Episode #13 - Tom Hirst on running a successful freelancing business for over a decade

Tom Hirst talks all things freelancing and how he's been successfully running his own freelancing development business for 11+ years

In this Episode

For this episode, freelancing legend Tom Hirst shares his journey into self-employment. Tom is based in Yorkshire and he’s enjoyed a successful freelancing career for the past 11 years, specialising in WordPress development.

Tom also runs a mentorship program to help other aspiring freelancers to help get into the freelancing life and start their own successful self-employment careers.

Tom shares his super valuable freelancing tips, tricks and advice right here in episode 3 of season 2.

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We mention a few different resources in the show and you can find them here:

You can find out more about me, Rob Kendal, on my personal website, or follow me on Twitter.


[00:00:00] Rob Kendal: [00:00:00] Welcome everyone. To episode three, we have season two, I’m going to lose track of where I am and all the seasons and episodes.

[00:00:05] But here we are, and we’ve got the freelancing legend that is Tom Hirst with us today. Based in Yorkshire, just down the road from me. he’s enjoyed a successful freelancing career for the past 11 plus years. Is that right?

[00:00:16] Tom Hirst: [00:00:16] Yeah, that’s right, Rob.

[00:00:18] Rob Kendal: [00:00:18] It is specializing in WordPress development. Tom also runs a mentorship program to help other aspiring freelancers to help get into freelancing life and start their own successful self-employment careers.

[00:00:28] So, Hey Tom, how’s it going?

[00:00:30] Tom Hirst: [00:00:30] Hi, Rob. I’m all good mate.

[00:00:32] Rob Kendal: [00:00:32] Yeah. Exciting, exciting week.

[00:00:34] Tom Hirst: [00:00:34] Yeah. Exciting, busy doing a lot of, writing at the minute, so I’m trying to get the book out and also, you know, just keeping up with the client work and stuff like that. So yeah, it’s been, it’s been a busy one.

[00:00:46] Rob Kendal: [00:00:46] Yeah, I think, if you’re anything like me, I don’t think you, I don’t think you appreciate kind of how, or how much you taken on when you, cause I’m doing a course at the minute. I’m trying to write a cost and you kind of think, yeah, I couldn’t find a spare sort of five or six hours a week. And then whatever it is and then a day job and to have a kid and all the rest of it.

[00:01:03] And you quickly, we quickly realize that your ambition has outweighed your talent.

[00:01:07] Tom Hirst: [00:01:07] exactly. It feels like a good idea when you start it and then you get to a point. And you’re like, Oh shit, this is really happening. And I really don’t have enough time, but I’m gonna have to find it somewhere.

[00:01:17] Rob Kendal: [00:01:17] I feel like freelancing is becoming quite the hot topic at the moment, maybe because of COVID and people are getting made redundant and redundancy for some reason, seems to fuel. a lot of peoples kind of launch into their own self employment career. but I think more people are looking at it and how they can get into freelancing.

[00:01:34] So, I mean, tell us a little bit about how you, how you got into it.

[00:01:37] Tom Hirst: [00:01:37] So let me, my, my freelancing story is not really that interesting really, because I don’t have, you know, a big work history that led me to freelancing. I just got into it straight away out of university. I did it a degree, I went to college first, did some A levels, went to university, did a degree, came out of university and I mean, I’d always wanted to work for myself.

[00:01:59] So [00:02:00] when I applied for my, you know, the first job I did it a little bit, let’s say I didn’t put as much effort into it as what I probably should have to try and get it. I didn’t get the job and I just thought, you know what, I’m going to get this freelancing thing ago. 11 years later here I am.

[00:02:13] Rob Kendal: [00:02:13] Amazing. and yeah, I mean, you’ve, you’ve been doing it for over 11 years. That’s that’s huge. You know what I mean? What, what are the secrets of your long, long reign

[00:02:21] Tom Hirst: [00:02:21] I think hard work and luck both played a part. but I mean, I think that the primary thing is that the business of freelancing is something that’s always interested me. I’m from a pretty heavy business background, cause my dad’s an accountant. So. I’ve always done my own, like entrepreneurial mindset.

[00:02:40] And I’ve always had, you know, his mentorship to guide me in that side of things. So I think having a strong interest in business, as well as, you know, the web development stuff that I do as a service for freelancing, I think that’s really stood me in good stead.

