Often in life we have knee-jerk reactions. Sometimes those reactions aren’t the best.
A few weeks ago I was sitting in Bloomberg’s San Francisco studio, talking about freelancing on Upwork.
At one point I told them about how I quit my previous job (before I started freelancing), and how I didn’t even give the company two weeks’ notice.
Then I had the knee-jerk reaction.
I was afraid people would think I was irresponsible or a jerk for walking out on my job without notice. So I quickly followed up with: “I’m not proud of that.”
I said it because I thought I was supposed to. But deep down it wasn’t how I really felt.
The job I left was awful.
My coworkers were cheating and stealing from the company. The managers did nothing.
So right after I said I wasn’t proud of walking out on them, I realized, wait, I am proud of it. And I corrected myself, right there “on the air.”
It made me uneasy to be that honest about something many people would consider rude behavior. (Giving two weeks’ notice is standard in the corporate world. Just another way employers psychologically own their employees.)
But later, when people listened to the interview, many of them told me their favorite part was when I admitted I was proud of walking out on that horrible job.
They loved it.
So it is good to be honest and say what you really think.
Even if it goes against the grain. Especially if it goes against the grain.
Yet so much of the time we do the opposite. I still catch myself doing it sometimes.
Like the other day…
I was giving a talk about how I went from making $15/hour on Upwork, to $250/hr.
Someone told me I make it sound easy to multiply your rate. She had a hard time believing it was that easy.
It’s great when someone challenges you. It forces you to think.
I love that she spoke up about this.
Do I make it sound easy? I’m not sure.
But my knee-jerk reaction kicked in again.
Immediately I found myself on the defensive, saying, “You’re right, it isn’t easy. It takes a lot of hard work…” and on and on.
But later I thought about it…and realized that’s not what I really think.
Imagine trying to raise your hourly rate at a “traditional” job…
Let’s flash back to my pre-Upwork days. Working at that disgusting insurance services company, making cold calls for $15/hr.
Now let’s say I wanted to raise my hourly rate at that job. Maybe I wanted to go from $15/hr to $50/hr.
How easy — or hard — would that be?
It wouldn’t be hard. It would be mission impossible.
The pay for that job was capped by the company. So there was no way in hell to double or triple your hourly rate.
I could literally climb Mt. Everest more easily than I could go from $15/hr to $50 an hour at that job. At least with Everest I would have a chance.
How raising your rate on Upwork is different
Now… What are the chances that an Upwork freelancer who earns $15/hr can start making $30/hr or even $50/hr within a few months?
Well for starters, I can tell you they are not zero. So already you can see that tripling your rate as a freelancer is easier than what most people are used to.
And in fact this is exactly what I did when I first started freelancing on Upwork:
Now be careful because this is where people will try to fool you with numbers.
Everyone is obsessed with statistics these days, but most people don’t have a clue how to use them (except to fool themselves and try to fool you, too).
They’ll say, “OK sure, but how many people go from $15/hr to $50/hr on Upwork in a month?”
That question is designed to hold you back by making you focus on the wrong thing. It’s intellectual sleight of hand.
Successful people don’t look to see if the masses are accomplishing the thing they’re trying to accomplish. Most people never accomplish much.
If you wanted to be like most people you wouldn’t even be reading this.
What you should really be asking yourself before raising your rate
When Mark Cuban wanted to go from bartender to millionaire, he didn’t do it by saying, “How many bartenders become millionaires? What are the odds? Oh damn, they’re not good. Guess I’ll just sit on my couch and watch TV.”
That’s the wrong question.
Remember, most people also don’t do a damn thing to become a millionaire. So the question of “How many other people do this” is silly.
Same for multiplying your hourly rate on Upwork.
The right question is:
“Did the person who accomplished the thing that I want to accomplish do anything I couldn’t also do?”
That’s a great question. That question will save you a lot of time and energy and heartache in your life.
That question will prevent me from ever deluding myself into thinking I can be a professional golfer like Tiger Woods.
Tiger’s dad Earl taught him golf from practically the moment he was born.
If you understand you can’t play golf like Tiger because your dad wasn’t Earl, your life will be much better than someone who is trying to become something they can’t.
But what does it really take to go from $15/hr to $50/hr on Upwork?
I’ll tell you what. I’ll share with you exactly how I did it.
Then you can decide for yourself if it’s easy or hard.
Let’s start by looking back at those two jobs I showed you above. Here they are again:
The first one started off as a job proofreading a website.
I had never proofread anything for money before.
But back in high school I wrote a few reports and proofread those. So I figured “why not.”
(Some professional proofreaders get mad at me for saying this. I don’t care. One time a professional transcriptionist tried to convince me that you need a lot of training before you can transcribe a speech. I disagree. You just need to listen and type. No need to over-complicate things.)
Once I started proofreading the client’s site I noticed there were not only a ton of typos…most of the sentences were also written really weirdly. It was like they’d been written by someone who’d had a few too many beers.
So I called the client and explained the problem. Then I asked him if he wanted me to rewrite his website (sober of course).
He said yes. It was an exciting moment.
More money for me, and he was grateful that I’d brought the issue to his attention. And even more grateful that I was offering to fix it.
I didn’t need experience…
It’s true I wasn’t an experienced writer. But I didn’t need to be.
The website was already written! I just needed to reword it so it didn’t sound like a drunk person wrote it.
Plus the client wasn’t looking for the world’s best writer. At $15/hr he was just looking for someone competent.
Could you have done it? I think you could have. (Assuming you weren’t drunk.)
Maybe you think you couldn’t have. That’s fine.
I’m not trying to convince you to do work you enjoy and have the freedom to work whenever and wherever you choose. Whether you want to do that or not is up to you.
The purpose of this post is just to share my experience with you.
My first $50/hour freelance job
Now let’s talk about the $50/hr job I got the following month.
By the time I got that job I already had a whopping 1-month of writing experience. Yes!
But the $50/hr job wasn’t a writing job.
It was an editing job.
And…I had zero editing experience.
But I recognized that you didn’t need to be a world class professional editor to do a good job on this project.
You see, the client had written a recommendation letter to help one of his employees get into business school. Now he wanted someone to edit it and make it better.
Not make it perfect. Not make it follow the rules of the Chicago Manual of Style (I don’t even know what the Chicago Manual of Style really is).
And that I could manage.
Now it’s your turn…
I want to hear your experience.
Tell me about the last time you raised your freelancing rate.
Or if you haven’t raised it yet, tell me what you’re waiting for.
(Flickr Creative Commons image via World Poker Tour)