When I became a professional writer 5 years ago, I had no idea what I should charge. I had an inkling that I needed to raise my rates, but how?
Then I joined Freelance Writers Den. I hadn’t been a member for a week before I realized that I was vastly under-charging. That was easy enough to fix for new clients – I would start quoting appropriately for new work.
But how could I apply what I’d learned about rates to existing clients who were paying me $45-$55/hour for ongoing work of varying types–emails, websites from scratch, blogs, newsletters and more?
I felt especially resentful of my $45 per hour client. I knew I needed to ask for more money, but I didn’t know how to ask for a raise.
Every time I tried to imagine how this conversation would go, it became an ultimatum, which I knew I wanted to avoid.
Then, I searched around the Den and found three key pieces of inspiration that enabled me to craft emails that got me the raises I wanted. Here’s what I did:
Finding reasons for raises
The Den has several resources on asking for a raise. Browsing through them, I found three ideas I liked:
- The phrase, “Your current rate is now below my floor.” No more explanation needed.
- The “upcoming anniversary” opener. Broaching the topic of a raise after working for a client for a year made me feel a lot more comfortable sending a raise request.
- The “It’ll be easier for you to budget” rationale. This is a pretext that helps clients see the upside in switching from hourly to price-per-post. This phrase turned the email from sounding like I was asking for a raise for no good reason to sounding like I was making it easier for them to work with me.
These ideas allowed me to ask two different clients for raises. Here’s the breakdown of exactly what I said, and their responses:
1) Combining two approaches
I knew the first client, a marketing firm that had quickly become my lowest-paying gig, would require that I stay at an hourly rate–after all, they bill their clients by the hour. Luckily, my one-year anniversary with them was coming up, and it provided the perfect opener. I’d been writing web copy, emails, newsletters and press releases for them, and had received lots of compliments from the CEO. Armed with my newfound knowledge from the Den, I was confident that the flat hourly fee I’d been charging was now below my floor. So, I wrote the following email:
In July, we will have worked together for a year–what a milestone! I’ve learned a lot about your business, and I trust that you and your clients have seen the value in the work I put out.
As I mentioned in my initial onboarding, my typical hourly rate in 2016 was $55/hour. This year, I’m bringing new clients on at an average of $70/hour, though I’ve kept you at your original rate.
However, as of July 1, your current rate will be below my floor. At that time, I’ll begin billing at $65/hour.
I appreciate your business and look forward to our continued relationship. Please let me know if you have any questions about my new rates.
“Your new hourly rate works for us! We are thrilled to have you on our team!!”
And boom! Just like that, I’d set myself up to earn $1,500 more in the coming year than I did in the first year with this client–for the same 10 hours per month I work for them.
2) From hourly rate to per-project fees
For the second client–a start-up who recently switched me from writing web copy– newsletters and brand strategy to exclusively writing blog posts (3-5/month), I wanted to move from billing hourly to per-post. I knew they had been having some budget constraints and took the opportunity to give myself a raise while offering them another chance to see how easy I am to work with.
Frankly, I wasn’t sure they’d go for it. It would be easy for them to review past invoices and see that they’d typically been paying me about $165 per blog (3 hours at my $55/hour rate). Nevertheless, I gave it a shot and sent this note:
I’m curious if you would be interested in switching to a flat fee per blog post. I’m bringing on new clients with project-based fees, rather than hourly rates, and it occurred to me this may be helpful for budgeting over the coming months. You’d pay me $250 per post, and then you’d know exactly what you’re spending on blog posts every month, regardless of research, etc.
Let me know if you’d like to jump on the phone to discuss further.
She didn’t even dedicate a whole email to her response. I’d been so nervous about broaching the awkward topic, and she just said, “Your new rate works for us”–in an email about something else entirely! I couldn’t believe it was that easy.
Learning how to ask for a raise
I landed two pretty sizable raises by writing emails that took a total of 25 minutes to type. The takeaway? Be bold. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you deserve, be clear, and don’t over-explain.
I know my clients love me, and they were so quick to agree–I’m sure there’s still money left on those proverbial tables. Maybe I’ll go after it next year. But for now, this income boost coupled with my newfound confidence in quoting incoming clients is enough.
Do you need to give yourself a raise? Hop on over to Facebook and tell us how you’ll make it happen.
Meg Haley humanizes brands big and small, brings clarity to the web properties of established companies and start-ups, and enables a peaceful night’s sleep for countless project managers. Read more about Meg, and get in touch at www.meghaleywrites.com.
P.S. Winners have been chosen for the essay contest! Congratulations to the following readers, who each won a FREE year in Freelance Writers Den:
- Steven Maynard, for his toughness and determination (displayed by his willingness to give up a $50K/year job to focus on writing)
- Elisabeth Lee (who’s ready to break free of her old thinking patterns)
- Quincy Miller (who made us laugh with his entry)
- Kelsey Ray (who displays great bravery in moving to another country to get married – even though she had to go 2 years without a job)
- Felix Abur (who shows that living in a Third World country doesn’t have to be a barrier to starting a freelance writing business)
- And Brenda Storey (who displayed a Renegade Writer-esque willingness to break the rules and make the contest her own)
Thanks to everyone who entered – it was HARD choosing winners from the avalanche of entries!