How I scaled my freelance business to $10,000/month

When I quit my full-time job and started working as a freelancer, I thought it was a stop-gap until I got my next marketing job. I never fancied myself a business owner and didn't think I could make a living from it.

As time went on, I began to seriously consider freelancing as a permanent career move. I was burnt out from my last job, so the flexibility and independence that came from being a writer was appealing to me. If I was going to do this long-term, I needed to start making more money because I knew I had the skills to deliver value to clients.

I decided to build my business in January of 2021. I wanted to double my income from 2020 to $80,000. I assumed it would take me months to land new high-paying clients. Within six weeks of marketing myself, I had more work than I could handle.

By the summer, I was billing tens of thousands of dollars a month.

How to build a business that makes a lot of money.

It might appear that I achieved my goals in a day or two, but it was a long time in the making. When I decided to scale, I had a solid portfolio of work.

I had the training, skills, and experience I needed to succeed. When I applied strategic steps to grow my business, this foundation, along with hard work and good luck, set me up to succeed.

It's doable even for newer freelancers if you ramp up to $10,000 months. The steps you can take to grow your business will look similar if you are starting from the ground up. Here is what worked for me.

Your rates should be raised.
Drop low-paying clients.
Book long-term clients.
Value and project-based pricing can be set.
You should change your mindset.
You should market yourself.

1. Your rates should be raised.

One of the more difficult things to do as a freelancer is raise your rates. Rate increases are standard business practice. Your rates have to change in order for your business to be sustainable.

This is the fastest way to make more money. The only way to bring in more money is to take on more projects if your rates stay the same. If your rates are lower to begin with, this can cause you to burn out quickly.

I was billing between $2,500 and $4,000 per month when I decided to scale my business. I had two main anchor clients and a number of other clients that I worked with less often. I haven't raised my rates with one of my anchor clients in a couple years. I quoted my updated rate when our annual contract was up for renewal.

Hi client.

I would like to change the rate on this new contract. The new rate would be $XXX per article. I want to be aware of your budget, so let's talk. I look forward to our continued partnership after working together for the past few years.

Thank you.

There is a person named Brittney.

We negotiated a new project cadence of four articles a month to two in order to accommodate my new rate and budget. The drop in total income from that client was initial. It opened up my availability to take on higher-paying projects from new clients because I got paid more per piece, but cut my assignments in half.

This leads to the next tip.

2. As you replace low-paying clients with higher-paying ones, drop them.

It is ok to stop working with clients. Some clients won't be able to pay if you raise your rates. Dropping your lowest-paying clients will allow you to focus on the work that pays the most.

I have adjusted the amount of work I accept from my lower-paying clients, and I make sure to quote higher standard rates for new clients that I onboard.

3. Book long-term clients.

I don't take one-off projects. Building long-term relationships with clients is what I focus on. Long-term or retainer clients give me consistent income that allows me to provide better value.

It takes a long time to get to know a client, so it's inefficient to do that over and over. By working with clients on an ongoing basis, I can deliver greater value and charge higher rates because I have a deeper understanding of their business and content needs.

This strategy has been one of the easiest for me to follow as most prospective clients are interested in long-term relationships with freelancers as well. It makes sense that it takes time for clients to find and onboard new workers. It is in their best interest to invest in a writer they can rely on again and again, instead of finding a new one.

4. Specialize.

It is important to niche down if you are a freelancer. This advice works.

It is possible to make a lot of money as a generalist, but specializing will help you market your business more effectively.

Over time, you develop expertise in those areas. This will allow you to dive deeper into the industry and deliver more value to your clients. It helps you build a reputation as the go-to provider for that industry. It's easier to market your business to your ideal clients, land those clients, and charge more for your work because of this.

Take some time to find the right fit for you and your business. Don't be afraid to accept work from a variety of clients and industries because that will help you identify what areas you like best and are most skilled in.

After writing as a generalist for a couple of years, I began to gravitate towards a few niches. I market myself as a long-form content writer for B2B SaaS, technology, and the future of work. My ideal clients come to me now because I showed up in their search results or were referred by another client.

If you want to fulfill other goals, you can always take on projects outside your niche. When you specialize, you can give more value and increase your rates.

5. Set value-based pricing for the project.

Value-based project rates are a key strategy for building my business. There are two reasons for this.

The rates should not only be about how much time you put in, but what the deliverable is worth to your clients. If I write an eBook that brings in qualified leads that convert for my client, that could be tens of thousands of dollars of value from one piece of content. I always keep in mind the value of the content to the client when assessing how to charge for a project.

If you are working with long-term clients, efficiency comes with expertise. The less money you make, the faster you produce. You don't get punished for getting better at your job if you have project rates.

It is easier for clients to approve project pricing. A quote of $150/hr will give a lot of people sticker shock. The conversation is changed around the value of the content, not your worth as a person. It makes it easier for everyone to plan project budgets.

6. You should change your mindset from an employee to a business owner.

Growing a sustainable business is an important part of mindset. A one-person business is still a business.

Don't ask for raises. Don't ask for permission to take time off. You are not an employee and your clients are not your boss. Changing your mindset can be difficult, but it has made a big difference in the way I conduct business.

Shifting my mindset helps me take the emotion out of contract negotiations and stand firm on decisions that are best for me and my business. It adds value for my clients and helps me command higher rates by helping me position myself as the expert consultant in the relationship.

7. You should keep marketing yourself.

A strong referral engine is a must for growing your business and building a pool of qualified prospects. When you are first starting out, clients are usually not going to come to you. You will need to find them. That means both marketing and prospecting.

This is not a one-time exercise. Establish time each week or at least every month to network.

Potential clients can be found by cold email. One of the best ways to find clients is through LinkedIn. I look for companies in my target industries that are likely to be a good fit by looking at things like size and funding. I use a variety of methods to find full-time employees in content marketing. I reached out to the hiring manager to see if they could use a freelancer to support the team during the hiring process. This is a great way to find clients that need your help immediately.

Follow up with previous clients. The power of the follow-up is never underestimated. If past clients need help with any work, reach out to them. Even if they don't have an immediate need, touching base keeps you top of mind when they do have projects.

Talk to your friends. It can be hard to find an "in" when you're new to the industry. Even if none of your friends are in your industry, they can still be helpful. Talk to your friends about what you are doing on social media. Even if your friends don't hire you, they may know someone in your industry who needs help. Referrals are one of the best ways to land a client.

Professional groups are a good place to join. I have landed many clients from professional writer groups on Facebook. Adding value is the key to getting the most out of these groups. Some groups are worth more than others. When I first started working as a writer, I joined around half a dozen writing groups. I found the ones that were right for me based on the focus of the community, the level of activity, and the value people shared. The groups that had a lot of junk were quickly removed.

Attend industry conferences. Over time, networking events and industry conferences are a great way to build your network. Networking at these events can be intimidating if you have never been to one before, but it helps you build valuable professional relationships. These are long games. The work isn't done when the event is over. You need to keep those connections and participate in future events. Each year, you will run into the same people.

If you have the right building blocks and consistency, you can grow your business quickly. I had more work than I could handle. Within a few months, I had reached the once-elusive $10,000 month.

You will be surprised at how quickly you will book up once you get going. You will have to learn to say no.

The article was first published on the Zapier blog. The original post can be found here.