I recently finished reading an excellent book called “Mindset” by Carol Dweck that explores a growth mindset and a fixed mindset (we all have one mindset towards some topics and the other towards other topics).
With so much research on the topic, we are joining the freelancing ‘movement’ at the best possible time in history because we can use this research to make our lives easier by understanding ourselves better.
Specifically for freelancing, that means adopting a growth mindset and working with other people to speed up your learnings (and earnings).
A growth mindset could be feeling that there are enough clients for everyone to be a successful freelancer. While a fixed mindset might be that if I get a freelancing project someone else has to lose it in order for me to win it.
Allow me to show you how by using a mastermind..
Masterminding: a simple tool for learning FAST
Masterminding is simply two people (or a small group) getting together and working on a mutual challenge.
For example, you and your friend masterminding how to get your first freelance project via the Upwork platform.
There is another hidden benefit besides conquering the challenge itself: it is an excellent way to make new, lifelong, cool friends that are similar to you.
You might solve that challenge together in a week whereas if you are going at it alone it might take you a month.
Why? Well, you have to go through everything yourself without any shortcuts but because you don’t have the accountability, typically it is easier to get emotional, overwhelmed and stuck.
In a good mastermind, you’ll get much more done than the work you put in. In a decent mastermind, you’ll typically get twice the results without doing much extra work simply because you share your experience with each other.
However, in a good mastermind, you’ll get much more than that because of the perspective you are able to get. It’s like mapping out the landscape in the dark- the more people to cover ground, the more ground you can cover.
Now, imagine if instead of being two, you are three or four people sharing your insights with each other…
It hasn’t always worked out well but I’ve experienced amazing results several times – simply because consistently getting another perspective on your exact challenge helps you get unstuck.
Typically a mastermind is time-limited or limited to solving a specific challenge and once that is done, the mastermind dissolves itself but it can be restarted again around a new challenge.
Contrary to what seems to be the popular opinion you don’t need to get to the same final place, routine or goal- you just need to experiment together.
For example, you’ll do experiment A and they experiment B, and you compare the results and work to understand why they happened.
Two powerful masterminds that can help you today
I’ve experimented with different mastermind types and structures, and these two really it hit home:
- Mastering a topic together
Accountability can be as simple as the way a friend of mine likes to do it:
Get together a couple of people and each of you decides 2-3 tasks you’d like done within the next couple of hours.
Besides specifying the exact time you need to be done with the tasks and specifically what those are, you put down a meaningful amount of money right there on the table (literally). If you don’t finish what you intended, your money is now your friend’s money.
That sucks and that’s why it works. It can be a painful experience.
For example, the other day we met to finish some work and I decided I needed to finish a report and send out an email related to it. So, those were my two tasks.
I decided that two hours would be just enough time for me to finish it while still needing to work effectively. I put down $25 and placed ‘my bet’ that I could do it meanwhile my friend did the same with his own tasks.
You don’t have to put down $25 – just whatever amount is meaningful enough for you that you will take it seriously. For some that will be less and for others it will be more- experiment and find the best fit for you.
If you are unable to meet up in a cafe, you can also do it online via Skype, Discord, Slack, etc. You simply run a live video chat with your friend while you both work.
This variation of a mastermind is more of a short-term, quick and dirty one. With types like an accountability mastermind, you can stretch it out for a longer period of time and catch up with your partner say once a week for 30 minutes on a set time and day.
In that session (whether it be a phone call, video call or meeting in person), you can talk about what you worked on this week, what kind of challenges and successes or failures you had and what you’d like to work on the following week and discuss on the next call.
I find it important to keep a structure to make sure you cover all the things you need to without feeling like it has to be a dreaded phone call you need to do for hours each week.
By the way, it does not have to be weekly- some people prefer that it is bi-weekly, monthly or even yearly and that is totally fine.
Another option is masterminding a particular topic together.
Masterminding a particular topic
This type of mastermind typically takes longer as it focuses on a small group cracking a particular challenge or topic together.
That could simply be you and your friends getting together and figuring out how to get your first three clients on Upwork.
Typically, you’d go at it alone by sending out proposals, and in the beginning probably not hearing back from most of them and not knowing why. I know because I’ve tried it and so has my students. It is hella frustrating.
In that case, I imagine you would also either dread sending out more proposals because nothing is happening or you might continue and luckily someone eventually writes you back, yet you don’t really understand why.
Compare that to jumping on a call a day later only to discover that your buddy just landed their first client while another just got a write-back from a proposal they sent.
