How to Get Higher-Paying Design Clients (& Charge More)

How to Get Higher-Paying Design Clients (& Charge More)

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This article was contributed by Gabriel Nwatarali.

Looking to learn how to charge more for your design work and attract higher paying clients as a freelancer?


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Use the ideas laid out in this article to price your work based on value VS time, and guarantee yourself a solid income.

The following is probably familiar…

You spend hours upon hours honing your skills in order to provide the best possible service to your clients. Then one day the truth hits you and that is, your customers undervalue your expertise.

The good news? You’re not the only one with this debacle. Today we’ll show you how to create a system that attracts higher paying customers.

How Freelancers Can Attract Higher-paying Customers

Here’s the thing.

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Freelancing platforms are only one way of gaining exposure and attracting clients. There are other methods of getting higher paying customers. But you’re going to need to focus and think much bigger.

The old saying, “go big or go home”, has a lot of truth to it. You see, it takes about the same effort to make less money for your services as it is to get paid what you’re worth.

That means virtually anyone can get higher-paying clients. Providing that there’s a demand for what you’re offering and you’ve mastered the skills necessary to do excellent work.

Our aim is to show you how to create a system around your business that consistently attracts the right customers. That’s how you get higher paying clients. Feel free to combine some of the following tips to create your own client attraction system. However, you’ll achieve greater results if all of them are implemented.

1. Get to Know Who Your Customers Are

Whatever it takes, learn about who your ideal customers are. The idea here is to work with people or businesses that you intricately understand their pain points. This enables you to continuously provide solutions that resolve their problems.

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What are their most pressing concerns? What challenges keep them up at night? What is most important to them? These are examples of some questions you’ll need to answer.

Perhaps, going through the process of creating personas will give you a nice deep dive into the minds of your target customers. A persona is a fictional representation of your ideal clients or consumers.

Nerdy Nina

Personas give you answers to things like target consumer’s preferred hang out spots (online and offline), job types, average wages, etc. Definitely, worth the time it takes to create them.

2. Specialize or Die Trying

You’ve probably heard this advice before. Specialization helps you focus and differentiates your offerings from the competition. However, we aren’t just referring to specializing in one skill, rather becoming an expert in several complimenting fields.

This will give you an edge over the other choices because it upgrades you from a common find to a rare breath. For example, a copywriter or writer that also has SEO expertise will be preferred over one that doesn’t.

You only need to be specialized in one of them but expert-level in others. So pick one expertise that you love the most, really excel in it, and then add complementing skills to your repertoire. As an example, Jacob is a graphic designer that specializes in logo design and branding.

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Continue to add complementary skills to your resume, as you become expert level at each one. Focus and determination are key components of achieving mastery in any industry.

3. Build a Website

By now you know that people pay more for experts. Starting a website (e.g. blog) is a great way to show off your competence. Sharing your knowledge and expertise freely on a personal or business platform will get you “eyeballs”. In other words, it gets the right people to start paying attention.

A website is a 24/7 lead generator that also enhances your resume by a ton! So write on your site, share knowledge elsewhere, and participate in anything that helps to spread your name. In a nutshell, market yourself as you would any business that sells what you offer with a strong content strategy in place.

Do this consistently and you’ll increase your authority within the industry over time. Your own website is definitely something you should show potential clients but don’t rely on it alone.

4. Craft a Winning Cover Letter / Proposal Package

Your cover letter or proposal package is your “elevator pitch” and what you send to prospects. Ideally, it should be short, concise, well written, and communicate to the consumer why they should pick you. In general, it should discuss or demonstrate all of the following.

  • Knowledge and experience in your field.
  • Your communication skills
  • Authority or expertise
  • Convey the feeling of trustworthiness
  • Show off your creativity (e.g. include links to past work)

Remember that it’s always best to show more than you tell. The prospect wants to know that you can solve their problems. That’s their main concern. Include case studies and relevant examples of your work.

5. Show Past Results

Being able to show off past results is relative to your line of services and situation but applies in most cases.

