Episode 57: Navigating the Freelance Landscape with Tim Noetzel

In this episode of The Pursuit of Badasserie: The Podcast, we welcome Tim Noetzel, a seasoned web developer, designer, and the founder of FreelanceGPS.com. Tim shares his intriguing journey of transforming his freelance business from a startup in 2019 to a thriving $ 480,000-per-year venture. The conversation delves into the unique challenges faced by freelancers, emphasizing the pivotal role of one-to-one conversations and referrals in standing out in a crowded marketplace. Tim highlights the impact of COVID-19 on the freelance industry and the surge in demand for freelancers in the tech and econ world.

The discussion explores practical strategies for finding and connecting with clients, with an emphasis on building genuine relationships. Tim stresses the importance of identifying ideal client hangouts, both online and in the real world. The episode provides valuable insights into the nuances of client quality, pricing strategies, and the need for clear expectations in the freelance business. Tim encourages freelancers to set realistic thresholds for their work and emphasizes the significance of finding clients who value quality work.

Throughout the episode, Tim shares practical advice on navigating the freelance landscape, including the longer-term view of client relationships and the opportunity to trade up clients over time. The conversation also touches on the proactive sales process and the art of setting clear expectations with clients to ensure successful project outcomes.

Let’s get after it!

Tim Noetzel on The Pursuit of Badasserie

In this episode, we discuss:

  • Introduction of the guest, Tim Noetzel, a web developer, designer, and founder of FreelanceGPS.com
  • Tim’s background and journey into the freelance world
  • Tim’s experience of growing his solo freelance business from $0 in 2019 to a $480,000 per year business
  • Discussion on the impact of COVID-19 on the freelance industry
  • The importance of one-to-one conversations and referrals in freelancing
  • Challenges faced by freelancers, especially in crowded online platforms like Upwork
  • Strategies for finding and maintaining clients, including identifying ideal client hangouts and building relationships
  • The significance of quality clients and setting clear expectations for successful freelancing
  • Tim’s perspective on pricing and the value of premium clients
  • The long-term view of client relationships and the opportunity to trade up clients over time
  • The role of a proactive sales process and setting clear expectations with clients
  • Tim’s website, FreelanceGPS.com, and the free course he offers for freelancers
  • Ways to connect with Tim on Twitter and LinkedIn
  • Invitation for a free strategy session with Tim for those interested in freelancing or growing their freelance business

Find Tim:

https://freelancegps.com – Free course on building a high-value freelance business.



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Continue reading for a full transcript of the show:

Lynn Howard

Hey, I’m Lynn.

Amanda Furgiuele

And I’m Amanda. Welcome to the pursuit of badasserie. We have another exciting guest to share with you. This is Tim.

Netzle, he is a web developer, designer, founder of Freelance GPS.com, where he coaches on how to start and grow successful freelance businesses.

We’ve never had a freelancer, so we’re really excited to have him on the show. He grew his solo freelance business from $0 in 2019 to a 480,000 year business today.


We are super excited to have you on tape. Tim, thanks for having me.

Amanda Furgiuele

So how did you get started in this freelance world?


Yeah, so ironically, my freelance journey actually started with a job search. I have been working in startups pretty much my whole career, which obviously are pretty volatile.

And so I found myself looking for a job in 2019. I really just wasn’t finding anything I was excited about.

And I was talking to my wife, who’s my fiance at the time, she was like, why don’t you, you know, why don’t you just freelance?

You’ve done freelancing on and off at side projects. Why don’t you just do it full time? And, you know, I was really excited about that just because I knew what doing that full time could mean in terms of, you know, schedule flexibility and, you know, the ability to work when, where I want it, that kind of stuff.

But I was also in the middle of saving for a wedding and buying a So I knew if I was going to make that work, I needed to figure something out pretty quickly.

And that, I think, more than anything else was intimidating at the time and really meant that I was going to have to find a way to find clients that, you know, really could cut through the noise and was substantially more efficient than most of the other things that people try, you know, freelance websites, social media, blogs, All right.

Amanda Furgiuele

I love that. I love Free COVID. I think that’s an important distinction. I know I’m not like bashing on people who started post COVID.

However, there has been such an influx of freelance work done out of necessity or out of just passive income, like desiring to change something, what, what they’re doing.

But COVID really created an insurgents of this. And I appreciate that you had almost left foresight to start it earlier.

