5 Lessons Walter White Can Teach You About Becoming A Freelance Badass

Through four seasons (and change), Breaking Bad has convinced me of one thing: Walter White is the ultimate freelancer. If you’re ready to get in touch with your truly badass side as a freelancer, there’s a lot you can learn from the King.

Think about it. You’re talking about a guy who struck out on his own, became the best at what he does, made a ton of money doing it and answers to no one. Isn’t that the freelance dream?

Like any good freelancer, he understands that pants are optional.

Of course, Walt’s also faced with an ethical dilemma every step he takes. Freelancing shouldn’t be as melodramatic as all that. Still, there’s plenty you can learn from the King about how to become a sultry freelance badass.

Here are five lessons you can learn from Heisenberg himself.

1. Doing things differently helps you stand out. Sure, Heisenberg cooks the best damn meth on the market. But more importantly, that meth is blue. It attracts attention from potential partners like Gus Fring, sells like crazy, spawns copycats and gets the authorities on his case. (In your situation, the authorities you’ll attract will hopefully be after you for positive reasons.)

You want to create an addictive service offering? Do things a little differently than the competition. It’s one of the main things that drives successful business.

2. Discipline pays off. Walt is an incredibly disciplined cook who pays attention to the smallest details of his craft. As a result, he creates the purest product on the market. His success stems from pride in his work.

To become a freelance badass, keep a disciplined structure to your business. Stay organized. Work 9-5 at least. And when you need to, put in that extra effort to ensure you’re pushing out a consistently high-quality product.

3. Taking a chance is the best way to succeed. The entire storyline of Breaking Bad starts with the fact that Walt has nothing to lose. As a result, he takes chances that are dangerous but end up paying off in big ways.

Of course, taking chances with your business has smaller stakes than the life-or-death choices of Walter White. His choices tend to be selfish, leading to some negative consequences. Keep your audience at the front of your mind when you take chances (instead of your own desires), and you’ll make great waves with your business.

4. Confidence is crucial. Cockiness puts you in the line of fire. In the first few seasons, we get to see Walt make confident decisions that advance his efforts to become a leader. More recently, we’ve seen Walt’s cockiness lead to a distorted, risky chain of events.

Business walks a fine line between confident and cocky. Walk that line, but err on the side of confidence every time. A confident approach inspires clients and readers with respect for your work. A cocky approach may turn clients and readers off.

5. Disloyalty can be your undoing. Alright, so Walt hasn’t taken the fall yet. But all signs point to his eventual demise. The build-up starts with Walt’s first serious transgression with Jesse — the death of Jane. Walt continues to pile more transgressions on top of that. Last season’s conclusion saw Walt slipping poisonous berries to a child, building up an even bigger case for Jesse to take him out.

Unlike Walter White, you’re not catapulting yourself towards an untimely end. To keep yourself out of the crosshairs, stay loyal to your clients. Loyalty gets you a lot in business. It helps you keep an ethical line and builds trust between you and people who may become contacts for life.

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The Kiss of Death: Losing Clients and How to Deal with It

As a freelancer, you avoid much of the day-to-day corporate BS. But freelancing comes with its ups and downs. Some clients won’t be happy with your work, even if you consider yourself a rock star of the writing world.

It’s hard to deal with rejection. But rejection is what makes you a better writer and a stronger businessperson. So when that client comes to you with a verbal pink-slip, the best thing you can do is to dwell on how to improve your craft and your business, instead of dwelling on the fact that no one loves you.

I knew it was you, Fredo. Even though you tried to blame it on the dog.

The kiss of death comes in many forms. It may be a lack of new projects or weekly communication from a nervous point-person. Some clients will come to you explaining that they lack the resources or the projects to continue the relationship. Perhaps you’ve been replaced with a less expensive writer or someone who knows the industry better.

Whatever the cause, consider losing a client a minor setback. I used to work for a PR agency that literally hemorrhaged clients every month. As soon as it was clear a client had one foot out the door, the CEO sent his new business people after the competition. Granted, losing clients was often tied to low quality of work. The head of the company was just a really, really strong salesman.

Regardless, he did everything in his power to keep clients, but he never freaked out when they walked. I had problems with many facets of my employer’s mindset, but I always stood in awe of his ability to shake off rejection. Perhaps it was because he knew we’d performed low quality work and didn’t care. But the message was clear: in the world of business, how you deal with rejection defines how quickly you get back on your feet.

When you lose a client, focus on the positives. Get your bearings and plan your next steps.

