Ep. 335: Turning Your Skills into Currency with Craig Cannings of Freelance University

Bio:

Craig Cannings is the co-founder of Freelance University with his wife, Kelly. Craig (and his team) have had the privilege of helping over 20,000 students in 75 countries realize their dreams of launching a portable, freelance business (and lifestyle). He has enjoyed the great freedom of working from home and traveling abroad while raising their 5 wonderful daughters.
My friends at Freelance University are hosting the 2021 Virtual Skills Summit to give you practical opportunities to learn and master TEN new, in-demand skills that could transform your business (and your life). The Virtual Skills Summit is a 3-day, interactive, online event happening on May 10–12,2021. It is designed for those that are interested in learning high-demand skills that you can immediately turn into exciting new income opportunities. Grab your FREE pass for the 2021 Virtual Skills Summit and learn from 10 inspiring and talented speakers whose businesses, careers, and lives have been changed through mastering their ONE skill.

Shannon Mattern: Welcome to episode 335 of Pep Talks for Side Hustlers. And I'm so excited to introduce to you today's guest, Craig Cannings, co-founder of Freelance University with his wife, Kelly, who together have helped over 20,000 students in 75 countries realize their dreams of launching a portable freelance business and lifestyle. So, Craig, thank you so much for being here. Can you share a little bit more with our listeners about you and what you do?

Craig Cannings: Yeah, so I probably should start with the best part, the best part of me. And so I'm a happily married, almost 24 years, to Kelly my business partner. We've been doing business together for a lot of years. And we also have five children that happen to be all girls, and all teenagers. So it's from, well, I guess one's a tweenager, but it's 12 to 18 and so it's a fairly high octane kind of home, but I love it. I love raising girls and it's just an exciting time in their teenage journey. So, that's what keeps us really busy. Some of them homeschool as well. So then they're, you know, doing work at home and homeschool, as a lot of the listeners can attest to, which many of you probably have done during COVID, or maybe you're continuing to do, it's quite an exciting journey. So, Kelly and I actually got started freelancing. She started a little earlier than me. I didn't even know what she was doing early on. She started in 2000, so we're going back like 21 years. She was freelancing doing customer support for a company that was an online company during the dot-com boom. And I joined her as a freelancer in that company in 2003. And it was a company that was developing educational software. And so we kind of dovetailed into what I'm doing a bit now. But I learned everything about marketing. So I was doing affiliate marketing. I was doing search engine optimization. So I was contracted to do the marketing side, and during the time the company went on this sort of fast growth stage and we hired 40 freelancers in two years. So it was like, we grew, the company grew substantially and the owner said "Craig, you're in charge of training all of these new people that come in. So you gotta figure out the manuals and the videos, whatever you're gonna do to onboard them. Some of them don't know marketing, so you're gonna have to teach them that". And so I got busy creating manuals. I was creating courses, all sorts of things to get this team up to speed with our systems. And I realized I kind of had a knack for it, and I loved it. I loved the teaching side. I love creating guides and checklists and doing videos. And so that became the inspiration for what we ended up launching in 2008, which originally was VA Classroom because we were heavily supporting virtual assistants back then. Which has since morphed into Freelance University over the years, as we now work with a cross section of different types of VAs and freelancers. And so, yeah, that kind of inspired us to launch this and it's just been amazing how it's grown and it's a great time to be supporting freelancers right now because that sort of gig economy is just seeing incredible growth even during a difficult time, such as COVID. So, I'm excited to be just kind of a part of that whole economy right now.

Shannon Mattern: I love your journey which just seems like this kind of natural progression of taking all of those skills that you were really good at, you know, as a freelancer and then taking those and picking them up to serve other people who wanted to, kind of, live that lifestyle that you wanted to live. What was it about helping other freelancers that was so appealing to you guys?

