An Interview with Will Bachman of Umbrex- Find out how to scale your freelancing business

Show Notes:

Find out how to scale your freelancing business with Will Bachman!


Will Bachman, former nuclear-trained submarine officer and McKinsey alum. Co-founder of Umbrex, a global community connecting over 600 top-tier independent management consultants across 40 countries. Host of Unleashed – How to Thrive as an Independent Professional, an iTunes Careers Top 100 podcast. Graduate of Harvard College (Physics, summa cum laude) and Columbia Business School. Will invites you to connect with him on LinkedIn.

Raw Transcript

Get ready for freelancing strategies, hacks and tactics to help you skyrocket your success

brought to you by Freelancer masterclass

calm. You’re listening to freelancing school with your instructor Mike Volkin.

Okay, thank you for joining me today at Freelancer

school. Today we have with us a special guest will Bachman. He’s a formular I’m sorry, a former nuclear trained submarine officer and Mackenzie alumni. He is the co founder of rubrics, which is a global community connecting over 600 top tier independent management consultants across 40 different countries. And he is the host of one of my favorite podcast called unleashed how to thrive as an independent professional. I want to talk to him a little bit about that real quick to get started. But his podcast unleashed is an iTunes careers top 100 podcasts if you don’t subscribe to it, please do that right away. He is a graduate of Harvard College in physics Summa Cum Laude. And by the way, if that wasn’t good enough, he’s single commodity, and the Columbia Business School and I will invite you to connect with him on LinkedIn or I’ll put all the links in the show notes on both YouTube and the podcast. Well, thanks for joining me. Thank you. The pleasure unleashed the podcast. I love it. I don’t know if it’s a regular Is there a regular publication day?

Yes, we publish at least I call it weekly. Plus, we do at least one episode a week. We always do an interview episode on Monday. And then periodically they’ll be more of an essay type podcast, with just me talking episodes like 27 steps to set up your firm or recommendation on creating sample of sanitized work. So there’s some sap sins which appear periodically and then introduce every Monday.

Ok. Ok. So interviews on Monday Got that? Okay. I listened to your podcast and I’m at the gym and I was just wondering as they Thursday is unleashed. Is it a new one? Or, you know, I couldn’t quite get in that pattern. So thank you for explaining that. The first question I have for you,

I think I told you before, I know I told you before the interview that I

am a chemical chemical operations Sergeant or was in the army, and you are also a nuclear train submarine officer in the Navy. So, I certainly know that a lot of the lessons I learned in the army have carried over to my professional career. So I’m going to ask you the question that any of those lessons learned in the army as a nuclear train submarine officer carry on your professional career, especially as a self employed

professional? They sure did. When you’re,

you know, I think one of the key less the key skill for the 21st century, I think, is figuring out what to do next. And that was certainly something that was incumbent upon me as a, you know, in the military, particularly when you’re in port, and I was operating as the ship’s do. Officer kind of responsible for the whole ship for one day while everyone else was was off. Then kind of just figuring out what those next steps are and maintaining a list of all your action items, prioritizing those. That’s a skill that’s pretty widely transferable.

That’s true.

Yeah, I throw in one other one, which is the Navy is big on checklists and formal operating procedures. And that served me well both on operational improvement type projects, as well as you know, checklists are pretty widely applicable and useful any time that I have to do more than two things.