[00:02:55] Rob Kendal: [00:02:55] That’s gotta be super handy. having a father who’s an accountant because I mean, I can’t tell you how much I hate accountancy. I don’t mind the kind of boring admin things like sending invoices and like doing like organizing. I love organizing things. Love it, but like just working out tax, it’s just insane.

[00:03:11] Tom Hirst: [00:03:11] Yeah, it’s, it’s a minefield. And then having to good accountant and, you know, it’s so, so important for freelancers. I always say that, you know, a good accountant will always save you more money than what they cost you and, it’s. Yeah, it’s the number one recommended thing that I tell all of the freelancers to do is get that account in place.

[00:03:28] Luckily for me, mine’s free of charge.

[00:03:30] Rob Kendal: [00:03:30] Oh, even better. I think it is. I mean, you’ve got to, I mean, if, even just from a, time point of view, the time that you will save, you know, if you have to spend even something small, like a couple of hours a week, doing your books or whatever, you know, I, I think that’s time that you can get back.

[00:03:46] I mean, that’s like a quarter of a day, you know, you could do like literally any other work with it,

[00:03:49] Tom Hirst: [00:03:49] Exactly. And, and you get, you get a better end result as well. You know, it’s like, it’s like when we want people to hire us, you know, cause we’re professionals and we give good results better than what they could do with [00:04:00] themselves. That’s exactly the same thing as those hiring accountants as freelancers.

[00:04:03] Right.

[00:04:04] Rob Kendal: [00:04:04] No, absolutely. It is. Yeah. I mean, how did you, how did you get into the, the WordPress route? Did you kind of, was that something that you, you niched on straight from the start or was it kind of just your experience or?

[00:04:14] Tom Hirst: [00:04:14] Yeah. I mean, the final year project that I did for, for university is kind of where I stumbled on WordPress for the first time. I mean, but when I was about 15 or 16, I did a college course after school on HTML. So I kind of had some web experience anyway, but that obviously fast forward to being 22 during my last, you know, my final project at university, that was, it was like a multimedia kind of degree.

[00:04:41] So it wasn’t like web heavy. It wasn’t programming heavy, but you had a bit of free reign for your final projects. And, mine was the brief was to create some kind of marketing material for, you know, an entity of your choice, basically. And, I ended up doing my uncle’s band’s website in WordPress. So, so through, yeah, so Balmy Surplus, the band was called original.

[00:05:05] yeah, I settled on WordPress because that’s just where I discovered it. And I just remember following tutorials, how to build my own custom theme and things like that. And then, yeah, I just got super interested in WordPress. I saw that the market was growing exponentially and you know, there was a big opportunity there to specialize.

[00:05:22] I found that being to broad, you know, advertising my services just as a web developer, you know, in, in the general sense, just didn’t really get me anywhere. So I thought I’ve got this specific knowledge in WordPress. Why not, you know, a niche to it and market myself towards these people that need this skill, you know, specifically.

[00:05:41] Rob Kendal: [00:05:41] No, absolutely. That sounds like a great idea. I mean, it is one of those powers about, you know, something stupid, like the nearly 40% of the web is kind of WordPress. You know, even if people don’t have a WordPress site. They’re familiar with it at least.

[00:05:54] Tom Hirst: [00:05:54] Yeah. And the thing is like with WordPress, it gets a bad rap in some circles, but the [00:06:00] users love it. Like everyone I work with, like, they’ll, you know, they’ll come to me and they’ll say, look, we want to keep our WordPress website. How can we make it better? Or, you know, we want to do, I don’t know, some headless WordPress stuff.

[00:06:10] They actually, the backend of WordPress. They enjoy using it they’re familiar with it, all their content’s based on it. And they don’t really want to move away from it. So I don’t really understand why it gets such a bad rap when it says a really good purpose for a lot of people.

[00:06:24] Rob Kendal: [00:06:24] It’s almost like, you know, when you get this stereotypical, like vicious dog, like a Rottweiler, it’s a vicious dog and it’s like, it’s not, it’s just normally owned by people who make it a vicious dog and it just happens to be big.

[00:06:35] Tom Hirst: [00:06:35] That’s a great analogy.

