When you’re an employee, asking for a pay raise is often about timing. You’ve been with the company a couple of years, just nailed a few consecutive projects in a specific period, the company’s clients love you, and you’ve clocked in an impressive number of hours with justifiable results. You set a meeting with the boss, hope they’re in a good mood, and make your case for a salary increase.
But you’re not an employee. As a freelancer, the pathway to increasing your rates is not the same, not to mention a very fine line. You ask for too much, and the client might drop you. Ask for too little for too long, you’ll feel underpaid. However, raising your rates is critical to your freelance career growth.
Here’s a guide on how you can get a raise as a freelancer.
If you’re just starting out, your focus should be growing your experience and portfolio. Find clients and work on sizeable projects that will help you create a portfolio that will not only show off your skillset, but also build it in a way that will justify increasing your rate later on.
Building your foundation also involves having a strong network. Participate in communities, even just online, that are specific to your field of work. Look for industry-relevant groups on Facebook or LinkedIn, communities on Slack, or maybe some online forums. These are great places to network, build friendships (especially in the sometimes lonely life of freelancing), and even find leads, job postings, and pass-on work.
Once you have an impressive portfolio and hopefully built sufficient demand for your business, it may be time to initially raise your rates with new clients. You should be able to take the risk with them because you have the leverage of your existing clients.
One thing to consider with your new rate is what other freelancers in similar industries and level of experience are making. Another is that clients have different capacities to pay—the small bakery around the corner will obviously not have the same budget as a big corporation. Be sure to look at these things before making a new project quotation or charging an hourly rate.
First things first: you don’t really need to “ask” for a raise. You are, after all, a business who has the final say on how much you’d like to charge. However, if you don’t want to lose clients, consider that you are working with another business who has a budget to allocate. Always consider that they may need some time to make financial adjustments in order to accommodate you.
Because emailing “Hi Tim, wanted to let you know that I’m increasing my rates to $11 per 100 words effectively immediately. Cheers!” will obviously not work, try giving a rate increase notice like the following:
Per our contract, I was hoping we could talk about reassessing my rate. I am currently charging $20 per 100 words, and was planning on increasing that rate to $25 per 100 words starting October 2019.
That’s a few months down the line, which I hope will be enough time for your evaluation.
Not only is giving sufficient notice polite, but it also keeps the client from feeling pressured, which never produces positive results.
The worst-case scenario is a client dropping you when you give your notice. But, if you know for a fact that the client is happy with your work and would not want to restart with someone else, then go ahead and get the raise you deserve.
Stick to your guns if you know for sure that you have been producing quality work, receiving positive feedback, and providing value to the company’s bottom line.
As nice as it would be, doing 30-50% increases generally will not work, unless your work has produced a lot of new business for the company or it’s a new client. Charging new clients by a lot is fine, because they don’t know how much you’re making now anyway. Just be sure to make a fair assessment of how much your work should be worth, instead of just going for the highest price you can possibly get away with.
Now, if you want to nurture your existing client relationships, you need to increase your rates in moderation. Even a 5-10% can be a notable increase if it means keeping clients in the long-term. At the same time, feel free to charge new projects at much higher rates if you feel your work is valued as much.
It can be nerve-wracking to increase your freelancing rates. You might question if you are really worth the pay bump, or if an existing client may drop you for it. The longer you stay in the freelance business, however, you will need to improve your earning potential if you want to experience career growth. Follow this guide so you can go through the process of raising your rate with more confidence.
For more articles about how to advance your freelance career, visit the Crafters.