10 Proven Strategies for Maximizing Your Freelance Rates8 min read
How to ensure you get fairly rewarded for the work you undertake for clients.
How to Earn More While Working Less
Freelancing is a great way to make a living, but it can be tough, too. Do you find yourself working flat out to hit deadlines, yet still struggling to pay for your morning Caramel Macchiato Venti?
Here are 10 principles you can apply today to maximize your income by working smarter, not harder. These strategies will set you on the path to a six-figure income while creating more free time to enjoy your new-found wealth.
1. Create a Strong Value Proposition
There’s a reason why corporate tax lawyers make $1,000 an hour while teenagers flipping burgers are lucky to scrape $10 an hour. It’s all about the value you offer in return for your services. Even the best burger in the world will never be worth $1,000, whereas good tax advice could save a company millions.
So think about how you can raise the bar by offering more valuable outcomes to clients. For example, a freelance writer who writes blog posts will struggle to make a high income, as this kind of work is seen by clients as a commodity. There is a limit to what clients will pay, because there are plenty of low-rent article writers to take up the slack.
But for copywriters who produce high-converting sales copy, there is no limit to income potential. There are many copywriters who make over a million dollars a year. Their clients are happy to pay such huge sums because they generate perhaps tens of millions in revenues. A good deal for both parties.
So you can multiply your earning potential by simply by shifting your value proposition. Offer a service that delivers a more transformational outcome, and your earnings will soar.
2. Sell Your Worth, Not Your Time
Billing by the hour is not a good proposition for either you or your clients. After all, it’s not about how much time you spend on a project—it’s about what you achieve.
Charging by the project is a much better way to go, allowing you to receive fair compensation for the value you deliver. For eye-opening advice on how this can explode your income, check out Million-Dollar Consulting by Alan Weiss.
3. Be Professional
Success as a freelancer is not just about being good at the work you do. Great quality work is no good if it’s delivered a day too late to be used. Being professional in the way you conduct your business is just as important as being skilled in your profession.
Clients need freelancers they can trust to deliver quality work on time, every time. They need to know they can contact you with urgent queries, and that all negotiations, discussions and interactions will be handled in a professional way.
Get this right and clients will be prepared to pay you higher fees, knowing that you will deliver the results they need.
4. Choose Better Clients
One major mistake that freelancers make is prospecting for clients with limited budgets. If you are a graphic designer, for example, it may seem like a good idea to canvas for work from local businesses such as restaurants, retailers and hotels.
But such small businesses will typically have a limited marketing budget, which will put a low ceiling on your earnings. Instead, set your sights on companies with big marketing budgets who can afford to pay the fees you deserve.
LinkedIn is a fantastic resource for marketing to such corporate and enterprise-level clients. Reaching senior decision-makers in such organizations is much easier than you might think. So get good at reaching out to buyers with big budgets and watch your income grow.
5. Broaden Your Client Base
Another very common freelancer mistake is becoming too dependent on one major client. When a single ‘big fish’ keeps commissioning more and more work, it’s tempting to grab what’s on offer and ignore other prospects.
But what happens if the work suddenly dries up? You may find yourself with no paying projects on your calendar while the unpaid bills pile up. Then you will be forced to take whatever work you can get, at whatever low rate is on offer.
Always have multiple clients in your portfolio, so that if you lose one client, you are not forced to take low-paying work out of desperation.
6. Keep on Marketing
Marketing is often a stop-start process for freelancers. You may work hard on marketing while business is slow, then put promotion on hold when the work starts rolling in.
As a result, you end up talking to potential new clients only when you are really in need of work. This means you have no leverage in negotiations, because you can’t afford to risk losing business.
A much better approach is to make marketing a regular part of your weekly schedule. Better still, you can hire a part-time VA for around $50 a week to work regularly on doing outreach to prospects.
This way, you will always have prospects in your sales pipeline, and can afford to negotiate harder for the fees you deserve. If one client turns you down, you know you have other prospects to talk to.
7. Stamp Out Scope Creep
‘Scope creep’ happens when a client moves the goalposts after fees for a project have been agreed. A one-week project somehow becomes a two-week project, with more deliverables expected for the same price.
This is a real profit killer for freelancers, and you need to eliminate the problem. When agreeing on a deal, ensure that the deliverables are clearly defined. Make sure that if the client increases the workload, additional fees will apply.
Get this wrong and you could find your actual hourly rate shrinks to just a few dollars per hour… or worse.
8. Fire Your Worst Clients
Some clients are great to work with, but others… not so much. Remember that you are not obligated to work with any client who causes you problems.
If you have clients who nitpick over every detail, impose impossible deadlines or pay late, you are probably better off without them. A great way to increase your overall income is to fire the worst 10% of your clients every year and replace them with better ones.
Focus on clients who are happy to pay high fees for quality outcomes, who settle bills promptly and who have reasonable expectations.
9. Offer Complete Solutions
Freelancers often think of their service offering in terms of the skills they have. But it may be much better to think of things from the clients’ point of view. How can you make their lives easier?
One way is to team up with other freelancers to form teams that deliver complete solutions. An art director might team up with a copywriter to form a creative team—making it easy for ad agencies to outsource creative work.
Make it simple for clients to resolve their problems by picking up the phone and calling you. The value of a team really is greater than the sum of its parts.
10. Be Easy to Contact for Urgent Work
An easy way to bump up your freelance earnings is to be available for rush jobs. These happen surprisingly often, and clients will often pay a significant premium if you can get the job done to a tight deadline.
First of all, you need to make it clear to clients that you are available for urgent jobs if required (for an additional cost). They need to know it’s OK to contact you at 3.00am on Sunday if an emergency arises. Then you need to make it easy for clients to contact you 24/7.
Ensure that clients have your phone number and other contact details so they can get in touch when the need arises.
Bonus Tip: Take Good Care of Your Clients
There’s no doubt that your existing clients are your best source of future business. So the easiest way to maximize your income is to generate more work from your current customers.
Be sure to check in with clients on a regular basis to see how you can help. Work on building a solid relationship that works to the advantage of both parties.
If you offer more than one service, ensure that your clients know all the ways in which you can help them. Cross-selling your services is a great way to increase your income.
Ask your customers if they can refer you to other colleagues who may need your help. If you are truly delivering the goods, they will often be delighted to evangelize for you.
Take It to the Moon!
There is nothing to stop you making a six-figure—or even a seven-figure—income if you treat freelancing as a serious business. The opportunity is there if you are prepared to grasp it.
Apply these strategies in your freelance career and you will be amazed at how they can transform your earnings. So don’t settle for a mediocre income. Start maximizing your freelance rates today and set yourself on a path to a better, richer life.