reasoning behind it.
Harness the power of "threes" by incorporating three takeaway points as bullet items (something about it just looks good).
4. Make your clients and stakeholders look smart
The people you’re working with day to day typically aren’t the ones who are signing your contracts or paying your invoices.
Most of the clients you work with have stakeholders (like CEOs, CMOs, etc.) to report to.
In these situations, offer a helping hand.
When they need to put together presentations on strategies, results, wins, or other things, offer to help create the presentation.
Because when you help make your clients look good, YOU look good.
Recently, a client of mine was tasked with presenting the content strategy I developed to the CEO, aiming to secure approval from the rest of the team.
Rather than sending the usual monthly report I put together in a Google Doc, I transformed the strategy and key insights into a presentation deck that he could share with the CEO:
Not only did I help my client convey the overall strategy to executives, but the team was so impressed, that they decided to pour more resources into scaling our strategy.
Nick’s recommendation: I’ve done this for a client over Slack too. My client got a question from another part of the organization, and I drafted up a detailed reply for them to use. Saved my client time and made them look good!
Since transitioning to full-time freelancing in 2021, I've applied this framework to all my clients, and it has yielded more than just financial gains. This strategy has:
Led to longer-term contracts (a minimum of 6 months or longer)
Led to tons of referrals (my clients trust me and have recommended my services multiple times, resulting in a full client list for 2024)
Led to cool new ways to work together (for example, I run a weekly newsletter about living a location-independent lifestyle and have had clients contribute).
Ultimately, freelancing goes beyond executing the immediate task; it's about offering your clients peace of mind.
By doing so, you can undoubtedly expect an uptick in clients, longer contract durations, and an improved bottom line.
Kelsey Reaves is an SEO consultant who specializes in putting together inbound strategies for leading B2B SaaS companies. Embracing the digital nomad lifestyle in Cape Town, she manages a website and a weekly newsletter, SiteSee, offering advice on achieving a location-independent lifestyle along with recommendations on the gear to get you there.