Freelancers tend to work unpredictable hours for fluctuating pay while wearing every hat their business requires: worker bee, accountant, marketer, record-keeper, and more.
Some recent reports – including the Intuit 2020 Report – show that up to 80 percent of corporations plan to replace some full-time workers with freelancers through 2020. By then, Intuit analysts predict, more than 40 percent of the workforce will be made up of freelancers, side hustlers, and self-employed consultants.
If there’s one step freelancers can take to improve their work lives the most, it’s this – asking for a raise. With more money at their disposal, freelancers have more freedom and autonomy to run their businesses the way they want.
We reached out to successful freelancers who have learned the best ways to earn – and ask for – the higher pay they deserve. Here’s what they said:
1. Learn to add value.
Receiving a much-needed pay boost may be more likely if you’re adding more value in return, says freelancer and blogger Jim Wang of Wallet Hacks. Figure out what your clients actually need, and nurture skills that let you meet these needs.
“As you solve bigger problems, you can charge more because you are resolving bigger headaches and adding more and lasting value,” says Wang.
2. Develop a specialization.
While businesses pay freelancers to perform a wide range of essential tasks, they may pay more for specialized skills or knowledge that’s hard to find or quantify, like search engine optimization expertise.
Freelancer Joseph Hogue of My Work From Home Money says he has scored higher pay by niching down and providing specialized work for busy clients. Learning a specialization will set you apart from generalists since you offer a broader range of talents, he says.
3. Become indispensable.
Freelancers who can demand the most money are the ones clients can’t stand to lose, says freelance writer Ashley Eneriz of Mama Hustle Repeat.
“Get the most social shares on pieces, pitch mind-blowing ideas, and seek to fix oversighted weaknesses, such as out of date content,” she says. “A freelancer that is hard to part with is one that can command more pay.”
4. Improve the quality of your work.
Want a raise? Here’s a novel idea: work harder for it.
Freelance writer Ben Luthi suggests freelancers “earn” higher pay through better results. Ask your clients for feedback and implement it promptly, then ensure you’re constantly improving your skills. By the time you’re ready to ask for a raise, you should have proven yourself.
“Asking for a raise is a much easier conversation when the client already knows you’re worth more,” says Luthi.
5. Expand your client base and “dial up" your pay.
Chicago financial advisor and freelance writer Roger Wohlner says his best tactic for boosting income has always been growing his client base.
“Continuing to grow your list of clients allows you the flexibility to fire the client if they won’t agree to the higher rate,” says Wohlner.
By broadening the scope of his work with a wider range of customers, he has been able to slowly inch up his rates with new clients while casting off the old.
6. Expand your services.
While improving your skills can help you score higher pay, so can expanding the type of services you offer. Freelancer Kayla Sloan writes content for various online publications, but has boosted her pay regularly by offering new services to clients she already works with. This can lend itself to becoming indispensable.
“I always check in with my clients on a regular basis to see if I can do anything else to help them out,” says Sloan.
These days, she not only writes content, but helps clients manage their publication schedules and performs virtual assistant work.
7. Become a “yes” person.
Donna Freedman has been earning a living as a freelancer for more than 30 years. Her best tip? Never say “no.”
“If an opportunity comes up at the last minute and you’re qualified to do it, take the job -- even if it means staying up late a couple of nights to research, write and edit the piece,” says Freedman.
When you're known for your eagerness to step up to the plate, you can command higher pay.
8. Improve the look and quality of your portfolio.
Getting new freelance work is tough when you have few connections, but you can boost your credibility tremendously by improving the look and feel of your portfolio, says freelancer James Pollard of The Advisor Coach.
“Can you clearly articulate what you've done and what you can do?” asks Pollard. “Can you clearly demonstrate that you've done this in the past?”
If so, you can charge more. However, the best way to show your clients your experience is to make sure your portfolio is up-to-date, succinct, professional, and engaging.
If you don’t list your accomplishments on an easy-to-access portfolio clients can explore, they may never know your worth.