PS has worked as a freelance writer since 2012. When she's not traveling and writing, she helps people with web design and development.
You clicked on this article because you want to be paid what you deserve. My dear, I am proud of you. We all work for money, but only a few know how to dig deep in others’ pockets to get it. This is an art that demands simple technique, bold personality, and an urge to learn.
As a freelancer, you need to do more than an honest self-appraisal to get paid what you are worth. In professional life, you can expect a salary hike when your employer praises you for your work, or when their behavior towards you suggests your positive impact on the company. You should get a hike when you meet the job description perfectly, along with other factors (productivity, soft skills) that are identifiable and measurable.
In the freelancing life, the appraisal criteria are quite different. It is difficult to determine the factors for judging you as a freelancer. There are no specific industry standards.
To try to fill this unmet need, certain freelancing sites have come up with their own evaluation criteria to identify the best freelancers and give them premium ranking. Sites like Upwork and Toptal evaluate you on the basis of certain criteria that can help you win badges such as Top-Rated, Expert-Vetted, Top 3%, and so on. These badges make it easier for you to demand a higher pay rate.
But you need to design your own badge, not wait for freelancing sites to award you one. Here, we talk about some common principles that will help you receive your desired pay rate, irrespective of what field you specialize in.
Why Start Out at a Low Rate?
I have noticed experienced professionals, who would be making 100 grand in their 9-to-5 jobs, start with a $10-$20 hourly rate, when they are really worth more than $100 per hour.
Why do you submit a low bid, when you know you are worth much more than that? There can be many reasons:
- You feel you can't ask for $1000 for a project when your competitor is charging $500, and thus you settle for a lower bid.
- You are afraid the client won’t hire you if you charge high.
- You are in a race with several other freelancers (who may or may not be talented as you are), who are ready to work at lower rates.
But the Truth Is …
In many fields you have the real opportunity of making $100 or more per hour. Irrespective of what others are charging, you can receive what you are actually worth. Some developers, data scientists, AI (Artificial Intelligence) engineers, writers, marketers, copywriters, designers, financial experts, and so on actually make $200 per hour.
Of course, freelancers who specialize in common fields such as data entry rarely get the chance to ask for a higher bid. They would do better to upgrade themselves by learning new skills. And now thanks to the trend of online courses, everything is possible.
5 Ways to Get What You Are Worth
You must follow these principles to convince your clients and win the desired payout.
1. Boost Your Belief in Yourself
Self-doubt is easy. You live in your comfort zone, you accept your faults, and work under the radar for the rest of your life. But to change, you need to replace certain words in your vocabulary. Replace:
- “self-doubt” with “self-belief,”
- “live in your comfort zone” with “live out of your comfort zone,”
- “accept your faults” with “accept your strengths,”
- and “work under the radar” with “work to stand apart."
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Self-belief is the way to go. You must live out of your comfort zone, accept your strengths and merits, and work to stand apart, to distinguish yourself, for the rest of your life. If you find it difficult to convince yourself that your service is worth a higher bid, then how can you convince your clients? This is the most difficult as well as the most important step; you need to trust yourself. Self-doubt comes easy, but self-belief demands inner strength.
You need to be confident about the services you offer to your client. For example, suppose you are a freelance designer. Your client wants to build a design that they want to use for a long time, say two to three years. In this scenario, you are helping them to earn 50 to 100 times more than what they pay you. So, you can confidently ask for better pay.
Besides checking out your counterparts, you should look at senior professionals. Learn from them how they handle their work affairs and how they are charging high rates with smooth confidence. A copywriter I know who is senior to me charges $200 to $400 per hour for copywriting services.
It takes confidence and self-motivation to get what you want. No one else is going to do that for you, as they are already busy promoting themselves.
2. Focus on Your Individuality, Your Unique Selling Point
It won’t do to be just a designer or developer like everybody else. If you are part of a crowd, no one will pay you much for doing things that a million others can do equally well. To compete, you have to stand out from most freelancers who are doing stuff many others can do.
It isn’t really that tough to move ahead and take the lead. You know you just need to walk through some hurdles to get ahead of the crowd. For example, you are a WordPress developer. Right now, your work is quite similar to a thousand others. If you start mastering other web skills, such as SEO, web copywriting, or machine learning, you become a WordPress developer who delivers a search-engine-optimized website with great content. You can easily ask for an hourly rate of $80 or more.
