More than 53 million Americans — 34 percent of the entire workforce — are freelancers, working in industries such as writing and publication, digital design, software development, and more. If you’re one of the many working as your boss, you may be wondering how it’s possible to gain a promotion.
While employees working for large companies know what steps they need to take to advance, being a freelancer means determining your path. It’s up to you to assess your goals and decide what needs to be done to achieve them.
The best way to promote yourself is to seek ways to improve and grow in your career as a freelancer.
1. Give Yourself a Raise
According to a survey, on average, most freelance workers earn significantly more than the average non-freelance wages. If you don’t feel you’re earning enough, it could be time to rethink your rates. When was the last time you determined how valuable your time is?
Too-low rates can often indicate low-quality services to a client, whether that’s true or not. When you’re calculating your hourly or project rate, decide what fee is reasonable based on your expertise, experience, niche, and location. If possible, find out what other freelancers with similar backgrounds are charging.
If you change your rate, always remember to notify ongoing and regular clients. It’s never a good idea to send an invoice with a surprise up-charge. A simple email or notification letter in the mail will suffice.
2. Work Smarter, Not Harder
One way to promote yourself is to start working smarter, not harder. This philosophy means utilizing your time more efficiently to make more money and work fewer hours. If you’re wasting half your day surfing the web or responding to emails, it’s time you could instead spend getting work done.
One way to ensure you’re working more efficiently is to cut out distractions, such as email notifications and internet browsing. Have a to-do list of the things you need to get done, and number them by importance. Then, begin crossing off each task, starting with the most important.
3. Be Selective with Clients
Do you have gigs that you dread working on? Perhaps you have a client you’d rather avoid. As a freelancer, you get to decide who you want to work with and what you want to work on. Promote yourself to working exclusively with your top accounts — the ones you consider to offer the most value to your career.
This step could mean being more selective with the clients and work you choose to take on. However, some freelancers decide to outsource work to other freelancers, allowing them to still accept contracts without having to complete all the work.
Your time will be better utilized and more fulfilling when you allow yourself to limit your work to only the best clients.
4. Expand Your Horizons
Is there a client or publication you’ve wanted to write for? Perhaps you read their magazine each week, or you stay up-to-date on all the latest blog articles. Either way, stop hesitating and start taking action. Doubt — whether it’s about your abilities, your readiness, or something else — will only hold you back.
Challenge yourself, and start pitching to clients that might feel like a reach. Keep your ambitions and motivation high. Use any feedback you receive to optimize your pitch and continue going after your goals.
5. Never Stop Learning
At a typical organization, promotions come to those who are curious, willing to learn, and able to adapt. While no manager is looking over your shoulder as a freelancer, continual learning can still lead to advancement, meaning you should treat each workday as an opportunity to learn something new.
As a freelancer, online education is a convenient option. You can take courses, watch educational videos, attend web seminars, read digital guides, and more. The internet has only made it easier to gain skills and get better at what you do. You can also learn offline, perhaps by reading a book or attending a lecture series at your local university.
6. Promote Yourself to Management
Some freelancers prefer keeping to themselves, and that’s okay. But if you’re looking for a surefire way to advance as a freelancer, it’s time to consider a promotion to manager. This step means delegating to and keeping track of a personal team.
Maybe you want to hire someone to keep track of invoicing and receiving payments. Or perhaps you’re looking to hire other freelancers with the same skills as you so that you can hand off mediocre jobs or clients you’d rather pass up. Having more people on your team will free up your time to focus on work that’s important to you.
If you decide to bring more people into your freelance operation, it’s a good idea to first establish yourself as an LLC, a straightforward process that will protect you in the rare event that someone — such as a client or contracted freelancer — decides to sue you. An LLC will allow them to sue only the business and not you personally.
Other benefits of starting an LLC include:
- Less administrative paperwork
- More tax advantages
- Flexible profit distribution
- No double taxation
7. Ask for Referrals
Are you looking to bring in more clients and make a bigger paycheck? One great way you can find new work is to ask your current and past clients for referrals. If a client is satisfied with your work, they typically won’t mind passing along the news to friends, peers, and co-workers that you offer quality services.
This word-of-mouth promotion is great for a freelancer, as it comes from a trusted source and holds more weight than an ad or sales pitch. You’ll find more success sourcing clients through referrals than through sending out cold emails to people who don’t know you. Getting referrals from clients you enjoy working for can also mean higher chances of finding similarly good clients.
8. Give Yourself a Bonus
One perk of working for an employer is the possibility of a bonus. Maybe it’s an end-of-year celebration or a gift for happy holidays. It could be a quarterly reminder that you hit all your targets and are on track for a great fiscal year. No matter what it is, a bonus is a reward that means a job well done.
Everyone needs a bonus now and then — even freelancers. Being your boss means you get to decide when and how you’re rewarded. Perhaps you’ve met your goal of landing three new clients in a month. You can reward yourself by going out to lunch at your favorite restaurant. Or maybe you’ve finally made it through a long and treacherous project. Give yourself a bonus by allocating $100 toward a shopping trip.
Earning a Promotion as a Freelancer
As a freelancer, you can’t walk into your boss’ office and ask for a promotion, but maybe that’s a good thing. From how many hours you work to how much money you make, you have more control over the trajectory of your career.
That said, if you want to “earn a promotion” and advance in your career, you’re the only person who can make it happen. There’s plenty you can do to improve yourself and achieve more goals — get started today!