Craig Cannings: Yeah, well, when we started off, and again, we're going back and dating ourselves a little bit here, but when we started off there were no blogs really, except for maybe there were some geeks out there that had customized their own blog. But WordPress wasn't really even big on the scene at that point. And so, there was no blogs about freelancing. There was no eBooks about freelancing. There certainly wasn't any courses about freelancing. So, early on when we were trying to get additional clients and trying to build our freelance businesses, we were really in the dark, like there was no support. It was like you were just kind of trial and erroring trying to figure out what the next step in the journey was. And so when we started to freelance a while, and then I got into this sort of knack of teaching, I realized that I had something to offer. Because we had gone through all the lessons learned and the mistakes of what it takes to build a freelance business from home. What if we packaged that in and started to offer that to people as a place to support them so that they didn't have to feel alone because a lot of you that are listening, many of you may be solopreneurs where you are alone and it's you and you desperately do need support and encouragement and wisdom and courses and all that good stuff that you probably are learning great things from Shannon as well. It wasn't out there. So we thought what if we could create that? And it would help a lot of people. The interesting thing that happened, Shannon, is that we launched our business in 2008 to virtual assistants. And it was that exact time that there was a major recession. We were right smack dab in a recession. A lot of companies had gone bankrupt and we thought, well, this is probably a terrible time to launch a venture given what's going on. And the amazing thing is that it turned into the best decision we ever made because our first wave of students were people that were downsized from corporate. They had lost their jobs and they were like, okay, I have all these skills, but I don't know how to actually package it into an income that I can offer people or services that I can offer people. And one of our very first courses was social media marketing. So we taught a course on how you could manage social media. Back then it was Facebook and Twitter were the big dogs. Instagram was not even on the radar yet. And they were literally, our students were learning and I was learning Facebook as fast as they were so I could teach it. And they were literally picking up clients. And to this day, I think the first group was like 50 of them that went through. And a lot of them went on to build social media agencies. They went on to provide for their families during, you know, really recessionary times. So, that was really a sort of a catalyst for us or sort of, I guess, a milestone or a pivot point for us to realize, wow, if we can like serve this audience and actually impact their lives, not only just give them skills, what if we blew this up and started to offer other courses and move into other areas? What could that do for so many other people? So, that's kind of sort of the inspiration as to what got us moving and what keeps us moving today as well.

Shannon Mattern: I love that you said you were learning it as you went, because I feel like, you know, for those of us that...I do the same thing. I don't know what WordPress is going to come out with in their next release. You know, I'm just the one willing to dig in and figure it out. Right? And so I think that that's one of the things that, you know, when you're working for someone else or serving someone else in any capacity, if you're just like the one that's willing to dig in and figure it out for people, you have so much value to add to them,

Craig Cannings: You do. And it's interesting. I love that you said that because often we'll get questions from our students saying, I've just got a request for a client for let's, let's say a social media manager, but I just took your course. And I'm only 30 days into this. And we always encourage them and say, Hey, listen, you've got mentorship support here. We will help you along the way with this client, but don't give up on this opportunity because you feel you don't have enough experience or you feel like you've got that imposter syndrome sort of like filtering through. I just started. What good can I provide to this client? What we've often said to our students is that, yes, you need to skill up. You got to level up your skills, but often when you do that it'll develop your confidence. And you'll be further along than the actual client is. And often this is, when you get started you're just trying to, like I have been, and like you have been, Shannon, sometimes you're just trying to keep a step ahead of the client as you are building your business and that's sort of sometimes the beautiful but awkward, sort of design of starting a freelance business. And over time you then grow up and you start to build your packages, and now you're more confident, your rates go up. But that's not where we begin. We begin more in that awkward stage and it's natural and it's okay to be there.

Shannon Mattern: I love that you said that. And you know, one of the things that I, you know, I've mentored web designers as well. And one of the things that I tell them, it's like, you're gonna always encounter something that you've never done before. They're not paying you to know everything. They're paying you to be the one willing to dig in and figure it out and give them the outcome. So I think that that's one of the most important things I think when it comes to like a freelancer providing services is are you willing to be the one to figure it out?

Craig Cannings: Most definitely. And I know just even like from a teaching standpoint, there's that whole philosophy or adage that says, I teach, therefore I know. So the thing, you know, I'm becoming the best learner that I can and the best way to do that sometimes is teaching. And I remember those days where we were early on teaching new technology that I had learned, and probably I could go through the imposter syndrome and say, Craig, you have no business doing this. And yet I knew that I was a strong teacher and I knew that if I could master this tool, I could communicate it to our audience in a way that they will be able to learn it. But I had to pull all-nighters and do stuff, like really sink my teeth into this. Just like many of you listening, you have to invest that time in the midst of a job or in the midst of family. But it's worth it, you know, the effort that you put in.

