Since we’re going to be doing more with strategy in 2019, I wanted the first BlackFreelance post of this year to be about just that…but…after this discussion on Twitter about setting a standard for what you’re making, I figure we can dive into this topic really quickly first to get everybody started off charging more and making more before we hit 2020.
First off though, let’s talk about where you are.
Adjusting for Your Situation
I’ll be talking in American dollars and an overall average across skill sets and niches, but this post really applies to everybody.
You can crunch the conversion numbers, but the big takeaway is that you should be charging significantly more than what you consider a “normal” salary for what you’re doing.
Did you hear that? Significantly. More.
That’s because you’re not just charging for your labor. You’re a business. Every other business out here includes expenses for materials, admin, accounting, marketing, sales, etc. in their prices, and you should too.
That’s why you’ll hear advice from OG freelancers to “take your old salary and double it”…and then maybe even add more. In America especially though, we have healthcare and self-employment taxes to cover, so if you’re sweating the cost of non-employer insurance, the most important step is passing the cost on to your clients.
Things vary a lot by region (even within the U.S.), but for most of us, $75 is a safe starting point. It’s a number you’ll often see pop up for designers, proofers, and web designers, so while your ideal or final goal rate might be higher, if you need a general benchmark, that magic number is a good place to start.
(Side note: Personally, I think you should be working to average $75/hr for all the work you do in your business but starting with production or what you invoice hourly might be a more comfortable starting point for you.)
Getting to 75
Alright. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about how to get to that $75/hr mark.
If you follow me on Twitter or hang around the BF community, you know I talk about charging more pretty often. The thing about that is raising your rates isn’t just about slapping a higher price tag on your services (though sometimes it is, especially if your niche will tolerate more).
It’s mostly about strategic choices you make over time (I guess we actually are starting with strategy!) that put you in a position where $75 is your norm, your floor, or maybe even your basement…so let’s do this!
Work with Businesses That Get What You Do
The one thing you don’t want to get stuck doing as a freelancer is teaching a client why they should pay what you’re worth.
I do believe there are a handful of exceptions, but if you want to hit $75, exceptions shouldn’t be your whole world (or even most of it).
Keep in mind that these businesses come in a lot of different ages, sizes, and profiles, but ultimately, you’re looking for someone who appreciates what you offer and doesn’t have to be wrestled into understanding that they need you.
So if you offer something like social media support, it’s probably going to be easier to sell into businesses that already either have a decent (but lacking) social media presence, or who already gets the power of social and just needs some support.
Those are the people who’re less likely to try to talk you down on your rate by letting you know that they currently use interns to manage their FB feed.
(Real talk: this pretty much eliminates most publications and media platforms. I’m at the point where I believe they’re perfectly fine as goals, but they’re a weak foundation for a sustainable, life-enhancing freelance career.)
Look for Larger Orgs
This one isn’t universal (I pay $75+ for the work I outsource as a tiny solo business), but it’s generally easier to get higher rates with bigger companies that have more cash flowing in.
These relationships can be very different than working with smaller companies, and whether you want to work with them might be a matter of preference, but don’t be intimidated by organizational size. You’d be surprised at how many holes even huge companies have (especially when it comes to moving into fast-changing spaces like digital media and marketing) and the relationships can often be more similar to employment.
Seek Out Expensive Problems
If you want to make $75/hr (or honestly a lot more), set your sights on companies that take on challenges that require a lot of cash.
That might be hard to identify on the surface, but it’s probably easier than you think.
Check out the price of what they sell (i.e. cars vs. magazine subscriptions) and who they sell to (B2B problems tend to be pretty expensive just by their nature.)
Again, there’s no guarantee here since some companies are just out to get work as cheap as possible, but if you want to boost your rates, consider shifting your perspective a little in the direction of pricey problems. (Think enterprise sales/marketing or software.)
Choose A Niche with Cash
One of the simplest ways to boost your earning is to align yourself with a niche dimension that has some juice behind it.
Already into pets or parenting but not getting paid? Think about adding tech to your niche mix. Keeping things local? Consider focusing on real estate agents, attorneys, or medical professionals who are high earners themselves (instead of restaurants or “small businesses”.)
Sometimes getting more out of what you do as a freelancer doesn’t require a complete revamp. Sometimes a little tweak really is enough.
Leverage Your Experience
Ok, so Black freelancers are REALLY missing out on this one.
If you’re trying to walk away from corporate like I did, or even just get some miles out of a degree you aren’t using, don’t go reinventing the wheel.
I tried that and burned a good 5 years trying to make freelancing work in the combat sports niche. The whole time I was turning my back on my background in healthcare and missing out on a really lucrative opportunity and faster freedom from employment.
Figuring the exact twist on your experience can take some time and is definitely NOT something you should do alone. If you want some input, consider swinging by the BF community boards to talk with me and other community members.
Value is everything in freelancing (and it’s getting that way in employment too).
Leading with value in your marketing emails, website content, pitches, and even networking introductions is a great way to make $75/hr an easy decision for your prospects.
Think about it. If you can earn (or save) them more than what they pay you, then your hourly rate isn’t a big deal to them (even if it feels high to you.)
Refining and understanding the value you offer (and what your niche needs) is a process, so if you don’t know where to start, this post on value should help.
One of the biggest benefits of aiming for $75 though, is that it’s a sign of quality. Sometimes we thinking pricing low will encourage more people to work with us, but low prices can also turn off great clients who now distrust the quality of your work and professionalism because you aren’t charging professional prices.
That’s why this year, I want to see EVERYBODY in the BlackFreelance community making big strides to get to and PASS $75/hr.
Want to raise your rates this year but still have questions? Let’s talk in the comments.