Repeat After Me: “I Will Ask for More Money Next Time…”

Money. More money. Lots more money. With any luck and a bunch of hard work, that’s the financial trajectory of the typically competent commercial freelancer’s career. I started out at $50 an hour in 1994, and over time that rose to $60, $75, $85, $95, $100, $110, and finally $125 (of course, when working on flat-fee projects for long-term clients, my familiarity with their world usually speeds up project time, nicely upping my THR – True Hourly Rate).

Most of the time, those increases happen gradually. You look around, realize you’re getting pretty good at this gig, bunch of happy clients, steady kudos, so hey, it’s time for raise. What’s fun to watch is when some outside catalyst provides an instant boost in someone’s perceived self-worth and drives fees up faster than they normally would. A few examples. Sometime back, got this note from a reader:

I recently did a direct mail postcard, as suggested in your book, after calling some leads. It resulted in a nice 100-hour contract. When putting the proposal together, I debated on the hourly rate. As I was working, I got your ezine and read about not being afraid to charge what you’re worth. So, I quoted $15 more than what I had been charging and I won the contract – a $1,500 increase!

Gotta love that. And a few weeks back, I got another one. In the June and July issues of the ezine, I’m running a two-part feature about Ed Gandia, Atlanta FLCW extraordinaire – who built a PT business ($3-4K/month) while holding down a FT job, and in his first full year as a FLCW, earned over $160K.

At his site (The Profitable Freelancer), he offers a free report, “7 Steps to Landing More (and Better-Paying!) Freelance Projects” when you sign up for his killer newsletter.

One of my subscribers scored the report, which offered up similar “don’t-be-afraid-to-shoot-high” advice, and within a day, sent Ed this note, forwarding it on to me:

You are going to love this. I went on a sales call today for a PR project. The last time I did a project of this general scope, I charged $2,500. Today, when the prospect asked what the fee would be, I calmly/casually said “$6,000.” He said OK. Ha! Thanks again for that report. I know it gave me a boost today. I was going to “ask for” $5,000 but I figured, eh, I’ll “tell them” 6.

SO much of the money conversation is between our own ears. I mean, think about it. In these cases, their clients, by unquestioning acceptance of their newly-higher rates, were essentially the ones to convince them of their own worth!

In this “tougher times” (talk about perception!), it’s probably tempting to adopt a conservative, take-what-you-can-get attitude, and shoot low. If you’re good and know it, try doing the opposite. You might just be the only one who’s surprised when it goes well.

Got any good “I-shot-higher-than-my-comfort-zone-and-they-said-yes” stories?

What was the catalyst for your courage?

What did you learn from it?

Any other comments/thoughts on the subject?

Are You Networking Harder or Smarter?

All networking was not created equal. While I’ve heard plenty of Chamber/association networking success stories over the years, it’s usually when people get actively involved in the organization and boost their visibility. But, by and large, the “cattle call” networking event never did much for me – empirically or spiritually. Such events always feel so mercenary, full of mutual “objectifying”: other attendees aren’t humans, just potential sales.

WA graphic designer Mike Klassen weighs in with this guest blog appearance on the subject, challenging FLCWs to rethink how they approach “networking” and offering up some smart alternatives. Thanks, Mike, for the great contribution!

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One of the top recommendations to build a business is to… NETWORK.

Unfortunately, brand new freelancers don’t always appreciate that networking is more than just showing up at some Chamber networking event or striking up a conversation about your business in the grocery store.

After doing things the hard way as a beginner myself, I found that if I’m really going to be efficient about networking and landing the type of clients I need to meet my financial goals, I need to be more particular about where I put my networking efforts.

Let’s take the traditional Chamber of Commerce networking event. It’s typically promoted as a way to reach others with your products or services – in your case, writing. That’d be great if they promoted the event to everyone else as a way to hire you to write copy. But they’re not, are they?

Nope. It’s marketed as a way for everyone to sell what they have. For it to work, though, someone needs to be a buyer. But, buying something rarely enters anyone’s mind.

Plus, many of these events are attended by small business owners, most of whom can’t afford our rates. To them, copywriting is an expense, not an investment. As long as they have Word with spell-checking enabled, they’ll tackle their writing tasks on their own. Sure, there are success stories, but in my experience and that of many colleagues, large scale successes (i.e., landing writing jobs) at “come one, come all” events are the exception, not the rule. Here’s a better idea…

Look for networking events where those attending are likely to truly need you, already appreciate the value a writer brings, and can afford to pay you what you’re worth. Let me give you two examples of what I call “off-the-beaten-path” networking:

A writer/marketer colleague attended a networking event for Americans and Canadians involved in cross-border trade, where attendees discussed trade regulations, security issues, marketing techniques, and more. While I’m sure sales were made, that wasn’t the point of the event and it wasn’t marketed as such. Yet, arguably, everyone there placed a high value on writing skills in their efforts to promote and sell their products. My friend was the only one in the room providing that type of service. By the end of the evening, she had extremely high-quality leads to follow-up on.

A website design colleague attended a seminar on online marketing. Attendees either had a product ready to market, or were looking to develop one. Since it was an “online” marketing event, how many attendees do you think might have had need for a website designer? Like the other colleague I mentioned, this web designer left the event not only with lots of high-quality leads but also a handful of immediate jobs.

So, yes, networking can occur anywhere. But if you’re going to put your time into it, why not target networking events that increase your odds of success?

What sorts of networking events have been the most fruitful for you?

If you’ve been successful at the “cattle call” type of event described above, what was your strategy?

Any good networking success stories (complete with “Lesson Learned”) you care to share?

Mike Klassen is a freelance designer and writer. His eBook, “I Still Can’t Draw Stick Figures” documents his journey from the corporate to freelance world, and the lessons learned along the way. He also shares his freelancing experiences on his blog. For more information, visit http://www.mikeklassen.com