Shannon Mattern: So talk to me about, you know, Freelance University and how it supports freelancers. Like, how is it structured?

Craig Cannings: Yeah. So we've evolved over the years. Again, you know, we started with one course in 2008, we have 80 courses now across 10 different training tracks. And we pick the tracks based on what we determine and what the industry determines as the most in-demand areas. So for example, you talked about WordPress. We know that some people in our world are becoming Squarespace designers, becoming WordPress designers. There's lots of work out there. So we offer training in that space. We offer training in social media, digital marketing, content creation. So areas that we see are in demand that will have the best pathway for income opportunities. And so, I said, we've morphed a little over the years. We used to be sort of an ala-carte model where you could come in and buy any courses. And then, Netflix came on the scene and we kind of got interested in the membership model. And so now it's an all access membership. So you can come in and access all the tracks, the training for a monthly or an annual pass. That's kind of how we've set it up. And then the sort of the unique thing that we created, Shannon, that we love is mentorship. And so we hired a bunch of mentors in our specialized track area. So let's say for example, social media, we have a social media mentor that's there to help you as you take courses and to answer your questions and to support you so that you're not alone. So we have specialized mentors to kind of guide them and it makes for... our university is kind of a warm experience. It's insightful and there's lots of great learning, but it's really supportive, really warm and an encouraging place to be as well. And there's a few other features, but that sort of makes up our current university.

Shannon Mattern: I feel like, you know, having the Netflix access to all of those courses is so necessary because one, you can't just learn social media on one platform without needing to know graphics creation, or video, or content creation or all of the things like that. You will find yourself down a rabbit hole of needing to learn more and more and more skills once you dig into one skill, you know?

Craig Cannings: It's so true. And that's kind of why we did it. We used to get a lot of requests from our students saying I have three courses lined up, but I can only afford one of the three. We used to teach Infusionsoft, you know, a crazy big platform, but my client needs me to know Infusionsoft. They want me to manage their social and I have to figure out, you know, web analytics and you have three courses. And so we'd hear this over and over again. And we thought, well, if we give them everything, we know that their needs and their clients' needs are changing so quickly. And so what the client needs tomorrow might be the exact course that they can access, even though they didn't purchase it, they get access to all of it. So, we wanted it to be a place for them to up-skill always. If they keep their skills sharp, as you, as you know, Shannon, I mean, skills are the currency that kind of power our freelance businesses. And so if we are not leveling up our skills, if I'm not leveling up my skills as an online teacher and a course creator, then I will be left behind. And sadly, that that's what happens to many businesses.

Shannon Mattern: You just said skills are the .. I was writing it down. That is brilliant, you know, skills are the currency. And so that's what I was going to ask you. Who is your typical student? Is your typical student the person working in their own online business needing to learn things to run their own business, the solopreneur? Is it the person who's providing services to other businesses? Like what's your typical student look like?

Craig Cannings: Yeah, so we definitely serve a lot of the service providers. And so people that are online business managers and virtual assistants that are specializing in a core area. We have consultants that have moved, their businesses morphed into more like maybe they're doing social media strategy work or digital marketing strategy work. So we have courses related to kind of leveling up to coaching and consulting. And we do have people that have e-commerce stores that they come and they wanted to learn digital marketing to better sell during COVID. They aren't exactly our target market because right now we service a lot of solopreneurs and those that are on the cusp of building an agency but they want to continue to develop their skills. They've got a couple team members. But I'd say a lot of our students are in their first two to five years of their business. Some of them are brand new. And because we started in the VA space, Shannon, we have served the female audience substantially over the many years. Early on it was probably almost a hundred percent and now we've allowed20% men. The 20% men that kind of creeped into our world. Not creep. That's a bad term. They've entered our university. So it's about 80/20. , But we've just had, even our mentors and the way we structure business, we've been able to help women entrepreneurs flourish in the freelance space. So that's been something we've been pretty passionate about. And being a father of five daughters, and I have two daughters actually that have their own startup. One has an e-commerce business and another one's a freelance photographer. They're entrepreneurship is flourishing, even in the midst of these walls here. So it's kind cool.

