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5 Ways to Upsell Your Freelance Services & Boost Profit

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Upselling your freelance services to clients you’ve already closed can be a great way to boost your profit without having to find new clients.

So in today’s article, I’m sharing several concrete ways you can incorporate upsells into your freelance business.

freelance upsell thumbnail venn diagram

What is an upsell?

Put simply, an upsell is an additional sale you offer to an existing customer.

For freelancers, an upsell might be expanding the scope of the project (and therefore, expanded budget) or other creative project add-ons. We’ll explore some examples below.

The goal of an upsell is to increase the amount you make from each client project.

Brainstorming client upsells + examples

For your best chances at success, you should have a few pre-determined upsell packages ready and “for sale” at all times.

Brainstorming upsell options can be a difficult task, depending on which industry you’re in. But no industry is excluded when it comes to using upsells as a way to grow profit.

The key to a successful brainstorm is to follow this pattern:

1. Determine your core offerings.

First, make a list of everything you sell publicly to your clients. These are your core offerings.

2. Identify which services could be added on easily.

Next identify services that are a simple and easy add-on to your core services. These are highly related services that might be a “no brainer” kind of decision for a client.

Here are a few examples:

Core Offering Natural Add-on (Upsell)
Freelance Writer Write an article.

  • Get the article published on a major site with a backlink.
  • Optimize the article for search traffic.
  • Promote the article on social media.

Freelance Designer Design a brochure.

  • Handle the printing (mark up the printing costs).
  • Modify the design to 3 different sizes for different markets.
  • Work directly with the printer so the client doesn’t have to.

Freelance Video Editor
Edit a YouTube video.

  • Design a YouTube thumbnail.
  • Upload the final video to YouTube & optimize before publishing.
  • Create 3 short-form videos from the long-form video.

Freelance Social Media Marketer Create posts that generate attention, engagement and traffic from social media.

  • Create and manage social pixels so clients can run retargeting campaigns.
  • Run paid social media advertising campaigns.
  • Build partnerships with other social influencers and brands.

Freelance Illustrator Illustrate images for an ebook.

  • Add color to black-and-white illustrations.
  • Deliver files in various formats like .eps.
  • Work with a motion graphics artist to animate your illustrations.

Freelance Photographers Take pictures of a family and sell prints.

  • Sell complete copyright and usage rights.
  • Offer to do headshots or break-out groups.
  • Sell additional outfit changes, locations, photoshopping after-the-fact, etc.

What makes a good upsell vs. a bad one

Not all upsells are created equal though. It’ll take some serious brainstorming, planning, and experimenting to determine the best upsell option for your freelance business.

The perfect Freelance Upsell - Venn Diagram

Here’s what makes an upsell worth pursuing:

The upsell should be focused on adding real value

Have you ever been to the store and they’re trying to convince you to buy something you really want along with something you couldn’t care less about?

It looks like this: Buy this amazing new luggage set and we’ll throw in these Christmas socks.

What a let-down.

Clients can smell that kind of stuff a mile away. They know when you’re trying to spice up an offer with something that doesn’t truly add value.

That means, if your upsell isn’t adding extra value to your client, they’re going to just stick with the original project—leaving your profit margins lacking.

The upsell should require minimal effort on your part

Remember, the purpose of an upsell is to increase profit margins, so upsells should require minimal additional effort while still adding a lot of extra value.

Having resources you can build once and then reuse is particularly helpful in this arena.

If you’re a logo designer, for example, a PDF booklet explaining the dos and don’ts of logo usage could be extremely valuable to a large corporate client.

For writers, a list of outlets willing to share articles on social media can be very helpful —requiring just one extra email on your part, but bringing in extra traffic to your client, which you can charge for.

For coaches, activity worksheets and other guides can be made once and distributed for an extra fee to those you mentor and work with.

The upsell should be easy to explain and easy to say “yes” to

Finally, your upsell should be quick to explain and should be as close to a “no-brainer” for your clients.

Keep your upsell concise and to-the-point. If it takes more than 2-3 minutes to explain, you’re going to lose the interest of your client.

The most basic of upsell examples,“Would you like fries with that?” gives us a good idea of what I mean. They could say, “Would you like any sides? We have fries, salads, fruit, or potato chips.” But the simplicity of answering yes or no to “would you like fries with that?” adds an extra few dollars every time someone simply says “sure.”

Where & when to upsell

I’d like to share with you, as promised in the headline, five ways to upsell your clients.

Of course, there are many other ways you can upsell. The key is finding the timing, style, and strategy that work best for you and you’re most comfortable with.

Here are just a few ideas to get you started:

Upsell in the initial pitch meeting

When you first sit down with your client may be the best time to include an upsell—that way, they can work it into their budget from the beginning.

Upsell in the middle of the project

At times, clients want to expand the scope of a project when you’re right in the middle of it. Having a stand-by upsell that solves their problem can come in handy.

Upsell right after you deliver

If you’ve done a good job (as, of course, you do), your clients will be at their happiest and most satisfied right after you deliver your final product. Catching them in a good mood is a great time to pitch an upsell.

Upsell when you send the invoice

Regardless of your favorite freelance invoice software, including a small note with a link encouraging clients to purchase your upsell is always a subtle yet effective way to add margin to your project.

Upsell after some time has passed

It may take time for your client to realize there are certain problems their company still faces that weren’t fully addressed by the initial project. Following up after a few months have passed is an opportune time to see if they have any other work to send your way.

What’s next?

There you have it: a quick primer on upsells for freelancers. I’d love to hear where you take this idea from here. Be sure to leave a comment below and let me know what you think you’ll add to your business in order to reap the benefits of upselling.

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Written by Preston Lee

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Preston Lee is the founder of Millo where he and his team have been helping freelancers thrive for over a decade. His advice has been featured by Entrepreneur, Inc, Forbes, Adobe, and many more.

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