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4 Freelancer Metrics for Measuring Your Success

By Marcie Geffner September 28th, 2023

In corporate environments, employees measure their financial success by raises, bonuses, and promotions. Freelancers rarely, if ever, get that sort of feedback from their clients. So, how do you measure financial success in a freelance career?

The following financial metrics allow me to evaluate my progress without comparing myself to other writers or average statistics, which may not be reliable or relatable to my freelance business.

Freelancer Metric #1: Annual income

Freelancing is notorious for its income variability. In more than 20 years, I’ve earned less than $1,000 in some months, more than $10,000 in others, and every amount in between. These wide fluctuations make my monthly income, as a raw number, a relatively poor measure of my success.

A better measure is annual income. While this metric may also fluctuate from year to year, an upward trend line over time means I’m earning more and becoming more successful based on this KPI.

Tips to boost your annual income:

  • Learn new skills to broaden your client base. My first assignments were magazine articles. Later, I learned to write news stories, infographics, social media posts, and more. Those skills enabled me to say yes to more clients.
  • Step up your marketing efforts. Networking on social media could help you connect with more people who are in a position to assign work to you.
  • Pitch more ideas to current and prospective clients. Increasing your pitch frequency—and getting feedback on those pitches—should result in more assignments over time. Focus your efforts on clients who say yes more often than no.

Freelancer Metric #2: Hourly rate

Most of my clients pay flat fees rather than hourly rates. Flat fees make it difficult to compare earnings for one project to earnings for another. To make that comparison more useful, I track how much time I spend completing each project and convert my per-project fees into hourly rates.

You can use a time-tracker app or digital spreadsheet for this purpose. Whatever your preference, list your current projects and update the tracker weekly. When I complete a project, I divide my fee by the number of hours I worked on it. Over 20 years, I’ve calculated hourly rates for my projects from less than $30 to more than $200—a very wide range.

Tips to increase your hourly rate:

  • Negotiate higher per-project fees. Whether it’s a higher price-per-word or set project price, talk to your clients about increasing your rate.
  • Create efficiencies in your workflows. Your hourly rate will inevitably go up when you spend less time on project workflows. Look for ways to streamline your processes, both personally and with clients.
  • Prioritize assignments from clients who consistently pay more on an hourly basis. Saying no to lower-paying jobs can earn you more money by freeing you up to take better-paying assignments.

Freelancer Metric #3: Pitch acceptance ratio

The more time I spend pitching ideas to clients, the less time I spend on work that generates income. To measure the effectiveness of the time I invest in pitching, I monitor the percentage of my pitches that each client accepts.

Over time, my per-client pitch acceptance ratios have varied from more than 90 percent to zero. When I see a low ratio for a particular client, I know my offerings do not match the client’s needs at this time. When I see a high ratio, I can pitch more to that client with confidence.

Tips to improve your pitch acceptance ratio:

  • Review the client’s website before you pitch to make sure your ideas fit the their business and don’t duplicate stories they’ve already published.
  • Clarify pitch requests so you better understand what the client wants. If the ask isn’t clear, your pitches may be good but still not fit the client’s needs.
  • Ask for constructive feedback when a pitch is rejected. Understanding why your pitch was declined may help you overcome that objection the next time the client requests ideas.

Freelancer Metric #4: Client turnover

Keeping the same clients over time is more efficient time-wise than prospecting for new ones and getting up to speed on their voice and style. Over 20 years, some of my clients have given me only a few assignments. Others have assigned work to me every month for a decade or more. One is silver; the other is gold.

Having too few clients lowers my productivity, but having too many can be challenging for me to manage. Over time, my ideal number has varied from five or six to nine or ten, depending on how many hours I want to work and how much work my clients assign to me.

Tips to establish your ideal number of clients:

  • Each month, track how many clients you pitched ideas to and how many you completed projects for. Consider whether you felt comfortable with those numbers.
  • Before you accept a new client, consider how much work the client may be ready, willing, and able to assign to you. Is the initial project a one-off, or is it the first of more to come?

Tips to keep your clients:

  • Become an expert in your clients’ businesses. The more aligned your copy is to their needs, the more valuable you’ll be to them.
  • Meet your deadlines. Clients have workflow pressures, too. Staying on track with your work helps them stay on track with theirs.
  • Ask questions upfront. If an assignment isn’t clear, it’s more efficient for everyone to clarify it at the beginning than to revise it later.

The bottom line: beyond metrics

With an MBA as well as my bachelor’s degree in English, my metrics tend to focus on money, but money isn’t everything. Other factors I consider include my stress level, my work-life balance, and whether I have healthy relationships with my editors. Sometimes, money is my priority. Other times, I prioritize other qualities of my working life.

So, are you successful? The metrics you choose to track and the results you produce over time will tell you the answer.

How do you measure success in your career? Compare notes and tips with other freelancers by subscribing to The Freelance Creative.

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