Charging More For Your Freelance Services
Yesterday I wrote about two pathways to freelance business success. A lot of articles about freelance writing (and freelance work in general) suggest that freelancing follows a straight line. This straight line takes you from earning pennies to charging more for your freelance services by putting your prices up.
Before you know it, that $15 an hour you’re earning somehow magically becomes $1500.
Needless to say, it’s not really like that in the real world. So in three parts I’m addressing an actual possible pathway or two and the challenges you’ll likely face.
This article is about starting from the bottom and charging more for your freelance services as you go up the ladder.
Firstly, let’s take yesterday’s example:
How To Charge More For Your Freelance Services: Recap From Yesterday
You work your way up with more complex services. Let’s use a totally unrealistic example of a copywriter who starts as a hobbyist creating blog posts, then selling $5 articles. He might gradually charge £20 for a post just by raising prices, but you’re going to hit a hard limit with the same clients and same service.
So you target other people or better yet, other services.
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Our copywriter started offering social media posts which were cheaper than the $5 articles, but only consisted of one or two sentences. He’d sell them in bulk – so $50 for twenty or $100 for fifty.
This took less than an hour.
Meanwhile, the articles are getting raised to $20 an article just by being too busy. But we start to target specific niches; we’ll call these survival and fitness. We create SEO job profiles on freelance sites specifically for those and we perfect our pitch.
We look like a niche expert in multiple niches purely by outworking and outselling our competitors.
When you get to the stage of “niche authority” things change. Your services aren’t based on the words you write or any real tangible quality. Instead, people come to you because you’re you, and at this point you’ve entered the “I can charge whatever price the market can accept” area because people can’t do a side-by-side comparison.
For instance, our totally-hypothetical copywriter can write a sales letter in the survival niche and it doesn’t matter if its 500 words or 5000 words, it doesn’t matter if there’s a competitor writing for a penny a word, because the end product isn’t the same even when it is.
Essentially, you need to get to the point where your 500 word article isn’t considered the same as some other guy’s 500 word article.
Back To Today And Charging More For Freelance Services
So that’s what I wrote yesterday based on a totally hypothetical example.
It raises some issues. Reading back, there are probably a few articles worth of material to cover, but seeing as it took several years to get to that point, that’s no surprise. Let’s get to some of the key lessons from our hypothetical freelancer.
Start At The Bottom… Don’t Linger
Inevitably you’re going to do some cheap jobs. It might be $5 articles or $1 media posts or washing people’s car windows. Whatever it is, you’re going to start at the bottom.
I recommend doing this, because you’ll learn skills and resilience that escapes most people. People who say things like, “Money doesn’t matter” need to earn a lot less money and a lot more money and then they’ll understand the truth of things.
If you work for $2 an hour, you’re going to have difficult clients, it’s going to be hard, you’ll work all day and all kinds of other terrible stuff. You’re not going to enjoy it so much, but it’ll build all kinds of great qualities; like work ethic.
I see writers who say things like, “It’s so hard trying to write 1000 words a day” and other stuff like that. If you write 3,000 words an hour every waking hour for three days straight, you’ll know not to follow their advice ever. You’ll also never have writer’s block again. Neither will you moan about your workload when you’re charging £200 an hour for a sales letter.
That said, don’t linger in the content farm/freelance dredges. You should be constantly seeking better terms of employment and if you’re not, you’re wasting time. Our hypothetical writer spent probably eighteen months writing content for low-paying clients. It could have been three, realistically.
Increasing your freelance prices is not just a case of putting your prices up. Here’s why.
Charging More For Freelance Services Is Not About Putting Your Prices Up
If you’re working for $10 an hour, then you can’t just say to your client list, “Actually, my prices are going up to $100 an hour now.” They can’t afford you, you’ll look like a dick and you’ll be making $0 again in no time.
Here’s what I recommend: Find parallel services. A 500 word article that’s $5 in quality – a simple blog post or SEO article – has a limit on what it’ll ever be worth. You can bump the price up sort of but there’s a ceiling: Nobody is paying $5000 for a 500 word blog post. They shouldn’t either.
So you have to find similar products or services which have a higher ceiling. This will do two things:
- Give you more money in the first instance
- Make you busier and fill your schedule
Both of these things are good. If you make $5 an hour on a content mill but then switch to a freelance site where you get $20 per article, that’s great. Keep going with the $5 articles until you literally can’t fit them in. When you’re there, find a place where you get $50.
If you find something that’s not quite the same skill as you have developed – say social media posts versus articles – who cares?
Outside of that:
- Develop parallel skills
- Find clients in new niches
- Find bigger clients with more money to spend (and less of a keen eye)
- Constantly keep your skills, research and sales patter sharper than everyone around you and become a go-to guy for your niche
Final-ish Thoughts & What’s Coming Tomorrow
The above should help you create a pathway between being a poor, starving freelancer and a slightly less starving one. Hopefully, you’ll be mid-range and making a living at the point the lessons here become less useful.
Now, that won’t be enough to say, “I have a freelance business empire!” so check in tomorrow because I’ll be talking about stuff you can do that’s less time and your-presence intensive. Do not consider ignoring all of the above and just skipping to the lessons from tomorrow, because it probably won’t end well.
As for tomorrow, let’s assume you take a different route. You decide you’re going to go for the big clients right off the bat. This is a tricky business because there are fundamentals (which we discussed above) which you’re probably going to get wrong. Not to mention the fact that having the guts to straight up say to a lawyer or doctor “I want £5000 of your hard earned cash” is a skill in and of itself.
But let’s assume you do that. Here’s where you know the gurus are full of it because they don’t actually ever mention this: You’ll strike out with most clients and in most niches. Now, you can either deal with that… or you can do something else.
I’ll talk about that tomorrow.