How to use systems to build momentum with Abbey Woodcock

by | Oct 14, 2019 | Podcast, Season 4

Hey Magic Makers!

Welcome back to another awesome episode of the Magic Maker Podcast. Today I am bringing you another interview. This is only the third one we’ve ever had on this podcast and this is a woman you might not know, but you are going to be really thrilled to meet. Today, I am speaking with Abbey Woodcock who is the founder of Freelance Co-op and we are talking about something so critical if you are a person who trades money for time, which is basically all of us. But if you’re someone who works one on one with clients, you will probably have found in your business that it is often very, very difficult to get that process of finding the person, bringing them on board, getting the work done, going back and forth with revisions, finalizing the work, delivering the files, getting paid to be quite a difficult process, especially when you know you can’t control your client and sometimes your energy on your yourself is quite low. And then sometimes the deadlines get extended and then you feel guilty. So you feel like you have to give a discount. It becomes this whole crazy mess of expectations and work being done, work not being done. 

So what Abbey is bringing us today is this amazing ‘workflow’ that we’re going to talk about in terms of how to get that done in a way that’s productive. And then she’s going to dive deeper into this workflow. She calls the maker workflow at Magic Maker Live in October. Our conference in London and Abbey is a sponsor of this conference and we are so thrilled to have her there. She is going to be such a wonderful support for everyone in the room who is struggling with this. And I know over my career being a photographer, a designer, and a consultant, this is something that is so important and so many of us just don’t know what to do. And she has developed this amazing system to help us with that. 

So I’m thrilled to have her on the podcast today and to have her speaking at Magic Maker Live in October, which I hope you can join us for. The other thing I just wanted to say about this episode is, I think as business owners, as entrepreneurs, we go through a lot of evolutions and revolutions in our business and we talk in this episode about a few milestones that I hope you guys can relate to in terms of growing up in your business. And there are a few fundamental moments that happen when everything changes and we’re going to talk about a few of those and hopefully provide some insight. For those of you who can relate to those, for those of you who are so willing to reach some of those milestones and supply you with some resources in order to get you through. So welcome to this episode of the magic maker Podcast in season four, where we’re, we’re looking all about momentum and really diving in today to look at how to get that workflow, that client relationship down and being able to create more systems and processes that allow us to take the pressure off and not feel so guilty and definitely be able to consistently charge more and charge full-price for our work. So with that, let’s make some magic, shall we?


Abbey Woodcock Interview

Nic: Hey magic makers, we have another really exciting interview for you today. I don’t often do interviews on this podcast, but when I heard about what Abbey does, I absolutely wanted her to come and share it with you because I think it’s so amazing and so useful. To the podcast today, I’d love to welcome Abbey Woodcock, of Freelance Co-op. Thanks for being here, Abbey.

Abbey: Awesome. Thanks for having me. Super excited.

Nic: This is super cool. I’m so excited to have this conversation and we were just saying before I hit record, I know we could go on for hours about this and I know everyone who’s listening is going to totally relate, so we’ll try and keep it as short as we can and give you as much as we can in a short time because we’re all super busy as freelancers. Abbey, why don’t you just tell us a little bit about yourself.

Abbey: Sure, absolutely. My background is in marketing and copywriting, people always ask me how long have you been into that? I’ve been a writer since as long as I can remember and I always say my first long form sales letter was, I wrote a 30 page note to ask a boy to the dance in seventh grade. So that was my first.

Nic: You didn’t. That’s great! I love that. Well, did he say yes?

Abbey: No. So, zero percent conversion on my first sales letter ever. That was kind of my first foray into persuasive writing. Since then I continued with writing and was in journalism for a while and then in corporate marketing, before I discovered this world that I called Narnia, which is online business and started writing copy and studying persuasion and all that, have had a freelance career for about 10 years now in the copywriting world. And as we’ll talk about in the last couple of years, particularly, I’ve noticed some holes in how we train and how people grow their freelance businesses. So, I’ve transitioned from being a freelancer, even though I’d still do work with some clients on copywriting to helping freelancers grow their businesses, creative freelancers, particularly.

Nic: We creatives, we need that.

Abbey: Absolutely. I’m one of you.