[00:06:36] Rob Kendal: [00:06:36] I do I do occasionally come up with them.

[00:06:38] I think WordPress is somehow very similar. because it lets you like just install plugins and there’s like a plugin for everything. People just like fill it full of plugins, fill it full of really JavaScript-heavy themes that are kind of, they bog it down and they don’t take any security steps, it’s it makes it out of the box, kind of quite hackable and quite slow and awful. And I think because it makes it so easy for people to do it themselves, they do it themselves. And then it, it just ends up like some terrible nightmare, but then of course the reputation spreads that it’s like this horrendous burning garbage fire.

[00:07:07] It’s not, it’s just misused badly, but it’s, it’s a tool like anything.

[00:07:11] Tom Hirst: [00:07:11] Yeah, exactly. I think, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head that it gets a bad rap from the people that use it badly. Not necessarily that it’s, you know, across the board, a bad tool. you know, there’s so many successful websites and big websites and enterprise websites using WordPress. So, you know, it can’t, it can’t be all that bad can it?

[00:07:28] Rob Kendal: [00:07:28] Absolutely. Don’t don’t Disney use WordPress?

[00:07:31] Tom Hirst: [00:07:31] Yeah, I think they do and I’m some of the big magazines, the tech magazines, is it Verge are one of, one of them Tech Crunch. I think he might be actually, I’m pretty sure that they, they use the WordPress as well.

[00:07:42] Rob Kendal: [00:07:42] And well, speaking of big people using WordPress, you’ve got some impressive clients in your worked with section, including NHS and Facebook and BMW. do you have like a favorite project or, or client that you’ve you’ve worked with to date?

[00:07:57] Tom Hirst: [00:07:57] I mean, the NHS one was really cool [00:08:00]I worked with like a, the marketing manager at the Royal Marsden down in London, and we built, it was like an intranet based on WordPress, essentially. It was like a, you know, an internal hope information, hope, you know, and we have separate sections for kind of, kind of like, well, you know, the staff, rules and requirements and, you know, information and like, the staff could go in and write their own articles and things like that. And people could comment and converse between each other. So that was a real interesting one to do because, you know, obviously it was for a good cause.

[00:08:30] And, yeah, it was, he was kind of using WordPress in a non traditional way, which has kind of paved the way for the stuff that, you know, I’ll do now that I want to do in the future.

[00:08:39] Rob Kendal: [00:08:39] No. Awesome. Was it, was it kind of the, the NHS project maybe that, spring-boarded you into like the upper echelons or like bigger projects and things like that? Or was it just was it, like you said, it made you kind of recognize that’s the kind of thing I want to aim for?

[00:08:52] Tom Hirst: [00:08:52] Yeah, I wouldn’t say that that one was like a gateway to two other bigger jobs. I think it, the, the big thing for me was like what you said, you know, secondary, It really highlighted to me what I enjoy doing and what I want to do more often probably where my skills are, which is in, you know, using WordPress in ways that you might not think of.

[00:09:12] and, and using it with the, you know, of coupling it with other tools, which is, which is why I’m trying to get into more and headless WordPress stuff right now.

[00:09:19] Rob Kendal: [00:09:19] Yeah, that’s really exciting . I’ll come onto that in a bit. But I did, I did look about with, with Gatsby and things and it’s, it’s incredible to just completely separate it out. So you don’t have this burning turd of a website that’s over bloated with plugins and stuff. It just sits there doing its really excellent job of managing content, letting users just put in what they want and you can put in the advance custom fields and everything else, and then you just do whatever you want in the front end, completely decoupled, I mean, there’s other ways to do it, but I’ve just done it with Gatsby because it makes it so much easier and I’m already a React fan-boy anyway so

[00:09:48] Talking about WordPress and the direction it’s gone in, it’s changed a lot in recent times with the Gutenberg editor and, you know, open up the rest API, which isn’t brand new, but it’s kind of one of those, I think it’s only now starting to get really [00:10:00] a lot more used with, with this kind of headless and decoupling thing.

[00:10:03] What are some of your you know, some of the things on the WordPress roadmap, either present or coming up that your, quite excited about, is there anything that gets you pretty fired up about WordPress deving?

