Building A Freelance Business Empire Part One
A lot of people think about freelancing and wonder how you turn the odd £50 here and there into something permanent. A lot of people jump in and then are stuck at a certain freelancing rate never to raise their prices or change their services; those people get stuck on the treadmill. Some are happy, some aren’t. Even more people get on the freelance mill, get stuck at the small rates and then quit because the money is bad and the benefits are non-existent. Some people never get that far because they read online gurus who say “Start at the top! Charge $1000 an hour like me and never touch the poor peasant folk!”
And of course, for those of us who’ve done a bit of business, we can tell immediately when those gurus are full of it because in reality you can’t do that.
Still, this article is going to give you a choice of two pathways which may or may not provide fruitful starting from both ends; expensive to inexpensive, and inexpensive to expensive.
In the next couple of articles, I’ll give more practical advice and talk more in depth about possible pathways for your freelance career.
Let’s start with the place that most of us start at and work from there: How do you go from charging $10 an hour to $100+ an hour? Bear in mind you can’t just put your prices up.
How To Start Cheap And Work Your Way Up
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.
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, he raises his articles 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 reach the point where your 500 word article is a totally different thing to some other guy’s 500 word article.
The Second Path: Expensive Down
Let’s take another totally hypothetical freelancer who sets up a company website as part of an elaborate split-test to see how high the prices can go before we reach “Customer Level Zero.”
He writes a corporate-ish website and charges at least four figures for everything but most likely five figures for anything strenuous.
It sounds like a good place to start and most lifestyle gurus tell you to start there, but if we take the last section into account, you realise it’s harder than you think. Why? Because you don’t know that your sales letters are better than hypothetical other guy’s and your services might be completely uncompetitive. Not to mention that that there are other tangible qualities you need to work with the big spenders: like getting big projects done on time, working with multiple project managers from big companies who all have different needs and requirements, etc.
But let’s say you can pull this off. You start a business catering to high rollers who won’t think twice about giving you thousands of dollars.
Except unless you’re a luxury car dealer, you’re going to find that a lot slips through your net. Not many people walk into Ferrari’s headquarters and say, “Hey man do you do a discount on a Ferrari?” But they will in your business.
In fact, conglomerates that make affordable cars also own most lucury car brands. This is because the high-end, limited-edition market isn’t where the majority of the money is. It’s where the big money is but those things aren’t the same.
So, you have your high end service, but most people fall through your elaborate nets.
This is a wasted opportunity, and the whole point of building excellent funnels into your business.
For instance, totally hypothetical copywriter creates a website where he charges for his long-form sales letters. He has a great track record of producing sales letters that make a ton of money. Therefore, he charges $5000 for a single sales letter plus royalties as well.
Needless to say, most people interested in hiring a marketing guy aren’t looking to spend $5000 for a single sales letter.
But our guy can’t just put the prices down, because if you reduce your price (except in very limited circumstances) you’re never going to attract the clients who like to spend big money.
So what does he do?
He needs to fill in the blanks.
Determine the various levels of expenditure. If you’re targeting the big money, say, $10,000+ clients, then think about the other markets there are. There’s the guy with $100 and a winning smile, the little mom-and-pop shops who have a budget of $2000 per month marketing and the medium companies who have money to spend but can’t afford to throw it at something untested.
You need strategies for all of them, and that’s what we’ll talk about later on in the week, because this article is falling overboard.
Come Back Tomorrow
I originally intended this to be a single article, but with the little totally-hypothetical timelines presented above, I’ve already maxed out my word count. I haven’t talked in any depth at all.
Tomorrow, I’ll go over how to expand your services and improve them so you can go from charging peanuts to charging big bucks. On Wednesday, I’ll go through how you can expand your services when you’ve unintentionally priced out your market.