How I've Been Grossing Over $250K/Year Consulting Freelancers And Developing Growth Products [Update]

Published: April 14th, 2023
Austin L. Church
Founder, Freelance Cake
Freelance Cake
from Knoxville, Tennessee, USA
started December 2019
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Discover what books Austin recommends to grow your business!

Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.

My name is Austin L. Church, and I’ve been a full-time freelancer for 14+ years. Along the way, I also built and sold a portfolio of mobile apps, co-founded and invested in a music tech startup, and led a branding and marketing studio.

Here is the link to my original starter story interview.

No one wins the race to burnout—something I learned the hard way in 2015 and 2016—and I care deeply about helping creatives and consultants make life-changing money without working longer hours.

Most of what I create now traces back to my obsession with leverage—that is, getting better results with less effort. My current venture is Freelance Cake, a media and education brand. Since 2019 I’ve been teaching other growth-focused freelancers how to find their income-lifestyle sweet spot.

Right now, I’ve got 3 main products: Freelance Business Toolkit ($49), Morning Marketing Habit ($149), and Freelance Business Bootcamp ($449-$9000). Depending on the freelancer’s needs, Freelance Business Bootcamp consists of a DIY course only or a combination of pre-recorded training, a custom business roadmap,1-1 coaching sessions, and access to all my other products, playbooks, and training.

2022 represented a year of growth on all fronts: consistency in writing and content, email list and audience size (especially on LinkedIn), and revenue.

The consulting and product sides of my business grossed over $250,000.

As non-service revenue grows, I plan to scale back on coaching and consulting and continue to build my team.


Tell us about what you’ve been up to. Has the business been growing?

In 2022, Freelance Cake had several significant milestones.

With my JV partner, Ed Gandia, I created and launched a program called How to Sell Strategy twice a year. We teach freelance writers how to package up and sell the “head work” they already do but haven’t been charging a premium for.

I also launched a short, snackable course called Morning Marketing Habit. Most problems freelancers have to go away once they’re generating a surplus of leads. Consistent marketing is the key to that surplus, so I created 31 lessons, most of them 5 lessons, to help freelancers build a “never stop marketing” practice.

I also launched the Freelance Cake podcast and put out Season 1 (10 episodes) and wrote the first draft of just over 30,000 words for 'Free Money', a freelance pricing and money mindset guide, in public.

Here’s the long Twitter thread I wrote over 100 days


Another significant commitment was posting every weekday on LinkedIn. I didn’t see any meteoric growth to write home about, but my audience did double from 4,000 to 8,000 followers.

Those 246 posts produced 452,775 views, and more importantly, inbound leads. I was able to close $10,000s in coaching engagements over the year.


I’ll work to double my LinkedIn audience again in 2023, and move more and more of those followers over to my email list by offering various lead magnets in the posts themselves and on my profile.

Charging based on the value you create is a smart move, regardless of your long-term plan with services.

What have been your biggest challenges in the last year?

Growth in both audience size and revenue brought a bunch of challenges, surprise, surprise:

I felt overextended for most of the year. Balancing service-based work (coaching freelancers, plus brand and fractional CMO consulting for companies in the creator economy) with the more leveraged media brand and digital products can feel like walking on a cruise ship in rough seas. Stumble to the right a few steps. Recover, and stumble back to the left. Zig zag forward.

Because I care deeply about my clients (coaching and consulting) I sometimes take more ownership of their problems than I should. That burden can feel pretty heavy, if I’ve got 10 or more clients, especially when some of them aren’t progressing quickly, due to their excuses or life’s curveballs or both.

My focus was scattered among too many “priorities” in 2022, and that spread-too-thin-ness resulted in slower growth than I might otherwise have seen. For example, on LinkedIn, I’m quite good at making various post templates my own, and LinkedIn templates (e.g., how I did this, inspirational, X vs. Y, contrarian) do quite well.

That said, I was usually writing each day’s posts the morning of and published posts as soon as I finished them. If I had leveraged templates more effectively, batch-written posts, and scheduled them in advance, I’m certain I would have seen more follow and email growth.

That same lack of focus has affected my product mix too. So I went into 2023 with a fresh resolve to do the following:

  1. Move my website over to an easier platform (Webflow).
  2. Write well-researched, keyword-optimized, long-form blog posts to increase organic traffic.
  3. Sprinkle lead magnet opt-in forms throughout posts.
  4. Rewrite the Morning Marketing Habit launch emails.
  5. Put an email funnel into place.
  6. Start generating more (mostly) passive product income.

I’m happy to say this effort is well underway now.

​​How to Find Clients as a Freelancer: 19 Smart Tactics” is a good example of what I’m doing at the top of my funnel.


Coming out of 2022, I’ve had a phrase, really a principle, reverberating through my mind and planning: Disciplined Simplicity.

Instead of offering a variety of fabulous products (“Just look, Ma!”), I’m now focused on one product and one funnel, and piling on traffic at the top.

What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?

Here are some of the lessons from 2022 I want to remember:

If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together. Ed Gandia and I first connected when I emailed him about being a guest on his podcast, High Income Business Writing. A year later, we launched my How to Sell Strategy program to his audience. To celebrate a successful launch, we met up in Chattanooga. 2022 would have been the same without Ed’s partnership, his financial contribution to Freelance Cake, or his friendship.

Ask “Who?” before “How?” Dan Sullivan and Ben Hardy’s book Who Not How talks about finding people you can count on to know and do things you don’t know and can’t do, for whatever reason. Jason Moore turned my Freelance Cake podcast from a “How am I going to produce this thing?” headache into an effortless, enjoyable experience. He passed along consistently excellent audio to my assistant who handled all the episode setup, transcript cleanup, and publishing. This dream duo made me wonder why I’d waited so long. If you want someone to make production a piece of cake (see what I did there?), email Jason ([email protected]).