The work. I agree.

Lynn Howard

I actually…


Sorry, go ahead.

Lynn Howard

No, I was saying, don’t worry, we’ll cut what the overlays. Amanda’s a great editor. But I was going to say, I was going to say the same thing, it’s really awesome.

and I talk a lot about like the COVID coaches and like the COVID freelancers, which that’s not throwing shade at them.

We love people though that like started prior and actually built your business during where most people were a bit like…

Not spending it as much and kind of a bit skittish because we didn’t know what was next.


Yeah, I think I found, ironically, that code was actually really good for my business. I think a lot of businesses, particularly in the tech and econ world where I operate, were struggling to do more with last.

That meant turning to freelancers for support and for help. You know, oftentimes they were shrinking the size of their teams or choosing to spend their money in different ways than they had been previously.

And so I really saw my business kind of take off and I think a lot of other freelancers did as well.

Lynn Howard

Yeah, I would agree. You talk about that you really use what Amanda and I love. The one-to-one conversations and referrals and actually building relationships.

Can you talk a little bit more about that? Because to me, it is a pivotal part.


I think it’s helpful to look at them on kind of two different spectrums. One of them is just, you know, how crowded is that channel?

Right? And you can look at And, you know, in freelancing, you can look at freelance websites or blogging or social media.

And you see those are extremely crowded, right? Anybody can join a site like Upwork, which means everybody does. And then you use the average gig, gets like 50 plus proposals, the average price for a web development gig on a site like Upwork in the US is just $20 an hour.

So, you know, if you want to build a successful, scalable business, that’s just not a recipe for success. You can do a similar comparison on something like social media or blogging where you’re effectively out there competing with every other marketer on the internet for your client’s attention.

So it becomes really challenging. The other spectrum I think that’s useful to look at is just how crowded a channel is.

Based on that, how much time, money, and effort you need to spend on an ongoing basis and upfront to get that channel to work.

Blogging takes six plus months to get any kind of traction. You guys know how much effort it takes to get a podcast off the ground.

And a lot of those are common recommendations for freelanceers, hey, you should go try these things. I don’t want to say that they don’t work because they definitely do some extent, but it’s tons and tons of effort to get those off the ground.

what I found was one-on-one conversations really just cut through the noise substantially faster because people like I invite you those that they trust, people that they know.

And so if you can build good rapport with clients, if you can, you know, identify the sort of hubs in your area and online where your clients are hanging out and don’t participate, it becomes substantially easier to connect with clients, you know, build relationships and ultimately sell projects.

Amanda Furgiuele

I love that. I was literally talking with someone today about starting freelance work. And I think that you’re right that one of the big misconceptions I think a lot of people have about, I think, across all businesses and across, I think the freelance sphere, it’s definitely prevalent in our, in all industries of like, if I just start up work or just start a fiber account, I’ll make $200,000 this year in my freelance world.

that’s a great aspiration and I definitely feel like you shouldn’t Poopoo people’s dreams, however, there’s more to it than just because there is a lot of things to filter through and to sift through.

having that one-on-one personal connection does filter through that.


Yeah, I think that’s exactly right. I think long gone are the business days of, you know, if you build that they will come, right?

You really have to start out with a plan and know how you’re going to reach folks. And, you know, I think any sort of advantage you can get is huge, but, you know, there’s a few of those sort of, I don’t know, thought leaders, if you will out there, you know, saying, oh, yeah, you can make, you know, hundreds of thousands of dollars on Upwork.

And, you know, certainly it’s possible, but it is not in any way the norm for, you know, the vast majority of people using that platform, right?

don’t get to 200k plus with, you know, 20k. $20 an hour gig, just down. And so if you’re serious about it, I really recommend having a plan that relies on ultimately owning your own sales and marketing machine rather than kind of outsourcing it to somebody else.

Lynn Howard

Yeah, I’ve, it seems like more recently because I think because of the coaching consulting influx during COVID, they’re becoming a lot more popularized hubs kind of like Upwork and five or four coaches and consultants.

And I used to run an organization that there were hundreds of them and they would like join these groups and I’d say, no, like if you actually work the system, you can make more money and have, like you said, have the ownership of your sales funnel and the client process.

So I love that. I do want to come back to though, because I can hear our audience saying, okay, you’re having conversation.

