How I Easily Double My Freelance Income Without Doing Anything Weird or Sketchy

Two twenty dollar bills for double income

I promise you this isn’t some empty clickbait title (though it is SEO optimized) and it really does pivot on the eye-rolling “one simple trick.” (Can I get some applause for resisting that phrase in the headline?) This won’t work for every freelancer, but it certainly helps anyone with corporate clients: you writers, photographers, illustrators, producers, and video editors out there looking to double your income. The short version is to set up a separate bank account for each client to pay you, then earn a bonus from the bank for receiving the money — effectively paying yourself a few hundred dollars for 10 to 20 minutes’ worth of work.

Over the next few days I’ll detail how I do this in a three-part guide, but it’s as simple as it says: open an account, receive a paycheck, harvest a bonus. My way isn’t for everybody, and others may be doing it to greater profit, but for me this is the level of reward I like for minimal exertion.

First: How bonuses pay you to get paid

Banks want your business, and to get it, they’ll offer bonuses if you deposit a certain amount of money in a certain amount of time in the certain way they want. A typical bonus might be $100 for adding $500 to a checking account via direct deposit within 90 days of opening.

These bonuses are risk-free on your end while paying out a double-digit interest rate that smashes most conventional investments. A quarterly return of 12% to 25% without sacrificing liquidity is an outstanding use of your money. The fact that it’s more or less passive income on your part is the fifth point in this quintessential move for hungry freelancers like us. Or even hungry-but-fat freelancers like me.

A canny freelancer should always be looking for painless ways to work once and get paid twice. And no, this does not mean selling the same article to two sites. When I was an editor at CBS Local, I had a factory freelancer try to do that to me on her first assignment. Suffice it to say, she didn’t get a second one. Enter bank bonuses.

Double rainbow
Crikey, TWO pots of leprechaun gold! But with way less work to obtain it and significantly fewer kidnapping charges

Does your career let you double your income with bank bonuses?

Full-time freelance is my favorite way to work, but half the job is hustling up work — and that takes away time from the fun of writing. It may only take a day or five to compose a feature piece for a payday of $200-500, but once you factor in time emailing editors for work, then researching and crafting pitches with no guarantee they’ll get a work order…your hourly rate dips significantly.

Since most clients in online media pay via direct deposit, you’re already hurdling the biggest obstacle. At what point in your career would you turn down free money to do what you’re already doing?

My assumptions are:

  • That you have multiple freelance clients
  • That they pay you every 30-60 days…
  • …by direct deposit
  • And that you don’t want to annoy the person hiring you or their Accounts Payable department

If that describes your occupation, it’s time to warm up your wallet, because…

Bank bonuses double your income without doubling your work

A typical bank bonus is $100-$300, usually predicated on your receiving a series of direct deposits. You may have heard of churning (or not, it’s not for everyone, and if you’d rather use your free time to memorize Red Sox statistics, that’s fair, and thanks for taking an interest in my work, Dad). Churning is a hobby-encroaching-on-career in which people open credit cards and bank accounts to harvest bonuses and points but — and this is key — without actually spending a ton of money.

One big concern for this community of generally decent folks is to not bother their HR department, since swapping bank accounts always requires some paperwork and a confirmation between HR and the payroll administrator. Don’t do that. Don’t drag your HR team into your weird churning hustle every couple of months. They have real work to do. When I was still full-time I set myself a once-per-year limit on changing bank accounts, and I actually only invoked it every 18 months or so.

If you’re lucky enough to switch and/or split direct deposit accounts online at a full-time job without involving HR, enjoy that gold mine. You can pretty much sweep Doctor of Credit’s list of best bank bonuses by reconfiguring your own deposits.

But you’re a freelancer, and you’re taking on new clients all the time — or should be. Assuming you’re good enough to get hired, a single client will probably pay you at least a couple times over the next few months, which usually coincides with the period of direct deposits required to earn a bank bonus.

Double your income gold
Woooo! They’ve started a family! (Photo: Michael Steinberg)

How I use bank bonuses as a freelancer to get paid twice

For most people, the hard part is sourcing a direct deposit(s) to trigger a bonus. Since we have that covered, the real task is to plan your bonuses based on expected income.

Does this sound like work? It’s honestly more like two minutes of consideration. Unless you scale up to double-digit amounts of active banks and clients — you probably already know who the best matches are.

If you do want to plan that grand scale, I recommend dividing your client list into intermittent, regular, and ongoing payments. Then divide it again based on size of the payments. That should give you a nice X/Y table of who’s paying you, how often, and how much.

Compare that table with each bank’s bonus terms. You should split divide larger paychecks between bank accounts (totally cool to ask for a split payment in most cases) so you can meet multiple bonus requirements with one paycheck. Or you could apply them to accounts with large requirements; some banks may ask for as much as $5k in cumulative deposits to trigger a bonus.

You should pin intermittent clients to bonuses that only require a one-time deposit. Then layer regular clients onto bonuses with an ongoing requirement so you can time your invoices to each billing cycle. That way if a client doesn’t give you work that month or pay you in time, another client can act as a backup.

Banks would rather pay new account bonuses than higher interest rates. If you’ve got multiple streams of income that pay you the exact way banks want to receive your money, you might as well get paid handsomely for it. You’re filling out direct deposit forms anyway, so why wouldn’t you double your income doing it, fellow freelancer?

Actually, it turns out there are some good objections to it but in my mind none of them are deal-breakers, and their solutions actually illuminate how to efficiently harvest bonuses. We’ll look at both the Nay and the Yay in part two: Reasons why you don’t want multiple bank accounts (that actually show why you do).