Nic: Yes, we do, don’t we? This season, we’re talking a lot about getting out of your own way and I think this is especially appropriate for people who are creative and I talk about in the work that I do, I talk about this spectrum and on one side there’s method and on the other side there’s madness and in the middle is magic. I think we all sort of naturally lean on one side or the other, but oftentimes creatives are really on the madness side, right? Which is not wanting to be willing to take risks and not wanting to necessarily commit to deadlines and being ideas people and the list goes on and on. The thing I think is important to acknowledge is we don’t need to be different than that. We just need to surround ourselves with people who center us and what we’re going to talk about today, which is systems and processes that bring us back towards that middle where our business can operate in the magic zone and have a little bit more method. Or if we’re on the method side, getting a little bit more of that creativity to bring us more towards the middle and get a bit more magic. Does that resonate with you? With the people that you work with, does that seem to be true?

Abbey: Absolutely. And for myself as well, especially working. Creative freelancer is a broad term, but things like writers and photographers and graphic designers and anybody that makes their living doing creative work, I don’t think they tend to lean on the method side and so for me especially, that absolutely resonates. I always say that there’s three phases of the creative business. The first thing is you discover that this is something that you’re so passionate about and you love doing. For me it was writing and then you discover, wow, I can make money doing this. You find clients, you learn how to market yourself and all of a sudden you have this business and now I have to learn how to run a business too. That’s where I’ve found my sweet spot in the last couple of years, is helping people with that part of it, the method side of it. Because I love that spectrum that you talk about because I lived in the madness for a long time and you can start a business that way, but it’s really hard to grow a business just living in the madness.

Nic: That’s so true. I love these phases that you talk about in terms of the slow realizations of what it takes to not just make money but to run a business as a creative freelancer. That is so true. So, as we dive into this conversation today about maybe adding a little bit more method into our business and what that looks like. I have this theory that there comes this like come to Jesus moment for creatives and a lot of entrepreneurs actually not just freelancers, this moment where we’ve set up a business or we’ve gone out on our own Dav freedom, everybody wants freedom. That’s why we’re here. We want to work in our pajamas, we want to hang out with our dog. But there becomes this massive moment or slow progression of moments that helps us realize one very important truth, which is that freedom comes through structure when you’re an entrepreneur. The more structure you have, the more freedom you have. Is that true?

Abbey: Absolutely. And if you had asked me this five years ago, I would have totally disagreed with that statement until I had my moments.

Nic: Tell us about this moment. I feel everyone has this story and I’d love to know what your story of how you had reached this milestone or discovered this for yourself.

Abbey: It was about four years ago. I remember what I was wearing, I remember where I was, it was crazy. I had had a great week. It was over the summer and like you said, I had built a lot of freedom into my business. So, I’ve had this week of doing what I wanted to do and I had just moved in with my fiancé at the time. I was just having a great week and it was a Sunday night after going out and shopping and doing all this stuff, going to the beach, all these things that the freelancer dream life. It was Sunday and I had a deadline. I had some copy that was due on Monday morning. So, at midnight on Sunday night, I’m at my computer just working my tail off because I’d been not doing anything all week and my fiancé came down the stairs and he had just moved in with me and he didn’t really know what I did for a living and was just learning my world. He came down the stairs and he’s like, what the heck are you doing? I had this hoodie on, that’s my stress piece of clothing, put the hoodie up over. I’m typing and I’m angry and he comes down the stairs and he’s like, what is going on? I have this deadline tomorrow and I’m way behind. And he was, what the heck? You haven’t worked all week? It’s because I had no systems in place and he comes from a military background, so he’s system’s guy to [inaudible]. We get up at six in the morning and make the bed and the whole bit which is the opposite of me. So he was, well, this is not going to be sustainable for you. We need to put some systems in place in your business. Of course, it’s midnight and I’m on a deadline. The next day he had this calendar made for me and it was so funny because it was from 9:00 AM to 9:30 you’re going to work on the headline and from 9:30 to 10:30 you’re going to work on the sub headline. I looked at this schedule that was all regimented and I said, no, I’m not doing any of that, I’m going to target. We had this back and forth for several months of him trying to figure out how best to wrangle me in a way and I don’t think that a system needs to be a regimented and this is the back and forth that we had. The system doesn’t need to be like from 9:00 to 9:30 you’re doing this, from 9:30 to 10:30 you’re doing this. But there does need to be some structure so you’re not working at midnight on a Sunday night after not doing anything all week. There has to be a little bit of structure around how can I do this so that I’m also doing the best work that I can because at midnight on Sunday night, right before the deadline, I’m not doing my best work either. So that was the moment for me to figure the systems and scheduling and business stuff because I’m doing bad work, I’m going to lose clients this way. My business is going to fall apart if I don’t figure it out.

Nic: And the guilt and the stress. I love what you’re saying about not being able to do your best work because I feel like I lived in that zone for many years as a photographer and as a designer because of that creative [inks]. Where you push yourself to that last minute because you feel you need that pressure to perform. But the reality is if you had that extra couple of days or that extra couple of hours, how much better could that work be? But we all have a bit of that hero complex like I’m going to get it done at the last minute and it’s going to be the best ever. I didn’t have to work all week. 