In my experience, you do start to feel like you are falling behind. Yet, they help you critique your proposals to figure out what you did wrong.
By next week’s mastermind call, a few potential clients might already be eager to jump on a call with you – because of the feedback your mastermind helped you with based on their newfound experience.
That is the difference between working in a mastermind compared to going at it alone. There is no magic to it.. It is just being smart and effective.
The key to this type of mastermind is that everyone is at roughly the same level and have complete commitment to the ground rules that your group set up to follow.
If someone is slacking off, the rest of the group will get annoyed and lose momentum. It’s funny how someone without momentum can destroy the traction of someone who has.
I’m not really sure why but I’ve experienced it many times and it is dangerous as hell because getting back into traction-mode takes a while.
How to find people for your mastermind (even if you live in the middle of nowhere)
I’ve found it to be quite easy to find people who want to join a mastermind. The challenge is that people often misunderstand the concept and think someone will help them without them contributing equally.
I also often see another variation where people want to join a mastermind with someone that is more advanced than they are which presents a whole different challenge: why would they help you? What do they gain? And how can you help them?
If you are in that position, typically there is something you can help a more advanced person, with.
However, oftentimes that person is prioritizing differently because they are further down their own journey and therefore typically just focuses on a few things to really move the needle in their freelancing business.
Therefore it is often the case that you can’t help as the things you are trying to learn is what they have already worked past (there is no point in learning advanced things before the fundamentals).
So in short, it’s usually just not a good fit to work in a mastermind with someone who is not at the same level as you – unless it is a paid mastermind where you pay for expertise, which is a topic for another day.
Your mastermind is only as good as the people in it
So, rather than doing a million masterminds with different people to find the right fit, we can spend a little time qualifying them upfront before getting into the hard work itself.
You’ll never know for sure until you get down to business but if you do it right, surely it will help you avoid the big mistakes.
That will also help you avoid awkward situations when you want to leave a mastermind because it is not a good fit.
Typically, the easiest way to qualify if someone is a good fit for a mastermind is by spending money. Most high-end, exclusive, masterminds come with a high price tag to weed out those that are not a good fit.
The challenge is that people might still pay to join because they want to be in a room with advanced people yet they don’t fit.
That’s why creators usually combine the high price tag with an extensive questionnaire to make sure they only accept people that make up a good group for everyone involved.
The simplest way to get started is by paying to join an online training program related to your field (e.g. freelancing) that also has a mastermind-aspect to it, so students are paired in masterminds based on their timezone and goals.
Following a program particularly helped me the first couple of times I was learning how to put together a mastermind because I had the program owner help facilitate rules, structure and matching up with people so we knew it was done right from the beginning.
However, you don’t need to do it that way and you can certainly do it for free too. It is just a bit more challenging to find the right people.
The first challenge is to find a place where people who are looking to do the same as you, hang out. The reason I like online programs for finding mastermind-partners is that this part is done for me. It is definitely the most time-consuming part.
I don’t know your exact situation, so I’ll give you an example using a Facebook group to scout for people and you should be able to tweak it to your own situation.
I’d go to Facebook Ad Hacks (a Facebook group), check that I am not breaking any rules and post something like this:
I’m creating a mastermind for people that are looking to get their first freelancing client through Upwork while helping businesses with marketing-related services.
If anyone is on the same journey and want to collaborate, let’s chat.
-Ideal time zone: +1 GMT
-Max. 4 people (incl. me)”
Then I will add each place that I post it to a spreadsheet and track where I find the people that are the best fit. You can steal my spreadsheet template here (click FILE > MAKE A COPY).
You don’t have to track this, especially if you only post it in a couple of places, but for me, it works well as it is easy for me to forget the details over time. If you want to create another mastermind down the road the information will become handy.
If no one responds to you, you probably posted it in the wrong place- try a couple of new ones 🙂
If you find some people you think might be a good fit, you could make them jump through tiny hoops to see how much action they take – if they can’t do a couple of basic things to join your mastermind, how can you expect them to contribute to the actual mastermind itself?
It could simply be that you prepared a couple of open-ended questions that they need to respond to before you jump on a casual call with them.
I’ve listed out a couple of questions you could use to get started below.
- Which stage are you at with your freelancing? Beginner? Intermediate? Advanced?
- Where do you go to learn about freelancing? (which websites, etc.)
- Which timezone are you in?
- Who are your clients and what do you help them with?
- What is your goal with freelancing?
