Freelancers deserve a voice in the growing gig economy, but the thing is, they don’t have a place to do this. That’s until Emily Leach came onto the scene and became an advocate for freelancers or the genetically unemployable. Podcast freelancers unite behind her because of her passion to provide support and education for solo-preneurs. Emily shares three valuable things to get sponsorship for your podcast: know your initiative, know what you are offering and know which clients you want.
We have a really fun interview with someone that I really enjoyed being interviewed by her in the past because we share this common trait of being genetically unemployable. That’s the name of her brand. Emily Leach is just one of the most amazing powerhouses. She just goes and is so passionate about the solopreneur, freelancer, gig economy, whatever you want to term it. I really wanted to bring her on personally because this is our show. When we find somebody really interesting, we want to bring them to you because we think you will too. She is one of the more interesting people I’ve interviewed in the last couple of years from Inc. as well as I spoke at her conference and I just adored the way that the conference has run. It was called Freelance Conference and #FreeCon, which was the giggles that was going around Facebook when I started posting about FreeCon. It was absolutely fun though. It was an amazing event in terms of the quality of people. The passion that she has just comes through everything that she does. She really is just so strongly aligned with this community of freelancers and solopreneurs that don’t have support system. They want to go beyond the conventional job and they want to be on their own, and they have all of that drive in them but they might be missing network, and skills, and tools, systems, whatever it might be. She really wants to bring that to them.
I think a lot of existing and potential podcasters fall into this category. In some ways being independent, maybe freelancers certainly in business for themselves in some way, shape or form. That there’s a lot of the issues that this community deals with, you actually deal with as well or you may need to and you don’t even know it. That’s what happens a lot of times. You go into the world, you’re freelancing and you go, “I’ve got to invoice someone. I have to figure out how to do marketing advertisements. Client asked me for that, I’ve got to sort this out.” Who do you ask? Where do you go? Who do you trust? All of those things are things that you’re out there looking for, and they’re really isn’t surprising. This is such a tremendously huge economy, the gig economy. In 2015, there were estimated 53 million freelancers popping up the gig economy. That’s about $715 billion market contribution. Yet, many of them aren’t structured like businesses, don’t get the tax advantages, don’t understand all of the different things they need to do and as you’ll hear in the story that Emily is going to tell, they don’t even have any conferences anywhere that you can type into. She started this as a Texas Freelance Association and basically, it’s the only freelance association you can find on the internet.
Let’s hear from Emily because she’s a fascinating person and we just really wanted to bring you her story and how she does it. She’s got some great tips on how to get sponsorships. Whether you want them for your show or you want them for your next event, listen to this.
Listen to the podcast here:
Podcast Freelancers Unite! with Emily Leach
Hi, Emily. I’m so glad to talk to you again.
I’m super excited to be back.
The last time we saw each other, you were so busy with your Freelance Conference event, which was awesome. It was amazing. You were so busy that we didn’t really have the chance to catch up. I’m so glad we’re getting to do that now.
You’re right, it gets a little crazy but it’s just part of being an active part of your conference instead of being the person that just sits on the sidelines and watches it all happen. I’d get my hands dirty.
I really love what you’re doing, Emily, because you’re celebrating solopreneurs, the genetically unemployable as you put them. Which I am a proud member of. I didn’t call myself that but once I heard you say it, I was like, “That’s me.”
You’re not alone.
That’s really what you’re pointing out. I’ve written a couple of articles that fits you on that about the gig economy and other things. This is what happen when I went to your conference and I spoke. I looked at everyone there and I said, “I don’t think that in my whole entire career I ever define myself as a freelancer but I absolutely have been. I just didn’t define it that way.” That for me was the a-ha as to maybe the reason why I was more successful than some others is that I treated it like a business and I had looked for network and support. The things that you were providing there, I went out and sought out early in the process for me because being a solopreneur didn’t feel right. It felt lonely.
That’s the exact same experience that I had. I’ve been freelancing or being a solopreneur since 1992, and I did what you did. First thing I do is went out and joined a BNI group and found the work. What I have found over the years is that a lot of people that jump ship and go to start their own individual business, a freelance business, somehow they don’t connect those two dots that, “I’m running a business and they don’t treat it like a business.”
