Agency Advantage 19: Ryan Waggoner on earning $250,000+ a year as a freelancer

Ryan Waggoner on earning $250,000+ a year as a freelancer

Ryan Waggoner (Twitter) doesn’t run a big agency. Instead, he intentionally stays solo, but that doesn’t stop him from earning a salary that most agency owners would be envious of. For each of the past 4 years, Ryan has had annual profits of more than $250,000. Impressive, huh?

Instead of focusing on even more tactics and hacks to apply to your agency, Ryan and I take a step back to look at the mindset it takes to grow a successful agency, and whether or not building an agency is actually the best path for you.

Today he shares the mindset that helps him earn over a quarter of a million dollars a year, the routines he builds into his day to ensure productivity, and the questions every agency owner needs to ask themselves before they make their next hire.

Learn how @ryanwaggoner earns more than $250K a year as a freelancer (podcast) Click To Tweet

If running an agency didn’t lead you to skyrocketing earnings like you expected, then this episode is sure to set you straight.

Key Takeaways

Overcoming struggles early in his career [3:00 – 9:30]

Like many freelancers, Ryan struggled when he first started freelancing. He went through the all too familiar feast or famine for a few years, but finally got over that hump when he made a few realizations.

He realized that what separated the freelancers who were earning great money from those just scraping by wasn’t their technical skills, instead, it was a lack of sales skills, client management, and self-management. By focusing on improving in those areas, he was able to quickly increase his rates and stop charging hourly.

Above all else he hustled every single day. As an employee, the default for tomorrow is that you can show up and get paid. For a freelancer, you can’t just show up, you need to actively go out there and hunt for new business.

Stop growing by default [29:15 – 36:00]

Most agency owners that I talk to didn’t start out with the idea of building an agency. In fact, it usually happens by accident. As a freelancer does more jobs and does them well, the referrals start coming in and soon they have more work than they can handle, so they instinctively hire somebody else to help deliver the work.

The problem is most small agency owners aren’t actually making more money than they would if they stayed small, and they have a hell of a lot more stress. The burden of needing to close $50k in deals every month in order to make payroll so your employees can put food on the table is huge.

Instead of immediately expanding your team when you get more work than you can handle, you can also just charge more. In fact, Ryan suggests raising your prices after every project until you can’t find anybody to pay it.

.@ryanwaggoner suggests raising your prices after every project until you can’t find anybody to pay it Click To Tweet

By staying small, Ryan was forced to focus on ways to grow his income other than working more hours. Agencies often skip this because it is easier to hire somebody than to do the hard work, instead of finding out how they can offer their clients more value and charge for it.

Deciding whether to go big or stay small [47:00 – 50:45]

Being a freelancer or having an agency aren’t your only options. You could also get a job. As much as many of us detest the idea of a job, there are plenty of options out there that give you the flexibility of schedule, good pay, and a steady paycheck without forcing you to do your own sales. Hubstaff is one of those places 🙂

If you can’t stomach the idea of a job, then you need to figure out your strengths and weaknesses, as well as what you want to actually spend your time on. If you have dreams of building a real team and enjoy developing processes, managing people, and closing deals, then building an agency could be a great option. Don’t build an agency just for money, build it because you truly want a team and everything that comes along with it, because often you’ll get that but not the money.

Don’t build an agency just for money, build it because you truly want a team and everything that comes along with it Click To Tweet

If you are comfortable with some amount of sales and marketing, but really just want to focus on your craft, then staying solo can be a great option. Remember though, if you want to truly be successful with this and charge the rates that you deserve, you are going to need to put in the hard work of providing real value for you clients.

Want to learn more?

If you want to learn more about Ryan’s story, head over to LetsMakeApps.io/AgencyAdvantage and you can get a detailed guide covering the lessons he learned earning his first million dollars from freelancing, as well as a 30% discount on his service that gives you hot leads.

Resources Mentioned

Pomodoro Technique
Nate McGuire
Jason Swenk
Alan Weiss
LetsMakeApps.io

Thanks for listening!

If you like the show you can find all previous episodes on the homepage of the Agency Advantage Podcast. Or you can subscribe with your email to receive all new episodes:

  • Hey all, hope you enjoyed the episode. Happy to chat about any questions anyone might have!

    • Ian Chandler

      Hey Ryan, I know I’m a bit late, but thank you for this podcast. I’m a freelancer who’s facing some of the challenges you talked about, and it was refreshing to hear your thoughts, especially on value-based pricing (a tough nut to crack) and the importance of self-marketing. I’d love to connect and learn more from you––do you have a newsletter?

      • Hey Ian, glad you enjoyed it! If you sign up at http://letsmakeapps.io/AgencyAdvantage, you’ll get some bonuses from this episode and you’ll also get my newsletter. I’ve been lax on the articles the last couple months as I’ve been dealing with launch of several projects and reorganizing my platform, but restarting next week, so if you’re already signed up, you should start seeing new content soon! Also, feel free to email me at hi at ryanwaggoner dot com. Thanks!

  • ekmu

    This was an excellent podcast. Highly interesting and helpful interview and insights! Thanks very much. One thing: When searching for your podcast on my podcast app (I’m using Podkicker), I couldn’t find your show when searching for “hubstaff”. It would maybe be helpful to include this keyword in the description. Best, Raphael

  • Andrei

    Great work on the podcasts guys, they’re really really useful and awesome. For a startup like us, some of the tips included are mega useful to help us grow and make better decisions

    • Andy Baldacci

      Awesome, Andrei. Thanks so much!

      Feel free to reach out if you can think of any topics that would be helpful for us to cover.