I’m going to toss out three different words, and you tell me what word next comes to mind…
Peanut butter? Jelly.
So when you hear the word freelance, what comes to mind next?
If you said writer, you’re not alone.
It appears that just about everyone and his uncle is offering freelance writing services online.
From composing compelling blog posts to ghostwriting eBooks to drafting sales copy, there is an abundance of work available online for writers.
But what about for those of you who do not consider yourselves to be strong writers?
Perhaps English is your second language, or maybe grammar isn’t your strong suit… or maybe you simply don’t enjoy writing…? Does that mean you’re screwed and unable to freelance?
In this post, we are going to take a look at 11 different types of freelance jobs you could do.
And perhaps even more importantly, let’s also talk about how to set prices for these different types of freelance jobs when you’re new.
Trust Me — You Don’t Have to Be an Expert!
Before we talk about job types, I want to let you in on a little secret…
One of the most common reasons aspiring freelancers hesitate to get started is their lack of expertise.
“I’m not an expert at any one thing… how could I possibly convince a small business to work with me?”
I don’t consider myself an expert. Period.
I firmly believe that to be successful you simply have to know more than your target audience. Am I a grand master at Twitter management? Hardly. But am I better at it than the clients I serve? Definitely.
Don’t doubt yourself. Just figure out what you can do, and do it for the people who can’t do it.
And it’s true.
Listen, half the battle when it comes to winning new clients is understanding who you truly serve.
Even if you had the skill and resources to support a multinational corporation — such as Starbucks or Walmart — do you have the time?
In most cases, freelancers work with small local businesses, solopreneurs, startups, eCommerce sites, bloggers, and so forth. And while I’m not suggesting that these businesses don’t need someone skilled to do their job, they don’t necessarily need the best of the best.
(Besides, between you, me and the fence post…? Most of the so-called experts we see online aren’t half as good as they think they are…)
Whether it’s web design, social media marketing, or creating promo videos — if these businesses needed a professional agency to do the job, they would have hired one.
Instead, focus on serving…
- Clients for whom you can do a better job than they can, or
- Client who simply do not have the time to do it themselves.
And that goes for many different types of freelance jobs.
11 Different Types of Freelance Jobs You Could Do
The list I have put together here is not intended to be exhaustive… and when I refer to freelance jobs, I am speaking in the online, service-based sense. Sure, the world is full of freelance photographers and makeup artists. But for all intents and purposes, I’m strictly looking at jobs you could do online while working from home.
(Can you think of another type of freelance job? If so, mention it in the comments below…)
Including conventional writing jobs, you could find work in any of the following categories:
- Social Media Jobs
- Writing Jobs
- Design Jobs
- Consulting Jobs
- Technical Jobs
- Talent Jobs
- Video Jobs
- Administrative Jobs
- Sales & Service Jobs
- Marketing Jobs
- Professional Jobs
And within each of these freelance job categories are dozens of specific services you could offer.
Although none of these different types of freelance jobs have a universal going rate, you will learn that certain pricing models tend to be popular in specific job categories. Here are a few examples…
From writing sales copy to drafting eBooks to publishing blog posts, most writing jobs are generally priced at a fixed rate per word. For instance, 8 cents / $0.08 per word would earn you $80 for writing a 1,000-word article.
A lot of busy people will endeavor to hire a virtual assistant. The pay structure for a virtual assistant is generally a weekly rate for an agreed upon number of hours of administrative work.
Another popular freelance administrative job is data entry. This type of job is usually priced as a fixed rate per entry, such as 10 cents / $0.10 per lead entered into a database.
Sales & Service Jobs
In most cases, B2B or B2C sales will be paid as a commission rate. In other words, the more you sell, the more you earn. A similar model is applied to lead generation.
For instance, you and your client might agree upon a rate of $12 for every qualified lead you generate.
Technical jobs often involve development projects and a strong understanding of programming. These jobs include the development of mobile apps, databases, and eCommerce platforms.
Technical projects generally take a longer period of time to complete, and you will be completing them with other team members.
Therefore, you should expect a technical job to be paid on contract. You will most likely be paid a fixed rate per week until the job is done, or as certain milestones are completed.
If you’re an accounting or legal professional — with credentials — you might be willing to offer your services to small businesses on retainer.
In other words, your client prepays a fixed amount towards your services… then, as you render those services, your fees are subtracted from that prepaid retainer amount.
Smaller design jobs — such as designing Facebook cover photos or an infographic — will generally be done for a fixed rate. For instance, you might charge $175 to create an infographic for your client.
Design jobs that often require a number of revisions — like logo design — are sometimes billed at an hourly rate, such as $35 per hour.
