When you decided to become a freelance blogger, did you immediately write up a 5-year business development plan? Calculate a full financial forecast?
If you did, you have everyone’s permission to skip this blog post and order more champagne while you wait for the rest of us to catch up.
But most freelance bloggers start with a talent for writing and then pick up a bit of business sense along the way. If that sounds more like you, don’t worry—you can still grow your blogging into a lucrative business. We just need to fill some of the most worrying gaps in your understanding of how your business works.
Here’s the important part, though: you need to fill the knowledge gaps in your business now, because every month they go unfilled is another month you go without the money you deserve.
Let’s say these business skills will bring you at least $1000 per month if you’re just starting out, or add to whatever you’re earning now if you’ve already got your business going.
If you wait another year to pick up basic business knowledge, you’ll be down $12,000. And that’s probably an understatement, because strong business skills will let you grow your business way beyond the $1000-a-month mark.
I learned from my own screw-ups for the first couple of years, without any business training at all. And it showed. I worried too much and charged too little because I had no idea what I was doing or how to value my services.
What turned my once-amateurish freelance blogging business into a high-paying career wasn’t any kind of big break scenario. I didn’t get discovered by a new media mogul or apprenticed to a famous blogger. I didn’t start a personal blog and suddenly get Tumblr’d to fame and fortune.
I got schooled [in the nicest possible sense] by several business blogs, then took the big step of investing some of my pay back into my business by joining several excellent training, mentoring and mastermind groups. That’s how I finally started to own my business.
These are the 3 questions I’ve learned to answer that made a real difference to my business and my income:
#1: What’s Your Offer?
In other words, what do you sell and how do you get paid?
For me, the first answers I had were “writing” and “whichever way the client wants”.
Now, though, I know that my core offer is an ongoing blog content and strategy package, priced for the mid-to-high end of the market and paid weekly in advance.
Yours might be different: corporate blog posts and white papers paid per item on a net 30 days basis, for example, or quarterly high volume batches of recipe posts with Pinterest-ready images and paid per word on delivery.
It’s easier to charge a decent rate for a smaller number of gigs than a low rate for a large number of gigs. And it’s much easier to get your payment in advance, or at least partial payment in advance, than to wait 30 or 60 days after invoicing.
Stating the obvious, right? But these are lessons that come late to a lot of freelancers, and I was one of them. Another thing I never thought about at all in my first year or so of freelancing was my product. Wow, I was really stupid.
#2: What’s Your Best Product?
We’re talking about what’s best for you. In other words, which of your products gives you the most profit for the least effort?
The first thing you might think is, “But I don’t have any products— just writing services.” Trust me, you sell products. You just don’t recognise them. Let’s fix that now.
When you offer one or more services with a price, timeline and payment terms, you’ve created a product. In freelance blogging, it often feels like you create a whole new deal for each new client. But once you look a bit closer, you’ll probably see a pattern in which certain post types, post lengths, delivery speeds and add-on services are more popular than others.
Are the most popular deals also the most lucrative for you? Do they offer a good rate per hour of your time, including all the time you don’t bill to your client such as time spent getting the gig in the first place or communications that don’t get entered on your time tracker?
And how do you feel about that time? Does it bore you to tears or is it the kind of gig you’d do for fun even if you won a gazillion dollars tomorrow? Is it typically rush work that eats into your weekend, or does it fit neatly into your family’s schedule?
If your most popular product is one that pays well in terms of your hourly rate equivalent and involves work you love to do, then you’re already on the right track.
But if your bestselling product only pays you $15 per hour after all your unbillable hours are taken into account, or it means you have to spend hours late at night on a task that drives you crazy, then it’s time to change the product description.
Here are 4 simple ways to tweak your existing product for your own benefit:
- Increase the price
- Get paid sooner
- Learn to produce the product faster
- Make the product easier to produce
All easier said than done. That’s why it takes most freelancers an age to figure out what’s going on in their business. Hell, it takes most freelancers an age and a half to even start their business.
#3: Can You Start Today?
This is the key to successful freelancing: get started, then keep improving. [You like that? Tweet it!]
With the experience you gain in your very first freelance blogging gig, you’ll feel more confident (and be more competent) in your second gig. When you’ve been in business for a while and can analyse what your clients need, you’ll be able to make your product even more appealing and even more profitable.
Check out this video for a more detailed explanation courtesy of Ryan Ferrier at 60-Day MBA:
Ryan’s a perfect example of this strategy, too—his product, the 60-Day MBA training course, has evolved from a live online group into a multi-faceted product with a ton of high quality materials.
Your answers to these 3 questions will evolve along with your business, so it’s a good idea to reassess them at least a couple of times a year no matter how successful you are.
If you feel like now’s a good time to take a look at your business, or you haven’t really started yet and you’re not sure what to do, pay attention:
Ryan Ferrier’s got some excellent free videos for you that explain how to earn good money as a freelancer, and how you evolve beyond that to become a high-paid expert. So if you want a freelance blogging business that works for you, check out Ryan’s video collection for a free taste of the 60-Day MBA training — I’m an affiliate and a big fan of their down-to-earth approach.
Image: M4D Group