Abbey: And the other part of it is all week, this great week where I’m at the beach and I’m doing all this stuff. It’s always in the back of my head that I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing. That guilt that you were talking about and it was so me. I’m sitting on the beach, I’m not doing any work, I’m a horrible person for not doing this right now.

Nic: That’s the thing. We’re going to get into some of these systems in a second. But I think that is the fundamental piece about why structure brings freedom is because we’re not even just talking about freedom with your time or freedom with any of these actually really tangible things. It’s freedom from that guilt because you can end the day knowing that you did what you were supposed to do and you can switch off. If you don’t have that list or that structure, that system, you never get to switch off to you because you always have that thing pulsing in the back of your head. Like, don’t forget and you’re supposed to be doing this, why aren’t you doing it? It’s Tuesday and it’s due on Thursday. All of that stuff which sucks the life out of you.

Abbey: Absolutely. It’s the mental load of just carrying all this stuff and not having a list, having a schedule, anything like that is I’m constantly like, what am I forgetting? What am I forgetting? What am I forgetting? 

Nic: For sure. I could go on and on about the revolution of the digital to do list in my life. Going from notebook to the to do list with deadlines so that you literally put something on the calendar and it pops up three months from now so you don’t forget it. Such a good feeling. Okay. So, I love this vision of you that I think all of us can relate of hoodie on midnight before the deadline and I love this hero fiancé who’s like, we are going to sort you out. When I talk about this method and madness spectrum, there always is an influence that brings us more to the other side and it’s often a person or people for me, I’ve had business partners that have done that. Life partners are good for that. Virtual or in person assistance can be the thing that brings us to the middle. But for you, you have this great fiancé. I love this idea of military structure like, we make our bed and we do this at 9:15 and then this at 9:17. So good. But that didn’t quite work for you in that way and you guys went back and forth to figure out what did work. What I’d love to talk about today is what are the first three systems or pieces of structure that you did actually end up implementing that made the biggest difference for you?

Abbey: First of all, in the military they’re big on a SOPs, standard operating procedures. There’s a manual for everything that you do when you’re in the military so he was used to this thing and when we started breaking down, like I said at the time he didn’t really know my world, and we started breaking down the different parts of it. One of them was templates, simple stuff like templates for email communication. When I have a client reach out or potential client reach out and they say, what’s the process for working with you? I have these needs, what do I do next? And so, talking about the mental load and all the thought that goes into that, writing those from scratch every single time and that’s a big chunk of my day and a big chunk of my creative energy going to something that I respond the same way, almost daily at that point. So, creating some templates for common things that I was doing was a game changer and it sounds so stupid simple, but it really just took me having to not think about it. The thing with templates that’s so great is once you start to establish them and use them for yourself, that’s where it makes it really easy to outsource to a VA or anything like that because you already have the systems in place and you don’t have to train them as much because all you do is say, this is how I respond to new client inquiries or this is what happens when somebody visits my website or this is what happens when somebody reaches out to me on social or whatever it is. Once you start thinking about what are the stuff that I’m doing over and over again that I’m thinking about and starting from scratch every time and where can I put some templates in place. That was one of the first ones that I did.

Nic: I feel I have this conversation a lot. I work a lot with photographers and I was one. The conversation is always around what’s the CRM, what’s the actual software and using to create this and what you said is so important. Obviously, software plays a role, but the reality is you don’t even need software to create a template. You can use a word doc and just write the thing once and we’re so resistant to doing that because we’re always doing that stuff at the last minute. And I don’t have time now to just write that in a word document and save it in a folder. I have to reinvent the wheel.

Abbey: Exactly. Or you feel you’re going to sound like a robot or automated and creating a template as simple as going the last person that reached out to me, what did I say to them? And just copying and pasting it and again, putting it in a Google doc and then saying, cool. Then all I have to do is change the first sentence based on what they said instead of, let me sit down and think of a thoughtful response every single time somebody reaches out.

Nic: Totally. Why are we so resistant to this? I never did that in my 15 years as a photographer. What do you think the resistance is to actually sitting down and create getting those templates started?

