How To Go Freelance

Freelance Job Advice and Work Tips for Freelance Writers, Designers and Consultants

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Freelance Statistics 2014: The Freelance Economy in Numbers

freelance statistics Freelance statistics are a great way to show you how you’re not alone in wanting to go freelance, how others are finding the freelance environment and how freelancers contribute to the overall economy. Following yesterday’s post and discussion on the 5 new types of freelancers, I’ve pulled together more freelance stats from the US, UK and further afield for you to get an idea of how freelancers are faring across the world. Arm yourself with these stats if anyone asks you “Why would you want to go freelance?” and show them that you’re not alone!

US Freelance Statistics

The Freelancers Union “53 million” report contains data results of the most comprehensive survey of the U.S. independent workforce in nearly a decade. Here are a few of the main stats from the report:

  • There are 53 million people doing freelance work in the US – 34% of the national workforce
  • People who freelance contribute an estimated $715 billion in freelance earnings to our economy
  • Twice as many freelancers have seen an increase in demand in the past year as have seen a decrease – 32% experienced an increase versus 15% who have seen a decrease
  • 80% of non-freelancers say they would be willing to do work outside their primary job to make more money
  • Earning extra money (but not financial necessity) and schedule flexibility are the top drivers of freelancing
  • Finding work and, correspondingly, income stability are the top barriers to doing more freelancing work
  • 69% of freelancers said technology has made it easier to find freelance work
  • 77% of freelancers say the best days are yet ahead for freelancing
  • 65% said freelancing as a career path is more respected today than it was three years ago
  • 36% of moonlighters who have a primary job have thought about quitting to work completely independently

UK Freelance Statistics

In the UK, the Professional Contractors Group estimates that:

  • There are 1.4 million British freelancers working across all sectors
  • This has grown 14% in the past decade
  • The flexibility offered by Britain’s freelancers is worth £21 billion to the UK economy in added value
  • 78% of the UK public think that freelancing and flexible working help promote a good work/life balance
  • 72% think freelancing has a positive effect on family life

According to a report by freelance job site, Elance:

  • In 2013, the number of businesses hiring freelancers online increased 46%
  • Payments to freelancers increased 37% year on year
  • The average hourly rate for UK freelancers increased 6.7% in 2013
  • IT & Programming (at 41% of all hires); Design & Multimedia (24%) and Writing & Translation (18%) make up the majority of freelance jobs online

A February 2014 report on Gen Y and Freelancing looked at “the transformation of UK graduate career aspirations and what this means for businesses”. Here are the key stats from the report:

  • Freelancing is now seen as a highly attractive and lucrative career option by 87% of students with first or second class degrees
  • his compares to 77% of those with lower class degrees.
  • 21% of graduates with first class honours say they have already chosen to work as a freelancer, suggesting that the freelance economy’ is beginning to take hold among those graduates with the strongest degree results
  • 29% of all graduates say freelancing is part of their career strategy for the next five years, a fact that suggests the freelance economy will continue to gather pace in the UK
  • The flexibility offered by freelancing is cited as the biggest career draw, with over two thirds (69%) of all graduates saying they feel independent work offers them a better work-life balance.
  • The opportunity to work on a variety of different projects and across sectors is also appealing, with over a third (38%) saying this is a significant pull
  • Respondents are also attracted to the earning potential of freelance work with 38% saying they feel they can earn as much, if not more than they could in a traditional job
  • Elance data shows that the average hourly rate for UK freelancers increased 6.7% in 2013

The Labour Force Survey, conducted by the Office of National Statistics, showed a breakdown of the self-employed by sector:

  • Senior Managers – 15% self-employed
  • IT Professionals – 13% self-employed
  • Engineering Professionals – 12 %
  • ‘Associate Professionals’ in Design and Media – 40%
  • ‘Skilled tradespeople’ in construction – 56%

European Freelance Statistics

According to a report called “Future Working: The Rise of Europe’s Independent Professionals“, the European freelance economy looks like the following:

  • Freelance numbers have increased by  45% from just under 6.2 million to 8.9 million in 2013, making them the fastest growing group in the EU labour market

According to the Professional Contractors Group:

  • Spain and Slovakia have both have 13% rates of self-employment
  • Italy has a 21% rates of self-employment

I’ll keep adding to these as I come across more research, but if you find any freelance statistics that would be worth adding here then leave a comment and a link below.  


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The definition of freelancer is changing: meet the 5 new types of freelancers

definition of freelancer

There are many different variations on how freelancers are working and defining their work today.

According to the Collins English Dictionary, “a freelancer is a self-employed person, especially a writer or artist, who is not employed continuously but hired to do specific assignments.”

Seems fairly straightforward to me.

But a new report argues that is there are now 5 different types of freelancer and that there are more than 53 million Americans are doing freelance work – a sixth of the U.S. population.

The 5 Types of Freelancer

Starting with the general U.S. workforce, each survey respondent went through a series of questions that qualified their employment status and income in order to definitions of freelancing that might otherwise go unrecorded.

Here is how the report breaks down the new types of freelancers.

1. Independent Contractors

Independent Contractors

(40% of the independent workforce / 21.1 million professionals)

These “traditional” freelancers don’t have an employer and instead do freelance, temporary, or supplemental work on a project- to-project basis.

2. Moonlighters


(27% of the independent workforce/ 14.3 million professionals)

Professionals with a primary, traditional job who also moonlight doing freelance work. For example, a corporate- employed web developer who also does projects for non-profits in the evening.

3. Diversified workers

Diversified Workers

(18% of the independent workforce/ 9.3 million professionals)

People with multiple sources of income from a mix of traditional employers and freelance work. For example, someone who works the front desk at a dentist’s office 20 hours a week and fills out the rest of his income driving for Uber and doing freelance writing.

4. Temporary Workers

Temporary Workers

(10% of the independent workforce/ 5.5 million professionals)

Individuals with a single employer, client, job, or contract project where their employment status is temporary. For example, a business strategy consultant working for one startup client on a contract basis for a months-long project.

5. Freelance Business Owners

Freelance Business Owners

(5% of the independent workforce / 2.8 million professionals)

Business owners with between one and five employees who consider themselves both a freelancer and a business owner. For example, a social marketing guru who hires a team of other social marketers to build a small agency, but still identifies as a freelancer.

Is this the right definition of a freelancer?

The report argues that “the old way of working isn’t working”, that more than 53 million workers in the U.S. are “showing a new way”. But are these numbers accurate?

As you can see from the 5 types of freelancer above, the survey groups together moonlighters and temporary workers, 19.8 million that would have previously fallen outside of the definition of a freelancer.

The diversified workers group is also a new addition to the definition of freelancing. With 9.8 million in this group, these people might previously have been categorised as part-time workers – working multiple jobs to make up a full time equivalent (and that’s before we get into issues such as zero-hour contracts).

