Jun 14, 2024

If you’ve been in the freelance world for a while, you probably already know your “minimums,” like:

  • How much you have to charge per hour to get your needs met
  • How many billable hours you have to work each week to be profitable
  • How many clients you need on your payroll to guarantee you have enough work

It’s easy to be so focused on making sure we’re solvent that we don’t give much thought to what happens when we grow beyond our individual capacity for work. 

Solopreneurs who want to scale their businesses have to think creatively about expanding their availability and adding income streams in ways that won’t lead to burnout. Let’s pull a few money levers and see which long-term growth strategies are right for your freelance business.


Change Up Your Pricing Strategy

Does that bran muffin from your favorite coffee spot cost $5.25 or 9.5 minutes of your life? If you never want to ask yourself a question like that again, it’s time to reevaluate your pricing structure. 

 Different Freelance Pricing Structures

  • Hourly rates: The classic dollars-for-hours model. You and the client agree on your fee per hour, and you are responsible for tracking the time spent on each project.
  • Monthly retainers: You agree to be available to the client for any projects that fall within your scope, in exchange for a monthly rate.
  • Project rates: You estimate the amount of time it will take to complete a one-time project, and you and the client agree on a sum based on that figure. 
  • Value-based pricing: You calculate your rate for a one-time project based on the value it’s expected to generate for the client’s business rather than the hours you will invest. 

The Problem with Hourly Rates

Most of us start out on the dollars-for-hours model, and, let’s face it, sometimes it’s the only thing that makes sense. As our businesses grow, however, this pricing structure gets limiting and cumbersome quickly.

It’s all in the math: We can only raise our rates as high as clients’ budgets will allow, and we can’t add hours to a day. Under the dollars-for-hours model, your maximum rate x the maximum number of hours you can commit to work = your earning potential. Full stop.

There’s also the issue of accounting. Freelancers who work under an hourly rate are responsible for accurately tracking time. Depending on how granular the client expects you to be, this can add several (unpaid) hours of administrative labor each month. Not to mention, time tracking often isn’t conducive to the creative process. Taking stretch breaks and staring into the void may inflate the amount of time it takes to complete the process, but sometimes this can be hard for clients to understand when it comes to billing.

The more you can help clients view retainers and project rates as a benefit to both sides of the relationship, the more open they’re likely to be. Setting flat rates or establishing a retainer lets you rationalize the worth of one-time and ongoing projects without splitting hairs over every part of the process.  

It also sets clear budgetary expectations, creates a more turn-key experience for the client, and allows you to allocate time and resources in whatever way helps you create the best results. 


Utilize Subcontractors

Paying someone to take work off your plate can feel highly counterintuitive when, not long ago, you were constantly worried about filling your schedule. If you’ve reached a point where you’re having to turn down work because you’re at capacity, however, it’s time to take the next step.

Managing subcontractor relationships can be daunting at first, but once you’ve established a clear process for onboarding and communication, you’ll experience new levels of freedom as a business owner. 

Subcontractors allow you to be in two places at once. Not only will this increase your availability and help you keep saying yes to opportunities, but it can also give you the bandwidth to focus on high-value projects. Just keep an eye on your margins, and outsource work in a way that keeps you profitable.  


Offer Products

Any assets and resources that you’ve created can be valuable streams of passive income. That how-to guide or ebook may be just the thing to help you step away from the assembly line, earning you money even when you aren’t actively working. 

Similarly, think about services that you would consider “repeatable,” in the sense that they can be easily customized for the client without having to reinvent the wheel. Pushing these offerings front and center can help you add revenue when you don’t have the hours to pour into a brand new project. 

If you want to learn more about building your business through repeatable processes, we highly recommend checking out John Warrillow’s Built to Sell


Sell Your Experience

As an expert in your field, you have more to offer than project work. Along the way, you’ve developed processes and made valuable industry observations. Think about all of the things that clients (and even colleagues) would be willing to pay to learn from you.  

Hosting webinars and workshops is a great way to add an income stream and create your own networking opportunities all at once. Offer valuable resources that your audience can take to the bank without giving away too much of your own secret sauce, and you’re on your way to taking on the role of a thought leader in your industry. 


Optimize Your Processes

This last one may feel elementary, but it’s worth considering. If you’re not in a position to pull any other levers right now, the one way you can improve on the dollars-for-hours model is to do what you’re already doing more efficiently 

This one may get personal. If there is something about your daily workflow, scheduling process, or even your focus and sleep hygiene that is hampering your productivity, look for ways to remove obstacles. Find the way that you work best.

This can also look like making an up-front investment in the right tools. Reach out to your freelance community and ask questions about how they’re staying organized and automating what they can. You may find that small adjustments to your habits and routine unlock more time in your day. 

The power to create wealth has been with you all along. Approaching old processes with a new mindset can take your earning potential to places it’s never been. Get out there, get creative, and start diversifying to make more money.


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