Abbey: I think for a lot of us, and for me particularly as a creative and I think as a writer as well, there’s this idea that systems are going to stifle your creativity and somehow you’re less creative because you’re using systems or software or CRMs or any of these things that somehow going to take away from your personality or your creativity and it’s just like what you said about structure, giving you freedom, they’re not opposite things. They feel opposite word structure and freedom and creativity and templates feel like opposite things, but they allow you to be creative where it matters. Like, do I need to be spending all this energy replying to an inquiry that’s the same as the one I replied to yesterday or can I use that creative energy towards something better? Something like a blog post or a social media video or client work or any of these things where my brain is so much more valuable. And I think creative people particularly just have resistance to systems in general because if I put systems in place, somehow, now I’m going to have to wear a suit every day and have a schedule and I’m going to become a corporate, like automaton.

Nic: Totally. It’s so true. I love what you said about being creative where it matters because I do think that we feel this obligation to just pour all of ourselves into everything that we do. It’s like, dude, that is not efficient and it doesn’t matter because people don’t even notice. It’s not like you spent two and a half hours on the email and anybody cares and I think there is this element of care. We do care so much and there’s a lot of worthiness stuff where we have to spend two and a half hours responding to this inquiry because that’s how we know that we want it bad enough and that’s how we know we’ve worked hard enough to actually earn it and all those other weird crap that goes on. So, I love the idea. I mean like templates, I’m doing that. So that was one of the first things that you did was get some of this stuff put together, especially for what client inquiries?

Abbey: Yeah, client inquiries was a big one for me. Just normal things like sending proposals and that kind of stuff, which we’ll dig into. Just having those templates of how do I create a proposal, how do I reply to inquiries, how do I follow up, get testimonials. I had all these really big-name clients and none of them I had testimonials from and that was just on me because I’d never even asked for it. So, putting these pieces in place that could take the thought out of it and then I could focus on my zone of genius.

Nic: Here’s the other thing as well that just came up for me is you delay it because it has to be good. I need to send this response to this inquiry and have to really put thought into it and it needs to be good. What happens, you don’t do it and then it’s late and then you feel guilty and then like you let all this money just slip through your fingers because of this weird system where you’re like, I have to put all of the sudden and I didn’t do it right away and now it feels too late.

Abbey: That’s exactly what I was going to say for the second thing I put in place was I just looked through my email inbox and I just had money sitting there just because I hadn’t responded to people or I’d sent a proposal to somebody and never sent an email that was super simple like, any questions on the proposal? When do you want to get started? Simple stuff like that. I didn’t because of two things. Number one, like you said, all that resistance and I didn’t have any templates or systems in place to do it so it was the bottom of the to do list. The second part of it was I just never had a schedule for when I was going to reply to all those people or, do I reply after three days or five days. It doesn’t really matter the timeline, it’s making a decision of, okay, I’m going to set this for a follow up on my calendar in three days. If I don’t hear back from them and send them an email and whether it’s three days or five days or seven days, that’s a heck of a lot better than a month.

Nic: Yes. And again, that energy of having to remember. Once you take that energy out of the back of your head, you free up all that creative energy to do the job. And also, to live your life like I think that’s an important thing that we’re saying here is we’re not just talking about having more time to work. We’re having more time to live and keeping work in a smaller box.

Abbey: Yeah, exactly. And that’s what you said earlier about being able to turn off. I have two young kids and being able to be done with work and be with them and not in the back of my head being like, I have a deadline tomorrow or I really should reply to that client tonight or whatever. Just being able to say today’s done. I did all the stuff that was on my list for the day and now I’m with my family and I’m doing the family stuff.

Nic: How much of that worry that we have is just worry about what we’re forgetting. I don’t even know what it is. It’s just sitting there eating away at us. That second system that you did was you basically set up a system for reminders so we’re pinged when you need to do something.

Abbey: Super simple. Just following up with people. How many times do we need follow up, whether it’s clients that we have prospective clients, people that we sent proposals to, people at live events that you meet. Everybody always has these conversations at the bar, at live events like, we should get on a call and then you never talk to them again. Then setting a reminder for myself five days later to email and be, hey, it was awesome meeting you. You want to hop on a call? Super simple, stuff like that.

Nic: That’s so great. What was the actual system that you use for those reminders? Did you email yourself or set up calendar reminders or what did you use?

Abbey: What I was doing was there was an app that was a plugin for my email, but now actually Gmail has it built in now where you can either email yourself a reminder or you can snooze emails that you get and then it pops at the beginning of your inbox. This is like a new feature in the last couple of months that I’m like, this would have been nice.

Nic: I know, I just started seeing that happening, thanks Google. 

Abbey: At the top of the inbox, there’s a little timer button and you just hit that and in three days they’ll put it back as unread in your inbox and total pop back up. So, you remember to reply to them and so it’s easier now than it was when I started.