For instance, graphic designers can present their portfolios, online marketers can show some statistics (e.g. conversion rates), etc.

Previous results are a great way of proving your skills. See Jacob’s case study for his Waves to Wilderness rebranding project.

Waves to Wilderness Website Mock

6. Go The Extra Mile

Do you cringe whenever someone says they’re going to work for free? Maybe you don’t mind doing it but here’s the problem with working for free.

Time is too valuable and working for free doesn’t even guarantee you’ll earn the project in question. Not that guarantees should be your focus as a freelancer but neither is giving your time away “willy-nilly” (or without direction).

Instead, you should focus on going the extra mile and giving away things that yields returns to your freelancing career in some way. The former means doing a bit more than one is paid to do. The latter refers to giving away value in the form of content that’ll keep working for you long-term. Make both of these a habit.

For example, an SEO specialist could give away link building ideas or tips on their website. A writer who is paid to create a 500-word article could deliver 700 words to their client.

7. Work at a Reduced Rate (if you’re just starting out)

While you shouldn’t work for free, it’s perfectly ok to provide your services at discounted rates temporarily (e.g. when starting out). However, be selective of the businesses that you work with at bargain prices. See here for some freelance rates.

Do a fantastic job and you can place their logo in your portfolio even if they don’t keep using your services. This will strengthen your positioning on the market and attract more clients of the same caliber. But, it’s best to work with companies that can afford your regular rates.

Remember to price based on value, not time.

Freelance Rates

8. Build Your Email List

You can build a strong “pipeline” by starting a newsletter. An email list is a powerful marketing channel that can be leveraged to build your freelance business.

However, the tough part about email list building for freelancers is sending emails regularly. After all, you’re extremely busy but that’s where automation can help. Affordable email marketing platforms like Aweber or MailChimp, can help you nurture your audience with automation.

For instance, you can have the automated system send out every new blog post from your site via RSS syndication. That means you can focus on adding value while software handles the delivery.

Feel free to manually send special offers to your subscribers every now and then. Alternatively, you can include a CTA (call-to-action) after each blog post.

9. Use Cold Email Outreach

The truth is that cold email outreach has been overly abused. Maybe it’s because marketers like to ruin good things .

Nevertheless, cold email is still an important way of reaching businesses that want what you’re selling. But to succeed you’ll need to stand apart from spammers. Fortunately, the way to do this is simpler than you might think. Are you ready?

All you have to do is be human. That’s right. The secret to success with cold email marketing is to realize that you’re dealing with another person. So you have to be genuine with your intentions and want the best for your prospect. Also, you’ll need to send out a lot of emails to reach the right people. Having a personal recommendation or referral also helps.

Generally, 1 out of 10 will respond to your email, providing that you aren’t mindlessly spamming. Plus, that doesn’t guarantee they’ll buy anything but at least you can get a conversation going. So out of 100 sent emails, expect 10 to respond and 1 percent of those will probably make a purchase.

10. Utilize Social Media

Social media is something a lot of people swear by and we have to agree that it’s an effective way of getting clients. But the key is picking the right platforms.

While it’s ok to have a presence on major social media channels, you shouldn’t focus your energies on all of them. Pick one or two networks that your target customers hang out on and focus on those.

For example, Twitter lets you send direct messages. You can send messages directly to prospects that have been qualified for your services.

Direct Messaging Twitter

The thing to remember when using social platforms to find clients is that you shouldn’t mass send the same message. Prospects can sense this in action because they probably get tons of mass messages weekly. Also, keep your messages short, clear, and include the “what’s in it for me”.

Other great social media channels for freelancers include but not limited to the following.

  • Quora
  • Reddit
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest

The Importance of Using Multiple Marketing Channels

The use of several marketing channels is one of the most important things you must do as a freelancer. The bottom line is that you need to market your services where consumers are “kicking it”.

