Are you struggling to make it as a freelancer? Even though you’re always busy, you’re always broke. What gives?
The reason you don’t make enough money is because you spend too much time working for too little cash.
I’ve been there, and I know plenty of other freelancers who have been there, too. After all, writing for a penny a word is better than working at McDonald’s, right? Maybe you think that working for rock-bottom rates isn’t actually that bad. If you work quickly, you can bring in a few hundred bucks a week—that’s at least enough to pay the bills.
But you’re not really living the dream. Working your butt off for a few bucks an hour can leave you feeling stressed, frustrated and overworked.
Luckily, there’s a simple solution: Ask for more money!
It’s amazing how many freelancers don’t make enough money simply because they aren’t asking for it. Maybe you think you aren’t worth more because you don’t have a lot of experience. Or maybe you just have no clue what you should be making for the work you do.
Either way, you’d be amazed at what can happen when you work up the courage to ask for more money. Within a few months of implementing the following strategies, I was commanding 10 to 15 times my original penny-per-word, junk writing rates.
You too can find more job satisfaction, land better clients and make more money with these tips:
1. Figure out the real going rates
A plethora of online resources offer information on the going rates for freelancers in various industries. Ed Gandia’s 2012 Freelance Industry Report, for instance, shows what freelancers in major fields make per billable hour.
You should also hit up forums in your niche. Ask experienced freelancers about their rates. Most are more than happy to share guidance and information.
Use this research to set long-term earnings goals, but also to set your lowest rate. Once you know your lowest rate, don’t take another job that would pay less.
2. Develop a marketing plan
Active marketing is the best way to command higher rates. Sites like Elance and Odesk are tempting, but it’s hard to convince clients to cough up decent rates when you’re competing with others who seem happy to work for next to nothing.
(Note: Some freelancers do make a decent living on these sites with the right techniques. But most of us need to look elsewhere.)
Marketing looks different for every freelancer, but the bottom line is that actively promoting your services to potential clients—and asking them for decent pay in the process—makes a difference.
According to the 2012 Freelance Industry Report, only 28 percent of freelancers who spend less than two hours a week on marketing earn $70+ an hour, but 41 percent who spend 20 or more hours per week marketing earn $70+ an hour. Active marketing is what connects you to clients who are actually willing to pay what you’re worth.
3. Drop your worst client, right now
Once you’re ready to start marketing, you need to clear space in your schedule to do it. If your schedule is full, it’s time to drop your worst client—either the lowest-paying client or the one who’s the biggest pain in the ass.
Dropping clients is scary, but my personal experience is that new, better-paying clients quickly come fill the void. It’s a bit mysterious, but other freelancers say the same thing.
So go get rid of your worst client. Right now!
4. Ask your best client for a raise
Clients who appreciate your work may be open to giving you a raise. It never hurts to ask.
A polite, professional email is a good way to start the process. Simply explain that you’re raising your rates across the board and that you’d love to continue working with the client if she’ll agree to the increase.
One of my longest-standing clients recently agreed to double my per-article rate. He cut back the volume of work, but it’s basically been the same pay in half the time, leaving me more time for marketing. You just never know what will happen unless you ask!
By the time you work through these steps, you’ll be well on your way to higher freelancing rates. As you continue gaining experience, marketing and negotiating with clients, your rates will continue to climb. And you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that your freelancing career can do more than just pay your bare minimum bills.
Abby Hayes is a freelance blogger and copywriter who writes about personal finances for Dough Roller. She loves detailed budgets, dark chocolate and fat Victorian novels.