The best way to sell is not to sell - SEO Consultant Steve Morgan
How do you find clients when you hate sales? Steve’s built his business through networking and word of mouth, and despite being an SEO consultant with the skills to drive traffic to a website, he prefers to work with people he’s connected to.
Steve chats about managing his workload alongside a chronic illness and two kids under 5, and shares some of the techniques he’s used to find new clients, including co-working, speaking, networking, and running a meet-up.
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TRANSCRIPT OF THE BEING FREELANCE PODCAST WITH SEO CONSULTANT STEVE MORGAN AND STEVE FOLLAND
Steve Folland: As ever, how about we get started? Hearing how you got started being freelance.
Steve Morgan: Okay, so I've been doing SEO, which stands for search engine optimisation for over 10 years now. My background in the early days was mostly working at agencies, my older brother started an agency, and I was his first employee. So that was a really good way to kind of see a business, small business running in the early days, and what kind of things happen. I did a brief contract role at confused.com, I worked at another agency, and then it was getting to the point where my parents are self-employed, my brother is self-employed, and I kind of got the self-employment bug from them. And it got to a point where people were approaching me and saying, because they couldn't afford the agency, I was working at the time, but wanted to work with me and said, if you ever do any freelance work, say evenings and weekends, let me know, and I'll become a client. And at first I had one or two of these offers, and felt great.
Steve Morgan: And then it got to the point where I had about 10 people say that to me, and I thought so if I do actually leave the agency and start freelance full-time, and only a few of them come off because realistically, not all 10 would come off, then that could be a really good way to jump into freelancing. So I quit my agency job in May 2013 and went freelance, and I've been freelancing ever since, so nearly six years.
Steve Folland: So your parents and your brother all have the self-employed bug? Did you pick anything up from them?
Steve Morgan: It was really handy in like, the early days, especially my parents, and they run multiple businesses. So they're retired now... Well, retired from most things, but they run an IT recruitment agency, they have some property rentals in Spain, my dad's a landlord, [project 00:01:41] landlord. In the sort of first few months, I was just picking their brains as much as possible to learn as much as I could, and any question I had, bless them, I would sort of fire their way, what do I do about this, what do I do about that? And they also put me in touch with a few people. So yeah, definitely, they were kind of as well as being a big inspiration, they were extremely, extremely handy to pick the brain off in the early days.
Steve Folland: So you got your first clients, basically by having people you were already working with coming to you saying, if you're freelance ever, we'd like to work with me, right?
Steve Morgan: Yeah, not all of them were people who were already working with me, so they were just people that I knew from around about before going self-employed, I used to go to a couple of blogger meetups, some of them were either those people or referrals from those people. Although one thing that was quite surprising in the end, or maybe it wasn't surprising in hindsight, was out of those 10 or so people that came on board, only one came on board, and it was a very small retainer. So I was kind of in panic mode then, thinking why... because I'd already left my job, so having gone from like a full-time agency job to full-time freelancing for one small client, so I went into panic mode and so networking overdrive then, and kind of just hit the ground running on the networking front.
Steve Folland: But how long did that take you to then build the number of clients that you actually needed?
Steve Morgan: I was quite lucky in the end it took a... it was kind of a hairy initial couple of months, but I think by about month three or four, I broke even on initial costs of setting up. And I think by month six, I was at full capacity for the first time. So it didn't take, you know, overly long. I know some people where they might have achieved those milestones a bit quicker or gone into freelancing straight away with, you know, a few big clients but you know, could have been a lot worse, I guess.
Steve Folland: And obviously, I introduced you as an SEO consultant. Is that what you were calling yourself when you first went freelance?
Steve Morgan: Yeah, and still do now. So essentially, SEO in terms of helping people improve their organic rankings in Google, but I tend to kind of help out with other things as well with some clients. So for some clients, I might just do SEO stuff and that's it, but then other clients I also do a bit of content creation for them or I outsource a blog post to a copywriter I used to work with, one or two I even help out with social media just on Twitter and stuff like that. So it's not really like my main focus, but for some of them, I've kind of dabbled in doing these additional things for them as well or kind of helped out where they've needed a helping Hand. But primarily, I'd say about 90 95 percent of what I do is just SEO.
Steve Folland: And does that mean as a consultant that you tend to go and work with a client for a little bit, and then leave, or how does it look like for you?
