You should spend half your time listening

As a freelancer, should you spend half your time marketing yourself?

I’ve heard that suggestion, and I have to say, it sounds tedious as hell.

Supposedly, you have to advertise and also network like mad. Plus, find opportunities to give speeches and promote yourself. You know, “hustle.” This fills the top of your “funnel” with leads.

Then you have to qualify the leads.

Then you have to vet the projects and pitch the ones that make sense.

Then you have to close the deals.

And then you have to actually do the work.

Wow. It makes me exhausted just writing about it. If you’re an extrovert (or starving and desperate), I guess this makes sense, but I couldn’t spend half my time doing that stuff.

Spend half your time listening

I don’t spend half my time marketing. I try to spend it listening. It’s a lot more enjoyable.

What’s listening?

Reviewing the news, pondering the topics I care about, writing about what I think.

Reaching out to old friends, hearing what they’re up to. Making connections for them. (I guess this is networking, but it seems a lot less intense and more friendly than that.)

Fielding friend-of-a-friend requests for help, and finding out about projects people are working on. Pointing them in the right direction, even if I can’t help them.

Listening is fun because the world — and the people in it — are endlessly interesting. It’s like the world’s most fascinating drama, but customized to your particular interests.

Somehow, all this listening tends to pay off. It’s more likely to get me a few $20,000 to $50,000 clients than a lot of $500 clients, too. That’s a lot more efficient.

And it’s a funny thing. If you listen to people and then try to help them, they tend to trust you.

That goes a long way.

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