Two High-Income Freelance Business
Models to Consider

There's a fixed cost involved in taking on a new client.

You have to learn how they operate. You have to learn their business, their products, their target markets, their messaging.

For years, I assumed that I had to absorb this "on-boarding" cost. That it was simply a cost of doing business.

But that's just one way to look at it.

My colleagues, Gordon Graham and Casey Hibbard charge extra for this. Gordon charges about $1,000 for a white paper plan that includes a kickoff call, plus determining the paper's topic, objective, high-level outline, and project timeline, among other things.

Casey charges a few hundred bucks to research the company, products, industry, and competitors of who she's writing about.

The point is this: Don't assume that there's just one way to do this business. Don't assume that there are rules everyone has to follow.

There's no regulatory body dictating these things. No industry standard. You make your own rules. You set the tone based on what works best for you.

For instance, if you prefer to go after clients that are looking for a long-term writer, then an extra set of fees to on-board the client may not make sense. That's my model. I prefer to work with clients that have a ton of work and will stick with me for at least a year or two (seven years, in one case!).

In that model, you absorb that cost of learning the client's organization, products, customers, and competitive landscape. Why? Because you can spread out that cost over a dozen or more projects.

You also keep your flat fees steady. Which means that the more work you do for them, the more efficient you get. And the more you "net" on an hourly basis. For instance, a project that at first took you 10 hours to complete now takes you six hours. Yet you're still charging $1,500, netting you almost twice as much per hour.

Ironically, while you earn more on an hourly basis, you also start becoming indispensable to your client. Because the more you know about them, their products, their markets, the way they talk about it all, the less hand-holding you need. And the better a job you can do.

It's a great model! But it's not for everyone. Many writers don't like the idea of writing for the same clients over and over again, indefinitely. They want more variety.

Nothing wrong with that. But you can't operate the same way you would in a "long-term clients" model.

If you want a greater variety of clients, you have to either prospect continually (not a bad idea, regardless of your model). Or you have to be established enough that prospects are constantly coming your way.

Or both.

Second, you have to recoup your on-boarding costs somehow. That's where splitting up your services into two components can help. You charge a fee for the main deliverable. But you also charge a fee for the planning, research, interviews, or strategy session. Or all of the above.

This allows you to keep your fees for the main deliverable somewhat competitive while enabling you to recoup the fixed cost of bringing a client on-board on the first (and possibly only) project.

I'm currently experimenting with a hybrid approach where I charge a separate planning fee, regardless of how long-term the client appears to be. So far, it's working out great.

Again, there’s no right or wrong here. YOU make the rules. YOU choose the experiment.

Choice. Just another big perk of being self-employed.

This article, Two High-Income Freelance Business Models to Consider, was originally published by B2B Writing Success.

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Published: May 1, 2014

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