How to give yourself a promotion as a freelancer

Being a freelancer can be exhilarating. You choose your hours, you call the shots and you work for yourself…. or do you?

Take a step back for one moment and think about it.

Do you really work for yourself?

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You may not have to punch a clock for anyone but yourself, you may not have to ask someone else for time off, an extended vacation, or even a pay raise (after all, you could raise your rates tomorrow if you wanted to).

But in actuality, if you’re doing freelance creative work for other people then you work for your clients, not for yourself.

Especially when you’re first starting out, your clients determine how much work you have and what kind of work. They determine deadlines, budgets, and other important details. And if you don’t meet those deadlines or budget restrictions, well….you get fired.

And most painfully, what if you decide you want to upgrade your work-life? What if you get bored with being the “can you nudge that box up 5 pixels and make it orange?” guy? What if you are ready for a promotion?

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Here are a few ways freelancers can get a job promotion even when you work for yourself:

3 kinds of promotions for freelancers

Today, I’ve thought of five simple ways you can get a “promotion” at work when you’re a stand-alone freelancer. I’d love it if you could add your ideas to the list in the comments.

1. Promote yourself to a management position:

Admittedly, some people really hate the thought of managing a team. They’d rather stay as small as possible, be a one-person show and avoid the added pressure and stress that comes with managing other people. If that sounds like you, skip to the next point.

If being a leader is something you feel like you need in order to take your freelancing to the next level, then perhaps a promotion is in order.

Maybe it’s time to promote yourself out of that “invoicing” job you’ve been doing for years. Hire someone to help you with your invoicing, money collection, etc.

Maybe you would like to bring on more clients and increase your income while still remaining small. Promote yourself from “freelance designer” to “freelance creative director.” You call the shots when it comes to the final work presented to a client, but you’re not the one nudging that orange box up 5 pixels.

Hiring other freelancers to do some of the work that beings drudgery to your freelance lifestyle can breathe new life into your work, your attitude, and your outlook on your business.

If you’re stuck in a rut, maybe “promoting” yourself to a management position is just what you need.

2. Promote yourself to work on your “top accounts.”

In an agency setting, the most talented (and often most senior) creatives usually get to work on the most important accounts.

But as a freelancer, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been working for yourself or how talented you are, chances are you are forced to work on all your accounts: from the cream of the crop to the “why is there so much empty space on my page?” crowd.

If you’re feeling drained by clients who are simply not worth the struggle, maybe a promotion is in order.

Promote yourself to work almost exclusively on your top accounts. For this to work you need to either:

1. Fire 80% of your design clients. -OR-

2. Outsource your most difficult clients to other freelancers.

Both options will leave you with more time to do the most fulfilling kind of design work you can: working with your top accounts.

3. Increase your paycheck and reduce your weekly work-hours.

The last way you can give yourself a promotion is by doing work that reduces your weekly hours “on the job” while increasing your weekly paycheck.

The secret to achieving this almost-impossible balance? Passive income.

Find design jobs that allow you to make money multiple times on the same project. Whether you design worpress themes and sell them over and over again on sites like MojoThemes, sell stock photography or stock design, design and sell products like apparel, or any other of the thousands of options, passive income can be one of the most gratifying parts of running a business.

Imagine making money while you’re sleeping. It literally happens when you use passive income in your favor.

Less work and more money? Talk about a promotion.

Do you deserve a promotion this year?

So the real question is: do you deserve a promotion in your freelance design business this year? If so, how are you going to do it? Which of the methods above makes most sense for you and which did I leave out? Share in the comments.

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  1. #3 is my favorite of the bunch as well. I have always been somewhat scared to do anything to change up my business and systems I already have in place. This year I finally increased my prices by as much as 40-60% on some items and I am so glad I did. Already able to spend time on a lower amount of projects at once but still make more than before!

  2. After all those years I finally understand how important to just hire someone or outsource some of your services that you simply hate doing or find it hard or just don’t have time to everything yourself.. Hiring an accountant and a copywriter was the best promotion I got so far 🙂 We need some space, some free time just to relax and not rush things. Thanks for writing about this..

    Ezgi xx

  3. LOVE #3 … and with some time looking at where $$ comes, where time is spent, and what you can do to raise income, drop hours (especial crap work) is always well worth it.

  4. Great post. I never thought of these ideas as a “promotion” but instead different strategies to running your freelance business. This sounds much more satisfying =)

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