4 Reasons Why You Deserve a Raise

The rates of freelancers can vary from state to state, project to project, and year to year. One thing that shouldn’t change, however, is the high esteem in which you hold yourself. The value you bring as a freelancer is underscored by the rates you ask for.

Lower rate? You might get more clients, but is it worth your time and skill? And are those the kinds of clients you want to work with anyway? Higher rate? You’ll probably get fewer of the low-ball clients, and more of those that understand and respect your value.

Not convinced? Okay, then here’s four things you should keep in mind when you’re pricing your projects. They should give you the confidence to raise your rates, and not worry about all the low-hanging fruit you’ll be missing.

1) Higher Education Degrees

How many do you have? I have two: a BA in English and an MA in Folklore. In addition to the work experience you bring to your clients and their projects, you’re also bringing your collegiate education to the table. Since you paid for it (or at least someone did), you know for a fact that it’s worth something. Why do you think attorneys have such high hourly rates? Sure, because they have mountains of student debt, but more than that, they have a very specific, high-stakes skill-set that is worth paying for.

Your Humanities degree(s) probably didn’t cost as much as their Law degree, but it gave you a certain set of very specific, very valuable skills and training that are worth clients paying you to use them. You deserve a raise.

2) Years of Experience

I’ve been told by multiple people that you can officially call yourself a “senior” at something if you’ve been doing it for at least five years. I’ve been a copywriter for going on six years now. By that definition then, I can own the title, Senior Copywriter.

How about you? How long have you been doing what you’re doing? Long enough to know all the right questions to ask of your client? Long enough to have a sizable percentage of your work come from referrals (i.e. you’re well-known/awesome)? Long enough to deliver a project that wows every time? Then you might be a “senior” at that something. You deserve a raise.

3) Client List

It’s not who you are, it’s who you’ve worked with. An impressive client list is worth its weight in gold. For example, “I got your name from So-and-so at Nike and I’d like to hire you to do this project for me. What’d thar? Oh, no, I don’t need to see your portfolio. So-and-so from Nike recommended you.”

True story. Well, true stories, really. That exact thing has happened to me multiple times.

If you’ve worked with impressive brands that have serious name recognition, regardless of the industry, your client list will open doors for you. Put it on your website, show those pieces in your portfolio, make your association clear. You’ve worked with heavyweights. You deserve a raise.

4) Because You Want It

Never underestimate the importance of desire. If you want something, go get it. (I mean, as long as it’s legal, of course.) One of our Conclavists was very interested in taking her business to the next level, but she was having trouble getting there with her existing clients. The rates they were paying her were low, ya see, and the goals she’d set for herself had her flying quite a bit higher. She decided to invite those clients to pay her more, and if they refused, she politely cut them loose with a sweet referral to a colleague or two. I believe her hourly rate is over $100/hour now, and she’s booked through to August.

She wanted a raise. She gave herself a raise. She is building the freelance business she wants, not the one “the market will bear.”

Also, the Freelancers Union recently published a blog post entitled, “How to raise your freelance rates” that you might also find helpful.

So, do you want a raise? If you think you deserve it, go get it.

3 Tips For Creating a Stronger Elevator Pitch

Imagine you’re in an elevator and the person next to you turns to you and asks: “So, what do you do?” You could recite the paragraph-long unique value proposition you have on your website. Some people do that and find it to be successful. Others wing it with no script at all. But for those of you who want some structure around your elevator pitch, here are three pointers.

1) Be Brief, Yet Powerful

For starters, don’t think of it as a speech, but more of a verbal one-two punch, or tagline. Since you’re in an elevator (or passing on the sidewalk, or adding a description to your Twitter page), what you say has to be brief, yet powerful. Imagine you have about five seconds, or better yet, a brief sentence, to answer their question, impress them, and make them want to know more about you.

2) Focus on the Benefits You Bring

When creating your pitch, focus on the benefits you bring to your clients instead of the features. Here are a few examples:

  • Financial Advisor: “I protect my clients from being sued by their employees—which is happening more and more these days.”
  • Certified Public Accountant: “I prevent my clients from being audited by the IRS.”
  • Search Engine Optimization Specialist: “I help businesses get found on Google.”
  • Freelance Copywriter: “I help my clients say what they want to say to their audience. Effectively.”

Instead of telling people what you do, tell them how you help others. That makes it very clear to them how you could help them, too.

3) Speak Conversationally

Don’t use big words, or industry terms in your elevator pitch. Use words that you would naturally say so the delivery sounds more like you’re engaging in conversation versus recitation. If you don’t, you’ll sound like a robot. We’ve all heard those pitches, right? They sound stiff and scripted with no room for a conversation. Just relax. Have a chat.

As you learn more about yourself and your business, your elevator pitch should evolve as you do. To refine it, run it by a few friends and see what they think.

To sum up, your elevator pitch should be:

  1. Brief
  2. Powerful
  3. Benefits-focused
  4. Conversationally delivered

So, what’s your elevator pitch? Have you tried a few different ones? What have you noticed about the reception to each?