If you take the above groups away, you come to perhaps a more traditional number of Freelance Business Owners and Independent Contractors, which is 23.9m or 8% of the US workforce – 45% of the number the survey is suggesting are “freelance”.

I’ll leave it up to you to decide which is the more accurate definition of a freelancer and just how many people can count themselves as freelance, but the survey results worth a flick through for insight into how freelancers across the US view their freelance work and prospects.

Here’s the full presentation of the survey results from the Freelancing in America report:


You can also view the whole report at


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How I Went Freelance: Katie Moffat, PR and Social

This is the ninth in a series of interviews with freelancers, telling us their stories on how they went freelance. The aim is to help others who are thinking of becoming freelance learn more about what it takes, as well as get advice and inspiration so they can get the confidence and understanding to find out if freelancing is right for them.

If you want to take part in the series, simply head here to tell us your freelance story

Katie Moffat

Name: Katie Moffat

  • Name: Katie Moffat
  • Freelance Area: Social media strategy & training, copywriting, digital marketing
  • Freelance For: 10 years
  • Website:
  • Twitter: @katiemoffat

What made you decide to go freelance?

Having a child and not wanting to go back to work full-time while children were very small.

What steps did you put in place before you went freelance?

Um, nothing really, I’m more of a leap before you look person. Also 10 years ago it wasn’t really obligatory to have a website or whatever, which I’d say it is now.*

How did it feel before you went freelance?

I was slightly worried that I’d miss the office banter and working as part of a team but the nature of PR meant that I was out about fair bit, in addition to always being on the phone. This was pre-twitter remember, seems another world now.

How does it feel now you are freelance?

I’ve worked for myself for so long that I can’t imagine being a salaried employee now.

Very occasionally I see a job that tempts me but the flexibility of working for myself outweighs any negatives.

What are the positives of freelance life?

Flexibility, variety, control.

What are the negatives of freelance life?

Cash flow, sometimes not getting to work really at depth on something, not working with others in an office (but twitter replaces that for me now anyway).

Any advice for others looking to go freelance?

Contacts are really important, build up (through twitter/Linkedin or whatever) a really good network.

In 10 years of working for myself around 95% of my work has been through recommendation and word-of-mouth.

Also, it’s not as financially scary as I think some people believe. I always take the view that you never know what’s going to happen tomorrow anyway, even in salaried employment.

*Yes I know my website is old and unloved looking, a new one is in the works honest.


Thanks for taking part, Katie, and for sharing your tips and advice. Make sure to check out her website at and follow her on Twitter at @katiemoffat

If you want to take part in the series, simply head here to tell us your freelance story.


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Where do you work best? How to find the perfect freelance work space for you

Where you do your freelance work might be one of the most important decisions you make as a freelance consultant.

Get your work space right and you’ll be more productive than you ever thought possible and even open yourself up to new opportunities.

Get it wrong and you’ll find your environment either stifling or distracting, leaving you unproductive and frustrated – not great for when you’re trying to make it as a freelancer.

There are a range of options – from home-based consulting, good old coffee shops or the rise of new co-working spaces and hubs. Finding the best option – or mix of options – is up to you and your work preferences.

Here’s a few options and insights behind each work space to help you find which freelance work space is best for you.

(Thanks to Jenny from She Gets Around for suggesting I write this post!)

freelance work space

Home-based consulting

Working from home is probably the image most non-freelancers have in their heads when you tell them that you’re a freelancer. Long lie-ins, working on your laptop without getting out of your bed, and even not getting dressed until past lunchtime are all stereotypes of freelancers who work at home.

And that image is right. At least it was for me, until I realised that this approach to working at home wasn’t all it seemed.

Working from home is seen as a luxury for many, but it does come with its pitfalls that can stop you getting much done at all – not ideal when your freelance work depends on your productivity levels.

With TVs and other distractions in plain sight, there’s plenty of temptations to keep you from focussing on your work. With the kitchen only a few steps away, it is tempting to make yourself another cup of tea or raid the fridge. And with no one looking over your shoulder to get work done, you need the focus and self-discipline to make sure that you can make home-based consulting work for you.

But there are ways to make your home working environment conducive to productive freelance work.

It can help to have a separate work space or spare room that you can use an office. Entering this work space will put you in the right mindset and create a clear distinction between your work space and your living spaces.

Otherwise, it is easy for you to spill out of your work environment to working on the couch. This often leads to you working more (unproductive) hours, as the line between work and living blurs and you spend hours into the evening still on your laptop.

You also definitely need to get yourself a plant in your workspace. Research published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that “investing in landscaping the office with plants will pay off through an increase in office workers’ quality of life and productivity.”

The research found that having plants in offices made working conditions better, based on both  measures of productivity and subjective measures such as perceived air quality, self-reported concentration, and individual employee satisfaction.

Who knew that a bit of greenery could make you a more effective freelancer?

Cafés and coffee shops

Working from home can get a little lonely and unsociable, so working from a café or coffee shop is a natural choice for freelancers who like to be among other people while working or miss the buzz and activity that comes from working in an office.

What’s more, it’s been proven that low levels of background noise can actually make you more productive.

It’s pretty hard to be creative in a quiet space and a loud workplace is frustrating and distracting. But research published in the paper “Is Noise Always Bad? Exploring the Effects of Ambient Noise on Creative Cognition”, found that the mix of calm and commotion in an environment like a coffee shop is just what you need to get those creative juices flowing.

If you’re working from home, you can even recreate his background noise by using a service like Coffitivity, an app that gives you “enough noise to work.” The app recreates background noise of a coffee shop and streams it through your headphones, which will have you upping your productivity levels no matter where you work.

Working all day at one place and using their wifi is a) expensive if you’re buying a coffee every few hours so you can keep using the wifi, or b) a poor show if you’re not buying more coffee and just leaking the wifi – especially if you’re working from an independent café.

One way of making working at coffee shops more productive is  to plot out a workday route through multiple coffee shops. Not only will the change of scene make you more productive, but you’ll also benefit by the walk in between cafés to clear your mind and get some exercise.

Plus you’ll be in a new café every few hours, so you can justify using their wifi for a while!

If you are going to work from a coffee shop or café, make sure you stick to the right etiquette.  The good people at Worksnug have created this useful guide to coffee shop manners that will set you on the right track.

Co-working spaces

Co-working spaces are large offices that are divided up into smaller spaces and desks that small businesses, startups or freelancers can rent. This makes it affordable for everyone to have an office to go to, without breaking your budget.

If you need more space, you can always hire more desks if your small business expands and you hire more people.

Most co-working spaces also run networking events or invite guest speakers in, meaning there’s plenty of opportunities for networking and meeting new contacts.

You’ll be working alongside other freelancers and small businesses, who will more than likely be working in different industries. Co-working spaces are great places to see how your peers are doing, learn from them and even collaborate if they work in complimentary areas.

For freelancer web developers, graphic designers and digital consultants, I recommend TechHub, which started in London a few years ago but has now spread across Europe and further worldwide.