I just met an amazing leader of a band called Top Shelf Shake here in Orange County. As I was talking with him, I was going to do an article on him for Thrive Global for totally different reasons. As I’m talking to him, I realized that he was gigging, as you would call it. That’s the official term of gigging back in the musician days. He’s gigging but he did not treat his band the way that they approach. They have booked 100 gigs this year already and they were expected to exceed that. He treated it like a business from day one. I was like, “What are your tips?” I took it down because I was like, “These are tips that freelancers need.” I thought that’s so interesting so it’s a part mindset.
It’s a part mindset but it’s also something to think about. So many of us, we’d go to high school, we’d go to college, go to a tech school. However, we acquire our skill or our craft and we come to the conclusion or decision that we want to do this on our own. We want freedom and then you’re poisoned that we want to jump ship and go do this for ourselves. That just isn’t in the repertoire. It’s not in the conversation and the language for so many people. Why would they know? It’s the concept of, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” They don’t know.
I think that’s true for a lot of people who are in corporate life and maybe have been there for quite a time. They think, “This is so frustrating. I would not do it the same way. I would do it differently. I could do it better if I were off on my own.” Then they get out there on their own if they take that leap, and they really don’t know what they were getting into it.
I’ve literally heard people say, “I don’t really want to start a business. I’m just going to be a freelancer.” No, it isn’t an either or. They’re both the business.
It was ’93-ish for me when I started being in business for myself. I was a freelancer in reality but I definitely treated it like a business. I thought of it as a business. I think there are some people we’ve met through our business networking who would rightfully so probably tell me, “At that point in your life, maybe you didn’t have a business, you had a glorified job. It was just you’re on your own,” but we’ve always treated it like a business and of course taking advantage of the tax benefits of being an official business among other things. We’ve always treated it like a business. Even though maybe we were more solopreneur-ish.
For me, it was because I purposely didn’t want the model of being a freelancer. When I got out of college, because I was in textile designs, there was a very clear choice path you could be to be a corporate designer or you could choose to be a freelancer and you could supply designs to many other companies. That was a clear path and many of my classmates chose to be freelancers. I purposely didn’t want that. It seemed very lonely. It seemed like I wanted to learn more. That’s how I felt. I feel like I wanted to be in an environment where I could do continuous learning. For me, I was in a way anti-freelance in mindset. When I did end up out on my own, I went, “No, I’m not going to do it this way. This is a bigger plan and I wanted to have a bigger business plan to it.” I looked at it that way, it just happened to be my personal mindset. I also had come out of the corporate world with an expectation of a certain level support, training, networking events so I had a visibility of what that looked like. It sounds to me like you had that same thing happen to you, Emily, when you started out in 1992.
The first thing I did was like, “How do people get clients? How do you get work?” I started doing some research. Since I didn’t really have the internet back then to do that kind of stuff, I just started talking to people. The first thing I went to was a chamber of commerce. Most people at least hear about chambers of commerce in their town or city, putting together an event. I found one of those and I went to one of those, then it lead me to the next thing. I just followed the trail from there. I knew that as soon as I did start getting a client or so, I was going to need to invoice them. In the very beginning, it’s like what you just said it was probably really a glorified job. I was working with engineering companies, so I’d go into their facility and I do work usually on their computers. I didn’t have a whole lot of overhead but I still have invoice. I still have to maintain my books and stuff like that. I went and learned as much as that as I felt comfortable with. It turns out I liked it so I learned a lot of it. A lot of people don’t like bookkeeping. They don’t like those pieces and so they push them to the side, “I’m going to deal with that next year or the year after.” Then it ends up being this black hole that it’s hard to dig out of because it feels really scary.
It really does. I personally also like the number side of things. It was never a problem for me. I always joke about it that there are two things that happen in your business that are danger points. We call this the Hazzard Rules of Hiring that these are what you should do but they relate as well. The number one thing is whatever your procrastination point is, the thing that you build that black hole is the thing that you definitely need to hire someone out as fast as possible. Just hire a freelancer for it, hire a virtual assistant, whatever you’re going to do, that procrastination point because it will tank your business the fastest. The other point is the one that sucks the time that doesn’t relate to actually serving your customers. For me, that’s accounting. I could spend structuring and counting, making reports, doing all those things but it does not serve my day-to-day business. It makes us no money. It just looks at it. For me to do that is a waste of business value. That’s what we call it, anything that sucks up your time.
I love some of these business reports that you can go in and pull from your accounting program, your Google Analytics and things like that so that you can go in every morning, once a week and just get an overview. Look at your dashboard of what’s working, what’s not working to stay on top of those things without having to spend hours and hours with your head in your books.
