2009 is just around the bend, and that’s usually the time when many professionals set their prices for the coming year. If charging more is the right thing for you, then it’ll soon be time to tell current clients that you’ll be increasing their expenses.
Writing that letter to advise customers of a rate hike can be uncomfortable, and it can be difficult to find the right words. You don’t want to lose clients, after all. You simply want to be paid a rate that you feel is fair for the work that you do and the time you spend doing it.
Breaking the Bad News
Be ready to lose some customers. Not everyone will welcome an increase in their expenses with open arms. Not all clients will be understanding, especially if the pay rate you’re going to set is substantially higher than what they already pay.
It’s a question of finding the strength to say no to others, and the confidence to say yes to you.
Give clients advance warning. Surprising current customers with new rates that go into effect immediately is the perfect way to shock them all and turn them against you. No one likes to face sudden financial challenges and feel caught, so be respectful and give customers time to adjust and get used to the new rates.
A week isn’t enough, either. Letting people know a month in advance of the upcoming changes is ideal, because that lets them benefit from time to adjust to your new rates. They’ll be more open to a rate increase if they have enough time to find the room in their budget or turn around to find a lower-priced provider.
And if they do choose to work with someone else? That’s okay. Let them go knowing that you’ve created a situation where departing clients still think of you favorably. They may come back later if they don’t find a better writer, or they may still give good referrals of your services to others.
Good for Me? Good for YOU!
Start your notice of rate increase on a positive tone. Convey how important your clients are to you and that you value the relationship you have with your customers. Form letters suck, so avoid writing a notice that sounds like 100 people received it. Write in a personal manner, speaking directly to the individual reader.
When you write your notice of rate increase, focus on customer benefits, not your gain. Explain how your rate increase will help you provide them with better work, better service, more attention or increased skills. Clients have to know that this rate increase is good for them, not just good for you.
Don’t go into in-depth excuses. You have no obligation to justify why you want to increase your rates. You’re in business, you need better rates, and that’s all. If you’ve expressed how the rate increase benefits clients, then you’ve conveyed the right message.
Stay away from wording that mentions cost of living or rising expenses that have crunched you. This only reminds clients of their own financial woes, making them even less likely to want to give you more money.
Be clear. Tell customers what the rate increase will be, when it goes into effect and how long it will last. You aren’t planning to fall back to old prices, but you do need to give clients security that these rates are locked in for some time and that they won’t start receiving new notifications of rate increases every month.
Wrap up on a positive note. Stress in your conclusion how valuable the client is, why you enjoy working with them, and that you hope to continue doing so. Remind them again of the benefits of this change in rates.
Lastly, finish off your notice by opening up discussion and inviting customers to contact you with their concerns or their thoughts. Give people their voice and the opportunity to express their feelings and worries.
They’ll feel better knowing that you’re open to receiving feedback, even if you won’t be compromising on your rates.