As a freelancer who’s been making 6-figures per year since I left the corporate world behind in 2017, people often assume that I’ve mastered the art of rate negotiation.
But the real secret to my success isn’t in the negotiation process.
In fact, I don’t negotiate at all when it comes to my rates.
You negotiate a rate or a salary when you’re someone’s employee.
When you’re a small business professional, you inform your clients about the cost of your services.
McDonald’s never asked my permission to increase the price of their double cheeseburger from $1.29 to $1.69. Nor did they take the time to explain to me the reasoning behind the price increase last time I was at the drive-thru.
That’s because McDonald’s is a service-providing business. And I, as their customer, can choose to do business with them or I can choose to do business elsewhere.
Before I get into the “meat” (cheeseburger pun) of how I inform my clients of rate increases, let’s start with the basics.
How much should you be charging?
One of the greatest challenges a freelancer will face is determining what rate to charge.
How much you should be charging for your work relies on a number of factors. These factors include your experience level, your industry and your overhead costs.
So while there’s no “one size fits all” answer for freelancers, I can offer a couple of resources. These resources will hopefully help with the rate-determining process.
The first is the Freelancing Females rate sheet. This rate sheet features over 8,000 anonymously contributed line items regarding what other freelancers are charging from all over the world, from a variety of industries.
The spreadsheet is searchable and can be sorted and filtered by city, job title, job type, industry and project type and helps establish a great baseline for what others in your industry are charging for similar services.
The second resource is the Designer’s Union Minimum Design Price List.
Keep in mind that both rate sheets assume that you are a practicing professional capable of completing the task at hand and delivering a quality product.
If you’re just starting out, consider practicing on mock projects, volunteering or working at a reduced rate for family, friends and charities to get a bit of experience under your belt.
How to tell your clients what you charge
Talking about money and budgets can be a scary proposition for a new freelancer, but it gets easier with practice.
To begin the conversation, I ask the client to tell them a bit about themselves, their business, their goals and their overall project budget via email before we ever even pick up the phone.
I then throw out a rough ballpark range as an estimate. If it fits within the client’s budget, great. That’s a green light to proceed with your pre-project inquiries or a lengthier introductory call.
If it’s not a great fit for their budget, I recommend alternatives and ways to scale the project down to make it a bit more palatable.
Client karma is very real. I genuinely try to help people out and meet them where they are without penalizing myself or my worth.
If we still can’t make the budget work I just wish them the best, and remind them that I will always be available if they change their minds.
You’d be surprised how often a client comes back around.
Here’s the template I normally use to begin rate discussions:
Nice to meet you – thanks for reaching out!
Tell me a bit more about yourself, about your company, your goals and what sort of services you might be in the market for.
Also, do you have a project budget or deadline in mind?
How to ask for for a higher rate on an existing project
I always begin by sending a polite but brief email to my client to inform them of the upcoming rate change about a month in advance.
A one-month notice usually gives the client plenty of time to wrap up pending projects and make plans to accommodate the rate change.
My email always includes a personal note, a thank you and a deadline.
Below is an example:
I hope all is well with you and your team.
I am writing to you today because I am doing some general housekeeping on some of my older contracts.
Did you know that you are one of my longest running contracts? I have enjoyed our partnership over the years and hope you feel the same.
I am however needing to bump up my rates on some of these older contracts as I’ve become busier in recent months.
We are currently at $55/hour. I am currently only taking on new clients at the new posted rate of $120/hour, and am raising all of my older contracts to a $75/hour minimum.
Therefore, I would like to make that new rate $75/hr rate effective Feb 1. I hope that this change is still within your budget. I would love to continue working with you and your team! If not, I completely understand and hope that this gives you enough time to plan as needed.
If you’d like to proceed – I can draft a new proposal and have it sent to your inbox ASAP!
This strategy, for me, has so far proved to be 100% effective.
If you’re an Upwork freelancer, you might want to check out my article on “How to increase your rate on Upwork” where I go into more detail on the topic of asking for a rate increase on an existing contract.
Do you feel comfortable discussing rates with your clients? What do you think about these tips? Let me know in the comments and don’t forget to connect with me on social using the links below.