And the list goes on…
The point is that different types of freelance jobs are priced differently and according to different pricing structures.
Before getting too concerned about how to price yourself, you are going to have to decide which types of jobs you are able and willing to do.
Eventually — to really build your reputation and scale your business — you will have to narrow down your niche to one or two primary target services you offer.
But if you’re unsure which of the different types of freelance jobs you should do in the beginning, I would recommend doing a number of them in the early stages. See what sticks. As in,
- what you enjoy,
- what you’re good at,
- what you can earn a healthy income doing,
- and most importantly, which job types have the most available work.
This is especially true if you really are not an expert in any one of these particular categories — what do you have to lose by gaining experience doing several of them?
Just please make sure to always be honest and upfront with potential clients about your skill level, whatever that may be.
Let me give you a personal example.
When I was a new freelancer, I really thought I would enjoy doing work with videos. From paid acting / testimonial gigs, to voiceovers, to video editing, to file conversions, I did them all. Unfortunately, I found that video work often took me too long to do.
And if a client wanted an edit made after I just spent an hour encoding their newly produced video, it was quite the process to do that revision.
So, in the end, I ditched doing work with video.
Instead, I opted to focus more completely on social media management work… and one of the main reasons for it was that I could bill my clients on a recurring, monthly basis for the work I was doing. It created an element of stability to my income.
Think you already know what freelance services you will offer?
Alright. Then let’s shift gears a little to focus on the bigger question most new freelancers have… which is, how the heck do I figure out how much to charge my clients? And what payment structure should I use?
Three Strategies to Set Your Prices
Now, listen… this part is important… especially for those of you thinking of quitting your job to build your own online, service-based business. You want to be paid fairly yet priced competitively… so where do you start?
And the honest truth is that I have no idea what to tell you… mostly because I don’t know you.
Your prices are going to depend as much on your experience level as they will on your contacts, networking skills, portfolio samples, and even the different types of freelance jobs you’re doing.
For example, you wouldn’t charge the same amount to write a 1,000-word article as you would to build a fully functional eCommerce website, would you?
A new freelancer often needs to work hard for very little money.
It isn’t that you lack the skills or talent to do the job — you simply lack the evidence. And until you can build up your contacts, portfolio samples, testimonials, and experience, you might need to accept jobs that pay a little less than you might have hoped for.
For that reason, no matter which different types of freelance jobs you do, I would recommend erring on the side of underpaid to start. Those early and initial contacts often end up being worth more over time than the first few dollars you put in the bank anyway.
That said, let me suggest a few ways you can at least get yourself in the right ballpark when establishing your prices:
(a) Look at what other freelancers charge to do the same job
Let me give you a perfect example.
A friend of mine is a freelance blog writer. She is also university educated — a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis on professional writing and a minor in social media marketing — and she is a published author.
According to her services and rates page, she charges $85 USD for a 500-word blog post.
I am neither university educated nor a published author… and my rate for a 500-word blog post — at the time I’m writing this post — is $40 USD, which is approximately half of what she charges.
Plus, I don’t put a lot of emphasis on my copywriting services, which is why I tend to undervalue what I offer in that category a little…
But it would be fair to say that Alicia deserves to charge more for writing than I do.
Similarly, find a freelancer who offers the different types of freelance jobs you do — folks who are established and have experience — and consider pricing yourself at 50-70 percent of what they charge. You can always increase your prices later as you gain experience.
Now, not all freelancers post their rates online — but you could certainly make a few inquiries, couldn’t you? You’re resourceful like that, right?
You just might have to be a bit stealthy…
Also, take note of what payment structure that freelancer uses.
- Do they work on retainer?
- Do they invoice a flat monthly rate?
- Do they charge a fixed rate per word?
- Do they request payouts as certain milestones are completed?
Chances are, if a successful freelancer is using a particular payment structure, there is probably a reason for it.
(b) Look at what an agency or firm charges to do a similar job
The primary service I focus on offering to prospective clients is social media management. As you probably realize, there are a number of agencies who offer the same service I do — and on a much larger scale!
Last year, I posed as a small business in Chicago and decided to cold call two local social media agencies… do you know what I found out? To do the same job I do at $220 per month, those agencies would charge $1,500 or more.
DITCH THE AGENCY
Get personalized attention at a fraction of the price.
Here’s a practical example.
Are you a graphic designer?
Collect quotes for custom jobs from five or six nearby design firms — and then average the results. Try pricing yourself at 20 to 33 percent of what those firms are offering to begin.
Remember, if your prospective clients could afford to hire a firm or an agency, they probably would. They’re considering you — as a freelancer — because they believe you can deliver similar results for a lower price. Use that to your advantage.
