There’s a reason you’re a freelancer. You like having more creative freedom, you like not having to participate in corporate office politics and you like the of choosing which jobs you take.
However, all those perks come at a price. And the price is – you might go through periods of eating canned spaghetti bolognese for breakfast, lunch and dinner to make your last dollar stretch – because no-one is hiring you.
So, how much money are you making freelancing? Is it enough? And what can you do to make more?
Well, the answer I’m about to give you is not one you expect. Unlike most business textbooks and careers blogs, I’m not about to tell you to improve your sales pitch, to network your butt off, to raise your prices, to create an uber-effective AdWords campaign, etc, etc.
All that advice is essential, down the track. But first of all you have to start asking the right questions.
Why? Because the questions we ask ourselves determine our actions which, in turn, determine the results we get.
The Great Downward Spiral.
If you’re preoccupied with thoughts of making money you’re setting yourself up for failure because the answers which come your way will be limited in their power and scope.
You’ll stop thinking about which problems exist in the marketplace and how you can remedy them with your art. And instead you’ll start thinking about squeezing more out of each customer, raising/lowering prices so that you can fix the problem of paying your own bills.
In other words, you stop thinking about your market and you start thinking about yourself. And that’s the beginning of a downward spiral, because you’ll begin to build your business around your problems, not those of the crowd you’re supposed to serve.
No-one scares off customers quicker than a freelancer who they can tell doesn’t care about them.
The Big Hoax.
Consider that the notion of “making money”, used in our everyday language as an indicator of how well we’re doing, is a big lie which got embedded into our social fabric and has remained there, despite the fact that it doesn’t serve us.
Think about it – you can’t actually make money. Unless you set up a fake currency printing shop, but that’s not what we’re talking about here.
The money which you generate as a freelancer is not an end in itself. It’s a by-product of something.
Just like a plant doesn’t intrinsically “make” oxygen, but emits it as a by-product of growth, you don’t make money. You merely generate it as a by-product of creating value. And the amount of money you “make” will be directly proportional with the amount of value you create.
To say that the purpose of a business is to make money is the same as saying that the purpose of a plant is to create oxygen. This statement is accurate on some level – a level of an ignorant observer who doesn’t see the whole picture.
The Big Picture.
You do not have a faintest idea how to make money. No-one does.
So when you buy into the illusion of “making money” and begin to ask yourself how you can make more of it, you lock yourself in a riddle which has no real answer.
But if you ask yourself “how do I create more value?”, the paradigm changes and new options present themselves.
And you’ll discover that the answers which come to you will have more to do with creating better art which fixes real problems of a narrowly defined market.
Which is not only a good way to run a business, but is also – arguably – puts you closer to the reason you decided to become a freelancer in the first place. It was your art that led you here, wasn’t it?
You have a passion and a talent which you love, and you’d like to make a living from it.
How To Create Value.
The world has conditioned you into walking around and viewing people as sources of money which you need.
I invite you to look at it differently. People are people, with their own problems and concerns. And your mission is to fix them using your talents.
When you solve someone’s problem, you create value.
And things which are most valuable are typically things that neatly solve a problem faced by many similar people.
For example, if you’re one of 20 photographers in your town, how much value can you really generate? Is it time, perhaps, to reposition yourself and begin to specialize in a niche? How about developing a style of wedding photography which appeals to artistic newlyweds in the creative industry?
Stop Being A Value Drain.
Apart from that, take a close look at your workday.
Let’s assume you’re reading this blog at around lunchtime, after you’ve been at work for a few hours. How many of those hours have you spent doing something which no other freelancer can do, for a crowd only you cater to?
To really hammer this point home, allow me to make this argument totally black and white: at any point in time you (and, by extension, your freelance business) are either being a generator of value or a value drain.
And if you’re stressed because you’re not “making” enough money, you’re probably spending too much time being the latter and not enough time the former.
This hoax gets more nasty: all the time you spend thinking about ways to “make” more money are a complete waste of your time because the act does not produce any value to your crowd.
The quickest access to “making” money as a freelancer is to spend your time looking for problems in other people’s lives which you can solve.
The only question is – what problem are you going to solve during the other 4 hours of today’s workday?
Irene Kotov is a careers blogger based in Sydney, Australia. She offers resume writing services to senior executives and you can connect with her on Google+.
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