When you’re a good freelance writer, clients want to keep you around – for the long term.
Instead of wrapping up a project, sending you that check and saying goodbye, they ask to keep you around for a while. Maybe they have another project in the works, or maybe, just maybe, they want to keep you on retainer just in case.
Either way, it’s great news, right?
You don’t have to scramble for a new client right away, and you have a little income safety net – and that can go a long way in our tenuous freelance careers.
But, having long-term clients isn’t all “sunshine and rainbows.”
In fact, if you’ve had one for a while, you may even find yourself making less with your old client, simply because they’ve been grandfathered in at a years-old rate. Sure, you like them enough and the work they send you is consistent and reliable – but if you’re losing money, what’s the point, really?
This is a common concern among freelance writers. Anyone who has dealt with long-term clients has come to this crossroads at some point or another, and they’re forced to make a decision: Either move on to new clients, or find a way to command more from existing ones.
I know it may feel awkward to bring up money matters to your clients – especially ones who have grown accustomed to your steady rates – but you don’t have to cut ties to make more. When done right, you can get your long-term clients in line with your current rates – and you won’t have to lose a single dollar because of it.
Are you struggling with raising your rates for long-term, existing clients?
Want to keep them up, but ensure you’re getting paid properly for your skills and hard work?
Here are some guidelines I follow when raising my rates:
1. Give Them Plenty of Time
The best way to frustrate your client is to blindside them.
Don’t email them “out of the blue” saying, “My rates are going up. The piece I’m turning in tomorrow will be twice as much.”
Instead, give them a schedule on which to expect the rate increase. If you work on an hourly or per-word basis, inform them that as of XYZ date (ideally at least a month in advance), you will be raising your rates XYZ amount. If you’re on a retainer, you may want to give them two months or even more; retainers tend to be costlier, and your client may need to make some financial adjustments to afford the hike. Suggest implementing the increase in small increments, so it’s easier for your client to handle.
IMPORTANT: Before you read on… if you have any issues with raising your rates due to fear, or you are uncomfortable with it because you don’t think you are good enough, download my free report, Freelance Writing Fear Smashers. In it, I teach you how I overcame fear and was able to build enough confidence to create a six-figure freelance writing career. If I can do it, so can you! 🙂
2. Word it Right
When breaking the news to your clients, first let them know that you value their business and appreciate all the work they’ve sent your way. Inform them that over the years you raised your rates because the demand for your skills and talents has grown.
Then, say something like this, “Unfortunately, the current rates I’m charging you are no longer in line with the rest of my portfolio. In order to allot the time and focus necessary to provide you with the quality content you seek, I will need to charge a rate that is more consistent with my other clientele. Therefore, starting (DATE), my rate will change from ___ to ___.”
Then, clearly outline your schedule for when the rates will increase, and assure your client that you’re in it for the long-haul – and that’s the reason for raising your rates.
It might feel a little scary requesting more money – and risking all that consistent work – but as long as you word it properly, your client will be more than happy to pay going rates for your services. You just have to ask!
3. Offer Something Extra
If you’re feeling anxious about asking for that raise, consider throwing in something extra to sweeten the deal.
Tell your client that, in exchange for the increased rates you’re requesting, you’ll gladly provide XYZ extra service every month – free of charge. Maybe it’s something like a metrics report, showing them the number of clicks and backlinks your blog post garnered them, or maybe it’s something simpler, like free stock images with each piece of content you provide. Whatever you offer, just make sure it’s something of value to your client and it won’t take too much of your time.
4. Scale Back
If you get push-back on raising your rates – either your client can’t or doesn’t want to pay it – suggest scaling back your work instead. Leave your rates and prices the same, but give the client a little bit less for those costs.
If you charge $500 a month for four 1,000-word blogs a month, pull back a bit, and write only 700-word posts instead. If you typically charge $250 for a full site’s web content, set limits, and offer content on only up to 5 pages. Devise a rate that’s consistent with your skills and talents, as well as the rate you’re currently commanding with clients. Find a way to make the numbers work in your favor – even if it’s not increasing your rates.
In the end, it’s the client’s prerogative, and sadly, some clients just won’t bite. They’ll stay strict on their budget, and they’ll refuse to pay even a penny more – no matter how happy they are with your work and efforts. When this happens, it’s time to cut ties. You want clients that value your services and know what a skilled, talented asset you are. If they’re not willing to recognize that monetarily, start pounding the pavement and find someone else who will.
Have you ever experienced raising your rates with a long-term client? What were some tips and tricks you used to close the deal? Let me know in the comments.
Want more rate advice? Check out my other posts on freelance writing rates.