5 Reasons Why My Freelance Income Stayed Exactly The Same For 3 Years

Can we start a dialogue around failure? Because I was one HOT MESS just a few years ago. Running your own business can seem like a magical thing (and in many ways, it is, and it can be!) You can do client work in the comfort of your yoga pants, answer emails at 10pm or 7am (your choice!), and let's not forget the unlimited vacation days.

Backstory: I'm a boomerang business owner. Meaning, I've gone from 9-5 to business owner, to 9-5, back to full-time business owner. Everything in this article relates to my first go-around running my own business.

The truth is, we all make mistakes that make us cringe, especially in the ever humble beginning/early days.

In 3 years of running my own business (2011-2014), my income stayed exactly the same, more or less. Looking back, I can see the glaringly obvious reasons why.

1) I Didn't Raise My Prices

Pricing has everything to do with how much confidence you have in your work and the value you place on your expertise. Think of Fiverr. If you have years of graphic design and branding experience and charge a paltry $5 for a basic logo, do you really think your clients are going to be high-quality? And do you really think your time and effort spent creating a dreamy logo that so perfectly fits their brand is worth only pennies?

Forget cheap. Empower yourself to set rates that freak you out a little bit. 

I've read multiple accounts of entrepreneurs that doubled their prices and found themselves booked out for months, earning more than they imagined, and clearly still creating a high demand for their services.

Freelance business owners have a thousandfold more expenses that should be accounted for when you're coming up with a perfect pricing plan. 25-30% of your income will need to be carefully socked away in a savings account for your quarterly tax payments. Plus, don't forget health insurance and all the fun things you'll want to invest in (maybe it's a ticket to a blogging conference, 500 letterpress business cards, or that new Instagram course that just came out).

As you add more projects and swoon-worthy testimonials to your portfolio year over year, you have every right to increase your prices accordingly.

I didn't raise my rates for over three years.

2) I Accepted Low-Paying Craigslist Jobs

Sometimes, sink or swim are the only two choices, and in a sheer moment of desperation where I wasn't sure if I could make rent the following month, I frequented Craigslist and Upwork to find short-term gigs, often at far lower rates than what I hoped to be making.

Instead of only seeking what's already out there, create your own opportunities. Run a special promotion on one of your packages or services. Cold email the clients and companies you'd love to work for with a goal of setting up a meeting or selling a package. (Yes, this exact strategy has worked for me, and I know it can work for you, too.)

There are an infinite number of ways you can have people knocking on your door, rather than the other way around.

3) I Didn't Have A Plan

It's almost embarrassing for me to admit that with each passing year, I didn't create a solid business plan. So if I can give you some advice, if you're kinda nodding your head along with me... don't coast through the weeks and months without a plan and a solid strategy. Time will fly quicker than you think it will, and you'll look back and realize you didn't make it very far.

Choose to set and prioritize goals based on potential outcomes: for example, the income you could make, or the impact you could have in your niche.

You can even reverse engineer your plan by working backwards. Let's say you want to make $120,000 a year. Do the math and carefully calculate how many courses, 1-on-1 packages, products, and/or sponsored posts you need to sell in order to reach that level. Be sure to factor in expenses, taxes, and the amount you want to reinvest back into your business, too.

Wanna know an amazing, completely FREE tool that I use to plan out everything (from content, to brainstorms, to projects, to all my nitty-gritty to-dos? It's called Asana, and it's pretty much the BEST. I'm obsessed with it).

4) I Failed To Create A Passive Income Stream

Multiple streams of revenue diversify your income and are absolutely essential systems to have in place as an online business owner. I proudly served my 3-4 clients at a time, but came up empty-handed for other revenue streams. Occasionally, projects came to a halt, and I was left treading water, trying to replace the income I was missing. This caused a lot of unnecessary stress.

Consider "Eileen", as an example. She has a successful food blog where she occasionally profits $1-2K per month from sponsored content and affiliate links. Eileen also has a $97 evergreen online course where she teaches students how to create simple, delicious recipes at home. In addition to that, she takes 1 on 1 clients for coaching and mentorship. This creates a healthy "pie chart" of different revenue streams, each contributing to her bottom line month over month.

What additional revenue streams can you create in your business?

5) My Money Mindset Was Stagnant

Successful business owners believe in themselves and stop at nothing to reach their goals. They run their business like it's a 6-figure business while they're making $60K a year.

Mindset is a muscle, and it's something you have to work at every single day. In a world where we're over-saturated with messages of others' wins and successes, it's easy to feel discouraged, envious, and inspired all at the same time.

In the beginning stages, I adopted a scarcity mindset. In my world, I was a starving freelancer, scraping by for every cent, and even laughing at my Dad when he told me I should be charging double what I was offering, because I didn't believe in myself.

For more on mindset, re-read Chapter 24, over and over again, of the New York Times bestseller You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero. It's one of my favorite self-help books and it's a thoroughly entertaining read!

Wherever you are in your business, inspire yourself and set those bigger goals! A few tweaks (and not doing what I did for three years!) will propel you forward.

P.S. Are you a fellow boomeranger that's gone back and forth between 9-5ing and working for yourself? I'd love to hear from you. Seriously, email me! Or, feel free to leave a comment below.

Let's Chat: Are you struggling to scale your freelance income? Which one of these reasons resonated with you and how can you take action today to fix it?
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