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Freelancers: How to make more by offering less

Written by Tom Ewer on 28 May 2013

Most freelancers will happily give you their tales of hardship from their formative months and years. Common themes are typically working with any client on anything for any price. And with good reason - one cannot be too picky when starting out in the world of freelancing. But there comes a time at which your business will be best served by having a tight focus. This can benefit you both in terms of your bottom line and the satisfaction you take from your work. In this post I want to turn the beginner's approach to freelancing on its head and show you how you can make more by offering less.

The "Less is More" Freelancing Model

To give you an idea of what I mean, let's explore how I make more by offering less. As a freelance blogger, these days I primarily write about freelancing, entrepreneurship and WordPress (the content management system). If someone approaches me with a proposal to write about something else, I will probably turn them down. But for the most part I only receive enquiries on those topics. Why? Because I have become known as a good writer in those areas. My relatively tight focus has allowed me to build a reputation in those areas. A good reputation leads to more leads and the ability to offer a higher rate.You do not get these benefits from catering to one and all. If you were a small business on the lookout for a writer, would you rather a hire someone who deals specifically with your industry or someone with a more "generic" offering? Furthermore, who would you be willing to pay more for? Regardless of what you do as a freelancer (be it writing, graphic design, web design, or something else), you can increase your value by reducing the scope of your services.

Freelancing in an Ideal World

In order to determine how you should hone your services you must answer this question:

If you could work on any type of freelance project (within the realms of your expertise), what would it be?

The answer to that question is the key to your future. Why? Because once you are established as a freelancer and are no longer simply desperate for work in any form, you can begin to build a business around your ideal work (and by extension, your ideal client). There are a few considerations to take into account when it comes to answering that question:

  1. Financial: what makes you the most money?
  2. Enjoyment: what do you find rewarding?
  3. Difficulty: what do you find the easiest to do (and as such can make the most money from)?

The decision you come to will be individual to you. I enjoy writing about the topics I specialize in. I also know them like the back of my hand, which makes it relatively easy (and quick) for me to write about them. And they're in fields where clients will pay reasonably for good writing. The end result is work that I enjoy and get paid well for.

The Snowball Effect

Once you have determined what area(s) you would like to focus down on, it is time to market your new services and start planning the shift of your client base. You can take this process at whatever pace suits you. I would recommend that you start by building up a picture of what each client is worth to you as outlined in my recent post on increasing rates with existing freelance clients. You can then begin the process of assessing which clients you would like to continue working with in the long run and which you would like to let go. This logic applies whether you have a fixed base of long-term clients or a high client turnover -- the only difference is whether you are talking about specific clients or specific types of clients.

The transition process may be slow at first, but if you stick to your guns and market your new services appropriately you will find that each new "ideal" client contributes to your ongoing growth. The more clients you work with in a specific field, the more you will become known in that specific field, and the more work you will get. Before long you should be in a position where you are able to let go of all your "redundant" clients and  increase your efficiency and reputation in your given field(s), which will result in more client referrals and a higher rate. And let's not forget the the fact that you will enjoy your work more. As a freelancer, making more by offering less is one of the best moves you can make. What is holding you back?

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