If I had a dollar for every time I saw “six figures” as the ultimate goal for freelancers, I’d rake in six figures from that alone. But as successful as it seems, $100,000 really isn’t that far out of reach for independent contractors, no matter how many people act like it’s something you can only wish on a star for.
No, it’s not easy, but once you can rely on a handful of ways to increase income that let you cross over the $8,333.33 per month threshold, you’re there. If $8,333.33 per month is enough to come out of 2017 with $100,000 in revenue, five figures per month ($10,000 or more) would give you that goal so many contractors strive for and then some, wouldn’t it?
I’ll be totally transparent: I didn’t quite hit six figures in 2016, because I spent the first part of the year making less than my ideal. But, by summer, I’d figured it all out, resulting in some $10,000 and $11,000 months. I dipped down into high four figures afterward, but business is all about the ups and downs. Here’s how I achieved those initial five-figure months and what’s needed to reach that six-figure income level and maintain it.
1. Book Retainer Agreements
When you don’t work on retainer with clients, you start each month out at $0.00. When you start at that level, it’s hard to build up to $8,333.33 or more, to say the least. You need to spend a lot of time having sales conversations, writing proposals and figuring out time lines to make sure each month is profitable enough for you to reach your goal. This is possible, of course, but it means more time spent worrying about the income amount you don’t get paid for.
When you work on a retainer agreement — whether it’s to produce a certain amount per month or simply open your availability for your clients as a consultant — you don’t start out at $0.00. Instead, you can start out with half or more of your monthly income already accounted for. At one point, I had retainer agreements in place for $7,000 per month, which meant to reach five figures, all I needed to do was close one or two of the project proposals that came into my inbox.
It made sales and prospecting really easy. I only took on projects I loved, and reaching $10,000 per month became super achievable. My secret to getting more retainer agreements? Pitch one with every proposal you send out. That’s it. Some clients will take you up on it, some won’t, but the ones who do will really help you boost your business to that six-figure level.
2. Raise Your Prices
In the middle of summer, I raised my prices for two of my clients I’d worked with for a long time. Their prices no longer reflected what I charged everyone else, and I wanted to keep smartly increasing my income. These were clients I already had on retainer for a set amount of work, so by raising my rates with them, I added $1,200 per month in revenue for the same amount of time spent.
3. Figure out a Client’s Financial Upside
This, more than anything, is the big secret of landing high-dollar engagements — or any engagement, for that matter. Basically, it boils down to not being afraid to ask your prospects about their current revenue model, how much they’re making, how much they’re losing out on and how your work should affect those numbers.
Once you know their numbers, you can look at a feasible way your work can improve them and figure out how much they stand to make. For example, if someone will earn a minimum of $30,000 more per year as a result of your work, and you charge $3,000, it’s a no-brainer, isn’t it? But when you only present your $3,000 price tag without any discussion of how much the client stands to earn back from that investment, it’s no longer a no-brainer — it’s just viewed as a $3,000 expense, which is less likely to get the green light.
Right now, are you fairly close to the $8,333 to $10,000 per month mark? Or do you have a way to go? If it seems out of reach, think up ways to increase income by $1,000 next month and implement them. Then, use that momentum to carry yourself forward to even greater numbers.