For others, take a look at the Impact Hub Network, which has over 7,000 members 45 across countries.

The co-working wiki has a list of various spaces across the UK and elsewhere, so take a look to find a co-working space like you.

Your own office or studio space

Don’t like the idea of working in a public space but not finding it productive working from home? Renting studio space – not as big as a fully fledged office, but a private space just for you – is an alternative option.

And if you’re team expands and you start to take on more contractors or staff to help you deliver on project, good for you! You might think about hiring your own office space, as it is easier to work with a team if they’re there in the same space as you and you can build up the rapport needed as a top performing team.

But be wary: any extra profit you will get from clients is likely to go on paying for the office lease. This means that you’ll have to take on more clients to make the same amount as you did before you took the office space. So make sure you do the figures before hiring any office space – studio or otherwise.

Anyway, part of the reason that many people go freelance is to avoid going into office environments, so why would you want to hire your own office anyway?

My freelance work space setup

Want to know what my work setup is?

I’m lucky enough to have a little work desk set in front of my fourth-floor window, overlooking a tree-lined street with a local park on the other side. Here’s the view:

The view from the office

The view from the office

I actually had a bit of trouble with my back after sitting in a bog-standard Ikea folding chair all day. I would find myself slouching a lot and after a while, my back began to hurt – a lot. I ended up being able to spend no more than 10 minutes before it started to be painful, so I started looking for alternative seating arrangements.

But I didn’t want to go all out and buy a big office chair with all the adjustable knobs and ergonomic whistles you could need. It would look a little out-of-place in my home environment.

So instead I got myself a kneeling chair. It has no back, so it forces you to sit up straight, stop slouching and it’s impossible to lean back on – unless you want to fall off the back. Plus the kneeling angle opens up your body at a wider angle and relies more on my stomach muscles, meaning I activate my core more to keep my posture, which means I’m not relying on my back to keep up straight and no longer have any back problems.

Here’s what it looks like:

Kneeling chair

Where the magic happens.

No, I’m not going to take a photo of me sitting in it.  It’s really fun to ask friends who visit to try to sit in the chair, without showing them the correct way. They often sit the wrong way and look ridiculous (but don’t tell them that). A photo of me sitting in the chair would give the game away.

(If you’re in the UK, you can by a kneeling chair from the nice people at Sit Kneel Chairs)

One thing I do need to buy is a laptop stand, as I still find myself bending my neck down as I stare down into the screen. Just a simple stand will raise the laptop to eye level and will be better for my posture.

I don’t normally work in cafes or coffee shops, unless I’m having a meeting. But I do often go to work in my client’s offices, which means I get the benefits of working from home, then mixing this up with some days working in an office with other people.

After a while I do find that I need the quiet productivity of my home, but it’s great to get out and see people once in a while. And the clients often provide the coffee and biscuits ;)

What’s your preferred freelance work space? Where do you freelance from? Home office or on the road in coffee shops? Let me know in the comments!


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How to remove HelloBar on mobile devices on WordPress using CSS

Hello Bar is a popular WordPress plugin that inserts a highly visible notification bar at the top of your website or blog. Combined with a clear call-to-action button or sign up form, it’s a very effective way to direct people to a certain page on your site or get sign ups for your email newsletter.

The Hello Bar is visible on mobile devices as a default, which means it takes up a lot of screen space on smaller mobile phones, such as the iPhone. It would be great if there was a way to remove the bar on smaller devices, but the HelloBar plugin doesn’t make this possible from its settings page.

Here’s how you can remove the Hello Bar when people visit your site from mobiles, but keeps it visible when viewed on desktops, laptops or larger tablets devices.

1. Go to Appearance >> Edit CSS

2. Copy and paste the following code: 

/* Remove hellobar on mobiles ————————————— */

@media only screen and (max-width: 700px) {
#hellobar_pusher { display: none !important; }

3. Click the save button

That’s all there is to it!If that doesn’t work, open up your style.css file (available in Appearance >> Editor) and paste the same code into the bottom of the file, before the final ‘}’.

Now, when you visit your site from a mobile device (or resize your screen to emulate a responsive layout) the HelloBar should disappear.

28 tips from freelance job sites that you can use to be a successful freelancer

What makes a successful freelancer

Each of the main online freelance job sites – Elance, oDesk, PeoplePerHour and – have guides detailing what they think it takes to be a successful freelancer, communicate well with clients and run effective freelance projects.

While undertaking freelance work in these online marketplaces is an art in itself, there’s loads of useful information in these guides that you can apply to your freelance career – no matter where you work, what your industry is and whether you freelance online or not.

With these freelance job sites, there are thousands of freelancers competing for jobs and perhaps a hundred or more bidding on the same job, so how do you make your freelance work stand out from the rest?

Here are their ideas and important steps you can take to improve your freelance work:

oDesk’s 7 Habits of Successful Freelancers

  1. Communicate early, communicate often: Be proactive—don’t make your client come to you.
  2. When in doubt, ask: This will help clear up confusion, save time, and keep the job going smoothly.
  3. Set clear expectations: Provide honest and realistic project updates and quickly alert your client when you encounter a problem.
  4. Respond quickly:  Clients get concerned when they don’t hear from a freelancer
  5. Hit deadlines: Deliver your work on time, every time. If you think you’ll miss a deadline, let your client know so they can plan accordingly.
  6. Be a pleasure to work with: Listen to your client’s concerns and respond with a smile. A positive attitude is key to building your professional reputation.
  7. Under-promise, over-deliver: Never promise more than you can deliver and always give a little extra to every job. That’s the secret to happy clients and a successful career!

Read the full oDesk Freelancer Manual.

Elance’s 6 Tips To Win More Freelance Jobs

  1. Stress Unique Selling Points in Your Profile: Many freelancer profiles open with personal information, mission statements and service menus. However, chances are many clients don’t prioritize these items. What they really want to know is whether you’re qualified to solve their problem or meet their needs. Prove that you’re qualified by highlighting your expertise. Demonstrate that you’ve solved similar problems and achieved similar goals for similar clients in the past.
  2. Create an Ideal Client Profile: Some freelancers make the mistake of trying to be all things to all clients.  Instead of wasting time pitching on almost any job, create an Ideal client profile. This helps you spend time more wisely, targeting only the buyers with whom you most want to work, and who are most likely to hire you. Once you have a clear profile of your ideal clients, you can focus attention on the prospects that are most likely to hire you. This will increase both your profitability and your reputation.
  3. Write Awesome Proposals: Making a great first impression is key. Remember, you’re selling yourself, as well as your capabilities. Ask the client thoughtful, relevant questions. Outline your processes, and include a detailed timeline. Then, establish standard communication channels and frequency, and spec-out your milestones. The prospective client will know that you mean business.
  4. Act Fast: Once you see that a job that fits your skills, prepare your proposal as quickly as possible without sacrificing quality. By responding quickly, your proposal will be one of the first that the client sees.
  5. Manage Your Reputation: Feedback is one of the most important components of your freelance track record. To build a 5-Star reputation, complete your projects on time, treat your clients respectfully, and communicate frequently.
  6. Stay Connected: Clients appreciate fast turnaround, and want to keep projects moving forward by answering your questions and requests for information ASAP.