That means using a combination of social media, search engines, email, snail mail, etc. Don’t limit your reach to one or two avenues, rather use whatever means you can to reach your intended audience.

Think of marketing like casting a net. The more places you have to fish for clients, the greater your chances of acquiring customers.

The most successful B2B companies use multiple marketing channels to reach their customers. Start doing the same.

You Need Skin in The Game to Play

No doubt, freelancing platforms like Upwork or Toptal are good ways of acquiring customers. But these marketplaces have become more competitive. For a long time, anyone could sign up on one of these websites and apply for gigs, which caused quotes or labor cost to drop.

At first, businesses seeking services and possibly the platforms themselves saw this as a good thing. But, when it quickly became apparent that the quality for deliverables had also significantly dropped, it began to turn heads. Now each platform is handling that challenge differently.

For example, Upwork recently announced changes that will affect how much freelancers pay to apply for projects. They’ll no longer offer free connects when people sign up in an attempt to weed out unprofessional freelancers. In other words, you need skin in the game to play.

Should You Keep Using Freelancing Platforms?

The main difference between a freelancer and someone who has a job is that freelancers are business owners in their own right. However, this difference becomes blurred when platforms start treating you like an employee.

Nonetheless, these freelancing websites command huge audiences that are ready to pay for your services. So yes, you should absolutely keep using them but they shouldn’t be your only avenue or method for acquiring clients.

You have to set some ground rules when it comes to using freelance sites to avoid becoming a commodity. The key is to build your own business by leveraging these platforms for exposure if you want to thrive. Ensure you have an updated graphic design resume.

That means no dropping your prices way below market value just to win business. You have to hold your ground. Know your worth and even if you don’t, keep your prices at market value or higher. Start viewing what you do as a business because it is. After all, you’re selling services to companies.

Confidence Will Increase Your Earnings

Having self-confidence in your abilities to do great work is ultra-important. Not having confidence in yourself will show in everything you do in life even if an attempt is made to hide it.

As a freelancer, trying to score gigs can be scary for many reasons. You have responsibilities (e.g. bills to pay) like everybody else. Sure, you can fake it till you make it but there’s a better way to maintain confidence. That is, ensuring that you have other income sources.

Here’s an example. A freelance writer who is also an affiliate marketer has nothing to worry about whenever they don’t get a writing gig. This is because they have revenue coming from affiliate products too, which increases their confidence.

Similarly, a graphic designer who also has a part-time job somewhere else, won’t have to worry. They have another income source so it’s much easier to move on.

Ask yourself the following question. What would help you be more confident? Then go get it done.

Make a Commitment

To excel in any endeavor you need to commit to it. That means doing whatever it takes to ensure you can keep serving clients as a freelancer. But you got to shift your thinking or mindset a little. Specifically, realize that it takes the same amount of effort to make less money than it takes to secure more.

The tips laid out in this article can help you earn higher-paying clients but none of it matters if you don’t commit. Use multiple marketing channels and don’t be afraid to try things that might not work. Lastly, confidence in oneself to accomplish tasks is extremely critical. So do what you must to increase your confidence.

About the author: Gabriel Nwatarali is a digital marketer and designer and founder of Tech Help Canada, an online marketing agency that specializes in multiple disciplines. Follow him on Twitter to stay in touch.

1 thought on “How to Get Higher-Paying Design Clients (& Charge More)”

  1. Jacob,

    I really enjoyed reading your content! You make really good points about dealing with actual people and the only way to have your voice heard is to speak.

    I’ve sent a dozen of emails to different companies about looking at my blog and maybe helping me get my feet on the ground. 99% of these emails have led to “sorry we can’t help”. But it makes me wonder if I had a large number of followers and was well known if these companies would have said yes.

    I know my blog is new and I still have a lot of work to make it into something great. But I hope there’s someone out there who takes interest in the content I’m creating.

    https://charliesconfessions.com/
    https://www.instagram.com/mintywrx/

    I hope you enjoy reading my blog just as much as I have enjoyed yours !!

Comments are closed.

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