Five crucial steps to help you become a higher earning freelancer

Think you can't make more money? Think again. Any freelancer in the creative industries has the potential to increase their revenue.

Image licensed via Adobe Stock

Image licensed via Adobe Stock

It won't be easy. It won't happen overnight. But there are steps you can take today to work towards being better paid. Actions that will set you on the path to a higher turnover, better clients and more lucrative projects.

1. Focus on quality

Best way to earn more cash? Focus on presenting yourself as a quality service provider. That means only showcasing the more prominent clients and projects on your portfolio, and not being shy about mentioning the skills, experience, awards and achievements you have.

Invest time and money in your brand identity and website. Ensure your website's copy is enticing and, more importantly, correct. Dress smart and with an air of elegance. Do everything you can to present an aura of quality, and you will have a better chance of attracting quality. Quality brings bigger clients with bigger budgets, after all. And the more you have on your portfolio, the more you'll entice in future.

2. Boost your confidence

Often the biggest problem with freelancers is a lack of confidence. Imposter syndrome is rife in the creative sector. Who can blame us when so much of our work is on show, and there are so many people doing great things?

But thinking you're not good enough is something clients will take advantage of if you let them. They'll mark you down on price because they believe they can. They'll push you in a direction you don't want or need. Stop!

Be confident and walk with your head held high. You're not desperate (at least, that's not what you want to show). Because if potential clients think you're cool, calm and confident – and that you don't need the work and are in demand – they'll pay top dollar to snap you up.

3. Gain credibility

Just completed a beautiful project that you think would turn heads? Put yourself forward for an award. Won an impressive new client? Approach the media and tell them about it. If you're going to demand higher rates, you have to have some credibility to prove your worth. Because people sit up and take notice of those who are making waves in the industry.

As a bonus, consider launching a local networking event or even a big conference. Don't think it's possible? There are people, right now in Manchester, giving up vast swathes of their spare time to run a local design festival. I can only begin to imagine how much hard work is involved with organising such an event. But they're doing it. And they've been doing so for the past three years, with tremendous success. This designer I'm talking about now commands higher day rates and has a wealth of lucrative clients under his belt. He's flying. But I know he'd be embarrassed if I mentioned him. So I'll keep quiet.

My point is this – be prepared to slog. Because the more you put in, the more you'll get in return. Creative Boom doesn't run itself. Do you wonder how I manage it while running my own business? Evenings, weekends, very early mornings. But it's so worth the effort because I attract leads, attention and credibility. People think, gosh – she's built an audience of 82,000 followers herself, we want some of that! Believe me. Gain credibility by making that extra effort, and you'll never look back.

4. Up your rates, but carefully

Establish an annual rate review with all existing clients. Send a physical letter three months before the next financial year, explaining that you'll now be carrying out a review every 12 months and why your rates will be increasing this particular time.

Spread the risk by testing the water with one client at a time. I did this with one client and in seven years went from £200 per day to £630. Ok, I gained staff, an office and all associated costs during that time – so I was more than justified. But it helped me make more money, as well as ensure all my outgoings were covered. It also helped me to win bigger clients and projects.

Not sure how to communicate a rate increase to clients? Don't be apologetic, be confident and know that it's perfectly normal to revise your pricing structure. If you're still not sure how to communicate your price increase, the following template should help, but feel free to tweak:

Dear X,

I hope you are well.

I'm writing to inform you that as of [ENTER DATE], the base hourly rate for my services will increase to £X. I've been resisting any change to my pricing structure for X years, but it's time I recognised my increased operating costs and, more importantly, the significant experience I have gained during that time concerning [ENTER CREATIVE DISCIPLINE].

As a loyal and valued client, you are eligible for a 10% discount on this new rate for the first three months of the new financial year. The increased rate will then come into effect on 1st July 2016.

If you have any queries regarding this change, then please do not hesitate to contact me.

May I take this opportunity to thank you again for your ongoing business and support. I look forward to working on some exciting and rewarding projects over the coming months.

Yours sincerely,

As you can see, the above sample includes a discount for the first three months of the new financial year. It will sweeten the deal and soften the blow of your announcement.

Not sure how much you can increase rates? Many say that you shouldn't go above 20% at one time. But it all depends on what you charge now, the client in question and whether you want to continue working with them in future. Be reasonable, that's all I'd say. It takes time to grow with a client, after all.

5. Test the water with new clients

You've been established for a while. You're not in any desperate hurry to win new work. So you can afford to test the water. In which case, whenever you deal with a prospective client – increase your rates a little more each time. See what happens.

If you're quoting for a big project, a good rule of thumb is to figure out how long it will take and then double that time. When the prospective client comes back and asks for a discount, they'll never request half the cost – perhaps only a third of the time you've added. Which means you're still in profit. Or at least covering your ass for any contingencies.

Those are five steps you can take to help you become a higher earning freelancer. It is entirely possible. You have to have a little faith that you're worth more than you think you are. You have the skills and experience that people will pay for. The only thing setting you apart from better-paid freelancers is a lack of confidence.

So roll up your sleeves and do some groundwork: focus on quality, boost your confidence, gain credibility, increase your rates and test the water with new clients. You'll be commanding a higher price and earning more money in no time.


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