The real steps I took to double my freelance income

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Who here doesn’t want to double their income?

I’m not talking about doubling the time you spend working. I think none of us want to do that.

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But who can honestly say no to more money? Let alone, double the money?

I’ve yet to meet anyone who’d say no to it, especially a freelancer.

In the last year, I’ve doubled my income twice.

At the end of 2015, I was reaching true rock bottom and only did $2,500 of revenue one month, which was a huge kick in the pants to get myself in gear.

So I set a goal of making $5,000 per month in 2016.

It took me a few months to get there, but once I did, it was like I totally unlocked my potential, and reached $10,000 per month shortly after that.

I’ll be honest: it wasn’t easy, it didn’t come without lots of work, and I had to continually drive this one Albert Einstein quote into my head:

“You can’t solve a problem on the same level it was created. You have to rise above it to the next level.”

Sidenote: Once you finish, read how 4 freelancers built recurring revenue models that changed their business. You'll love it.

In this post, I’ll walk you through the exact steps I used to double my income the first time and the second time, as well as one “impractical” step that totally changed my outlook on making money.

Full disclosure: I still find doubling my income daunting and scary.

I have a $20,000 per month goal for 2017, and while I know it’s possible, the “work” involved feels totally frightening.

The practical steps

These are the things I did that are easy to physically add to your to-do list and put into action.

They’re the kinds of things you can check off a list and immediately see whether you’ve taken care of them or not.

They set the foundation. Both for you and your clients to have more money flow into your business.

1. Package your services

I’ll admit: this was a bit of a fluke discovery for me.

I saw some of my competition had their services grouped together into cute little packages, so I decided to try it for myself.

I’d identified things that my clients should have been buying from me, but were too afraid to “spend more” on, so I wanted to run an experiment to see if making a package available prompted them to do it.

And you know what?

It did.

I created two different packages, listed them above my a la carte offerings on my Hire Me page, and about 50% of the prospects who got in touch with me mentioned my packages from the get-go.

Based on client history, these packages were more than they would initially spend, but because they came “pre-made” with everything they already knew they needed, they were far more likely to just buy them from me, which raised my income quite a bit.

Moving forward in 2017, I’ll focus exclusively on packages, and have my a la carte options “hidden” but still available.

2. Book retainer agreements

Like I talked about in my first post here on Millo, retainer agreements are an awesome way to make sure you don’t start each month’s income out at $0.00.

Plus, if you can book retainer agreements based more on monitoring and upkeep than hard-core creative production, you can potentially see a major increase in your hourly rate, as long as the value-based ROI is there for your clients.

As a copywriter, I booked retainers writing outreach emails, producing ebooks, blogging, and monitoring ad copies and budget ROIs for PPC ads.

Some were more time-intensive than others, but they all allowed me to comfortably increase my income, without starting over every single month.

3. Raise your prices

This is such an underestimated approach, and I think it’s because all of the commercials we see advertise discounts.

Yes, discounts can be a reason to buy commodity items, but your services and your expertise are hardly a commodity.

Plus, if you’ve had clients who’ve been with you for a year or more, trust you implicitly, and are proud of the work you produce, they’re probably secretly wondering why you haven’t raised your prices yet.

Even if you only raise your prices a little bit under the guise of covering inflation, you’ll still be earning more for the exact same amount of work you’re already doing.

But I’d encourage you to not do that.

On one client, I raised my prices by $200 per blog post, and he didn’t even bat an eye. On others, I raised $100 to $150 per post, with zero problems.

I thought one or two clients might drop me because of the price increase, but none of them did.

And even if one or two did drop me, I’d have been covered by the other price increases and I’d have more time on my hands to market to higher-paying clients.

By making myself brave enough to do this, I earned at least $1,000 more per month (depending on the month) and I didn’t have to do any extra work to earn it.

4. Dropping dud clients

Clients that suck your energy and emotions are never worth it.

It’s understandable that we’ll sometimes take on less-than-ideal clients in times of need, but to greatly increase your income (read: to double it), you need to get rid of them.