Steve Morgan: It varies. So a lot my clients actually have been on ongoing retainers, and one or two of them have been with me since 2013 2014, so I still got some clients that have been with me all this time. And it depends on the nature of the project, it's not just consultancy in terms of I turn up, give them some advice, and then disappear. I do try and make implementations if I can, and try and actually, you know, to my ability... I'm not like from a developer background or anything like that, so depending on what type of SEO work it is, I might be able to do the implementation on their behalf, instead of just telling them to do it, and then you know how these things go, they might not actually implement it, but I can be flexible so some clients just need a small bit of... if I remember one client just needed me to do a small bit of keyword research for them, it was a quick one of job, that was it.
Steve Morgan: Another client where they do just want me to do the consultancy, and they do the implementation, but I kind of help them with it. It's a mixed bag, really, but the majority of work I do is kind of ongoing retainer. And it's kind of making implementations on an ongoing basis.
Steve Folland: And where does the majority of your work come from now? Like because it started with you like going out and meeting people in the flesh, but obviously, you're an SEO consultant so I'm imagining that your own website must help too.
Steve Morgan: It does, yeah, it ranks okay. And I'll happily admit that it's one of those typical things where, and I think a lot of web designers and people I've met have said this where your own website is kind of like the last thing you pay, you know, concentrate on, if you're busy working on clients, so. And also I'm up against other agencies who have you know, they might employ like 10 me, so they've got an unfair advantage or it's not really unfair, but you know what I mean. So, I do get people say they found me for certain searches, online marketing Cardiff, SEO Cardiff, things like that, freelance SEO consultant Cardiff. To be honest with you, the majority of it comes through word of mouth, so it's through networking that I've done over the years, not just before going freelance and the initial first months of freelance as I mentioned before, but just kind of over the years, various different activities I've gotten involved with, a lot of that is going to events and meetups, speaking at them.
Steve Morgan: For the last couple years, I've been running my own meetup as well, mostly based in a co-working space, so that's been good. It's kind of like being a mixture of everything and I can't really say there's like, you know, one... it's difficulty to say because some activities I might done years ago might be what's responsible for me getting clients now, so I can't necessarily say that, or what I'm doing now is helping me right now, if that makes sense?
Steve Folland: Wow, tell you what, let's unpick... That's three of the things you just mentioned all in one go. So one of them was the fact that you started speaking at some point like, how did that come about?
Steve Morgan: Do you know what? I can't even remember how the first opportunity came about, I know that in my last agency job I did like an internal talk. So they used to do like, I think it was like Friday lunchtime or something where you could do a talk to your colleagues, and I did one of those. And then I also do at a small like, online... so like an online business online marketing meetup. And I can't remember if they approached me or I approached them, but then it kind of got to the point where I had more ideas for talks, or I do a blog post and think this could make a good talk. And then I just ended up doing lots of different kinds of meetups, so off the top of my head, I did things like a web developer meetup, I've spoken at an SEO conference in U.K. twice, just all sorts of different things. I said the majority of them were like local meetups, but not necessarily like dedicated SEO meetups, it be like a... Another one that's just come into my mind is like a WordPress meetup, so similar sort of things to that really.
Steve Folland: And are you going out and trying to get on those bills as it were?
Steve Morgan: I was, yes, so in some cases, people approached me in some cases, I approached them, you know, if they were kind of like actively looking for speakers, I think well there's no harm meeting, you know, I could do a talk about this, that, and the other. These days I do sort of less SEO talks, and, you know, I do less talks in general, although I have got one lined up in the next few weeks, which is for freelance hero's day, which is going to be talking about networking and sales tips and techniques.
Steve Folland: Okay, so that's speaking events, but you also said that in the past couple of years, I think you've started arranging them, too.
Steve Morgan: Yeah. So a couple of years ago, I had the idea a few years earlier, but a friend of mine said he was going to start running a digital marketing event, and I felt like I wanted to run an SEO meetup, but I don't want to step on his toes, so I kind of left it for a while. And after a couple of years, it didn't look like he was going to move on those plans, so I decided to start my own SEO meetup. I started it, I think it was... the first one was May 2016, so about three years ago now. God, it's terrifying when I say it like that, because it only feels like yesterday. My background at University was, I used to put on like music events as part of the live music society, so I had a background in running events although they are a different kind. And so I've always enjoyed running events, and in fact, funny enough coming out of university events management is what I wanted to go into. But I graduated around the time of the recession and struggle to get job in events management, and as I mentioned before, my brother offered me a job in SEO agency he was starting, and you know, that's how I got into SEO.