There are so many things when I think back to twenty years ago. We started out the same time you did. Then we had various different business entities and stages. You spent a little more time in Corporate America early on than I did. I tried it a couple different times and found I only last typically about eighteen months before I just couldn’t take it anymore and I had to get out. There are so many things that I wish that I had known back in the beginning when we were starting to do this that I’m sure, Emily, are things that you help others with. Some of it, we were alluding to here already. If I had really understood that I should be spending money to save time instead of spending time to save money, I truly believe that today. Maybe everybody doesn’t who’s a freelancer but to me, just because you can do something yourself doesn’t mean you should be.
That has become my new motto. Not just in regards to what we’re talking about but in life in general. It’s just because you can, doesn’t mean you have to.
You started this, I’m going to call it a local freelance organization because it was broadly Texas, which is really big. It wasn’t just Austin. California’s a little bit big, we understand that. Local is a relative term. You started a freelance group, I would say. When did you decide to start your own group there?
That was in January of 2014. We have another group in town called Austin Digital Jobs on Facebook. It had 4,000 or 5,000 people in it. What we noticed was that people were going in. That group was for people looking for jobs and people hiring employees. That was the only group that we have in town report. People were posting gigs, projects, freelance work. It was not really getting responded to because it was out of sorts. I loved it because it was actually where I was finding a little bit of my work at the time. The owner of the group stepped up and said, “Somebody needs to make a group so we can pull this stuff out of here and put it in its rightful spot.” I had just started a local group for genetically unemployable. We were getting together every few weeks. I was like, “That sounds like a good idea. I’ll do that.” Within days, we had hundreds of people in there. I literally had to go out and start finding gigs to post in there because the chicken and the egg.
You can’t attract them if you don’t have something to give them.
I loved doing it. It just was so much fun to go out and find gigs and projects and then see people, connect with it and then that whole process was fantastic. Then to see, people begin to ask those questions. It’s really vulnerable. We had some really tight guidelines in that group. You can’t sell. You can’t offer anything to sell in there. There is no self-promotion. You can go in there and tell us what you do but we’re a community. We’re not the people that are probably going to use your services. We’re all looking for gigs so don’t tell me to come help you. We’re all helping each other in events and stuff like that. It really is just a gig portal community. We have now 7,600 people. We’re three, going on four years old in that group. It was beautiful because it was safe. People could ask those questions like, “I need to do an invoice. I’ve not ever done one. What do you do?” People would comment like, “I use this. I use that. I use this spreadsheet. Whatever they were using, it didn’t matter. About six months in to that, I wanted to go do that because I was still freelancing at the time. I was part of the community that we were creating. I wanted to go to a conference that did that in person. I picked up my credit card, I went to the internet to find me a conference and it didn’t exist anywhere.
Isn’t that funny how that happens? We always hear even in national news or read in the New York Times or something that whether it’s Bureau of Labor Statistics or anything like that, you hear that so much of the US economy is this ultra-small businesses that are contributing to the economy. Yet, there’s no support system out there for those businesses. That surprised me but that is the reality of it.
I have ran across two or three other people that have attempted a conference like what I’ve been able to do successfully for three years. Most of them ran one year, one of them ran two years. I was like, “I’m head of the game.” I’m three years and we’re looking at our fourth and making some decisions there. I really was blown away. Since I had so many years of experience putting on TEDx events, I did some research and found a domain and freelance conference sounded like a really great domain since that is what it was going to be, and just kicked it off and about hundred days later, we had a conference.
It’s really good for a first event. We go to a lot of business networking events of one kind or another. Anything around 100 or more is very successful, 92 to me is close enough. I think getting people to actually attend is not easy. We’ve had some events that the organizers promised us they would have us a lot of people. We’re going to come and attend and we get there, it was almost like crickets. They had twenty people or something. 92, congratulations; that’s an achievement. The thing about it is that this an interesting trend in events. What we see is that the bigger events are not, I’m going to call it transacting as well. I used transacting because the sales may not be the goal. It may be networking, it may be whatever the goal of it is, the transaction at the end of the day that you expected to have happen. That the bigger events, the ones that are 250 or more people don’t tend to not transact as well, as the ones that are between 100 and 200. Sometimes even smaller, it depends on the topic of whatever it is that you’re doing. What happens is that somewhere in those events, you don’t get to meet enough people and it gets less personal and so the more personal touch is working. That is a right size but you have to plan for that.