Nic: Brilliant. That’s great. So, first system was templates, second one was email reminders. What is the third thing that really made a difference for you?

Abbey: Back to my ‘come to Jesus moment’ with my fiancé, the next day after we sat down, he’s like, I need to understand your business. Can you tell me from the time that you meet people? I met a lot of potential clients at live events. From the time you meet somebody at the bar, at the live event, to the time the project’s over and you have a testimonial on your website. Like what happens? My answer was pretty simple. I meet them, I get on a call, they give me money, I do their work, they’re happy. And he’s like, that sounds good in theory, but I feel there’s a lot more to it. So, we spent a day mapping out each step of that. The proposal and the contract and the research that you need before you start the project and just all these things and we realized there’s 18 steps. Since then I’ve taught other people to map out the last client you had, map out what your email communication or whatever your communication was, map out the whole thing and people can do it in about 10 minutes and it looks really similar to what my workflow was. Those 18 steps. And what I realized was number 13 of the 18 steps makes me laugh that it’s 13 was actually doing the work like that I was getting paid to do so before I could even start work. There were 12 things that had to happen and just mapping that out, like let alone installing systems to automate some of those things and all that. Just ignore that for a minute. Just mapping it out and understanding what your process is. I don’t think hardly any business owner does this whether you have a product, whether you’re a freelancer, whether whatever it is that you do. What does it take to get from a client meeting you to the client being happy? How many of us really know what that looks like?

Nic: You’re so right because none of us. We just don’t do this and again, it’s that resistance piece. But something that just popped up for me that I started thinking about was one of the reasons that I stopped doing graphic design, even though I really love it, is at the end of the day, it’s almost impossible to know how much time you’re going to spend on a project. When my husband did a similar thing where he was like, how much time do you need and how much time does everything take you and let’s put it down into buckets. It doesn’t work that way. You can’t do that because there’s so much of the creative process that you just don’t know when you’re going to feel it and how long it’s going to take and all that stuff. All of that has such a direct correlation with how much money you make and then how easy it is for you to actually bid a job. There’s all this embedded like I don’t know and this anxious and this worry and you feel you’re always working more than what you’re getting paid for. So, I can imagine that actually having this process mapped out solves so many of those problems.

Abbey: Absolutely, because if there’s 12 steps that happened before the work, when we start to map out how long it takes us to do something, we’re just thinking about the work. I mean at least I was when I’m writing and I’m like, it’s going to take me, I don’t know, six hours to write this thing. Okay that’s six hours, but I’m not taking into account all that other stuff. Especially if you come from a job background like we always tend to think in hours. But the thing is when you have a job like a 9 to 5 where you’re working for a company, the company is taking care of all that other stuff and there’s so much time that’s going into projects that you’re not seeing as the employee. But then when it becomes your own business, all that stuff has to get taken into account when you have a project. From the time we meet to the time I start work, there’s 12 things that got to happen and that’s going to take a whole bunch of hours. Once I do the work, especially design photography, you know how it goes. After you finish the work, the project’s not over. There’s the back and forth and the feedback and the edits and that’s the stuff that if you don’t take that into account, the projects 10 times as long as what you thought it was because all of those other things outside of just actually doing the work. 

Nic: 100%. The thing that I can’t stand is all the different file types. I need a 50 file types in two or four colors for 27 different applications. Obviously, those are great things to outsource, but you don’t really think about the time that’s going to take you when you’re bidding the job. That is what keeps freelancers in this perpetual state of discomfort because you’re never getting paid for all the hours. I think it’s the same thing that we experienced with builders and people who do building projects in our houses is that they never bid enough for the job and then by the end of it they have to take on another job and they’ve forgotten about us and they’re feeling so frustrated and we’re feeling so frustrated. That’s the freelancer hustle, isn’t it?

Abbey: Yes, absolutely. That’s where you end up and that’s where I was. I was doing great work and my clients were happy with my work but all the other stuff was a mess and by the end of the project, we’re both just over it and I’m over it and then they’re getting frustrated with me because I’m delaying and delaying and like, okay we’re done now. If you’re in that kind of cycle of, they’re waiting on stuff from you and you’re like, I’m so sick of this project and I didn’t get paid enough. You never want to end a relationship like that. That’s where you don’t end up with testimonials or you don’t end up with referrals or repeat work and this is costing us money.

