How to Make More Money Freelancing Without Any Marketing

Get more freelance gigs and more referrals by doing more than expected on every freelance project.

Finding and attracting new clients—marketing—is hard for most freelancers. It’s a lot easier to get more freelance work from your current clients.

And there’s an easy way to do this: do more than expected.

When you do more than expected, you make your clients’ lives easier. Satisfied clients will want to work with you more. And they’re likely to refer you to colleagues who are looking for freelance help. Those colleagues are very likely to hire you because they trust their colleague’s recommendation.

So you’ll make more money—without doing any marketing. I call this “supersizing” your freelancing.

Do More than Expected for Your Clients

Think of yourself as a freelance concierge. You make your clients’ lives easier by:

  • Being likeable and easy to work with
  • Behaving professionally
  • Making suggestions
  • Answering questions before clients ask them
  • Spending a little extra time on a project
  • Doing a little extra work on a project.

Doing more than expected makes you extraordinary and memorable.  And it rarely takes much time or effort.

“Each of us, as professional service providers, has several opportunities each day to throw in a little bit more than what people think they are paying for,” says Michael Katz in “You delight my life: Make yourself memorable to clients.”

Make Your Clients’ Lives Easier

You can give a client more time or more scope, says Katz.  He uses a one-hour conference call as an example. If the call isn’t finished when the hour is up, he suggests that you “say no worries and run over a little bit.” This is a very easy way to do more than expected.

Offering more scope to a project means not going back to the client for more money if something small changes in the project scope. For example, if I had to do one extra telephone interview on a project that involves interviewing 10 people, I would just do it without charging extra for this.

Katz also talks about doing nice things related to what’s happening with your client’s life. “Did your client just have knee surgery? Send him some brownies. Was your client featured in a trade magazine? Get the article framed and send it to her,” he says.

I’ve always sent my clients gifts for special occasions, like getting married or having a baby. Sending holiday gifts and cards is another great way to do something nice for your clients.

More Ways to Do More than Expected and Examples

Most of the extra things you’ll do don’t take much extra time or effort. Read specific examples of how to give a little extra time or scope on freelance projects.

Why Doing Extra is a Good Investment

Doing more than expected is “what makes it all the more special,” says Katz. “Does it cost you more in time, money and effort? Sometimes. But if you want clients to remember you, rehire you, and loudly sing your praises, I can’t think of a more worthwhile investment.”

Why You Shouldn’t Do Too Much Extra

But be careful of letting clients take advantage of you. Some clients do this.  There’s a difference between spending a little extra time or doing a little extra work on a project and a major change in scope. If there is a major change in scope, you need to re-negotiate your fee. If you’re charging by the hour, you need to let your client know that the bill will be higher than expected due to the change in scope.

Focus on Whales, Not Tadpoles

Doing more than expected is especially important for your whales, those extra-large clients that you can count on for steady, high-paying work.  Along with giving you lots of great freelance work, whales are a great source of referrals (word of mouth), often to other extra-large clients.

Also focus extra time and effort on helping new clients who are likely to be able to give you lots of steady work. Look for small ways to do more than expected for other clients too.

How to Ask Clients for More Work and More Referrals

Satisfied clients are likely to naturally give you more work or refer you to other clients. You can also ask for more work and for referrals—even if it doesn’t feel right.

But you need to do this at the right time and in the right way.

Be professional and low-key, never pushy. For most freelancers, email is the easiest way to ask for more work and/or for referrals.

When to Ask for More Work

There are 3 times when it’s natural to ask your client for more work:

  • When the client compliments you on a project.
  • When you finish a project
  • When you find and meet an unmet need.

At the end of the project, let the client know that you enjoyed working on it and would love to work with the client again. If there are other types of work you’d like to do for the client (which you know they do from your research), mention that you also, for example, write or edit CME or Web content, or whatever you’re interested in doing.

Unmet needs could be things your client mentions or needs that you identify, for example, by reviewing the client’s website.

When to Ask for More Referrals

After you’ve been doing more than expected for a while and have built a strong relationship with the client, you can ask for referrals. I suggest asking for more work first, and waiting at least 3-4 months between asking for more work and asking for referrals.

Read specific examples of how asking gets freelancers more work and referrals.

Beware of Being Too Available

Katz lists “Being more available” as one of the things freelancers can do, including by telling special clients they can call or text you any time.

Don’t do this! As freelancers, we need to set boundaries with our clients, including only being available during regular work hours. If you don’t set boundaries, clients will expect you to always be available to them.

If you want to do freelance work at night and on weekends, that’s fine. But don’t let your clients know that you’re doing this—or they’ll always expect you to do it.

There are exceptions, times when you may respond to a client outside or normal office hours or let them know you’re doing their work at night and on weekends. But you must make it clear that this is an exception and not the way you normally do business.

So when I helped a new client launch an e-newsletter for one of their clients, the pace was fast and furious. There was a lot of work over a weekend to finalize the first issue. I let my client know that I would be available to help that weekend but that I do not normally work on weekends (I do work on weekends sometimes, but that’s usually my secret). The client was very grateful for my help and has never asked me to do work outside of normal business hours.

And when I do get an email from a client at night or over the weekend, I never respond until Monday morning.


Learn More About How to Do More than Expected

Grow Your Freelance Business by Catching a Few Whales

Word of Mouth: The Way to Get the Best Freelance Clients

“Supersize” Your Freelancing Without the Agony of Marketing

Grow Your Freelance Business with Holiday Cards and Gifts

Michael Katz, You delight my life: Make yourself memorable to clients