How to Earn an Extra $500 Per Month Freelancing - The Complete, Definitive Guide for Actors (or anyone else)
What would it feel like if suddenly you had some extra cash?
And not just $20 or $50. How about $500?
Imagine if every month someone walked up to you and laid five crisp $100 bills in your hand and said, "Do whatever you want."
What would you do? Would you save them? Invest them? Pay off some debts?
Or would you spend them on something really fun?
Regardless of how you use them, an extra $500 per month is a welcome addition to anyone's income, and it's easier than you think to achieve.
In this post is the definitive, step by step, non-scammy plan. If you follow it to a T, you're pretty much guaranteed to start earning $500 more - and possibly a lot more. Learn how actor Justin Stoney turned a freelance business into New York's #1 vocal studio. Or how I built City Headshots from nothing to over 100 clients per month within just a few years.
If you're not interested in freelancing but still want more money, you might want to learn what employers are looking for so you can find a higher-paying job.
And if you just want to figure out how to save money (and you're an actor), you should check out this: How to Save $3,450 Per Year as an Actor.
Otherwise, if you want to start earning more, continue reading to get started!
Step 1: Figure Out What You Want to Do
I'm not going to recommend selling drugs here because I don't know much about that lifestyle and my only experience of it has been Breaking Bad. But if you choose to go that route just be aware of the potential consequences of life in prison or being killed.
BUT... if you're looking to earn money legally, I can definitely help with that. The first question to ask yourself is, "What are you good at?" What do you enjoy doing besides acting that you think people would find value in? Below is a list of ideas that you might consider because they are popular and people are usually willing to pay for them:
Action Step: Pick one of the categories above or make one up (note that if you're going to make one up you'll need to ensure people actually want the service by asking around).
Step 2: Figure Out Who You Want to Help
Who is your ideal target customer? What type of person would you enjoy working with? It's important that you select someone who would benefit from the service you offer AND be a pleasure to work with. If you hate working with certain people, you won't do good work and won't get referrals. It's up to you to make sure that you're being yourself.
Let's pretend you decide you want to earn extra cash babysitting because it's not too time consuming and you don't mind kids. Who would you be looking to market to? Ideally women in their mid thirties who have busy lives and want to free up some time. You'll probably want to work with people who are easy to physically get to - people who live close to you - unless you're doing something like website design where you can work with people anywhere in the world.
One other thing to consider that's extremely important is whether the person has the ability to pay you. Don't market your babysitting services to people in their mid twenties because they probably earn less money than someone in their thirties and won't want to pay you.
Action Step: Pick an ideal client you'd want to work with and decide what types of people you will say NO to.
Step 3: Figure Out Why They Buy What You Sell
When you speak with these people and they are considering working with you, you'll need to know why they buy what you sell. What are they really buying? A common phrase in the business and marketing community is: "Consumers don't buy features, they buy benefits."
Example: In the case of a personal chef, they are not hiring you because they need to eat food. They could easily just go to a grocery store and make their own meals. They are hiring you because they want more free time, they want to enjoy delicious, home cooked meals, they want the convenience of not having to worry about shopping for groceries, and some people might even want to feel a certain level of importance, or status. The feature of what you sell is delicious, home cooked meals. But the benefits are the free time, amazing taste, convenience, and feelings of importance they will get when they hire you.
Now in the case of the babysitter, why would they hire you? They are not looking for someone to take care of their child, because they could easily do that. They are looking for more free time to spend with their significant others on dates, they are looking for an easier, more relaxed life, they are looking for someone they can trust completely, and they might even be looking for someone who will engage with their child more than they can because of their busy schedule. So the features you're selling are babysitting services, but the benefits are free time, an easier & relaxed life, someone they can trust, and help with ensuring their child gets the proper attention he/she needs.
Talking about benefits is more important than features because almost all people buy based on emotion instead of logic.
Action Step: What is the main feature you provide? And what are the five biggest benefits that feature (or features) will provide? Think of emotional benefits and what hiring you will mean to them.
Step 4: Figure Out Your Packages & Pricing
You'll now need to figure out exactly what your clients will get when they hire you. What is the service you're providing them exactly? For instance, if you're a personal trainer, what tangible benefits can they expect to see within the first week, month, and three months of working with you? If you're a babysitter, how does working with you look? What will you actually do for the client and what is your process like? Most likely they'll get you for a certain amount of time - a specific number of hours, and you'll charge a certain amount per hour. They can expect their child to be taken care of, fed, entertained, and put to bed at certain hours.
Action Step: What will you charge and what pricing model will you use (hourly fee, monthly retainer, project fee, etc.)? What will your clients receive from you exactly when they work with you - what tangible results? Keep things simple and easy for the client to understand.
Step 5: Do a Few Free Projects for Clients You Know
Before you can actually start charging people for a service, you need to offer it a few times for free to get some satisfied clients that can either refer you to their friends or write a glowing review for you. The best place to offer free business is to people you already know, but if you don't know anyone who would need your services you can also post a listing to Craigslist.
When you do the service, make sure to do a great job and then ask them to write a nice, detailed testimonial for you to place on your website (or copy and paste to send to people via email if you don't have a website yet). Make sure the testimonial includes some specifics on how you actually helped them. If possible, you should also use some of the work in your portfolio if there are visible results, such as photos or videos you produce. If there are no visible, tangible end results (like with babysitting), that's OK.
Another fun thing to do is to get in the habit of asking your clients to take a selfie with you after a project is finished. Then you'll have photos of actual people you helped (where you can attach the testimonial they wrote for you) to increase your credibility with new potential clients.
