I’ve been freelancing for many years, and in that time I’ve worked with a variety of people, learned a lot about myself, and had to figure many things out on my own, including what to charge and how to deal with rude clients, among others.
Ultimately, the most important lessons I’ve learned have been about how to maximize what I can do to make more money and become better in my niche and field. Use the lessons I’ve learned to take your freelancing to the next level, make more money, and become a superstar freelancer.
1. Make Yourself Look Good
There are a few ways to make yourself look great as a freelancer, and one of the first places to focus on is your online portfolio. If you don’t have one yet, make one now. This will give potential clients a quick and easy way to see what you’ve done, what you can offer and more. I personally use About.me.
Don’t just throw a website together, though. Spend time using this as an opportunity to highlight your absolute best work and the skills and experience that sets you apart from others.
If you don’t have a website or online portfolio page like those on About.me, make sure your other freelance profiles are up-to-date and make you look good. Get testimonials/reviews on sites like Upwork, Elance, and 99Designs and add portfolio items and details where possible.
Make More Money: Always send a link to your portfolio to prospective clients, and highlight three key features of your work in the email itself. Some people will want to click through and dig around, while others just want a snapshot. This helps you catch all opportunities.
2. Focus on a Few Niches and Excel
Take time to find your niche. If you can become the go-to person for small business e-commerce photography in retail, for example, you’re suddenly set apart from other general freelance photographers. This gives you leverage when talking about opportunities with a client because you can likely cite experience you have that’s specific to their needs.
Make More Money: Take hold of your niche and use your experience to be more authoritative during initial conversations and negotiations: “Well, when I worked with Client X, we found that photos with a white background lead to more purchases…” If you’re knowledgeable about their industry, the client will feel better about bringing you on board.
3. Don’t Let Fear Hold You Back
A lot of times I get emails from people who have seen my work and want to see what I can offer them, but this can be a scary email to receive. While it’s exciting to get a new freelance prospect, in cases like this, the bar is already set very high thanks to the great work you’ve already done.
Suddenly, doubts creep in: “Can I actually do this? What if I fail?” A whopping 31 percent of American adults polled cited fear of failure as their top fear—I, and probably you, are no exception. Don’t let this hold you back because it can if you let it.
Make More Money: Turn that fear around and ask yourself: What if I do pull this off? It could lead to more opportunities, maybe even extended work with that one particular client. This is an opportunity to rise to the top, not hold back.
4. Know When to Prioritize
No opportunity is a bad opportunity, but some likely make you more money than others. When working with clients, take stock of how valuable this freelance gig is to you; this could be based on how much you’re getting paid, how big their brand is (and therefore the exposure you’ll get), etc.
On days when you’re overwhelmed with work, use this as a way to prioritize the work that will be most valuable to you in the long run.
Make More Money: Set expectations up front based on this prioritization. If you know you could deliver results in two weeks, but you aren’t getting a lot out of the relationship, tell them to expect results in four weeks. If a better opportunity comes along, you have more time to devote to it. If not, and you complete your task in less than four weeks, you look even better.
5. Know Your Worth
As a freelancer, I know how hard it is to turn down an opportunity. We can all use a little extra cash, and there’s always that glimmer of hope when you see a prospect email come through, “Oh, maybe this will lead to something big!”
However, taking work that doesn’t pay you what you deserve based on the work you do will not only be frustrating for you but takes up time you could be using to find better freelance gigs.
Make More Money: Always take at least 24 hours to decide if you want to move forward with a new potential client. When you step away and weigh the pros and cons, you’ll be able to make a more informed decision that will likely lead to making more money.
6. Always Start High
When quoting a price for your work, always start high. If they want to work with you, it’s doubtful that they’ll come back and say, “That’s too much, we’ll look elsewhere.” More often, the case is that they’ll come back with a price or range that they can pay and then you can decide if that is worth your time.
Freelancers have a tendency to undervalue their work to get more clients, and that’s the wrong way to think if you want to get to the next level.
Make More Money: Every project will likely have different requirements, so never create a one-size-fits-all pricing model to go off of—this pigeon holes you into a strict pricing bracket, rather than one that’s fluid and flexible. Consider what you’ve charged for similar projects to start narrowing down the appropriate fee.