Shannon Mattern: That's so cool. That is so cool. Well, and I think, you know, a lot of times here are so many people creating online courses about strategy and different things, but they don't teach the skills, right? So they want to teach a marketing strategy or, here's how to grow your business doing these things. But I'm not going to teach you how to actually make the videos that you need to implement my strategy. And there's so many times I see a lot of people get really frustrated because, you know, they've paid a lot of money to work with a business coach or for a course that teaches an incredible strategy, but now they're like, Oh, okay, but now what? Because I literally don't know how to point and click my way through this. And I do not want to spend a hundred years going down the YouTube rabbit hole for that. And so to actually have a resource where there's content that I'm sure is very up to date with the changing of social media. I think that there's not really much, if anything, that I've seen out there like that. So it's a resource that is so, so, so needed when it comes to people learning the things that they need to do to really make this living online.

Craig Cannings: Yeah, you bring up a really good point. I used to have a client, I won't mention any names, but they're great. But they had a program exactly that. It was expensive. It was high level strategy. It was very popular and had a really good following. But then these people would get into the nitty gritty of how do I set up Wordpress? Like, how do I connect my domain to hosting. And then there's Kajabi and all of these things. And it was interesting. I was speaking at a conference related to that partner and talking about at the time how virtual assistants can help your business thrive and flourish. And I didn't know if it'd be that popular of a talk. And I knew it had gone well. Like I felt like I had delivered it well. And at the end, they asked the speakers to stay up there. People might come by for questions and whatnot. And I had this significant line, not because I was a great speaker. It's just because I said one word. I said, VA. And everyone's like I'm looking for somebody that knows Kajabi? And another person was like, do you have anyone that does social media? I'm like we do, we have them all. But I can't necessarily help you all at once. But the reason I share that story is that I went away from that conference realizing, wow, we are meeting such a need right now because these businesses don't necessarily have the time or the skills to do that. And we can bring people in that are experts in that area that can really service them. And so there's a huge demand. I mean, we now have a team of 12 and it used to be Kelly and I, and our business has been built on virtual assistants and freelancers. And so we're living proof of what a lot of companies are kind of trending towards, even in this remote work world that we're operating in right now.

Shannon Mattern: So I just hosted a summit, the Side-Hustle to Self-Employed Summit. And the majority of people were like, I want to start a virtual assistant business, but I'm afraid that I don't have the skills. The things that I did at corporate sure are somewhat transferable, but not really, because I'm not using Microsoft Word and a PC to run these online businesses. And, you know, there are places that you can go with incredible courses and training and teaching and mentorship to go get those skills because you do have something to offer. There are so many online business owners out there that need you. They really, really need you. I feel like to have a place where you can just know that no matter what comes up, you're like, Oh, I bet there's a course for that inside of Freelance University. I bet I could go learn that real quick and really like blow my client's mind.

Craig Cannings: Well, for a lot of you listening, I mean, all of you have tons of like, your zone of genius and you've got your gifts and you've got all these sort of transferrable abilities from whatever careers or businesses you've had before. And we do this exercise at the university where we have them do that inventory of personal qualities, experience, skills. And then there's this little slice of the gap where it's like, okay, if I just had a little bit of technical skills in this area, it would put me over the divide, this little divide. And often I tell people is what we do, we're not really paving the whole way for you. You've already done that yourself. It's just, you have to recognize the gifts and abilities you have, and then transfer them in with a little bit of skill, upskilling or development. And suddenly you're off to the races. And we've often noticed that when that gap is filled, that skill gap is filled, confidence. It breeds competence. And so skill development and learning, even though some of you might be in courses right now, whether it's Shannon's courses or others, it's an investment. But as you develop those skills, even if it's in WordPress or website development, it grows your confidence to be able to do this. So that's what we've seen that over and over again. And to be honest, Shannon, I don't know how it is in your world, but I do these Facebook Friday events where I just talk on often different types of topics. And I'll talk about things like imposter syndrome and things that might be holding you back. And I could probably talk on confidence in different ways, in different capacities, and it will come out as our most viewed event for that time, because it's a major barrier that holds people back. And I've often told our audience, and tell the audience listening here, that you are way better than you think. Like your abilities and your qualities and your background, you're way more talented than you probably realize. It's just, you know, getting help from people like Shannon and myself just maybe make it a little bit easier along the way.

