Freelancers: Tips for Increasing Your Rates

Learn how to raise your rates and earn more as a freelancer. Tips and strategies to help you value your work and negotiate with clients.

As a freelancer, raising your rates is crucial not just for your growth as a creative business owner but also for improving the quality of clients you attract. If you work for lower rates, you’ll find it harder to attract high-profile clients. Why? Because top-tier clients usually associate lower prices with lower quality. They may assume you’re not very good at what you do.

Our brains tend to devalue products or services that are priced too low, even if they’re actually valuable. This is why it’s important not to be perceived as the cheap option if you’re a designer.

Once you’re seen as the budget choice, it can be tough to change that perception. But don’t worry, we’ll guide you on how to overcome this challenge so you can attract the quality clients you deserve.

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Ask Not What Your Client Can Do For You…

Here’s how most freelance designers attempt to raise their rates. They start with a nice, slightly timid email that goes something like this:

  • Hi so-and-so, just wanted to let you know I’ll be raising my rates.
  • Sorry to have to do this, but well, you know how it is.

Okay, maybe it’s not exactly in those words, but that’s a general idea.

There’s a reason why this doesn’t work well with many clients, and it’s not because they’re all cheapskates who don’t understand the value of your work. The reason this approach rarely succeeds is that your client has mentally locked you in as being “worth” a certain amount of money.

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What’s Your Value?

They probably haven’t done this maliciously, but regardless, that’s how they see you. Your value is tied to X amount of dollars. To overcome this, you need to approach your clients from a value-based perspective rather than a money-based one.

Instead of just announcing that you’re raising your rates, think about the kind of value you can provide your clients that would make them willing to pay you more.

Client Surveys

If you don’t know the answer, ask them to fill out a client survey. If you’ve done client surveys before, make this one a bit different. In this survey, you’re trying to figure out what your client’s major concerns are in their business.

Focus on what they need and ask what you could do to make their business more successful.

A Little Bit More

After you’ve learned what, specifically, your client is looking for in terms of value, it’s time to send them an email detailing your rate change.

Gentle Reminder

First, remind your client exactly what you’ve already done to provide value. This is crucial to establishing yourself as a freelancer who has been an important asset to your client’s success. (This is your time to brag, so be specific). You didn’t just design a website, a logo, or a branded image. You revitalized their business: helped them improve their traffic flow, increased their visibility, and helped them make more money.

Based on your survey results, which hopefully you’ve done with all of your current and recent clients, you will have gotten a sense of the general things the majority of your clients are looking for. The next thing to include in your email is some sort of acknowledgment of this need.

Trial Run

This will be your ‘bait’, so to speak – you’re going to reel the client in on the strength of this next offer. If your clients are really looking for a specific way to get more Twitter followers, for example, try offering them that one service, free of charge. That’s right, this is one time where working for free will actually be a benefit.

The purpose of this offer is not to give away valuable services for free. You’ll want to restrict it to just one service offer, for a limited number of hours. Just a taste of the value they’ll be getting at your newly adjusted rate.

If this is a good client whom you’ve had a good run with, be sure to let them know that. You’ve helped them with some very important parts of their business – their online presence, their brand, their reputation with their customers. This makes you and your client part of the same money-making team.

Make The Announcement

So now you’ve detailed exactly what you’ve done for your client so far. You’ve offered to provide even more value going forward. You’ve laid the foundation to announce your new higher rate. Be clear about what your rates are now, and what they’re going to be in the near future. This is no time to get wishy-washy or timid, no excuses or apologies are necessary – or appropriate.

You work very hard to provide a valuable service to your clients. If you really believe you deserve a raise, your client will believe it as well. If you don’t believe you deserve a raise, they’ll believe that also. So be firm and give a solid ‘no’ to any offers to haggle. If this means you lose a client or two, then so be it. Perhaps you can refer them to another service provider who is more in line with their price range.

The Icing On The Cake

But don’t just stop there! There’s one more important step to clinching the deal and making your clients thrilled to give you more money. The final part of your email ought to include some sort of plan of action you intend to take in the next 2 weeks, 30 days, 3 months, or whatever block of time you feel is appropriate to the work you do.

Give your client something to look forward to, so that they can immediately see the benefit to keeping you around. How long would it take them to find another designer as organized and dedicated as you are? If they are a valuable client, they won’t be interested in finding out.

Why take time out of their schedule to find someone cheaper to do an inferior job when they have a superstar offering them the perfect solution right now? When your clients know they are getting real value, saving real time, and making real revenue, they’re less likely to quibble on price.

In Conclusion

If all of this sounds like more work than you may have signed up for in the beginning, that’s a good indication to re-evaluate your relationship to providing value for your clients. If you think about it, you’re already getting paid a certain rate for the type of work you do.

Logically, there is no reason to request more money for the exact same thing you’re doing now – going above and beyond your current level is the only way to confidently ask for a raise. As the saying goes, the more you give, the more you get; and nowhere is that more true than in the freelancer-client dynamic.