How to Make Money as a Freelancer
Don’t rely on platforms like Fiver and UpWork to build your freelance business. Here’s how to build a brand around your skillset and charge premium prices!
In my line of work, I hang out with a LOT of freelancers and contracted service providers. It’s one of the most popular ways people become their own bosses and live an entrepreneurial lifestyle. You get all the perks of working from home, for the most part creating your own schedule, and you can take on as much or as little work as you want. You have full autonomy.
That being said, there is a culture in this industry that can make many freelancers feel overworked, underpaid, and burnt out before they even really get started. I’m talking about:
Pennies per word
Bidding for jobs
Clients comparing your pricing to others and going with the cheaper option
Clients not paying or canceling the job last minute
To me, these all sound like red flags. I can not imagine a more stressful work experience than constantly competing for jobs and taking the lowest-paid offer. The problem is that too many freelancers are giving all of the power up to their clients. They are allowing the industry to run them.
As a branding expert, I have helped tons of freelancers turn this around and go from stressing to find jobs to getting fully booked at their highest rate. Below I am going to tell you my step-by-step process on how to make money as a freelancer.
Set up your own website
Get off platforms like Fiver and UpWork. I mean, do with that what you will, but most of the clients hanging out on those sites are people who are looking for the cheapest option. If you can capture your own domain and build a platform surrounding your skillset and unique abilities, you’re going to get a lot more high-quality clients.
Having a website is like having a storefront. You’re stocking the shelves that are meant for a specific type of person, ie your ideal client. When you can design and feature your services you’ll have so much more control over your income, bookings, and growth.
If you want me to design a website for you, check out The Website Package!
Do market research -- charge market value
Do some market research -- I promise you, you’re undercharging. When I was just breaking into the industry I started out doing virtual assistant work for online businesses. Designing websites, writing blogs, email marketing, etc. When I was on Fiver and UpWork I would get paid $600ish for a website design, and $10-$30 to write a blog post.
Then one day I had landed an outside client through a Facebook group, and she was asking how much I’d charge to design a website for her. So I hopped on Google to try to see what would be a reasonable price to charge. This is what I found, “A flat fee for a standard business website can range from $5,000 to $10,000, with an average of $6,760.”
… and I was getting paid $600 before.
Charging and asking for that kind of money can feel scary, I honestly thought I was going to throw up when I sent off my email to that first client. But, I’ve learned that if someone is a true professional and runs a business, they don’t mind paying market value.
There’s a lot of mindset work that goes into pricing and raising your minimum standards, all of which I will get into with you sometime. For right now, here are some ways to charge market pricing without feeling uncomfortable about it.
If you’re new to the industry.
If you’re new, I can see why you’d be nervous to charge the full amount. However, these first few projects are imperative to building the foundation of your freelance business. You want people to respect your work, you want them to expect to pay market value, and you want to feel fully compensated because it’s always more work than you’d think.
I NEVER recommend discounting your services. It’s either free or full-price. However, if this is one of your first 5 clients then perhaps offer some bonuses.
Say you’re building someone’s website and you want to practice integrating freebies and an email nurture sequence. Offer to do this for free and practice learning it through building your client’s website. Your client gets some extra bang for their buck, you feel like you provided immense value, AND you just got paid to learn a new skill.
Think of the Starbucks example
I go to Starbucks all the time so I use them for a lot of my examples. Think about a new barista. As a brand new employee, they are still getting paid market value per hour. Then, as consumers, we are still paying the full price for the latte. It doesn’t matter if the barista is training or new, we still pay full price.
It’s the same with your freelance work. Clients contest our pricing and challenge us because we are energetically available for it. We don’t believe our work is valuable enough. If that’s what’s going on, that’s something you really need to address on the internal level.
Set your prices, create packages, and brand them
One way to can alleviate the pricing anxiety is to simply set your prices, have them written down, clearly with no room for comprise. This way you can’t undervalue yourself. Then you want to create packages surrounding your services.
For example, when I was a freelancer I would get so frustrated if I couldn’t do the WHOLE project, start to finish. Say I was hired to write a blog post. Most of the time they JUST wanted the copy, but I have a whole process for my blog posts. I create a Pinterest pin, social media content, upload it to the platform, and do all of the SEO behind it. I insert links and provide graphics. It would drive me CRAZY to see my work be half-done.
Knowing this about myself, I created a blog package. At the time I charged a flat $100 to do all of that.
This is what I recommend you do for your services. Combine different elements and offer them to clients. Sometimes clients don’t know what they need either, so if you spell it out for them, it could actually make their life easier. This also positions you as the expert.
Lastly, you want to brand these packages. Make your clients feel like they are buying a product. You can do this by creating a graphic that you use as the “cover”, give your package a special name, and provide some visuals.
This will also make your marketing super easy.
Have your own means of capturing payment
Stop relying on third parties! When you do this, you have to play by their rules, they take an extra cut from your earnings, and they decide how much you’re getting paid. If you have other means already set up, you can find work off of those platforms.
Here are some options:
Then you want to be able to keep track of your earnings and tax write-offs, so I recommend doing your bookkeeping with Quickbooks Self-Employed. I am not an accountant or lawyer, this is just what I use.
When you have a website, set pricing, packages, and means to capture payment you will feel SO much more confident sharing your work with people. This is what turns you into a brand and a business. Now all you need to do is get visible to your ideal clients!
Here are some ideas:
Get into Facebook groups. So many people ask for freelancers and service providers all the time. If the group allows it, you can just be dropping your links in the comments.
Share on Instagram. Telling people that you’re here and you offer services is all you need to do!
Make TikToks and reels. Create educational videos around the work you do or content that’s directly relevant to your ideal client.
Have a blog, podcast, your YouTube channel. Create more long-form content educating your audience. This will position you as an expert and authority in your field
This post was a bit long-winded, and there’s STILL so much more information to share. If there is more information you want to know, please feel free to ask or check out my Shine Fucking Bright group coaching program!
We will literally get you up and running in 6-weeks!