Keywords and building relationships, but where do you find these people? So how do you maintain a study stream on and offline of one on one conversations and referrals to grow your business?


Yeah, great question. think there’s two really key points here. One of them is just identifying the places where your ideal clients are hanging out, both online and in the real world.

For me, that’s startup accelerators and co-working spaces and industry meetups and industry groups, online Slack groups based around the industry as well are really, really good.

And so going to those places and participating in one way or another is extremely helpful, right? So if you’re new, that can be as simple as going asking for some advice, right?

I’d love to just pick your brain and hear about experiences you’ve had with other freelancers, what’s gone well, what hasn’t gone well.

It’s a really disarming way, frankly, to start some of those conversations. And the nice thing about that kind of approach is you don’t have the pitch, right?

People have work for you. They’ll kind of just raise their hand and say, hey, we should talk about this project.

And if not, you know, you can build a relationship, ask for introductions to other folks who might be willing to give some advice, you know, and kind of keep that process going of having one-on-one conversations until you do find some projects.

The other thing that I think is really helpful is speaking about who already knows your ideal clients and could potentially introduce you.

Oftentimes, the best source for new freelancers is actually other freelancers, particularly those who work in sort of complementary fields, right?

So if you’re a web developer, talk to designers. So, I’m going about question. talk question. going first question. I’m first going first question.

I’m going first I’m going first question. going first question. going first going first It’s the kind of thing you can do in a couple of hours a week.

You can compare that to something like Upwork, where the so-called expert advice is you should be submitting 25 to 50 proposals a week.

don’t know anybody who can do that and have them be any kind of quality in like under 20 or 30 hours a week.

It’s just far and away, more effective. spend way less time, which means you can keep doing it while you’re working.

And then you don’t have to.

Amanda Furgiuele

So, it’s not a direct competitor, but you work well together and you will complement each other and refer business to each other I think that is such an underutilized resource to find somebody in a complimentary business.

I would call it power teams, whatever you want to call it, but that is gold when you’re looking to build relationships and find clients without having to do so much work.


Yeah, absolutely. think if any, any way that you can find a partner with folks works really, really well. You know, other freelancers are an obvious fun, but a lot of times co-working spaces and accelerators like other industry.

Dr. Grouper looking for content, so that’s another great way to get in front of your ideal clients. There’s just so many opportunities out there to find, know, really like symbiotic little relationships that you can use to grow your business.

Lynn Howard

Absolutely. And I don’t know if, because you didn’t flat out say it, but you’re speaking about it is one of the other things that has to be absolutely essential to you building your business and others who are successful is that you are going out there and being proactive.

And I think back to how we found each other. actually slid into our email. Like you said, Hey, like I saw your podcast.

think it might be a good fit. Would you be open to it? And most people don’t email us directly.

Most people don’t put in the action to like go where the people might be going back to what you were saying.

The ideology that if you build it, they will come, but they’re not putting in the action. And I love that.

I love that you’re talking about it, even though you didn’t flat out say like, I’m putting in the work.

So I do want to ask around that because one thing that we get a lot of from our clients is like, how do you stay motivated to put in that work to keep going over and over and over again and putting yourself out there?

Because it sounds like that is a key aspect of what you did and what you continue to do.


Yeah, it absolutely is. And I’m glad you asked that question because I think it highlights kind of two different points that are important here.

One of them is just like who this kind of an approach can work for. And I think when a lot of people think about either marketing or networking, right, they think of people who are extremely extroverted.

But the irony is the vast majority of freelancers aren’t. I’m certainly not. You know, I definitely am a board.

For an introvert, if I go to a party, I need to go home and recharge afterwards. But the nice thing about this approach is that you can kind of do it on your terms, right?

You can find folks who you think would be a good fit, perhaps something, and then go have the conversation, right?

And so I think it’s a much more approachable way to grow your business than something like, you know, just showing up to a networking event and kind of trying to work the room.

But I think you hit the nail on the head, Lynn, when you were, you know, mentioning that you really have to quit the time and the effort in, that’s going to be true of any marketing you do, right?

Ultimately, any kind of marketing is going to be a numbers game. Some people will, you know, say no, or it won’t be a good fit.

But I think the nice thing about this is the odds are way more in your favor than just about anything else, right?

Face-to-face conversations were substantially better than banner ads, right? We all know that implicitly, right? And a nice thing is that you can adjust as you go, right?

