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← The secret to being a successful freelancer

Too often, freelancers are told they have to choose between being creative or making money. Financial advisor Paco de Leon debunks this thinking -- and gives practical advice on how you can set yourself apart and get paid what you deserve.

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Showing Revision 4 created 10/19/2020 by Erin Gregory.

  1. I used to be really bad at earning money.
  2. Early on, I was
    a junior financial planner,
  3. and my job was to help people
    manage their wealth.
  4. But my salary was so low
    that I started riding my bike to work
  5. to save money on gas,
  6. and I started a garden
    to save money on food.
  7. Now I run a bookkeeping agency
  8. that specifically serves
    creative businesses.
  9. [TED: The Way We Work]

  10. [Made possible
    with the support of Dropbox]

  11. This might sound strange
    coming from a former financial planner,

  12. but I'm not a fan of capitalism.
  13. Almost everyone I work with and know
    and love is an artist, including me.
  14. So I know, the way the system is set up,
  15. freelancers and artists
    are too often way underpaid.
  16. They often feel like focusing on money
    will corrupt their creativity,
  17. or they think they're just not
    that good at making money anyway.
  18. But the truth is, we can be good at it,

  19. and in fact, we have to be,
  20. because our freedom is at stake:
  21. our freedom to create, to influence
  22. and to use the power of money
  23. to change the very exploitation
    that keeps artists broke to begin with.
  24. I'm not struggling anymore,

  25. and I've learned a lot
    since being a financial planner,
  26. and I just wanted to share that knowledge.
  27. So here's what I've learned and done.
  28. One: what you do.

  29. When it comes to your offer,
  30. you have to be able
    to answer the following question:
  31. Why would anyone hire you
    over your competition?
  32. If you can't answer that question,
    neither can your potential clients,
  33. which means you can't charge more for
    the thing that makes your work special.
  34. Price becomes a differentiator,
    and bidding becomes a race to the bottom.
  35. What sets you apart could be what you do,
    why you do it or how you do it:
  36. a string quartet that arranges
    and plays hip-hop medleys
  37. or a branding firm that has a unique way
    of marketing technology to Baby Boomers
  38. or a prop and set designer
  39. who's known for crafting
    beautiful papier-mâché miniatures.
  40. Two: who you do it for.

  41. After you determine what sets you apart,
  42. position yourself for your ideal customer.
  43. In order for this to be effective,
    you must narrow your focus.
  44. Without focus, you try to be
    everything for everyone,
  45. and you end up being nothing for nobody.
  46. Then, use the kind of language
    that appeals to your target customer.
  47. Create the kind of marketing materials or
    the kind of portfolio that attracts them.
  48. Then be in the real-life
    and virtual places they are.
  49. For example, if you're a videographer
  50. and you want to work
    with mission-driven companies
  51. that bring clean water
    to places where it's scarce,
  52. create a video trailer that shows exactly
    how the power of film moves people to act.
  53. Three: when it's time to talk money,
    understand the real value that you create.

  54. You're not just being compensated
    for the time that you work on a project.
  55. You're being compensated
    for everything you've learned
  56. and everything you've done over the years
  57. that make you excellent at what you do.
  58. Ask yourself questions like:
  59. How does your service
    impact a customer's bottom line?
  60. How do you create efficiencies
    that generate cost savings?
  61. How much money can your customer make
  62. from a product that
    you helped them create?
  63. For example, if you're a freelancer
    that helps YouTube creators
  64. develop merch like T-shirts and dad hats,
  65. mention how much money
    you've helped your clients generate.
  66. Or, if you've created a diversity
    and inclusion training program
  67. for corporations,
  68. talk about how much time and money
    a company saves purchasing your product
  69. instead of developing their own.
  70. Four: make sure your price includes
    your taxes, your overhead and your profit.

  71. When you're a freelancer,
    you are your own business,
  72. so you're responsible for marketing,
  73. accounting, taxes, legal, insurance,
  74. overhead and profit.
  75. If you price too low,
  76. you've already negotiated
    against yourself.
  77. And if a potential customer
    balks at your pricing,
  78. don't apologize.
  79. Just say that you're running a business
  80. and you can't afford
    to do the work for less.
  81. Instead of corrupting your creativity,

  82. focusing on making more money
    could actually enhance it
  83. by giving you the freedom of choice.
  84. Because when you earn enough
    working with clients that value your work,
  85. you don't have to compromise
    by working with clients who don't.