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Running a freelance business isn’t always as easy as it seems from the outside. I know. I’ve been running a freelance business for more than 13 years, and it’s not always easy to make sure I’ve got money coming in.

But there are some things I’ve found that can help me improve my business. Here are four things you can do to take your freelance business to the next level:

1. Say No When You Need To

One of the hardest lessons I’ve learned over time is the importance of saying no.

How will saying no help your business grow?

It’s intuitive to just take any job you can get so that you have some money coming in. However, you might be giving up valuable time and energy to a project that’s not a good fit — or that doesn’t pay you what you’re worth.

When you say no to the wrong gigs, you have more time to work on better gigs and take other steps that might be more effective in growing your freelance business.

Yes, you sometimes have to do work you’d rather not do. You can’t say no to everything that’s unpleasant. However, you can be more selective, especially as you start seeing some success.

2. Specialize

When I first started freelancing, I was a utilitarian writer. I wrote about just about everything, from travel reviews to catalog entries for bamboo flooring. However, once I started focusing on money and business, things started to happen.

I started gaining a reputation, and my knowledge and ability in writing on those subjects grew. Specializing can help you take your freelance business to the next level by helping you prove your expertise and allowing you to charge more for your services. Plus, as you develop a reputation in your specialty area, more clients will come to you.

3. Create a Plan for Your Freelance Business

You probably know where you want to be with your business in a few years. So, what are you doing to get there?

One of the best things I did to ramp up my own business a few years ago was to develop a plan. I figured out my goals and decided what steps I needed to take in order to reach that point. A plan helped me focus my efforts and move forward.

Now, I keep looking at that plan, and make an effort to tweak it as needed. It’s been a big help to me as my business grows and adapts to the changing online landscape.

4. Use a Contract

Finally, don’t forget to use a contract in your freelance business. There are contract templates you can use to ensure that you and your clients understand each other.

These contracts can help you get paid faster, as well as allow you to enforce terms if you aren’t paid.

For larger projects that might be short-term, it can also be useful to get a down payment. I often ask for one-half or one-third of some my projects up front, just to ensure that I get paid something.

As you move forward, you’ll find that your freelance business improves and that you’re able to move to the next level.