How to Find Your Ideal Clients

In my previous post, I gave you some tips about how to identify your ideal clients. That’s a very important part of any freelancer’s business strategy. The next step is being able to find them effectively.

Connecting with your Ideal Client

You know what kind of writing you want to do (after you’ve answered the 12 questions in my previous post mentioned above), and you know what industries and companies need that kind of writing. Here are some questions that will help you connect with them.

  1. What companies on your list, or in your chosen industry, are in your area?
  2. Who do you know that works at a company on your list or at a company in the same industry?
  3. If you don’t know an employee in a desired industry or company, whom do you know who does? Ask your friends and family!
  4. Who do you know who works in complementary industries to your ideal? Who do you know who knows someone in a complementary industry to your ideal? (That is, someone who would partner with your ideal client. Ex: advertising agencies with copywriters, tax attorneys with CPAs.)
  5. Are there any regularly scheduled conferences, networking events, or meet-ups that your ideal client might attend? What about complementary professionals? (Ex: Comic-Con if you want to work with comic book publishers or the kinds of people who attend Comic-Con.)
  6. Now that you have specific companies that you’d like to work with, is there a bar or coffee shop near their location? If so, become a regular and meet other regulars.
  7. Ask your family, friends, and business connections for referrals to your ideal client. Using LinkedIn, you can be introduced to ideal clients through a mutual connection. That would make it a warm referral (versus a cold one).
  8. Explore professional networking events in your area and meet new people. Networking in general is a great way to make connections with people who can help you make connections with other people. Here’s a little more info about networking.

A Real-Life Example

Here’s how I applied this method:

  1. I wanted to work with Nike Headquarters, located in Beaverton, OR.
  2. I didn’t know anyone who worked there.
  3. I didn’t know anyone who knew anyone who worked there. (At least no one I asked knew anyone who worked there.)
  4. Yes, I knew someone who worked in a complementary industry: my former college Track and Field coach is married to the Director of Communications for USA Track & Field (USATF). USATF works closely with Nike to sponsor track meets all over the country.
  5. Yes, USATF and Nike attend the USA Olympic Trials every four years, which was in Oregon in 2008.
  6. Less like a coffee shop and more like a national event. I attended the 2008 Olympic Trials as a freelance copywriter thanks to my connection at USATF. While there, I introduced myself to a Nike event management director.
  7. He referred me to the Writing Director at Nike Headquarters and the Writing Director has been referring me to Nike project managers since 2009.
  8. I attend networking events on a regular basis. Events and organizations I connected with include the Portland Business Alliance (PBA), Portland Area Business Association (PABA), American Marketing Association (AMA-PDX), the Schmooze, and events through the Freelancer’s Union to name a few.
  9. That’s how I came to work with Nike–one of my ideal clients.

    In addition to meeting your ideal clients through referrals, you can also go direct to the source by cold-calling or cold-connecting via LinkedIn. If you have an optimized website that draws customers to you, great! Go with that. As a supplement, however, organic, in-person connections are the best way to develop long-lasting, professional relationships. And a loyal referral network, too.

    Many roads can lead you to the same destination, and for better or worse, you get to decide which roads you will take. How have you found your ideal clients?

12 Questions to Help You Identify Your Ideal Client

Here are 12 questions to help you identify your ideal client. Once you know, you can tailor your business practices and marketing strategy more effectively.

Identifying Your Ideal Client

So, who is your ideal client? What are their characteristics? If you have no idea, or only a vague notion, you’re playing a hit or miss game. Before you can have a client roster of ideal clients, you first need to know how to identify your ideal client in a line-up. This is going to require some research on your part. The following questions will help you nail down some of the qualities you look for in an ideal client.

  1. What kind of writing/work are you most interested in getting paid for? List three and be as specific as you can.
  2. What are your ideal rates for this preferred work? (Not what you think the client can afford, but what you’d ideally like to receive.)
  3. In your opinion, what industries/professionals need this kind of writing? List as many as you can think of.
  4. Is your ideal client a public or private company? (Ex: Oregon Lottery or Humane Society) Are they for- or non-profit? (Ex: Nike or Oregon Humanities)
  5. What is the ideal company size for your ideal client? (Ex: single location or chain; small, medium, or large.)
  6. What is their employee size?
  7. What is the ideal yearly income of your ideal client?
  8. Where is your ideal client located? (Ex: local, regional, national, or international; Portland, Nova Scotia, Sydney, Dubai, etc.)
  9. What are some desired characteristics of your ideal client contact? (Ex: funny, female, communicative, open to new ideas, 40-60 years old, has clear project vision, etc.)
  10. Do you know the names of specific companies/professionals that fit your criteria and/or that you’d like to work with? List at least three.
  11. In your experience, can these companies/professionals pay your ideal rates?
  12. If not, either reconsider them as ideal clients or change your rates accordingly. What a copywriter can charge an attorney in Portland may be far less than what she can charge an attorney in Los Angeles.

By this point, you should have a short list of at least three specific companies or professionals who fit your criteria and with whom you’d like to work.

Congratulations! This is a huge step toward landing clients that are ideal for you.

Ok, so now you know what your ideal client looks like, but how do you find them? I’ll tell you in my next post.