Steve Morgan: It's good, because different kinds of events, but they're related to what I do these days, and I just enjoy running events is something I've always really liked. So it's nice to be able to sort of flex that old muscle if you will, but do it in a way that kind of benefits my business, and also helps out the local community, that kind of thing, really. So the event is called Cardiff SEO meet, takes place every sort of three four-ish months, so these days is every two months, but I've taken breaks in the past.
Steve Folland: And how do you find like managing that sort of workload in amongst everything else what you do?
Steve Morgan: It's a struggle, so it was one of those very naïve things that I thought, oh, it's not going to be too much hustle, I just have to get two speakers to every event, job done. You know, you forget that like, as well as two speakers, you might also need a bit of hand holding, and have questions, and you may need to trace them up on slides, and things like that. I also run what I call a site review segment, where we audit a volunteered website live on the night, and try and give a bit of help in a space of 30 minutes, just me and the audience to try and say, oh, you know, we've just had a quick look at your website, we can do this, this, this and this, to help you out. There are sponsors, sponsors pay for food and drink at the venue, one of the sponsors likes to run training before the event, so I got help with that.
Steve Morgan: So, yeah, to answer your question... Oh, and there's a little promoting as well, tweeting about it, putting it on meetup.com, which is what I primarily use, putting it on the website, which has just launched. Yeah, it's a lot of stuff to do, I always forget and I always think oh, it's was going to be a five minute job. And then I find like, you know, especially in the run up to an event, a few weeks ahead of an event, I'll just spending, you know, quite a few evenings kind of outside of doing bit of a client work, just trying to get stuff done.
Steve Folland: And then the other one was the co-work space, so did you start off in there originally or did you start working from home?
Steve Morgan: No, so... Pretty much around the time I'm freelance straightaway I moved in there, so when my brother's agency first started out, he worked from his house and I worked from my house for the first year, and it's my first ever work from home job. So first I loved the novelty of that, I loved I can be flexible when I work. It doesn't have to be Monday to Friday nine to five, I can have a long lunch break, I can play PlayStation whenever I want. And I loved that for a couple of months, and then I just started to get really sort of bored, and I felt really isolated because I just worked from my house. My brother did a lot of the sort of out and about with clients and networking and I just kind of did work from my coffee table, you know, 40 hours a week. So when... And then eventually, he hired more staff and we moved into an office, but I told myself if I ever want self employed, I would try and avoid working from home.
Steve Morgan: So the original plan was to kind of work from home one two days a week and then be based at a co-working space for like one two days per week. So, what I decided to do in the end is... I met the co-working space I'm still at now six years later, I met one of the people who set it up, at like just a random meetup. And I went to the pre-launch event, and then I think I mentored one or two other startups on behalf of one of my old agency jobs. And then when I went self-employed straightaway, I said to them, can I move in? They said, yes, and the rest is history, they've been putting up with me ever since.
Steve Folland: What's it like? As in are you amongst each other, do you find it like has a... Well, I'm presuming you've done it for so long, but it has a good effect on your work?
Steve Morgan: Like anything, it has its good moments and it has its bad moments. So I find when I'm at home, if I'm working from home, I get distracted. And I may not be at full sort of... even like these days, I have like a dedicated office, which is just kind of be in the living room kind of thing and I might still get distracted, and think I'll do some chores. And so the good thing is when I go into the office, the co-working space, I'm on full on right, let's get some work done mode. But it might also mean that somebody just chats to me, it might be just oh, hey, how is it going, what you up to? It might be a new member moves in, and I'd feel a bit rude if I just said Hi, and/or didn't really talk to them. So I usually what do you do, and this is what I do, and all that jazz. And if I've got a really busy day, that can be a real... It can be a bit of a pain.
Steve Morgan: So, I mean, it's just trying to sort of fit it around... you know, try and fit the work around that and I still find that even with like the commute back and forth the co-working space, and even with sort of minor interruptions like that, I still get a lot of work done, and I still find it worthwhile. Plus the other added benefits of meeting people and potential networking opportunities around that as well.