[00:10:13] Tom Hirst: [00:10:13] aside from the headless stuff, I mean, to be honest, that’s what, that’s why I’m putting a lot of my attention. tech wise, I mean, Gutenberg, I’m still on the fence about to be honest, because maybe I’m a traditionalist and I’m used to, you know, the, the old editor and, you know, extend in via ACF, custom fields and things like that.

[00:10:31] but yeah, Gutenberg just feels still a little bit clunky to me while I am excited about it, I am also wary. Because what I do it a lot is, transition people from like, legacy, pre five point, naught backends to Gutenberg and a lot of the time they just don’t get it. And it, it takes a lot of, time, I guess, you know, to progress from the old editor to the Gutenberg editor.

[00:10:52] So while I do think it’s, you know, a step in the right direction overall, I think that it’s, yeah, proceed with caution kind of thing. In terms of developing sites for clients using it.

[00:11:02] Rob Kendal: [00:11:02] Yeah. We’ve we felt that way. I mean, the first thing I think that you get when you’ve got a set of practices and processes for like developing sites, very good robust sites in a very efficient manner is as soon as something massive comes on the horizon and like this tsunami that was like Gutenberg everything’s different.

[00:11:17] And you saw the initial reaction is to kind of panic because you’re like, Oh God is everything I’m currently doing, going to be supported and it kind of wasn’t that bad, but yeah, I, I know what you mean. It just felt like WordPress sat in a room and have gone ‘how could we make WordPress a bit more like Wix? and, and yeah, and I think if you don’t have the support for it in the front end, Yeah. It ends up being a bit of a, an interesting thing.

[00:11:37] Tom Hirst: [00:11:37] Yeah, I think he, I think it was definitely like a marketing move as opposed to what works now. Yeah. You know what I mean? It’s like, for me, WordPress was kind of, if it’s not broken down, fix it. Like I liked how it was. I thought it worked really well. you know, for the scenarios I used it for anyway, you know, in terms of custom websites that have got enough control, but not to them, [00:12:00] if you get what I’m saying, And I think Gutenberg just kind of opens up a Pandora’s box of potential issues, for customization and making things.

[00:12:08] Look, it just makes it harder to really the devs to put guidelines in place for clients to keep the site looking nice, but be able to manage their own content. yeah, that’s that’s my overriding feeling anyway.

[00:12:19] Rob Kendal: [00:12:19] Well, then I suppose, you know, with, with the Gatsby stuff, you decouple, in some respects, it kind of just reads the content out in similar fashion. My experience of it so far, and I’ll admit that’s fairly light, but it seems to just read the content out is whatever the content is. so it doesn’t seem to worry about it too much so they can just put whatever they want the back end, and we’ll just get out of the front and massage into the nice expensive coloring in that we, that we like to do.

[00:12:42] Tom Hirst: [00:12:42] Yeah, exactly. I mean, it’s, it’s definitely the way forward, in my opinion, the head list of it just gives you like that. You said that, you know, decouplization and yeah. I just think WordPress does backend really well You know, we all, we all know that this more modern tools that can give you a better front end than what a WordPress one could be out of the box.

[00:12:59] Why not? Why not use it?

[00:13:00] Rob Kendal: [00:13:00] I also know is on your, on your site that you run a mentorship program and you share, I mean, I came across you through our, our mutual inclusion and the Whiskey Wednesday, run by, by Mark and Scott. but you shouldn’t have a lot of valuable advice and social media as well. And I, I.

[00:13:15] You know, I like that approach because I’ve always thought I’ve always found it to be more helpful to lift people up, but then to kind of secret everything away, you know, I’ve met a lot of those kinds of businesses, like where we’re very, we’ve been in business while we’re not going to help you or share any information.

[00:13:28] We’re going to keep it all secret because we’re afraid of competition. So I think it’s really great that someone who has been enjoying a very long and successful freelancing career is trying to help other people break into it.

[00:13:40] Is the mentorship thing, like a recent, recent mechanism or is that something you’ve been doing for awhile?

[00:13:44] Tom Hirst: [00:13:44] Yeah, it’s pretty recent. To be honest, I would say I started tweeting more about freelancing and my experiences and stuff. about 10 months ago, something like that. And people were saying, Oh, this is really valuable stuff. It’s really good insight. And there’s not really [00:14:00] many people sharing, you know, stories of freelancing as candidly as what you are.