The rate will differ with the basis of the project; if it’s a long-term project you should go with a weekly rate. It also depends on if you are working full-time or part-time.
You need to have a clear USP—Unique Selling Proposition or Unique Selling Point—that lets your clients know they are going to receive services that no other freelancers can provide. Your USP can include your working approach, the type of clients you work with, and your specialization.
Your USP doesn’t need to include all sorts of clients, as it’s better to maintain a distance from clients who expect more and pay less. Figuring out your USP is like looking into yourself. You may discover essential skills that you never realized you already possess.
3. Offer Premium Services
You are self-confident and have a clear USP to market yourself as an exceptional freelancer. Now, let’s talk about the point at which your client is thinking about hiring you or not. You know you are highly skilled, but how are you going to prove that to your client? How does your client perceive the values of your offer?
To prove the worth of your offer, there are three important points you need to take care of. If you follow even one of them, you’ll be able to close a deal, but with all of them, you can smash the deal.
- Increase your price; make it twice your old rate, thrice, or whatever fits you the best. This is extremely important, so just do it. Increased price automatically gives a sense of premium service. For example, if you buy a dress worth $50, you feel nice. But if you buy the same dress at $500, you start to feel the richness of the fabric and how it comforts your body. Although it’s the same dress, at the higher price you believe you have been given a premium product.
- Dedicate your full time to your client. I don’t mean it literally, but when your client contacts you, you must be attentive and offer them exceptional support. They need to believe that they are not just getting their work done, but also receiving reliable support for their problems. Besides completing the project, many freelancers also offer important advice to their clients, which can be related to where to buy web hosting plans at a reasonable rate, where to cut costs and receive higher profits. There may be cases when your help doesn’t directly link with your project, but offering a helping hand does prove you to be exceptional support.
- Display your work through social media. Your interaction with other social media users will let your client know that you are a trustworthy resource. Your social media presence will also prove that there are many people who use your services, giving a premium reputation to your work.
4. Figure Out Your Best Positioning
Working on freelancing sites does ensure plenty of job offers, but it is not a way to higher rates, as others there are ready do to the same work at half the cost.
If you are already using such sites, you know how challenging it is to land a project with high-paying clients. I must say some do earn $80 or more per hour, but these are highly specialized people who have worked hard for a long time and most of their clients are ones they’ve already worked with.
Luckily, freelancing sites are not the only option to look for. You have plenty of options that allow the client to approach you for work instead of you seeking them out. The best options are:
- Start your own website or blog
- Advertise your skills through social media (Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter)
- Post useful content on your LinkedIn account and groups (one of the best place to find highly promising clients)
- Write guest posts for well-known websites. Most renowned websites, like Inc, Entrepreneur, and Search Engine Journal, take time to approve your post, some may even decline it. But submitting these posts can be extremely fruitful and you should keep trying it.
- Use PPC (Pay-Per-Click) advertising such as Google Ads, Bing Ads, etc.
The best approach is to start your own blog and interact with other bloggers and guest blog websites to market yourself.
5. Don’t Make Money; Create Value Instead
When I say don’t make money, I mean it rhetorically. If your goal is to make a huge income, you need to focus on how to earn it, not on how much to earn. Your clients are business people, which means they are ready to share any amount in their budget to receive the highest value.
For example, if you earn $500 for a project and your client makes $2000 out of it, then he receives an ROI (Return On Investment) of 400%. Similarly, if you are paid $1000 and your client makes $200,000, then there’s an ROI of 2000%. In this case, your client will readily pay you double to generate the best outcome.
To make the most of it, you should let your clients know how much money they’ll be making, instead of how much they'll be saving. It is hassle-free for a client to pay $1000 instead of $500 when he knows he is going to make thousands of times more out of it.
You should study your client's data and check out what their ROIs were in the past. This will help you convince your clients much better.
You Will Have to Do This Yourself
Remember, only you can decide what’s best for you. No client will come to you and demand to pay you twice what you used to for. You need to be self-confident, know your specialization, offer premium services, market at the right place, and deliver the best results.
Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on September 25, 2020:
Seems to me these are all great points. I do not do well in this area so I will take this to heart.