Steve Folland: Yeah, has work come from being there?
Steve Morgan: Yeah, well, funny enough, I do actually a little bit of work for the co-working space itself. Plus, I have worked with quite a few of the different businesses in the past or the businesses who have referred me on someone. So maybe not directly working with, you know, a member of the co-working space, but they've passed my name on somebody else.
Steve Folland: So we've had speaking meetups co-work spaces, SEO on your website, but not so much like, I'm just thinking, are there any other marketing stuff that you do to get your name out there?
Steve Morgan: Another good one, that's worked for me is contributing to Facebook groups, by just being really sort of strict with like, rather than joining like 20 different Facebook groups, I'm only a member of a small handful. So one of them is the private Facebook group for my co-working space, which is a good way to obviously chat to people beyond you know, opening to them in person. But another one is... there's a Facebook group called Cardiff start, which as the name suggest it's a Facebook group for startups and small business owners in Cardiff. They have a really strict no self promotion policy, so I went on there, and was like, hey, guys hire me for SEO, they probably banned me instantly. But what I found over the years is that people if they've had an SEO question, they put it on there, I try and help out best I can. And there's even been times when people have said, does anyone know an SEO consultants? And you know my name I've been tagged on to twice in threads like that as well, which is great.
Steve Morgan: So, I've always contributed to that group under the guise of helping out and getting to know people not under the guise of sell, sell, sell.
Steve Folland: You mentioned your brother and his business growing, and taking on staff, and your mum and dad doing some other things. Has that ever been a temptation for you?
Steve Morgan: It has, I've got two young kids so at the moment, my plan is to stay just as me and the good thing is if I get to a certain point, I can just... Well, I say it's a good thing, it's a bad thing, what am I on about?! And if I get... You know, I might turn away work if I'm at full capacity and can't honour it, because the thing is this I guess I can kind of have my flexibility and kind of control it a bit better than if I started hiring staff and you know, getting office space and starting an agency. My plan is when my littlest is in full time school, I might revisit that plan but at the moment I'm kind of content with how things are going. The good thing as well as one of the nice side effects of running the meet up and I suppose all the networking I've done over the years especially if you're in Cardiff SEO meet, it's as well as meeting potential clients. I've also met you know, future potential employees and funny enough, a few events in a guy I know who is a quite a regular at the events, he actually emailed me his CV. He didn't realise I was just solo and thought I did hire staff, and wanted to have a job with me.
Steve Morgan: So it's already proven that could be an option in the future that, you know, the meetup is a good way to meet, you know, people, I might think maybe I want to hire that person one day. So it is in the pipeline as a possibility, but it's not one of those things where I feel like I need to rush into it or I feel like obliged to do it. About sort of six to 12 months in, I got to a position where I probably could have hired staff there and then, and then grown things. But I didn't want to and didn't feel quite ready, and it's probably been for the best because if I had done, and you know things went pear shaped especially we're then having two young kids, that might have really, you know, changed the dynamic and it may have been I fell out of love with self employment but at the moment, I'm kind of happy with the way things are.
Steve Morgan: And an important note to say is that I might be taking on... you know, over this sort of six years I've been doing now, I've been taking on bigger clients, not only in terms of their name, but also you know, the size of their company, and things like that. And I've increased my hourly and day rate over the years as well, so even though I've not sort of grown my business in terms of hiring bodies, might have kind of put up my prices, and so my business has grown financially.
Steve Folland: Sure, yeah. How did it feel when you started sitting there thinking I need to put my prices up?
Steve Morgan: I think it was, I had a meeting with a business coach at the time and he was... and when I set my prices I thought to myself, right, I know what the old... some old agencies, I know what they used to charge at, and I kind of worked out you know, I wouldn't be charging as much as them, but like I'd still be charging what I thought was a decent rate. And then I sat down with an old friend of mine who's a business coach, and he was like, is that all you charge? I think you could at least double if not triple that. And I was like bloody hell, and I think over the years, I've doubled it so. Which I think is fair enough, because I've got 10 years experience now and back then I had five years experience so it's not like I'm kind of taking... I don't think I'm taking the meek with that kind of price increase.
