How’s that for an attention-grabbing title, right? Yes, my income has definitely grown significantly over the course of my relatively short freelancing career—and it continues to evolve. I tell ya, every day is different. However, for the sake of honesty, I don’t want to trick you into thinking that I’m making millions of dollars freelancing. That’s definitely not the case.
I’m to the point where I do make more than when I worked my regular 9 to 5. But, when I started out freelancing, my income was pretty small. OK, really small. So, this percent change reflects a huge increase—but not necessarily a massive dollar amount. Am I making any sense?
Anyway, growing my business and seeing the results of my efforts in the form of dollars in my bank account has been a really rewarding thrill. And, while it definitely hasn’t been an easy road, I think it’s been more than worth it! I’m pretty damn proud of the growth I’ve managed to achieve in a short amount of time.
So, if you’re just starting your business and are hoping to achieve these same results, I thought I’d share some tips. Here are a few things I did in order to reach these numbers!
I don’t do this nearly as much anymore. But, when I was still actively (and desperately) looking for work, I checked in on different freelancing job boards every single day to see if there were any new opportunities I was interested in or qualified for. Some of my favorites? Freelance Writing Jobs, Ed2010, and the LinkedIn Jobs section.
Many of the jobs post their rates right from the get-go, so you can determine right then and there if they fall in line with what you’re looking for. I especially love the job posts that give you a direct contact name and email address to reach out to. I always prefer to send a personalized email to reply to a job posting—rather than sending my information into cyberspace.
Alright, so those job boards can definitely be helpful. But, you don’t want to fall into the trap of thinking that they’re the only place you can find work. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box! That website you love? Check their current employment opportunities, or send them an introductory email. That local arts and entertainment magazine you pick up every time you’re out? Get in touch with them! Not everybody is vocal about what they’re looking for. And, they might not even know what they need until you offer it.
I’ve landed quite a few jobs with cold emails. And, while they can be somewhat scary to send, they can definitely pay off!
You’ll hear a lot of freelancers claim that you should absolutely never work for free. And, I totally get it. It’s kind of an insult to the entire career field.
But, when I was just getting started, I knew that my first priority was getting published clips that I could showcase—whether that meant I was making money or not. So, I’ll be the first to admit that I did publish a few pieces for free.
Sure, it stunk to spend time and not receive tangible payback in the form of cold, hard cash. But, you know what? Doing this gave me a few published samples that I could use to get real, paying work. Because, let me tell you, it’s hard to get clients until you’ve actually had some. It’s your classic catch 22.
I had absolutely no shame when I was just getting started. I would reach out to absolutely anybody and everybody that I thought could help push my career along. Yes, it felt completely unnatural, pushy, and salesy at first. But, when it comes to growing your business, you just can’t be shy.
That old journalism professor that has some great industry connections? That neighbor that works at a local business that frequently uses freelancers? That influencer you’ve been stalking on LinkedIn? Give them a holler. Like they always say, it’s not always what you know—but who you know.
Like I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I think informational interviews are great. And, I set up tons of them with local agencies and web development firms when I was starting my business.
They were a great way for me to not only meet some new people and get my name out there, but to also learn more about different industries I could potentially be working with. Knowledge is power!
Organization is a key part of any successful business. But, keeping track of things is especially essential when you’re working on starting your own.
What do I mean by “keep track”? Well, a couple of things come into play here. First things first, you need to keep track of your time. What tasks are taking up most of your day? Where could you focus more attention? This will help you to ensure that you’re not spending too much of your time on tasks with very little payoff.
You also need to keep detailed track of your income and expenses. Not only does make sure that you’re never in the red, but it also helps you continue to move in the right direction.
Finally, I also think it’s important to keep a running list of any contacted businesses or potential clients. I keep a record on my computer of businesses I’ve reached out to, the date I contacted them, as well as the date I followed up. And, I also keep a list of places I eventually want to contact. It’s great to have this resource when I’m looking for new business!
This was a big one for me, and it’s actually something I get asked about pretty frequently by people who are considering freelancing. Those sites that pay you $5 to craft a 500 word blog post? Run far, far away. They might seem tempting when you’re positively desperate to earn some money writing. But, they simply aren’t worth your time.
Instead, invest that time you would spend writing that measly $5 piece into finding a better, more profitable client. I promise, that $5 missed opportunity won’t make or break you. Content mills (including places like Upwork) are a total waste of time in my opinion. And, they just won’t help you build a reputable, profitable business.
Becoming a regular contributor or a contractor on retainer with your clients is the closest thing you’ll get to steady work as a freelancer. And, I’m always exploring new ways to expand my work with my current clients.
How do you do this? Well, quite simply, just always do a great job on the work you have now. For example, I’ve worked with one of my clients for several months now. But, it was never a really huge gig. Just a random blog post here and there. Yesterday, I received an email letting me know that they’re completely revamping their site to be more content-driven, and they would love if I would take a bigger role and be actively involved in that process.
I didn’t need to actively prospect for new business. Instead, by maintaining a great relationship and solid work, they approached me when more projects came across their table.
Bottom line—freelancing (especially when you’re just getting started) involves a huge commitment and a ton of work. In the beginning, I had never worked so hard for such a paltry amount of money. But, if you stick with it and really commit yourself to your business, I’m positive you’ll see awesome results.
So, there you have it. Those are the big things that helped me increase my freelancing income by 200% in one year. I hope this is helpful to you, you go-getters!
Until next time!