[00:14:04] And I think that’s just part of my nature, I’m pretty frank. And to the point guy. So I think that that comes across in the stuff that I share. I don’t really tend to go around the houses, with stuff, I try and get straight to it. so yeah, I mean, that’s where I started thinking, you know what I think, I could try and do this alongside my own web development stuff and try and, you know, write more, share more things, lift more people that like you said.

[00:14:29] and I just started to find it a lot more fulfilling than building websites, if I’m honest. and that’s just where every accelerated it all came from, you know, starting on Twitter. And then I thought, you know, I’d like to go a bit more in depth, with, you know, people on a specific level. so that’s when I started the mentorship program and that was in, I think it was in January.

[00:14:50] I’ve had students from all over the world, really. I think, you know, from Ukraine, Australia, a few brits, a few Americans too. And it’s, it’s just been, it’s just been awesome. I’ve just really enjoyed it, you know? And it just confirmed that. You know what you said a few, a few minutes ago that a lot of people do guard this kind of information and it’s just not in my nature to want to perpetuate that if you know what I’m saying, I’d rather share what I know, boost people up and deliver that, that value that, they’re not getting from other places. And if, and if I can prevent people from making costly mistakes, like, what I probably did in my early days all the better.

[00:15:30] Rob Kendal: [00:15:30] No, I think it’s great. Cause I mean, where else do you get, that information from? You’ve got to get, you know, the, the tried and tested books on Amazon, but I mean, books and videos and things are great, but they’re very much like one where informational, you know, you can’t sort of ask questions of it.

[00:15:42] and like, you know, you said that that’s one of the biggest problems when people do go freelancing is that they sort of go, ‘I’m really great at this specific job’, but then freelancing self-employment says he’s another 10 jobs that you’ve never done before, like accounts and sales and marketing. And you’re like, you’ve got to do all them and there’s no one that really holds your hand. It’s [00:16:00] just off you go, you tell HMRC your self-employed, then it’s like, good luck. You’re on your own. And like you said, it’s very easy to make very costly mistakes. That’s fantastic to have like someone like you as a resource.

[00:16:09] What sort of successes have you had with your, with your students?

[00:16:13] Tom Hirst: [00:16:13] so I mean, a lot of the time it’s been confidence based really, just trying to teach people and convey to them that, perhaps that they’re worth more than what they’re selling their services far in terms of, you know, not just financially, but how they’re treated with their clients and things like that.

[00:16:30] I mean, that’s something that really got me in my early career, you know, confidence, hindered me so much, not, not just the imposter syndrome per se, but just general confidence, you know, in, in doing all those things that you just mentioned, you know, I knew I could develop websites, but.

[00:16:45] Selling my services, marketing myself, having the confidence to do that effectively, that’s something that genuinely held me back probably for a couple of years, I would say, you know, I know, I know that I would have been further ahead quicker if I would have had that confidence or someone to lean on, you know, that could just boost me up a little bit.

[00:17:03] And I think that that’s been, you know, that’s been one of the biggest successes about the, you know, the freelancer mentorship and sharing my freelancing insights in general.

[00:17:11] Rob Kendal: [00:17:11] now we’d be, we’d be remiss if we didn’t try and pump you for a little bit more of your awesome knowledge around, around the freelancing game. So what advice would you give to people looking to either start their business? Or break away from their day job and transitioning freelancing apart from hiring you as a mentor, obviously.

[00:17:26] Tom Hirst: [00:17:26] well, yeah, w you can, you can do it if you want, but, you know, yeah, so to get into freelancing, I mean, there’s two ways really. You’ve either got a job already and, you know, you’ve got a skill that you can sell as a freelancer, or you just want to jump straight into it. And obviously that’s what I did jump straight into it, but I would say that that routes a lot harder.

[00:17:45] Rob Kendal: [00:17:45] I think a lot of people are probably sat there in a job thinking I want to do it for myself. So yeah, I probably go from that angle.

[00:17:50] Tom Hirst: [00:17:50] So, I mean, I did it, I did a little bit of a tweet on this actually the other day. So I’ve got, got a few steps. So, yeah, I mean, my number one piece of advice would be to build your own [00:18:00] audience, you know, your own client base prospect base that would potentially hire someone with your services.