Find more freelance advice on the Elance blog.’s 10 Tips for Writing an Effective Freelance Bid

  1. Read the project description carefully: After all, if the employer doesn’t feel you understand the project, you’re not likely to win the bidding. Besides, many employers will ask for specific details that you need to be aware of. In fact, employers often include a phrase that must be included in your bid in order to have it considered. The bottom line is, you should always take the time to go through the description thoroughly.
  2. If you have questions, clarify: Winning a project without knowing exactly what you’re getting into isn’t a good situation for you or the service buyer.
  3. Keep your bid clear, concise and to the point: Remember that the employer may have dozens or even hundreds of bids to consider. It’s very likely that every word of every bid isn’t going to be read. Bids with unnecessarily long descriptions may be skipped over completely. Don’t invite the employer to ignore your bid by making it too wordy.
  4. State your terms clearly: Be as precise as possible in stating exactly what you’ll provide, how much it will cost, and how long it will take to deliver. Being vague about your terms implies a lack of confidence. If you’re not confident in yourself, the employer won’t be, either.
  5. Respond promptly: Ensure you keep yourself available for contact.
  6. Quality, not quantity is usually the rule of thumb when submitting samples:  Be sure that your examples are appropriate for the job and represent your best work.
  7. A word of caution: Unless you’re prepared to give your work away, any samples you provide should bear a watermark or other means of identification or at the very least your name and a statement of copyright.
  8. Be competitive with your pricing: Note that this doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be the lowest bidder. Bidding in a world-wide marketplace makes for tough competition, but if your work is truly above average, you may find that employers are willing to pay above average prices. On the other hand, if you’re relatively new to freelancing, you may need to establish a reputation first.
  9. Don’t oversell yourself: A little self-confidence is a good thing, but over-the-top claims probably won’t impress anyone. Being frank and honest about your skills will get you much farther than a lot of hype
  10. Proofread your bid before you submit it: Is it written clearly? Are there misspellings? No matter what kind of project you’re bidding on, a poorly written proposal suggests a lack of interest and poor work habits. Neither of those is going to work in your favour.

Lots more articles on

PeoplePerHour’s 5 Things Every Freelancer Should Know When Starting Out

  1. Going freelance doesn’t mean work gets easier: Being your own boss sounds great, but don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s going to be easy. When you work for a company, you get to focus on delivering the job at hand, but you forget that, in order for you to do that job, someone else had to source the client, invoice them, provide marketing to your customers and employ colleagues to help you out when things got busy. To reap the benefits of working for yourself, you must be ready to endure the hard work that comes with it.
  2. The phone doesn’t immediately start ringing: You know that your work is amazing, your old employer knows this, but now it’s time to convince the whole world of just how amazing you truly are. Creating a portfolio, or setting up a website, doesn’t mean that all the brands you’ve ever wanted to work with will now just come running to your door. It simply doesn’t work like that. These people might not even know you exist or, if they do, realise how much they need your services, so it’s time to become your biggest cheerleader. You can do this by getting out of the door and networking, reaching out to people on LinkedIn, tapping into existing networks and pitching for new jobs. Then, once you have taken the time to build your reputation, the phone is sure to start ringing and will continue to do so as you build up your business.
  3. You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate: As a new freelancer, the majority of your work will come from one-man bands, startups and small businesses. The one thing they will all have in common is their need to keep within a budget, with some even bootstrapping in their hopes of success. This will never change as entrepreneurs are always on the look out for a good deal. However, they are also on the look out for quality. Your job is to convince them why they should pay your asking rate by explaining the value that you will bring to their business.
  4. You win some, you lose some: The truth is you won’t get a response from everybody you contact and you won’t win everything you pitch for, but don’t let that initial bruise to your ego deter you from trying. If it doesn’t work out initially, take some time out to consider why, research new techniques, address your proposal methods and then try again.
  5. An overnight success doesn’t actually happen overnight: If you’ve based your decision to become an online freelancer solely on the fact that you’ve read about the surge of internet success stories, then it’s worth noting that a level of success takes months, if not years, of hard work and dedication. Look at it as a long-term commitment.

More tips and tricks on the PeoplePerHour blog.


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How do you nurture your freelance network? 11 effective ways to grow your freelancer contacts

Nurture Your Freelance Network

Ah, networking.

Otherwise known as “talking to other people about what they do” or “collecting as many business cards / twitter / LinkedIn connections as physically possible”.

Have you ever read an article about networking that wasn’t full of common sense points and cliché?

They mostly describe networking experiences as working something like this:

XKCD Networking

In this article, I’m going to try and outline why you should be networking and some simple, practical ways to build your freelance network – all without giving out a single business card (or photocopying any burritos).

Why is Networking Important?

Networking is mainly about making the most of your personal and industry connections to help bring you a regular supply of new business.

You are a freelancer, you will often need to find new work, so getting new work from people you know is the most straightforward way of finding new work.

But you need to know people who can refer you new work, so the personal networks that you accumulate over time, both socially and professionally, will be an invaluable resource.

Here’s a few reasons why networking as a freelancer is important:

  • New Business: I’ve received a lot of new business referrals from my network.  It is an uncomfortable experience at times or for some, but as a freelancer networking is an important way for you to get new business and client leads.
  • Inside Leads: Networking leads to information and project leads, often before a formal project description is created or a project is announced.
  • Making a Connection: Portfolios and cover letters alone are often too impersonal to convince potential clients to hire you, as people do business primarily with people they know and like.
  • Collaborative Opportunities: Meeting other freelancers opens you up to new opportunities where you can team up with them, or pitch for bigger work by presenting yourselves as a team

Convinced? Ready to start networking and build your freelance contacts list?

Here are 11 ways you can nurture your freelance network.

1. Be An Everyday Networker

Every time you go out, be ready to network.

Do not underestimate the power of just being a sociable person and being open to networking opportunities on an everyday basis.

Networking doesn’t only happen at ‘networking events’.

Make sure that when you start networking that you aren’t just peddling business cards, but actually talking to people.

If you meet a potential new business lead, this doesn’t mean you should go straight into sales mode.

If someone you meet is potentially interested in your services, have a normal conversation, keep it casual. Ask her to get in touch, and / or get her contact details to offer a relaxed follow-up hello email. Networking can be as simple as that.

It’s about making a connection, adding value to others, and staying in touch. Not about forcing a business card into their hand.

2. Help Others Often

I’m a big believer in helping others first as one of the best ways to build your network.