Shannon Mattern: I would agree. I think that the number one thing that I see preventing people from going after their dreams is the imposter syndrome and the confidence. And, you know, I'm so glad that you guys talk about that because it's just, it's so, so important to have a resource where you can go to. We have to work on it. It's a mind game. A lot of it is just a mind game and we have to work with people who are going to support you through that and not just give you the skills, right? Because you can do all the learning that you want. If you still feel like you're not good enough to put that out there in the world, you're never going to take action and then live the life, you know, that freedom lifestyle that you want to live. So I'm super passionate about that. That's one of the things that made me want to talk to you on the podcast is just like, it's not just the skills. It's the mission behind it and what you're empowering people to do. Not only like live the life that they want to live, but like, think the things about them that are going to just make all of it worthwhile.

Craig Cannings: Oh, totally. You know, it's interesting. We did this exercise and one of the sessions I did recently, and I had them basically grab a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. And on the left side, they wrote inflators and on the right side they wrote deflators. And we talked about the people, the whole exercise was on aligning yourself with people that will support and help your business to support and grow. And I said, put all the people on the inflator side that are breathing life into you, that are encouraging you. They may not even be entrepreneurs. They may be your spouse. They may be your sibling, your child, whoever. But put them down because they're the ones that you want to align yourself with because they're the ones that are going to help encourage you. Because a lot of people have these messages in their mind about I'm not good enough. And sadly, sometimes it comes from people in their world. And so the other side, of course, was the deflators. Those are the ones that are like, you're going to start a freelance business? Like as much as my parents were encouraging growing up, you know, when I was going to start a venture, they didn't know anything about entrepreneurship. So even though they were, I have an awesome relationship with my parents. At the time, some of the things that they said kind of were, I didn't want to like talk about business as much, because I knew that I just ended up not feeling good about myself. And so, you know, now they're on the inflator side. Now they're like, okay, you're like 15 years into this. I think, I think, and you haven't had to go get another job, and the kids are all fed. So there must be something going on over there. So, yeah, I always encourage people, align yourself with people that will support you. And that's what a lot of people, whether it's our community or the communities you have, Shannon, people get a lot of value just from connecting with people because they're like minded. They have a similar sort of focus and goal, and it can really fire them up and get them encouraged.

Shannon Mattern: Oh, so good. So what would you say to someone who's listening who's like ,that sounds amazing. I definitely want to brush up on my skills, learn new skills, become a part of this community, but I don't know how I can get a client. Like what would you say to that person?

