Seth Godin is a man I’ve been idolizing for many years.
I’ve learned so much from this man over the years and ever since I started working online as a freelancer, I found his advice to be invaluable.
Especially after following his Freelancer Course on Udemy, I was able to pick up a few valuable lessons to improve my freelancing career. For example, in one of the videos of his course, Seth explain the value of collecting testimonials from the clients we work with and using it to land better clients in the future. I’ve been asking for testimonials from my clients ever since.
Through this article, I will share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned from Seth Godin’s blog, books, lectures, interviews, and online courses. Hopefully, you’ll be able to pick up a few things to advance your freelance career as well.
Who Is Seth Godin?
For those of you who are not familiar with the name Seth Godin, let me explain why this man is such a legend in the world of freelancing and marketing.
Seth Godin is a best-selling author who wrote amazing books such as Purple Cow and Linchpin. He’s a public speaker and an entrepreneur who launched ventures such as Squidoo and he also worked at Yahoo as the VP of direct marketing.
But, above all, Seth is a freelancer, just like you and me. He’s actually been freelancing for many decades and he’s living proof that you could make a long-lasting career as a freelancer.
As he puts it, one of the reasons why he loves being a freelancer is because it gives him “a chance to do great work. Not because we’re told to do it, but because we can do it!”
#1 Treat Your Work As Art
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from Seth early on is learning to “treat work as art.” It’s because art is something that we truly enjoy creating. We don’t create art expecting to earn money. We don’t care about the money as long as we love creating our art and we just want people to enjoy it as much as we do.
If you could create a mindset to treat your freelance work as art and just focus on doing the thing you love and create amazing art, then all the other issues like finding clients, getting paid, and competing with other freelancers fade away.
If you focus on giving value, then it will pay you back.
The art Seth refers to here is not the type of art DaVinci creates. No, this is about creating work that’s more valuable than the others. Doing work a different way than the other freelancers. That’s how you become indispensable to your clients.
Not by doing tasks for the cheapest rate. It’s by adding more value, like saying “Alright, your other freelance writer delivered your blog articles as Word documents. Let me find the images, proofread the article, and upload it to your blog myself.”
#2 Lowballing Will Never Make You Successful
In one of the podcast interviews of Seth Godin, he gives a great example of trying to win by lowballing.
Seth starts his example by challenging the interviewer to take a $5 dollar bill, go to a train or bus station, and try and sell that $5 dollar bill for just $1 dollar to a complete stranger.
It sounds like the perfect deal, right? If someone were to turn down a deal like that he would be an idiot. But, the reality is 99% of the time, people will reject that deal. They will say NO to you because we, as humans, are hardwired in our brains to say NO to deals that look too good to be true.
We start thinking this $5 dollar bill must be a fake. Why else would someone try to sell it for just $1 dollar? Our immediate reaction is to think that it’s a scam because it just sounds too good.
If you think about, this lesson can also be applied to freelancers who try to lowball their way to winning clients. Offering the lowest price doesn’t make you a more suitable option. It only arouses suspicion.
#3 Become Relevant
Most things that start out looking so great doesn’t stay the same for much long. Almost everything in our lives falls victim to evolution.
The magical cassette tape that allowed us to record and listen to songs on-the-go got replaced by CDs and then CDs got replaced by digital streaming. The mobile phones we loved got replaced by smartphones.
Same can be said about careers, jobs, and work. Designing a website is not the same as it was 10 years ago. Writing articles for websites and magazines is not the same as it was 5 years ago.
The freelance world around us is constantly changing and we need to evolve with it to stay relevant and keep advancing in our careers. We need to keep learning, keep improving our skills, keep practicing, and keep trying new things to stay above the average.
I’m proud to say that Seth is the one who helped me realize this.
#4 Create “Remarkable” Services
Seth starts off most of his lectures by explaining the meaning of the word “Remarkable”. It means something that’s worth making a remark about. And he follows it up with an example from his book, Purple Cow.
He explains how people never care about ordinary things. Like seeing a herd of cows. Cows look so ordinary that you’d never even notice them even if they walk all around you. But imagine how excited you would feel if there was a Purple Cow in that herd. You’d probably stop everything that you’ve been doing to go see it, right?
The point is, even in the world of freelancing clients rarely notice the normal freelancers who offer the same services as others do. You need to create truly remarkable services to get noticed.
Don’t be a freelance writer. Be a freelance writer who write the most amazing blog articles. Don’t be a web designer. Be a web designer that develops the most effective landing pages.
#5 Give It All You’ve Got, Every Time
Thanks to our school systems and our parents, we are all raised to believe that people expect more from us. So, we hold back a little just in case when we need to give it a little more.
It’s like delivering an essay to your teacher and when the teacher says this is not good enough, you do it even better. Did we have to wait for our teachers to tell us before giving it all we’ve got?
Seth shows how powerful this concept is during a lecture where he asks the audience to raise their hands as high as they can. When they do, Seth asks them to raise them a little higher. And the audience raises higher than before. And he asks what was that about? Why did the audience held back the first time when he asked to raise hands as high as they can?
Our society trains us to hold back a little. It trains us to fit into an interchangeable system. You get fired from a job at a factory, your job gets replaced the next day. It’s that easy to replace you.
Seth encourages all freelancers to be irreplaceable. Make art. Invent new ways to do things. Deliver as much value as you can. And give it all you’ve got each and every time.
That’s how you become indispensable. The clients won’t be able to fire you because there’s no one else that does work like you do.
Seth gives another great example for that as well. He tells us about a village in China where people copy thousands of famous paintings each day into cheap replicas. And he then asks us: Do you want to be an artist creating art or the person who copy that art into cheaper copies?
#6 Do Work Outside Your Comfort Zone
When a friend who’s a freelancer came to Seth to ask for advice to figure out why she can’t find work. Seth was able to come up with over 10 different ideas that she could use to find work. But, she had refused those options saying she’s not comfortable with doing that type of work.
When you’re struggling to find work, you need to leave that comfort zone that you’ve created for yourself. There are opportunities all around you that you don’t see because of that comfort zone that you’ve created for yourself.
It’s like how most freelancers complain they can’t find any work on UpWork when clearly there are other platforms and other ways to find work. Go try something new, reach out to a client directly and ask for work. Or apply for a job that you’ve never tried before.
It’s incredible how much you can learn when you keep an open mind and try to look at things differently. In a way, Seth Godin has always been the freelance mentor that I’ve never had.
Even though I’ve never met the man in person, I will continue to follow his lessons, ideas and continue to evolve by learning.