How to Turn Freelancing into a Profitable Business

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Freelancing is a grind because freelancers trade dollars for hours and don't approach their freelancing as a business. The first step to getting out of that grind is to raise your prices.

But that's where the excuses show up. People cite lots of reasons for failing to raise their prices:

  • “No one will pay that in my space, in my geographic location, in my industry…”
  • “Everyone else charges less, so I can’t charge more”
  • “My service or brand isn’t as respected, experienced, impressive, credentialed, famous”
  • “No one has heard of me or my business”
  • “If I charge what I’m worth, people will look at me like I have ten heads”
  • “I know I’m worth more, but others can’t see it”
  • “I won’t get any business if I charge more than I already do”
  • “I can’t afford to lose a client because my prices are too high”
  • “They don’t get why I’m worth what I think I’m worth”

Chances are, if you struggle with pricing and your excuse is on this list, you haven’t made a serious or sustained attempt at increasing your price long enough to see if it is possible. Or you immediately negotiate against yourself once you think the client might be interested. Or you have given it a try but believe they say no because of your new higher price.

I’m going to let you in on the well-known “secret” to raising your prices and charging what you and your service are really worth....

THE GUTS TO TAKE THE DRIVER’S SEAT.

If you think any of the above excuses apply to you, then you are a passenger in your business—along for the ride but frustrated, sitting in traffic when the next exit could take you to a wide-open road. You might be secretly scared to seize the wheel because if you take steps to increase your value and your prices, you know you’re going to encounter that moment of truth when the potential client grimaces and tells you it’s too much. This is when you’re going to see what you’re really made of and find out how much you really believe in yourself.

Take the driver’s seat and accept that these excuses might be true right now, but that you are going to take steps to change the situation.

You think no one’s heard of you or your business and that’s why you can’t charge more? Start marketing so people have heard of you.

Nobody in your geographic location has money? Get creative and take your business online, or figure out how to travel.

You know you’re worth more but others don’t seem to get it? Build your brand into a Badass Brand so they do see it. (And if you don’t know how to do this, take the free Crash Course on branding a business that stands out.)

Other people are taking these exact steps and seeing success, so why aren’t you? There is no reason they are succeeding and you aren’t—except your own unwillingness to step up.

Sounds easy, so why isn’t everyone doing it? Because taking these steps takes serious GUTS. These moves are easy to talk about, but very hard to do because they require action and work.  It’s easier to blame your inability to charge more on the environment or your current financial situation than to think that it’s your unwillingness to try. And when you do try, it takes even more guts to deal with the inevitable results of stepping up to the plate and putting yourself out there. It doesn’t work immediately, and you’ll have to keep trying.

  • It means possibly saying no to the next interested potential client you meet, and thus turning down potential money when you need it badly
  • It means passing on a project when they offer you just below your new high price (more than you used to charge but less than your listed price) to reinforce your value in your mind and in the market, and demonstrate that your value is not up for negotiation
  • It means possibly going into some debt and viewing it as an investment into charging higher prices in the future, instead of lost money
  • It means being mentally prepared for a possible lull in business as you focus all your energy on doing what’s necessary to justify your new price by investing in increasing your perceived, or actual, value
  • It means possibly looking at yourself and your brand in the mirror and asking some hard questions about how your business represents itself and how others perceive it

All this has to do with asking yourself: Do I have the guts to bet on myself?

I started betting on myself years before we started Worstofall Design. When I was 23 I tried my hand at real estate, renting luxury apartments in NYC when I knew nothing about real estate or, really, about sales. Oh yeah, and it was 2008! Clearly I did not know what I did not know because I flung myself into this market at the worst possible time. I worked seven days a week, determined to make it work, with the mantra “stupider people have done it” ringing in my ears.

I thought: If others could make money doing this, why not me?

I didn’t start with any money, so I financed this endeavor by living very cheaply on an introductory interest-free credit card. When I made my first deal six months months later (seriously: I didn’t make ONE PENNY for six months), all the money I made went to chipping away at the debt. But that was all I needed to know: I did it! It was possible! And now that I knew I could do it, it was just a matter of holding on until it worked even more.

I left real estate two years later debt free and with a small savings without ever paying a dollar in interest fees. But the lessons I gained through the grit needed to sell NYC real estate during a recession—with no experience—have served me for a lifetime.

Fast-forward to owning my own business.

The first time I took a big bet on us was when I said no to a client who was ready to pay us $13,000 for a project that I had pitched at $16,000. We desperately needed the work, and I wanted to cry when I got off the phone. It was a lucky situation because the client called back a few days later and agreed to the full amount, which probably made it easier for me to say no to hagglers in the future. Since then I have also said no to hagglers many times where the client didn’t come back, but I don’t even remember those instances anymore because they register as “not a good fit,” not as lost income.

Betting on yourself, and being willing to push through the results even when they are scary, is a muscle that you build over time. And if you haven’t used this muscle yet, it’s time to begin. You have to start somewhere. You will not get there unless you turn your excuses into fuel to take the steps to make your business worth more and communicate that it’s worth more. You can use my mantra from my real estate days: Stupider people have done it, so why not you?

Guts are another thing we want to all believe we have, just like we want to believe our service is valuable. But having guts means doing things most people don’t do to get results that may seem impossible today. I assure you that whatever you are insisting is “impossible” is just something you haven’t approached with the guts it takes to try it out—or to stick with it long enough for it to work.

You can fail at something only when you give up. As long as you keep trying, you are always on the winding path toward success. So no matter what is holding you back from charging more, it’s time to get into the driver’s seat and start planning what you’re going to do to change that reality.

Here’s an unfortunate truth:  You’re not worth more than you’re getting paid right now. But you can change that by identifying why you aren’t charging more, and taking steps to do something about it.

The question is, do you have the guts to do it?