Craig Cannings: Well, I think, you know, in terms of like marketing and building their business. Yeah. You're right. Because there's two sides of the equation. One side is you need skills to be able to serve the clients, but then you've got to be able to do the marketing to get the clients. think, you know, if someone was to ask me just like, kind of like you're asking, you know, sitting across the table and say in 2021, if you were starting as a freelancer, how would you get your first client? I would say, first of all, we're in a global pandemic. And so how I advise you might be different than 12 months ago, a little bit. But I would say, figure obviously your services, what you want to focus on. And let's say it's WordPress design. Then figuring out the next step is who are your people. One of the great ways to be successful in the freelance space is by finding out who your people are. Who is that distinct market that you're targeting? It might be nutritionists. It might be life coaches. It might be women bloggers. And when you start off, you tend to like, it's like the broad scope, but you tend to be a little more broad. And then you start to figure out who you want to align yourself with. And then it gets exciting because then you can become more marketable because you've now tapped into a "I'm a WordPress developer for women bloggers that want to build their blog". You know, that's my space. That's, that's what I do. Or nonprofits, or whatever your space is. So once you have that figured out, it makes it a lot easier to market. Cause you're not marketing to the masses, you're marketing to the few. And so a lot of our students as of late have found success in Facebook groups. So they are entering Facebook groups where their audience hangs out. So let's say it's a group on nutrition, nutritionists, and they help them with their books. They help them with virtual administrative work. And so they're learning and listening to their needs. They're hearing like their problems. They're also then requesting their friendship on Facebook or they're going on to LinkedIn and making a connection there. And suddenly they're getting into their world and they're digesting their content and they're commenting on their blog. So then when they make a meaningful connection, they could say, Hey, you know what? I was just reading this awesome blog post that you had. And I was impacted by X, Y, Z. And I actually work with people in your space. I'd love to have a chat if you have a moment and drop them into a discovery call. And so yeah, it's like going out and going out exactly where your audience is. And then just being authentic. Don't be sales pitchy. Just get to know them. And I think Facebook groups is one of many examples of that. I've even heard of people joining zoom meetings, like big zoom groups all through LinkedIn. And they're actually starting to have these messages and connecting with people on zoom that actually turns into a zoom discovery call. And so people are having to use ort of different means to find clients because you can't go to conferences right now, physically. You can't go to networking meetings locally. And so check out Facebook groups. I think that's a good starting point.

Shannon Mattern: I just had one of my web designers tell me, you guys gotta get on Clubhouse because I was just on there talking about my services. She's she serves artists who want to sell their art online. Those are her people. Cause she's also an artist. And so she was just in a Facebook group for these artists who are trying to sell their stuff online, just talking about like how she helps them. And she's like, I got four discovery calls out of that. And I'm like, yes, everybody's telling me I need to be on Clubhouse. That's next on my to-do list to figure out how that all works and be there. But I think just exactly what you said. I'm so glad that you said that because it's just like going out there building real, authentic relationships with people and letting them know how you can help them and what could be easier. Cause you're not just being a sales person, you're just being a friend and a normal person who just wants to let people know how you can help them.

Craig Cannings: Absolutely. And it's interesting, you mentioned Clubhouse because I look at Clubhouse as sort of the audio version of a Facebook group, you know. So Facebook groups are all about trying to nurture relationships and connect and help and serve and teach. And now you've got this very interesting thing. I did sign up. My daughter referred me in.

Shannon Mattern: I have it. I just haven't done anything.

Craig Cannings: I just started about two days ago. And it is cool because it's that same idea though, is that you're really networking and you're communicating. As a virtual assistant or a WordPress developer, it's a great way to become an influencer just by sharing helpful tips, whether it's in a Facebook group or a Clubhouse, or we've had some of our students find a lot of success through YouTube. So they just pump out quick YouTube videos and that's helped them to become sort of a authority. Some have podcasts. So content marketing is another great way just to kind of get your digital footprint out there and people get to know you and say, Hey, this person's got some real value. I wonder what their services look like.

Shannon Mattern: Yeah. And every niche has different needs. Real estate agents have different needs than nutrition bloggers. And so you can really come in and be like the person that saves the day for this type of service provider, which is really fun to do when you're the authority on it. I love it. Totally. So I just have a couple more questions for you before we wrap up. And, one, you know, I just want to talk about what's possible for people when they leave corporate and go all in on their freelance business. You don't have to leave corporate, if you don't want to. You could start it as a side hustle. I'm all about that. Obviously this is Pep Talks for Side Hustlers. But what do you think are some of the myths that hold people back from really going all in on self-employment and building their own business?

