Five ideas to boost your earning potential as a freelancer

Photo by Keenan Beasley on Unsplash

‘Freelancer’ is one of those sexy job titles people like to put on their name card these days. Easily associated with an idea of freedom, it suggests that your work is a mix of solid expertise and nomadism. In short, you can work any way you like, and that sounds cool.

But are things that easy, though? Is being a freelancer such a no-brainer, or could something be missing from the equation?

What if I told you that, by branding yourself as a freelancer, you are probably shooting yourself in the foot big time? Or, said differently, what if I told you that the typical mindset shared by most freelancers is costing you a fortune and ruins your earning potential big time? Big, big time, I mean.

As a business coach and entrepreneur myself, I talk to a lot of freelancers who look for ways to get more done with less. And, discussion after discussion, I’ve come to distillate some business advice in the form of five key entrepreneurship 101 factors you’ll really want to sleep on if you commonly describe yourself as a freelance something.

I’m saying “as a freelance something” here because what I’m interested in is not your expertise. I don’t need to know if you are a freelance copywriter, a freelance marketer, a freelance content manager, or a freelance photographer. Freelancing can also be a side hustle that can bring you lots of money.

Nope!

What I’m interested in is your status – freelance or freelancer – because this way you have to describe yourself does not create any value for you. Yes, of course, it pays the bills because your clients see an interest in paying a moderate price for your talents without having you on the payroll full-time. 

But hey, tell me. What’s in it for you apart from an uncertain paycheck and a form of flexibility you’d rather trade for more certainty and stability if you had a chance?

So, in this short article, I’ll share a few suggestions that flow from the ten mindset flaws that ruin a freelancer’s earning potential. I promise you’ll be able to turn into tangible decisions immediately. And they’ll make a significant difference for you in terms of earning potential. Give them a try, you’ll see!

Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash

Tip #1: Stop selling your time. Focus on creating big value for money instead.

The first tip is very straightforward: stop selling your time by the hour or by the day, and focus on creating a massive amount of value for your clients instead.

There are a few points worth noting in what I just said.

One, selling your time is a bad idea. Why? Because people tend to compare whatever hourly or daily rate you give them with the rate provided by your competitors (let alone the hourly rate they get paid). 

Why is that a bad idea? Because that systematically amounts to shooting yourself in the foot.

If you are too expensive, you can’t get the job, so you lose. And if you are cheaper than everyone, you get the job at a discounted rate that leaves no value to make a margin. No margin, no investment capacity. No investment capacity, no growth. No growth, no profit, and no money in your pocket. It’s a lose-lose-lose!

Two, what matters is not to be affordable. It is to create value that makes you impossible to replace.

Take it this way. Would you rather be seen as a cheap cost per hour or as a colossal value-maker regardless of the time you spend on whatever you do? Would you rather be paid twenty dollars an hour occasionally or a few thousand on a regular basis? Would you rather be replaced tomorrow because your client found someone (even) cheaper than you, or stay and get more business because your contribution makes you a team member nobody wants to drop out?

The difference between both is enormous. A freelance is usually seen as a cost that can be minimized when the idea is instead to be perceived as a reliable and super-efficient problem-solver who can provide results and create so much value that fees become pretty much irrelevant.

The question, therefore, is this one: how could you improve your business model so as to create a lot more value than before at no additional cost? For instance, could you charge on a package basis to ensure that your client has no real clue about your hourly costs but clearly knows what benefit they get? Could you commit to a client for a year with a retainer? 

Could you maybe pitch your offering focusing on benefits (I take care of everything, no coding knowledge needed) instead of just listing features (I’m great at developing in PHP!).

Creating value for money and being perceived as a value-maker is much more efficient than being a cheap freelancer. Having a purpose in your professional work life helps you to feel passionate, committed and creative. Think about it!

Tip #2: Upselling pays better than looking for new clients all the time.

Related to my previous point is the idea that upselling is a lot more efficient than looking for more clients all the time.