By just reading those two sentences, you probably already know exactly who your dud clients are, if you have any.

And while it can be scary, it almost always pays off immediately.

For example, I had one client who was okay to work with, and while he had me on retainer, his rates were sub-par in comparison to the rest of my clients.

Since I did a lot of important work for him, I emailed him with a one-month notice, politely explaining why it was no longer the best fit, which was mainly for monetary reasons.

Knowing this, he asked me terms on which I’d consider staying on board, and I was able to both increase my rates by 50% and decrease the amount of time I spent working for him.

Suddenly, because I was getting the monetary reward without so many time constraints, he was now an ideal client.

If you genuinely don’t have any dud clients, that’s fantastic.

But if you’re booked solid already and can’t afford more time for more client work, start tracking your time for one month.

At the end of the month, divide how much you made from each client by how many hours you spent working for them.

The clients with the lowest hourly rates are the ones you either need to raise your rates on or drop to make room for better clients.

Hint: Sometimes, instead of just telling someone you’re dropping them, you can tell them that your rates are going up. This gives them the opportunity to keep working with you if they want, or to shop elsewhere if your rates will be too high. You also won’t burn any bridges.

5. Change your title

Sometimes, getting paid more is less about actual delivered value than it is about perceived value.

I know, I know, we’re not supposed to judge books by their covers.

But we do.

And our clients do it too.

When I stopped referring to myself as just a copywriter and tacked “marketing consultant” on the end of the title I’d given myself, I suddenly brought a lot more value to my clients and people more willingly trusted me with their money.

I talk about it a little more in depth here, but the basis is this: we trust authority.

Even if some authority figures have lost our respect, we still inherently want to trust them because we all crave good structure and leadership, and appreciate others who can provide those things for us.

So when you give yourself a more authoritative title, as long as you’re not a total and obvious fluke, people will trust you more.

(And when they trust you more, they believe that you’re worth more. Which means they’ll pay you more, too.)

The impractical step

Alright, now it’s time for that woo-woo step I promised at the beginning.

Let me just say that a year ago, I would have thought this advice was completely bogus.

“Of course I want to earn more money! You’re an idiot to think I’m scared of having more cash in my hands!”

But I figured it wouldn’t hurt me, and once I gave this stuff a try, I was floored at how well it worked.

If you don’t like this advice, you don’t have to take it, but I’d encourage you to at least try. After all, what have you got to lose?

6. Address your money fears

So I’m going to go ahead and say it: we all have fears around money.

How many of us grew up thinking that really rich people were corrupt or evil in some way?

Or that for them to be rich, it meant they were stealing from the poor?

While that might be true in some cases, I prefer Will Smith’s stance on the topic, and think it’s much truer:

“Money and success don’t change people; they merely amplify what is already there.”

So if you’re a bad person, you’ll be a rich bad person.

But if you’re a good person, you’ll be a rich good person.

To address my own fears around money, I first had to name the beliefs I had around “rich” people (like they’re all mean crooks) and tell myself out loud that those beliefs aren’t true for me, because I’m not a mean crook.

I also had to write down beliefs about money like “money doesn’t grow on trees” and “the best work is hard work.”

Even though those are good values to instill, if internalized too much, they can tell you that there’s not enough money for you to have what you want, and if you want more money, you have to work harder for it.

Once you name them and clear them, you’ll feel a lot lighter and more charged to push forward with your income-doubling efforts.

Like I said, this step may not be for everyone, but if it sounds slightly interesting, I’d encourage you to try it.

Once I felt in my bones that money didn’t have to be a battle to obtain, I doubled my income rather quickly. But before

I did that, I really felt the only way to earn more was to work more. (Which is not the case.)

Conclusion

I’m not going to lie: my monthly income is hardly a straight line going up and to the right.

Sometimes, it goes down. Sometimes it goes up, but only by a little bit.

