Tips for Growth Hacking your Career, An Update

basic-freelancer-funnel

It’s been a little over a month since I wrote this post about growth hacking my career. I got a comment today asking me how things were going, so I figured it was time for a follow up.

My career is growing, full of possibility and still uncertain. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much my career hacking hypothesis has proven to be true. Rather than spending my time applying for open positions, I’ve leveraged inbound marketing skills and allowed my potential clients to come to me. I’ve begun to look at my career as a funnel: What is the fastest way to show my authority? What are my most lucrative channels? How do I turn leads into billable hours and provide a great service in the process?

I’ve spent almost all of last month on business development: Since my last update I’ve spoken twice, generated a bunch of leads with wonderful startups at various stages, had great meetings, secured an office in SOMA and signed one contract. My lead-time from awareness to conversion (in my case, the first billable invoice) is at least eight weeks. I wish it were faster, but right now I’m right in the middle of a week of lunch meetings with potential clients and partners. I don’t know that any of these deals will work out, but it’s a thoroughly exciting process that is endlessly preferable to the old cover letter routine.

On a more nuanced level, working for myself is an exercise in staying on the Middle Path: it has taught me to weather adversity and to sit in the discomfort of uncertainty without panicking and making rash decisions. It’s also taught me ego-inflating praise and admiration is fleeting, and should never be my end goal.

In general, marketers are behind the scenes folks. We build, measure, and learn with our optimization software and look at data all day long. Getting out in front of my computer screen has been challenge, but it’s turned out to be incredibly rewarding as well. Speaking, attending Meetups, and grabbing lunch with people in my space allows me to connect with people and in gets out of the internet vacuum.

My goal (as always) is to work hard, test every assumption I have, and above all grow companies.

Full-time jobs are easy to come by (in SF anyway) but consulting is challenging. The vast majority of people who ping me on Linkedin or send me an email really want me to come work for their monolithic corporation in San Jose (far) and/or full time (no). Landing a new contract is like landing a new dream job every couple of months. I often get asked why I don’t join a startup or have my own startup, and my answer is simply that growth consulting is the most exciting work in the world to me. In the last year, I’ve worked on 8 different products, all of which have been interesting in their own way. If I joined a startup I would be working on one product for the next couple of years. Not every company needs or wants a growth consultant, but for some—especially early to mid-stage startups—it’s a perfect fit.

The Progress

Following the Lean Analytics approach, I’ve come up with my One Metric That Matters, which right now is number of contracts signed vs. number of leads. Once I have my plate full with signed contracts, I’ll probably focus on monthly revenue over time. Today my close rate is 1/8th or 13%. Not as awesome as I would like it to be, but it is a metric that tells me a lot about the health of my business and can be improved upon. In other metrics, I’ve grown my twitter following by 47 and have 23 whole subscribers on my email list. Yay!

Things I’ve Learned:

Speaking Success

Speaking is my single most successful channel for cultivating leads (and just meeting smart people doing smart things). I’ll be doing more pitching and more speaking.

Track Progress

Tracking progress is essential to ones mental health. I’m always focused on the next project and success, it’s really important to reflect on how far I’ve come as well.

Scalability

Working for myself—when it’s just myself—is not scalable in the long term. At this rate, I will need to expand, find a cofounder and start an agency.

Deliberate Practice

Focusing on deliberate practice has become increasingly important. My time is unstructured, so the question then becomes: what stills do I really want to be refining? I want to spend most of my time on speaking, writing, running experiments, and cultivating leads.  I just started using Toggl to track my time in these areas.

Things to work on:

Guest Blogging

Guest blogging is a valuable channel for many consultants, but its a seriously time consuming endeavor. I hope to focus more on high-profile guest blogs this month.

Lead Optimization

As someone who has zero experience in sales, the “middle of the funnel” parts of my business like following up with leads (and then emailing them again when they don’t respond) makes me thoroughly uncomfortable. I know that this discomfort is essential in growth, but it’s definitely something I have to force myself to do.

Site Improvements

In many ways, this website is a minimum viable product. I still need to add case studies, content and a/b test email sign up forms. I’m trying hard to not get mired in the details of a perfect style sheet and focus on the aforementioned things that matter.

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