In the middle of a conversation, you can change your approach if you see it’s not going well. people also are just predisposed to be helpful to people who are kind of in their circle or, you know, in the same community.

That is something that has been studied in psychological circles for a very, very long time. you see that when you go and chat with people in a local community, but also even in an online community, small business owners like to help each other out.

so it was, know, for me, a pretty easy act to say, hey, can I be on the podcast? I knew I wasn’t going to be lying

I think same is true for web developers, designers, writers, other tech people and the people that they work with.

Amanda Furgiuele

Absolutely. We would never laugh at you, Tim.


would never laugh at anybody. You probably should laugh at me, but maybe not for that question.

Amanda Furgiuele

So, tell me, what do you think is one of the biggest challenges that you have faced in building your freelance career?


Yeah, so I think beyond meeting clients, I think probably most important thing is meeting the right clients. And I have found far and away the thing that I

That has helped me grow and also the thing that separates successful freelancers in general from those who kind of struggle is client quality.

And I think at the beginning, I really struggled with clients who really just didn’t operate the way I needed them to have a successful business.

I think as freelancers, we kind of think about that in the opposite way, like what do I need to do to make this client happy.

you definitely need to be thinking about that. But I think ultimately it needs to be sort of a two-way street.

And so you are effectively looking for clients who can afford to pay premium rates who are willing to pay premium rates, who ask smart questions, who give good feedback, who are easy to sell to, who refer business your way.

All of those kinds of And the reality is that not all clients are created equal, right? Some clients do all of those things and when you’re working with them, freelancing really is kind of a joy.

You know, it’s some of the most fun I’ve ever had in my career. But when you’re working with clients who are constantly changing the scope last minute, who are making decisions in sort of an arbitrary and capricious sort of way, you know, who are required tons of hand holding, life becomes a grind.

And I think when you look at freelancers who are struggling, you know, almost universally, the reason that they’re struggling is because they’re working with, you know, more of those types of clients who really just aren’t, know, was really narrowed down on who those idea clients were and made sure

That everything in my positioning and in my marketing and how I was having conversations was sort of positioning me to attract more of them and to repel clients who maybe weren’t kind of the best fit.

Lynn Howard

We can love language. I do want to clarify one thing, talk to you or two the individual because we’re not everybody’s cup of tea.

Absolutely. And I know you kind of said that. I’m not saying clarify for you, but like for the audience because there are lots of little nuggets in there that I mean you really have more speaking.

Man, I have this conversation all the time, not just with our clients, but with each other. And I love that you spoke about a couple of things.

One is like, yeah, it needs to be the right fit for both, right? And so, and if not, then you’re going to struggle and you’re going to have that like, I’m actually, I just met a new person.

I’m going to meet with him because he’s a very high level individual here in Thailand. And his text messages, I sent one to Amanda yesterday.

I’m like, oh, This is going to be painful just because he communicates in a very different behavioral south and I do.

However, I’m not looking to have him as a client. He will never be a client because I already see the red flags.

It’s more for like connections, right? And so I think that that’s really important to identify. The other thing though that you sat in the beginning and I love it and I want you to kind of talk a little bit more about this because I know that this is a mistake that a lot of freelancers do do and business and sonars, period, is they say, I’m not selling or this person gave me this feedback so I need to drop my prices.

I need to do this. I need to bend and bow at everybody’s like whim and woes. And you said, you were talking about that earlier in this last little clip.

So I want you to talk a little bit about, you know, I know that’s a common mistake that they use and like, how have you walked other people through that and how did you stay strong through that?


Yeah, yeah, I think, know, there’s There’s kind of two approaches that I have found that work well. One of them is a very tactical, of short view.

The other is a much longer-term view, I think taking both is really helpful. I think in the shorter term, I think it’s important to ultimately remember that far and away the best clients are the ones who pay the most money, and I don’t mean best financially, that part’s pretty obvious.

mean, best in terms of your interactions with them, because paying more is an indication that that problem is sort of must solve for them.

It’s an indication that they value quality work. It’s an indication that they’re going to be serious about the way they work with you, and all of those things are ultimately what you want in a client.

I found clients who are constantly paying And I have pennies, just how they tend to be exhausting, right? changed the scope last minute.

They always want more or less. They tend to be less well informed about sort of the norms of the type of work I do.