It has its challenges, it definitely does. It definitely has a beautiful outcome. That is exactly what people say that come to the Freelance Conference is, “I got to meet everybody.” The other piece of it being a conference for freelance business owners is a lot of freelancers are pretty introverted. Going to a conference with hundreds if not thousands of people is not real high on our radar. I know I don’t want to go to one. I want something small. The people love the size of it. It allows us as organizers to create some really intimate pieces to the event. The fireside chat conversations that we get to have. The happy hour that we did for the awards ceremony. The games, where we’ve got to do the tournaments for the kick-off party. Those are difficult to do when you get into 500 people, 1,000 people. Everybody feel like they were a part of it.
Also, when you’re a speaker or you do breakout sessions and workshops, it’s also difficult when you feel inaccessible. I find the events at which I made accessible by the mere fact that we’re having meals together or having an event together. People can approach me and it’s not just like I gave my talk and there’s a little rush up because they’ve got to get to the next talk. They didn’t feel like they had access to me. Those don’t do as well for me, and I think they don’t do as well for the audience in terms of being able to get their questions answered.
Not to mention just create a relationship with the people that spoke, and like you said you did workshops and stuff. Probably the most difficult part of putting on a conference room is like what you said, getting enough attendees there, but the hardest part is getting enough sponsorship there that we can keep the price point low for the attendees. Instead of spending $1,000 to come to the conference, it may still end up costing them $600 or $700 total for airfare and the whole nine yards, then they can get there. We have a lot of people saying, “It was great. The price point was awesome because then I could afford my aircraft and afford to come and stay.” We have 60%of our group this year was outside of the state and some of them were outside the country.
Let’s talk a little bit about that. That’s really one of the areas that I wanted to dive in. For our podcasters, who are a lot of them are solopreneurs, a lot of them want to run their own events and some of them do. A lot of them are at that stage at which they’re looking for sponsors. You had some really great sponsors there and everything, but I know it was a lot of work. I’d love some advice from you about how you go about getting sponsors and what you thought worked that didn’t work.
The key in sponsorships, when you hear this you’ll go, “Of course it’s that,” but somehow it gets missed in the process. You just have to able to identify why. Why did they want to be a sponsor? A lot of people are saying, “Because they have a target market.” Lots of people have it. What’s going to make my relationship with you a better relationship with my target market than going with another company and for how much? You need to understand how much they normally spend or how many eyeballs or how many relationships. There was one company that I really, really wanted because I love their products so much. They love what I’m doing but the price point that I needed to do sponsorships at just didn’t work. They said, “We don’t charge enough for our platform every year. We would have to get every single one of your attendees to sign up twice for us to make our money back.” I get it, that’s just their logistics. Then there are other companies that that’s okay. That’s how they do their business model and they realize that sometimes you have to sync cost in and it’s a long-term return.
I’m going to mention a couple of your sponsors. You had FreshBooks there and you also had another accounting platform. Did you have QuickBooks?
FreshBooks was not a sponsor. We did have the founder of FreshBooks came and spoke. Mike McDerment was out. Then Intuit came out and did one of the panels.
For me, I look at that as, “These are big companies in the scope of things.” A sponsorship at that level made me feel a little bit more like, “They care about the small business. They care about the solopreneurs. They care about the freelancers.” That’s really where you talk about an association and branding strategy that makes you more referable. I think that is a key thing in sponsorship too. It’s not just about the money exchange but it’s also about, “I need people to be aware that we care about this audience.”
That’s the conversation that does begin to happen. A lot of people will be scared to go after the larger companies because it’s hard to get a hold of the right person. That can just be a challenge itself, much to say it took me three years because you go through this person, that person. Some of it made by my own messaging, articulating my learning curve. When you do get to the right person, you’re like, “This is what we’re doing and this is why we’re doing it. This is what I understand.” Let’s just talk about Inuit. “This is what I understand Intuit is working on.” “What are your challenges?” Whatever words work for that conversation, “I think we can help you out with that.” “Really how?”
