Insights

How to Increase Your Freelance Income Without Working Harder

By  Karen Banes

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There are now around 57 million freelancers in the US, and the move to full-time freelancing is becoming more attractive, for many reasons. Freelancing is far from being an easy option, though, and many freelancers find it hard to scale their business and earn more money. Simply working longer and longer hours isn’t a sustainable way to give yourself a raise as a freelancer. So what is?

Raise Your Rates

This is the most obvious way to earn more money. Simply charge more for your services. It’s not always easy to do, however, and many freelancers are putting off raising their rates, because we’re living in uncertain times and they’re concerned that their clients can’t afford to pay more.

I recently realised I hadn’t raised my rates with one of the agencies I work for regularly, even though I’d been working for them for more than two years. This means, of course, that my rate was going down in real terms, once I factored in inflation. I knew budgets were tight, but I went ahead and informed them I was upping my rates, quite substantially, expecting them to counter. But they didn’t. They agreed to a rate raise straight away. Never assume that you know what your clients can stretch to. Ask for what you’re worth, with confidence, but be prepared to negotiate.

Raising your rates for new clients is as simple as updating your rates page on your website, and quoting those new rates to new clients. Raising them with existing clients is more complicated. The main thing to do is to give appropriate notice. Simply tell existing clients that you will be charging new rates, of $X from X date and that this will apply to their future invoices. If you charge a fixed rate per project, the end of one project is clearly a good time to inform clients that future projects will be charged at a new rate. If you’re on a contract, the end of that contract is the time to renegotiate rates. If you have clients that pay you an ongoing retainer fee, a month’s notice of a rate increase is usually enough, but this will also depend on contract details.

Replace Your Clients

Many freelancers are scared to raise rates in the current climate, because they think they’ll lose clients. It’s quite possible they will, but that may be the wrong way to look at it. What you’re really aiming to do as a freelancer is to be constantly replacing low-paying clients with higher paying clients. I aim to keep my freelancing schedule full, but keep pitching to higher quality clients. Then as my schedule becomes too full, I’m looking to drop those clients as the low end of the pay scale, in order to focus on those at the high end. Replacing an existing client with a new client who is happy to pay twice as much is an easier way of doubling your hourly income than trying to persuade the existing client to double what they currently pay you.

Remember to look at the big picture when it comes to replacing clients. You really want to replace less desirable clients with more desirable clients. Pay rates are a big part of what makes a client desirable, but are not the only factor involved. You may also want to consider how much you enjoy the work, and how fast you can deliver it. I’ve written before about the benefits of specialising as a freelance writer, and it applies to other types of freelancers too. A big benefit  of specialising is it makes life easier for you. You develop specialist knowledge, and store up reliable sources and background information on your topic. You know who to reach out to for a quote or an expert interview. So putting together a stable of clients in just one or two topic areas can mean you often work faster and more efficiently.

Re-Purpose Your Work

As a freelancer you may have the chance to re-purpose your work and get paid over and over again for it. Exactly how this works will depend on the kind of work you do. As a content writer, I can retain copyright of my articles and syndicate them to new markets. I can compile a series of blog posts or essays into a book, or turn quotes from a book into a blog post. I know coaches who re-purpose their blog content as paid courses or their YouTube videos as long-form articles. There are many ways to repurpose content and earn from it more than once, increasing revenue while doing little or no extra work.

Making a good income as a freelancer is possible, but only if you give yourself a regular pay raise. And you need to find ways to do that other than just working harder and putting in longer hours.

Karen Banes

About the Author

Karen Banes

I’m a freelance writer specializing in online business, personal finance, travel and lifestyle. I also work as a content creator for hire, helping brands and businesses tell their stories, grow their audiences, and reach their ideal customers. I’ve lived, worked and studied in six countries, across three continents. Stop by my blog TheSavvySolopreneur.net to learn how to run your own (very) small business on your own terms. You can also connect with me at my website KarenBanes.com or follow me on Medium.com

Disclaimer: The information in this article is not intended to encourage any lifestyle changes without careful consideration and consultation with a qualified professional. This article is for reference purposes only, is generic in nature, is not intended as individual advice and is not financial or legal advice.

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