Both veteran and newbie freelancers can stand to benefit from these seven steps to making more money from Michelle Goodman, author of My So-Called Freelance Life. The steps seem simple but they’re the things that often get lost in the daily hustle.
- Follow the Money. What she means by this is that if you love to write about music, but the beverage trade industry rags pay ten times as well, find a way to balance those two so you’re not just writing the “fun” low-paid stuff.
- Don’t Let Any One Client Dominate Your Time in case that client disappears. Goodman suggests never giving more than 25 percent of your annual time to one client.
- Track Your Project Time. It’s more professional, and it helps you figure out whether that lump-sum project was worth it or a dud.
- Stop Reducing Your Rates just because the economy is bad, because when the economy recovers, you’re still behind. “In the history of freelancing, no client has ever said, ‘You know what? You’ve been doing such a great job for us and we’re feeling more flush this year. Why don’t we restore your rate to what it used to be and give you a 10 percent pay hike?'” We’d add that discounts can be good marketing tools if used effectively and if the client realizes that this is a one-time thing.
- Institute Project Minimums. This was a new one on us, but the logic is solid: “With each new client comes a new relationship to forge, a handful of administrative chores and a potential learning curve. Better to invest the time either in a client that will have repeat work for you or in a one-off project that pays…whatever minimum price works for you.”
- Set Firm Limits on Pro Bono Work. “Although giving back to the community of your choice or getting your name in front of thousands of people who wouldn’t have heard about your services otherwise might make feel you all warm and fuzzy inside, neither will pay the bills this week.”
- Hire an Assistant or Intern. If your time is worth $50 an hour, then every hour you spend compiling invoices or going to the post office is $50 lost. Plus, you can deduct the assistant’s wages from your taxes.
How else can freelancers kick their finances up a notch? We’d add: be supremely organized. Without a very good system to organize your invoices, assignments, and projects (this doesn’t mean “complicated,” just foolproof) you’ll miss out on money you didn’t even know was there.