One thing you’ll learn as a freelance developer is that you have much more to offer a client than just your core set of skills. Of course, your bread is always going to be buttered with your code, but to go “from a businessman to a business, man” (in the immortal words of Jay-Z), you need to expand your freelance network and start riding the wave of recurring revenue. Scaling your freelance work is all about demonstrating uncommon value for your clients.
So you’ve bumped a website up the search rankings and help strategize a social media marketing plan that’s getting results – now what? How can you stay involved in the day-to-day operations of your client’s website so you can become their exclusive go-to developer whenever something comes up?
Here are three ways you can scale your freelance work:
1. Offer monthly maintenance plans.
When clients send out a job brief, they’re often thinking of it as a one-off deal, a problem to be fixed in the now without taking much future maintenance requirements into consideration. This is where you, as an expert developer, can show value by educating your clients.
By offering monthly maintenance plans as part of your business (after the initial work is completed), you’re informing clients that there are necessary steps needed to keep their site up and running, and that they might as well continue their working relationship with the developer who set that site up in the first place.
Monthly retainer agreements are golden for freelancers — it’s guaranteed income every month without having to answer additional freelance work requests.
What can you offer as part of these maintenance plans?
Security, for one. WordPress makes monitoring super simple with its suite of security tools, and clients often don’t have time to make these checks themselves.
Updates. You can also lend your services in keeping and updating plugins and themes and maintaining ongoing search engine optimization efforts — basically all the under-the-hood details that expert freelancers could do in their sleep for clients.
Content. Whether you’re writing it yourself or subcontracting to others, providing your clients with a steady stream of content (e.g. blog posts, social media updates, email newsletters) will help keep the relationship tight.
Scaling your business doesn’t mean the scope of your projects needs to get unwieldy; little add-ons with many clients keeps everything manageable for you and gives you great returns.
2. Build your network and form your agency.
When you show your clients what you’re capable of in the long term, they might start to inquire about tasks you might not feel 100-percent confident in delivering to them. But that’s OK!
Just because you aren’t personally an expert at something doesn’t mean you can’t still help a client with it.
You have the opportunity to build a network of fellow professionals from different disciplines and point your client in the direction of someone you trust.
Finding the right freelance work partners can allow you to take on a project management role for certain tasks, which can lead to you creating your own mini-agency. You’ll still be involved with your clients, but from a much more satisfying perch overseeing the macro elements of the entire project.
If you’re a freelance developer who struck out on their own because you believe in your own abilities, and you know that the best person for the job is either you or someone in your network, structuring these relationships with clients is the next frontier.
3. Join affiliate programs.
How does this sound: make a couple thousand more bucks every month, and all you have to do is recommend services to your clients that you already use? Personally, joining affiliate programs was the quickest way I was able to scale my business and make passive income.
These programs are simple. When a client asks for a recommendation of, for example, a hosting service, I direct them toward one with whom I’m affiliated. When the client signs up for the service, I make money for the recommendation.
There’s a fine line to walk here so you don’t come across as a shill, but as long as you choose your affiliates wisely and keep it to a handful of services that you fully believe in, you’ll simply be adding value to your client relationships while making a little more income for your troubles.
Freelance work = hard work
There’s no substitute for hard work when you’re trying to make a living as a freelance developer.
Your time is money, and you always should be enhancing your skills and getting better every day. But you shouldn’t feel like you’re pigeonholed into the same tasks all the time. Look for opportunities to grow your personal network and add value to your client relationships, and you’ll start scaling your freelance gig into a full-scale business.
Also published on Medium.