By helping others, you are letting them know specifically what you do, what your ability is in, and that you’re willing to share that knowledge – all of which is very beneficial.


Helping others can be as simple as replying to their email promptly, responding to a tweet for help, writing a blog post offering advice in an areas related to your freelance work, giving support over a phone call or Skype conversation, or by meeting someone for a coffee to chat about some of their issues they’re facing.

Help others and you’ll find that the favour is returned in abundance when people recommend you to others who are looking for similar help – and that can mean paying clients.

Passing work someone’s way, when it’s not the right project or time for you, is a massive relationship strengthener. Use it wisely to offer the client a great referral, build a connection with someone who’s work you admire and who may be encouraged to do the same for you.

I’ve gotten a lot of referrals from my network, but a lot of those recommendations have started by giving back first and reaping the rewards later.

See also:Build long-term relationships with your clients by consistently by adding value

3. When Coffee Leads To Contacts

Getting in touch with contacts that you haven’t seen for a while is a great way to keep your relationship from going stale.

Offer to take an old contact out for a coffee, listen to how they’re faring and learn from what they’ve been working on. You’ll learn a lot and strengthen your relationship with them.

Although it likely won’t lead to any new business there and then, you will be front of mind when someone comes to them looking for someone to recommend for a new freelance project.

4. Make Friends With Other Freelancers

You shouldn’t treat other freelancers as competition.

Most freelancers want others in their field to succeed, will be happy to work with you if the right project comes up, or refer you work if they’re too busy to take a project on themselves.

Even if you don’t plan on keeping in close contact, you never know when a fellow freelancer, who’s a relatively weak tie in your network, may have an opportunity to refer business to you or send your introductions to others.

Looking to build networks with people needing to offload busy work means that if you can stay top of mind with those people, then you’ll have access to more opportunities.

And if you connect with someone, it’s a great chance to make life-long friends. Some of my closest friends have been people I’ve got to know when networking with my peers.

5. Connect Your Contacts

The most effective way for anyone to start networking is by connecting people.

Take a look at your existing contacts list and ask yourself these questions:

  • Who can potentially help you in your career?
  • Who is their ideal client?
  • How can you connect this person with someone you know who is their ideal client?

Once you get into the habit of referring people, the opportunities will come flowing back to you as people remember the connections and opportunities you have created for them.

6. Go To Events

It can feel easier to stay behind your screen and network online, but meeting people in real life builds stronger relationships from the start.

Attending events in your industry is the simplest way to network, as you should already have a clear interest in the subject area.

Don’t go along with the expectation you’re going to get a new project. Just go to meet local professionals and listen and learn about what they’re doing and what’s happening in your community. You’ll be surprised at how often this insight can help you professionally.

Here’s a few websites that list networking events in countries and cities around the world:

  • Meetup is the long-time online home for local groups that organise meetings. They’ve also just released Meetup Messages, which allows you to message other members that you meet at events. A great place to start and probably the fastest way to find industry groups near you.
  • Eventbrite is a self-service ticketing platform, but it does also have a search feature and an events directory so you can find events taking place near you.
  • Lanyrd allows you to add events, discover new and exciting conferences and track your friends to see what events they are going to. Particularly good if you speak at events, as you can list where you’ve spoken to build up your credibility among other Lanyrd users.

See also:Where to find meetups and events

7. Speak At Events

Even better than attending events is being a speaker at one.

This connects to point 2, because if you’re speaking at event then you are more than likely speaking about something you are knowledgeable about, and want to share with others to help them.

Speaking at events gives you extra networking opportunities as you’ll be more visible than the other people at the event.

You’ll have a time when all attention is focussed on you, so you can truly prove your expertise and publicise your contact details at the end of your presentation.

More people will come up to you following your presentation, so you can connect with them then.

For bonus points, upload your presentation to  a site like Slideshare or Speaker Deck, add your contact details to the description, and you’ll open yourself up to making more connections from there.

8. Connect at Co-Working Spaces

What better way to find new business opportunities than to work in a space where others are looking to do the same?

Sharing desk space with other freelancers is a great way to build contacts and connections. by meeting a range of other freelancers from different industries, you can swap contacts, leads and refer new business to each other.

Co-working spaces often run networking events themselves, so you can meet other freelancers and small businesses hiring desk space. Going along to one of these events will be a great way to make your co-working space a little friendlier and you never know when you might make a valuable connection.

9. Keep in Touch with Ex-Colleagues and Clients

If you’ve worked in a job for a few years and are only just making the leap into your freelance career, then make sure you keep in touch with your old colleagues.

They will know your skills and experience and what you’re good at, so if a contact of theirs is looking to hire a freelancer then they can be free to recommend you, now you are no longer colleagues.

Adding them to LinkedIn is the simplest way to keep in touch with old colleagues, but back this up by keeping a note of their personal email address and phone number.

Simply emailing your soon to be ex colleagues as you leave your current job to go freelance can be a big help. Clearly say that it was great to work with them, give them your contact details so they can stay in touch, and mention that if they happened to hear of anyone looking to hire a freelance in your field that you would be happy for them to pass your details on.

10. Get Sociable on Social Media

As the social network for professionals, LinkedIn is the gold standard for building your freelance network online.

Even by doing just the basics – adding a photo, filling out your profile, and connecting to your contacts list to make connections with people you already know – can reap huge benefits. LinkedIn has high SEO value, so it’s likely to appear high in search results for your name. Make sure it works as hard for you as your own website, CV or portfolio.

There’s also a range of groups to join, so you can find and connect with a range of professionals whatever industry you work in or wherever you’re located.

And with the new, upcoming publishing feature, you’ll be able to post your own articles and thought-leadership pieces – another reason that LinkedIn is great for networking.

Apart from LinkedIn, most of my professional work has been built up through Twitter. I find the conversational nature of the platform makes it easier to connect with new people and quickly get a feel for what they’re all about.

Using a tool like FollowerWonk, you can search people’s bios and locations, meaning you can hone down more on the people you should follow.

Add this to the list of suggestions that Twitter gives you and you can quickly build up a network of contacts in your area.

See also: How to network online as a freelancer

11. Books To Level Up Your Networking Skills

Looking for more insights into building up your freelance network and contacts? Here are some books worth reading:

  • How to Win Friends and Influence People: Offering practical advice and techniques in an exuberant style on how to make friends quickly and easily.
  • Never Eat Alone: Offers a rare, detailed glimpse into how those with no special access can connect to those they want to meet.
  • Adversaries into Allies: This book shows how networking is not just about influencing and persuading others. It’s doing so the right way so that people feel good about themselves – and about you.

Networking is something that you need to spend time doing: building relationships with other freelancers and potential clients, refining your networking skills to help make the most of the people you meet and build strong relationships with them. In the long run it can be one of the most valuable parts of your freelance business.

How do you go about building your freelance network? How do you network without putting yourself in uncomfortable situations?  What are the most valuable things that your contacts bring to your freelance work?


