How Much Money Can You Earn as a Freelancer?
Posted May 9, 2012 in Getting Started, Marketing
“How much can you earn as a freelancer?”
I’m probably asked this question more than any other question when people hear what I do for a living. It’s also a question I dread because there’s no set answer and there are certainly no guarantees.
When I worked in a corporate job, I could easily give a salary range for what I did. I could even state my exact salary if I wanted to.
As a freelancer, it’s not quite so simple.
In this post, I’ll take a closer look at some of the very real issues behind the question of “how much can you earn as a freelancer?”
Freelancing Must-Have #1–a Marketable Skill
To become a freelancer, you first need a marketable skill. But not all marketable skill sets translate well into freelancing.
Creative types often transition easily to freelancing. The freelancing community is full of writers, designers, programmers, photographers, and other creatives. These skills seem to be easy to market.
Other jobs are not quite so easy to take freelancing. This is particularly true of jobs that require you to be at a specific place during a specific time in order to get the job done. A bank teller, for example, or a nurse–these skill sets are not so easy to translate into freelance income.
When someone asks me how much freelancers earn what they often mean is “how much can I earn if I start freelancing?” I really can’t answer that without knowing whether they have a marketable skill.
But simply having a marketable skill is not quite enough. Many freelancers with marketable skills fail at freelancing. That’s because they don’t have the next freelancing must-have.
Freelancing Must-Have #2–Marketing Savvy
Not only do freelancers need a marketable skill, but they must also know how to market that skill. This is a huge obstacle for many people coming from traditional employment.
In traditional employment, your company brings the work to you. There’s no need to develop marketing skills. Freelancing is quite different.
You may be the best graphic designer in the world, but if you can’t get the word out you won’t succeed as a freelancer.
Creative types are notorious for hating marketing. I dislike it myself, but I also realize it’s necessary if I’m going to earn a living as a freelancer.
If you’ve always relied on traditional employment to provide you with an income, you may have no idea where to start with your freelance marketing plan.
Here are a few freelance marketing tips from the Freelance Folder archives:
You can find even more freelance marketing tips under the marketing tab on this blog.
Let’s take a closer look other factors that affect freelance earnings.
Your True Freelance Earnings Potential
So what is your earnings potential as a freelancer?
What I usually tell people about freelance earnings is that the amount you can earn depends on how hard and how smart you are willing to work.
Of course, this assumes that you have a marketable skill and some basic marketing skills.
That’s the short answer, but it’s only partly true. The freelancing community is full of talented freelancers who are just barely scraping by because they don’t charge enough for their work. They are in danger of burning out before they realize that they should charge more.
Many other freelancers are part-timers. They may freelance a few hours a week, but they also have a full-time job. Naturally, they earn less–by choice.
Still, I’m really optimistic about freelancer earning potential. There’s virtually no limit to how much a talented freelancer with marketing smarts and lots of drive can potentially earn.
It’s not unusual to hear of freelancers who earn six figures–far more than they could have earned from a traditional job.
Sadly, most freelancers will never reach their true freelance earning potential due to some of the pitfalls I mention above.
How would you answer the question of “how much can you earn as a freelancer?”
Have you reached your true earnings potential as a freelancer? Why, or why not?
Share your answers in the comments.
Image by Peter Gene
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