How Freelance Creatives Can Make More Money

How Freelance Creatives Can Make More Money

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Save more, spend smarter, and make your money go further

Freelancers who are eager to get hustling or didn’t get exactly what you wanted for the holidays—more freelance job leads, a real vacation, or that holiday un-office party —you can focus on boosting your earnings.

Whether you’re a freelance newbie or veteran, here are a few ways you can make more money in the new year:

Think About Synergy

I know. “Synergy” is a buzzword that often feels fluffy and insufferable. But it’s important to see how the different parts of your freelance business work together in service of your goals. You can think of synergy as being a giant ball, that only gets bigger as it moves in a single direction and forward.

For instance, I have a friend who wants to transition from practicing law to creating content, both on his website and for clients. So he decided to write a series of books on different aspects of the law. The first installment in the series gave him experience not only in writing long-form content, but also polished his skill at social media marketing and putting together events. His book launch party in Los Angeles was a glowing success.

That project gave him the confidence and know-how to do more writing for clients in the new year. And he’s working on perfecting the story pitch to land more clients. Plus, he might use his new knowledge to offer ebook creation and marketing services to writers working on their ebooks.

Land More Retainer Work

The first few years, I took every freelance gig that came my way. A total game changer for me was landing clients that offered steady work. While none of this work was retainer in the traditional sense —in which case all terms would be agreed-upon beforehand and I would be guaranteed a specific amount of work each month —as a digital content creator who specializes in the personal finance space, I would contribute anywhere from two to five pieces of content a month.

Having a set amount of freelance work not only helped with my income, but it also allowed me to set a better work schedule. Not only was I more productive, but I could plan my work days, which freed up more time to volunteer and focus on my personal projects.

Get More Work from Existing Clients

Sure, you can cold pitch potential clients. But of the clients I work with regularly, only a few came from cold pitching. With the freelance clients you do land by way of the cold pitch, it’s usually a long game. It could take months, sometimes years, before they offer you steady work.

Instead of always hunting for new clients, talk to the companies you already provide services for. See what their needs are, and how you might be able to help. It’s also a good idea to reach out to them when you’ve expanded your services with a new skill set. For instance, maybe you’ve had some recent success with copywriting, or you’ve built up your graphic design portfolio.

Ask for a Higher Rate

Already have an established rapport with an existing client? Do you enjoy working with them and want to continue the working relationship? Consider asking for more money for the same amount of work.

Asking for a higher rate doesn’t only boost your income, but it can be helpful to the client, too. When you’re paid well your client can rest assured you’ll deliver quality work, on-time. What’s more, they don’t have to worry that they’ll get dropped should a better-paying gig come along.

While the end of the year is a great time to ask for more money (as companies are reviewing their budgets for the new year), when you work for yourself you can technically ask for a rate increase anytime you like. If now isn’t the best time, ask your clients if they might be able to reassess after a certain number of assignments or a period of time. Some clients review their budgets every month, others at the end of each quarter.

Come Up with a Median Rate

You’re probably familiar with a base rate, meaning the minimum you charge for your services as a freelancer. But you might not have considered a median rate, which I’ve found to be super helpful: Instead of feeling like working for less than rate X is an absolute no-no, give yourself a median to work from. It offers you and your clients a bit more flexibility. For instance, if your median rate is $50 an hour, then if you take a few gigs that average $40, and a few that average out to $60 an hour, then you’ll stay along your baseline of $50.

Not sure what your median rate should be, or your base rate, for that matter? Do some research, either online or by poking around freelancer groups. For instance, Contently has a freelance rates database that is updated periodically, as does the Editorial Freelancers Association.

Expand to Different Niches

I’ve found that it’s better to niche down when you’re first striking out on your own as a freelancer rather than offer a wide-ranging skill set —perhaps you’ve been patchworking your way toward building your freelancing business. Once you’ve gained a few clients in a certain industry, you could earn more by expanding to a new niche. Once you know how to build in one niche, you can add another.

For instance, maybe you specialize in creating content in the tech industry, but want to try writing travel pieces. The worst thing that can happen? If it doesn’t boost your earnings as much as you’d like, scale back, and venture into something new.

Create New Products for the Market

The phrase “passive income” needs to be reworked. For the most part, creating different income streams —such as ebooks, webinars, or a cool new app —takes a ton of work, time, and resources up front.

That being said, if you have an idea for a product that could really help people —and hopefully generate income down the line —don’t let me discourage you. But it might help to put out some feelers to trusted friends and gauge interest in your idea first.

And instead of ponying up tons of time and money on a project that could flounder, start small. Case in point: Let’s say you want to offer online social media marketing classes. Test the waters by doing a two-hour webinar before you invest in creating a 12-week course. Once a project shows proof of concept, you can devote more resources to it.

By expanding your offerings, asking for higher rates, and diversifying your income streams, you can boost both your earnings and your chances of steadier work in the new year —and hopefully, you end this one on a high note.

Have any tips to boost freelance earnings? Leave them in the comments. 

Save more, spend smarter, and make your money go further

Jackie Lam
Jackie Lam

Written by Jackie Lam

Jackie Lam is a personal finance writer. Her work has appeared in Investopedia, Magnify Money and The Bold Italic, and she’s been featured in Money, Kiplinger, Forbes and Woman’s Day. She runs, a blog to help freelancers and artists with their money, and to balance their passion projects and careers. More from Jackie Lam