Most of us experience the freelance rate plateau and become frustrated. People who go into a weight loss regimen reach plateaus. Plateaus for freelancers are especially frustrating, because they mean that income is stalled.
These plateaus may be the result of being maxed out on the number of hours you can possibly put in or the fear that your current or prospective customers may balk at you raising your rates and thus go elsewhere. Both of these are realities in the freelancing work life.
But there may be some things you can do to move out of that plateau. If any of these fit your situation, try making some changes.
1. Consider dumping the difficult clients
Every freelancer has them – those few difficult clients who just seem to take up more time than they should – they want your time; they continually ask for changes and then change their minds. Can you serve a couple of new clients in the time this client is taking? If so, seriously consider severing your relationship and go after new clients to fill that gap.
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2. Change from “per hour” to “per project”
When you and your client agree to a price per hour, any price increase you try to implement will probably be met with objection. And it’s just awkward. Switch to a per project rate, at least for new clients. If, for example, you are a freelance writer and you are creating blog posts for a client, consider this. You may have a 1,500-word article. You have determined an hourly rate, it is relatively easy and you finish in two hours. However, if you set up a project price based upon word count, you could come out far better, in the long term. You will have some articles that take very little time and some that take more. But you make much better profit on those that take little time.
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3. Partner up
Whether you are a graphic designer, an accountant, or a writer, there are benefits to finding a trusted freelancer partner in the same niche with you. When that partner is overloaded and you are not, you can take some of those projects off his hands. And the reverse is true as well. In this way, both of you can have a steadier supply of work.
4. Stay abreast of the marketplace
When you are new in your freelancing career, you do all sorts of things to get clients. One of those things is to charge lower prices for your work, just to get the business and get yourself established. Once your reputation has been established, however, you need to re-think what you are charging.
Do the research and find out what the low and high-end pricing is. You should feel comfortable raising your rates at least to the median. If you are already at the median, go up a notch. And those are the prices you will charge any new client who comes your way. And as those new clients come in, you can then negotiate with current clients for higher fees.
It doesn’t hurt to inform those older clients that you have new work coming in and that you are only going to work for clients who agree to your new rates. If some of those cheaper clients drop you, you may experience a short-term income reduction, but over time, you’ll make that up.
5. Expand your repertoire
Suppose you are a freelance translator. You have focused primarily on personal documents, educational transcripts and some business documents. Given the growth of global e-commerce, the demand for translations of websites, blogs and marketing materials is huge. Market yourself in this new category of freelancing – it can increase your income substantially.
This is just one example of repertoire expansion – writers can explore editing; social media marketers can explore marketing to HVAC companies or helping law firms with content marketing; artistic website designers can explore graphic designing for logos, packaging and such.
What you want to do is find related freelance categories that are higher income-producing. Gradually move into those pricier niches as older clients fall off. To make this easier for you, improve your competency in new areas. Read books, take free courses, attend seminars, even take an online MBA if you have to. An investment in your education always pays off in many ways.
Reaching an income plateau is no fun. You got into this freelancing business because you had goals – independence, a passion for your work and, of course, the desire to be in control of how much you will make. If you are not satisfied with your current income, take a serious look at these five suggestions and see which ones you can implement to get the income boost you want.