What's on the iPod: Holy by Frightened Rabbit
Another FREE call: Join me at noon ET this Thursday for a free, 30-minute call. This week's topic: sticky client situations. Register here for access
Today I'm starting another project, having finished drafts of all the others. I'll be marketing, too, per usual. You know me -- market every day or else. Or else what? Or else you'll sit with no work and no money coming in. That in itself is motivation to keep at it.
What I like about this month is that without a ton of effort, I've already invoiced beyond my monthly earnings goal. I wasn't rushed, didn't feel overwhelmed, and the work was all interesting. Isn't that what we all strive for in our work days? Those months are uncommon when you're first starting out, but if you keep an eye on your own actions, you can get there sooner than you think. It took me a while, but I learned the hard way. You? You have the benefit of learning from those of us who have already had those trials by fire and lessons learned.
Some ways that may help you get to your sweet spot:
Charge more. Part of last week's post, and a theme you'll see often here. Stop hanging out with the low-paying clients who have you captive. As The Eagles sang in "Already Gone" -- "So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains / and we never even know we have the key." You can leave these low-payers behind. You won't starve, and they're not your only source of work, believe me. Raise your rates. The good ones will follow you. The others will overwork and under-pay someone else.
Diversify. There's a reason why the old saying "Don't put all your eggs in one basket" is so popular. It's great advice. If you want to keep earning and keep that income level up, make sure you're not relying on one or two clients. For me, the best number seems to be four clients who come back for work, or who have ongoing projects. Make sure you have enough of a client base to rely on should one or more clients lose budgets, change direction, change management, etc. After having two clients disappear in two weeks, I learned to keep more clients in my sights.
Act like a professional. Besides the obvious -- making deadlines, being tactful, doing the work well -- being a professional means a lot more. Professionals wouldn't be talked in to a 3/4 drop in their rates, nor would they present themselves as amateurs (bad or no website, cutesy brochures or business cards, outdated styles or approaches). In a world of stiff competition, you can't afford not to step up your game.
Go for the lucrative. There's one magazine I enjoy working with, but I don't do so very often. The rates are why -- they pay just over 50 cents a word. Another I stopped working for when their rates went the same way. They're great for when you need a quick job, but as a staple, they can be career stoppers. Instead, aim for the publications that pay more -- 75 cents or $1 a word isn't uncommon, despite what you may read on the Internet. Same thing goes for clients. If you have one that is paying you decently (but not quite enough), look for clients in that same concentration that pay more.
Limit time spent on low-paying projects. You don't have to say goodbye to the first client who isn't paying quite enough-- you can simply limit how much time you put toward that client's projects. For example, if client A wanted you to do about 4 articles a month and client B will pay you the same amount of money for one article a month, why exactly are you killing yourself for client A?
Insert a reality check. I remember one of my "ah ha" moments happened when I received two checks in the mail. As I was signing them, I looked at each one. One was somewhere around one-third the amount of the other one, and the first one was twice as much work. Light bulb moment -- the workload has to be a factor in the decision-making process. Whenever you're facing a negotiation or considering a client project, remember to look at it from more than the monetary perspective. If it's paying you $1,000 but requiring a month of your time, is it really worth it?
What ways have you found that help you earn more while lightening the load?