Freelancer Tips for a Flagging Economy: 4 Ways to Go Premium

Whether you’re a domestic freelancer or a foreign freelance looking to break into the Canadian market, you probably know by now that the economy is in a slump. While financial experts have carefully avoided labeling this downturn a full-on recession, there’s no denying that business has slowed across all sectors.

What We Know: The Economic Slump is Affecting Freelance Profitability

Have you experienced any of the following within the past six months?

  • Lack of bonuses paid or incentive programs offered
  • Fewer return customers
  • More time spent bidding
  • Pressure to reduce your initial rate

The Canadian dollar is down, and employers are cutting costs wherever they can. Marketing companies and deluxe-package providers are taking serious hits as business owners scour old paperwork and financial records finding ways to trim the fat.  

Penny-pinching times are usually good news for freelancers, though. When times are tough, company owners usually outsource work to avoid the cost of locating, hiring, and training specialists in-house.

But that’s not in line with many freelancers’ experiences lately. Foreign and domestic freelancers are still getting frustrated by the amount of bidding (and personal compromise) they need to do to secure new work.

When your competition has to tighten their belt by an extra notch or two, they’re going to be highly-motivated to find employment. Some will try to get work at any cost, which means low-balling their services and handing out gratuities. Take a quick skim through the Elance or Upwork listings with this in mind – your findings may surprise you.

The #FeeNotFree movement would not approve of this behaviour. Freelancers need to understand that they set industry standards every time they accept a job.  These desperate bids are doing long-lasting damage to an industry that has only recently started to recover from the “spec work” issue, along with a reputation for being filled with scamming, shortcut-taking, fly-by-night operators. As we wrote in a recent Tweet (follow @RapidBizLessons for productivity tips, free course access codes, and entrepreneurial updates!), you hurt your industry every time you accept spec work.

So how can freelancers compete with lowball bids?

Engaging in a low-balling battle is NOT the way to go. It’s a loss for all parties involved: the freelance industry takes a hit, your profitability drops off, and the employer probably won’t get your best effort.

Rather than sinking to the level of lowballers, rise above it. Don’t worrying about beating your immediate competition: move up a league instead. That’s easier said than done, but we’ve got 4 freelancer tips to help. 

How can I become a premium freelancer?

Premium resources are worthy of premium-level pricing in any economy because they’re considered to be cost-effective. The employer knows that by hiring you, they avoid spending extra money editing, re-coding, or redoing any low-quality work that’d be turned in by a lowballer. Premium resources also get more consistent offers because Canadian employers associate value with price ranges. You will be treated very differently in the big leagues; professional courtesy seems to increase as the stakes get higher.

Unfortunately, the path to premium status is different for everyone who walks it. The best advice you’ll get is to take every opportunity to improve your process. These are some actionable tips assembled by the Rapid Business Lessons team:

  • Contact previous employers about areas of improvement. You can structure this in the form of a discounted offer for future work. Tell them that you will offer 10% off of your standard rate if they will provide 3 pieces of feedback about your previous collaboration. This allows you promote your services with past employers while also seeing how people experience working with you. If you haven’t yet had any employers, or aren’t on good terms with past ones, try to visualize what the employer would consider a “perfect” project, then do your best to deliver on it. We cover this in greater detail in Lesson 10.

  • Connect with members of the #freelancenation on Twitter and swap best practices. If you’re ever heard of “trading up,” this is a virtual version that’ll really help your career. If you want some freelancer tips to barter with, explore our website. We offer software recommendations, a “best practice” blog, and an entire free online curriculum you can trade for more insights.

  • Look for certifications and education opportunities that will sparkle on your resume. The Rapid Business Lessons Freelancer Certification is one example of a “seal of approval” Canadian employers look for in unproven foreign and domestic freelancers.

    If you're still using a typewriter, you're probably not a premium freelancer!

    If you’re still using a typewriter, you’re probably not a premium freelancer!


  • Sort through your toolbox and make sure you’re using software that employers are comfortable with. Recession-wary employers are not going to hire an unproven foreign freelance who’s using obscure payment services or hosting providers. We assembled a list of preferred tools here

These 4 freelancer tips will set you on the path to life as a premium freelancer, but they won’t do the work for you. We encourage you to connect with some of our fine Twitter audience members and start working towards a better freelance world!

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