Yeah, in a freelancer masterclass, we turn we talk about AAR, after action review, which is what I learned in the army. It’s basically after you do a battlefield exercise or really any exercise where there’s multiple troops and you know, coverts involved, you would go through a checklist of what went good, what went bad, how to make it better. Did you guys also do that in the Navy, something similar,

Mike? Sure. And that’s, that’s a great example. And that’s A great practice that the army really does very well. Similar thing in the Navy, primarily after you know, something goes wrong, we always do an incident report. It’s a great practice to do on some periodic basis, I try to do it after every project wraps up. And also after the end of each week, just reflect back on what went well this week. What could I have done better, give yourself some feedback, it’s

really the best way to move. I do it in two main areas. I do it when I look at my monthly p&l for my company profit and loss. And I also do it after each prospect call. I want to know how it went, how I can improve maybe improve conversions. Maybe I talk too much or too little. Maybe I didn’t answer a question. So I always do a ours for four key areas of conversion of my company. So

this is like a written thing or just like in your mind, if you actually write it down and document

out. Now it’s in my mind, but for many years, I did a written and I had like an aggregate spreadsheet going so I can look at conversion numbers and all that stuff. So Yeah, I was I was very, I guess, adamant about procedures. I guess I still am. But everything was written back in the, in the day, you know, when I was trying to scale and have multiple employees now I’m kind of consolidating and trying to do a lot of it myself. I have a couple key employees I rely on but yeah, yeah, I just army taught me all those practices, you know. So let me ask you this. You own a company. you attended Harvard, Columbia, you on a farm, you wrote a children’s book, which I’ve done, by the way, we should talk about the chuck the children’s book. you’ve walked 800 kilometers to Spain. What’s your next goal? What do you got going on? You’re a very interesting, dynamic person.

Well, thanks, Mike. Let’s see. Um, you know, some of my goals going forward are number one, looking for ways to kind of grow the audience of my podcast unleashed. Put probably a lot more effort in the first 200 episodes. into creating content versus figuring out how do you grow the audience for that. So that’s, that’s one area working, improving the website for rubrics. We’re doing the directions, we’re working to create a community that connects top tier independent management consultants with one another. And we feel we’re really just getting started. We have little over 600 members now. But we see that as more and more people become independent consultants, or pursue that independent professional path, there’s more and more, you know, opportunity and need for to be know to create those connections. So I guess the third thing I mentioned is I just finished recording a 17 video course on how to set up your own consulting practice. And so that’s now being edited and getting ready for the website. So I’m hoping to have that live in three or four weeks.

Wow 70 videos that’s great Freelancer masterclass has 68 so you beat me by two, but we’re always adding some. So what is the the key word there was connects on? Let’s connect what is the purpose? What is the primary goal around connecting? Is it collaborating, sharing resources? Is it sharing leads and prospects? What’s the goal there?

Well, it’s all those things, Mike. There’s a big opportunity to just share lessons learned. You know, a lot of folks they leave a large consulting firm, maybe directly or they spend time You know, its head of strategy somewhere and then they said, Hey, I want to go set up my own practice. We know how to be consultants, right how to do consulting, but running a consulting practice is you know, with you with your show is much different thing. How do you write a statement of work, write a proposal, find an accountant, find a bookkeeper, find an attorney, do contracts, you know, do your taxes, finding a graphics person, all of these things? It’s not something that you learned when you were at a big professional services for

Yeah, very true.

Being able to have this hallway conversations with people going through something similar in a similar background, there’s a lot of value in that.

Yeah, yeah, I can definitely see the value of that collaboration. We have something called the inner circle referral network where all the freelance master class graduates get together and share resources, right. So you don’t have to you don’t have to tell me about collaboration, the importance of that super important. So what I like to do for these podcasts is give actionable advice. Something that people the audience, the listeners can take away. So let’s talk about scalability and freelancers, you know, even freelancers that are experienced, but mostly this question is geared towards beginner freelancers, one that are just starting out, and they can’t even imagine, you know, scaling your company to six figures or even beyond. So can you give our freelancers some advice on on how they can scale their business faster than maybe a normal Freelancer would who isn’t listening to the show or podcast you have any quick tips or actionable tips for them? I’ll put you on the spot there.