  • First, take a deep breath.
  • Realize that you have an opportunity to replace that client with a higher-paying one or more interesting work.
  • Try to pinpoint the reasons the relationship went sour — but don’t obsess over it.
  • Reaffirm the relationships with your existing clients and work extra hard to continually prove yourself.
  • If you lost a high-volume client, ask existing clients for more work.
  • The next time you wake up, make sure you start your day early. Grab breakfast & coffee, take a shower and get to work.

How to Freelance in Style

The best part about freelancing is making your friends jealous of your new lifestyle. It’s okay! Embrace the envy.

If you plan to freelance, best to do it in style. If anyone knows style, it’s me. I got styles for miles.

Below, I’ve laid out my step-by-step guide for freelancing in style. Note: these style tips do not take success or productivity into account. These tips help improve your lifestyle as a freelancer. But like all good things in life, they should be enjoyed in moderation.

Step 1: Stop wearing pants. Take Homer Simpson’s words to heart and stop wearing pants. Enjoy the freedom that comes with rolling out of bed and walking five steps to your computer. Working without pants can be a liberating feeling. Now, if only there were a picture to sum this tip up perfectly…

Ah, here it is.

Step 2: Work outside. All you need is your computer. Set up shop at a cafe, by the water, in a park — wherever you can get work done while enjoying the summer weather. Glare of the sun too much? Work in the shade or grab yourself a cheesy-looking laptop visor.

Step 3: Socialize more often. You have freed yourself from the daily commute. Make the most of your newfound time to catch up with friends on weeknights. Keep yourself disciplined — late nights still translate to rough mornings.

Step 4: Get in shape. Self-improvement: you now have time to participate in this ages-old activity. Slot out some time to hit the gym during the day. You’ll miss the rush and you can always make up the time by working an extra hour into the evening. All your friends will be commuting during that hour anyway.

Step 5: Learn a new language. It’s important to diversify your activities. Learning a new language can help get the creative juices flowing while taking your mind off of writing in English for a bit. Branch out and you’ll have the opportunity to open a whole new world of business and personal potential.

Step 6: Take more days off. Freelancing isn’t all fun and games — but you will notice a quality of life improvement. Stay disciplined and put in some extra hours during the week. Then, take Friday off and enjoy a three-day weekend (with email access, of course).

Step 7: Travel to exotic locales. Worry no more about budgeting your vacation days. If you’re feeling uninspired, take off for a couple of days and see the country. Or, if you’re big into traveling like me, plan 2-3 international trips a year. Watch your friends’ jealousy go through the roof.

6 Ways Freelancers Get More Clients

Getting clients is hard work. Just about every other freelance task can be performed from home in your underwear. I mean, I’m wearing pants right now. But not because I have to.

You can do this. It took work to build up a portfolio. Now, it’s time to kick into gear and find some clients.

First thing’s first. No freelancer made a living by quitting a job without a lifeline. My first freelance client was a pain in my ass. I had to work nights and weekends to build a strong relationship. Alas, my first years as a young professional were split between work and drink. There wasn’t time for much else.

Of course, once you quit your job, you’ll have to supplement your current assignments with more. Sometimes, you can tap that current client for more work. But expanding your portfolio for long-term success means you must diversify.

Here are 6 ways to get more freelance clients:

1. Attend meetups and networking events. Old-fashioned face-to-face meetups still deliver for business development. Meetup.com is a great resource to find small businesses and marketers in your area. Become a regular attendee and chat people up. Hint: Approach prospects casually. You’ll get yourself a bad rep for acting too salesy.

2. Build your digital brand. Get yourself found online. Most marketers are focused on brand success in the digital space. If you’re active online, you can prove that you’re steeped in the medium, bolstering your status as a copywriter. Use social media channels like Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, About.me, Tumblr and your website to get the point across and improve visibility for your services.

3. Ask clients for referrals. I’ve found great success asking happy clients for referrals. If you perform solid work for a client, you have the ability to turn them into an advocate for your writing. Don’t be afraid to ask a client in good standing to spread the word.

4. Check Craigslist and job boards. This one gets a little tricky. Sign up for services like FreelanceWriting.com to have jobs delivered to you. The catch here is that you’re sure to come up against hefty competition. Check the writing section of Craigslist under gigs. But be careful — you’re sure to come across as many crap jobs as legitimate ones.

5. Tap your network. Everyone knows a communications professional. The problem is that they don’t always approach their networks in the right way. Advertising your services via Facebook or LinkedIn status crushes the personal element of networking. Try researching your friends first and contacting relevant people individually.

6. Reach out. Cold emails are a tough way to break through to a business. If you craft a compelling pitch, you may get some traction. Compile a strong list of organizations you’d like to work for. Do your research and create a strong pitch. At least one of those two hundred pitches has the potential to hit the mark.