You’ve been at this freelancing thing for a while. Long enough that most of the advice for brand new freelancers doesn’t strike a chord with you.
You’ve mastered the basics. Instead, you want to figure out how to work more efficiently. Or iron out some dependable systems. Or raise your rates. Or get a better handle on your work-life balance. Or move away from the “take what you can get” mentality of your early freelance days to find more clients and projects that you’re actually excited about.
The list goes on and on. Freelancing is a constant exercise in self-improvement—and that’s exactly why this page exists. I’ve pulled together targeted products, blog posts, and even straight-up answers so that you can skip the 101-level advice and get the information you actually need.
I hear everybody talking about building a team—am I supposed to do that? How do I find more clients I actually like working with? When is it time to start charging more?
Even if you aren’t new at this whole freelancing thing, you’re bound to still have a lot of questions. It can be tough to find the straightforward answers you need (and let’s face it—some questions don’t even have straightforward answers).
I always try my best to tell it like it is. So, I’ve pulled together some of the questions I’m most commonly asked by more established freelancers, along with my most-helpful and honest answers.
I like to think of “ideal” clients as the overlapping part of a Venn diagram with three circles: work you enjoy doing, work you’re proud of, and work that pays well. The only thing better than finding one of those is finding more of them.
But how do you do that? There are a few things I’ve found helpful:
Like most breakups, there’s a gut feeling that will tell you it’s time to go your separate ways. But, if you’re not one to rely on your intuition, here are a few other waving red flags that you might be better off moving on:
Recognize one (or even several) of those? It could be time to summon your courage and move to bigger and better things.
Having to turn work away sounds like a dream to most beginner freelancers. But gosh, once you’re actually in that situation, it’s enough to send your stomach straight into your shoes.
Fortunately, I’ve refined a pretty simple process that helps me say “thanks but no thanks” to potential projects without feeling totally guilt-ridden. Here’s the step-by-step:
There isn’t one right answer here and pricing conversations always have a lot of nuance.
Some freelancers like to do a modest increase every six months or so while others do a slightly bigger increase once per year. Some people raise them on a predictable schedule while others do so when the time feels right.
It’s all about finding what works for you. There’s no golden rule that says you can only raise them at the beginning of the year—you have flexibility with your timing.
As far as the amount is concerned, that varies too. I hear the range of 10-20% referenced pretty frequently when it comes to reasonable rate increases. But again, there’s not one blanket answer that works for everybody. Don’t be afraid to do a little trial and error!
Oh, and if you’re several years into freelancing and still using the same rates you started with? You’re due to raise them, my friend. Go get your money.
Even if you don’t charge by the hour, making a living freelancing is still inherently tied to your time. As you grow your business, you’ll reach a point where you feel like you’ve hit a limit—beyond periodic rate increases, you’ve hit the ceiling on what you can do and earn.
Now what? It’s yet another area where there isn’t one answer (are you tired of me saying that yet?). There are a number of different routes for growing your freelance business:
Most of the time, yes. However, I do so more as a professional courtesy rather than out of a sense of obligation.
I’m an independent contractor and all of my clients hire me as such. That means I have total control over when, where, and how the work gets accomplished—including hiring people. Based on my conversations with my small business attorney, I don’t need to disclose who I’m working with and in what capacity.
Of course, there’s some gray area there. If you’re freelance on-air talent, for example, clients will probably be pretty shocked (and disappointed) if they were expecting you on camera and suddenly it’s someone totally different.
But, in my case, I’m well within my right to work with whoever I want without needing any sort of approval or permission from clients. With that in mind, watch for this in client contracts. Some clients will try to limit or prohibit working with subcontractors and I never let that fly.
Even so, I usually do tell clients that I work with subcontractors as I think it keeps things simpler moving forward—especially if they see someone they don’t recognize hopping into the Google Doc or something.
How do I present it without seeming shady? I focus on the positives by framing it like “collaborating with subcontractors gives me more time and energy to deliver the high-quality content and client experience you expect.”
There’s a lot of hype about the “flexibility” of freelancing. And yes, it’s nice that I have autonomy over my own schedule. But real talk: Once you build up a solid freelance business, it commands a lot of your time. Work-life balance becomes a seemingly constant struggle.
I recommend setting firm boundaries for yourself. For example, I don’t take calls or meetings on Mondays and I don’t work at all on Fridays. Maybe you want to shut down by 3pm every workday or take one week off per month or quarter. Find your own parameters and then honor those like you would a client commitment.
I’ve also found it helpful to get a bird’s-eye view of what I’m working on at any given time so I can avoid overextending myself. My friend Marijana’s freelance project planner is great for getting that much-needed visibility into your overall workload.
Heads up: The newsletter is on a holiday hiatus until 2024! It'll come back swingin' in January.