That’s a great conversation to have. It’s been our experience. Obviously, we haven’t put on an event like you have but we certainly have had a few podcasts. One of them for a number of years now and with a very focused audience. That’s what strikes me about your conference is it’s a very focused audience of a similar profile of person that’s easy to identify. That is something that a lot of potential sponsors would pay tremendous amounts of money for to be able to try to reach that type of audience. Intuit I think is a really good example of a big company that while they have a very large, wide markets of different companies, individuals they’re trying to reach, certainly your profile customer is one of those markets they’ve been trying to reach. Because it’s so focused, even though it’s relatively small number of people, their conversion rate would probably be a lot higher reaching your market than it would be some other shotgun approach, general marketing out there on the internet or otherwise. That’s what I’ve found with podcasting and getting sponsors for one of our podcast. Even if it’s a big company, don’t underestimate the potential and the interest level of that big company who wants to reach a very focused audience because their conversion rate percentage is so much higher.
The beauty of a podcast is you can sell them multiple episodes. They get to hear it over and over and over. The thing with an event like mine is that you get to see it all day long for a couple of days. We’re trying to do some stuff before the event and even through emails and a few other things after the event. There’s some advantage that you have. The biggest question I would suggest that people ask when they’re going to that table, to ask somebody to possibly be a sponsor is ask them, “What are your initiatives? As a business, what are your initiatives for 2018?”
It’s really about them.
It is absolutely everything about them. You’re just trying to find how can you help them solve the problem.
I bet not enough people who approach a potential sponsor actually ask a question like that. Rather than just say, “Let me tell you why you might want to advertise to our audience.” If you turn that around and ask a question, they might think, “They’re really trying to help me achieve my goals or figure out what my pain point is.” That really I think would set up a different kind of relationship they might value more.
It’s a completely different conversation. They may come back. In fact, I just have this conversation with one of my larger sponsors, “In 2018, our entire business initiative is to really push towards the education market.” Now I’ve really got to stop and think about, “How then, this what I’m doing as an event and my target market connect with this massive initiative that they’re getting ready to go after?” It may not match. It just may not be a good match this next year.
At least then you know, “I should spend more time on this one because I think I can help them meet their needs.” Or, “This isn’t the year. We’re barking up the wrong tree. Let’s go a different direction.”
Don’t get so married to the brand that you won’t let yourself walk away.
It’s really interesting that we started earlier in our conversation mentioning that you have a thing for accounting. That’s also a really good thing to keep in mind. Our best sponsors that we brought on to our podcast were because we were users and we are fans. We understood the content really well and so they felt comfortable that not only were we the right fit for them but that we were going to endorse and explain them properly.
I tell all of my sponsors that. All of my sponsors are handpicked. I pick companies and apps and platforms that I know, love and use because it makes it so much easier to love everyone on Facebook, on social. I can’t stand on stage or anywhere else and just say, “I love this whatever,” and I don’t. I haven’t used it or what have you. You’re having conversation on stage. It can come out naturally like you said, “By the way, they’re actually in the playground.”
I think it’s very similar for events and for podcasting. The reality is if you’re speaking from your physical stage, your event, people have a different feeling about their relationship with you and your event. The same thing is true with podcasting. You’re in people’s ears all the time and they get to know you. Even though you don’t really know them as the host, your listener, but they really get to know you. If you are endorsing something, that has a much more valuable meaning to them than if it was just some general ad. I think that’s why smaller events and smaller podcasts, there’s a lot of similarity there. That you have an opportunity to get a much higher conversion because of that endorsement, because of that personal experience, you, as the host, have had with that sponsor. Those are the best ones. They are the most meaningful. You can’t really get the attention as a small event or a small podcast of very large brands with big advertising budgets that are just doing the shotgun approach everywhere they can get exposure. It’s going to be disconnected from your listener.
It’s lacking authenticity to me.
We talk about authenticity a lot on Feed Your Brand. It is critical. It’s the reality of it. You have to be authentic and listeners value that. I think you’re experiencing the same thing in your event.
I think we would be remiss to not step in right here and say, “Being authentic and staying authentic isn’t always the easiest route to take.” I can’t tell you so many people tell me, literally just had a meeting, we need to take this conference, “I’d love to come and be a part of it. We need to bump it up until we’ve gotten 1,000, 2,000 people coming to this.” I was like going, “Thanks but that’s just not where I want to go.” They’re like, “Then you’ll never going to make it.” I said, “Time will tell if that’s the truth or not. My target market tells me that’s what they love so why would I not pay attention to that?”
When you have this care for your audience, for your network, for your market that you’ve built for your podcast listeners, for your attendees and you care for them and you put them first, you know whether or not that’s right for you.
