18 Tips on Becoming a High-Paid Freelancer or Consultant

When we think about working as a freelancer, it’s much different than being an entrepreneur, even though many often get the two a little confused. If you want to work as independently as possible, then you probably want to join the gig economy right away. Rather than be responsible for a startup and the cause and effect for other people as an entrepreneur, a freelancer is just that – FREE.

In fact, freelancers are in complete control of any jobs or projects that they take on. If they don’t like the pay, the task structure or even the person offering the job, all they have to do is say, “No.” Let that sink in for a minute.

Sure, if you’re currently a freelancer, you’ve probably taken on a client or two out of necessity, whether for financial reasons or for the experience gained. However, on the regular day-to-day, a freelancer is able to work for who they want, from where they want, and for how long they want.

Now, usually things that are too good to be true are just that – too good to be true. Being a freelancer is one of the most impressive exceptions I’ve come across to date. While you may not want to quit your day job until you’ve built up sufficient clients to support your needs, a person can make an excellent living being a freelancer or a consultant. 

But, what if you want a little more? Is it really possible to be extremely well-paid like those popup ads on your social media claim? Actually, it is, and you can do it all without paying someone for their expert tips. In fact, we have 19 right here that will put you on the road to being a successful freelancer or consultant. 

  1. Focus on Results
  2. Build More Authentic Relationships
  3. Narrow Your Niche
  4. See Collaborators, Not Competition
  5. Maintain a Strong Digital Portfolio
  6. Get Your Foot in the Door
  7. Demonstrate the Value of Your Service
  8. Teach Your Methodology
  9. Don’t Underestimate the Power of LinkedIn
  10. Understand the Technical Aspects
  11. Get Exposure
  12. Build Your Own Personal Brand
  13. Ask for Reviews
  14. Educate Your Current and Potential Clients
  15. Invest in Your Knowledge of the Industry
  16. Keep a Good Presence on Upwork
  17. Upgrade Your Existing Contracts
  18. Participate in Online Communities

1. Focus on Results

“The best way to become a highly-paid freelancer or consultant is to focus on results, not activities. At the end of the day, people want solutions to their problems. They don’t need to understand every little detail and task you perform. 

The key thing to remember is that results often fall into three buckets: increase revenue, reduce costs and improve productivity/efficiency. Let’s say you’re a content writer. Including a number is not a result. For example, I published 20 blog posts and increased traffic by 15%. Instead, how did that traffic contribute to total revenue? How did it reduce costs? So a result could be I generated $$ directly attributed to 20 blog posts published as measured in Google Analytics.

That’s how you stand out and ‘justify’ high rates.”

Ariel Lim, Ariel Lim

2. Build More Authentic Relationships

Social media and technology are 24/7, so it’s easy to get sucked into it, but I find in lead generation, less is more. I think it is a mistake to hide behind technology and CRM systems when prospecting. I prefer a more back-to-the basics approach by disconnecting from technology periodically and focusing on cultivating human, face-to-face relationships while social distancing. Meeting for coffee or lunch even virtually can accomplish so much more than e-mail exchanges, social media posts, etc., and it is a great way to get to know people better. I have found that building relationships is what drives my business, and while technology helps advance the conversation, iit will never replace the human interaction that builds trust over time.”

Paige Arnof-Fenn, Mavens & Moguls

3. Narrow Your Niche

“One habit of highly paid freelancers and consultants is quite simple, yet often overlooked: Narrow down your niche. Avoid the temptation amongst beginner freelancers to generalize so you can get cheap work fast. Instead, specialize in one or two unique, in-demand types of projects within your field, and become an expert in those tasks. For example, if you’re a content writer, perhaps you could specialize in blog and email marketing (as opposed to any writing at all). 

Specializing makes you more sought-after as a consultant, because you won’t take just any job. This approach positions you as an authority in your area of expertise, allowing you to ask higher prices for your services, and eventually enjoy financial freedom.”

Matt Satell, Little Bundle

4. See Collaborations, Not Competition

When starting out as a freelancer or consultant, it is easy to look at people who are where you want to be, and to view them as competitors. You might want to figure out how to be like them or better, leading to frustration or even jealousy. Instead of thinking of these people as competitors, try seeing them as collaborators.

As a freelancer or a consultant, you cannot take on every client in your niche. Let’s say that your niche is e-commerce companies. There are thousands of e-commerce companies in the United States. You might only have the capacity to work with five to ten of them per month. There is no harm in collaborating with people who do the same thing as you because everyone has only so much capacity, also meaning you are not actually competing.”

