Few freelance writers relish the prospect of negotiating a rate increase with existing clients. For those who are not particularly experienced in negotiating rates it can be downright intimidating, and for the rest of us there is always an element of commercial risk to consider.
Although I would never advocate avoiding rate increases when they are justified, there are other ways in which you can increase your freelance earnings without having to appeal to your client for better pay. I’ve detailed eight of the best below.
1. Set Out (and/or Reevaluate) the Scope of Works Clearly
When you first start work with a client you should agree (ideally in writing) exactly what work you will do for the amount being paid. As such you are far less likely to face “scope creep” (which is when a client adds additional work without a corresponding increase in pay).
Agreeing a clear scope of works should always be a priority when taking on new clients, but you can also retrospectively apply the same measures to existing clients. Consider the work you do and whether any of it was not part of the original deal with the respective client. If it was not, engage with the client and see how you can resolve the situation amicably.
2. Charge Per Word/Project (Not Per Hour)
As a freelance writer, charging per hour is the last thing you should do. If you do charge by the hour you are essentially placing a ceiling on your earning potential. On the other hand, if you charge by word or per project, your earning potential is limited only by the speed at which you work.
The only time when I advocate charging per hour is when starting on a project of indeterminate length and size with a new client. Under such circumstances I suggest starting with an initial period of charging by the hour until you can get a handle on the project and quote accordingly.
If you are currently working with any clients on a pay-per-hour basis, look to guide them to a method of billing that works more in your favor.
3. Work Faster
Few things can increase your earning potential more effectively than speed and efficiency. Put simply, your earning potential rises directly in line with the speed at which you are able to produce blog posts.
As such, if you follow my nine step process for writing blog posts quickly and invest time in improving your typing speed you will find the return to be extremely favorable.
4. Manage Emails More Efficiently
Client emails can be a real time suck and the time spent dealing with them can sap away at your most productive billable hours. As such, learning to deal with them efficiently can make a big difference to your earning potential.
Managing your emails more efficiently is a big topic. I would recommend that you start with the following steps:
- Turn off instant notifications.
- Set up filters so that client emails are clearly delineated (and as such can be dealt with separately).
- Block off 2-3 chunks of time per day in which you tackle emails and nothing else.
5. Work With Long Term Clients
As a freelance blogger I advocate working with long term clients. Writing posts for one-off or occasional clients does you no favors as the upfront time spent getting a grasp on the subject matter (not to mention the client’s specific requirements) cannot be amortised over an extended period of time.
It may be that you have no choice but to grab whatever work you can get in your current position, but whenever possible look to point your business in the direction of working with long term clients. You’ll complete work more quickly and spend less non-billable hours establishing relationships with new clients.
6. Fire Low-Paying Clients
Unless you are under immediate financial pressure or get a plethora of indirect benefits from working with a low-paying client, you should let them go.
Believe it or not, this should result in higher earnings in the long run. The time you free up means you can invest hours in approaching higher quality clients and expanding your scope of works with existing clients. And if you put yourself in the mindset of firing a client, you may as well propose a rate increase first (but this time without the fear of what might happen).
Finally, firing a low-paying client can make you feel a lot better and more confident as a freelance writer.
7. Automate Non-Billable Tasks
Running a freelance business requires an element of administration and as your business expands the time requirement will only grow.
This is why I advocate a level of automation from day one — far better to set up efficient systems before they become absolutely necessary. Here are a couple of tips to get you started:
- Don’t invoice manually — use a service like Freshbooks.
- Use a cloud-based bookkeeping service such as Quickbooks.
The efficiency improvements will be beneficial to you from day one and will only increase as your business grows.
8. Outsource Simple Tasks
Outsourcing is a sticky topic amongst freelancers but I see no problem with outsourcing basic tasks to a relatively low-paid contractor in say the Philippines or India. Simple research, topic brainstorming, administration, basic email management and other tasks can all be handled by a virtual assistant (VA) with no direct exposure to the client.
Look at it this way — if you pay your virtual assistant $5 per hour and your equivalent hourly rate is $30 per hour, you can essentially bill out your VA’s time with a $25 profit. As long as you err on the side of caution in terms of your VA’s involvement in your business and always ensure that your client’s best interests are met, I see no moral dilemma.