How to Raise Your Freelance Rates…and Deal with the Losses!

By Terri Lively

dollar rising graph

Today I was told that my freelance rates were too steep for a project. Rats! The facts are that my rates are steep and I am worth every penny. I say this (and put it in bold) because It’s important to believe that you are worth it if you want to charge a higher rate.

But daily affirmation aside, this client doesn’t think my rate is worth it. This is not an uncommon problem today for freelancers. So today’s topic is how to keep pushing your rates.

An excellent writer, Heather Waugh, sent me this article yesterday. It’s about how Freelancers Don’t Understand What They’re Worth. Check out this infographic:

Source: Community.copypress.com

So how do you raise your rates? I have some tips that might help:

  1. Figure out your hourly rate…and stick to it.  All of us have an hourly rate with which we are comfortable. You need to figure out what it’s worth to sell your time to somebody else’s project. If the rate is too low, why not keep your time and spend it on the latest great American novel you are writing in your spare (read: unbooked) time?
  2. Use the hourly rate to guide your proposals. I use my hourly rate as the base for all my quotes. I prefer to give project bids over hourly bids because I never want to get into an argument that what took me three hours should only have taken two. Or worse, what took 30 minutes should only be charged 30 minutes instead of the full hour. So using that rate, I come up with a price that includes likely revisions, image searches, posting charges, etc.
  3. Google it. Sometimes I get a request for a new type of project, something I haven’t written before or that forays into a new area for me. Then I rely on Google to guide my bid. I type in a full sentence like, “What should I charge to write a 60,000 word novel?” and voila! I get about 10 sources that will give me ranges.
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask for more. This is the toughest tip that has the most repercussions. If you ask for more, you might get rejected.  But if you don’t ask for more, freelancing stays a hobby instead of your profession. So ask for more. Fearlessly.
  5. Renegotiate. Clearly you wanted the work or you wouldn’t have bid on it in the first place. But please, resist the impulse to say, “Just kidding!” and jump back to your cheaper rate. Instead go back with a question, like “Did you have a budget in mind?” If you are lucky enough to get a number back, go back to tip one and make sure that it’s worth it and try again with a lower but higher than before number. It’s all about pushing the needle up, after all.

So how did I respond to the client today that said my rates were too steep? I did the only sensible thing I could. I tried to renegotiate at a lower rate with my question, “did you have a budget in mind?” And then I kicked myself for asking for so much. Sigh. I suppose that the concepts are always easier to talk about than to live.

So clearly, not getting what you are worth is a trend. But is it a trend that will change? Probably not if other writers do what I did and assert themselves as being worth more and then immediately crumble when they get rejected at their higher rate.

So what do you do to raise your rates? I’d be interested to hear your suggestions in the comments below.

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6 thoughts on “How to Raise Your Freelance Rates…and Deal with the Losses!

  1. This is timely information as I’m considering a career change. I’d like to do consulting work for rural school districts who require support for their special education students, but don’t have the numbers to hire a fulltime teacher. I know that setting a realistic value for my services and presenting it to potential clients would be a struggle for me. Although you’re writing about a different industry, this information is a great starting point. Thanks!

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  2. Thanks so much for writing a blog post about this! I am trying very hard to start charging what I am worth. I recently dumped the company that allowed me to start freelancing full time because A) they have no writer support and no editing team and send my work to clients without making sure it is what the client wanted B) threatened to fire me every five seconds so I worked harder and C) only paid me $6 for 600 words causing me to work long hours and in the middle of the night sometimes to get articles on UK time. It also made my quality TERRIBLE because I was trying to write two 600 word articles in an hour! Now I am going to raise my rates for all new clients and have already started to inch up prices on clients I have trouble with. My favorite clients get to keep my old rates, however.

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  3. Terri – just read your post. Perhaps there was some miscommunication. I think you are worth every penny and more – I wouldn’t be recommending you to others if I didn’t think that was the case. Specifically what I said is that at this early stage of this project – a subscription based publication – the project cannot YET afford you. A couple things I would recommend on future bids:
    1) Get more details about the project and decide if it is something you want to be part of for the long haul.
    2) Consider what you’re doing to position yourself as an “expert blogger” or “expert on a topic.” Contributing to publications (although I was willing to pay you – the project just can’t afford your rates yet) can be a way to get fabulous exposure and attract other projects.
    3) Be creative with your proposals. For example, you could negotiate an increasing pay scale as the subscriber numbers grow.
    I ended up finding some topic experts who are contributing articles to get business exposure. Their profiles are also featured on the website.
    Best of luck,
    Susie

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