You want more money, and that means you'll have to grow, right? Take on staff, move to an office – it's inevitable if you're going to increase your turnover. Well, not necessarily. Becoming an agency doesn't suit everyone.
For a start, you have to take a hit on profits initially, and that can last for a while, depending on what you're doing. And if you think things will be easier, prepare to work much harder – admin, staff management, pitches, meetings – they'll certainly keep you busy. You might even find you move further and further away from the creative work you love, becoming a jack-of-all-trades instead to keep the business afloat.
If the treadmill isn't for you, but you still want more cash in the bank, you need to up your game with freelancing. Here we share some tricks of the trade to help you become more profitable.
1. Know thy worth
Do you ever wonder how those successful freelancers manage to make so much money? It's because they know they're good (well, as good as their last piece of work) and they're not afraid to promote themselves as such, let alone charge a decent rate. You can see their positive self-worth in their Twitter bios, their website profiles and the way they communicate online. They know they have skills that people will want to pay for, and they won't allow anyone else to think otherwise.
What are you worth? How many years of experience do you have? What did you study at college or university? Do you have any awards? Which brands have you worked with? Come on! You're good. You've been freelancing (and surviving) for some time, so why do you keep doubting yourself?
It's completely natural to suffer from imposter syndrome. Even the very best can't escape its evil grasp. If you don't feel you're good enough, fake it until you make it! That's what we all do – it's the universe's biggest secret – none of us know what we're doing. All we can do is our very best.
But most of all, stop charging so little and start pushing for the money you deserve. Aim to make more money in less time, so you don't have to work every hour of the week to earn a decent living. Not sure what to charge? Read our tips on freelance rates to get started.
2. Be confident and look the part
While you're working on your self-worth and upping your rates, give your confidence a good kick, too. Confidence will get you far, as they say. People are drawn to confident characters – they exude the reassurance that we all seek. They're the kind of folk we're happy to spend money with. Serious money. They make us feel like our brand is in safe hands.
How do you become confident if you're a little shy? Learn some body language tricks – don't mumble, hold your head up high, look people in the eye and smile. Relax, and other people will relax too. What's the worst that can happen?
Also, think of the clothes you're wearing. Are they good quality? Because if you want to make money, you need to look as though you're already doing well. To look "expensive", choose classic outfits that never go out of fashion and spend a little more money on less stuff. While we're at it, take care of your overall appearance – keep your nails groomed, have regular haircuts. Make an effort, and it will pay off.
3. Never stop learning
In this dog-eat-dog industry, you cannot rely on confidence and appearance alone to get you places. You have to be on top of your game by continually boosting your skills. You have to have substance. Value. Worth. I've known plenty of people who are great at presenting themselves but have no real idea what they're doing. Those characters always get "found out" in the end.
No. You're better than that. Read books. Watch training videos. Take a course. Force yourself to write a blog post on something you're not sure about, so it pushes you to research and learn new things. Make time for learning because if you don't, your competition will, and you'll get left behind.
Bottom line. If you want to make more money as a freelancer, you better have something worthwhile to show when clients scratch beneath the surface.
4. Don't use the word "freelancer"
It's a shame that "freelancer" has become a dirty word in certain circles, but that's just the way it goes. It perhaps implies "cheap", and that means some clients might try to take advantage and get you for a bargain price.
Going back to the subject of presentation, how you present your business could have a significant impact on how much you're able to charge. This is where the word "studio" nicely steps in. It's a word that implies "team" and something a little more established. It sounds more mature, more credible.
Words are powerful, so consider how you present yourself to clients. (Avoid "consultant" too. I think it sounds negative and old-fashioned. It could also imply that you're too expensive.)
5. Work that "studio" magic
Now that you're avoiding the word "freelancer" and you're calling yourself a studio (or agency, if that better suits) it's time to step things up elsewhere. Are you working from home and intending to remain that way? If you are, make sure your business address is from a professional office – either via a virtual solution or a co-working space. Sadly, clients won't value you as much unless you have the professional work address. And the same applies to telephone numbers.
Do you have a website with your domain? One that matches your email address? What about your invoicing? FreeAgent is pretty excellent at creating professional-looking invoices that can be sent (and chased) automatically. For some extra tips, read our article on how to invoice professionally.
Having a quality online presence and solid identity that rolls out to your social media channels and everything you do will present you as a leading professional; one that is worthy of a higher rate and one that is trustworthy and reliable.
Behave like a bigger business and present yourself as an established studio, and you'll find that you will be able to charge more for your time.
6. Become an expert in your field
Not just by writing great content on your website. But by volunteering to talk at local colleges, universities and events, and then sharing your expertise everywhere. If you can, become a part-time lecturer. Write a book! Or even host an exhibition.
Do anything you can to add to your portfolio and CV because the more impressive stuff you can shout about, the more you'll demonstrate how great you are, and therefore worthy of charging a higher rate.
Just make sure you include all your credentials in your social media bios and your website's About page – yes, it might sound pretentious, but it works. "Author, award-winning designer, part-time lecturer" – who wouldn't want to hire you!
7. Keep the overheads super low
While you're presenting yourself as an expert in beautiful classic clothing (hey, don't laugh – it works) and calling yourself a "studio", don't get carried away and increase your costs. Yes, a large office might be nice but do you need it? And fancy cars and gadgets are always fun but do you want to put more pressure on yourself to earn?
Make it an exciting game to continually review and assess all outgoings and find ways to save money. Don't add; subtract, and you'll find you can relax a little and avoid any dreaded treadmill – leaving you to focus on more quality, higher-paying projects.
8. Save money, and you'll save yourself
One final tip – save, save and save again. Having lots of money in the bank will mean various things. It will mean you're not worried about paying bills and so you'll feel more relaxed and happy. This will consequently make you more confident and not afraid to turn down projects or clients, if it doesn't feel right or if the price isn't good enough. It will mean you can take more risks.
Aim always to have enough money to cover six months' worth of outgoings. And for every dividend, save at least 20% for your tax bill – which you should put aside and never touch.