As 2013 quickly winds down, does it leave you looking over your freelance earnings for 2013 and wondering how to do better in 2014? Alternately, are you still relying on your “real job” to pay your bills because your freelance work brings in only a small fraction of your money? If you’re a full-time freelancer or a stealth freelancer with a “real job” on the side, read on about how you can double or even triple your freelance income in the coming year.

And yeah, a lot of the advice involves working smarter, not harder.

1. Pick your ideal client

You know that saying about casting your net too wide? Yeah, it ends up bringing in tin cans. Instead of trying to drum up just about any kind of business and working for peanuts as a result, select who you want to work with and why. Then, start marketing exclusively to that clientele. What you’ll end up getting is a few yet highly qualified warm leads that will very likely do business with you and then refer your services to other warm leads.

Decide just who is your ideal client and how to win him over. For example, I like corporate marketing clients because their pay is great and there is a seemingly endless workload. To attract this type of client, I study marketing trends and guest post about them fairly often. I also follow several marketing groups on LinkedIn and make insightful comments on their discussions. If you decide that bloggers are your ideal customers, you could start your own blog and link it to a Google+ account. If graphic artists are your cup of tea, follow a few graphic design groups and get on Pinterest. You get the idea.

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2. Step up your online presence

Create a professional website and SEO the %$#@ out of it. Also, make it a website that users want to visit and return to. That might involve posting great content, hosting giveaways, offering free graphics, etc. You can even use your website to make money.

Next, choose one or two social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ or Twitter and establish your business name there. You don’t have be active on every major social media outlet; in fact, doing so is just not possible. But wherever you do plant your online roots, make sure that those places are updated often.

Actively build your audience. You can do this by offering a valuable freebie to your email subscribers such as an e-book or infographic. You might also consider writing guest blog posts or submitting your business news to PRNews or HARO.

Finally, join online forums and groups. When joining such groups, resist the temptation to openly advertise yourself or your services (ahem- it’s called spam). Comment on other people’s posts, answer questions, and just be downright helpful. Folks will eventually figure out what you do for a living.

3. Stay away from freelance junkyards

Craigslist, oDesk, eLance, etc., where freelancers outbid each other in, as Carol Tice puts it, a “race to the bottom” will not have you earning more money in 2014. In fact, you’ll just find yourself working more and more for less and less. Where can you find legitimate job leads and clients that pay real world wages? Try perusing the following freelance job boards, which list lots of legitimate and high paying freelance work.

If you wish to find long-term or even higher paying freelance work, I highly recommend using LinkedIn to find freelance clients.

4. Upsell and cross-sell

Find out as much information as possible about your potential client’s business and goals. After you start working with him and have proven your preliminary worth, propose that your workload (and pay) be increased to hasten along one or more of these goals. Conversely, offer a package deal to your client that includes additional services such as graphic design or programming. The more places you can go with your client, the more you will earn.

You can upsell and cross-sell your services even during the initial meetings with your potential client, provided you take the time to understand her business from top to bottom and make sage recommendations on how it can do better. On that note, never submit a proposal after communicating with a potential client just once or twice; how can you predict what your services will cost or what the final specs of the project will be based on just a few short emails or phone calls? Schedule several meetings or email exchanges before you price your services. If all else fails, start with a 30-day contract and see how things go.

5. Outsource what you hate to or can’t do

There are a lot of tasks that can really waste your time and thus money, especially if you’re not an expert at doing them. In lieu of you wasting an entire week figuring out how to create pages on your website or generate an infographic or format an e-book, hire a virtual assistant to complete this task.

You can also enlist the help of virtual assistants when upselling or cross-selling your services. For example, if you are a programmer at heart and hate content creation, consider bundling that service within your programming package and hiring a virtual assistant to be the actual writer.

Alternately, consider adding basic website setup or logo design as part of your writing service package by outsourcing those additional tasks. Providing comprehensive service packages makes your customers happier over the long run because they feel taken care of and not left out on their own. Providing comprehensive services also makes you less of an assembly line worker and more of a project manager- and it’s managers that make the big bucks.

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Join the Discussion

  • Louis

    Thank You for pointing out the freelance junkyards. Those sites are a race to the bottom. I was beginning to think I was the only one who thought that.

  • Chris

    Excellent advice. I am setting up my plan for next year, and will be using this post to set up what I do. Thanks for posting.

  • Katie McLaughlin
    Katie McLaughlin

    I’m currently working my tail off on #2. Of course I want to see results immediately, but keep reminding myself that building a strong presence takes time…

  • Lori Mauger
    Lori Mauger

    Succinct advice that’s easily applied. Thanks!

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