Craig Cannings: Well, I think there's fears on many levels. We could just count on that word and talk about the different fears people have. There's the fear of instability, you know. When I left my stable employment, I used to be a counselor, actually, that was my background, into this freelance world, there was a fear of not providing for my family. A fear that I'm going to be a failure. That I'm not going to actually be good at it. And for many of you, not all of you, but for some of you, you may never have dipped your toe in entrepreneurship. So you may never have dipped your toe in side hustling or self-employment or freelancing for that matter. So then there's, like we talked about, that imposter syndrome saying, you know, I've never done this. What business do I have being in business for myself? And man, I struggled with the imposter syndrome very early on because I had a couple setbacks and failures and I thought, you know, I just would probably go back and get a real job and make my parents proud, you know. And all that and all those things. And so, yeah, the first thing is just tackling the fear of it. And I think the other myth might be that, well, you have to know a lot. And it's, you know, I'm not a web designer, I'm not a techie, you know. It's interesting. We've had people that I was just thinking of one, one gal that was a stay-at-home mom for eight years before she was a project manager in corporate. And then she came to our world and she self-proclaimed didn't have any confidence because she's like, I don't know if I could really be good at anything. Fast forward two years in our university, she now is a graphic designer and an online business manager and she just hired a team member. And this is somebody that had no experience. Although she brought skills, don't get me wrong. She's got all these great talents. But she wasn't doing that work. It became a side hustle while she's raising her family. Now our kids are more in full-time school. And so now she's really, really going for it because she has more bandwidth. And so, that would be another thing I think is just feeling I don't have what it takes. And then the other thing is time. Like if you have a full-time job right now, which some of you do, and that might be a really important job that you have for providing for your family. And maybe you have a family you're thinking, how could I ever make a go of this on the side? And yes, it will require a clear vision that you're passionate about doing this. That you have a clear focus and you've got your goals and you really want to go at this because you will really have to carve out time unlike anybody else does. Like myself and you Shannon, this is sort of maybe our full-time thing now. And so we have more time, but some of you are 40 hours a week in a job. And so, you've got to think about what does my lunch hours look like now? What does my 5:00 AM to 6:00 AM? Yes, I'm suggesting get up early. Because you know, I think the word "hustle" kind of has the connotation that we're talking about. You have to hustle if you want to make this work, which means you've got to work hard and you've got to carve out those moments that, eventually, and I've seen it so many times. We have so many success stories of students that were in this, this tricky space full-time job. Okay. I just added my second client. A full-time job. Okay. Now I don't know what to do. I've got the third client and I'm almost pushing towards the income level, but I'm sleeping about three hours a night. And so then that's not really sustainable. So then they eventually pushed it over so they can transition to full-time. And so it's recognizing you gotta be in that uncomfortable zone for a while, as you grow and develop, because at some point, because of the opportunities out there, you likely will make that decision to say, Hey, now I'm ready to go for it, because I know the opportunities are there for me.

Shannon Mattern: I think the biggest thing that was kind of coming up for me while you were saying that is you just gotta trust yourself. You're capable. You are more than capable of doing this. If you even have the idea in your brain that is something that you would love to do to leave corporate, to be your own boss, to spend your day doing things that you love to do and learning new skills and serving your clients, you are capable of doing it. And you just have to trust yourself that you can figure it out. You can figure it out. And like you said, you don't have to be some business genius, you know, and have an MBA to figure this out.

Craig Cannings: I'm living proof!

Shannon Mattern: I am living proof as well. And you just have to know that, like, you just have to believe in yourself, like a hundred percent to say, I know I will run into obstacles and I will figure it out no matter.

Craig Cannings: Absolutely. Yeah. And I was going to say, I think, especially when you're working full time and it is a side hustle, it's really sort of like a baby step strategy where you're like, I'm going to focus on three things that I'm going to get done this week. And I only have an hour and a half to do it in this seven day cycle, but I'm gonna accomplish it. And then, because it's like the small steps that lead to the big growth and that's been our business, just as we grew and continued to press in. And suddenly you find the snowball has gone over the edge and you're now starting to say, wow, now I gotta hang on. I've got to hire a team. I've got to like manage my growth. And I see that with some of our students, they're like, I'm at capacity. I have too many clients. I don't know if I can give up control to hire another person, but I know I need to. And years before they'd be like, not believing that could ever even have a client. And now they're at a place where they're booked up and they're thinking of team and all sorts of ways to scale. So, yeah, sky's the limit for those of you that are either doing a side hustle now or thinking about it because as hard as COVID has been for our world, and it has been very hard. I will not diminish it in any way, shape or form. Many freelancers have flourished during this time because the idea of remote work is now mainstream. The idea of working with remote team like freelancers and contractors, independent contractors, that's suddenly becoming mainstream. I read a statistic that in 2021, I think it was an entrepreneur.com survey, that 41% of businesses that only worked in-house and only hired in-house staff would be willing to work with a freelancer in 2021. And a year earlier, these people had no interest in working with freelance professionals. So, so lots of cool opportunities.