Yeah, sure. So I guess the first question is, is large what the first observation is that larger scaled is not necessarily more profitable. Very true. Yeah. So that’s a real decision to make. And I think that people shouldn’t feel obligated to scale. Just because like, you know, people say, Oh, you have a lifestyle business, you know, just one person, you can be a very profitable Freelancer as a one person shop. And if you want to go that route, then you can, you know, there’s only two dimensions, it’s pretty simple formula, what’s your utilization in terms of days per year, and your rate per day. So you can try to either get more utilization, or you can increase your rate per day. And the real way to increase your rates per day is increase the value that you can deliver to your clients by increasing your skills. Yeah. So that’s one path, right? So if you want to scale that direction, it’s about figuring out how you can deliver more value. And it’s, it’s skills but it’s also the relationships that you have, what assets you own. So can you bring Intellectual property to bear, can you be a connector and connect other people to that client? Right? What more value can deliver? If it’s a built, if it is about scaling in terms of if you’re trying to build a boutique practice as opposed to being a purely a freelancer? Well, I can get into that. Like, what what’s entailed in that if you want any kind of

Sure, yeah, please do. Yeah.

Alright. So for folks that want to go that path number one is, and I’ll grab this book off, because I love this book by David A fields. Highly recommend the irresistible consultants guide to winning clients by David A fields, right.

That’s my reading list. I haven’t seen that one before.

I’ve given out 100 copies of that book, and he really walks you through this. The first step is if you’re building a firm is figuring out what clients are you going to serve, and what problems are you going to work on? And, you know, David talks about when you’re thinking about problems, you want to work on the Problems are pervasive. Why clients have them. They’re expensive if not addressed in their urgent, even before you think about Do I have the skills to solve it is figuring out what those problems are. And coming up with a fishing line, we can crisply communicate that if you’re an individual, you can be a little bit more flexible. But if you’re building a firm, you have to really be known for something. So, and some people want to keep it somewhat broad and generic. But the broader you are, you think, Oh, I have a bigger target. So I’m going to get more client opportunities, but it actually works in reverse. So the narrower and more focused your service offering is, the more you’re going to be memorable and appeal to that audience. Right. So

target everyone, you’ll get no one that’s a common phrase. You know, I like to say so

there’s only so much jam and the broader spread the thinner this. I know

and it’s hard for freelancers to swallow they might think oh well the pool so big like I do search engine optimization. I don’t want to narrow myself down. Well, guess what, then you’re going to be just a sea of everybody else competing for the lowest possible price. And that’s not the way you want to win client. So,

versus I do search engine optimization for outdoor companies based in Seattle.

Right? Exactly.

Yeah. Now you’re, you know, focused on a niche,

you can build a very fine career just with that very targeted niche right there and have no issues getting clients.

So I mean, so that targeting is important. And then it’s, then there’s the infrastructure of your firm, and there’s building your team. So in terms of infrastructure, we could certainly probably spend, you know, like you said, You’ve done 68 videos, and we could spend the whole sessions on that. But certainly, having a CRM system in place is absolutely critical. I recommend pipe drive and I did an episode on on unleashed about that in Episode 172 about how to set it up for a boutique consulting practice. So you’re managing, you need to find some way to raise your visibility. I think there’s really two main ways to raise your visibility. One is through thought leadership, creating content like you’re doing Mike with your with your podcast, thought leadership and creating human interactions. So on the thought leadership side, there’s a whole is a wide range of channels you can choose. And it’s something you know, that could be a blog, podcasts, YouTube videos, white papers, LinkedIn posts, think of it and in some cases, if you do, pick one like podcasts, you can repurpose some of that content, turn it into blog posts or tweets or LinkedIn posts. And then you I think, thought leadership is critical creating some form of content because it’s a way to do to remind your advertising if you you know, creating content allows you to you know, post on LinkedIn regularly like hey, I just did this episode, I just published this white paper just published this article, just remind people That you exist, even if they don’t read it. Yeah, even if they don’t read it, you’re reminding people like oh, yeah, you know, Mike exists, yeah will exist. Number and part of that thought leadership if you can incorporate and actually involve your target clients in that content creation, that’s even better. Right? The major consulting firm thing is to pick some topic and then go survey 20 executives, and say we interview 20 executives, and then quote them and so forth in the in the thought leadership piece, and then you send it back out to them, and, you know, brief them on it, and they feel involved in it. So that’s the classic. The other part human interactions, you can think about one on one, and more than one, so the one on one, it’s, you know, there’s really in person meetings, phone calls and kind of electronic communications and emails. Yeah, my view No, I agree with David fields is really, in you think about the cost of those versus the benefit. The the benefit of one on one meeting of the impact that you have, is by far the highest, but it’s also by far the highest cost in terms of your time. Yeah, whereas emails are the opposite. It’s quick and easy, but it doesn’t really create that much memory phone calls are probably the sweet spot, in terms of it’s a warm medium. You know, it’s it’s a warm interaction, but it’s very low cost in terms of your time. So getting comfortable making a lot of phone calls it organizing more than one on one interaction, you know, organizing a small group breakfast of executives who are not competitive, but might have something to share with one another and you’re that connector. That’s another great way. So I’m kind of rambling on here to talk about is this you know, this is kind of the basis of lead generation is you just got to be got to remind people that you exist,

