Starting out in business on your own is an exciting time, but what nobody really tells you is just how difficult it can be to make money without working yourself into a shadow. Add that to the fact that essentially, every time you gain a new project you have a new boss that you have to find different ways to get on with and freelancing can soon look like a worse option than the general 9-5.
In fact, there are many things that can get you down when you’re a freelancer. You realize that you have to have business skills, you need to get involved with the tax man on a more intimate basis than you’d like and you need to price jobs in such a way that you both beat the competition, and are able to eat. This can all get very wearing and suddenly, it can seem that the daily grind of working for somebody else wasn’t actually much of a grind at all when you’re putting in 16 hour days.
However, there are ways in which you can supplement your income so that perhaps you don’t have to work quite so hard just to live. You’re unlikely to get rich from these income streams, but you were equally unlikely to become a millionaire by adhering to the hourly billing model either. So in other words, you have nothing to lose by checking out other ways of making money and with that in mind, let’s have a look at your options.
A good one to begin with, not least because SitePoint are one of the sites out there that pay for good articles and tutorials. I should stress here that it’s not just by writing online content that you can make cash though, there are also ebooks, technical writing, trade publications and more. Of course, it’s necessary to know how to write well. It’s an extremely competitive area so if your article metaphorically lands on an editor’s desk and it’s full of grammatical errors and spelling mistakes, then it’s going to get rejected.
Tips for getting published
- Learn about the publications you’re going to target. Read them often and study the kind of content that they like to publish. Learn the editor’s name too before you pitch as otherwise it suggests you’re just using the scattergun approach.
- Write about what you know. You’re far more likely to be accepted if you have some specialist knowledge to bring to the table.
- Pitch editors first with a couple of titles and a brief description of what you’ll include in the piece.
- Include samples of your writing, even if it’s just from your own blog.
- Don’t pester editors daily after sending your pitch, it’s very irritating and this could lead to your ideas getting trashed.
- Study the format that the publisher uses and format your own work accordingly.
When it comes to ebooks, you can self-publish on Kindle easily enough these days but that doesn’t mean anyone will buy it. If you’re going to go down this route, then make sure you build a decent social following so that you can market the book. In fact, when it comes to writing anything, you should distribute through your own social channels so that you become well known in your niche.
Tutorials do very well and there’s a huge demand for them, so if you feel that you’ve got what it takes to create tutorial posts and videos, then get pitching editors with fresh ideas.
Don’t forget your own blog
You can of course also monetize your own blog in various ways, the most obvious being through Google AdSense. However, there are other ways, such as:
- Selling advertising space – this is easier said than done, you’ll need to have a lot of traffic going through your site to make it worthwhile as it’s generally worked out depending on the volume of traffic and click through rates.
- Signing up for affiliate programs – these can be relatively lucrative, just make sure that you sign up for programs within your niche such as reselling web hosting and CDNs.
- Creating a membership site – this is where the content on your site is restricted to non-members and members pay a monthly fee. So for example, if you have a lot of tutorials on your site that you feel are of a high enough quality and are well known, then you can charge for full access.
If you’re a new writer, then it may be a little while before you have built up a good enough reputation to command decent money. However, be very wary of working for very little as once you price yourself too low, it’s very difficult to get yourself out of that trap. Lots of new writers make this mistake and find themselves sweating to produce a 1000 word article for as little as $10 – don’t do it, that’s not the road to any form of financial freedom.
There are plenty of opportunities for finding paid work when it comes to sharing your knowledge and there are a few ways you can go about it. Firstly, decide what you want to teach. Perhaps you believe there’s a local market in teaching businesses the basics of web content and SEO? The local market, especially if you can connect with a local learning provider or business support group, is a lucrative one and you can charge by the day, half-day or hour at a rate that’s more than likely higher than your standard hourly design charge.
The local market though is small compared to the online market (which is more competitive) so you can also offer online tutorials through Google Hangouts. In fact, there’s no reason why you can’t write up some courses and use a resource such as WP Courseware (alongside a membership plugin) if you have a WordPress site to offer full online courses to anyone who would like to learn from your expertise.
Creating Themes and Plugins
Creating themes is not the lucrative money-spinner that it once was but if you’re good and willing to put the work in, there’s still definitely cash to be made. WordPress, as the most used CMS in the world, is probably the most lucrative (and competitive) market out there but it’s not enough just to build a pretty theme. You have to be able to commit to updates and support, produce documentation, support shortcodes and design multiple layouts and color schemes if you want to make decent cash.
Sound like too much hard work? Well sure, it’s going to be in the beginning especially, but in the long term when your theme is being downloaded 1000s of times, you could be in the money and not putting nearly as much time in as you would with a client’s site.
You’re not restricted to WordPress of course either, you can design for Joomla and Bootstrap too. There are plenty of marketplaces to peddle your themes.
Repurpose Unused Designs
How many times have you worked on a project where certain designs have been rejected and have just gone unused? I’m betting plenty, so why not repurpose those redundant designs and get them making you a little extra cash?
To do this:
- Sell designs as merchandise on sites such as Cafepress. You can sell anything from t-shirt designs, to mugs, keyrings, aprons and much more.
- Make up vector and illustration packs to sell through stock image sites such as Graphic River.
- Write up tutorials explaining how you created the design if you’ve used any special techniques.
You can take this as far as you like really, there’s no reason you can’t sell designs as greeting cards and even prints for the home. The great thing about the net is there are plenty of outlets for you to get creative and make some extra cash.
Upsell to Existing Clients
Do your clients know about the range of services that you offer as a designer? In most other businesses, it’s the constant marketing effort that gains new revenue and freelancing is no different. So for example if you’ve decided to begin reselling hosting and CDNs and you know some of your clients would benefit from it, then why not drop them a quick email showcasing the range of services that you offer? You can even give them an introductory discount to get them on-board as you know that as soon as they’re in, you’ll be receiving a monthly income.
So, What Are You Waiting For?
You’re in business and in order for that to be sustainable, you have to make a decent income. That means that it’s necessary to explore all of the ways that you can make money both actively and passively. Let’s be clear, there’s no way of getting rich quick through various income streams to be found online and those sites that say it’s possible are only telling half the tale at best. Most of those sites that claim to make huge amounts of cash in a short space of time are concerned with multilevel marketing, which was around long before the net in the form of various schemes which involved recruiting others.
However, you can make a good living by diversifying what you do a little and creating some income streams that you don’t have to work hard at every single day. Sure, you’ll have to put some initial work in for projects such as ebooks and selling merchandise etc., but once that’s done it’s passive income that you’ll only have to work on through marketing.
Whatever you do, building a good online presence and reputation is key, as is marketing whatever you do. So get active on social media and get involved with discussion, you might be surprised where it leads.
Have you found any other creative ways to make money when freelancing?