Raising your rates is an integral part of growing as a freelancer. However, it can be tricky to raise your freelance rates when you’re dealing with existing clients since they might not like the idea of having to increase their budget.
The thing is, increasing your rates from time to time is important since it reflects the growth of your skills. You don’t want to be the guy stuck charging $0.05 per word for years while other, less experienced, freelancers reap in higher premiums.
In this article, I’m going to walk you through four tips you can use to raise your freelance rates without scaring clients away. Let’s talk money!
1. Inform Your Clients Well in Advance
One of the worst mistakes you can make when it comes to raising your freelance rates is not to give your clients a little time to process it. Just to give you an idea, take a look at these two messages, and it should be obvious which one will go over better:
- Hello John! I’m writing to let you know I’ll be increasing my rates to $0.1 per word effective immediately, for all new and existing clients. All the best!
- Hello John! As per our contract, I’d appreciate it if we could talk about reassessing my per word rates. Currently, I’m charging $0.09 per word for all our projects. My plan is to increase that rate to $0.1 per word starting on February 2019. That’s three months down the line, which I’m hoping will give you enough time to assess the change.
Keep in mind – those are just some quick examples off the top of my head. The important part is the second email gives your client a lot of notice, so they have time to budget in the change. Not only is it the polite thing to do, but it keeps them from feeling pressured, which almost never goes over well.
In a worst-case scenario, increasing your rates might lead existing customers to drop you. However, if you’re confident your skills are worth the pay bump, then you should stick to your guns.
To be safe, though, you should always keep your portfolio up-to-date and be on the lookout for new clients. If you’re not sure where to find them, take a look around the Paid to Blog Jobs board!
2. Raise Your Rates Periodically Around the Same Time
If you take a vacation every year around the same time, the people in your life will come to expect it. The change won’t come as a surprise, and they’ll probably try to accommodate it.
The same principle applies when it comes to raising your rates. For example, a lot of companies have yearly salary reviews, and they’ll often bump up employee pay a bit to keep up with cost-of-living adjustments, and the like.
As a freelancer, one of the smarter things you can do is let new clients know you usually re-assess your rates around the same time each year. That’s perfectly reasonable since costs can vary a lot from year to year, and reasonable people don’t expect to keep paying employees the same wages indefinitely.
Ideally, you’ll work this in as a clause in your contract. That clause might read something like this (but please remember I’m not a lawyer!):
The Freelancer reserves the right to re-assess their per word rate (as well as any charges resulting from additional work) once per calendar year for the duration of the contract.
That would work, for example, if you have a long-term client with an open-ended contract. Those are quite rare in the freelance writing world, though. If you sign on for one-off projects, then you can re-assess your rates in between contracts, which is a lot more comfortable.
I’m all about those long-term writing gigs, though, since they give me some much-needed structure, but your mileage may vary!
3. Offer Existing Clients Discounts for Loyalty
Let’s admit it, working with freelancers can often be frustrating. For a lot of clients, they’ll go through many writers before they find someone that can deliver good work on a timely basis. Those are the two cornerstones of being a freelance writer, so if you can nail those, you’re well ahead of the curve.
That also means when clients find a reliable writer, they’ll probably want to stick with them, which is excellent news for you. One great way to make these types of clients even happier is to offer them ‘loyalty’ discounts. Here’s how that might play out in practice, using two examples of different clients:
- You’re looking into increasing your rates, and you sign up a new client. They get a quote with your updated prices since you don’t know them enough to make a discount.
- Client number two and you have been working together for over a year. You inform them in advance that you intend on raising your rates, but you also mention they’ll get a 5% discount off that price due to the high-volume of constant work they send you.
The main takeaway here is, it pays to be a bit more flexible with long-term clients. That is, at least, if those are the kind of customers you want to make up your base as a freelance writer. How much of a discount you want to offer and to who is up to you, but at the very least, I recommend you stick to your guns when it comes to new clients. If someone starts trying to low-ball you right from the get-go, chances are they might not be a pleasure to work with.
4. Don’t Increase Your Rates Too Sharply
When people think about salary bumps, they always dream of significant figures such as 20-30%. However, the truth is you’re almost never likely to get that sharp a raise unless you’re hopping from one client to another. After all, new clients are less likely to balk at higher prices since they don’t know what you’re currently making.
That’s a bummer, to be sure. However, even a 5-10% increase can be significant. Particularly if you keep raising your rates year after year, which is the norm as you gain experience and specialize as a freelance writer.
If you’re interested in cultivating long-term clients, I recommend you stick to moderate increases in your freelance rates, anywhere within the 5-10% range. In the meantime, nothing is stopping you from taking on new projects at much higher prices.
With this approach, you get reliable clients who can help you put together a broad portfolio, but you still get to make excellent money (at least if you do if you’re good at pitching!).
If you’re somewhat new to freelancing, it can be scary to negotiate an increase in your rates. However, sooner or later, you’ll need to reassess your earning potential. If you don’t, you may have a harder time negotiating higher rates in the future.
When it comes to raising your freelance rates, here are four tips to help you get through the process without scaring existing customers away:
- Inform your clients well in advance.
- Raise your rates periodically around the same time.
- Offer existing clients discounts for loyalty.
- Don’t increase your rates too sharply.
Do you have any questions about how to negotiate an increase in your freelance rates? Let’s talk about them in the comments section below!
Article image: Pixabay.