Steve Morgan: But it's an easy thing to do with a new client comes on board I just say hey, this is my hourly rate, they don't need to know what your old hourly rate was. But where it's tricky is with old kinds, so as I mentioned, a couple of my clients have been with me a few years and I have put the prices up a little bit, but not as much as if I took on... I earn less with those guys than if I took on a new client right now for the same amount of time, because I feel a bit sheepish kind of. You know, I think the one time I increased the prices because of inflation, but I think I've done that twice but I feel as though if I kind of do it above that, I'd be kind of taking the meek of it. And I know I might be in the wrong to say that, there was a discussion on the freelance hero's group about people saying, oh, you've got to be quite brave, and you've got to be quite brash, and like every year put your prices up, no excuses.
Steve Morgan: And I was like, wow, okay, if you want to do that, that's fine. Maybe that's not necessarily my style, but at the very least it's good that I'm able to put up prices for like new clients coming on board so there's kind of... At least I can kind of do it that way if you get me.
Steve Folland: What is that certain element inside you were those early clients who are still with you now they were supporting you right at the beginning when you needed the most?
Steve Morgan: And I can't fault them for that I mean there's even a thing of like you say to people oh, put your prices... you know, people say put your prices up, and if they don't accept those prices then say goodbye to them. And in a way I don't want to like say goodbye to them because exactly like you said, you've hit the nail on the head, they supported me in my early days and they still continue to support me now and then obviously I support them with the work that I do. But it's not easy to just kind of be like... I feel a bit awful if I kind of say, toss somebody to the curb, or whatever the saying is just because I think I can get a bit more money elsewhere and that's not really going to do much for my reputation, and people talk. And it's a bit of me being that I live in Cardiff and my co-working space I'm a member of is Caerphilly just outside Cardiff but a lot of people joke saying, South Wales is a very, very, very small world.
Steve Morgan: And it wouldn't take much if people got that impression that I sacked off all clients who are on lower rates for clients on higher rates that's going to reflect poorly on me, I think. So you've got to be careful, you got to make sure that you kind of don't make too many enemies, because I think everyone knows everyone, and you know, you can't be too careful.
Steve Folland: I was going to ask about, you said about picking the brains of your parents very early on, and I was sitting there thinking, I wonder who you pick the brains of now, but actually, you've already mentioned a business coach friend, and also asking questions within Facebook groups.
Steve Morgan: Yeah, and also the co-working space, the co-working space is a massive help, just picking the brains of people here. But as you mentioned like I've done a couple post on Cardiff start and hit the Facebook group for the co-working, Welsh ICE, just... Yeah, I kind of asked my parents less these days, especially now they're retired, but I suppose it was kind of just in the early days in the sort of first six months to a year that I needed to say like, 90 percent of their help, and then kind of from that on, it's kind of, you know, mostly run itself other than issues that might have come up later on. So like I had... luckily this has only happened once, but I had a non paying client, and I had to take them to court in order to get my money.
Steve Morgan: And so that was something... that was like two, three years ago, so that is first six years ago. So it's things like that, I guess there's been more things I've had to try and sort of learn later on down the line, on the go, but primarily, it's all be kind of either self taught or asking people I know, and people who've been through it.
Steve Folland: After the non paying client, did you put anything else into place to try to avoid that happening again or is it just been fortunate, but it hasn't happened again?
Steve Morgan: Fortunate that it hasn't happened again, I've just been more careful about how I take on clients. It was an early client, but it went on for about a year the work and by the time we got into the dispute with them about the remaining money that hadn't been paid, it was probably a couple years ago, hence why... It was one of my very early clients I took on, and back then I was probably, I think I was just kind of saying yes to everyone and anyone who'd have me especially because I was kind of panicking about how low my workload was, in the early days. There were warning signs at the time, which I think I was just too naive and too new to freelancing to realise, so it's kind of like sort of avoiding those kinds of... keeping an eye out for that, and if I get any sort of bad gut feeling, I would kind of turn a client away.
Steve Morgan: The good thing is, I don't really need that many clients to be at full capacity, and like I said, a few of my clients have been with me for a long time. So I'm pretty much... except for one or two instances over the years, I've been mostly at like full capacity, which means I can be choosy with clients as well. And I tend to go with those that are people I already know, or they're a friend of a friend. Quite ironically, you asked me how people find me, and one of the options is through Google, and if someone approaches me through Google, they might not be somebody I know.
