Have you ever asked for a raise? Asking for a rate increase can be a little intimidating. You’ve been working hard and feel you’ve earned it, but is it the right time to ask? And what’s the best approach to take? As a freelancer, this can be even more complicated because you have the flexibility to increase your rate at any time. However, you also need to weigh whether or not the clients you’re already working with will be okay with the rate change and what impact this will have on your marketability for future opportunities. Here are some ideas from other freelancers on things to keep in mind when deciding to increase your rates.
First, decide if this is the right decision for your business, only you can answer that. Aside from the obvious financial benefits, considering an increase is an opportunity to take a step back to evaluate your business. You may see that your current business plan—how you market yourself in your profile—isn’t bringing you the kinds of clients who will pay more. It’s a good idea to re-evaluate, update, and change your profile regularly. One Upwork Community member shared, “It is true that as my profile improved, I was taken more and more seriously by prospective clients, and I was hence able to ask more for my services.” By communicating your true value more effectively and marketing yourself better, you can command higher rates. Consider adding more detail to your work history, revising your title, and updating your portfolio to convey to clients that you provide a higher quality of services.
A rate increase may make you appear more valuable to new clients. A community member commented that he raised his rates to cut back on the large volume of job invites he was receiving. Even though his rate was fairly high compared to others, he still received many offers, and they were for better quality jobs. Clients may associate freelancers with a higher price to a higher perceived value.
So, how does a freelancer get from $8/hr to $60/hr, as Cameron did in his work as a graphic designer?
Or, how did Michelle go from $9/hr to $25/hr in the Customer Support category?
Other freelancers have been in your shoes and we’ve put together some of their best tips below.
Most successful freelancers will raise their rates when they feel their experience and skills have changed. If you’ve learned new skills and gained more experience, your perceived value increases. Or, if you’ve been working for yourself for a while, have built a great reputation, and gained more knowledge and experience with Upwork, clients may find that valuable. Cameron, a graphic designer, told us, “Every time you gain a new skill or finish a great job, evaluate your work and where you’re at. Do you think it warrants a rate increase? For a long time, I would increase my rate by anywhere from $1 to $10 after a successful project.” The bottom line is if you’re delivering more value to clients, you deserve to be compensated for it.
Many members of the Upwork Community commented that it’s much easier to change rates for new clients than for existing clients. The price is already listed before the proposal is accepted, so it reduces the need to negotiate. When done effectively, this can also translate into higher rates with existing clients. As one community member commented, “The best way to raise rates is to charge new clients the higher rates. Then, once you have enough clients paying the new rates, announce a rate increase to the older clients.” This can be a smart approach for freelancers who are nervous about rate increases. See if your market will bear your new rate, and if they accept that rate, consider trying a higher rate for your next new client.
Another suggestion is to offer a “new customer discount.” It might serve you well to agree to a lower rate as an introductory price, but with the understanding rates may increase after specified milestones. This is something you can discuss in your interview. Michelle, the customer service representative who raised her rate from $8 to $25/hr, shared, “I ask questions like, ‘Do you have any set program for advancement/raises?’ [and] ‘I bid a bit lower for this position because I am so interested and think it’s a fantastic fit for my skill set, but I am most comfortable at $x/hour. Do you think it’s a possibility that I can be raised up to that rate in the near future if I prove myself, and if so, how long?'”
Negotiating higher rates with existing clients may need to be handled more sensitively. Ask your client if they’ve been satisfied with your work and how you could improve your client service. If you know you’re doing a great job and meeting their deliverables and expectations, then after some time you might want to consider asking for a rate increase. If possible, sync the request with the work you’ve done and the results that came from it, such as higher sales or increased web traffic. As one community member added, “I raise my rates with clients as I work with them if I am doing a consistently good job and if they are asking for more in the workload. I think it is a good practice for freelancers to treat their work like a business and take everything into account when considering rates.” You can also ask your clients for additional opportunities to expand the role. After completing a successful project, talk to them about their future projects and how you would tackle them. If the responsibilities increase, consider increasing the rate along with it.
Finally, some community members shared that the most effective way for them to introduce a rate increase to existing clients is to have a regular increase added to new projects. Consider including a note in your proposal that if things are going well after the first project or milestone, a rate increase will be discussed for any future work. This is similar to the “new customer discount” idea mentioned above, and can be communicated before the work ever starts, which helps set the expectation with your clients from the beginning.