Raising Your Professional Rates

What’s on the iPod: Blue Skies Again by David Mayfield Parade

Head over to Freelancer FAQs to see my guest post. Thanks, Elna!

What a week. I’m working with a new client on a project launch, which means they need content. Lots of content. The launch is in two weeks. They need eight articles by Monday and three more by April 29th. Most are short articles, but three are features, and two of those are due in less than a week. I’m out of my mind with getting interviews for the larger ones organized and the writing for the smaller ones completed.

Then there’s the other project, which was just ramped up from two projects to eight per month. Caffeine — that’s how I’m getting through it.

In the middle of it all, I’m getting other offers from various clients. It’s when I’m faced with that glorious dilemma we freelancers live for — how much can I accept and still keep the quality up?

There’s another dilemma that arises out of it, and it’s one I have much less trouble with these days — what to charge.

A number of years ago I was juggling a similar workload and receiving multiple offers for work. It was my husband who put it into perspective quite succinctly:

If you’re overworked, raise your rates.

Seems like a weird concept, but here’s how it makes sense:

You look serious. You should already look serious, but nothing says “This is a real writing professional” than a busy writer whose rates are acceptable to larger companies. That’s the perception you want clients to have.

You identify serious players. Not every client who gets in touch is going to have the $150/hour you require. Those who do are clients worth building relationships with. Not that clients whose budgets are lower aren’t desirable — they are, and for reasons we’ll get into — but building a business involves increasing your value and your rates.

You gain more negotiating power. When you’re at your busiest, it’s much easier to assert yourself the way you need to in order to get to a better place in your business. If you’ve nothing to lose in the immediate future, you’ll be more inclined to increase your rates (when was the last time you did, anyway?), turn down work that doesn’t fit, and get a dialogue going with client prospects you’d like to work with in the future.

You impress clients who won’t pay you enough. There’s always one client who won’t be able to pay you a ton of money. That’s okay, though it’s not okay when you’re taking on more work than you can handle. Still, some of the lower-paying clients may also have a lot of projects for you, so you don’t want to deter them completely. The goal is to send the message that they’d be smart to hire you before someone else does. If the message is lost on them, they weren’t your client.

Writers, when was the last time you raised your rates?

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  • KeriLynn Engel April 7, 2015 at 12:49 pm

    Love this, Lori. This is exactly what I've been struggling with the past several months.

    Definitely been feeling stretched thin lately, but I'm still getting over all the psychological barriers involved with quoting higher rates. Like worrying that they're too high and I'm being ridiculous, or agonizing over how to turn down clients. I know logically I'm being unreasonable, but I guess it takes time & practice for it to really sink in.

    I just keep trying to tell myself I'm overthinking things, because it always turns out fine after I hit "send." πŸ˜€

    I guess it's a good problem to have πŸ™‚

  • Lori Widmer April 7, 2015 at 1:31 pm

    Keri, the odd thing about rates — the minute you raise them, the clients come knocking. It seems counter-intuitive, but it really does work.

    I remember having the same trouble accepting the thought. I was earning $50 an hour and working my tail off. When I raised my rates to $100/hour, I was suddenly working with people who weren't quite so demanding. Nit-picky seems to come at the lower price point.

    Just quote a higher rate when your next client prospect comes around. That's how I did it.

  • Anne Wayman April 7, 2015 at 2:08 pm

    a couple of months ago… more than that in my own mind… got it up on the site a couple of months ago… your hubby is right. If you're overbooked raise your rates.

  • Elna Cain April 7, 2015 at 10:22 pm

    Good points! I'm at a place right now that I have enough clients on my plate and now is a good time to raise my rates.


  • Paula April 8, 2015 at 6:54 pm

    Interesting timing. This week I've been swamped with deadlines for not one but two industry listings (gotta love industries that extremely self-congratulatory!). They're not hard, but labor intensive. One pays better than the other, but both will result in decent payments. I also have two more articles to jump on next week.

    I was already feeling stretched in too many directions this morning when my sister called to say her client (part of an international banking chain) needed someone to proof read and copy edit "a few" executive bios, and wanted me to quote a price. Of course, they need to be done by tomorrow.

    There were 14 bios in all, and they looked fairly clean on the surface, but they were all written by different publicists and have no consistency in terms of abbreviations, comma usage, titles, etc. So it's nit picky work. Last year the bank finally provided a style guide, but it contained conflicting information and examples.

    This year I decided to have a minimum fee for jobs like that. I knew it wouldn't take an entire day, but wanted to be prepared for the time it would take to make everything consistent. Not my favorite job, but I could use the extra cash. So I quoted my new minimum. (Which would be a bargain compared to pricing it per page.)

    The client decided to edit it herself.

    The funny thing? Instead of being disappointed to lose the assignment – and money – I was relieved. It really felt like a weight had lifted. Just minutes before I was stressing over how I'd fit in a couple hours to work on it by tomorrow, but I was actually glad I wouldn't have to do it.

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