Want to get more advice on how to be a happier, confident and successful freelancer? Get tips and ideas delivered straight to your inbox:


How I Went Freelance: Sean Hargrave, Freelance Writer

This is the eighth in a series of interviews with freelancers, telling us their stories on how they went freelance. The aim is to help others who are thinking of becoming freelance learn more about what it takes, as well as get advice and inspiration so they can get the confidence and understanding to find out if freelancing is right for them.

If you want to take part in the series, simply head here to tell us your freelance story

Sean Hargrave

  • Name: Sean Hargrave
  • Freelance Area: Freelance journalist, Business issues, Digital marketing, Tech
  • Freelance For: 14 years
  • Twitter: @seanhargrave

What made you decide to go freelance?

Ambition, the first time; redundancy, the second.

What steps did you put in place before you went freelance?

A good contact list was the main thing I had to prepare, including people I was pretty confident I could freelance for.

How did it feel before you went freelance?

First time, in the early nineties it was very exciting and very scary at the same time. I knew I didn’t want to always work as a deputy on magazines, doing all the rubbish for little reward.

The second time in the late 90s when I was made redundant from The Sunday Times it was similarly exciting and scary but I was confident that with the tech bubble inflating there would be homes for my stories.

How does it feel now you are freelance?

Great, most of the time. Good to be your own boss and not have to put up with office politics. Still scary, at the same time, during quiet spells. But the highs of being your own boss outweigh the lows.

What are the positives of freelance life?

Managing your own work load and working at your pace is great, as is always being around when a sofa or box of wine is delivered! It’s very hand for school pick ups and the like.

What are the negatives of freelance life?

When you’re quiet you can start to worry about the next client or commission. You also miss the banter of an office. Writing from home is quite a solitary pursuit.

Any advice for others looking to go freelance?

Try to line some work up but be aware that people generally only support you for a short amount of time and you need to develop new clients and contacts at speed. Put away a slice of your income for income tax from day one to avoid any nasty shocks down the line.

Thanks for taking part, Sean, and for sharing your tips and advice. Make sure to follow him on Twitter at @seanhargrave

If you want to take part in the series, simply head here to tell us your freelance story.


More from the How I Went Freelance series:


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29 essential freelance tools you need to be a productive freelancer

freelance tools

I’ve been looking at the products and services I use as a freelancer, so wanted to get some advice and other opinions on what freelance tools are the best to use.

I’ve become a big fan of the Freelance Subreddit, which has a whole community of freelancers, so I asked “What’s your freelance stack?” to try to get an idea of what other freelancers use in their work.

I got a ton of responses – not just from the web development crowd. There were some popular apps, products and services that came up time and again – Gmail, Dropbox, Trello – but the discussion highlighted lots of services in different areas of freelancing that are worth taking a look at?

My freelance tools

To kick things off, I listed my freelance stack – the tools I use everyday as a productive freelancer:

  • Computer: Mac Air 11″
  • Email: Gmail
  • Word processing: Google Docs (or Open Office if I know the client uses Microsoft Word)
  • Accounting software:
  • Project Management: Trello
  • To do list: Clear App (and good ol’ pen and paper)
  • Website / blog: WordPress
  • Hosting: A Small Orange
  • File sharing: Dropbox / WeTransfer

Many of these apps you will have heard of, so it’s a pretty standard setup and there’s not too many surprises in there.

Recommended freelance tools

Here’s the tools the freelance community on Reddit recommended using. And if they’re established freelancers, you get the confidence that you’ll enjoy using these tools as well.

(Click on the name of the app go to their website, pricing based on freelancers or small agency rates – where available, prices in US dollars because that’s where most of the services are based)

Time-Tracking / Invoicing

  • Harvest (Free-$99 per month): Simple time tracking, fast online invoicing, and powerful reporting software. One of the most recommended tools, Harvest simplifies timesheets and billing so you can get on with your freelance work.
  • RescueTime (Free-$9 per month):  Freelancers need  as there’s no one on your back telling you to do work. RescueTime helps you understand your daily habits so you can focus and be a more productive freelancer.
  • ManicTime (Free-$67 for a full license): ManicTime sits in the background and records your activities, so you can just forget it is there and focus on your work. It’s Windows only, but a good alternative to RescueTime.
  • Toggl (Free-$5 per month): Toggl is a simple time tracking tool, which has many similar features to RescueTime, but not with the added features of Harvest, so is a happy medium. They also offer free timesheet and mobile apps for Android and iOS.
  • Pancake (Free-$179 for a full license): Pancake is a tool that handles not only the freelance basics (time tracking, invoicing) but includes more features like project cost tracking, proposal generation and estimates.

Project Management

  • Trello (Free):  Infinitely flexible. Incredibly easy to use. Great mobile apps. It’s free. What more could you want?
  • Basecamp ($20-$150 per month): Is “the number one project management tool”. Easy to get started with if you’re looking to get up and running quickly.
  • Asana (Free-$100 per month): Billed as Teamwork without email”, Asana puts conversations and tasks together, so you can get more done with less effort.  A good alternative to Basecamp.
  • Pivotal Tracker ($7-$175 per month): More suited to web developers, Pivotal is lightweight, agile project management tool for software teams.
  • ($29 per month): Breeze shows you what’s being worked on, who’s working on what, where things are in the workflow and how much time it took. A new entrant, but well worth a look.

To Do List

  • Todoist (Free-$40 for a full license):  One of the best online task management apps – and it’s free (if you don’t want the extra features). Plus it runs on just about anything you own – Web, iPhone, iPad, Android, Chrome, Outlook and more.
  • Wunderlist (Free-$4.99 per month): Whether you’re sharing a grocery list with a loved one, working on a project, or planning a vacation, Wunderlist makes it easy to collaborate with anyone. Won App of the Year in 2013.
  • Clear ($4.99 iPhone, $9.99 Mac):  Only available on iPhone and Mac, Clear makes productivity fun again with an innovative swipe interface. Clear might just be the todo list from the future.
  • Omnifocus ($39.99): If you’re a keyboard shortcut king then Omnifocus is for you. Why waste time with a mouse when you are even more productive by keeping your sticky fingers stuck to the keyboard?


  • Freshbooks ($20-$40 per month): With FreshBooks, you can create professional-looking invoices complete with your own logo. When you’re ready to bill your client, simply send your invoice via email and the system takes care of the rest. Slick.
  • Quickbooks ($15-$40 per month): Very similar to Freshbooks, but lets clients pay you faster via credit card or bank transfer and the system will track it. Still does all the usual as well invoicing and accounting as well.
  • Crunch ($80 per month): The UK equivalent of US giants Freshbooks and Quickbooks. Plus with added phone support, so you know you always have an accountant waiting at the end of the line (which is why it’s slightly more expensive)
  • Saasu ($15-$50 per month): Pretty much the same as the above, but is well linked in to a range of ecommerce providers and let’s you integrate with your stock levels, so brilliant for freelancers or small business selling products online.
  • Freeagent ($25-$40 per month): Recommended by 99.5% of their users, so must do something right.  From expenses, payroll, to estimates and invoices, FreeAgent helps you nail the daily (and boring) admin.
  • Wave (???):  With invoicing, accounting, payroll and even payment processing in one application, Wave keeps you organised and up to date. Impressive integration with third-party apps, but no pricing info available on their site.


