These Two Questions to Help Freelancers Be Less Stupid Than Most People

3 min. read
March 29, 2024

Warren Buffett’s late business partner, Charlie Munger, attributed much of Berkshire Hathaway’s success to a deceptively simple principle: being “a little less stupid than most people.”

For the better part of his ninety-nine years, Munger restated the same idea in various ways:

  • “Avoid standard ways of failing.”
  • “Do not live your life in such a fashion that a bad day can kill you.”
  • “Figure out what works and do it. Figure out what doesn’t work and avoid it.” (source)

Lots of people admire Munger and Buffett’s track record—Berkshire Hathaway has a $884.86 billion market cap as I write this—but how many of us slow down long enough to catalog the standard ways of failing in whatever it is we do, figure out the best alternatives, and bake them into our approach? Not many.

Clever and not stupid aren’t the same. Cleverness connotes a certain mental acuity or agility, but lots of people who weren’t book smart and didn’t do particularly well in school end up outpacing the people who did precisely because they didn’t try to be clever.

You can be clever and still fall into the common trips, if only because we all share the same cognitive biases and are prone to the same errors in judgment when we’re tired, emotional, or low on willpower.

You can be really clever most of the time and still make the wrong bet when it really counted.

We make mistakes. Patterns emerge. When a known pattern reappears later, like the smell of toast on the verge of burning, do we reach for the right protocol? Do we even have it ready?

Clever asks, “What’s the best decision?”

Not stupid says, “Historically, decisions I’ve made on the spot haven’t been my best decisions. So I won’t make this decision right now on the phone even though this person says I have to.”

When a potential client says, “I can send you a lot of business if you give me a discount,” do we stay firm on the price because referrals promised by a big talker materialized in the past?

Or do we fall for the same line again, thinking, “Surely, this time will be different”?

Being a little less stupid than most people means noticing patterns and using principles to make decisions for you.

It’s not that you can’t trust your judgment in the moment; rather, principles counteract the effects of emotion, optimism, and social dynamics.

Most of us want to be liked, to belong, to get along, and we need principles to run before us like scouts and spring all the traps before we can step into them.

Following a principle is the one decision that makes a hundred decisions for you.

Principles are a way to automate the avoidance of the most common mistakes. Principles are shorthand for a little less stupid than most people.

Ask yourself these two questions:

  1. What are the standard ways freelancers and consultants fail?
  2. How do the best freelancers and consultants avoid them?

Once you have your list of the common failures and best escapes, prioritize them, based on the ones to which you’re most vulnerable right now.

Then, fix the biggest threat first. Repeat.

When you’re ready, here are ways I can help you:

  1. Free Money. A pricing and money mindset guide for freelance creatives. If you’re unsure about your freelance pricing, this is the book for you.
  2. Morning Marketing Habit. This course will help you build an “always be marketing” practice, become less dependent on referrals, and proactively build the business you want with the clients you want. My own morning marketing habit has enabled me to consistently make  6 figures as a freelancer.
  3. Custom Business Roadmap. Gain clarity, confidence, and momentum in your freelance or consulting business.
  4. Business Redesign. Raise your effective hourly rate, delegate with confidence, and free up 40 hours a month.
  5. Clarity Session. It’s hard to read the label when you’re inside the bottle. I've done well over 100 of these 1:1 sessions with founders, solopreneurs, and freelancers who wanted guidance, a second opinion, or help creating a plan.

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info

Austin L Church portrait photo.

About the Author,
Austin L. Church

Austin L. Church is a writer, brand consultant, and freelance coach. He started freelancing in 2009 after finishing his M.A. in Literature and getting laid off from a marketing agency. Freelancing led to mobile apps (Bright Newt), a tech startup (, a children's book (Grabbling), and a branding studio (Balernum). Austin loves teaching freelancers and consultants how to stack up specific advantages for more income, free time, and fun. He and his wife live with their three children in Knoxville, Tennessee.


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