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Raising Your Freelance Rates and Managing Tough Clients

Raising Your Freelance Rates and Managing Tough Clients

Not having a boss – especially and incompetent one – breathe down your neck all the time is definitely one of the top perks of being a freelancer. But this doesn’t mean life as an independent worker doesn’t have its difficulties. On the contrary.

Less like this…


Sometimes feels like this…

freelance rates - raising them

Our goal today, is to make your life more like the top picture. Ready to get started?

As opposed to having a traditional job, freelancing entails collaborating with different clients on several projects. Usually at the same time.

And this is not a problem in itself. By no means. It’s just that you’re coming into contact with a great many people. And not every single one of them will be experienced enough to handle contracts.

Some – hopefully most of them – will be good communicators. They’ll understand the value of your work. But others won’t.

So you may have a hard time dealing with them every once in a while. But don’t worry, ‘cause I’m here to tell you exactly how to handle the situation.

But wait – because that’s not all that we’re going to talk about in this section. I think we’ve got enough time to address another important issue. One that absolutely every freelancer out there will have to deal with at some point.

Yep, I’m talking about raising your rates.

Which may be easy to do with new clients. But how do you go about changing the rates with existing ones?

Well, let’s start with the beginning. We’ll discuss tough clients first, okay?

Raising your rates: How do you go about it?

It’s easy to do it with new clients. You just tell them the rate when you start a new project.

But how about existing ones? You can’t just let them go because you feel like they aren’t paying enough anymore. Long-term contracts and old clients are extremely valuable.

But at the same time, if your current hourly rate is, say, $40, and you have to turn down new clients who would gladly pay $60 just because you don’t have enough time in your schedule, you are literally losing money.

Worst thing is, you can’t just mail all your clients and tell them something like “Starting from next week, I will double my hourly rate.”

Well, you can, but you may experience a client exodus.

You can be almost sure they aren’t going to accept it. I mean, why would they? You’re offering the same thing, and yet you’re asking more money for it. They could just find another freelancer willing to do the job for the same price, right?

See, that’s exactly why you should never rush when it comes to taking decisions of this kind.

You have to keep in mind that clients will only be willing to accept a price raise when you give them proof that you’re offering them more value in exchange.

Raising Your Rates Blueprint

So, if you’re seriously considering raising your rates, you should start by letting them know about the progress that you have already helped them make. If you have actual stats, now’s the time to show ‘em off.

The next step is a bit more tricky, but if you do it right, you won’t have any problems.

You have to be completely honest with them: You have to raise your rates. Tell them why you need to, why you think you’re worth it, and perhaps compare to other, more expensive solutions.

“Hey Michelle, it’s been a pleasure working with your company over the last year. I have to be honest with you, since we started working together, my rates have increased quite a bit. But since I value your business, I never passed those on as we are doing some amazing work and I don’t want to jeopardize that. Going forward, would you be willing to a slight rate increase of X% so I can continue to justify my time on this project, and we can keep up the great work we’ve been doing so far?”

How does that sound?

Be a pro until the very end though, and always give them the possibility to be referred to another freelancer, if they don’t agree with the price raise.

“I do work with other freelancers who may fit your budget if it doesn’t work out, I’m happy to introduce you to them. Although to be honest, I’d love to figure out a way we can continue working together.”

Clients are human, after all. They’ve got needs, challenges, and flaws. Some of them will accept the higher rate without any trouble, but others won’t, regardless of what you offer them.

But, if there’s one thing you should never do, is back down. You know your value, and don’t forget your bottom line. It will simply undermine your authority as a freelancer and show the client that you’re not willing to ask for that rate you deserve.

In some cases, a compromise could work too. But it’s all about the circumstances.

Don’t worry if some of your clients say no. If they’re not willing to pay what you think is a fair price for your work, then it wasn’t going to last long anyway. Right?

Tough clients: How to tell you are dealing with one?

You mean besides the blood pressure rising and frustration that you experience every time you’re speaking with them?

The constant urge to terminate that damn contract? Or, to not take on any more work from them? To delete their email from your address book?

To violently toss that feedback email out the digital window? Been there!

Yeah, that’s how an unreasonable client makes you feel. And this takes us to the golden rule of dealing with such clients.

Under no circumstances should you give them any sign that they’ve been getting on your nerves lately. Try and be professional at all times, regardless of the circumstances. Stay calm and don’t make any rash decisions.

Don’t end contracts just because you’re pissed off. I know how strong the urge to do so is at times, but usually, it’s not worth losing a client – even a difficult one – over a misunderstanding. Tactful communication is key, remember?

I’ve had times where I’ve been so close to ending a relationship, but kept going, and now the relationship (and pay!) couldn’t be better.

However, sometimes it just isn’t the right fit between you and a freelance client. And bad clients can usually be weeded out during the early on-boarding process.

Offer to work, for free!

In the past, I’ve offered potential larger clients a free project — maybe an article, a marketing strategy session, or basic SEO work. Clients tend to appreciate this, and I sell it as a trial to see if this is the right fit for both myself and the client. And this is true!

To do this, pick a task that will only take 4-5 hours so you don’t completely waste your time.

During this free work phase, I’m getting to know the client. Are they too picky? Are the micro-managing? Do they have realistic expectations? And this list goes on. Yes, you may be doing free work, but if this turns into a long-term client, or someone who should have never been taken on the first place, you are engaging in a wise investment of time.

Try it. When on-boarding your next potential client, offer the first small task free, and see how the two of you work together before committing to a longer-term relationship.

Best of luck!

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