How to Make More Money from Your Freelancing Work
If you want to supplement your income, but don’t necessarily want to create a product, freelancing can be a great option. After all, freelancing is flexible, has a low barrier to entry and can be quite profitable, especially if you have professional skills that are in demand. Unfortunately, the very popularity of freelancing also makes it difficult to stand out from the pack and get the hourly rate that you feel you deserve.
Building Sixty and Me has given me the opportunity to work with some amazing freelancers. Many of these make 6-figure salaries as independent consultants and have the flexibility to live and work on their terms. Here is their collective advice on how to make more money from your freelancing work.
Freelancing Sites are Your Friend and Your Enemy
When you are just getting started as a freelancer, you may be tempted to look for work through sites like Elance.com or Guru.com. There’s nothing wrong with this. In fact, these sites can help you to build your reputation while you hone your skills. In addition, the fact that these sites offer escrow, contract management and other services can make them useful when you are starting out.
On the flip side, in the long term, seeing these sites as a way to acquire new customers will almost certainly lead to disappointment. There’s simply too much competition, which leads to lower rates and more time spent on responding to random projects.
Rather than spending your time responding to strangers, it pays to take a proactive approach. There are several ways to do this, but, here’s one example of creating demand. This is a true story, but, the names have been changed.
Steve runs a content marketing business and has worked in the online gaming space. One day, he came across a website that was redirecting to a major company’s homepage. He thought that the site would have more value as a stand-alone property, if it was developed. So, he used LinkedIn to find a contact that knew someone at the company. Once introduced, he explained the situation and followed up with a free 2-page strategy document explaining how he would optimize and develop the site. The company representative explained that the site in question had been on their radar but they hadn’t had time to develop it. Steve proposed a plan that included content development, SEO and other services. Steve is still working on the project after more than a year and has taken on new contract work with the company.
If you want to make more money as a freelancer, you will almost certainly have more luck if you create your own demand rather than waiting for projects to come to you.
Build and Defend Your Reputation
Ok, this sounds basic, but, when you are getting started, there is nothing more important than building your reputation as a freelancer. Many of the successful freelancers that I spoke with said that the great majority of their clients came from referrals and repeat business. There are two aspects to building a solid reputation. Let’s take a look.
First, make sure that you exceed your customer’s expectations. This is not just a matter of doing a great job on the specific task that you have been hired to perform. It’s also about communicating well, delivering on time, looking for ways to add value beyond the scope of the task and being pleasant to work with. The best way to find out what your customer’s priorities are is to ask them. This is also a critical step to “up-leveling” your work, as we will discuss later.
Second, while not essential, I have seen many freelancers break away from the pack by using content marketing to position themselves as subject matter experts. This could involve starting your own blog or YouTube show. Or, it could involve volunteering your services to organizations or charities that need your help. Here’s an actual example from a freelancer that I work with regularly. The story is true, but, the name has been changed.
I met John when I was looking for someone to install a forum on Sixty and Me. As usual, I asked for proposals from a number of sources and posted a job on Elance. From the 100’s of proposals that I received, John’s stood out for one simple reason – in addition to having a great reputation, he actually manages several of his own forums with over 10,000 members. John did a great job for me on this first project and he has become my go-to guy for most of the web development work that I need done.
Up-Level Your Work at Every Opportunity
As a freelancer, your hourly rate is limited only by your willingness to learn and your ability to create demand. For example, there are literally millions of freelance writers in the world. And, there are thousands of SEO specialists in the world. But, how many people have taken the time to understand both? The ones that have are able to offer their services as content marketing specialists and sub-contract the work to writers and web developers where necessary. I know a freelancer who did exactly this. Once again, the name has been changed.
Jane started doing freelance writing a few years ago. At the beginning, she was making about $20 per article. While talking with one of her clients, she asked how things were going with the blog that she was writing for. During the discussion, her client mentioned that he was frustrated by having to coordinate different resources (a web developer, several writers and marketing people at his company). Jane spent some time over the next month reading about SEO and the basics of web design. On their next monthly call, Jane presented a few suggestions for how they could improve their overall strategy for the blog and offered to help coordinate the tasks. She also offered to keep her rate the same for two months and revisit it later. Jane now makes more than $125 per hour as a content marketing specialist. She has also used her cross-functional skills to build several of her own blogs, which generate passive income.
What these examples show is that it is still completely possible to make money as a freelancer, even though the market has become crowded. But, in order to do so, you have to be willing to take matters into your own hands. You have to see your current skills as a starting point and you have to build a reputation that brings work to you.
What strategies have you used to make more money as a freelancer? Please join the discussion and “like” and share this article to keep the conversation going.