The more you think about the freelance model, the simpler and simpler it gets.
If you are a musician or a sculptor or a fine artist, the thought is, you need about 1,000 true fans to make a living at your chosen craft. To live large, you need maybe 10,000.
If you aspire to open a restaurant, you will need a surrounding population of at least 50,000 people, and then convince 2,000 of them to eat at your place. Over and over again. (And, you will need about a half-million in cash to even get in the game.)
If you want to launch an iPad killer, you’ll need to wow a few million paying customers, minimum. And you have to lure them away from Apple.
But to carve out a living doing what you do — whether it’s illustrating, writing content, coding, InformationArchitecting, project managing, making logos, coaching, or taking pictures — all you need is, get this, ten true fans.
And by true fans I mean people who regularly use what you do. People who have already paid you money. People who, when they need what you offer, automatically call you, and no one else. People who, when asked “Hey, do you know a good ____?” they will tell people about you, without thinking.
With ten people like that, you are okay. Maybe not rich. But you are alive, well, and solvent and not selling your soul to the company.
You don’t need to be famous. You don’t need to show up number 3 in Google. You don’t need 5092 followers on Twitter and 664 contacts on LinkedIn. You don’t need to be profiled in Wired.
You need just ten true fans. In the real world.
Ten living, breathing human beings who think you’re swell.
Fact is, as my freelancer friends and I realized over a few beers one night, none of us ever had more than 10 true fans at one time. Ever. Even when we were raking in the cash like autumn leaves, it wasn’t because we had ninety-two clients. The huge money always came from a relatively small circle of paying, avid fans. Always, always.
Better still, once you get your head around ten true fans, everything clarifies. Your daily task gets simpler. You can shed a lot of bullshit, and lose excuses. You have focus.
You no longer have to worry about ‘the economy’, or ‘the industry.’ Or the 89,422 other people on Google who do what you do. You are not working in the vastness of the universe. You are serving your ten true fans.
When you sit down at the desk on Monday morning, all you have to think about is your people. How are they doing? What do they need?’ It’s your personal micro-economy. Not the economy.
Ten true fans.