It’s only natural.
Like most freelancers, you’re hoping to raise your rates.
But the problem you’re facing is simple. What happens if potential clients don’t accept the price hike?
Thoughts race through your head. If you don’t get those clients, you won’t have an income, and you won’t be able to pay your bills. Soon, the thought of raising your rates brings up images of eviction and starvation.
You can’t raise your rates! Better to just stick with whatever the client agrees to, right?
You see, there’s a simple way to ensure you get the rates you ask for every time. It isn’t that hard, either.
Let’s look really quickly at a few facts about freelance work. According to online learning platform Zeqr, almost 50% of freelancers raised their rates in the past year, and 54% plan to raise them during the next year.
That means that in any given year, about half of all freelancers are increasing their rates. That’s insane!
So, why aren’t you charging more? My guess is that you’re afraid.
No, let me be more specific: you’re petrified.
You’re afraid of losing work because you’re charging too much.
But you see, that doesn’t have to be the case. You can make a great living as a freelancer and still get more clients than you have time to handle.
How? Glad you asked. Here’s how to get the freelance rate you ask every time.
Have an exact figure written down
The rate you’re able to charge all comes down to how much you think you’re worth.
But you see, you might believe you have an exact figure, but that number is actually flexible.
A sweet-talking client might be able to convince you to reduce your rates, or change or terms, or make other compromises you’ll regret later.
So, how can you prevent this from happening?
The answer is simple: put your demands in writing. And when I say “demands,” I mean just that. You should list the specific qualities of your work that you demand from the clients you work with.
And it all starts with a number.
Decide how you’ll charge. By the project, the word, the hour? Have this in mind before you prepare a quote for a new project. Write down how you’ll charge, and write down how much you’ll charge.
But don’t stop with the money. It’s also important to include the details of the project. What’s your minimum timeline? How many revisions will you accept? How much does the project need to be in total to make it worth your effort?
It’s exciting to get a new project, but you’ll only regret it later on if it doesn’t make sense for your schedule and timeframe. Create a checklist for new projects, and don’t flinch if a potential client asks you to take on something that conflicts with your demands.
You’ll get what you ask for, so paint a picture of your ideal client in your mind. Once you know what you’re looking for, it will be hard to settle for less.
Be firm and don’t back down
We’ve all been there before.
Maybe it’s over the phone, or on a Skype interview. Perhaps it’s the tone you can read between the lines of an email reply.
But however you find out, the message is clear: your rates are too high.
Yet the potential clients still want to do business with you. That’s good news, right? Well, yes and no.
Of course, it’s great that they want to work with you. But if they’re still interested in working with you, that usually means they think you’ll be willing to compromise on your rates. This isn’t a lethal error, but you need to be on your guard.
No matter what arguments a potential client makes for you to lower your rates, you need to (politely) decline. Once you lower your rates, you’ve devalued yourself in their eyes.
To explain why, let’s look at the data. Research published by Venngage shows there’s a huge income distribution gap for freelance writers.
The top half make eight times more per word than the bottom half. Now, are the top writers really eight times better at writing?
No, of course not.
But that top 50% have set their rates firmly and can prove they’re worth it. They’ve declared a high standard, while the bottom half is willing to settle for the scraps.
So what if you’re working with a client who truly can’t afford your rates, but you need the work? Should you just ditch them?
You could, but there are ways to reduce the price without devaluing your time. Here’s how.
First, you can reduce the amount of work. Agree to work at a lower price point, but adjust the workload accordingly.
Second, you can arrange for different circumstances. If the client has a flexible deadline, you might be able to fit the project in around the edges for a lower price.
Third, you can change the way you do the project. Instead of a custom site redesign, perhaps an adapted template will suit the needs of the client. Instead of writing all of a website’s content from scratch, you can polish the pages they’ve already published.
Using existing work like this can cut your workload in half. Even better, you can deliver a quality product at a price that meets your client’s needs while keeping you happy as well.
Don’t explain your prices
Next time you go to the grocery store, take a careful look at any isle. There’s a pervasive effect that happens no matter what you’re buying, from breakfast cereal to wine.
Some items are priced incredibly low, while similar products on the next shelf over are 2x, 3x, or even 10x the cost. White sandwich bread might cost a dollar, while a loaf of artisan paleo sprouted grain bread costs $8.99.