  • HelloSign (Free-$13 per month): Printing out and sending on paper copies of contracts is a pain. HelloSign’s secure electronic signatures are business-caliber, easy-to-use, and legally binding. And it integrates with Google Apps and Gmail. Thumbs up.
  • WP Online Contract ($18): Allows you to create, manage, and save contracts online through WordPress, giving your clients a way to view and sign your contracts online in one place. A one-off cost, so perfect if you also run your freelance business website on Wordpress.
  • Turboscan (Free-$2.99 for a full license): Snap, scan and send your documents with Turboscan. The free option is fine for taking quick photos and emailing them on, but too open up the full feature set you only have to pay a small price to upgrade to the full version.

Other Essential Freelance Tools

  • Google Apps for Business ($5 per month): Previously a free service, but now with a small cost, Google Apps is still the daddy of running your business in the cloud, with email, word processing, spreadsheets and more all available on your own domain.
  • Open Office (Free): The open source alternative to Microsoft Office. Great if your clients send you MS Word docs and you don’t want to pay the license fee, but beware of formatting issues. “Export as PDF” is your new best friend.
  • Dropbox (Free-$10 per month): Store your photos, docs, and videos in the cloud, o you never email yourself a file again! A firm favourite of designers everywhere, given the large files that they have to send to clients.
  • Calendly (Free-$8): A great find and highly recommended for freelancers and small businesses that need to schedule appointments. Quite a few freelancers mentioned this tool.
  • Slack (Free-$12.50 per month): The new hot thing in Silicon Valley, Slack brings all your communication together in one place with chat, file sharing and more. Fun to use as well. No excuse to slack off now!
  • Mailchimp (Free-$10 per month): Simple but powerful email marketing.  Up to 2,000 emails and 12,000 contacts for free, so unless you send a serious amount of email this is a great marketing option for freelancers.
  • Thumbtack (???): Helps you find new customers and grow your business. Clients tell Thumbtack about their needs and they send you the details of the client’s requests (for free). If it looks like a fit, you respond with a custom quote and work out the details with the client. Not sure what the pricing is, but assume that the client pays a percentage for finding the right freelancer for them. One to try for new business leads.

Wow! There you go. A range of freelance tools for you to try, or get reassurance from that you’re using the best of breed.

What essential freelance tools I missed out? What apps, products and services do you recommend to other freelancers? What’s your freelance stack? Let us know in the comments below.


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Freelance Consultant Rates: How To Work Out Your Hourly, Daily or Project Rate

Freelance Consultant Rates

One of the main things people ask before they go freelance is how to work out their freelance consultant rate.

Setting your freelance consultant rates is difficult. Set your day rate too low and you have to work longer and harder to make a decent income. Set your day rate too high and you risk putting off potential clients and not seeing you have a full portfolio of work.

There are several strategies you can take to find an hourly rate, day rate or project rate that your clients are happy with and enables you to make a comfortable income.

Before You Set Your Freelance Consultant Rates

There’s a few things you can do to get a good idea of what to charge as your rate before you start to take on freelance projects:

  • Get comfortable talking about your rate: There’ll be situations where you’ll have to negotiate with a client on your fee. You have to get comfortable at discussing this with them and not be afraid to push back on a price to get your true worth from a project. Negotiating with clients on your rate takes confidence, but once you’ve done it a few times you’ll be more comfortable having that discussion with them.
  • Ask other freelance consultants what they charge:  You’re probably nervous about sharing how much you get paid with other freelancers. What if you’re charging too much? Too little? What if others copy or undercut your rate? Sharing what you make with other freelancers can have a huge impact on your rate. If you’re new to freelancing and try to set your rate without knowing what other similar freelancers have set theirs at, you will probably price at a low rate to play it safe. This pushes rates down and means that you won’t earn as much as you potentially should.
  • Ask an HR professional what the going rates are: I’m luck enough to have a friend in Soraya, who is a freelance HR consultant at Love HR. She gives great advice on what others are charging for similar projects, so I can always ask her when I’m not sure what I should set my rate at. Don’t be afraid to ask any friendly HR contacts you have, or get out there and make a friendly HR contact if you don’t have one already.
  • Ask the client for a budget: Although you shouldn’t use this as the basis for your rate, you can use the budget set by a client as a figure to get started with. You can either negotiate this figure or use it as a benchmark for future projects.
  • Set a benchmark: Read books and articles related to your industry that contain information about pricing. Some freelancers do talk about their rates online and that is a great place to begin. Also check forums and networking sites in your industry, as posting for advice on these sites can lead to you getting lots of helpful advice back on where to set your benchmark.

See also: Get the confidence to go freelance

Pricing Strategies for Setting your Freelance Consultant Rate

There are several strategies you can take for setting your freelance rate, each with their own benefits and disadvantages:

  • Time-Based Pricing
  • Project-Based Pricing
  • Value-Based Pricing

Time-Based Pricing

Time-based pricing is a rough way to work out your day rate, although it is different for every freelancer depending where they are in their career, their skills, demand for their ability, state of the job market, demand for freelancers, and more.

Time-based pricing is also how professional services businesses work, as a lot of the work output is directly proportional to the amount of time that goes into producing it.

This is also the easiest to manage, which is why it’s so appealing for most people who are new to freelancing. You work an hour, you invoice the customer for an hour.

The simplest way to work our your day rate using a time-based pricing strategy to add a third to the salary you were receiving before.

This is to account for the fact that you are doing your own HR, Finance, Sales, Marketing, IT, Offices Costs and anything else that normally takes care of for you in a company. In England and Wales there are 252 working days in the year, assuming that you work 5 out of 7 days.

Once you have this worked out on an annual basis, take off 20 working days from the total. This equates to a month of work (including weekends) and accounts for time off for holidays, sick days, and a few days where you might not have work on.

Obviously, adjust this amount if you think you might not get that much work in or want to take a few more holidays that year, or if you’re very confident or feel that you are worth more (one of the main reasons that people go freelance!).

So, if you earned £30k in your job, adding a third on equals £40k. Dividing £40k by 222 days equals just over £180. This would be your day rate.

Oh, and make sure you always add-on VAT to this (20% in the UK), so £180 per day excluding VAT, £216 including VAT.

There are a lot of rate calculators out there, with most of them basing their formulas around giving you a steady stream of income that you can live comfortably on.

This is why as someone new to freelancing, hourly rates are the only way to go. This is how I started and still often do price my projects this way.

