I don’t know about you, but I’ll never forget the first freelance job I landed on my own.
After getting burned by a company that had committed to helping me get started, I realized that I didn’t need to hitch a ride on someone else’s bootstraps. I realized that I could do my own research, put together some packages, and do it all by my bad self.
I went through the typical rigmarole of asking the internet things like “freelance rates 2010?” and “for the love of gravy what am I supposed to charge people someone please help me.” After about a week of deliberating and agonizing, though, I had come up with a proposal, decided on my freelance rates, and was ready. After pep-talking myself in my minivan’s rear view mirror for 15 minutes, I sashayed into a meeting with a potential client. They liked what they heard, they signed a contract, and then they started paying me for my work.
It was a moment in which I felt confident, powerful, and proud of myself.
Now, I don’t want to diminish the awesomeness of that moment for myself, but let’s fast-forward a few years here for the sake of being authentic and realistic.
After a couple of years working for this client (I was focusing on social media management at the time, rather than copywriting), I was beginning to feel the weight of the work… and no extra weight in my checking account. In the world of social media, algorithms, etiquette, and platforms are constantly changing at a breakneck pace. This meant that, in order to provide effective service to my client, I had to research the changes, implement them, and continue the service we had agreed upon in the first place. This, my friends, is exactly the type of scope creep situation you do not want to find yourself in.
Raising your rates for new clients isn’t a big deal. They won’t likely know what you were charging before, and can take your rates or leave them. Existing clients, however, are a horse of a different color. If you approach it the wrong way, you won’t just be missing out on more money, you’ll be missing out on that client’s money altogether.
We’ve got two main points to focus on here, the first of which is:
Focus on value.
This fairly simple sentence can actually mean a lot of things, but it’s truly the core of getting more money from the clients who are already paying you.
Are you going to pay someone a lot of money for something that doesn’t present value to you? Of course not! So, logically, you can’t expect your existing clients to say “Yes! Take all of my money!” if you raise rates without a reason that provides value to them.
Give Them More
One way to increase your freelance rates with current clients is to add value to services you already provide. Your clients are going to need a reason for paying you more, and providing a more effective and appealing product can be a fantastic reason.
Now, this doesn’t mean you need to overhaul your entire business model; it simply means that you need to do some evaluation of your business. Is there a way to make your services more effective for your clients? A way to make your final products easier to use? Would a monthly progress consultation help raise your client’s ROI?
Give Them a Relationship to Value In the First Place
When you raise rates with your existing clients, they’re going to automatically assess your value.
Are you worth this money? Is this a business relationship they want to stick with?
Ideally, you want to be a freelancer your clients can’t live without. Or, at least, a freelancer who makes them really happy. Honoring your deadlines, openly communicating, and providing high-quality services or products are the basics. Take a look at your client list and analyze your customer service before you go changing your freelance rates. If you see a lot of room for improvement, it might be time to focus on that part of your business before you start focusing on the money part.
Give Them Time
Whether you’re hiking your rates significantly or simply adjusting by a small percentage, a courtesy your existing clients will most appreciate the gift of time. This is true for a couple of reasons:
Budgeting. A change in your bills can throw off a lot of things, even if the change is a small one. Giving your clients a heads-up will show them that you care about them and their business.
Special treatment. By temporarily providing your upgraded services for no additional cost, you’re highlighting how much your value your clients, and feeling valued can go a long way in terms of customer loyalty.
I promised you two steps, right? The next one is this:
Let them know.
Remember how we talked about open communication earlier? Creating a relationship that is worth holding onto? Now it’s time to uphold that relationship and communicate your plans to your existing clients. This, my friends, is the scary part… but I want to make it less scary for you by providing a generic script for you to modify as needed and send out to your existing clients when you decide it’s time to raise your rates.
The first change is to my services. It is my goal to provide my clients with the most effective and high-quality service possible. In order to do this, I’ve decided to include a progress consultation and an extra revision period in my monthly contracts for both new and current clients. This will give us the opportunity to analyze our success and progress each month, and will help us grow and adapt to the needs of your business.
In conjunction with this upgrade, I will be raising my freelance rates for all clients. I firmly believe that this added level of service will increase your company’s reach and help us work more closely together to provide a product that most accurately reflects your goals.
I greatly value your business and our working relationship, and want to make this transition as comfortable as possible. Therefore, I will be including these upgraded services in your plan for the next two months, free of charge. I have no doubt that, by the end of those two months, you’ll be more than satisfied with the arrangement.
Thank you again for working with me; I truly appreciate you.
Click “Send.” Confidently.
Once you’ve sent off this email, I highly recommend giving yourself a pep-talk and doing something special. Grab a glass of wine, give yourself a manicure, or buy a block of the fancy cheese at the grocery store.
Remember: You work hard in order to provide a high-quality, sought-after service. You deserve to be paid appropriately for the work you do, and you have every right to charge your clients accordingly.