Build the offer first, validate through pre-sales, and build it with your beta users. I didn’t do this with the original Freelance Cake course and ended up sinking over 250 hours into a product that never gained real momentum, even though I was proud of it and believed in it. However, I did pre-sell Morning Marketing Habit, and that de-risked the process and made creating the content more enjoyable.

Set effort goals, not outcome goals. What daily habit would make the results you want (nearly) inevitable? From weekday posts on LinkedIn to beautiful weekly newsletters, my incremental effort in 2022 accreted over time into meaningful, measurable, sustainable growth.

Do something drastic. With Free Money I was getting bogged down in overediting and obsessing over sentence structure and word choice when I should have been filling big gaps in the manuscript. After chatting with Steph Smith and Daren Smith at Craft + Commerce in late June, I committed to writing 30,000 words in 100 days in public. I succeeded, finally got traction, and am close to finishing a short, fun, and helpful book I believe can help 1,000s of freelancers get their pricing dialed in.

Turn disappointments into opportunities. I tried to do a big launch for Morning Marketing Habit in December 2022. It flopped. The timing worked for my calendar, but not for freelancers’ natural rhythms. (Most will ramp up marketing in January, not December.) Rather than stew in my disappointment, which is my tendency, I decided to leave a lot more space in December for thinking, planning, and generally finishing the year well. That margin, and the better strategy that came from it, has contributed to the momentum I feel in 2023.

Take big swings. If we never put ourselves in a position where we can strike out, or fail, we’ll never knock it out of the park. We’ll never be surprised when an at-bat goes much better than expected. We have to risk the strikeout for the homerun, and that isn’t easy for a guy like me who likes control. That said, when I got the idea to pitch one of my retainer clients on a fractional CMO role in August, he took me up on the offer. In December I added a couple more fractional CMO engagements. Sometimes, the best-case scenario can unfold before your eyes, but not without some courage on your part. So what’s the best-case scenario for you right now? Pitch the person on that. You never know, they may be just as excited about the possibilities as you.

What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?

This year, I’ll be finishing ‘Free Money’. I hired a terrific editor named Amanda Lewis, and I’m making steady progress on editing the manuscript.

I’m working on a new product that won’t be a course or involves coaching. Lots of templates—that’s what I’m thinking. Lots and lots of the checklists, cheat sheets, playbooks, exercises, and other simple tools I’ve created over the last 14 years to gain efficiency and make more money in less time.

My vision for the business is a $1 million media and education company built around affiliate revenue, sponsorships, and product sales. Highly leveraged. Products and training leave freelancers feeling like I should be charging WAY more for the value. Real transformations that help creative entrepreneurs make more money and impact.

As non-service revenue grows, I plan to scale back on coaching and consulting and continue to build my team.

What’s the best thing you read in the last year?

Jay Clouse is a creator I admire, and his Creative Elements episode (#121) with Bryan Harris helped me resolve some of the issues with my coaching program.

  1. Charge a setup fee for the coaching engagement and custom business roadmap.
  2. Keep clients executing against that plan, not chasing shiny objects.
  3. Use the cadence of 1-1 sessions to refresh their belief in that plan.
  4. Focus on minimum viable progress, 30 minutes a day.


Write Useful Books by Rob Fitzpatrick helped me gather my thoughts around the type of book I wanted Free Money to be: short, fun, entertaining, and easy to recommend.

Cameron Herold’s book Vivid Vision gave me a few simple exercises for creating a detailed picture of the way I want my life to look in 3 years.

And Alex Hormozi’s book $100M Offers gave me a framework for creating a new offer, which is nearly finished, that won’t be a course or involve 1-1 coaching.

Steph Smith’s Doing Content Right enabled me to diagnose why most of my past blog posts didn’t do the job I intended for them.

Finally, Justin Welsh’s course The Operating System (formerly, The LinkedIn OS) taught me to not be so precious about any one post I wrote and gave me the idea of short, snackable lessons for my course, Morning Marketing Habit.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their businesses?

Lots of freelancers and consultants get their start by selling services. That makes sense: You’ve got marketable skills, so the easiest onramp to solopreneurship is doing projects for clients.

Eventually, more ambitious freelancers want more income and impact. They can’t manufacture more time so they look for 3 types of leverage: value-based pricing, a lean agency, or products.

Charging based on the value you create is a smart move, regardless of your long-term plan with services. And the agency model can make sense if you’re good at finding talent, creating productized services and scalable processes, and managing people. However, the holy grail is making money while you sleep with products you can build once and sell a thousand times.

The advice I give to my coaching clients is to not dive headfirst and sink hours into product creation. It’s just too likely that your hunches about what people will buy from you are wrong. Instead, start creating content somewhere like Twitter, LinkedIn, or TikTok. Let people in your target audience tell you what they want more of through their engagement. Your most popular posts will reveal their painful, expensive problems.

Then, invite people to a free workshop where you go deeper into a specific problem or topic. (20 minutes of step-by-step training should suffice.) Attendees’ questions at the end will tell you what else you need to address. Follow up with a low-priced workshop ($49 or $99) where you go even deeper.

I invested over 250 hours in creating the first version of the Freelance Cake course, but it never sold well, or 'easily'.

The better approach is to build your audience first, pay attention to what wants to happen, and get paid to co-create a product with your audience. Be patient, knowing that your best-seller product will emerge over time through multiple iterations.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!