How to Increase Your Rates for the New Year

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.

Fun stuff.

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.

Remember that while you want to please people, you can’t please everyone. You’re going to have to and receive fair compensation.

It’s a question of finding the strength to say no to others, and the confidence to say yes to you.

Heads Up!

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.

Excuses, Excuses

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.

Happy Clarity

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.

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

Join the Discussion. Click Here to Leave a Comment.

  1. So… gotta ask the question… are your rates going up? ;)

    Patrick Vuleta – Lawfully Green´s last blog post…Re-arranging Deck Chairs on the Great Barrier Reef

  2. Hi James – this is great advice. And as you no doubt know, a nice rate hike can sometimes get rid of the pain in the ass customers, which is a good thing. You wind up making more money for less work and don’t have to deal with idiots anymore.

    One last thing though – if you have the type of business where your clients use your services less often – maybe a couple of times a year, I don’t think you really need to notify them of rate hikes. A lot of the time, they don’t even remember what you charged the time before.

    Cath Lawson´s last blog post…Does Your Business Really Understand People?

  3. @ Pat – Only those services where we lose more than we gain. You’ve received that service already, so you’re covered and won’t need it again :)

    I was mostly thinking of the many low-paid writers out there when I wrote this post.

  4. Awesome tips! I love the “starting out in a positive tone” advice. Some people think I’m too “chipper” but it’s amazing how much impact comes with simply being nice and upbeat! It’s definitely helping me along the freelance path. :-)

    This definitely deserves a Digg!

    *smiles*
    Michele

    Michele´s last blog post…5 Tips for Writing a Quality Article That Will Leave Editors and Clients Salivating for More!

  5. Definitely a post I’ll come back to whenever I need to send any tricky “I’m not the cheap gal I once was” emails… ;-)

    My experience has possibly been a bit different to many beginning writers, as most of my regular clients are blogs. Two have actually given me a payrise without me asking at all (one did so twice!) However, I have doubled what I ask for, if a new blog approaches me, compared to what I was charging when I started out freelancing.

    My other clients are one-offs, small companies wanting small websites. I found that I was undercharging on these (client liaison took up a lot longer than I expected), and rather than raising the price of my standard website package from £199, I cut out some of the elements included in that and turned them into premium options.

    That might be a possible way forward for writers raising prices — rather than saying “the whole project will cost more”, say “I’m going to be charging more for X”. That way, your hard-up clients may choose to carry on with you, just with a reduced service. And make “X” the element of projects that gives you the most hassle. ;-)

    Ali

    Ali Hale – Alpha Student´s last blog post…Student Freelance – website review

  6. What you said about never mentioning you’re raising rates because of your situation (like cost of living) really resonates with me.

    People buy and advertise because of their needs, not yours. For example, they buy because of things like: fear; anger; exclusiveness; greed; guilt; ect.

    They don’t buy because your cost of living went up. It’s always best to show how you benefit them and satisfy their needs – that’s what they want to know and hear.

    Great advice, James – Thanks.

    John Hoff – eVentureBiz´s last blog post…My Favorite Kind Of Website Statistic To Have Is . . .

  7. Graham Strong says:

    Hey James,

    Great advice. I like spinning it with the “I’m getting busier” line. Not only do people understand that your rates will naturally go up the more in demand you are, they also like associating themselves with a winner. Plus, it gives them the feeling of being one of the first to try your services, like they “found” you, and enjoyed great services at a discount rate all this time.

    As long as you keep providing great service, that is. If you appear like you don’t have enough time now to spend with them, well that can be a different story…

    ~Graham

    Graham Strong´s last blog post…The Art of Perception V: How Does Apple Do It?

  8. I think price is based on demand, not the provider’s personal need. Add to that the factors such as experience, size of existing client base, and market reach (the last one is a biggie — there are many many service providers who are excellent but don’t, or can’t, demand higher price because they are not well known).

    I read the comments, too. I sure like to hope Graham is right — I raised my rate twice this year.

    I think the lead time varies depending on the business.

    Akemi “spiritual entrepreneur” @ Yes to aMe´s last blog post…Dreams As Spiritual Messages

  9. James

    You’ve done it again, another solid, useful post! If your clients are pleased with the work you’ve accomplished as their writer, on their behalf- I’m sure they will remain loyal clients. However, if you haven’t given them a notice about rate changes ahead of time, like you noted in the post, you’re only increasing the chances of pissing them off. Why? because you’re making life more difficult.

    With changes, to a plan or rate, comes changes in how people will feel or which folks might even jump ship. It will always happen, but like you said, you can not please everybody. I need to stop now, there’s plenty thoughts to respond with. Cheers,
    -Miguel

    Miguel Wickert´s last blog post…New Pages At Simply Blog

  10. Hi James,

    I was thinking about postponing a rate hike this year. We’ve definitely added services and value this year, and a raise is due, but the economy is such crap that I’m hesitant.

    These are great points of advice, though. Thanks a bunch, as always. :0)

    Jamie Simmerman´s last blog post…Just Hit Pause

  11. I don’t know that this is a great time to be raising rates, but one method I’ve used for years is to have a set rate that’s plenty high enough that I can afford to discount it for such things as paying in advance, always paying on time and for not requiring certain services.

    So, for example, say I have been giving 35% off for paying in advance. I can change that to 30% in 2009 and I have not “raised my rates”. Of course I have, but it’s just a little easier to float.

    I also give extra goodies to my best customers – like not charging them for phone calls even though our agreement says that I can charge them if its over fifteen minutes. So if I want a raise in 2009, maybe I do start charging for those calls. That isn’t “increasing my rates” at all, but it definitely puts more money in my pockets.

    Some customers get a discount for only using email support – not being allowed to call. I can raise my rates there by saying “Email support is now limited to 1 email per week, but if you still want unlimited, the new rate is..”

    Another thing I’ve done is to say “I’m bumping up to X for 2009, but of course you are a good customer so you get a discount”. Their discount doesn’t bring them back to their old rate – it’s higher. Again, it’s just a slighter softer sell.

    I’m not raising anything for 2009. Most of my clients are having tough times, so I’m happy to let them stay where they are.

    Anthony Lawrence´s last blog post…What I want in my next GPS by Anthony Lawrence

  12. Great post, I really enjoyed it. You make a lot of good points, like not to make any excuses for wanting more money. That is true in many situations, and actually causes people to question you less in my experience.

    Awesome blog!

    Conrad Hees´s last blog post…Are You Marketing Yourself Using the Most Powerful Tool that You Possess?

  13. Very well said!! Making it more personal is th best way to do it. Most important have a bonus added such as a new service that you offer and even better tell them to refer you to others and you will give them a kick back for the referral such as lowering their rate or monetary gift such as 5% or 10% of the invoice etc.

    Serena Carcasole´s last blog post…Article Marketing

  14. Great minds think alike – I just posted about this too!

  15. Good suggestions, though I have taken a different approach this year. I have notified clients when completing jobs for them during November and December that my rates will be going up in the New Year. I haven’t made a big deal of it. Some clients have been at the same rate for a couple of years, because of the time when I took on the job, so this is their first raise. With others, I just say what my rates will be from January 1 – I haven’t lost any clients yet, and fingers crossed I won’t. For clients who don’t want to pay more, I have the choice whether I accept the work and can also offer the option of arranging to outsource it for them.

    Sharon Hurley Hall´s last blog post…What To Do When You Have Said It All

  16. @ Sharon – Oh, that’s a good one too. Nice advance notice in a quiet, subtle way. Good on you!

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