Let me give you an example here.

Option one: charge by the hour, or by the day (you now know my views on that).

Option two: charge your client $1.500 per month and promise you’ll do everything that needs to be done? (Total: $17.000)

Option three: charge your client $1.000 per month as a retainer, and then a two-day workshop for an additional $6000 every year to deal with the big problems that take more time and require some client involvement? (Total: $18.000+)

Clearly, option two is preferable to option one because you create a lot more value with a package than without – back to my first point, right?

Still, the third option furthermore has the merit of making you more affordable in the first place (which reduces friction at sign up), while giving you a way to create massive value for the client with a workshop that’s also going to pay big time.

Said differently, creating value can be a matter of creating a no-brainer offer in the first place, while compensating with even more value later on when your client is so convinced with the benefits you provide that they’ll pay the price for your next solution.

Pragmatically, the logic behind upsells is not merely a question of reducing the friction at the early stage. it is also a matter of saying that selling additional value to an existing client is a lot easier (and financially efficient) than investing a lot of time and money in trying to find just another client.

Think about it. How have you been doing so far? Could revising your business offering, taking the main entrepreneurship basics into account, make a difference?

Tip #3: Think process a lot more.

Since we’re talking a lot about creating value, process development is a very natural third tip for you. And again, I’m saying this for two reasons.

First, there are only so many hours in a day, so building processes and automation is a very efficient way to increase your productivity. And, of course, productivity doesn’t mean being cheaper. It means creating at least the same value with less effort, time, or capital.

For instance, instead of sending invoices with hourly rates and counts every month, why not charge for a package on a retainer and automated basis? Instead of explaining the same concept to countless people, why not send them a recorded video before you have them on the phone?

Second, processes are also a way to create systems you can re-use for other clients and projects at a lesser cost (since the preparation work is already done).

Tasks can be reproduced automatically with automation software. Invoices can be sent automatically, whatever the number of clients you have. And specific actions you’ll have to take repeatedly with whatever amount of clients can also be standardized with templates and tools that’ll make you save a ton of energy later.

Like it or not, I often hear freelancers say that they do what they do in a custom way for their clients because they think that creates unique value. Still, some part of what you do can always be turned into a form of automation. So the question is: what could work for you, for a change?

Tip #4: Create value for yourself.

My next tip also flows naturally here – freelancers focus on getting the job done for their clients because that’s what their job is about. But they rarely create value for themselves.

Still, what if I told you that freelancing – or problem-solving if you re-branded what you do in a value-making way – ought to be a business rather than a job?

Think about it. What if what you do, pimped with a strong value proposition and some processes and automation gave you not just a job that takes time but a business that works for you rather than the opposite?

What if your expertise turned your activity into a brand that clients recognized? What if your processes gave you a way to delegate your work to a potential team? What if the way you shape your activity gave you some absolute freedom?

At a different level, what if a little bit of time spent on building a business with a plan, a vision, a goal, and a strategy gave you the wings you need to achieve the freedom you’ve always wanted?

That’s where you’ll find the difference between a freelancer with a job and an entrepreneur with a business. Just saying, though!

Tip #5: Remember that you only get what you tolerate. Adapt!

Of course, shifting from selling your time to building an offering that creates value takes work. And time.

Finding ways to upsell your services to existing clients implies that you think seriously about what to do once you’ve delivered.

Building some processes that create standardization and automation potential takes a lot of energy (including time and money) in the first place.

Still, these tips are easy to implement if you realize that what ruins your earning potential as a freelancer is the typical mindset of a freelancer and the typical working habits of a freelancer.

Hence the final set of questions I have for you is this one: how happy are you with your current status as a freelancer?

Would you rather spend some time building systems around your activity that create value for your client and you as a business owner and entrepreneur? Or are you happy having a freelance job that gives you work instead of working for you?

You only get what you tolerate, so coach yourself! Or you can delegate coaching and mentoring to others!