And, for me, as a web developer and UX designer, means like having to hand hold them through things that are really obvious to anyone who works in the industry even in a non-technical role, right?

And if you find yourself like as a developer, having to explain why designing for mobile is important, right? You know, you’re in a bad place, right?

People ideally should know that before they kind of start working with them. And so I think that’s the first thing to remember is like ultimately, those are the types of clients you want to go after.

And so it’s important to kind of just set what you’re You’re not a coach of those are, right? And so, you know, there’s all sorts of surprising theory we can get into, but I think at a bare minimum, one of your guides should be just what your costs are, right?

And as a freelancer, that’s like how much do you need to make in order to, you know, pay rent or pay your mortgage and pay for healthcare, put food on the table, save a retirement, right?

Take a vacation every now and then, right? And so like, at a bare minimum, you’re You should have that as your threshold and say, I’m, you know, I’m not going to do any work unless it pays, you know, more than my effective hourly rate of X, right?

And so I think that’s the kind of the tactical piece in terms of like staying strong. I think the longer term piece is to, you know, except that like your first client is probably not going to be your most profitable.

Your second client probably won’t either. You have the opportunity to trade up clients as you go, right? And that I think has been one of the things that’s helped me to get to where I am today is by, you know, basically locking in relationships with clients in the form of retainer agreements.

And then, you know, letting them run their course and ultimately, you know, replacing, you know, the clients who tend tended to be the lead person.

And fit with somebody who was at the other end of the spectrum and, know, was a client who was a better fit than any of my other clients.

Amanda Furgiuele

Absolutely. love, love, love those clients who appreciate the skill set who understand it and who can ultimately be. It’s a mutual relationship because it’s not just about who’s going to pay me the most.

It’s like, who’s going to understand what’s needed and work the best with me.


So it’s not necessarily who’s going to

Amanda Furgiuele

It’s more than that when you’re building relationships that actually are going to be long-term, sustainable relationships that you want to have and work with regularly.

So if you wanted to leave anybody with one last little nugget of what to expect in the freelance world, challenges, how you build that base, anything that you want to say to leave our audience with.


Yeah, I think the one thing we didn’t touch on is kind of a sales process. And I think ultimately the thing that I found to be most important there is not what you’d think, right?

It’s not persuading your clients to work with you or anything like that. It’s more setting your expectations with them so that you set yourself up for success during the course of the project.

And so you make sure that they are going to be happy. happy. The clients buy again, they refer other work.

And more than anything else that tends to be just making sure that you are setting clear expectations, this is what you’re going to get.

This is when you’re going to get this is what I need from you in order to deliver that. And I think if you do that, you’re going to have happy clients.

They’re going to send more business your way and, you know, freelancing can be a fantastic business.

Amanda Furgiuele

I love that. That’s so important to remember when you’re working with anybody to set those clear expectations and those boundaries and make it clear so that you’re not over promising or under promising.

That’s big.

Lynn Howard

Yeah. So tell the audience how they can get ahold of you where they can reach you.


you can find me at FreelanceGPS.com. I’ve got a free course there that covers step by step begins and outs of everything that

We just talked about how to meet clients through one-on-one conversations, what to say, what to ask, how to close the deal, all of that kind of stuff.

You can also find me on Twitter and LinkedIn. I’m happy to chat with any of you. give a way for you kind of our long strategy session as well.

you’re thinking about freelancing, you’re not sure where to start or you already have a freelance business and you want some help growing it, I’d love to chat.

I love that.

Lynn Howard

Of course, that’ll all be in our show notes.

Amanda Furgiuele

Absolutely. can already think of people I’m going to be sending your way before it’s even air. Hopefully they’ll come your way very soon.

Thank you so much for enlightening us on the freelance world.


We absolutely loved having you on the show today. Awesome. Thank you. I love being here.

Lynn Howard


Amanda Furgiuele

Per usual, everyone. If you feel like you know somebody who could benefit from Tim’s knowledge, please. Send them towards this podcast and towards Tim so we can expand the world of freelance market.

love to share that knowledge. So if you know anybody who is in that sphere or wanting to be, send them our way or Tim’s way, please leave us all the likes, shares, comments, subscribes that you can.

And if you have anything that you want to learn, please ask away, leave it in a comment and we will get back to you on that.

Lynn Howard

Absolutely. So until next time, get after it.