nothing can no matter what technology comes nothing replaces the in person one on one even though that is expensive in terms of time, and who knows how to Get there. I’ve flown across the country to meet clients before prospects but the conversion is just so much higher. And things like this like zoom. Help to they provide a bridge between phone calls and in person, right. So that’s always a good option.

Oh, yeah. Zoom is the way to go. I love zoom. I use it myself. And it’s, I mean, it’s definitely a couple steps above Delvon, and you’re seeing me I’m seeing you it’s a much warmer interaction than even the phone.

Exactly. So if you were to pick one mistake that freelancers typically make, but can avoid. What would that mistake be? What What advice would you give them to say don’t do this or do this, that most freelancers that don’t listen to content like this wouldn’t know?

All right. Okay. So I’ll give you probably your other guests and giving you like really profound ones. Let me give you a like a trivial one, but an easy one to avoid. Right. From day one, Lot of context is day one, start treating it. Like you’re truly a professional, right? Like you’re serious about this. Thinking about. And what that means is a couple implications of that is come up with a name for your firm and create an LLC. All right, get yourself a corporate entity. Don’t mess around just operating on your social security number treat it like a business. Yes. Let’s follow on piece of that is, you know, get branded email, whether use G Suite or some Microsoft thing. Don’t go around using an AOL com address, right or Yahoo. com. Yes.

Production and credibility when you do.

I mean, you wouldn’t hire like an accountant or attorney or bookkeeper that was going around using an address. It makes it seem like you know, they’re in the 90 So yeah, grow up. Treat it like a professional, you know, get a professional logo made. Get it perfect. You know, get a website, get business cards, get some correspondence. Guards Get yourself a PowerPoint load template if that’s what you do, you know branded and treat it like a professional.

Yes, absolutely good tips G Suite basic, which gives you an email address for your domain is $6 a month. You know, hey, a logo is $5 in fiber, fiber calm it’s not not that something that’s out of reach back in 30 years ago, you had to hire a graphic designer, an artist to make it custom logo, none of that is needed anymore. So take advantage of the times that we live in. So how can our audience find and follow you online and your advice? You got unbraced

un var x com? Is that right?

Yeah, it stands for umbrella of excellence. You MD RX calm and go to the unleashed tab. You can you can check out the podcast. Mike include my LinkedIn URL in the show notes. Well, let me just mention that you know, this is where you where you heard it. And yeah, those are the best places on the ground like this.

Yeah, put a link into your LinkedIn profile so people can connect with you as well. Thanks so much for joining us today. And yeah, touch base you very soon. Hopefully we can have you on a future.

Like it’s been a pleasure. Thanks for having me on the show.

Thank you. See you later.

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