The Solution Provider


First of all, thanks so much to everyone who signed up to come out the Unconventional Book Tour this fall. My goal was to put this out there and see how people responded.

Well, respond you did! 450 people signed up in the first few hours, and hundreds more over the weekend.

All 63 cities across North America are now represented. NYC, San Fran, L.A., and Vancouver have been fighting it out for the most signups thus far, but people will be out in full force almost everywhere. If you use Twitter, you can search for hashtag #ubt and see some of the other readers who are coming to various cities.

My investment tip for the year is: buy stock in cupcake companies! Business will be good this fall.

A big debate about city choices also broke out in my Inbox, with numerous arguments about whether Oklahoma City is better than Tulsa, why I’m not also going to Canada’s three arctic territories (hint: I’m already going to every state and every province! one thing at a time), and so on.

Thanks as well for your online pre-orders, which helped take the AONC book to the Top 1k on Amazon two months in advance of release. We are also working with local bookstores all across both countries to ensure they know about the book as well, and I certainly encourage you to support your own if you have one. I’ll have much more to say about this whole four-month process later.


For now, let’s talk about solutions to problems. If you’re trying to figure out a good idea for a small business, start by looking at a problem that you can provide the solution to. I thought about this last week when I sat down with Charlie Gilkey, longtime friend, new Portland resident, and my business partner on the upcoming Unconventional Guide to Freelancing.

“What’s the number one thing you want people to know about freelancing?” I asked Charlie.

“It’s simple,” he said. “Whether through this guide or something else, the most important thing is that freelancers should view themselves as solution providers instead of just service providers.”

The difference is crucial. If you’re in business for yourself or want to be, you need to think about what kind of solution you’re offering. If you’re solving a problem or relieving a pain, that’s a good start. If you’re just “doing stuff,” you may need to adjust.

The Freelancing Project

If you’re new here, the first half of 2010 has been accelerated, even by my “why not do everything” standard. Last fall I said that 2010 would be the year of scale and reach, which has certainly held true. We’ve built out the business to a more sustainable level, with the flagship Empire Building Kit and upgraded affiliate program. Site readership has nearly doubled from December, along with almost all of the other metrics I track.

As promised several times, after this launch I’ll be retiring from active business development for the rest of the year. The store will still be open, and I’ll still post Sunday Store Updates at least a couple of times a month with news about existing products, but my focus will be on the book tour, Ethiopia project, and the writing I do every day.

Anyway, enough preamble. Here’s the deal: the Unconventional Guide to Freelancing is a one-stop, “Freelancer’s 301” guide to running a service-based business. Our ideal customer for this guide is someone who knows how to do their craft but struggles with running the business.

Important: Charlie and I don’t know how to tell someone to be a web designer, a bookkeeper, a consultant, an agent, or any number or other kinds of specific professions. There are plenty of resources in any one industry to cover that.

But we do know how to condense a wealth of knowledge into a package that freelancers of all kinds can benefit from. That’s what the guide is all about.

In April I went to a higher-price point for the Empire Building Kit because it made sense for that project. (An Empire Building project shouldn’t be super cheap.) For this guide, I’m returning to the lower price point that we’ve used for a few of the earlier guides. I’m happy to do this so the price won’t be an obstacle for anyone who fits the target market.

The launch will kick off on Wednesday morning at 9am PST / 12pm EST. This will be a long-lasting launch, meaning that the guide won’t go away after 24 hours or a week; it will continue to be available in the store on a long-term basis. However, to encourage early participation, Charlie talked me into doing a special Q&A call with the first 150 buyers who pick up the guide on Wednesday.

I make an average of one phone call a day and listen to my voicemail about once a month, so I’m not a big conference call guy. But I agree it will be important to help people who are especially excited about their freelancing biz, so I blocked off an afternoon next month for the call to respond to questions and share a few ideas from the many people we talked with while producing the guide.

(After the Q&A call fills up, we’ll remove notice of it from the launch post—that way, you can tell whether it’s still available or not.)


If the guide sounds like a good fit for you, I’ll look forward to serving you with it on Wednesday. If not, that’s totally fine and I appreciate your time and attention.

By the way… I still can’t believe that so many of you are coming out to visit during the Unconventional Book Tour this fall! It’s going to be epic.


Image: Llam

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  • Hugh says:

    This is perfect. I’m working on starting my business this summer (health coach), so I’ll be sure to pick up my guide Wed morning. Thanks for continuing to share your knowledge!

