Focus on the problem you’re solving, not the service you’re providing [Q&A]



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Brennan Dunn was my guest on this Q&A session. Brennan is the author of the hugely successful ‘How to Double Your Freelancing Rate’ Book. So in this 18 minute all-action session I wanted to dig into the methodology behind that and take a look at building products, another aspect of business growth Brennan is an advocate of.

You can find Brennan at brennandunn.com and on the excellent Planscope Blog.

Most paths are not planned

We opened with that statement, which at the time we kind of glossed over but I thought I ought to mention this; business is rarely planned out 5 years in advance. We’ve all made New Years resolutions that are floundering by February and business growth is no different. I advocate planning quarterly in advance. Which 3 things will make the biggest impact in your business over that period. If you can attain those ‘mini-victories’ it’ll do wonders for your momentum. Anyway, I digress – back to the highlights.

Clients hire you to solve a problem, not provide a skill

If you could take one statement from this Q&A session and frame it on your wall it should be this. Your prospective don’t hire you to write, design or develop, they hire you to solve a problem within their business. Does your client really care if it takes you 10 hours or 1000 hours to achieve that goal?

This thinking is at the heart of my latest playbook Hourly Rates Don’t Matter. In that book I’ve aimed to lay out in a concise 40 page guide how to switch your mindset from hourly rate (cost-plus) billing to a value-led approach and I’ve put together a 10 section proposal structure template.

Brennnan sums this up perfectly when he goes on to say “focus on the goal instead of the deliverable, make yourself an investment rather than an expense”.

Build products, start small

As a firm advocate of building products (books, workshops, communities, software) Brennan of course recommends this approach as an ideal medium for breaking away from the hourly rate paradigm. I enjoyed what he had to say about starting points, reflecting that ideally he wouldn’t have started with a SAAS product. This is something I recommend too; start small, focus on the problem and provide value. Brennan went on to underscore the benefit of rolling in this same ‘value first’ mindset into building products:

“Just solve the problem. the more you can align the positioning of your product / service to the outcome the client wants the better chance you have of making the sale. The risk factor is much lower for the client taking on the investment.”

You want an audience? Teach!

If you are looking to build an audience and improve your online reputation there are no shortcuts; almost everyone you respect within your space will be providing value at some level, and be teaching what they know. Brennan had some interesting comments on that:

“If you want to be the A list online freelancer, be the go-to expert blog…. Teach people, host your own events, deliver them value, make them an advocate”

On that note we’ll wrap up, hope you enjoyed this session. If you learned something from this, please share. Most advice for freelancers sucks, together we can help change that. You can find Brennan at You can find Brennan at brennandunn.com and on the excellent Planscope Blog.

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