#81: Six-Figure Freelancing: Focus on a Niche and Partner with Other Freelancers, with Lynne Testoni

Today’s guest is Lynne Testoni, from Sydney, Australia. Lynne is an editor, journalist and content producer who’s worked in high-level editorial positions and as a freelancer for a range of corporate clients. She has been freelancing for only four years, and she specializes in a very specific niche of home design, interior design and food, writing both content marketing and journalism.

Lynne is also the co-host of the podcast The Content Byte, with Rachel Smith.

Lynne earned less than six figures as an employee and wanted to make sure she earned more as a freelancer. She hit the six-figure mark about a year and a half in. Each year she sets a financial goal and a “stretch goal,” and she has since hit her stretch goal every year.

She was inspired by Australian writer Lindy Alexander who writes The Freelancer’s Year blog and who made freelancing and earning six figures seem like achievable goals.

Lynne began to earn more money after she “niched down,” focusing on home interiors. People began to notice her work and came to her, rather than her needing to look for clients. She also was referred a lot by past clients. And because she was in demand for that particular niche, she was able to set her own rates.

Lynne’s advice: Never work for free (unless you’re volunteering your services for a charity you believe in). There are better ways to build a portfolio, and clients that ask you to work for free never end up paying you what you’re worth.

Lynne is generous with her time, mentoring and helping other writers, such as through her podcast, The Content Byte. Giving back, besides making you feel good, often leads to new work too.

Cash flow can be one of the biggest challenges as a freelancer. Try to build a nest egg as you go along so cash flow won’t be a problem down the road. You also have to remember to market all the time, even when you’re busy.

Lynne is a morning person who begins her day with a run or Pilates and then a walk with her dog. She does most of her best work before lunch and saves the afternoons for editing and administrative work.

Lynne thinks in “billable hours.” She works about 40 hours a week, but only about 20 are billable hours. The rest are for administrative tasks, marketing and similar tasks. Her salesman husband taught her a tactic in negotiation: It’s all about the silence. Whenever someone asks for your rate, tell them and then just stay quiet. It’s hard to do but powerful. They will usually agree or come back with a lower rate, but the negotiation has begun. 

If a client wants to pay her below what she’s asking, she’ll begin to negotiate the scope of the project. She also knows her own internal rate and how fast she can work on a type of project.

Lynne outsources some things, like transcribing, which she hates to do herself. She also collaborates with photographers and stylists and pitches projects as a team. She usually serves as the project manager and submits one pitch and includes the photographer/stylist rate without a markup on their rate. But she may add a fee for her management of the project.

Require a 50% deposit upfront on projects when working with companies, especially for smaller companies. If they question paying your deposit, that’s a red flag, because you may have to chase down the deposit or the final payments. Lynne says that shows they don’t value your work or contribution.

Lynne is a fan of Facebook groups both for finding clients and building her freelance community. Other freelancers are colleagues, not competitors. 

Biz Bite: Use a cloud-based invoicing system.

Resources:

Lynne’s website

Lynne’s podcast, The Content Byte

Lynne on Instagram

Lynne on LinkedIn

Lindy Alexander’s The Freelancer’s Year blog

Find a Finder’s Fee — the name of local Facebook groups that advertise freelance jobs; look for one in your area.

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