Does this situation seem familiar? You have a long-term repeat client who you love working with, but they hired you back when you charged way less. So, they don’t pay you as much as your newer clients. You’re scared that they might leave if you try to raise your rates, but you also want to keep them because they’re a valuable client who provides steady work.
This is one of the trickier situations a freelance writer can deal with, and it’s a fairly common situation at that. It’s one I’ve been in many times, and I’ve learned some valuable lessons that have helped me successfully raise my rates with repeat clients.
ACCEPT THE INEVITABLE
First and foremost, accept that you probably won’t be able to keep every single client, and that’s okay. If you’re losing low-paying clients, it means you’re moving onto higher-paying ones. Sometimes, this is inevitable and necessary. Other times, however, it is better to keep a client if they can afford you. But, if they just won’t budge on price, then it’s time to seek out bigger fish.
Time is one of the most important factors in this situation. If you understand that, you can optimize your chances of getting old clients to pay you more. The basic concept is that there needs to be a sufficient amount of time between your rates changing. If your rates go up overnight, even the best client will be disillusioned.
If you’re dealing with a repeat client that you’re currently working with, make sure to provide advance notice of your rate increase. As a rule of thumb, tell your client at least one month in advance. Two or three is ideal. This will prepare the client for what’s to come, and it will also give both of you time to negotiate, and come to an agreement.
If you’re dealing with a repeat client who you haven’t worked with in a while, then the time lapse will have already happened naturally. You can simply say that you now charge more.
YOUR TIME ALSO MATTERS
Remember, you’re raising your rates for a reason. You can’t keep taking on low-paying jobs forever. Over time, your skills and demand increase, which means you need to be more selective about who you work with. This is a critical negotiation point (see below).
If you take on those low-paying jobs when you can easily get higher-paying ones, then you’re losing both time and money. Keep this in mind, and don’t be afraid to say no if you just can’t make things work.
DEAL WITH PUSHBACK
Your client might ask you why you’re charging more. If this happens, the answer is simple: you’re more in demand, and you only have so much supply. You should also mention that your expenses have increased over time as well. It’s important to deal with any and all pushback. Listen to your client’s objections, and then politely address them.
INITIATE NEGOTIATION WITH VALUABLE CLIENTS
Often, clients will tell you that they can’t afford your new rates. In fact, this might happen most of the time. But, this doesn’t mean it’s the end of the discussion.
If you really want to keep a client, then you can pivot into a negotiation. Ask about their budget. Usually, you’ll be able to find some middle ground between your initial proposed rate and your old rate.
If you go this route, make sure not to undervalue yourself. You should have a number in mind that’s the lowest you can go before taking a financial loss. Just don’t go below that number.
TURN A “NO” INTO A “NOT RIGHT NOW”
Always leave the door open, even when clients turn you down. If they say no — or if you do — then make it clear you’re open to working with them in the future if their budget changes.
Raising your rates with repeat clients can be intimidating but it’s totally doable. And remember, sometimes you just have to move on. Over time, you’ll learn which clients to keep and which ones to let go.
- You’re a Professional SO ACT LIKE ONE! Do NOT Charge Demeaning, Minimum Wage Freelance Rates!! – by Haneef Davenport
- Flat Fees vs. Hourly Rates: Do Both at Once! By Anne Bingham
- Writers, It’s Time to Give Yourself a Raise! Here’s How! by Neil Tortorella
- How I Raised My Rates and Still Kept Clients by Ingrid Cruz
- How I Negotiated A Higher Writing Rate! By Christine Park
Ian Chandler is a freelance writer and Head Instructor at Writing Launch.
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