in Business Management, PHP

Earning more money as a PHP freelancer

Occasionally folks will ask me, “what does it take for me to earn more money as a freelancer?” They want to know if I have a magic bullet, or if I’ve learned anything through my travels in the business world. The truth is that there’s only one thing you can do to increase your revenues as a freelancer, and it’s this:

Provide more business value for the client.

That’s it. Clients hire you because they have a business problem and you’re the best solution to the business problem. They’re willing to pay a certain amount to make that problem go away, and they’re counting on you to deliver the solution.

Of course, the next logical question is, “how do I provide more business value without working even more than I already do?” This is a harder problem to solve. Most freelancers trade time for money (e.g. an hourly rate), and thus to increase revenue there are only two options: increase time worked, or increase price per hour.

Personally, I’d rather elect the latter (charge more).

In charging more, you can do two things: first, you can reduce the number of hours you ultimately work while maintaining a level of revenue, and second, you can work for better clients.

The more a client pays, the more reasonable they tend to be. Low-paying clients have little regard for the value of the work you’re doing. High-paying clients tend to have a greater respect for your opinion and insight.

“But Brandon, how do I charge more and have people pay my rates?” And we’ve arrived at the point!

The way that you get people to pay you higher rates is by increasing your value, and you increase your value by investing in your business. Take the time to learn new skills, practice new trades, work with different kinds of clients, and have new experiences. A freelancer that can work with multiple frameworks is far more valuable to a client than one that only knows a single framework. Same with platforms.

Take the time to master the basic programming practices and principles that are so important and vital to our industry. For example, I tripled my hourly consulting rate after learning these skills. Why? Because I was far more valuable than someone that simply “scripted it together.”

Seek out a mentor, preferably one that is also successfully freelancing. They’ll have insights into the skills clients demand, and more importantly, the things you should learn to be successful. The PHP community offers mentoring to interested participants; take them up on the offer! Read books, both from the community and from the global programming community. Take classes. Attend conferences.

Finally, the most important element to charging more is understanding not what you do for the client, but what you don’t do. Remember: a freelancer at $25 an hour for 100 hours still costs more than a freelancer at $150 an hour that takes 10 hours to do the same task. Highlighting that your knowledge and expertise are extensive and ultimately will save the client money is a great way to raise revenue and win work – with the caveat that you then must deliver on the promise!

What are your favorite tips for increasing your revenue as a freelancer in PHP?

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