To be perfectly honest, I’d almost rather stick to my guns and know that I honored my target market and maybe my target market is too small to do what I want to do and we’ll see.
I don’t think it is. My gut says it’s not. I personally believe that there is a right fit formula, for lack of a better word, product. There’s a right fit way to monetize and provide real value to your audience, to your attendees, to your conference that can make it not only valuable for them that they want to attend but valuable for you that you can actually get paid what you need to put it on to have this not just be a passion project. It is going to be a passion project. That’s what you want. At the end of the day, it can’t be all passion and no financial benefit from it. It’s got to be both if it’s going to have longevity. It’s got to be sustainable.
For two reasons, one just something that’s sustainable, but for the second reason is I want to prove to freelancer business owners that a lot of their businesses started out as a passion project. They want to make something of that. “Let’s do that. Let’s figure it out. Let’s make sure that you have the tools and the skills and the platform to be successful.” If I’m not doing that, if I’m not standing and using my own principles and making that successful, then what am I doing?
I think it came to mind because you start it with the Intuit angle. Maybe that’s easy because every single freelancer has to deal with their books even though many of them don’t want to. I have to say, I’m one of those people that didn’t want to deal with the books in the beginning and I’m very grateful to have a partner who bounces me out. Even Tracy shouldn’t be doing those books. The reality is I’m a very creative type of person, much more creative-minded and when it comes to the numbers, I get it, they’re important and I like numbers, but I can’t do my own books. I’m not going to do that. The other thing that to me that’s universal, it’s related to this that would make so much sense is how many of these freelancers that have their own business entity, a formal entity not just a sole proprietor, but I would say have some business entity, S corp, an LLC, some actual technically-formed business, how many of them have that but really don’t know all of the danger they put themselves in for not keeping up with corporate formalities?
To me, that’s one of those universal things that they’re all potentially in danger of being out of compliance with something and there are ways that they can get support to make sure they are meeting those that don’t break the bank. They don’t know what they don’t know. They need to know those things. To me, there’s an opportunity there to provide them tremendous value that they don’t even know they needed. It’s like an unseen concern until somebody gets on the wrong side of either the IRS or a lawsuit or something and they realized, “Somebody has pierced my corporate veil because I wasn’t doing my documents, basic stuff.” We’ve been doing this business for over 25 years, so a form of one business or another or freelance in a way and all these things happen to you. You learn the hard way from those things. That’s why you’re building this network because you shouldn’t have to relearn the hard way every single time. Somebody knows the answer.
That’s one of the things I loved about the concept of a conference is because we can learn the lessons from our peers. Learn the lesson that, “I was driving down the road and I hit somebody’s car. If I make these car payments out of my business, they can now go after my entire business because of that.” Know what the potential repercussions are so that you can make the decisions instead of making the decision because your buddy said, “Go get an LLC and you’re covered. They can’t touch anything.” That’s not necessarily the truth.
You just want to reach out and protect them all. It is that care and that comes across in everything that you do, Emily, and that’s why we so appreciate that. That’s why I personally keep finding ways to support you whether it’s write an article or bring you on this podcast or show up at your events and speak because I passionately agree with you that that group needs protection. They need help. They need love. They need to be recognized.
This is our first year because last year we did the National Freelancer Awards. I’m super excited to do them next year. The first year was like the first year of the conference. People is like, “Why do you it 100 days?” I said, “Because your first year, you just need to get done.” They’re like, “Okay.” Sure enough, you make a big ordeal out of the second year and you’re like, “Is this your first year?” “No, this is our second year.” “That’s awesome.”
What parting words do you have for some of our podcasters out there who might be running on their own there about getting themselves some support?
I think it goes back to what we were just talking about earlier. I don’t know if I could say anything more powerful than to find who you want to go after that would make a great partnership and then find out what their needs are, what their initiatives are for whichever quarter or year you’re asking money for from and really go about creating a strategy. One book that I would suggest that every single person that listens to this goes and reads and listens to whatever is Pitch Anything. Even if you’re not planning to go after sponsorships, there is something in your business or there will be if there hasn’t already where you’re going to need to understand both sides of the conversation when you’re trying to get somebody to do something because you’re pitching.
Thank you so much, Emily. We really appreciate your time and your wisdom.