Dayana Mayfield, Dayana Mayfield

5. Maintain a Strong Digital Portfolio

If you’ve been freelancing for a while, it may seem difficult to try to increase your pay – especially if you are putting in more than enough hours. While the autonomy over your wage can be freeing, it can be difficult to navigate and also make actionable changes to your pay. 

Firstly, don’t listen to what society says – you can make more than enough money freelancing, even more than what you previously earned in your job. It just takes some building up, planning and hard work. The benefits that come with freelancing are worth it for the majority of people – the liberty of pay, freedom, choosing your own hours, no commute, etc. 

My biggest tip is to begin a portfolio (online, of course) – this should showcase your work, your services, and build up your personal brand. Use this site to not only showcase your best work, but to also justify higher rates – your impressive skills are in high demand, and this portfolio shows that.”

Philip Weiss, PhilipWeiss.org

6. Get Your Foot in the Door

Identify a single deliverable you can offer a client that solves their worst pain point in 6-weeks or less. Your contract size will be relatively small. This is to your benefit. It makes it easier for the client to say yes, and you can decide if you like working with them before committing to a larger scope of work. We teach this strategy to our students that become freelance grant writers. They start by helping clients figure out what grants to pursue. They can then accurately price and scope a contract for implementing the work. The overall contract value is 3-5x higher doing it this way, than trying to negotiate a large contract from the beginning.”

Meredith Noble, Learn Grant Writing

7. Demonstrate the Value of Your Service

When you want to be a high-paid freelancer or consultant, demonstrate the value of your service. For example, if you sell SEO, show how much traffic you will drive to their site, the conversion rate, and the total lifetime customer value. This should be at least 10 times more than what you charge. When the prospect sees your value next to your rate, you can charge a premium for services.”

Brain Robben, Robben Media

8. Teach Your Methodology

What your potential customers really want is to find a freelancer or consultant that they are 100% confident can get the job done. How do you help them feel confident in you as a consultant? You teach them your methodology. Many freelancers and consultants are scared to give away their methods because they worry that no one will need to hire them if they pursue that strategy. The truth is, your potential clients don’t have the time nor the inclination to do it themselves, they just want to find someone competent that can do it for them. As you teach them your methods, they gain the trust that you are the one that can help them, and so they hire you as their consultant.”

Adam White, SEOJet

9. Don’t Underestimate the Power of LinkedIn

Use LinkedIn. Seriously, it is an incredibly powerful way for you to find collaborations and get your dream clients to make the first move. You want to update your profile and make sure your niche is clear and in your headline. For example: “Freelance Digital Marketing Content Writer” or “Freelance Finance Case Study Writer.” Then you want to re-write your About section to appeal to your dream client. Make sure you hit on those pain points and demonstrate why you’re the best freelancer for the job. List your success stories, feature your best testimonials and brag about your past clients. Lastly, add keywords all over your profile that your client would type into LinkedIn to find you. This is going to boost your profile in the search results and make your future clients feel like you are the perfect fit.”

Lauren Melnick, Wanderlust Movement

10. Understand the Technical Aspects

High-paid writers typically have an understanding of the technical aspects of writing like SEO to drive site traffic. In today’s digital age, content needs to be curated for both a human audience and algorithms. Being able to demonstrate a solid understanding of how SEO-rich copy plays into the inbound marketing funnel will help you stand out. Talk to a prospective employer about how you successfully leveraged keyword density and LSI keywords to improve page authority in a how-to piece. They might just hire you on the spot – regardless of your fee.”

Kimberly Smith, Clarify Capitol

11. Get Exposure

The first tip is to gain national editorial exposure for yourself, your company name and your exact freelance or consulting niche in top publications or television and radio broadcasts.

All freelancers and consultants are competing against A) the Internet and B) other qualified experts. When hundreds of thousands even millions of readers or viewers see your face, hear your voice and listen to your expert soundbites, the volume of incoming requests for your brainpower, experience and availability dramatically increase –– as well as the demand and durability of your rates.”

