A recent survey by the consulting firm MBO partners estimates that by 2020, at least half of the country’s workforce will have gone freelance at some point, either by choice or necessity.
That sounds serious to us. The surge in independent contractors means more respect and support for the freelancer moniker, yes—but it also means fiercer competition. If you want to earn big, you have to think big—reinventing, both yourself and your business to keep that crucial edge. Here’s how:
1. Don’t go with the status quo
There’s a lot to love about loyal customers funneling projects your way. But if you coast on that work flow without regularly assessing your goals, your clients will end up driving your career rather than the other way around.
Plus, you risk losing touch with what’s going on in your field, warns Michelle Goodman, author of My So-Called Freelance Life. Besides setting several concrete goals for the year—to make $100, 000; to contact 10 new companies and show them how you could help them—come up with at least one dream goal that you feel truly passionate about (maybe you’re making corporate videos but you’d love to do a documentary about sex trafficking in Thailand.).
Set aside time (an afternoon a week?) to work on that bigger project. Far from wasting time on something that isn’t immediately profitable, you’ll be helping your business, organically building new networks and absorbing ideas. Plus, nothing squelches procrastination faster than keeping long-term goals simmering on a front burner.
2. Charge more than you think you can get.
To calculate your fees, use Freelanceswitch’s online calculator to insure that you’ll be covering your overhead, health insurance, taxes, retirement contributions and, of course, that you’ll have a profit left over. “If no client ever says, ‘Whoa! I can’t afford you!’ you’re probably underselling yourself,” says Goodman.
And tough as it can be for women (that people-pleasing thang), stop under-charging–or working for free–every time you do a project for a friend or a friend of a friend. “Would you ever give someone part of your paycheck?” asks Goodman. Right. So don’t. And you’ll garner more respect—and paid work.