Nic: Yes, and then you feel the guilt. You don’t want to invoice because you feel like you don’t deserve it because you dropped the ball at the end. There’s that recency effect or something where humans remember the stuff that’s happened most recently more than the stuff that happened at the beginning. So that bad taste in the mouth is what people remember more than all the good stuff that you do along the way. It’s terrible. Okay, we’re talking about a workflow here. You created all the steps that need to have them from start to finish. You discover that of the 18, the actual work was number 13. I say this a lot because I talk about the five laws of entrepreneurship. Those are basically mindset, money, marketing, mechanics and momentum in order. Mechanics, number four is that doing the work piece, and I think it’s four or five. And it’s something that we totally take for granted that doing the work is not step one. All this other stuff has to come first.

Abbey: Yes. We mapped out this workflow and we ended up putting a name on it and called it the maker workflow because almost every creative project follows the kind of the same 18 steps. I do want to note that number 18 is drink wine and celebrate. I think it’s an important part to put it on stamp on the project and congratulate yourself for doing the work.

Nic: We talk a lot about celebrating and when you actually look into cognitive behavior, it’s really important to reward the behaviors that you want to see repeated. So, if you have tied up a job and you’ve done a good job and it’s over and everyone’s happy, it is actually a really good idea to celebrate and mark that with some reward because you’re more likely to do it again.

Abbey: That’s what you were talking about the perpetual hustle of when you’re having these projects that don’t end and then you’re starting a new project. I think business owners in general and entrepreneurs in general are always looking at the next thing. A big goal for people is like, I want to make six figures a year while as soon as you make six figures a year, then you look at like, what can my business look like if I made seven figures? Or what if I doubled my revenue next year? And you never celebrate like we did this thing. Let’s enjoy ourselves and let’s say like good for us, we accomplish this. That’s on a macro level and on a micro level at each project or just saying like, we landed that client, we did the good work. Everybody’s happy. Let’s give ourselves a little bit of reward for them.

Nic: I know. And it’s again, one of those things that sounds so simple and we’re so resistant to, but it makes such a huge difference and I think I keep tying it back some money because this is the stuff that gets you to that six-figure a year. Because the other thing that happens is when you don’t reward and you don’t acknowledge and you let that sort of downfall happened with every client relationship, you don’t want to take on more work because you’re so afraid of this whole process starting over. It’s not fun. You don’t want to do it.

Abbey: Absolutely.

Nic: Fabulous. I have to say, and I’m so excited, I love your maker workflow. I’ve looked into it in detail and it’s amazing and we’re not going into it today because it is like complex, beautiful and wonderful but there are two places where people can find out more about this. The first one, which I am so excited about is you’re going to be speaking at magic maker live in London. And we’re going to talk us in a second about the second place, which is your amazing business, who is a fantastic sponsor for magic maker live. But you are going to share this workflow with us live on stage. Is that right?

Abbey: Yes. I am super excited because I’m going to break down the process for creating it and then how people can adapt it to their workflow because obviously this is mine. Like I said, most creative projects that we’ve found follow this but I’m going to really get into the nitty gritty of what those 12 things that need to happen before the work happens. I guarantee you you’re doing them, but you probably have my husband says there’s either an intentional system or a haphazard system. You have a system in your business for getting these 12 things done, you just don’t know what it is. So, we’re going to show how to make it a little bit more intentional and free-up your mind to do what it is that you do best.

Nic: I’m so excited about this for my business. I’ve got some systems but I’m so excited to learn more about this. Make your workflow and I think this is one of those things that can be totally life changing. If you can get past that little bit of resistance and sometimes you know having a tool or a structure is the thing that you know you’ve been told it a hundred times or you know you need to do it. It’s a thing that allows you to say, when I go home tomorrow this is what we’re going to do. Because it sounds like you’ve got this step by step outline that will help people actually implement it. Is that right?

Abbey: Yes, because everybody has different strengths and different things that they have resistance to and knowing what yours are and saying, perfect. Okay, here have the 18 steps, number four is the thing that I need to work on the most, or number seven or whatever it is for you. I’m going to give people a structure to say, here’s what I need, where the holes are in my business and here’s the simple ways that can fix it. Because usually, this is something simple. People think systems and they think it’s going to be the matrix or like minority work and all these things. Sometimes it’s just a list or a template.

Nic: I’m so excited for that. The second place where people can get it is inside your amazing membership, ‘The freelance Co-op’. Tell us about that.

Abbey Basically, as I started building this stuff out for myself, my colleagues who I was talking with all the time were like, can you do this for me? And so about three years ago we created ‘The Freelance Co-op’, which is an online membership where we take the workflow and then whatever it is, like I said, if it’s step number four for you, there’s a whole section on the site about systems that are in place and that we have experts come in training on things like taxes and legal and contracts and all that crazy stuff that none of us are really experts in, but all of us need to use on a daily basis and put it in there. So, whatever it is that you need for your business, like say you have a common one was, I had a great call with a client, a potential client, prospect call with them and they think that my prices are too high, what do I do next? We have a whole section of a plug and play template conversation that you can have with them so that you don’t have to create all these templates from scratch and this is built around the workflow.