Also, if a firm uses a particular payment structure — such as working on retainer — perhaps your competitive advantage could be to offer a pay-as-you-go alternative to clients.
I’ve personally found that offering my services on a month-to-month basis — no fixed-term contracts — has been a really helpful competitive advantage over agencies.
(c) Break down your time into an hourly rate
I’m hesitant to share this point with you. Although there are many different types of freelance jobs you could do, I recommend avoiding hourly pay structures for all of them… and that’s for two main reasons:
(i) If your clients expect you to work a fixed number of hours each day — set hours, especially — it drastically reduces the freedom and flexibility of freelancing that most of us so thoroughly enjoy.
(ii) It introduces the necessity to split hairs… for instance, if a job takes you 66 minutes to complete, do you bill your client for just an hour or for the full 66 minutes?
If you’re busy serving clients, the last thing you want to do is be counting minutes for a time sheet. If you’re going to do that, you might as well go back to being an employee.
Whether you are doing programming work or offering your voiceover talents, I would always choose a flat rate per completed job instead of an hourly rate.
That said, you can arrive at your flat rate by breaking down the job into the approximate number of hours it will take you to complete it.
Remember my $40 USD price point I mentioned for a 500-word blog post? I generally aim to earn $40 USD — roughly $55 CAD at the time I’m writing this — for an hour of work… and it takes me roughly an hour to research, write, edit, polish and deliver a 500-word blog post.
So I am satisfied with my flat rate of $40 USD for a 500-word blog post, even if it happens to take me 70 minutes to do the job instead.
But if you’re brand new, your desired hourly rate might be $15, for instance. If a logo design job takes you — on average — three to six hours to complete, charge a flat rate somewhere between $45 and $90 per logo to start out.
As I am about to explain, you can always adjust and increase your prices as you go.
When It’s Time to Bump up Those Prices…
My general rule of thumb is that if your time is earning you $0, it’s worth $0.
In other words, if you’re sitting on your ass all day with nothing to do, your time is worth $0 — even if you think it should be worth $200 an hour.
A lot of people expect to leave their corporate jobs and achieve similar earnings as a freelancer immediately. It seldom works that way. Remember, it took you time to build a career in the corporate world.
So let me share with you one strategy I used twice in 2015 to increase my prices…
First, I started by setting my prices very modestly in 2014 — I just wanted to make something to start.
Within a couple of months, I had more work than I could handle. Forget 40 hours a week — I was doing 80 to 100 most weeks.
I was starting to make some decent money, but it came at the expense of my health — both mentally and physically — as well as my social and family life.
Something had to give.
So, I increased my prices by about 75 percent near the start of 2015.
No, I didn’t go back to existing clients and tell them they had to start paying more… I simply don’t think that’s fair. You can’t bait someone into working with you at one price then nearly double that price just three or four months later.
But I did choose to let go of a few clients voluntarily… the clients that consumed the largest portion of my time for the lowest amount of money.
A few of them begged me to stay on and offered to pay more… and that was cool. But don’t expect it to happen in every case.
I then restarted the process.
I brought on new clients at my higher price points, and filled up my schedule until my weeks were packed again. I raised my prices another 30 percent or so, let go of some clients, and got my work weeks back down to a reasonable number of hours.
In other words, I am making more money today than I was a year ago while doing much less work.
I like to treat my time as a commodity. As my time becomes more scarce, its value increases. If you have plenty of unpaid time on your hands, your time isn’t worth all that much.
And if you’re unsure where to set your prices to start, I recommend doing the same thing — err on the lower side, fill up your schedule, and then tweak accordingly.
After all, it’s a lot easier to raise your prices and let go of a few clients than to sit around waiting for the perfect client with deep pockets to come along.
The real truth is that just about any service you can offer online to different prospective clients qualifies as freelance work. Shit, the work-at-home webcam models baring all for paying viewers could be considered freelancers, too.
So don’t take my list of different types of freelance jobs as finite — add to it! Just don’t make the mistake of thinking you have to be a writer if writing isn’t what you want to do.
The key really is just to get started.
In closing, here’s what I’d like you to do…
- Are you thinking of freelancing? If so, please let me know what services you’re planning to offer in the comments below.
- Are you already freelancing? If so, what services do you offer? What’s your process for setting and adjusting your prices? What payment structure do you use? It would be really helpful if you could share that information with newer freelancers in the comments.
And remember — Petronas Towers wasn’t built in a day, as they say.
It takes time to build up a book of business, contacts, experience, and work samples. Chances are — if you stick with freelancing — you will find that the services you offer and your prices will change quite a few times over the years.