One of my favorite business books of all time comes from Chris Guillebeau and it’s titled The $100 Startup*.
The book is packed full of great advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. Here’s one that really resonated with me and can help you make way more money with not much more effort.
It’s the principle of “tweaking.”
“Tweaking your way to the bank.”
Let me start by quoting Chris:
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“The not-so-secret to improving income in an existing business is through tweaks: small changes that create a big impact.” -Chris Guillebeau, The $100 Startup, pg. 187
He goes on to explain that, when running a business, a tiny adjustment in price or practice can amount to a ton of extra money (or in our case, clients, projects, etc) in the long run.
An extra $11,000+ each year
Assume for just a minute, for example, that you currently charge $20/hour for design work. (I don’t necessarily recommend that rate, by the way. For some of you, that’s really high. For some, it’s really low. And for others, you would rather die than charge by the hour.)
Now, let’s assume you work 20 hours each week at $20/hour.
20 hours * $20 * 52 weeks in a year = $20,800 each year.
Not bad for working part time.
TWEAK 1: Now, let’s make a small tweak; one that your clients probably won’t even batt an eye at. Let’s raise your rate by one dollar.
20 hours * $21 *52 weeks in a year = $21,840 each year.
That’s an extra $1,000+ this year just from this one small tweak! You just gave yourself an almost 5% raise – great by anyone’s standards.
TWEAK 2: Let’s stay at your extra dollar per hour rate and have you work just 1 more hour every week this year.
21 hours * $21 *52 weeks in a year = $22,932
Another extra $1,000+ in the bank!
TWEAK 3: Ok, now it’s time to get serious. What if you charged your client $25 per hour and worked 25 hours in a week?
25 hours * $25 * 52 weeks = $32,500 in a year…working slightly more than part time!
That’s an extra 11,000+ in one year just by making some small mathematical tweaks!
Seems like it’s worth experimenting to me.
My secret to making money as a freelance designer
Now you can start to see why my secret to making steady money as a freelance designer is diversification.
That’s my “tweak.”
I “tweak” my business by trying out a new forms of passive income which ultimately generate more income without the “per hour” factor we talked about above.
So what are some other “tweaks” that can help you grow your design business fast? Here’s ten of them off the top of my head.
1. Tweak your online portfolio. Some projects are going to be better at converting site vistors to clients. Showcase those projects and leave the other ones alone. Use site tracking software to see which projects convert your site visitors into clients and then tweak until you have the perfect mix.
2. Tweak your business card. Here’s a fun idea: try designing 2 different business cards. Put your office (or mobile) number on one of them and put your Google Voice number on the other. Keep track of which cards convert better and then tweak your business by switching to the more successful card.
3. Tweak your contact page. If you’re having a hard time getting potential clients to fill out your form online, maybe it’s time to make some tweaks. Try reducing the number of fields (or increasing them to offer more detail), growing the font size, and testing different usability options. When the form starts converting well, stop tweaking (only for a while).
4. Tweak your rates. We talked about this one above. Play around with your rates (whether you charge by project or by the hour) until you hit the optimum salary for your work.
5. Tweak your elevator pitch. Not seeing potential clients’ eyes light up when you tell them what you do and how you can help them? Maybe you need to tweak your elevator pitch. For tips on a better one, read this and then read this.
6. Tweak your business name. If clients scratch their proverbial head each time you tell them how to spell your business name, maybe you need a little tweak. Remember the movie That Thing You Do with the one hit wonder band The Oneders? In the end, dropping the strange spelling (albeit arguably more clever) was the best choice. Don’t sacrifice business for cleverness when naming your business. (Read April’s post on naming her design business for more on that.)
What other tweaks can you add to the list? I’d love to hear how you’ve tweaked your way to the bank (0r plan to).
PS: This post was originally published in 2012. I’ve updated it with some helpful new information here. Thanks for reading.
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