May 8, 2024

Meet Pollen Expert-in-Residence Austin Church

Pollen Team
Meet Pollen Expert-in-Residence Austin Church

18 years ago, Austin Church thought he was going to be a college English professor. But 2 years into his masters in creative writing, he grew tired of academia and found himself on a new path. 

“I got a job in marketing and had a huge identity crisis because I loved it,” Austin says. “What business does a poet have being in the business world?” 

Quite a bit, as it turns out. Since 2009 Austin has built and sold a portfolio of over 30 mobile apps, co-founded a tech startup, co-founded a branding studio, started a consultancy, and published a pricing and money mindset guide for freelancers and consultants. He’s also been freelancing the entire time. 

Today, Austin serves as one of Pollen’s Experts-in-Residence, seasoned professionals who help members of our community navigate the ins and outs of independent careers. 

In this interview, Austin reflects on his independent career and discusses his approach as a mentor, coach, and Pollen Expert-in-Residence for all things pricing and revenue. 

What Austin has learned over 15 years of freelancing

In 2009, Austin remembers, “you almost didn’t want to admit you were a freelancer.” 

At the time, people often thought that freelancers “couldn’t hack it at an agency,” he explains. Austin himself didn’t expect to make freelancing his career when he picked up his first writing gigs after being laid off.

But freelancing has carried Austin through the ups and downs of his career as an entrepreneur and provided the financial cushion he needed to support himself and his growing family. 

Today Austin works as a fractional CMO, serving as a “sparring partner” to founders and CEOs of B2C services companies with $3-10 million in revenue. He combines his expertise as a marketer and entrepreneur to help leaders develop and execute growth strategies. He also offers 1-1 coaching to consultants through his business Freelance Cake, which has contributed to his effectiveness as an instructor being that he’s tested the concepts with so many creative entrepreneurs already.

Here are a few of Austin’s most enduring lessons from 15 years of being a business of one and how he applies them in his work as a coach. 

1. Personal growth begets business growth

When Austin recounts his career path, he can’t help relating it to his evolution as a partner and parent. 

As an entrepreneur, he says, “your business growth is almost always limited by your personal growth. You make these big leaps forward in your career when you have a personal breakthrough.” 

He points to marriage and fatherhood as catalysts that shifted the trajectory of his entrepreneurial career. “Being a parent has probably made me a better entrepreneur,” he says.

2. Every independent is unique, so every business should be too

Austin’s career has shown time and again how the interplay between our personal and professional lives shapes our independent businesses. 

Each of us has to “build a career around [our] skillset, core competencies, and aptitudes,” he says. “These things become one big ball of Play-Doh with different colors running through it.” 

For example, Austin has found that having a family offers “a natural corrective” to work/life balance, but also adds an element of financial pressure that affects his business decisions. 

“Every consulting practice is a little bit different, in part because the consultant is a little bit different,” he says. “Their ball of Play-Doh may have different colors in it than yours does.” 

Helping freelancers build businesses that align as much with their personal values as their professional goals is a core part of Austin’s approach as a coach and Expert-in-Residence. 

3. Everything is connected in a business of one

When your business reflects your unique skills, experience, and life circumstances, Austin says, “it can be difficult to actually take yourself out of the business, to optimize it and rebuild or redesign pieces, because it’s all interconnected.” 

Your pipeline, positioning, and pricing all depend on each other — and on your personal mindset and the role your business plays in your life. In the quarterly and annual planning sprints Austin runs with Pollen, he takes members through a series of exercises to help everyone articulate their unique priorities and goals and identify the steps they need to take to achieve them. 

What Austin brings to the Pollen community

Austin initially joined Pollen as an Expert-in-Residence focused on pricing and revenue. But true to his belief in the interconnected nature of independent businesses, his remit has expanded over the past year. 

Today, he helps members of the Pollen community achieve both financial success and sustainability as business owners. He’s active in our online community discussions, shares assets such as his time management system guide, and runs regular workshops and sprints. 

Elevating every independent career

“I love sharing first principles and ideas,” Austin says. “I can explain a principle of pricing that has worked for people around the world. It elevates consulting and freelancing as a whole if I can disseminate principles that I know will help more people get better results.” 

For example, his 2024 Planning Sprint walked members through the process of analyzing 2023, clarifying long-term goals, and defining steps to take in Q1 to achieve them. He runs a similar exercise each quarter to help members re-clarify their priorities and identify clear next steps for achieving them. 

What our community had to say about Austin’s most recent Quarterly Planning Sprint:

Austin’s planning sprints help Pollen members kick off each quarter with clarity. 

Austin also shares tips from his own experience as a business owner on topics like recovering from losing a client, pricing new offerings, and nurturing leads. 

“I see posts asking How do I approach this situation? Or How do I price this? Or How do I respond to a client who said this?” he says. “15 years in, there aren’t a lot of situations that I haven’t seen.” 

Austin responds to a Pollen member who asked for advice on selling a book on Amazon. 

Finding levity in the classroom

As a coach and Expert-in-Residence, Austin leans on his background as an instructor to help people achieve something meaningful. “I like it when the lights come on for people,” he says. “I find it so addictive to participate in other people’s transformations.” 

As Pollen members who have participated in Austin’s sprints know, he makes a point of bringing “the right amount of silliness and fun and whimsy” into his virtual classroom. “One of my values is Let’s whistle while we work,” he says, noting that he’s found that retention is higher when people are having fun. 

Have your (freelance) cake and eat it, too

Austin believes that independents can achieve both freedom and financial upside (hence the name of his freelance education business, Freelance Cake). It just takes a little time and effort, he says. 

“It’s through the combination of a plan plus a cadence of intentional business development that you can really have your cake and eat it, too,” he says. 

Pollen members can connect with Austin and all of our Experts-in-Residence on the Pollen Community. To join our community of top independent consultants, apply today

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