Other more experienced freelancers may say that there are other ways of charging more, but you need to be comfortable with what you’re earning and charging. Time-based pricing gives you a sure and steady freelance rate to work from.

As you become more efficient, you can raise your rate and so charge clients more money for working similar hours. And as you become a better freelancer, you can eventually start using day rates, and then weekly – or move on to the freelance pricing models described below.

The Problem with Time-Based Pricing

If you are charging hourly, then you will always be limited to making only as much as the hours that you can work.

You effectively give yourself a price ceiling that can only be raised by working more hours.

If you want to scale your time-based pricing strategy, you need to a) hire employees or b) switch to a product-based business model – both of which bring whole new levels of time, money and experience.

Project-Based Pricing

This strategy involves estimating how much time and resources a project will take, then giving the client a project fee based on that estimate.

One of the benefits of taking this approach is that the client can have a fixed costs in their mind, which won’t spill over if the scope of the project stays the same. With time-based pricing, any extra time spent on a project will incur extra costs.

You may find that you’ll win more business this way, as you’re working to the client’s budgets.

The benefits for freelancers means that you can avoid some admin work (tracking hours, progress and daily reporting) and if you;e efficient enough and give good estimates, you get a much high per hour rate (without the client even knowing)

A project-based pricing strategy takes experience to set, as there isn’t really a simple recipe and you’ll need examples of other project costs to understand what you should cost new project at.

Once you have built up some experience, you’ll have a ready-made list of old bids and project costs that you can use to compare with news projects come in, to make sure you’re pricing in the right area.

The Problem with Project-Based Pricing

The main issue with project-based pricing is that you need very accurate estimates of how long a project will take and setting the price appropriately.

If you get that wrong,  you could put potential clients off from your high prices, or end up working a lot more hours than those you are paid for.

You should always expect projects to take longer than the plan and always include a contingency for any changes to the original project brief that the client might ask for.

If you choose project-based pricing as your model, allow for surprises.

Value-Based Pricing

There is a more strategic way to set your freelance consultant rate. Looking for the value that the project will bring to your client’s business and charging them and right rate based on that value.

Value-based pricing as a strategy is often used where the value to the client is many times the cost of producing the product or service.

For example, the cost of producing an e-book is around the same no matter  what content is found inside it. But the price of those ebooks differs depending on the perceived value the readers think they will get.

As my good friend Stephen Davies, a freelance digital health consultant, says:

“Your job is to help a client improve its current situation by using your skills, knowledge and experience. Your value shouldn’t be judged (and thus costed) on how many hours you are prepared to work but on the outcomes of the work you’re doing.”

The perceived value depends on a few factors: the alternatives open to the customer (using competitors’ products or services, adding a manual work around, or simply doing nothing at all.

In order to use value-based pricing you have to know your client’s business, their costs, and the alternatives available to them. Using value-based pricing, you can charge at a perceived value, rather than the time it takes to actually complete the project.

Say a client wants you to build them a mobile version of their site that will bring them in £100,000 in extra sales a year. Charging them £10,000 or even £15,000 would be reasonable charge, given the added value and income it will bring to their business.

The Problem with Value-Based Pricing

The main difficulty in using value-based pricing is that the client will want to pay different prices between agencies or freelancers, between regions or  countries, and even for the same freelancer in different scenarios (depending on whether the freelancer is available now or later when others are available), so that a highly accurate value-based price for a project is pretty impossible to get.

Despite being difficult to get a value, any sales messages you use should consider the value a product or service brings to the client, which will enable to you to set proportionately higher rates.

Alan Weiss has written extensively about Value-Based Pricing and gives excellent advice about what you should use value-based pricing in setting your freelance consultant rate:

Many consultants fail to understand that perceived value is the basis of the fee, or that they must translate the importance of their advice into long-term gains for the client in the client’s perception. Still others fail to have the courage and the belief system that support the high value delivered to clients, thereby reducing fees to a level commensurate with the consultant’s own low self-esteem. “

Ultimately, Weiss believes that freelancers, not clients, are the main cause of setting their freelance rates too low.

You need a very solid reputation in a niche industry to consistently use a value-based pricing strategy. It takes decades of experience to get there,  but once you do switch over the added project fees become extremely valuable.

When To Raise Your Freelance Rate

  • If you’re at capacity, raise your rate: Your time has become limited, so in order for a client to work with you they have to meet the higher rate. If you keep raising your rate when you’re at capacity, you’ll eventually scale up your rate across all your clients and projects, upping your total freelance income in the process.
  • If the client has a short deadline, raise your rate: This is known as a “rush job” and demands a premium in top of your normal rate. You have to drop what you’re doing for other clients or prioritise your work, sometime working evenings and weekends, to deliver the job. The client should pay the price for this.
  • If you learn a new skill, raise your rate: You should always raise your rates as you get better. Learning a new skill means you can also expand your offering as a freelancer and clients don’t have to hire two separate freelancers to get the same job done.
  • If you’ve freelanced for another year longer, raise your rate: The experience gained over that year is worth more than you might think – and you can charge accordingly.
  • If you don’t like working with a particular client but need the income from the project, raise you’re rate – a lot: This way, the client can pay a premium for your services, which balances out the negative side of working with a client that you’re not fond of.

When To Lower your Rate or Work For Free

You can always raise or lower your rates depending on the client and project.  Here are two good scenarios when it is beneficial to lower your rate – or even work for free.

  • Portfolio Pieces: If an instantly recognisable brand comes along that might not have pots of cash available, but do incredible work and would be a delight to work with. If they can’t afford your normal rate but you can take this project on at a lower rate, then you should ask to see if you can use this project as a case study of example of work for your portfolio. I took this approach when working with LOCOG – the organising body behind the London 2012 Olympic Games. I was approached to work on their website and produce some digital content, with a day rate below my normal fee, but the brand name was too big to turn down and has opened the door to many more clients ever since completing the project
  • Charity Work: I do a lot of work with charities and happily work pro bono (for free) or at a reduced rate for them. I often find this kind of work most rewarding and the client’s more appreciative of your efforts compared to for-profit clients, But remember, a lot of charities have large reserves and resources so should pay full rate for your service . They’ll often get your best work out of you if they pay you’re full rate, so don’t be afraid to charge charities as you would any other business.

Ready to set your freelance consultant rate?

Everyone has a different opinion about what model is best, what works and what doesn’t when setting their pricing strategy. Some people insist that hourly or weekly is the only way to go. Others insist that “value-based” is the only way to go.

The best way to figure out your own pricing strategy is to figure out what works for you and go from there.

There’s definitely going to be some trial and error while you figure things out. You may under charge for a particular project, but that will give you the experience you to charge more next time. You may overcharge a client and lose out on a new piece of business.

What other strategies do you use to set your freelance consultant rate? What has worked well? What hasn’t worked and you’d recommend avoiding? Let us know in the comments below.


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