But people will still buy the artisan bread. Why? Because the value is communicated through the price.
Oftentimes, freelancers believe that they need to prove value to justify their prices. You should explain each reason why you deserve a higher rate, right?
Showing the skills you bring to the table is important, yes. But more often than not, your prices will speak louder about your quality.
It doesn’t matter how many health claims the manufacturer lists on the sandwich bread. It’s still a $1 loaf of bread, and its value is reflected in that. Meanwhile, the artisan bread could say next to nothing on the label, yet people would still buy it based purely on price.
Let’s take another look at the data on freelance writers from Venngage. The top 9% of writers get paid almost as much as the bottom 91% combined.
Why? Chances are, they don’t get paid that because they’ve given detailed explanations about why they’re worth it.
They get paid that much because when someone needs a job done well, they turn to someone whose price reflects that.
If you want to start making the freelancing rates you deserve, stop trying to show why you’re worth a higher rate. Let your higher rate prove the quality you provide.
Be confident that you’ll get the rate you ask for
If you want to get the rate you’re looking for, you need to play the part.
That means when you state your rate, you act like you’re going to get it. You’re not squeamish. You don’t flinch.
You proudly state the quote, and wait for the potential client to agree. You don’t ask if that rate is okay, or if they have any questions about it.
When you act like you’re going to get the amount you deserve, you project confidence. And even if it seems like a high amount to the potential client, he or she will take you at your word. Your confidence will give you an authoritative presence.
Even if you’ve never asked for a rate that high before, doing so as though you’ll get instant agreement is the only way to acquire high-paying clients.
If you need a confidence boost, keep this in mind: internationally, freelancers make more on average than their employed counterparts.
The cost isn’t just about the labor. It’s about your expertise, experience, and advice as a professional on the project your client is working on.
But if you’re unsure of where to even begin, take a look at this chart from Zeqr. You’ll notice the ranges are broad.
Those at the top of their game are able to charge at the peak of these limits, while those just starting might be working up the rungs at the bottom.
How do you work up to the top of that range? Simple. You become confident at one rate, and then transfer that confidence to a higher rate.
The more confident you become, the more you’ll be able to raise your rates without fear.
Know when to walk away
The hardest part of being a freelancer is the constant battle between work and fair wages.
You know the struggle. If you don’t take this project, will you have enough work to support yourself?
There is always a temptation to undercharge just to keep a full plate of projects that will occupy you.
It can be difficult to walk away from a job if it doesn’t meet your needs, but it is usually the best thing you can do. Here’s why.
First, the ability to walk away from a project gives you tremendous freedom. If you know ahead of time that you can leave a project, you’ll show true confidence. That fearlessness will allow you to project a sense of authority about your rates.
Second, you’ll retain your value in the eyes of the potential client. Yes, turning him or her down can be difficult. But situations change, and you may find that the client who previously disregarded your “overpriced” services turns to you after dealing with low-priced (and low quality) freelancers for a while.
You never know when a client will suddenly have the money or experience to afford the quality work you can deliver.
Finally, your time is always better spent on clients you want to keep than ones that don’t work well with you. If someone starts by haggling over price, you’ll quickly find that he or she demands other things as well.
The client-freelancer relationship is one of compromise. But if you start off by conceding the most clear-cut part of your services, everything else goes up for grabs.
The client who sees flexibility with your rates will demand extra time, additional work, and special treatment.
Instead, demand the rate you know you deserve. If you’re working with someone who refuses, politely decline and look to quality clients who see the value in your work.
In the end, you’ll only get the freelance rates you’re willing to ask for. If you’re too afraid to increase those rates, you’ll never see the benefits that happen when you’re at the top of your game.
By setting a clear number and not budging from that number, you can select only the type of clients who would like to work with you.
Be confident about the number and know that you’re worth it. In your dealings with clients, don’t worry about explaining why you need that rate, and don’t try to excuse yourself. Let the figure stand for itself, and watch the checks come in.
When you’re not afraid to walk away unless a client is willing to pay your rate, you have an unfair advantage over the other freelancers you’re competing against in the market.
What strategies will you use to guarantee you get the freelance rate you deserve?