Do you need to raise your rates? If so, the end of the year is an ideal time to broach the topic with your clients. Everyone is doing their own end-of-year analysis and a request for a bump up on your hourly rate or project fee won’t seem out of the ordinary.
Many freelancers avoid any and all conversations that have to do with money. Asking for more compensation can be difficult. But, it doesn’t have to be. Remember, you run a business. When Starbucks raises the price of a cup of coffee by a few cents, you pay it. You don’t freak out or yell or scream or never return to Starbucks. What makes you think your client would react that way to your rate increase?
But, we all worry and play out strange scenarios in our minds. Don’t fear the worst! I’ve actually never had anyone react in a negative way when I brought up a rate increase. I may not always get what I want, but the conversation is never combative or uncomfortable. Here’s how I do it.
Last week a client I hadn’t worked with in a few months called. The company has five projects they’d like me to work into my schedule through the end of the year. We had a nice chat. We caught up on each other’s lives and work and then we discussed the projects at length. I had some ideas to streamline the delivery schedule and we agreed to what needed to be done and when. Then I informed the client that my rates had risen since we’d last collaborated. Here’s what I said:
“I’m skimming my schedule book and it looks like the last time we worked together was in April 2017. Since that time, I have raised my rates. My new hourly rate for editing projects like this is $XX. Will that work in regard to these projects?”
Notice that I don’t offer an explanation of why I’ve raised my rates and I didn’t ramble on. I just said, hey, my rates are higher than the last time we collaborated. (It didn’t hurt that the earlier “catch up” part of the conversation focused on what work I’ve been doing, how packed my schedule is, and how it was the best decision I ever made when I went full-time freelance in 2015.)
I just told the client that my rates are now higher and then waited a beat. My client didn’t hesitate: “No problem. We want these projects in your capable hands.”
Not everyone is comfortable talking about money on the phone (or in person). It’s perfectly permissible to start a dialogue about your new rate structure via email. (Although, I do sometimes think that phone discussions result in better outcomes. It’s hard to say no to someone face-to-face, or voice-to-voice. It’s easier to craft an email to let someone down gracefully than it is to say no outright during a phone call.)
If you haven’t raised your rates in a while, you can send out a personalized email to each client saying something like this:
As we approach the fourth quarter, I wanted to thank you again for all the work you’ve sent my way this year. It’s always a pleasure collaborating with your team and I look forward to diving into the next project soon!
We’ve been working together for three years now and during that time, I’ve kept my rate steady. My business has grown by leaps and bounds this year and I’ve been raising my fees to get them more in line with average going rates.
I’d like to speak with you about a possible rate increase. I currently write 52 blog posts a year for you at the rate of $300 per post. I propose a new rate of $325.
As you know, I throw in the curation of your editorial calendar with my per post fee, I source high-quality images, and I always deliver nearly-perfect content before the deadline. You’ve given me fantastic feedback throughout this year and I hope you’ll agree to the new rate.
Let me know your thoughts and I’m happy to talk this over on the phone as well. Have a terrific day!”
Notice that the above example suggests a new rate. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, or you are afraid that you may be leaving money on the table by suggesting a new number, you can simply ask your client for a raise and see what he/she proposes.
You won’t always be successful when you ask for a raise and that’s OK. The important thing is that you consistently raise your rates with new clients and bump up your fees with recurring clients whenever possible.
Sometimes a client can’t offer an increase. That’s often the case when the project includes very specific deliverables that have previously been budgeted. For example, it may be difficult to get a raise for posts written for a blog with many contributors. The outlet may have a set fee and won’t deviate for one (or a few) writers. Likewise, you may have been hired to edit a book manuscript. The fee was likely budgeted for in the project’s profit & loss statement and it would be difficult to ask for a raise midway through the book’s development. (You could and should, however, ask for a rate increase on the next manuscript project the client proposes.)
The likelihood of successfully getting a rate increase often has to do with the client’s budget, if your current rate is below market value and how integral your work is to the client’s project.If you started your freelance business as a side hustle, you may have consciously set lower than normal rates. You figured, at the time, that these projects were gravy on top of your regular full-time salary. Now that you’re a full-time freelancer, you must raise those rates so they are in line with your colleagues.
Earlier this year I also wrote about The One Sentence Every Freelancer Needs to Memorize in order to negotiate higher rates. If you missed that piece, please read it now along with 5 Things You Need to Know About Negotiation Tactics.
Want to earn six figures? Take advice from a freelancer who does. Andrea M. Rotondo is a project manager with expertise supervising remote editorial teams. She’s also an editor/writer with more than 25 years of experience working with top brands like Ancestry.com, Fodor’s, the National Education Association, and Cruise Critic.