make enough money as a freelance designer

Are you making enough money as a freelance designer?

I have a friend who’s a great freelance designer. At any given moment he’s juggling multiple projects, and works his butt off to keep everyone happy. Unfortunately this leaves very little time for himself. Now you may be thinking, “but that’s what it’s all about, being flat-out all the time.”

Having work is great, it’s our goal to be working, but being overwhelmed with too many projects can be exhausting, both mentally, physically and financially.

So what’s the solution?

I had dinner with this friend just last week, he told me how stressed he was and how he’d worked all weekend instead of enjoying time with his family before emigrating (seriously).

I asked him if he’d thought about doubling his current freelance rate, to which he laughed. “I won’t get any clients that way”.

This is a common misconception and a mistake that a lot of freelance designers make. Most times it’s our own fault for undervaluing ourselves in the first place. Pricing is difficult, especially when first starting out.

Maintaining a steady income as a freelance designer is one of the main reasons that many never take the plunge, instead they opt to stay in gainful employment and remain secure with a regular paycheck.

For many the uncertainty of finding regular clients, and charging enough to live on is a real concern. Being a successful freelance designer is no small feat.

Another way is possible

Anyone who runs a SaaS product can tell you that the client who needs most support, and the client who eats up more of their time than any other, is the client who is using a free or entry-level plan. Users who pay for premium plans already tend to know about their market and can naturally appreciate the benefits provided. They know they’re getting value.

Doubling your rates would mean working with a different kind of client, but you don’t mind, do you?

Are you snowed under?

I understand that doubling your rates is a scary concept, none of us want to lose clients. So let’s try something less scary…

You’ve already got work on, and you have clients that are more than happy with your services. So try this, for the next client that comes your way you should draw up your proposal with your standard rate, then double it. Yep, double it, then send it before you get chance to think about it.

Remember this is an experiment. Don’t think about it as something permanent. What’s the worse that can happen? They can say no, but the world will go on spinning and there will be more clients.

Keep the experiment going

Bumping your rates up by 100% is no doubt a bold move, and if you’re not comfortable changing them overnight, then once a month take a proposal at random and double it. You’re not ripping anyone off, you’re providing a service that essentially exists to make someone else more money. Charge accordingly.

If the proposal bombs, no worries, but if it sticks, wow! You’ve just made twice as much.

Once you see that your new rates are being accepted more often, you can begin to apply them to more and more contracts until you have an entirely new rate, 100% higher. Watch how your monthly income soars.

Just remember, if they say no it’s not the end of the world, there will be more clients, I guarantee it. And of course they may just say yes.

What will you do with the extra money this month?

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11 Comments

  1. Great post Nathan. It’s all about finding that balance.

    Love the site too, very clean.

    • nathanpowell

      Thanks Ben,

      My first comment on my brand new blog! Much appreciated, and glad you enjoyed the post.

      Pass the word along :)

  2. Chris Howard

    Nathan, just the sort of article I need, thanks! 😀 I am slightly confused tho – you talk of doubling, but then 50%. Doubling is a 100% increase. So just wondering which you’re really suggesting. I know I’d be easier with only 50% increase!

    • Thanks Chris.

      I’m glad the article was of use, and thanks for pointing out my error, I was confusing earning 50% more and raising your rates by 100%.

      Good spot :)

  3. Very interesting read. I remember the real struggle (mostly caused by my lizard brain telling me I am not good enough) of finally deciding to go freelance and then the next very difficultly: drawing up my rates.

    However doing quality work and getting paid the right amount for it is very important but life isn’t all about work :)

    I think the “What will you do with the extra money this month?” question isn’t necessarily the best one to ask to conclude the right decision being made by raising rates. My question (keep asking myself these days) “Now that you make more money with less work, how would you spend your spare time?”

    • Hey Robert,

      Thanks for your comment. I can certainly relate, that damn lizard brain and it’s negativity, I still struggle every now and again. Drawing up rates when you first start out is a nightmare, Most everyone undervalues themselves from the get go.

      The tendency is to think that if we don’t get this next client, it will be the last one we ever see. Of course that’s never the case, but beginners fear trips us up.

      What you say about finding things to fill your newfound freedom is very true, I totally agree with you, but you’re coming from another place, you’ve been there. For someone who’s about to double their rate for the first time, they’re more than likely thinking, “man, what am I going to do with all the extra cash”, at least that was my thinking…

      Good luck
      Nathan

  4. I’ve doubled my rates at least 3 times so far… each time I’m still just as busy.

    • Nathan Powell

      Great to hear. I think the issue lies with our inner voice whispering, “no one will ever pay you that!” Until we try we’ll never know.

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