When you improve, so should your rate. A guide to increasing your freelance rate

March 14, 2018

Why is choosing an hourly rate for a project so complicated?

When choosing a rate for a new project, do you think about how you would feel about that rate six months later?

What if you’re starting off freelancing and get stuck in a low paying project for a long time?

Then you may start to think you need to pick a high enough rate that you will be comfortable with in the long run. This makes it very hard to start new projects or freelancing in general.

The thought going through most people heads when choosing a rate:

“I need to pick a rate that I can live with forever!”

If that is you, stop. Don’t think that way. Your rate is not set in stone.

The context of the is based on picking your initial rate in a previous post on going from $20/hr to $80/hr

Let’s get into some ways to help raise your rates


 

Give a heads up that change is coming

Nobody likes surprises when it comes to spending money. Well, if you are getting a discount that’s a different story, not the case here!

If you decide it’s time to change your rate, don’t expect it to happen overnight. Plan to have it happen over a month and maybe not at all because the client can refuse.

No magic here or much else to say, just communicate well.

I once had freelancer (yes, freelancers sometimes requires other freelancers) I brought onto a project say they need to raise their rate by the end of the week. That was a very strong “No” from me (well, the client) but, I mentioned to him a few weeks from now, it would be no issue. Why? It gave me time to plan accordingly.

Tell them you have upgrades

In my last post, I mentioned to just ask for an increase. That’s usually my goto solution but, sometimes the relationship or client requires a different approach. Always good to arm ourselves with different techniques since it’s no single solution to rule all situations!

If you’re raising your rate, be transparent and make it worth it.

Let’s say you just got a new 34″ monitor compared to just using your 13″ laptop monitor. You also enrolled in some fancy training by some guru to make you better at development (or anything!).

Hey,

I just made some significant changes to my workspace and hardware. Also taking some pretty awesome training from a leader in AWS. Both are a hefty investment but, it will greatly improve my day to day work and allow me to perform better and work quicker.

For these reasons I need to make some changes in my pricing, are you ok with me going up on my rate $10. You’ll still be at a discount compared to any new clients I may get!

Curious about any thoughts or questions you may have!

The worse response you could get would be:

“No, because of {inset some excuse as to why the client doesn’t want a rate change}”

Rejection is 100% ok because the ball is still in your court. You have 2 choices to make:

  1. Accept the rate if you want to keep working with the client.
  2. Accept the rate AND proceed to begin the search for replacing the client to meet your new requirements. Just be prepared to give a notice to your current client a few weeks in advance.

The answer is always no if you don’t ask, making this a win-win situation. By asking you now know if you have a bump in rate or should start a quest to get new clients.

Ask if it’s room for improvement

Similar to the previous approach but, this time around we don’t have upgrades and training. Do a “pulse check” with your client to see where you stand.

This time around we’re asking for an area they are looking to make better. It could be anything, here are some of the requests I received in the past:

  • quicker turn around time
  • additional responsibilities
  • more meetings
  • some client training sessions
  • etc.

After they respond back with what they want more off, if it’s doable ask are they ok with raising the rate. I would say something along the lines of:

No problem, I would need to change up my schedule to get these features out the door a little quicker. Same goes for the weekly training.

I don’t mind these changes if you don’t mind me raising the rate $10 to accommodate them. We can start this week if you like.

You may be thinking “shouldn’t I be doing this already?” I don’t know, that’s entirely up to you. If this is pushing you outside your norm and the scope in which you work, then you should be compensated for it.

You’ll both benefit in this case, so it’s fair game!

Be open to feedback

It will be some rejection, and these rules won’t always work. The trick is to keep composure and learn what you can from the situation.

I mentioned techniques like this to a freelancing friend, let’s call him Jim. He got a “No” from his client. Jim was “hurt” by that rejection and decided to fire the client.

Don’t do that. Do be like Jim.

Psychology protip: Respond opposed to reacting. It’s understandable to be upset if you feel like your hard work isn’t valued. Just keep in mind, you’re still in control and not at the liberty of a single project.

With that said, stick to your guns! Your value has increased, and your rate should reflect that. Don’t get caught in the cycle of improving and not being rewarded for it. This isn’t corporate America {insert troll emoji}.

Mention change may come before starting the project

This is more of a proactive rule to help reduce friction in the longer term.

Something as simple as:

This is the rate at the moment, we can adjust if need be moving forward if anything changes. Are you ok with that?

If they are not ok with the rate potentially changing, I would then proceed with caution or not at all. For me this would be a deal breaker, for others, it may not be. Use your best judgment with this information.


Now for some homework

It took a few minutes to read this, make it worthwhile and take action. Do a “pulse check” right now to your clients to see where you stand and if it’s an opportunity to increase your rate.

Protip: If you are still working a 9-5 job (which is completely fine!), these rules still apply.

Let me know how it goes!

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