Nic: That’s amazing. I think the important thing to note here is if you are looking at that six-figure goal and you don’t understand why you’re not hitting it. Transitioning to that place in your business where you start paying for things like this to save you all the time and all the trial and error and all the mistakes and all the time you’re wasting because you’re not doing. In addition to the time it’s going to take to actually write and build it. I think the savvy kind of freelancers and entrepreneurs that you reach that point where you’re like, I’m not going to DIY this stuff anymore. I’m going to get there so much faster if I can just find someone like Abbey and I’m space like freelance co-op and just give me all the things that I can then even have my VA implement for me. You don’t even need to do any of this work. You can just get your team involved.

Abbey: We have a lot of people that whose VA goes in there and finds the systems and they work to build it. It’s always interesting because I would say that the two main times when people come to Freelance Co-op is number one, a client didn’t pay them. They did a whole project and now a client owes them anywhere from $500. We’ve had people like this client owes me $20,000 and they won’t pay me, people come to me then. Or at tax time is a big time of, oh no, I should pay tax on this money though. But the great thing about the freelance co-op is if you come to it before you hit those milestones, we can prevent you from having those, oh, the client didn’t pay me $20,000. Like you said, getting to the point in your business, we don’t have to do this trial and error in our business. There are so many resources out there and Freelance Co-op is obviously one of them, but there’s so many resources out there right now for businesses to prevent these things from ever happening and so many people out there that are forging the path for us that you don’t have to go through this heartache to improve.

Nic: 100%. We do not all need to be reinventing the wheel. Which is great. I love that you’re doing this and you have a coworking space. Is that right? As part of this?

Abbey: Basically, the year mark of having the coworking space which is the physical manifestation of what we’ve been doing online. I built the dream office for myself and then open it up to creative freelancers. Where I’m recording this podcast right now is in our podcasting studio. We have a recording studio. We run workshops. The workshops that we put in the online membership, most of them are run now out of this coworking space. We do workshops where we have content creation days where people come up for a day or two days and we film a whole bunch of content for them, for their social media. We do all kinds of stuff and we’re in upstate New York and in my hometown and it’s just basically creating the place where creative freelancers can go to have these resources that they need for their business.

Nic: That is such a dream come true. I was telling you before we hit record that I’m so jealous that I don’t live in New York. I would love to have access to a space like that. My husband and I were just talking because we do have a physical space that I built. The dream retail space, decided retail was not my thing and couldn’t let go of the space and we have this room in there that would be the perfect podcasting studio. We were talking about like, can we set that out to be podcast? Do we want to rent out some desks? But it’s tiny. We’re talking in very, very small space. We’re in southwest London. I think so many people can relate to that dream of having the perfect office and then the fact that you’ve build that to expand into include others, I think is so cool. That’s such a really cool mission.

Abbey: It’s just been really fun connecting with freelancers because we do all love and me included working in our pyjamas, but it’s also nice to just have some human interaction and then have the equipment and the resources. Most of us don’t have a big studio in our house. So, just having all those things that freelancers need to have sustainable businesses.

Nic: 100%. Again, I just keep getting reminded of this over and over again that we are so much better together. When we can give each other a leg up and like, I’ve got this thing if you want to borrow it or we’ve got this space if you want to come be creative or get that accountability. I have a couple of membership sites as well and I think so many of those pieces are so important and we just can’t get enough of them. When people like you are creating this spaces, physical and digital for us to have that accountability and have that support, it’s just so valuable. I think the only thing I hear people say, and I’m sure your people are like this as well as just like I wish I would’ve done this sooner. I wish I would’ve gotten involved with this process and program sooner because how much further along would I be?

Abbey: Absolutely, yes. There are just so many so many people out there that are trying to do the same thing that we are like, why wouldn’t we pull together and do it, do it together.

Nic: 100%. Your tagline is making creativity sustainable and I love this idea of not being so pop and burn and not running towards that cliff we know we’re going to fall off.  I talk about finding freedom and fulfillment and the alternative to that, which is the alternative of this sustainable creativity is burnout, isn’t it? It’s this place where you just go really dark and give up because when you don’t have the structures and when you just try and reinvent everything all the time and you’re too much of a perfectionist to try and just create some of these systems because you want to do it the hard way every time and you don’t want to delegate to other people. All this stuff that we go through leads us to this place that can be really dark and difficult and those of us who’ve experienced it are in the business of trying to keep other people out of that space as much as possible. It sounds like you are doing really amazing job doing that, by sharing all these wonderful tools that maybe don’t come naturally to those of us who are very creatively inclined.

