South African Freelancers, Please Raise Your Rates cover image

South African Freelancers, Please Raise Your Rates

Jethro Solomon • February 8, 2020


Freelancing online feels like a race to the bottom. At least that's what I've experienced - both when working as one, and when looking to hire one. You see, sites like Fiverr promise clients the world for tiny amounts of money. They make big promises to both the freelancer and client and fail to deliver to either.

To clients, I say: No, you won't get a quality article for five or even twenty USA dollars. You won't get a truly professional logo for R300. You'll get garbage, since the freelancer will not be motivated by the amount you are offering, and they will be overworked trying to support themselves by taking on many, many jobs at once.

To freelancers, I say: Is this really what you want to aspire to? Do you really think you can support yourself spending hours upon hours working on that logo for a difficult client, only to get rewarded with three hundred bucks? It might be time to raise your freelance rates.

Now, I'm not saying everyone needs to charge insanely high rates. But we need to be realistic. If you want a certain level of value, you're going to need to pay for it. If you want to provide that value, you're going to need to be rewarded fairly if you don't want to suffer from burnout.

My wife loved writing. But after several months of freelance article writing, she burnt out. She does not want to write another article ever again. The Fiverr mentality killed her passion, and I am partially to blame. Don't make the same mistake.

But, if I raise my freelancing rates, I won't get any work...

Just like you may not always look for the cheapest pasta on the shelf at Spar, not all potential clients are looking for the cheapest services. Nobody is going to look at your pricing and assume that you are actually going to provide the same value as someone charging ten times more. That would be insane, wouldn't it? We don't go to a garage shop at midnight expecting a rack of ribs and buffalo wings.

Take professional freelance writers, for instance. They do not charge per 500-word article. They charge for each and every word. They charge for each and every revision. If you put yourself out there as a professional, charge like one, and talk like one, then you will get business. It may be slow at first, but your network will grow.

People do associate a higher cost with a higher value. And it makes sense. Sure, there are some bad eggs. You may get garbage at a high price too, but not nearly as often as you will get garbage for the price of garbage.

People do associate a higher cost with a higher value. You may get garbage at a high price too, but not nearly as often as you will get garbage for the price of garbage. Click to Tweet

So, how do I charge higher rates and get more work?

Specialize. You don't want to be a PEP Clothing store, you want to be a boutique dress shop. You want to be really good at a small number of things, rather than trying to do everything for everyone.

I'm going to refer back to the idea of freelance writing. If I was selling a new health product, I would not type “freelance article writer” into Google search. I would type “freelance health article writers”. Someone who writes general articles on any topic, cannot hope to charge the same for a health-related article than someone who has a portfolio, and website, dedicated to writing health articles.

Whether you are a software developer, writer, designer, or any other freelancer, you probably have a set of skills that you really excel at. Capitalize on that niche. I increased my income over 400% in less than two years by choosing to specialize in a specific website platform as a web developer.

Of course, your niche needs to be realistic. I'm not too sure if there is a need for someone who only designs hand-painted mandalas for free-trade coffee companies. Take your primary passion, and super-impose it on a thriving industry that you have experience or interest in.

How do I get my first high-paying client?

Now that you have your specialization, congratulations, you now have fewer people to compete with! Your marketing actually just got easier as a result.

Create a website, and put up a portfolio of work showing just how good you are at developing e-commerce stores for drop-shippers. If you don't have a portfolio for this niche, then create one. This is easy for designers and writers, who can create example work for businesses that don't exist.

It is much easier to rank on Google or other search engines for long-tail keywords such as "freelance wordpress developers in South Africa" than simply "freelance developer". This is where your specialization can easily turn into your market campaign.

If you're a developer, start one or more side projects that demonstrate your talent. It doesn't need to be expansive, but enough to show clients that you are as passionate about their niche as they are.

Now, I highly suggest taking an inbound marketing approach. Aim to get found by your target audience online. I'd also suggest attempting to cold-contact people that you would really like to work with. Learn a bit about their company and goals, and work that into an email showing how you can aid them. They may not hire you immediately, but I have gotten referrals through this method. I HATE cold emailing people, but most of the work I have received started with me cold contacting someone in my niche.

How do I convince someone that I am good enough for my higher prices?

Demonstrate and explain your value. Create a list of your services. Now, take each service and write down the benefits of them. For example, I provide custom web development with open source software. The benefit is that you will not be tied down to what any one vendor can provide.

I might say “I provide websites that are business tools. I can build a website that can automate your marketing and cut down on your third-party software expenses. You don't need to pay separate monthly fees for your website, email newsletters and feedback forms, when your website can offer all of those, with each part integrating seamlessly with the other.”.

I am sure there are some things that make you unique. Focus on those as your unique value proposition. Do a google search on those last three words, because that's what you want to show to clients. I could write an entire article on that alone.

If I convince just one person to charge more and specialize, I would be thrilled. Do it. You will not regret it.

If you have any questions, or want to bounce some ideas around, drop a comment below! I guarantee a reply.