Podcast Freelancers Unite – Final Thoughts
What keeps ringing true to me is something Emily said that something we have been experiencing at many business networking events that we attend. It is this recurring theme that people in business for themselves, freelancers, solopreneurs, whatever you want to call them, they just don’t know what they don’t know. She’s providing a valuable resource, as far as I’m concerned, to help freelancers really learn and get educated to get some help or support for what they don’t know. No matter how good you are, none of us knows it all.
When I wrote the article on her in Inc. magazine, she summed it up to three basic rules of freelancing. I think they should be the same rules for podcasting. I want to bring them out. Her number one rule was know who you are. If your messaging is not clear, you will not work. You will not get more work. You will not get more listeners. It won’t work for you. Know who you are. That goes to that authenticity we were talking about. It’s the same thing. Number two, know what you offer. You should never be trying to do it all. That’s a huge mistake in freelancing we see all the time. It’s like, “I am a graphic designer but I can do anything. I’ll do this and I’ll do that.” If it’s not your forte, if you’re better in print than you are in digital, then don’t be offering it all. It’s a huge mistake. It always fails. It doesn’t get you more business. That’s the same thing I think about podcasting. If you know who you are and really what you can offer people that’s authentically you and not just say, “I should have a course but I’m not a teacher.” That’s not authentically you, then don’t. There’s a reason why we don’t have a course. It doesn’t feel authentically us.
We don’t advocate do-it-yourself podcasting. It’s against our brand. We could do it, so many others out there in the podcast base have offered a course that you could buy for anywhere from a couple $100 to maybe $400 or $500 to learn how to podcast. If you really want to do it yourself, there are plenty other good ones out there, I’ll even refer you to a couple. I don’t need to be doing that for you. Even though maybe I could make a few bucks that way, it’s just not authentically us and what we’re about. We’re about helping you market and grow your business using podcasting as a tool and to do that well means you don’t do it all yourself. In fact, you do as little of it yourself as you possibly can. It would be inauthentic too. If what we offered was that, it would attract the wrong people. It would be inauthentic to who we are and it would muddy our message. When you’re thinking about that, that’s why you shouldn’t be trying to do it all. I don’t need to be full service to every type of podcaster out there. We’re serving the ones that really want to grow a business.
Number three she has, know who your ideal client is. You cannot be everything to everyone. I think that goes all in mind. When you know who you are, know what you offer, and knows who your ideal client is, all of that definition makes it clear whether or not you should do something, you should say something, you should talk about something, and you should have the certain guest on your show. All of those things still apply to me. That’s the exact, perfect basic rules. It is really foundational. There may be a lot of you listening that are seasoned podcasters and are more seasoned and experienced in business that this is not your primary concern. We understand that, that’s fine. Not every episode is going to apply broadly to all of you listening here but certainly, newer podcasters and if you’re definitely more of an individual more than a business owner in some senses, a lot of these issues probably do apply to you.
At the end of the day, when I talk to a newbie group of freelancers, and I do because in the design world my readers for my Inc. column are freelancers in the creative fields in some way, shape or form, some of the advice I give them is the same advice that we find ourselves falling out of alignment with all the time. You start to feel a little desperate for the next dollar, your account feels a little low, you forgot to market for a while, you got in the marketing roller coaster, whatever that might be, and you’re getting a little low and you’re like, “I’ll take whatever job is next.” Then you abandoned your basics. You abandoned those three basics and you know they’re not the right client or they start demanding discounts. All of those red flags go off and you ignore them all because you have a bottom line need that is stressing you. I always advocate for going back to those bottom line needs because in the end, they serve you better. In the end, those difficult clients cost you more money. We had to fire clients, return their money because we made the wrong choices like that before. This is a case of taking that wrong podcast guest on because you felt like you had to have this particular person on and then you know the episode is not any good. Don’t air it. These are choices that you can make to stay strong to your basic rules and abide by them. At the end of the day, the ideas of attracting good sponsors should be more logical. It should be a better match.
I feel Emily is in the same place that many of our podcasters are with the sponsorship model. You’re just on that edge of being a little too small and maybe not having enough value demonstration because you haven’t done it long enough. You can’t completely identify the conversion rate if you want to call it that or the direct-value ratio. There’s this whole issue of how do you approach that. The real approach, I love the way that Emily put that, is that you just go into what they need and find out what they need, what their goals are, where they are and then say, “Does that align with me? If it does, then we’re going to co-create this together. Then we’re going to go into this together and we’re going to find a way to make it work.” When you approach it from that, it’s mutually beneficial sponsorship.