[00:18:05] Because a lot of people, people end up going, you know, to UpWork and Fiverr and just getting lost in a race to the bottom, in that rest of the bottom, you know, there’s always going to be someone cheaper than you go, so it’s never ended. And it just, it just does, you no favours. The first thing that I do, even if I had a job will be to say, look, tell all your friends and family that you thinking about going freelance.

[00:18:26] Because you’d be surprised about, the people that you already know that could use your services. so yeah, I mean, that’s the first step that I would take is, you know, build an audience, look at your local connections.

[00:18:35] and then after that, I would probably think what’s the skill that I do best, you know, what’s the one that I do best overall, the potential or the skills that I have because. that’s another common mistake that freelances make. So they’ll say, Oh, I can do a web design. I can do web development. I can do X. I can do Y. I can do Z. Is that I can even, you know, write all your content for you. I can even take the photos. When you sell yourself as the jack of all trades, you just, you’re never going to look like the expert across them all. Pick one service. And one type of client that you want to target and make connections in that area alongside, working at the same time.

[00:19:10] Once you’ve identified, what, what service that you want to provide, and, and what clients that you want to work with, you can start following those people on social media and getting your content, under their noses.

[00:19:22] This is something that I tried to do with a headless WordPress stuff. I wrote this article and I started talking to people on LinkedIn that I knew were WordPress users, but weren’t necessarily aware of the benefits of headless WordPress.

[00:19:35] I’m sorry, I got this article under their noses and they’re like, Oh, this, you know, I’ve never seen it explained in these terms before I understand what it is. And I ended up getting, you know, a couple of solid leads from that.

[00:19:45] The main takeaway is build the audience of potential clients while you’ve still got your job. It’s hard work, but it’s doable.

[00:19:54] Rob Kendal: [00:19:54] I think as well, I’d probably say don’t expect overnight success. [00:20:00] The thing is as well is that it’s that social media, ice berg thing. Where there’s far too many people go, right? Yeah. I make like six or seven figures doing freelance stuff. And like, not from last week you didn’t though Your really successful, but it’s like, you’re 11 years in, you know, it’s like, after your second month you were like sweet, where’s the keys to my Bentley?

[00:20:15] Tom Hirst: [00:20:15] Yeah. And I’m not, that’s important to convey as well. Like all the advice that I give, I always try to caveat it with, you know, I’ve been doing it a long time. freelancing is certainly not the easy route. it’s hard work. It will take time. You know, you’re not going to be driving a Tesla or a Bentley or a Ferrari , whatever you want, you know, in a couple of weeks, it’s going to take years and that’s just the reality.

[00:20:38] But if you do things consistently and you do it well, and you produce quality work and you have confidence in your own abilities and you can sell your own services and stuff like that, then, it’s possible to make a really good living from freelancing.

[00:20:50] Rob Kendal: [00:20:50] There’s someone out that just starting their freelancing career who’s flipping through a Tesla brochure going ‘shit Tom said I’m looking at this too early!’

[00:20:59] Tom Hirst: [00:20:59] There will always be an outlier. You know, they’ll always be someone that lands a hundred grand project, you know, in week two, but the reality is it’s probably not gonna happen to you. So, you know, maybe a second hand Fiesta might be a good place to start.

[00:21:12] Rob Kendal: [00:21:12] Get a Fiesta, start doing WordPress. Good times.

[00:21:15] Oh, what, what sort of red flags should they watch out for? Cause that’s another key thing I think, you know, it’s all good and well having the good sides, but what kind of red flags should they stay away from when they do start getting an influx of clients

[00:21:26] Tom Hirst: [00:21:26] Yeah. I mean the main one for me is anyone that wants like cheap work. Fast work, you know, a combination of both and just start running because when someone doesn’t understand your value on an individual basis that you can provide them, you know, compared to any other service provider, then you’re just going to get treated like shit, really.

[00:21:47] When someone gets in touch to enquire about your freelance services. And the first thing that they’re obviously concerned about is price. That’s a massive red flag. Because they literally just want to [00:22:00] get from A to B as cheaply as possible. They don’t care how good the job is.

[00:22:04] They’ve got no concept of how one individual freelancer could potentially provide them a better service than another. Start running. if people just want to know how cheap you are then start running.