Christopher Hanson, RedBaronUSA

12. Build Your Own Personal Brand

“Those who successfully build their own personal brand will command much higher compensation compared to those who simply provide a homogenous service. As an example, let’s consider two Freelancers skilled at WordPress implementations. Freelancer A is highly technical, and has numerous reviews confirming their competency at WordPress.  Freelancer B has similar technical skills, but is also a regular contributor to a number of well-respected publications. Further, Freelancer B has had numerous speaking engagements, where they share their philosophy of managing WordPress deployments as part of a broader corporate strategy.  In this example, Freelancer B will command much higher compensation, as they have created an established brand that cannot be easily replicated.”

Bryce Bowman, People First Planning

13. Ask for Reviews

When it comes to being a successful freelancer or consultant, always request recommendations, feedback or reviews. When I work from a freelance site like UpWork, I complete my projects by asking happy clients to rate my work through the online platform they hired me on. This also applies for jobs I conduct in person. A satisfied client is often eager to provide a short paragraph praising my work via email or by form. With their permission, I’m then able to use this commendation on my website or when applying for other contracts. I’m also not afraid to encourage my clients to tell their friends and colleagues about the positive experience they had while working with me. I’ve gotten numerous jobs purely through word-of-mouth.

I think a lot of new freelancers and consultants are hesitant to push their luck or ask for this kind response once a project is completed. But in a time when clients can be overwhelmed by options, the best way to stand out is to provide proof that you’ve done exceptional work in the past. Previous-client feedback is one of the best ways to go about this.”

Rick Patterson, Poolonomics

14. Educate Your Current and Potential Clients

The best strategy to position yourself as the ideal consultant for your high-paying clients is to regularly populate your personal brand’s website and social networking accounts with content in the form of educational articles, “Frequently Asked Questions,” “how-to” guides, detailed case studies and client testimonials. Additionally, you must be very active when it comes to offering your valuable industry insights, tips and know-how (for free) to journalists contributing to authoritative digital publications, through “HARO” (Help a Reporter Out) and similar networks. Create an “About/Press/Media” page on your website where you list all your press coverage and media features so your potential future clients can see that you are a professional whose opinion counts and is in demand.”

Joanna Vaiou, Joanna Vaiou

15. Invest in Your Knowledge of the Industry

Make sure that you’re investing in your own knowledge of the industry. The best way to offer a great service is to be continuously improving it, so staying up to date with all of the latest knowledge and real strategies that will actually bring some benefit to your clients is one of the biggest parts of becoming a high-paid consultant or freelancer. 

Knowing the latest and greatest in your chosen industry and being able to apply it to existing and new clients will mean that you’re ahead of the curve and won’t fall behind your competitors in the consultancy world. 

So, self-improvement is one of the biggest parts of becoming a successful consultant, you’re essentially selling your knowledge to people and so if your knowledge isn’t the best it can possibly be, then you’re selling a subpar product. when you purchase a subpar product, people tend to stay away from it and leave poor reviews all over the internet too.”

Charlie Worrall, Imaginaire

16. Keep a Good Presence on Upwork

Even though there are tons of freelance platforms out there, everyone knows UpWork is king when it comes to freelancing. Clients know that freelancers on UpWork are battle-tested and come equipped with work-ready skills, which is a huge asset to have. So, my advice is to build a good reputation as a freelancer on UpWork or any freelance platform, as it can increase your value and chance to land a high-paying job in the future.”

Sharon Van Donkelaar, Expandi

17. Upgrade Your Existing Contracts

My best tip for freelancers that want to make the most out of their careers is to never stop networking and approaching new clients. That is the only way to not only guarantee a monthly income, but to give yourself a chance to increase how much you get paid for your work. As a freelancer, clients come and go, so it’s critical to always be one step ahead of the game and look to upgrade your existing contracts. This way you can replace existing contracts with more profitable ones which will increase your earning potential over time.”

Tom Winter, DevSkiller

18. Participate in Online Communities

Once you pick a niche, find out where those people participate online. Answer more questions than you ask, be friendly and helpful, cultivate relationships with influencers in that community, post links both to your own content and to resources. As you land clients and they tell you how much they love your work, ask them to post something to the community. My niche is the intersection of profitability and social change/environmental healing through a marketing lens, so I publish content on places like GreenBiz and Triple Pundit and participate in communities like Marketers for Social Change on Facebook and Step Into the Spotlight on LinkedIn.”

Shel Horowitz, Going Beyond Sustainability

Author: Angela Ash

Managing content and publicity even when she sleeps, Angela also writes poetry, plays the piano, travels, loves on her two feline fur balls and can even beat Mickey Mouse at Disney trivia