That’s really what we all are striving for. This is the thing that we struggle. We struggle here with, “Do we give away the trust of our audience without really demonstrating a knowledge or understanding of a sponsor?” If a sponsor comes to us and we don’t know who they are, we don’t know their brand, we haven’t had experience with them, it’s tempting because that’s the dollars that I don’t have to pay for to produce the show. It’s tempting but at the end of the day, I feel such a more compelling connection and responsibility to my audience, to make sure that the people that I’m putting in front of them and the sponsors that I’m putting in front of them and the products and brands are of great value. That they’re not being sold to or I’ve sold out on them. That’s more important to me. At the end of the day, that’s where a sponsor, if it’s a mutually-beneficial sponsor, if the sponsor’s a right match and I as a host or you as a host feel that way, that they are match for you, then they should be very excited about that. That endorsement rings a whole lot higher than someone who’s out there who will take any advertisement on their show that they can get. At the end of the day, those are the shows you stop listening to.
Finding that right match is so important. Finding where you can add value to that sponsor. It’s foundational and it all comes back to some things we’ve said on other past episodes about your brand, about knowing who you are and what you stand for and who you want to be talking to, who you want to be attracting as a listener, as a part of your following online, social media. You needed to find all that stuff. Once you do, a lot of these other issues just really go away. They fall right into place. For a lot of people who are running events or network groups, if you want to say that, the attendees are dropping off dramatically and yet some of them are still finding tremendous value. It’s the ones who provides support and ongoing value in between events. That’s really where I see the ones that do the most tremendous value.
We do have some podcasters and we do this ourselves with a membership group. We have a podcast specifically for that. That whole idea is to support between events or between virtual summits if that’s what you have, between workshops. You’ve got that and it’s providing the ongoing support for that. That’s a great way to use your podcast to create continual hype, awareness, excitement, education ongoing so that they move somewhere between one event to another. Maybe they want to come back because they’re at a different place in their business and now they can get something more. They can come back at a different level and get something new from you this time. Really thinking about that use of your podcast in that and not the events being the thing that you’re promo-ing from your podcast, but thinking of it as the ongoing service between your events.
That’s really what you have to do if you’re going to put on events. Not just to support people between events but that support is part of why people want to keep coming back to you next to that. It’s completely priming the pumps for that. It’s that constant engagement that I think people are looking for or certainly that if people get your event is top of mind and they want to keep coming back. I think that sponsorship conversation is easier to have then when you’re offering them an ongoing sponsorship model where they’re getting something every week there, an ad on an episode, and then there once or twice a year or whatever. However many times you have your event, they are the core sponsor of an event, they’re invited to give a talk, they’re a lunch sponsor, whatever it is that you offer them, that you’re offering them a bigger, broader package. On top of that, do not forget that also in our model of podcasting, you have your website. You have digital, you have audio, and you have live. Now, you’re really offering them a full-package sponsorship model and many multiple touch points with people that may be more valuable to them. That is also something unique that you are offering in that model of brandcasting business.
If you have any ideas or comments or you’d like to share them with us, please do that on Facebook @FeedYourBrand or go to the website, BrandcastingYou.com. Thanks so much for listening. We’ll be back next time. This has been Tom and Tracy on Feed Your Brand.
About Emily Leach
Emily has been called a pioneer in the world of uniquely-talented people who feel empowered to go beyond conventional jobs and create businesses from unique vantage points and perspectives. Her belief that those working for themselves deserve the same respect as those working for major corporations drives her tireless fight to ensure this growing population of “genetically unemployable” solo-preneurs are lifted up and celebrated for their courage and willingness to live their lives according to a new set of rules.
In 2014, The Freelance Conference (aka #FREECON) was brought to life to gather and support the growth of freelance business owners at an event only for them. The birth of #FREECON inspired Emily to start of The Freelance Association in 2015, a 501c3 freelance community designed to provide a safe space for freelancers to learn how to run their business.
Currently living in Austin, Texas, Emily’s outside interests include rowing, sailing, traveling, scuba diving, snowboarding, whitewater and cycling – basically, having adventures and living life to the fullest.
- Emily Leach
- Freelance Conference
- Austin Digital Jobs
- Pitch Anything
- Emily interview on Inc.
- Emily on Inc.
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