If you want to make more money freelancing, it helps to hear from those who’ve built incredibly successful businesses.
From negotiating rates to reducing scope, learn how freelancers are getting paid well for work they love.
Advice from successful freelancers for freelancers
We interviewed two six-figure freelance writers and a solo practice lawyer who writes for top publications to learn how to make more money freelancing. We asked them how freelancers can get the best results and maintain their dignity.
These strategies help you maintain your opportunities — and your respect — while building bridges to more work. As you read, keep in mind what Georgia lawyer, Dar’shun Kendrick, says about negotiating the terms of your contract.
Kendrick, an MBA holder and state legislator who also writes articles and blog posts on policy issues for established publications, is a small business advocate.
“Negotiating is important because you want to limit as much legal exposure and liability as possible, particularly given the fact that you are a non-employee of an organization.”
8 tips to make more money freelancing and build bridges
Sometimes, the fee you get offered is just too low, either for the hourly rate you’ve chosen to pursue, your experience, or to cover your expenses. Here are strategies to make more freelancing.
This whole exercise depends on your hourly rate, though. Determine your freelance payment terms: how much you want to get paid, your payment methods, and how fast you want your fees.
There are several considerations to make when establishing your rates, including understanding how much you should get paid for different work.
Whether you bill per word, per hour, or per project and how much depends on your financial needs and costs. You can use calculation tools like Comparably or YourRate to determine what you’d want to make. Don’t forget taxes, retirement, and other expenses; factor in vacation time.
1. Clients expect and respect writers who negotiate.
Author of ‘The Freelance Content Marketing Writer,’ Jennifer Goforth Gregory allays writers’ fears about this process.
“Writers should remember that clients often expect you to negotiate. And if they propose a rate, it’s likely got some wiggle room already built in,” she says.
“They won’t think bad of you for not asking for more; they actually might think the opposite,” Gregory states.
2. When it comes to payment, it’s all negotiable.
Make sure you negotiate whatever you can in relation to the payment. That includes how invoicing gets done and when whether you get paid on approval, acceptance, or publication (and when and how acceptance or publication happen).
Get in writing what you’ll get paid and when, and negotiate the payment methods, if possible. You can give special payment terms to clients to pay faster if their standard timeframe isn’t acceptable to you. That includes lower fees, a discount, or premium service.
Determine what’s important to you when getting paid. For example, do you want to get paid faster or get paid by ACH rather than a paper check? You may be able to use those desired incentives to get the contract terms you want from clients and still give them what they want.
[Note: Freelancers working via ClearVoice set their own rates. Assignments through ClearVoice are paid upon approval and instantly via PayPal.]
3. Focus on the value you bring over “cost plus.”
Most writers focus on the “cost plus” approach to pricing freelance services and negotiating pay. Created for pricing manufactured products for service providers, it’s typically the number of hours you think a piece will take plus a small markup. But that is not always the best freelance rate setting strategy.
Instead, writers should remember they’re getting hired to help a client build their enterprise in part by using your content. If they’re interested in adding you to their team, it’s because they perceive your writing to have value.
Therefore, when you set your fees, educate prospective clients on the business value you offer and why you accept assignments based on those rates to start making more money freelancing.
Canadian copywriter Mike Straus agrees. “Money is an emotionally charged topic for a lot of people, writers especially,” he says. “For me, though, it always comes back to value.”
Straus, who launched the Facebook Group, Wealthy Writers: How to Earn Well from Copywriting, Magazines, and More, gets this question about negotiating pay frequently.
“In my experience, most prospects are usually willing to pay a higher fee if it means they receive more value in return,” Straus continues.
“I also go out of my way to explain in very clear terms why I’m worth what I charge, as well as the difference between paying me a higher rate versus paying another writer a lower rate,” Straus states.
He not only touts his background and experience; he uses his branding tools. Those include testimonials, copywriting campaign results, portfolio samples, and strategy recommendations that show the potential client why he’s worth the higher investment.
Straus and Gregory, like most financially successful freelancers, are a proponent of focusing on value for another reason — to give clients the most for their investment. But Gregory says, “You need to be paid for the value you bring to the table.”
4. Price by the project based on your hourly rate.
Consider charging a project rate if you want to make more money freelancing. The project rate is a lump sum based on your hourly rate.
Calculate how much you want to make hourly, then multiply that by the number of hours you think an assignment will take — and that becomes your project rate.
Your project rate depends on an hourly rate that’s most often based on your subject knowledge and writing experience, which are two keys to your writer value.
Gregory, who writes regularly for prominent B2B technology brands, runs a widely read freelance writing blog, insists writers ask for the rates they want.
“If the project is still lower than you would like, then tell the client that rate is lower than you normally earn and suggest a higher one closer to your hourly rate,” she says.
5. Reduce the scope and still make your rate.
While there are some reasons clients should pay more, you don’t have to relent when there are other ways you can get better rates that don’t involve getting more (actual) money.
Gregory explains, “Suggest reducing the scope, such as making the word count shorter or reducing the number of interviews. This will decrease the time it will take you to write the article, thus increasing your hourly rate.”
6. Build more work into the contract.
If they still insist on the lower rate, one other strategy you can try is offering more than a single piece for that rate over a short period of time.
“Sometimes, if a client is going to give you regular work, it is worth taking a slightly lower rate because it means less unpaid marketing time,” says Gregory.
Just make sure the promise of more work after writing ‘just one piece’ is more than a promise. Write it into your contract — this is a tactic savvy writers use to make more money freelancing.
7. Know when to part ways.
This is when you check your fear, says Straus. “Don’t let clients talk down your value,” he asserts, suggesting the common sales strategy of remaining quiet once you do.
“Don’t get panicked and talk down your value or try back-tracking just to get a sale,” he explains. The more you talk after you offer your rate, the more you’re likely to talk it lower, warns Straus.
“Once I’ve done that, clients either find room in the budget for me, or they walk away,” he continues. “I’m fine with either one because if I don’t land a contract, there’s always another client I can pitch,” he confidently maintains.
“I encourage all of the writers I mentor to take this approach,” stresses Straus.
8. Whatever you decide, get it all in writing.
Kendrick, a retainer fan, says, “I require all funds upfront because who wants to be an involuntary bill collector?” Since that’s not always standard in our profession, she recommends making clients take you seriously about pay.
Put in place “a solid agreement with specific payment plan terms and default clauses can set the tone and protect you if you need to take them to court,” she says. “Get as much assurance upfront to prevent severe losses on the back end.”
Straus encourages writers to remember that negotiating contract terms isn’t life and death. “In my experience, when I explain to the client that we’re smoothing out a few small wrinkles, suddenly the negotiation over those clauses doesn’t carry the same gravity anymore,” he says.
Most importantly, he says, “Communicate; be honest and open with your clients because you can work most things out that way before they become serious payment issues.”
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