Action Step: Reach out to 3-5 people you know who might need your services and offer to do the work for them one time for free in exchange for a testimonial, selfie with them, and permission to use the final product as an example of your work to show future clients.
Step 6: Start Finding Paid Clients on Craigslist
Craigslist is one of the best places to find clients fast for most services. The downside, however, is that most people on there are price shopping, meaning you'll have to keep your prices low to start. This is not always the case, however, so be sure not to drop your prices too low or people might get suspicious and think you're a scammer. The cool thing about Craigslist is that most of the freelancers responding to ads there are so unprofessional that even just replying with proper grammar and speaking in a professional tone of voice will put you heads and shoulders above the competition so you stand out.
Make it a habit to log into Craigslist each day to search for ads people post looking for your service. You'll respond to as many of these ads as possible and eventually start booking work (most likely within the first week or two). Plan on receiving one response for every five ads you reply to, and possibly more if you're sending highly personalized emails. Because you're just starting out though, you'll probably need to keep your rates somewhat low at the beginning.
Note: A few types of services from above might be more difficult to find on Craigslist, so I'm including some suggestions of places to start looking for clients in place of Craigslist:
Here are a few general tips to get you the best response rate possible if you're using Craigslist:
Step 7: Turn on Your A-Player Sales Game
Sales is just the word to describe the part where you're actually talking to the client and they are considering whether to hire you. You need to have a plan of what you're going to say when they're emailing or calling you so that you present yourself in the best possible way.
The best way to be successful in sales is, ironically, not to sell, but rather to be sold. Listen to your client's needs and ask questions to get them to explain to you what they most want.
Here are some additional tips you can use when talking to clients to increase their trust in you and make them want to hire you:
Step 8: Under-promise and over-deliver by making it easy.
Once someone actually hires you, it's time to really do you absolute best. Remember what most people value - responsiveness, ease of working with you, friendliness, good customer service, a high-quality product, etc. Make sure that you over deliver on each of these.
One of the most effective ways to get people to absolutely love working with you is to make everything as easy as possible for them. Your goal should be that all the client has to say to you is, "Yeah, sounds good!" If you do this consistently, you'll have a line of clients begging to hire you.
Example: If I'm hiring a babysitter, I would love it if the babysitter just sent me an email saying, "So I know you're leaving at 6pm Tuesday night to go out to the show. I'd be happy to arrive by 5:45pm to get settled if that works, and I can pick up some dinner for the kids if you want on my way over (perhaps sandwiches from Justin's Deli). Does that work?" And then all I would have to say is, "Yeah, sounds good!"
No one wants to work with someone who puts all the heavy lifting on them. It's way more challenging for me to have to deal with a babysitter who says, "Ok, so you're leaving at 6pm. What time do you want me to come?" And then I would have to say a time and then it's a whole bunch of back and forth with a number of emails figuring out if she should bring food, etc. I'd much rather work with a person who makes it easy and suggests things they think are best for me. That's when I feel I'm working with someone really awesome. And that's the type of person I'm going to constantly refer to my friends!
Step 9: Build referrals and start raising your rates.
Now that you're treating your clients like they're the most important people in the world to you (because they should be), its time to start generating referrals. Ask your clients whether they know anyone else who might be able to use your services. Without asking them, they won't suggest anyone, and the worst that could happen is they tell you they don't know anyone. If they mention any names to you though, you can reach out to those people and offer to have a free consultation.
As you begin bringing in clients through referral business, you'll be able to start raising your rates slowly. Each new client you work with is a chance to increase your rates a little bit because referral business usually pays more than people you find on Craigslist or through ads.
But it's vitally important that you make sure to keep your end goal in mind: How much money do you want to be making each month and how much free time do you need to be able to pursue your acting career? If your acting career is important, don't let your side hustle cause you to lose sight of your dream.
By keeping the end goal in mind, you'll ensure you're moving in the right direction so that pretty soon (most likely within 6-9 months), you'll be able to quit whatever other job you have and just use the money from your side hustle to pay your bills while you spend your free time pursuing acting!
You might also want to check this article out: The 4 Most Important Life Strategies I've Ever Learned.
It can be scary trying to earn money on the side, especially if the only people who support your idea don't have experience running their own businesses. How do you know if your idea will be profitable? How do you know if your time is being well spent? How will you keep from getting "shiny object syndrome" where it feels like every new idea is worth pursuing - to the detriment of not following through on things?
Well I've personally helped freelancers earn anywhere from $2,000 to $15,000 extra per month by guiding them through a simple and fun freelance business creation process. And I've built my own headshot business from nothing to over 100 paid clients per month and two locations in New York City.
I've learned a ton, and here's some of what I can do to help:
- I'll help you figure out what service to base your freelance business on - and give you real feedback on whether your idea will be profitable.
- I'll give you the exact steps to take at each level so you don't get stuck, confused, and unsure of what you should be spending your time on.
- I'll be a partner to help you get back on your feet when things get really hard - I'll support you 100%.
- I'll also teach you some special tricks to eliminate 90% of the stress involved in building a freelance business.
If you'd like to set up a free consultation call with me (where I help you refine your idea and get clear on next steps), shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As long you're willing to put in the effort, it's possible for ANYONE to earn an extra $500 (or much more) each month.
And if you choose to work with me as a consultant, I'll take that number and help you figure out how to 10X it.
Shoot me an email at email@example.com to set up a free call!
Hey I'm Martin, and my goal is to help you reach yours. I love writing content about career advancement, marketing strategies, productivity, and much more.