Abbey: Yeah, absolutely. That’s how I say all the time. It’s like systems people create systems, and most systems are designed for people that made them. The systems people like my husband. That’s why the Co-op is so valuable to people because it’s designed with the creative in mind and what it takes to be sustainable. I love what you said, because mindset is such an important part of it and money is such an important part of it. All those pillars that you talk about. The world needs the creativity. The world needs people that can do these things and think in the ways that we think and the only way that we can keep doing what we’re doing is if we support each other.

Nic: Yes, absolutely. I think what you do is so important. Obviously, I’m biased because I’m a brand builder, but when I talk to people in depth about how to actually build a brand, I talked to them about the artists that they’re going to need to hire to help them because we’re not all copywriters and photographers and designers. When you get serious about building a brand which isn’t usually at the first stage of your business, it’s usually when you know yourself and know your customers a little bit better, and you’re looking to really invest in people who can help you build a brand that’s really powerful. It’s all the people who are in your membership site. It’s all of these creatives that we need access to, to help us build our own beautiful, genius, gorgeous, compelling, intoxicating brands. Without these freelancers, without these creatives, those brands don’t exist. And if we let ourselves burnout or not charge enough or not get structures in place that we’re constantly disappointing people or running behind or whatever, then brands don’t exist because they don’t exist without this wonderful creativity. So, the work that you’re doing is so important. So, thank you. So, tell us where we can find you online.

Abbey: I’m at is the best place to start. That’s got all the info on what Freelance Co-op is. I’ve also been super into Twitter lately. I feel I’m late to the party on that. I just really enjoy it. I like the creativity that involves direct access to my heroes. 

Nic: it’s a great place for writers and journalists. That is one of the great things Twitter is for.

Abbey: Yes. I’m there at life and writing. If you want the business and systems side of it, the website’s the best. If you want to just know what’s up with my kids and what I’m talking about, Twitter’s where it’s at.

Nic: The last thing I just want to ask you is, any sort of parting thoughts for people who are listening to this and they’re like, yes, I totally hear this, but I’ve really struggled to do this. Any words of wisdom that you want to leave us with in terms of all of this difficult, these milestones and getting structures in place and just being a freelancer in this kind of modern day that we live in.

Abbey: To put a big bow around everything that we talked about. It’s redefining what it means to be a creative and that these words are not opposite. I think that being a creative and being a professional, you can, and have to be both if you’re going to survive in this creative world. I love the method madness spectrum that you need both of those things. And looking at our notions of what it means to be creative or what it means to be a professional and thinking like these things are not opposites and we can strive to have both of them. The magic happens is when we look at these things that feel like opposites and we put them together. If I could impart any kind of wisdom on everybody, it’s that system’s equal freedom. They don’t constrain freedom. Thinking about those things that you think are, well, that’s the opposite of what I want my business to be. Examine that and think, what if you could have both? And what if you could add professionalism to your creativity or add organization to the madness? What could that look like? That’s where the possibilities are just endless for freelancers and business owners or anybody that does creative work.

Nic: I love that idea that these things are not opposite and it does take time for us to come to that realization. It’s so much better if everyone listening can just acknowledge that, absorb it, believe it, and not have to find out the hard way that it’s actually true. Thanks for sharing that with us, Abbey and thanks for being here. I really, really appreciate it. For those of you guys who want to meet Abbey and get this amazing maker workflow that she has, definitely check her out at The Freelance Co-op or please come to London, come hang out with us and Ash and Denise. Abbey is sponsoring the evening reception the night before day one. The evening of day one, we’re having drinks with ash. If you come VIP you get to go to that drink’s reception. You get to have this amazing lunch with Denise on day two and we do this third day of masterminding and we are going to be starting on a 2020 planner. And, we are going to be talking about a lot of the stuff that the Abbey shared with us today in terms of this workflow and being able to implement stuff like the maker workflow that you learn in the two days, right away. So, you don’t go home and forget all this stuff and not do it. We get overwhelmed with those events and we’re like, this is amazing. And then forget it all. We really encourage you to come hang out with us in London, meet Abbey, learn the maker workflow, start implementing it the very next day, and then we can all find this freedom through structure. Thanks for being with us, Abbey. I cannot wait to see you in October.

Abbey: Thank you. I’m super excited. 


Abbey Woodcock pin image

Abbey Woodcock pin image