I have been “working in freedom” for almost ten years now and I bet even my closest friends are still wondering if I am actually earning enough to support our family. I know you are thinking it! I know because I do not really give full details of what I do for a living and how much I earn from it.
Some friends would often watch me work just to see if I am actually working, but eventually find themselves at a loss at what is going on. They see reports, charts, and digital marketing plans. They see me talking to clients from all over the world. All the work happens online, on a computer. How is it possible to earn a living that way?
Although it is already 2017, having an online business here in the Philippines still feel like (and considered) “freelancing” to many. In fact, I once tried to apply for a credit card using my online business as proof of income, complete with documents (registration, ITR, bills under the name of the business, etc), and was still declined because it was not enough to prove that I can pay for my bills. Note that I do not have ‘bad’ records; the bank just does not see my business as ‘legit’. I can tell it from the reaction of the interviewer when I said that my home address is also my business address.
There are also people I meet who would raise one eyebrow when our conversation shifts to my business. One even said, while we were talking about business registration, “Ni-reregister pala ang ganyang business? Business pala talaga ‘yan!” (So you actually register that type of business? I didn’t know it’s an actual business!)
I see the same mentality about having an “online business” (I am trying not to call it freelancing) among those who are within the industry too. Although they work and earn online, many still look at themselves as freelancers who do not deserve to charge for what they are actually worth.
Take, for example, this amazing video editor I know. Believe me, he creates some of the best video presentations I have seen (and I have seen a lot, being in digital marketing) – yet, he charges a measly $5 an hour for his outrageously good work.
I asked him why he charges so low. His answer? Simply because he does not want to lose his clients. “Will your clients stop hiring your services if you increase your rate?” I prodded. “Well, they don’t think Filipinos should be charging so high. If my rates were to be higher, then they’d just get someone locally than work with me.” Wow.
But is it worth it? Are bad clients better than none at all?
I have been in that place before. I used to charge as low as $3 an hour for virtual support that includes WordPress management, social media management, landing page creation, email marketing, Facebook ads, and more. I have complete training on various social media platforms from some of the biggest names in the industry, yet I charged so low. Just like the video editor I know, I did not want to raise my rates because I do not want to lose clients.
During that time, I was working on huge projects but getting paid pennies. Clients would require me to work nights, sometimes even on weekends.
Then, I found Reese Ben-Yaacov and her amazing community of online business owners. I shared with them my situation and they were all shocked at how bad I was being treated by some clients. I found the motivation to re-evaluate my business because of Reese and the community she built!
Slowly, but surely, I began to rebuild my business. This time, I made sure that clients see my value.
How to Earn More As A Freelancer (Online Business Owner)
There are three things that will help you earn more as a freelancer–rather, an online business manager:
The first step is to acknowledge your value. I used to offer my virtual support services to any client that came my way, no matter how much the pay is. The important thing for me back then was to earn–even if that meant working with “bad clients” or clients who do not see the value I add to their businesses.
It is quite easy to identify such clients. This kind of clients would usually ask for unbelievably cheap rates for projects that require a lot of work and expertise. Sometimes, they would even use your ethnicity as reason why you need to charge low. No kidding! One client told me that I am a Filipino, which is why I cannot charge as much as someone who is based in the U.S. charges.
Do not believe them.
If you know your worth, if you know the value you can add to a project, then charge accordingly. I increased my hourly rate and started offering packages. I lost some clients throughout the transition, but that only meant they weren’t my target market in the first place.
This brings me to the next point… know your target market. This is important for any business. You need to know who you want to work with so you do not come across like a cheap commodity who would accept every project. In my case, I have chosen to only work with women entrepreneurs and bloggers. These are women building a business that support other women.
Moreover, knowing who exactly is your target market makes it easier for you to create packages and products that your people will actually spend money on. You will no longer be blindly creating service packages and virtual products because you know who you are making those packages and products for and what they need.
Okay, so you now know that your work has value and you know who you want to work with – now what? The next step is to invest in yourself.
What sets a serious business owner apart from a freelancer who is out to just make extra income is that an online business owner is not satisfied with just working and earning. A serious online business owner seeks career growth, and she does it through mentorship and training programs. Some of the programs I have joined include those by:
- Kim Garst (Facebook Marketing)
- Melyssa Griffin (Pinterest Marketing)
- Martine de Luna (Branding/Writing)
I also follow other girl bosses who are rocking their business to get some of their tips on creating and growing an online business. These ladies include:
When you invest in your own growth, you affirm the value you provide to your potential clients. When you are highly skilled on certain types of work, then you can start charging what you are worth, and not just based on what is convenient for your client.
This leads us back to the question: Are bad clients better than no clients at all?
When you decide to rebuild your business so that it not just supports your clients, but also your needs, expect to lose clients. Some clients will find your rates too high and end their contract with you. That is okay! You will be able to find better paying clients. Some clients, however, will recognize your value and agree to continue working with you. That is even better!
If you do lose clients in the process, do not lose hope and revert to being cheap. Instead, focus on marketing yourself to your target market. You can do so by:
- Creating a website that showcases your work
- Marketing your services through social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Google Plus)
- Joining communities within your niche
- Asking your existing clients for referrals (this works wonders!)
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