Inflation is on the rise. That means your grocery bill is higher but your pay rates aren’t keeping pace with rising costs. You’ll likely need to raise your freelance rates, just to keep a roof over your head.
But, as Woody found out on Cheers (now streaming on Hulu), asking for a raise can turn out badly if you do it wrong:
There are right ways and wrong ways to ask for a raise if you're a freelancer. It’s not as simple as asking the boss for a promotion because a “no” answer might just mean you lose the work altogether.
This article will help you navigate a rate change without tearing out your hair while still keeping your clients happy.
What Are Some Reasons You May Need a Raise?
Freelancers usually have low overhead costs compared to many other business owners. However, that doesn't mean you'll be able to get by with the same rates forever. A sad reality is that the cost of living keeps going up when wages don't, so you need to be prepared.
If you've been freelancing for a while, the client rates might be below your floor. Freelancers have operating costs that include devoting time to current projects they can't allocate to other work. Clients should, logically, understand this concept.
Ironically, another reason to raise your rates relates more to making things easy for your clients. Many clients find per-piece rates easier to work into their budget instead of hourly. Going to a per-piece rate card can provide a perfect pretext to raise your rate.
How Do You Ask for a Raise?
Fear can keep a lot of freelancers from asking for a raise. Having a steady client drop you because they're hesitant to raise the rates can be unnerving. However, if you enjoy a good relationship with your client, they will appreciate your honesty and be glad to accommodate you.
A well-written letter or email thanking them for the steady work provided will help assure them of your commitment.
Assure them that you are open to further work, advise them of the need to raise your rates to continue providing exemplary service, and be prepared to use some of the tips below to help sweeten the deal.
Remind the Client of Your Worth
Reminding your client of your worth makes a big difference. Remember that this is not about having a "look what I did" moment. What you should be accomplishing is reminding the client how you have benefited them.
Showing the client how many likes and shares your content has generated on social media is one helpful strategy.
Also, if you have access to Google Analytics or other sources that show increased visits, these work to your advantage. Assure them that more traffic-driving good work is to come with a raise.
How Much Time Should You Give Your Client?
Your client should have at least a few months' notice of a price increase. This notification should be in writing, either in an email or a letter. Adding the notice to invoices is helpful but should not be the sole notification.
In most cases, two to three months is sufficient for giving notice. Your client will have time to search for a new provider in that case. Should you lose that client, you'll have time to find new clients to replace the lost client.
Should Rate Increases Be Yearly?
Inflation has changed how many freelancers charge for their services. The services that many freelancers use -- like online accounting programs, cloud storage, grammar and plagiarism checkers -- also increase their rates periodically.
Clients should understand that rate increases do happen and giving them enough notice helps them budget appropriately.
Avoid Raising Rates Too Often or By Too Much
If you just recently started with a new client, it might be good business sense to raise their rate at the appropriate time next year. If you wait until you have a little more of a history with the client, they'll be able to evaluate whether they're making the right choice. Doing an excellent job and fully earning what you already get will make your client more receptive to an increase.
Limiting how much you increase your rates will help make your client more likely to agree to a raise. Increasing your rates by 5-10% may seem modest but involves very little hardship on the client’s side.
Be Upfront About Why and Explain the Costs
One of the most important things you need to do is demonstrate why you are worth an increased rate.
For example, emphasize the quality level you work at and how the higher rate helps you meet that criteria. Although you may lose clients, others will appreciate your commitment.
You might need to reference incidental costs because of services you need to use to perform your work. For example, legal sites may raise rates for you to revise any contracts. These costs are easy to explain as a natural part of doing business.
Getting a raise as a freelancer is not necessarily easy, but it is essential to doing business.