  • Jay Brock says:

    YESSssss…. See you January 22nd in Vancouver baby!

  • Elaine Huckabay says:

    I really do hope you choose Oklahoma City over Tulsa! OKC has been my home base for 4 years and I know you will love it! Keep me posted!

  • Frank says:

    Can’t wait for the book! Congratulations on all your success so far Chris.

  • Briana says:

    Always great to be reminded to be more solution oriented. Best of luck on the upcoming tour. I will be out of the country but I’ll be following along online!

  • Ramona says:

    see you in vancouver.

  • Devin says:

    Hey Chris,

    All this sounds exciting. I started my business freelancing (I have freelanced in a variety of fields) and I am doing some more freelancing right now. I would agree, being someone who creates solutions means others get to relax a little. Getting others to relax is an important service. When those relaxing someones realize that you do good, reliable work, they relax more, hire you more, pay you more.

    It is hard work at times establishing yourself, but worth it. Sorry toi hear so many people in LA will be seeking you out — it means more competition for me to say hello. I will try anyway.

  • Mandi says:

    Hooray! See you in Portland. I’ll be making (vegan) cupcakes and then awkwardly hiding in the corner.

  • linda esposito says:

    Can’t wait for December 11th–don’t even know the day of the week, but who cares!

    I promise the cupcakes will have more substance than the majority of my city’s inhabitants!

  • ami | 40daystochange says:

    First – love the distinction btwn providing solutions and providing service, great perspective.

    Second – Excited about the new book/product offerings.

    Third – a (small) whine – Alexandria, VA is not so different or far from Washington, DC. Wish you would consider Richmond – which will give easier access to many Virginians.

    In any case, good luck with the tour, please continue producing the fabulous content, and thanks.

  • Devin says:


    I identify.

  • Erica says:

    Looking forward to the book release and the Unconventional Guide to Freelancing. I’ve just started freelancing on the side, but I want to take it further. I will also probably hanging out in the corner at the LA stop–but with cupcakes.

  • Natalie Steinke says:

    I would just like to say that I wanted to send a message about Oklahoma City being a better location than Tulsa and initially didn’t. Now that I see that it spawned a debate, I wanted to voice my support for this change.

    Not only would you be drawing from the population of OKC, but there is also the entire 30,000+ OU community 25 minutes to the South, as well as a slew of people in the Norman community who would greatly enjoy this. Not that you wouldn’t draw a crowd in Tulsa as well. Just something to consider.

  • Wyman says:

    Glad to here my three book purchases put you in the top of Amazon, smile. Anything to save $6 shipping.

  • Etsuko says:

    Hi Chris,

    I just finished listening to the call with Charlie Gilkey from $100 biz forum (May group) that I just got hold of on the web-site today. I LOVED the entire call and what he said….especially this “By you holding back (and not reaching out), the world is in some way not as good as it could be”. It gave me a chill.

    I had a question about this upcoming Unconventional Guide to Freelancing. What’s the definition of freelancer? Are coaches freelancers too? Of those who are business owners, self-employed and/or entrepreneur, what kind of professions are not considered freelancing?


  • Clara Mathews says:

    I am exciting about the book tour’s stop in Dallas. I will see what I can do about bringing the cupcakes. Do you have a favorite flavor?

  • Jason Sooter says:

    Definitely Tulsa, actually either would be fine but my vote is for Tulsa.

  • MEG says:

    The distinction between solution provider not just service provider is critical. Not just in freelance creative work, but B2B professional environments overall.

    Good insight.

  • Andi says:

    Wish you were coming to Charlotte, but I might try to drive to Columbia!!! Congrats on your success, though it’s not a surprise. 😉

  • Angela says:

    I couldn’t agree more about making yourself a solution provider rather than a service provider. Doing this has helped me coast through a corporate acquisition when many didn’t fare so well… If that can be done within the corporate world, imagine what’s possible on your own as a freelancer!

    Look forward to seeing you in Dallas, Chris!

  • sonia ferreira da silva says:

    Words full of wisdom!!!

  • Tom Chasm says:

    Thanks for all that you do. I’m at that akward age somewhere between too old to be looking for a new job and too young to retire. So as my store is closing due to a multitude of reasons, not the least of which is the lovely economic conditions we are all experiencing, I’m embarking on a new “journey”. Using my experiences and abilities seasoned with inspiration from you and your “tribe”, I’m now writing a blog regularly and starting my first book. And as uncertain as the future seems right now, I’ve never been happier. Cheers!!

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