When I first started freelancing, I wanted to make a very meager $50 per post. Now, in 2019, I am actively charging 2x, 3x, and even 4x that for a similar size post. I have taken my time to grow my business. I wanted to share some ideas with you on how I went from $50 or less per post to $100+ per post.
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1. Going After People With An Actual Business Model
Okay, this is going to sound insane, but I got this idea after listening to one of my fave podcasts on freelance writing. In Episode #158 of the High-Income Business Writers Podcast, Ed Gandia chats about what six-figure writers do differently. He comments that these writers go after clients who solve expensive problems.
As I've ruminated on that idea, it made me realize that I need to go after clients with a business model. So, what do I mean by this? I often see freelance writers write for other bloggers, and while I am 100% down for helping others, it's not going to make you the most money. Bloggers often need ghostwriters or guest bloggers, but they can't afford to pay you much or at all. I am not making enough money to pay any writer a decent salary. The money I make from this blog is too patchy and inconsistent for that.
I work with amazing companies in the HR tech niche who are making a difference. My clients are creating software that they can sell to HR professionals that make their lives and the lives of their employees easier. A lot of my clients are problem solvers in their niche, providing the HR world with something they need to save money while serving their people better.
When I was working primarily with ad-supported blogs, I wasn't able to charge what I charge now. You can't charge $100, $150, or more per post when the company doesn't have their own products and they make the majority of their income based on high-volume traffic. Those clients will never truly see the worth in content; they are just trying to pump out as much of it as they can.
2. Picking A Niche And Learning All I Could About It
When I first started freelancing, I wrote all kinds of content. I wrote about higher education and digital marketing mostly, but I also took on a lot of other random, one-off jobs. In 2017, I got to write a piece for Aventr, which was my first step into writing for HR tech companies. I ghostwrote content for a few other HR related companies before I decided to stick with the niche at the end of 2018, and see how far it would take me.
I'm so fortunate that I was able to stick to a niche and drill down on it. I didn't go to school for human resources, but I am passionate about changing the way we work. As a millennial, careers and getting a job has always been something on my mind. I love being able to share my ideas and research directly with the people who matter most, HR practitioners.
3. Having A Website And Looking As Professional As Possible
During the first year or so of my freelance career, I didn't have a functioning freelance website. In 2018, I decided to focus on building a website and getting an email address for my freelance business, so I looked more legitimate. During the first bit of my career, I was working exclusively on Upwork. To get out of the Upwork rabbit hole, I knew I needed to invest in my own space online.
Creating this space has paid off for me. Potential clients are finding my website, with my rates attached, and reaching out to me, being reached out to instead of pitching your services puts you in control. Potential clients reach out to you knowing your rates (if you include them on your website) and you have the power.
When you reach out to clients, you are more likely to bend and break to meet their needs. You may ask what they feel comfortable paying versus what you feel comfortable earning. When clients reach out to you (especially if you are forthcoming with your prices), you hold the cards. Your potential client is more likely to meet your pricing demands.When you reach out to clients, you are more likely to bend and break to meet their needs. You may ask what they feel comfortable paying versus what you feel comfortable earning. Click To Tweet
4. Getting Rid Of Energy Sucking Low-Paying Clients
I know, I know, when low-paying clients are paying the bills it can be hard to get rid of them. I promise you, though, spending less time and energy on low-paying clients, frees up your energy for higher paying clients to come around. If a low-paying client stops working with you, don't take it as a bad sign, use it to better yourself. That's not a door closing; it's another one opening, my friend.
For example, at the end of 2018, a client I had been working with for a few months had a change in direction, and they wanted me to do more work than I could truly take on. I didn't want to do this, and we had a bit of a client breakdown. Within the same period, I started working with a client who wanted me to do under half the work for better pay. Instead of being glued to my computer, I was able to have a life outside of client work.
You take a freelancing opportunity with a low-paying client thinking you'll have time to focus on other work in the process. While you think you'd have time to focus on other stuff, ultimately you end up putting so much energy into those low-paying clients to make ends meet that you don't have time to focus on marketing or client attraction. It's a trap, you guys! So, instead of falling victim to low paying clients, think of how you can protect your energy. I am not telling you to avoid working with them altogether, but I am telling you to be careful and make sure you leave enough time for career development and outreach.
5. Getting Sample Pieces And Testimonials
One of the best ways to charge higher rates as a freelancer is to get sample pieces (preferably in your niche and attached to your name) as well as testimonials from your clients.
Building up a significant amount of content in my niche took years, and I am finally beginning to make a name for myself as a human resources technology writer. Take it slow and build it up.
The screenshot above can be seen on the homepage of my freelance website. I have logos that, when clicked, lead to bylined articles on these company websites. Below, I have a fantastic testimonial that one of my clients wrote for me front-and-center on my homepage.
Testimonials and bylines or project samples don't happen overnight. Make sure everyone in your network sees when you get a new testimonial, sample, or byline to showcase. Ask for the testimonials you deserve and even ask clients to post them on your LinkedIn profile. Don't be shy about showcasing excellent client testimonials. You did the work, now let that work for you.
Being a successful freelancer takes time and energy. My trajectory didn't happen overnight. It took years. My first job in HR tech was for $35 a post. Now I actively charge 4x that amount.
I hope that today's article gave you some food for thought as you consider your own freelance pricing.