[00:22:17] Rob Kendal: [00:22:17] Conversely, you’ve got to, you’ve got to talk about price early as well. I read one of your recent articles on the site while I was just doing a bit of research for questions, and it was really good about, getting. To the point of, of kind of price very quickly. Cause it seems really, I think, especially being British, you know, we have that kind of like, Oh, can’t talk about price and money, but it’s waste everyone’s time if you don’t. In the nicest possible way if someone comes on and says, I’ve got like a hundred pounds, yeah. I want a WordPress website. It’s just not going to happen because you’re like the hosting alone, for like a decent, a decent site, won’t be covered by that money. Let alone, you know, meetings that you’re gonna want to have and then design work and everything else that it just it’s physically not going to happen.

[00:22:55] So, you know, by having several meetings and kind of entertaining spending hours of your time to get to a point where like, I can’t physically do it, you’ve wasted your time. You’ve wasted that time that they could have been doing something else. I think, you know, it doesn’t have to be your opening the question, Hey, can I talk to about WordPress sites?

[00:23:10] What money you got? but I think it needs fairly, early on in the discussion of like, look, what budget range are we looking for? And then kind of trying to marry that up, or what do you want for that budget?

[00:23:19] Tom Hirst: [00:23:19] Yeah. I mean, in all honesty, like that is probably one of my first questions, because I think the quicker that you can qualify a lead, you’re doing both, you’re doing both sides of the engagement a favour. You know, you’re doing the client a favor, like you said, you’re saving them time. Are you doing yourself a favor as well.

[00:23:33] Because you can move on to more suitable leads, you know? so yeah. I know what you’re saying, and you don’t want to come across as a abrupt and just money orientated yourself, but it is a highly important question to ask pretty early on. I think I did a tweet not long ago when I was like, you could qualify a lead in three questions and you know what, the first one is obviously find out why they want to work with you as an [00:24:00] individual, you know, do they see your specific value compared to any other freelancer out there.

[00:24:04] And I think question two was, yeah. You know, just giving, like, putting an anchor really of what you’re pricing structure kind of is in their mind and just, by gauging that response, whether that’s actually viable whatsoever.

[00:24:17] Because if you say, look, my project start at five grand and they often exceed 10, then that’s going to be, it’s not coming across abrupt. It’s just being honest. And it’s going to filter the leads through and just get the people that, you know, can afford you, I guess, through that qualification process.

[00:24:33] Rob Kendal: [00:24:33] Plus it’s easy to position if it, if you kind of do it in a, rather than, rather than a direct, like, you know what your budget kind of question. Cause some people don’t know. But if you phrase it in more of a like, well, given what you said, you’re looking for, this is a similar project that I can show you, which helps sell you as well.

[00:24:49] And you can say, well, this project was around this kind of ballpark and then can go, Oh, and then they’ll either have to change their budgets or fit that, or they’ll have to kind of rethink their scope. You know? It’s like, no, you can’t have a multi language multicurrency eCommerce site for like a thousand pounds.

[00:25:04] So it’s, again, it just can’t work.

[00:25:07] Tom Hirst: [00:25:07] Yeah. You just touched on something. There that’s a, that rings a bell with me. Like when, you know, if you’re going to reduce your price, you’ve got to reduce scope. So why, what you said then, you know, if someone’s wanting all the bells and whistles eCommerce site and they’ve got, you know, I don’t know, £100 it just obviously can’t happen.

[00:25:25] But then you might get conversely, someone who they don’t necessarily know what they want, but they think that they want everything, but then they’ve got the budget of having half of that.

[00:25:32] So that’s one trap that freelancers fall into is to get the project over the line. They say that the promise of the world for the, you know, a modest budget, when really, you know, if you take it away from price. You need to take away from features as well.

[00:25:45] Rob Kendal: [00:25:45] I think I touched on this in our whiskey Wednesday, and we used to price projects. We’d kind of break the estimate down into kind of either phases or kind of groups of features. So like, well, this is your basic kind of marketing site. And then this might be, I don’t know, you want like a [00:26:00] wizard of a form or something to do something with, or you want like a membership site.