Just because I make $10,000 one month doesn’t mean I’m going to make $11,000 or $12,000 the next. It might be more along the lines of $8,000 instead.

But I think it’s really important to not beat ourselves up when our incomes regress a little bit, and to recognize that progress is almost never 100% linear.

The most important thing is to keep applying the lessons you learned, so that over time, there’s an obvious upward pattern, even if you have to take a step back one month so you can take two steps forward the next.

But at the end, when you’re trying to double your income, remember that every little bit does add up, and when you compound your efforts, it actually can add up really quickly.

Sure, you could just double your prices, but I think a more sustainable approach is to select a mix of the strategies I talked about above and start applying them to your business.

What about you… what are somethings you’ve done to dramatically increase your income? And have you ever managed to double it?

How? Tell me in the comments!

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About Chelsea Baldwin

Chelsea Baldwin runs Copy Power, where she teaches how to reverse-engineer copywriting based on psychology to get your readers hooked on you forever. She wrote a free ebook that’ll help you keep your traffic from bouncing and get more leads and conversions on your site.

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Comments

  1. Thanks for this — I’m a big fan of charging more . The part or your article that got me to get a piece of paper and write down my thoughts was the purging of negative crap I have about money:
    Rich people have bad marriages
    Rich people are cold
    Rich people are rude…etc
    I wrote it all down, now going to go burn that piece of paper…
    -thank you!

    • That’s awesome Kimberly!

      Once I discovered doing exercises like this, it’s almost like I have to constantly babysit my mindset to make sure I’m not sabotaging myself.

      It’s crazy how quickly your mind can fall back into old, bad habits, but I’m so glad I have a tangible way to deal with it now.

      Go you!

  2. This is exactly what I needed to hear. I really can relate to the tip about dropping the dud clients. I also have raised my rates recently and it weeds out the bargain-hunters. Thanks for the advice, Chelsea.

    • Yes, I love raising rates as a way to weed out bargain-hunters from wasting your time.

      Another thing I like to do in a qualifying email after someone gets in touch with me is ask if they’ve got a budget for the project, and if it’s at least $####. It’s usually a minimum, but after that question, I never hear back from the cheap-o’s!

  3. Noëlle Steegs says:

    Hi Chelsea, thank you so much for sharing these valuable insights. I’m on a mission to multiply my income this year, so this post was perfect for me. I have one question, did you offer discounts on your packages? Or did you simply bundle services together so it was easier for the client, but not offer a discount?

    • Honestly, when I started offering packages, I would discount them a little bit.

      BUT I’ve realized that that approach doesn’t really serve my overall profitability, so now instead of discounting I’ll charge the same price but add a “bonus” that’s easy for me to produce so I’m not compromising my income.

      That, or I tweak the deliverables or process in some way that means it takes less time for me to do the work, but still provide value for the client. I’m upfront about the differences, but for people who don’t need as in-depth of a service that I can provide, it’s still perfect.

      Hope that answers your question!

  4. Super helpful outline. Glad to hear that doing this was so successful.

    For me, I’ve been offering the same rate for over 5 years (gulp). It’s terribly low for the quality of work and experience I deliver. Can you help share some of the structure and language you found successful while upping your rates? Did you give notice at a certain time of year or month? Are you short or long-winded about it? Blanket email or calls to each client?

    Thanks so much!

    • Hey Carly!

      Honestly, I’d just do it. A short, polite, non-blanket email to each client. You can start with just one and build up your momentum from there.

      You can state whatever reasons you want: inflation, value provided, your demand is going up so your prices are needing to follow suit. (I used the last one.)

      If it’s short and sweet, you’ll usually get a short and sweet response back. I gave my clients a one-month notice, because that felt good for our working agreements.

      Cheers!

  5. Awesome tips! I’m particularly interested in the first one about packaging services because it’s something I’ve been considering. I do animation, and the thing I find difficult is that animation work is so varried that I don’t know where to start packaging my services since I quote based on complexity of the project and how long I think it will take to finish. Any tips on how to package something like that? Thanks!