Steve Morgan: So ironically, I might actually not necessarily work with that client, but if it's a referral through somebody at my co-working space, or through Cardiff start then I'm probably more inclined to sort of work with them because I know that somebody is kind of... You know, somebody has vouched for me to do the work for them but the person has also kind of vouched for the clients, I guess. I felt like that way of saying it. So, yeah. It's a case of just being more careful about who I work with now, I'm being a bit choosy and pickier about who I work with.
Steve Folland: So meetups, co-working spaces, speaking, you've written a book as well, right?
Steve Morgan: I have, yeah. Just published that.
Steve Folland: Okay. What's it called?
Steve Morgan: Anti-Sell.
Steve Folland: Anti-Sell.
Steve Morgan: Yeah.
Steve Folland: That kind of sounds like a whole concept in itself.
Steve Morgan: Something like that. Yeah. So its subtitle is... Let's see if I can remember this without screwing it up, marketing, lead generation, and networking tips for freelancers who hate sales. So it's kind of my perspective on things I've never been comfortable with the sales process. I've always enjoyed networking and meeting people but the idea of them paying me money and that kind of thing, is like you know, it's kind of standard in business practices, it still makes me feel a little bit of 'urgh' and I think as well, like I think a lot of people get put off by sales because they think of movies like... I can't remember the name of it now, the Alec Baldwin where he says, coffee is for closers and always be closing, and then Wolf of Wall Street and in The Pursuit of Happiness where Will Smith's character is like having to like cold, cold people.
Steve Morgan: I think people kind of get that... like sales has like a bad image, and that puts a lot of people off. For me, it's kind of just been, I've never agreed with that, I don't like hard selling or anything like that. And I found, hence the name of the book, the best way to sell is not to sell. So I'd rather just kind of help people give a bit of advice, and then that over the years has been what's really helped me. So the book is all about that, it goes to my story quite briefly, and the tips that have worked for me with meeting people, networking with people, and being referred work over the years.
Steve Folland: Cool. How long did it take you to write the book?
Steve Morgan: So I started writing it I had the idea, I think it was late 2017, and I started planning it early 2018 but as things go, I just didn't really make any progress at all the first few months. But I was really lucky that I won a ticket to a conference in Seattle in July last year, a big SEO conference called MozCon, and the plane had a... it was a 10-hour flight, no WiFi, so I just took my laptop on and thought, right, I'm going to write, start writing the book on the flights back and forth. And I think I wrote 8000 words on the two flights, which ended up being about a quarter of the book, and the good thing about that is as well as passing time on the plane, is that it was kind of the kick up the bum, I needed to get started. So then beyond that evenings and weekends, around clients and family commitments, mostly evenings, when the kids are in bed, I would kind of chip away at it and kind of do a bit more, and a bit more, and a bit more.
Steve Morgan: And then I finished the first draft in October, it took quite a while to... It was one of those things where, in hindsight, I could have managed things a bit better, but I didn't want to go to the effort of hiring an editor getting a book cover designer, and looking into all of that, and how do I self publish on Amazon, if I never actually finished the book. So I kind of like finished the book, and I was like great, now what? Probably a silly approach, and it did delay things in the end. By the time it been edited, so the editing was done in November, recorded the audiobook version in January, and the book cover design, now she didn't have capacity until January, and there was some issues getting the paperback ready. Although it's highly my fault, not hers I'll happily say, by the time the kindle version was ready, that was late February. And by the time the paperback and the audio book versions were ready, that was March. So it's only been officially out there in all formats for about a month now.
Steve Folland: Wow. Though, so you must learned so much from that experience doing it all yourself?
Steve Morgan: Yeah, it was kind of the one thing where my co-working space, there's only like one or two people who've self published or published a book, so I couldn't really pick the brains of people I knew, I didn't really know anyone who'd written a book, and some had written books, but they had to go with a publisher, or they hadn't done it through self publishing on Amazon. So it was a lot of teaching myself, I bought a couple of audio books to help me learn the process. A good one I'll mention is by a guy called Chandler Bolt, and his got published, and that was quite handy telling you kind of strategies for like publishing on Amazon. But yeah, a lot of it was kind of like, you know, learn on the go.