[00:26:03] This membership thing can be a relatively separate entity and this is going to be around this much. So it might be that you have part of what you want for a price that more kind of suits your budget, but then it’s extra stuff you could either maybe work it in later as a different phase, given the success of the first one, or it just gives you some kind of options to work with.

[00:26:21] but like you said, also whilst avoiding that kind of sneaking of the scope where you sort of end up doing it anyway,

[00:26:27] Tom Hirst: [00:26:27] Yeah.

[00:26:30] Rob Kendal: [00:26:30] Now, one thing that doesn’t get talked about, well, with the kind of self employment route is keeping your skills up to date because with a quote, unquote, proper job you often get yeah.

[00:26:40] Training of some kind or access to it. Whether that’s maybe like a Pluralsight subscription or time off to actually, you know, paid time off to go and do the learning, or even it’s just other people who are better than you in the job that can pull you along. But when you’re on your own, you are literally making all the decisions.

[00:26:54] So what do you do in terms of professional development to keep your skills sharp, especially when you know that the time is money thing. So anything you’re doing, whilst it could be seen as an investment for the future, anything you’re doing learning is not kind of directly bringing money in so how do you handle it?

[00:27:09] Tom Hirst: [00:27:09] Yeah. I mean, the way that I handle that is I prioritize jobs that allow me to learn on them. So I get paid to learn

[00:27:19] Rob Kendal: [00:27:19] that’s genius.

[00:27:20] Tom Hirst: [00:27:20] I can remember when, React was like first, well, it probably wasn’t even first coming out, but it was first becoming evident that you would have to know React to make Gutenberg blocks.

[00:27:31] So I ended up working with a client and I kind of engineered a situation where I would learn React. you know, so that I could build blocks, for their clients. that’s how I deal with the professional development thing. paid, to learn whatever you can give priority to those projects.

[00:27:47] Rob Kendal: [00:27:47] That is a crafty method that I’ve never about

[00:27:53] Tom Hirst: [00:27:53] yeah, I mean, it’s not, it’s not disingenuous really because obviously, I know what you’re saying. Like it’s a smart way to [00:28:00] do it really for the, for the freelancer, but also if you are working with a client that you’ve worked with for a long time and you feel that you could learn the skill and then, you know, up to their chops, because no one else really was suggesting that they take this path.

[00:28:14] So, you know, I would kind of putting myself forward to, to help them as well. So yeah, it worked well for both parties.

[00:28:21] Rob Kendal: [00:28:21] Hmm. Awesome. That sounds good. I think that’s kind of the end of my questions. the bit I ask at the end of every podcast episode is, do you have anything you want to mention a plug, a link to anything like that?

[00:28:33] Tom Hirst: [00:28:33] Yeah. So, I mean, at the minute I’m in the middle of finishing my second book, I released a free one in April called the 10 steps to being a better freelancer. that was the first one. And it went really well. It was really well received. And then I started talking more about pricing on Twitter and everyone started getting interested about that.

[00:28:52] So I dropped everything that was doing basically, and just decided to write this book in a month. So, yeah, I’m writing that one right now. So the link for that is in my Twitter bio. So you can get me on Twitter at Tom underscore Hirst (@tom_hirst) . And if you want to find me online, I’ll read a bit more about me you can go to tomhirst.com

[00:29:08] Rob Kendal: [00:29:08] Oh, look at that. You saved me the job of actually having to actually say these things That’s great.

[00:29:12] Tom Hirst: [00:29:12] Oh, sorry, mate.

[00:29:14] Rob Kendal: [00:29:14] No no, saves me a job. Saves my voice. I’ll I don’t do a lot of talking during the day having been a remotie. So, voice goes down hill quickly. No, that’s great. and I’ll link to all these things in the, in the show notes so that people can access them directly from anywhere.

[00:29:27] But yeah, go and check them out on, on Twitter. He’s always posting valuable advice and that book looks really awesome. thank you very much for your time. And, we I’m sure we’ll see you about the Twitter verse,

[00:29:37] Tom Hirst: [00:29:37] Yeah. Thanks for your time. Robert. It’s been, that’s been fun.

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About The Front End

The Front End Podcast explores the in's and out's of life as a developer. Covering topics such as modern-day development, learning and professional growth, frameworks, tools, techniques, UX/UI, and careers.

Created by Rob Kendal, a UI developer from Yorkshire.