Author Topic: Increasing My Hourly Income by 250% in 3 Years - Without a Degree (Freelance)  (Read 1767 times)

FreelanceToFreedom

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Hey all - I'd like to share some recent successes I've found in an alternative line of work to most people here.

Iím a freelance writer and editor. I do blogging, copywriting, content marketing and some light SEO work. Iíve always dabbled in this industry, but I started taking things more seriously about 3 years ago. Iíve never had a ďrealĒ job, and have always done my own thing in one way or another. After figuring out that I really didnít enjoy college and dropping out, I decided I needed to focus more on developing skills, finding new clients and making a career out of writing.

And Iím happy to report that Iíve been more successful in that pursuit than I thought possible!


A rough timeline:

2015 - charging 4-5 cents a word, ~$20-$30 per hour
2016 - charging 5-7 cents a word, ~$30-$40 per hour
2017 - charging 7-10 cents a word, ~$40-$60 per hour (+ billing at $60/hr for editing and copywriting)
Mid-2018 - charging 10-15 cents a word, ~$60-$90 per hour (+ billing at $75/hr for editing and copywriting)

Keep in mind that while my hourly figures are certainly high, itís not the same as an hourly employee making that much. I have a decent amount of non-billable time, some expensive software subscriptions I pay for, no benefits, no health insurance, no paid time off, higher SS & medicaid tax liability, etc. I also canít work creatively for long stretches of time, so I typically work 20-30 hour weeks at most, and spend some time volunteering/doing housework once my brain turns to mush. Certainly not complaining - but perspective is important when comparing income of contract workers to salaried workers.


Lessons Learned
(these apply directly to freelancers/contractors, and may or may not be relevant to salaried employees)

Donít be afraid to ask
I started with one client at $30/hr and thought hey - thatís pretty sweet. Later, I realized I was making more with other clients. I subsequently asked and was approved for raises to $40, $60 and later $75 per hour - from the same client, over the span of ~3 years. Had I not asked, Iíd be in the same place I started.

Add value
There are millions of people trying to make it as freelance writers - many of whom are surely more talented than me. Yet, Iím at the higher end of the pay scale (although talented copywriters who really know their industry can charge $150+ per hour). I think a big part of my success is that Iíve worked hard to add significant value whenever I increase rates. For instance, I started editing and publishing directly in WordPress, instead of sending Google docs. I started making custom images and including them in my articles. I learned better SEO practices to improve traffic. And wherever possible, I took responsibilities off my clientsí plates in exchange for higher pay.

Be a business
This one took a while, but over time I learned to behave like a business instead of a worker. Because technically, I am a business. Thus, my relationships with my clients are business to business relationships. Just this simple change in thinking helped me feel more comfortable negotiating and charging higher rates.

Walk away
Iíve had some crappy clients in the past - and some fine clients that just didnít have much of a budget. I finally learned to just politely part ways with them, even if it meant a temporary dip in income. Nowadays I try to diversify my clients like I do my investments - I try to maintain 4-7 active clients at a time, so if one flakes out (or pisses me off!) I can just walk away. Itís a good feeling and helps keep my (work-related) stress levels low.


I feel very fortunate to be in this position, and I know that luck has certainly played a role to some extent. I am very thankful for my writing skills, which are surely a result of my early education and parental influence (I have no formal training beyond high school English).

I hope this post inspires someone to consider a freelance/contracting lifestyle as a real possibility. I know developers, web designers, graphic designers and others making great money - although, to be fair, Iíve also met many freelancers that are really struggling to get by. Itís not easy, but the potential is certainly there - and the lifestyle affords a lot of freedom.


Linda_Norway

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Sounds like you're doing great.

welshcake

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Thanks for this post - very inspiring! :)

kudy

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Love it! I started solely working for myself in May of this year, and I am learning a lot of lessons. Love the "Be a business" - once I started to do this, things started to go more smoothly.

LPG

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Congrats! Very well done, and I think you mentioned a few very important points in there. Especially the bit about being a business instead of a worker and the bit about being able to drop clients if your business is stable enough.

I've been doing a bit of freelance work as a side gig from my MegaCorp job, and have found it very satisfying. It fits my mindset a lot more than being a salaried employee - Somebody lets me know they need work done, I tell them how much it will cost, and we do it. No restrictions of where I do it (I tend to be happiest when quite nomadic) or when I do it (If it takes me 3 hours, why should I be in a certain spot for 8?). I'm looking to do more. Do you have any tips on how to find clients? That's my main struggling point as of right now.

Thanks.

terran

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Have you found that the clients have become more pleasant to work for as your rates have increased? That was my experience. Perhaps something to do with them respecting my time more when it costs more?

FreelanceToFreedom

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Congrats! Very well done, and I think you mentioned a few very important points in there. Especially the bit about being a business instead of a worker and the bit about being able to drop clients if your business is stable enough.

I've been doing a bit of freelance work as a side gig from my MegaCorp job, and have found it very satisfying. It fits my mindset a lot more than being a salaried employee - Somebody lets me know they need work done, I tell them how much it will cost, and we do it. No restrictions of where I do it (I tend to be happiest when quite nomadic) or when I do it (If it takes me 3 hours, why should I be in a certain spot for 8?). I'm looking to do more. Do you have any tips on how to find clients? That's my main struggling point as of right now.

Thanks.

The best ways to find clients kinda depends on your industry/specialty. Most of my work comes from writing-specific job boards, like ProBlogger, so I don't really have resources for non-writing work. I have found some work on reddit.com/r/forhire, which covers all sorts of industries

FreelanceToFreedom

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Have you found that the clients have become more pleasant to work for as your rates have increased? That was my experience. Perhaps something to do with them respecting my time more when it costs more?

Hmm yeah I suppose. I'm fortunate to have pretty good clients in general that I think do respect my time. Those who haven't I've simply parted ways with.

But yeah, generally speaking, charging higher rates does tend to attract higher quality clients.