How to Negotiate Higher Pay If You're a Freelancer
If you're a freelancer you have only one legitimate reason to raise your rates: you're providing more value to your clients.
Trying to offer other "reasons" for raises -- like you want to make more money, or other freelancers are getting them, or you just bought a house -- won't get you far in the world of contract employment.
Support networks that advocate for independent workers -- FreelancersUnion.org among them -- offer more helpful freelance strategies for career and financial issues, including how to negotiate higher pay, like the following.
If you’re delivering more value to clients, you deserve to be compensated for it.
This is the basic rationale behind all good freelance strategies to negotiate higher pay and for raising your prices.
You have to deserve it -- and you have to believe you deserve it. Itemize the specific ways you might be providing more value for your clients:
- You’ve developed new skills
- You’ve gained more experience that you’re applying to your clients’ projects
- You’re offering new, added-value services
- You’re offering the same services with a higher quality
- You’re paying more attention to your clients
If you’re working as a full-time freelancer, chances are that you’re gaining new experience and skills in every job you do.
Each new situation adds to your knowledge of your field and contributes to the value of your services.
And, the longer you work with a client, the more you’re worth to that current client, and the more you will be worth to new clients.
Workable Ways to Raise Your Rates
Even if you feel you deserve a raise, you’re probably still unsure about the impact that decision will have on your business and your clients.
It’s always easier, of course, to change your rates for new clients than to raise them for existing clients.
That’s why many freelancers take a careful approach and change their rates by increasing them for new clients first.
And some even test out their market’s acceptance of these rates by only asking one new client first, and gauging their reaction, before getting more ambitious.
For a current client, try this approach.
Ask them exactly how they want their work done -- best case scenario -- and how you can adapt your work so as to meet their needs.
This will give you invaluable insights into how your clients see you.
They may even let you in on a value you’re providing them that you don’t even realize you’re providing.
Then, prepare your case for another conversation, at a set time in person or over the phone, if possible.
This is a serious discussion, and shouldn’t be left to a surprise email in the middle of your clients’ stressful day which could easily be forgotten about.
Start by letting them know what you’ve done this year.
Give them some numbers to support your case.
Remind them of all the good times and the rough times that you helped them through.
Repeat back to them the way they ideally see their work being done, and offer to provide those specific services in the future.
It's fairly simple for clients to decide whether or not they’re going to continue to work with you.
- Are you going to be making their lives better?
- Are you going to make them more money, save them more time?
- Are you going to become so valuable, so tuned in to what they want and where their business is going, that they can’t possibly let you go?
If appropriate, let them know what your competitors are charging.
Chances are they already know, but make sure. Tell them you’re becoming more selective with your clients.
You’re reinforcing your value through selectivity. If they know only a few people have access to you, then the access you’re offering them just became more desirable.
If they're reluctant, offer to refer them to another freelancer.
Now you’re not only behaving in a professional way, but you’re still offering value to them.
Added Benefits of Raising Your Rates
Obviously, the main benefit of raising your prices is getting you paid more per client.
But, this can also have a lot of related benefits that may not be quite so obvious:
You may lose clients, but if your rate increase is reasonable, you’ll be getting rid of your cheapest clients -- the ones who don’t recognize your worth. These are probably also the most time-consuming clients.
If you have fewer clients to deal with, you will be able to use that extra time with the clients you care more about.
So, your loyal clients will be getting even more value.
This is also good for your stress level because you’ll be answering fewer emails from fewer clients in roughly the same amount of time.
A rate increase may actually make you appear more valuable to new clients.
Some freelancers have found that raising their rates makes them more appealing to clients, not less.
It will change your attitude about your business. There’s nothing like getting a raise for giving you a new sense of value and purpose.
You’re making sure that you’re on the right track.
Even the process of considering raising your rates makes you take a step back to evaluate your business.
In cases like these, you’re raising your rates because of your new business strategy and because you’re now effectively communicating your true value.
You’re marketing yourself differently and providing a better set of services.
Taken altogether, these are the kind of freelance strategies that you can employ to help you get proper compensation for the value of your services as an independent worker.