A lot of freelancers agonize over raising their prices. I know I did.
With no boss telling you what to do or how much you should get, it’s easy to feel anxious and confused when it comes to increasing your rates. When should you do it? How do you tell your clients? More important, how much should your new rates be?
I used to spend weeks—no, months—mulling over these things and convincing myself I deserved it. Then when I arrived at the point where I had to tell my clients how much my rates were, I still sometimes ended up backtracking on my prices.
It went on like this the first few times I had to communicate my prices, until I realized one thing: Writing my new rate sheet or telling clients how much my services cost is the easy part of the whole process.
The real work involved in increasing your prices happens BEFORE you actually raise them.
Pre-Raise: Rock their socks off
Think of this as a classic “show, don’t tell” scenario.
To command competitive rates, your work must speak for itself. You need to impress your clients with a top-quality portfolio and provide enough value to make your fees worth it.
You shouldn’t have to spend a lot of time justifying your fees. Let your portfolio do it for you.
Remember, high rates are warranted by high quality work.
Think your skills aren’t there yet? Don’t worry, they will be. With the right investments in yourself and a ton of practice, you’ll improve the caliber of your work enough to start commanding higher rates.
Here are a couple of things you can do to step up your game:
Guest post on websites that scare you
Up the level of your network, your portfolio, and eventually your rates, by submitting guest posts to websites that are above your own skill level and comfort zone.
Don’t stress over this! Do it incrementally. For instance, if you’ve been posting to B-level blogs, start pitching to the B plusses in your industry and move up from there. Climb the blogosphere ladder until you see your name in the crème de la crème of blogs.
Doing this won’t just give you more portfolio pieces and exposure, it’ll be great practice too. Guest blogging on top-notch websites hones your skills, improves your writing speed and pushes you to think of better, more original ideas—all of which are key to being a more competent blogging professional who charges competitive rates.
More important, landing guest posts on big sites boosts your confidence and gives you the validation you need to raise your rates. Nothing raises a blogger’s low self-esteem like seeing their byline on a major blog.
Invest in your education
In order to do more and charge more, you have to KNOW more. That’s where education and training materials come in. Broaden your knowledge and skill set by reading books, taking courses, or finding mentors.
What exactly should you take up? That depends…
Think about any weak points you may have. What aspects of your work do your clients or editors say you need to improve? Identify the things that you need to work on, then find courses that will give you the skills and know-how that you need. There are a lot of good ones out there. And some of them are more affordable than you think.
One caveat though: Don’t fall into the trap of buying one training program after another and not taking action. Knowledge really is power, but it’ll only work if you apply it. So once you’ve got the know-how you need, go out there and test it, use it, and make something out of it.
Raise time: The part where you tell people about your new prices
So you got yourself published on some amazing blogs, done some training and you’ve officially leveled up in the blogosphere.
Now it’s time to actually tell your clients that you’re raising your rates.
Take a deep breath; it’s going to be okay. (This is the not-so-hard part, remember?)
The key to increasing your prices without scaring clients off is to communicate what you bring to the table. Enumerate the results that you’ve accomplished for your clients (increased traffic, boosted engagement, etc.) and make them see why finding, hiring, and orienting a new blogger would cost more.
As Ramit Sethi put it, raising your rates is all about conveying your value and positioning yourself as the best option for them, so that they’ll be happy to pay you more. When clients see how great and valuable you are, pricing becomes a non-issue.
My approach is similar to that of Carol Tice, where I give existing clients a considerable heads up (around 2 months) before I increase my fees on them. I make sure to list the wins that we’ve achieved while working together, reminding them of the good times, and I tell them I’d love to continue our relationship.
Here is a sample of a rate adjustment email that you can use:
First off, let me just say that I enjoy working with you and I’m happy to be helping your company achieve its content and engagement goals.
I’ve been writing for [insert company name] for about [time frame] now and I’m thrilled to see that in that time, your blog’s engagement level has increased and your Facebook likes are now well over the triple digit mark. We’re also getting more inbound links thanks to the guest posts that we’ve published and the press releases that we issued last year. [Mention the goals that you helped them achieve—you did define those goals when you started working with them, right?—and provide measurable results to help them see how much you’ve helped them and why your services are worth it.]
We’ve done great things together and I’d love to continue working with you to achieve even greater accomplishments in the future.
With that said, I want to let you know that I’ll be increasing my rates starting [insert date here]. Please see my updated pricing information below:
[Insert your new rates here. Be direct. No need to get into why you decided to raise your rates or why you deserve it.]
If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to let me know.
I truly appreciate your business and I’m looking forward to our continued relationship.
Will clients drop off the grid when you do this?
Some of them might. But don’t think of it as losing clients.
Instead, think of it as making room for better clients who will pay you what you deserve.