As a freelancer, you’re the only one responsible for managing and organizing your work day. Unlike salaried employees, your schedule is entirely dependent on you. This is why freelancers sometimes give the impression that they’re jumping from project to project, without real knowledge of what tomorrow will bring. This is not the case though! All experienced freelancers have developed and adopted various proven strategies to make their work schedule predictable, better organize their work, avoid burnout and bring much needed stability to their freelance earnings. To find out how this balance can be found, read this guide about searching for freelance projects with intent.
As a freelancer, your time is money
“Time is money“. This phrase has never been truer than with freelancers and other independent workers. As salaried employees, we tend to lose sight of the correlation between the time we put at the disposal of the employer and the monetary compensation we get. But when you work on freelance projects, that correlation is obvious. Freelance earnings mainly depend on the time you can “sell”.
As a result, independent workers need to be particularly meaningful when it comes to managing their time. To have a career as a freelancer and avoid repeated burnouts, they need to partition their work time, their rest time, their family time and everything else.
In other words, freelance earnings can grow, but the available time a freelancer can award to freelance projects is limited. And, in most cases, this available hourly mass only diminishes as years pass. This is why freelance rates need to grow as the freelancer gains experience and new skills.
The 3 types of freelance projects for stable earnings
Each freelance has a way of organizing their time and filling their schedule. My approach is as follows: “Aim high, start low”. In other words, this means setting ideal earnings, but still accepting lower paying freelance projects. After all, you have to start somewhere.
To organize my hourly mass, I class freelance projects in 3 categories:
A. The ground level: these freelance projects should at least pay at the level of your minimum freelance earnings. They can be long-term projects (big volume, repetitive, periodical).
B. The intermediate level: these contracts pay more but tend to be less stable or have a lot less volume.
C. The ceiling: such freelance jobs generally pay well. But they are mostly one-time offers and rarely lead to repeat work.
It should be noted that this classification is based on the time you devote to various projects. In actuality, Type A freelance projects should not require more than 50% of your available time. Intermediate level projects should occupy around 30% of your schedule. This makes it possible to keep 20% of your time available for the kind of opportunities that Type C projects can bring.
Also, we should note that basic freelance projects are meant to be a safety net in terms of freelance income. These are the projects that pay the bills. Type C projects are more like welcome bonuses. However, Type B projects are the most important to make your freelance earnings grow over time. These are the projects where you should negotiate higher pay with new clients. And, in the end, when your freelance rates rise, they become your new ground-level projects.
Freelance earnings: knowing your minimum and setting ideal goals
In a perfect world, the most time-consuming projects would be the better paying ones. In reality, freelance who are just starting out rarely have such opportunities. Accepting a project that pays less but still provides stability is almost an unavoidable first step. However, you need to know what your minimum freelance earnings are before accepting any contract.
Obviously, the minimum freelance income depends of your incompressible expenses. Whether you are a full-time or part-time freelancer, you will calculate your freelance earnings differently. For example, if you wish to earn $800 per month, with a freelance project that requires 20h per week (80h per month), you need to charge at least $10 per hour.
In such a scenario, if you have the capacity of working 6h per day (30h per week and 120h per month), you still have 40h of “available” time to devote to finding new freelance projects, working on other better paying projects or improving your skills.
Finding the right freelance projects to build stability?
Organizing your search for freelance jobs by levels of pay is a good approach to building stability. Weave your own safety net with “base” contracts and make your rates grow over time by apply to new better paying freelance projects.
However, such an approach is only feasible when the independent worker understands the correlation that exists between their available time and the money he is paid as compensation for their time.
Once that foundation is assured, the freelancer can start gunning for other jobs. Here too, there are as much strategies as there are freelancers. But, a rule of thumb is that you should always gear your profile towards the level of earning you are aiming for.
The right kind of profile to attract corresponding freelance projects
Why do you need different freelance profiles depending on project categories? This may seem like a wasted effort. In particular when we take into account that expert profiles can stoop low and get entry level freelance projects easily. The answer is as follows: if you keep applying to entry level jobs with an expert’s profile, you will convince clients that base pay is enough for experts in that field.
To avoid such confusion, you can either:
- Create multiple profiles of different freelancing platforms and aiming for different levels of freelance jobs (with regards to potential earnings)
- Take advantage of platforms that have a marketplace of ready-to-sell projects or packaged offers where you can clearly state the difference in competence and expected pay.
The goal is to present the image that corresponds to the freelance projects you are hoping to get. But above all else, this allows you to build antifragile freelance earnings that protect you from the hazards of a career as an independent worker.
To gain control over your earnings as a freelancer, you first need to regain control of your schedule. This often means changing your own perception of your work schedule and available time. First of all, you must understand it’s a precious and finite resource. Put a price tag on your time and develop different levels of earnings corresponding to your available time. This will ensure you can search and find the best freelance projects, and in the end, reach your ideal level of income as a freelancer without risking repeated burnouts.
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