Steve Morgan: And luckily Amazon do make the process really easy, but one of the most embarrassing mistakes I made was... The plan was never to do paperback, it was just to do kindle and audiobook, so when I hired the book designer, she just kind of... You know, the plan was just do something that would work well as an image on Amazon, on iTunes Store, on my website. Doing like a front cover, back cover spine is an afterthought, so she offered to do that as well. And you know, I paid her extra and she did that. And early on, I sent her a template and she said, she jokingly said, I'm glad you're doing it because if I download it, I'd probably download the wrong one. And we kept having issues with the paper... the paperback cannot come in and like Amazon saying there was errors, and we couldn't put our finger on it.
Steve Morgan: And it turned out that I'd chosen the wrong type of paper, that despite the book being the right size, you know, width and height, and despite the same number of pages, if you choose cream paper instead of black and white paper, the spine is half a millimetre thicker. So as soon as we realised that, and she basically got it in one, man, and it was perfect. But like I was pulling my hair out being like, what is wrong? You know why aren't we getting this sorted? And like, it's just silly little mistakes like that, stuff I just laugh at now, but I was getting frustrated at the time, because originally I wanted to publish in January February and like it was more like February March, again, which isn't the end of the world. You know, it's only like a month, but it's frustrating when you think you've given yourself an ample deadline, and you still miss it.
Steve Morgan: So yeah, it's a learning curve. But you know, it's easy for me to say this now, but it was a lot of fun
Steve Folland: Awesome. Well, of course, we'll have a link to that as there is for all our guests at being freelance.com so if you can go and check, I've heard very good things about it, and I'm looking forward to reading it as well, so that's Anti-Sell. So you're writing that in the evenings, but you mentioned having two young kids, how old are they?
Steve Morgan: So the oldest is nearly five and the youngest is two and a half.
Steve Folland: So clearly you've made being a freelancer using the flexibility of that as a parent, how have you found the work-life balance in general?
Steve Morgan: It's one of those things where ironically I think... But it's probably just because of running the meetup and doing the book, I thought I had a good handle on it, but I feel like I'm struggling these days, since I guess it's one of the things I need to learn that will never be perfect, and not stress out. And it's not one of those things, you can get better at over time, I think. I think just sometimes you're busy sometimes you're less busy, we're very fortunate in that my parents are now retired, my wife's mum lives in Cardiff as well. And they tend to have the boys on certain days. I try and work four-day weeks best I can that's not really going to plan at the moment but at least I can know, it's not the end of the world if I have to work like a Saturday or like another day to make it up I guess, but it's not something I'm happy to make a habit of.
Steve Morgan: My wife works four-day weeks as well, so we get by in terms of income each working sort of four-day weeks, and it means that she takes Mondays off and spends time with the boys there, and I try and take Wednesdays off, it's a good balance, and when it works, it works. It's just kind of... like at the moment like, I feel like I've got to like maybe do work the occasional Wednesday to make it backup or some Saturdays. But SEO is kind of the difficult freelance life where sometimes you just kind of... you know, a project takes longer than you expected or you take on a bit too much work than you can... you know, bit off more than you can chew. But, yeah, I like to think for the most part, it works well. It's quite good that it's flexible for us, my wife's in full-time employment, and I'm self employed.
Steve Morgan: So at least I've got the flexibility of, if I've got to be home for something, or I've got more flexibility to do that, than maybe she would working four-days a week. And those four days she works, she works flat out, gets up earlier, goes to work, she'll like come home late a couple of nights, she has to travel with work as well. And luckily the majority of my clients are all South Wales based, so if we do have meetings, they're fairly local. So yeah, it's kind of neat for at least one of us to have that flexibility.
Steve Folland: And so were you doing like drop offs, for example, when you're going to the co-work space from that, and then finishing again at what three or whatever?
Steve Morgan: Sort of, so it depends on the day. So like, I tend to work the co-working space three days a week, and on those three days, people, you know, whether it's my parents or my wife, Emma can do the school run. The one day a week I take off, so I do the school run, and then there's another day where my mum-in-law, she looks after the boys that I tend to do the school run just to help out. So yeah, so that would be a case of doing that on Fridays, and doing the school run, coming back, and then working as much as I can, break off for lunch, and then during the school run that afternoon, and trying to squeeze in a bit of work around those kinds of times.
Steve Folland: when we were chatting about doing this, you mentioned your health as well and like how freelancing had worked for that way?
