When I became a full-time freelance writer six years ago, I had one goal: Earn more money every week than I earned the previous week.At first, it was easy. All I had to do was send out a few extra pitches, grab another assignment or two, and I was on track.
Then it got harder. I didn’t have enough time in my schedule to complete more work, so I’d have to figure out how to make my freelance work pay more. That meant looking for new clients, negotiating higher rates with my current clients, and reaching out to other writers and editors for job leads.
Eventually it became too difficult to increase my income every week, so I started focusing on how I could increase my income every month. That gave me a longer horizon in which to strategize: Who do I need to pitch this month? Is it time to ask for a higher rate? How many pieces do I need to complete to hit my goal?
The challenge turned out to be really effective, and I was able to get out of the low-paying freelance grind and into what’s now my career. So I’m turning it over to you:What would you need to do to earn more each month than you did the previous month? Where would that path take you?
“What would you need to do to earn more each month than you did the previous month? Where would that path take you?”
The first month is easy
How much are you earning right now? Want to earn more next month? I bet you can think of five super-easy ways to get a few more dollars into your account, from selling an old-but-good-as-new outfit on Poshmark or making a couple of deliveries with Postmates. Even if you only make $20 more this month than you made last month, you’ve hit your goal. Yay!
But you have to get creative
It’ll take you a few months to shake all of the money out of the low-hanging fruit. Then you’ll have to get creative. If you don’t have any more clothes to sell, or don’t have any more side hustle hours you can devote to Uber or TaskRabbit or Postmates etc., what are you going to do?
Well, you could go to thrift shops to find flippable fashion. You could test different types of conversations with your Lyft passengers to see which ones earn you the biggest tips. You might get few more months of income increases out of this kind of creative thinking, if you put your mind to it.
However, eventually you’re going to have to move to the next level of the challenge:
Find gigs where you control how much you earn
When you side-hustle for an app, they control how much you earn. Yes, you can boost your earnings by working a few more hours or taking advantage of bonuses and surge pricing, but there’s only so far you can go.If you really want your earnings to soar, you need a gig where you control how much you earn.
This usually means freelancing, whether you’re writing, designing, or selling custom-made necklaces on Etsy. You’re in charge of your own rates, which means there’s no limit to the amount of money you can make.
Now, sure, let’s be realistic. If nobody is buying your $500 necklace, that’s a pretty hard limit right there. But if people are interested in your $25 necklace, then it’s time to start selling your work for $30. Get the drift?
This works for just about any gig where you can name your rate, whether you’re babysitting for a neighbor or teaching guitar lessons over Skype. Figure out what people are willing to pay, and once they’ve decided you’re worth it, ask for a little more.
Go for the big wins
Here’s a lesson I learned as a freelancer: One big win is worth a lot more than a bunch of little wins. Here’s another lesson: You can get your biggest wins out of the people who are currently paying you the most.
This means that you might want to skip the side-hustle entirely and focus on earning more money at your day job. Is it time to ask for a raise? To look for promotion opportunities? To dust off your resume?
If you’re a 1099er instead of a W2er, focus your money-making efforts on your highest-paying clients. If you can get your best client to pay you $600 instead of $500, it’s way better than getting a lower-paying client to pay you $60 instead of $50. Your highest-paying clients are also more likely to know other high-paying clients who might be looking for a talented writer/designer/photographer/etc.
At this point you’re probably thinking “But this was supposed to be about earning more money every month! My boss/best client won’t give me a raise every month!”
Which brings me to my final lesson: When I got to the point where I couldn’t get a new big win every month, I switched up my goal. It was time to see if I could earn more money — a lot more money — every year.
Sound like a challenge? Go get it.