- What is challenging for you right now?
Basically, you’ll want to get on a quick and casual call with them (say 15 mins) just to see if you’ll be a good fit. You can talk about the mastermind itself but also spend a bit of time getting to know each other as a person.
This is a key step- I strongly recommend you do not skip this and only use text chat. If you do, you’ll see for yourself what happens down the road 😉
Mastermind “rules” to get your started
Typically, a maximum of four people in a mastermind is great. Less can also do it but more definitely complicates things.
Of course, life can always get in the way or you’ll have a holiday or something but generally, the work of the mastermind should stay consistent week by week with only minor changes/hiccups here and there.
If someone is not committed, even though it might be hard, you have to let them go. Oftentimes it is easier to agree on a set of rules upfront that includes when someone should be exited from the mastermind – it makes that difficult conversation easier.
As you finish the set of challenges you’ve set up for the mastermind and it is time to dissolve it, you might want to turn it into say a 30-minute call every month to casually talk about new challenges.
In the beginning, you’ll want to talk more often about the smaller challenges within your core challenge but as time progresses you’ll benefit from talking about bigger and bigger challenges rather than the day to day minutiae which is why half an hour once a month should be a good fit.
As you prepare the mastermind, you’ll need to agree on a clearly defined goal. That goal needs to be specific, within a certain timeline and you need to agree on what each member commits to doing weekly along with how many ‘strikes’ each person has before they are out of the group.
Assuming you are all starting out learning how to freelance, a great goal would be that each of you work together to land your first three projects from Upwork in the next 90 days (notice I said ‘land’ not ‘complete’).
In that case, each of you needs to be ready with an active and prepared Upwork-account that is ready to send out proposals (otherwise those who already have one will be waiting for those who doesn’t have one). That also means you need to have figured out which service you would like to provide and which clients you’d like to serve.
In an ideal world, each of you would have a slight overlap. For example, one might be a Facebook marketer, another a content writer, another an email specialist and one a search specialist.
That way, you’ll really be able to help each other without competing for the same work.
Each member should commit to doing the same amount of work each week. Within the goal mentioned above, there are several key steps from sending out proposals to closing the projects and delivering them successfully.
In the first few weeks, you will likely focus on sending out proposals and getting leads to reply back to you so you can talk with them further.
As you progress, that might turn into a focus on how to close them on the phone and later how to get referrals to other clients. One step at a time.
A simple way to get your group started is to simply agree that everyone sends out 5 proposals over the next week.
It will be valuable for all of you to compare your proposals and especially those where the client wrote you back.
Not only that but you will also learn much faster how the platform selects which freelancers it recommends to clients, how much other freelancers charge, etc.
There will be times where life gets in the way so you’ll need to agree on a certain number of strikes before someone has to leave the mastermind. Three strikes is typically a good place to start.
The challenge is if people start to slack and not send the five proposals they promised – they won’t be getting real world-feedback that the whole group will be able to learn from. Then that person will leech on your hard work. Not ideal.
The single most important thing is total, complete honesty. If that doesn’t work, not only are you cheating your new friends -which means they can’t trust you in the future- but you also cheat yourself.
One of the powerful things about a mastermind is that what you share might spur something for someone else that leads to you getting better results.
There is nothing more powerful than trust because you can use it to get help down the line.
Imagine a successful friend that you have been good friends with for many years – since the time before they had a successful business. Do you think they would help you if you ask?
During your weekly calls, you’ll need to agree on a clear set of rules for communication. Say, you do a weekly 30-min call each Sunday at 5 pm. Typically, it works best to have someone controlling the meeting agenda and gives each member time to give their weekly update – with a reasonable time limit as well so your meeting doesn’t drag out forever.
A good place to start is by asking them to prepare to summarize the work they did the past week (you most likely agreed on a set of tasks for the week in the past meeting) along with key insights. That might take five minutes per person.
Then you might spend the next five minutes discussing the feedback that someone asked for followed by the last five minutes agreeing what each member should do and prepare for next week’s call.
Overview (30 mins-call):
- 5 mins/person (total: up to 20 mins): each member updates the group on what they did and learned in the past week
- 5 mins: discussing/giving feedback to someone who is asking for it (e.g. on their project proposals)
- 5 mins: agreeing on what needs to be done by each member for the next week
This is a good place to start and you should tweak it as you go to fit the needs of your mastermind.
You might find in the first call that you want to double each section of the session so that it becomes 10 minutes for each part and it the whole call lasts for an hour.