Steve Morgan: Yeah, so I talked about this in the book as well, not a lot of people know about this. Well, they do now if they've read the book, but it's not something I used to be very sort of open about since like 2012 2015, I've suffered from a chronic illness, which varies in its severity. Sometimes I'm absolutely fine, sometimes it can be near enough debilitating, and it was actually one of the reasons I went self-employed. I almost felt a bit guilty the last agency I worked for, I was taking off quite a lot of time, and requesting can I work from home instead of... you know, I might be well enough to work but not well enough to come into the office, and I felt guilty. So that was another reason for going to freelance, because I knew I could be flexible and like... You know, especially before we had boys and the oldest was born about a year into my freelancing career.
Steve Morgan: If I was ill on a Friday, but fine on a Saturday or Sunday, then it didn't really matter what days I worked and you know, I still trying to just do X number of hours a week, it didn't really matter if it was Monday to Friday. And I do try and work as Monday to Friday, nine to five as I can but it was good to have that flexibility. The worst of it was probably back when I first had it so it was like 2013 2014, it does rear its ugly head every now and again. I think this time last year, I'd really bad bout, where I felt oh, God, it's back to the dark days, and it's kind of coming back. And luckily, it's for the most part let's say about 80 90 percent of the time, it doesn't bother me too much, or it's fairly mild.
Steve Morgan: So yeah, that's being like another added element of like trying to juggle, work, and family with that kind of additional challenge as well.
Steve Folland: And when it does become more debilitating, and you're struggling to get the work done, do you relay that to your clients, or do you tend to work in such a way that like you have... I don't know like deadlines much further out than they need to be, so you've got slack in your day. Like, how do you work that?
Steve Morgan: The latter, so I mean, I'll tell a client if I ever need to, like if I miss a deadline, a lot of the work I do isn't really deadline driven. There are deadlines every now and again, don't get me wrong, and I'll try and give myself sort of ample space for a deadline, so you know, instead of being like... unless they obviously request it, I need it by a certain time, so it might be that even if I think I can get something done by... you know, say today's Tuesday, even if I say I think I can get something done by the end of Thursday, I might just say the end of the week just to be on the safe side. And then if I get it done on the Thursday, then even better, they feel wow, he's done it earlier. So I suppose that's kind of the way I've handled it, for the most part, just trying to be a bit sort of smart about how I do those kinds of things.
Steve Morgan: And for the most part, there's kind of two elements to the illness, sometimes I get a bit foggy headed, and I can't concentrate. But sometimes it's just a bit like I just have a bit of pain, and luckily... So if I just have a bit pain in the day, I can still kind of work as normal and just kind of have a painkiller or two, to try and keep it at bay. So for the most part, touch wood it's not been at a point where I've had to take long stretches off work, or it's cost me deadlines or it cost me clients.
Steve Folland: It's great, isn't it? The fact that actually as you say, being freelance being your own boss shrugs off that guilt and gives you that flexibility, that being an employee wouldn't have done?
Steve Morgan: Exactly, yeah, yeah. It is funny though.
Steve Folland: Now if you could tell your younger self one thing about being freelance what would that be?
Steve Morgan: The advice I tend to give people is based on my mistakes or like consider a mistake is that I went from a full-time agency job to absolutely nothing, to albeit a good number of people saying that they would come on board if they were a client, but nothing concrete. And one thing I do say to people, and I do know a lot of people do this is they tend to rather than go from full-time job to full-time freelance, they'll just try and take on a few clients in the evenings and weekends. And in my defence the last agency job I had was quite stressful, it was one of those where you've got a lot going on, and I think I had to run like a massive training course on like my last but one day.
Steve Morgan: So it's not really that kind of thing where I had the opportunity to, you know, get a lot of stuff ready on the side, you know, working a busy agency job, and then trying to do freelancing on the side so it probably would have been the smarter move. So I do warn people and I talk about it in the book as well, I say, you know, even if it does seem really difficult and it's really off putting thinking as well as working a full-time job and doing some freelance work on the side, it probably would have been a smarter, safer bet, and then I could have waited until I got to a point where I had maybe three or four clients, and then done the transition, which would have probably been a bit smoother and a bit kinder to my bank balance, and my savings.
Steve Folland: Steve, thank you so much, and well, all the best being freelance.
Steve Morgan: Yeah, thank you, Steve. Thank you so much for having me as well. I've really enjoyed this and really appreciate the opportunity.