But sometimes, I get many variants of the same core question, such as “help, my boss sucks.” When that happens, I answer a composite question. And that’s kind of what I’m going to do today.
I say kind of because we’ve got two mitigating factors here:
- The questions actually differ considerably, but all miss the point in a common way.
- I won’t answer the question directly, but will instead try to get people asking these questions to think differently. (I want to include this caveat because this is the equivalent of you asking, “how do I do X in Java” and me saying, “don’t use Java,” which is not the same thing as answering the question.)
How Can I Optimize ____ to Bring in Business
So with that aside, let’s look at what people ask me. And bear in mind that the people asking this are either newly minted freelancers or freelancer-curious, considering going off on their own.
These people ask me questions like:
- Which Stack Overflow tags should I answer to bring in lots of business?
- How can I optimize my Upwork profile to get the most business? (My five second answer here, if you’re interested.)
- What’s the best title to give myself on LinkedIn to attract interest?
- Does my current website copy sound polished and will it appeal to potential clients?
These are at best tactically different questions. I’d actually call them nominally different, myself. Underlying them is a common pattern.
All of them put the spotlight on you, personally, and not your prospective clients.
In other words, all of them assume that if you dial up the right and optimal magic sequence of words, points, layout, and presentation, you will earn business. Notice that the client here doesn’t matter or have any agency; clients are almost like NPCs that simply have to hire you because the game dictates as much when you activate the magic stones in the right sequence.
My answer to any and all of these reader questions is both simple and bleak.
What you’re asking about doesn’t matter. And as long as you continue to think that it does, you’re going to have a painful journey likely to end in failure and an eventual return to salaried employment.
The good news is that you can easily avoid this fate and flourish. You just need to grok and adopt a rather fundamental mindset shift. Today I want to try to explain that shift with a bit of humor and metaphor.