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How to make more money in your freelance business

04 Nov

dictionary coins watchSo, you’re running a freelance business – whether you’re a plumber, a roofer, an IT specialist, an editor … and you want to make more money. Of course you do. How do you do it? Short of putting all of your prices up (which is something you can often do), here’s what I see as the best ways to make more money in your freelance business.

Put your prices up!

Well, I don’t mean this quite as bluntly as that. But when we start a business, we often doubt ourselves, and don’t have the confidence to charge industry standard rates. “Oh, I’m new, this customer deserves a cheaper rate”. “I don’t know what I’m doing, so I’d better charge low”. “I might get the business if I quote lower than everyone else, I can always raise it later”. Sound familiar? Well …

  • If you really don’t know what you’re doing, you shouldn’t be charging people for your work. But if you’re just unsure of yourself, but you’ve had feedback that your work is OK, don’t put yourself down (I’m afraid that I have heard this more from women than men. Why, ladies, why?)
  • Check what the industry standard rates are (look at trade associations, other people’s websites, if you have a mentor in the business, ask them what they charge) and base your charges on those
  • If you do give a discount, give it for another reason than because you’re new – for example, I give discounts to students and individuals self-publishing their books
  • If you do give an introductory discount, make the customer pay in another way – the best is by giving you a reference to put on your website and marketing material

Get organised!

If you want to work more and make more money per hour, then you have to work smarter. This falls into two sections:

  • Organise your admin – streamline your admin processes, organise yourself so that your systems tell you what to do next and automate your invoicing, OR outsource your accounts, invoicing or all of your admin to someone expert in the task.
  • Organise your paid work – make sure that you’re using the latest software, aids, short cuts, materials, whatever it takes to make your work in your industry as speedy and efficient as possible

Specialise!

In every line of work, there’s general work (replacing roofs) and there’s specialised work (matching slates, doing repair work, conservation). Find what specialities match your skills, and you’ll find that the more specialised the work, the higher your rates can be.

  • You would expect to pay more for a carpenter who designs and makes you a bespoke kitchen than for one who puts together a flat pack you’ve bought from a DIY store (or you’d expect to pay the same carpenter more for the first task)
  • Lots of people do editing work – I specialise in non-native English speakers, and I can charge a premium for my experience in this area

Do be careful – make sure that you really are an expert before you go charging extra for expert services. Prospective clients will want to see evidence of your ability if they’re going to pay you more, so write down your experience on your marketing materials and collect some testimonials.

Diversify!

Isn’t this the opposite of specialising, I hear you ask. Well, to an extent. But consider this …

  • Having worked with overseas students’ dissertations and thesis, I diversified into working with translators who are translating from their native language into English. It’s still non-native English, and I’m still making it sound like native English, but I’m working for professional organisations, so the student discount need no longer apply.
  • I used my audio-typing training to diversify into transcription. Some of the work I do in this area is more lucrative than others, but I wouldn’t have this income stream at all if I hadn’t diversified (and I get a good return on investment for it, too)
  • I used my experience working for the UK office of an American company to branch out into localisation services – often done for large agencies and companies who reward this specialist area (see point above, too)
  • My handyman, Terry, extended his range of services when he made me some window screens and realised there are lots of people out there who need such things. Another string to his bow – and something he can do when it’s raining and he can’t paint the outsides of people’s houses.

Making more money in your freelance business

You can see that by matching the industry’s rates first of all, then streamlining your processes and simultaneously specialising and diversifying, you can up your rates of pay while working the same hours. Do you have any experiences to share about how you have made more money out of your business as it’s developed?

Related posts on this blog:

How to get the right mix of customers

Running a mature business

 
13 Comments

Posted by on November 4, 2013 in Business, Organisation

 

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13 responses to “How to make more money in your freelance business

  1. siliconbullet

    November 4, 2013 at 11:29 am

    Great post Liz – putting up rates is so hard in the current climate – so we think really carefully about what rates we start new clients on. Once the bar is set it’s hard to raise it without resistance. We should be paid what we are worth though – and we are often worth more than we think.

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    • Liz at Libro

      November 4, 2013 at 11:52 am

      Yes, indeed – putting up prices is a last straw, I think, but there are plenty of other ways to optimise income. And, yes, once you’re up and running, starting new clients on the right rate is key.

      Like

       
  2. Wendy Toole

    November 4, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    Thanks for a very sensible and encouraging article, Liz! Over the years I’ve both specialised and diversified as I’ve become busier and more established, and I’m gradually putting up my prices now – and finding that I can. If only I were better organised …

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    • Liz at Libro

      November 4, 2013 at 3:52 pm

      Thank you for your comment, Wendy – I’m glad you found it both sensible and encouraging. And I’d say that three out of four isn’t bad at all!

      Like

       

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