The author, Laura Pennington. Laura Pennington
For anyone working as a freelancer, the first major barrier (and business breakthrough) comes at the $100,000 mark.
Even if that seems far off, it's easier than you think to build a sustainable freelance business from home.
Whether you're part-time hustling while you're still at another job or making a go of this full time, hitting the $100,000 mark is, mentally, where most freelancers begin to think, "I can make this work."
Hitting $100,000 is a significant financial milestone, but also a mental one. It means your business isn't just a fluke. It might mean being able to leave that soul-sucking day job once and for all. It makes business expansion possible.
But so many freelancers actually struggle to get there. That's because earning the first $100,000 on your own requires a different mindset than what you may be used to.
I started freelancing as a side hustle. I met and surpassed my day job income in a couple of months, but it took me going full-time as a writer to actually hit the $100,000 mark. Here are the lessons I learned that helped me break through that obstacle.1. Become laser-focused on your niche and offerings
The easiest way to sell something is to have a visual of your ideal client and your offerings. Saying that you offer "web design" or "SEO writing" is too vague. While you can certainly make money positioning yourself that way, it might take a lot longer to reach the $100,000 mark.
You can even choose to narrow in based on project type. A writer might only do whitepapers or ebooks, for example.
Here are some great examples of laser-focused offerings that you should incorporate into a freelance writing pitch:I'm a web designer for online business and life coaches who need fully functioning membership sites I'm a freelance SEO writer for personal injury law firms that regular blogs and web content pieces I provide branding for women-owned businesses looking to make an impact and increase visibility
The more you can focus on a profitable niche, the easier it will be to identify an ideal client when you find one.2. Fire your bad clients
When you land your first paid gig, it's tempting to continue to work with the client who gave you a shot at the outset, even if they are no longer right for you.
Many freelancers deal with clients who pay the least and cause the most strife. You will outgrow them. People who stay stuck at less than $100,000 are at that point because their schedule is filled with aggravating clients and projects.
Time to let them go. You can either raise your rates and naturally phase them out (because your worst clients are usually the lowest-paying clients, too) or tell them that your business model is changing and that you'll no longer be able to work on their projects.3. Require a mandatory minimum and focus on recurring contracts/upsells
There are two ways that a minimum actually works in your favor. First of all, a lot of clients love the retainer/package concept. The client knows exactly what they're getting and what they're paying for it, which eliminates the tricky situation of sending an invoice for ten hours' worth of work when the client was only anticipating two hours. Second, clients really love that there's a demand to work with you and that you only have room for a handful of high-end offers.
Every client on your roster should be a premium one if you want to make six figures. A mandatory minimum tells clients that you don't work on any projects less than $200, $500, or $1,000. (Choose your own numbers, but I recommend $500-1000+ for established freelancers.)
Why a minimum?
Your time is precious. You don't want to invest a ton of time and energy into getting to know a brand new client's industry, guidelines, and needs, only to have them disappear after a $200 project.
A mandatory minimum immediately tells the people who aren't the right fit for you that there's a barrier to entry, thus shutting them out at least for the time being.
Recurring business is another excellent tool for creating a robust freelance career. It's very powerful to build business with an existing client, because you can more effectively predict your income and already know their needs.
Furthermore, a happy client will likely refer you to other clients in their network, whether that's now or in the future. I still get leads from clients I worked with two years ago, so you never know when someone will pop up in your life.
Recurring business also encourages the client to get on a retainer with you each month. Here are some great examples:For $1,000 per month, you'll get comprehensive IT consulting and 24-hour responses to your website bugs and issues For $800 per month, you'll receive regular blogs that are keyword optimized and designed for your target audience
If you're a web designer or graphic designer, you may think that recurring business might not work for you. Upsells may be more effective for the nature of the services you offer. Upsells might include things like:Writers offering to post the blogs/materials, format them, design them, or schedule posts about them on social media A logo designer offering 10% off a client's second project or a referral bonus to an old client and an automatic discount for anyone they refer A virtual assistant offering an audit of a client's website to find and compile any broken links
If you want to hit $100,000 this year, that breaks down to 20 $5,000 projects or 40 $2,500 projects. For an ebook writer or similar freelancer, this might mean landing only two or three clients. Set a numerical goal for yourself so you always know where you're at.
No matter your freelance background, breaking through the $100,000 mark will take some work. But if you're strategic and manage your clientele well, you'll get there before you know it.
Laura Pennington is a freelance writer, entrepreneur, and business coach focused on helping people make more money in their online lifestyle businesses to get back their time and keep their sanity. She writes at SixFigureWritingSecrets.com and BetterBizAcademy.com. Learn more about how she made $2,400 in only her third month freelancing part-time in this blog post.