Shannon Mattern: Oh yeah. I mean, and just the amount of businesses just pivoting to survive has required, you know, freelancers to come in and help them figure out what that looks like and support them in to doing that. I mean, so it's just one of those huge pivotal moments in our history, like 2008, 2001, you know, that really kind of like changed everything for how we work. And, you know, I think that as hard as times have been, it's like something new is always born out of that and what you guys do to support people in the pursuit of that is really, really incredible. So my final question for you is what belief about yourself did you have to change to get where you are today?

Craig Cannings: I'm not an entrepreneur.

Shannon Mattern: Ooh, that's a good one.

Craig Cannings: I don't want to reiterate it too much, but, I grew up in a home, a really loving home, but there was not an entrepreneurial bone in the body. My mom was a teacher. My dad worked in a management position with the government agency.

Shannon Mattern: A stable jobs that you would never leave. Right?

Craig Cannings: Exactly. And then I married my wife, I met Kelly and her parents, both entrepreneurs, brother's an entrepreneur. They are risk-takers through and through. They will go forward it and clean up the mess after, in every sense of the word. And so that was the culture that I married into and I adopted that culture. And so when I talked about leaving my job, yes, you gotta be wise. I'm not suggesting, yeah, leave everything and go be an entrepreneur. I'm not talking about being airy-fairy. You have to have a plan and you gotta make sure your family's taken care of. All those things. But it was sure nice having someone that had that, sort of, born entrepreneurial spirit that said, you know, at the end of the day, you have to jump. You can't stay on the shore because you're going to have to take a calculated risk to make this work. And so that has been kind of in my mind and that encouragement from my wife all these years. She'll say I'm the opposite. I jumped too quick. And then I got to try to climb up the mountain and get back on stable shore. But it's sure nice having that kind of person that's encouraging you to take risks. Because we don't really accomplish anything great in life without stepping out and taking a risk, at least in my experience.

Shannon Mattern: Oh, I love that. Go for it. And clean up the mess afterwards. Like that's the definition of trusting yourself, right? I mean, like that's the definition of trusting yourself. It's like, I'm going to take this risk and I also know that I can like handle whatever comes out of it. So good. Yeah. Like my husband, I'm like, you should quit your job and work with my company. And he's not there. I don't know if he'll ever be there. , Because we both grew up just like how you describe your upbringing. Like that's just not what you do. You do not leave the steady paycheck with the 401k and the health insurance and all the things to go strike out on your own. And it has been the most rewarding journey of my life. And I think everybody should do it.

Craig Cannings: Well, and I think, to add to that, I think, you know, entrepreneurship, especially in the freelance space for all the reasons we suggested already, is becoming a safer bet than maybe 15 years ago when we started. Where nobody knew what you did working from home. Now, you know, there's so many work from home resources and it's just becoming more mainstream. And the other thing is we saw how many millions of people that lost their jobs in America, and where I'm in, in Canada. And so the stable jobs that we always thought they would have suddenly became unstable. And so entrepreneurship in the right areas suddenly becomes a much more viable, stable opportunity.

Shannon Mattern: So good. So Craig, thank you so much for being here. Can you tell everyone where they can go to connect with you learn more about Freelance University, all of the things that you guys do and the opportunities that you have for them?

Craig Cannings: Yeah, for sure. So if you want to just check out our blog or our free workshops, we got a podcast as well. You can just, you can just go to freelanceu.com. And if you're interested in actually jumping into our university, I'll give you a special page that you can check out. It's just freelanceu.com/special-offer. And that'll give you a chance to learn a bit about what we do, see if it's a right fit for you. And we'd love to get to know you.

Shannon Mattern: Awesome. Well, I will link all of that stuff up in the show notes. So you guys can go to shannonmattern.com/335. Craig, thank you so much for being here. It's been a real pleasure talking to you.

Craig Cannings: Yeah, my pleasure, Shannon. Thanks.

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