How to tell clients you’ll increase your writing rates

How to tell clients you'll increase your writing rates

Charge what you’re worth. Double your writing rates. Raise your prices.

Sounds so easy, doesn’t it? Common advice suggests that whatever you’re charging for your work just isn’t enough, and you should increase your writing rates.

Now. Yesterday.

Some people suggest you should increase your writing rates because you’re undervaluing the work you do. Others say that it’s because your writing creates results for businesses, and you should get a piece of that pie. A few will tell you that low rates hurt other writers, and the industry at large – you should raise your writing rates to help them, not just you.

Alright. Those are all good reasons for raising your rates, and perhaps it’s time to revisit the rates you set for various types of writing work.

Before I get into telling you how to raise your rates – simply, easily, and without any fuss – let me extend a caution:

Don’t raise your rates just because.

Good writers can and do earn a great income, but not all writers should raise their rates to the highest point. You shouldn’t increase your rates if you…

… don’t have enough experience to justify high rates
… don’t have a track record of proven results
… don’t have a strong skill set, or just aren’t a good writer yet
… haven’t learned about good writing techniques
… can’t provide good customer service or reliable quality.

This isn’t said to offend anyone; this is simple truth: Beginner writers, amateur writers, and writers who haven’t proven their worth shouldn’t charge high rates.

You need to gain experience, skills and know-how before you can begin increasing what you charge for writing, just as an apprentice in any trade can’t charge master craftsman rates to clients.

If you do have the experience, if you have learned the skills, if you understand the techniques, if you know how to implement them, if you can show results from your work, if you have a track record of reliability…

Then by all means, go for it. Here’s how to let clients know you’re going to increase your writing rates:

Breaking the Bad News

As an experienced writer, you likely have current clients who work with you, and if you’re about to tell them that their business expenses are going up, they may not be happy about that.

Be ready to lose some clients. Not everyone will welcome the rate increase with open arms, and not all clients will want to continue working with you, especially if your new writing rates will be substantially higher than what they already pay.

You can’t please everyone. A few might try to haggle, and you can grandfather the current rates that some clients pay, if you’d like to keep them. For others, you’ll need to find the strength to say no and the confidence to say yes to you.

Heads Up!

Never send clients an “effective immediately” rate hike notice. Surprising them with new rates is the perfect way to shock them, and they’ll turn them against you.

Be respectful. Give people who work with you advance warning about the rate increase – and when I say advance warning, I don’t mean a week. Let people know about your writing rates increase a month in advance so they can adjust and get used to the idea.

If you’d like a nice little income boost, you could even suggest they book in now before prices go up.

Again, your clients may choose to find a new writer to work with, and that’s okay. By giving them time to find someone new before you increase your rates, you’ll part ways on favorable terms, and you won’t have left them in the lurch.

These clients might actually still come back to you anyways, even if they said they wouldn’t. They may find it’s too much trouble to find a new writer, work with one that doesn’t know them well, or can’t find one that’s as good as you are.

If they don’t come back? They may still refer you to other businesspeople they know.

Good for Me? Good for YOU!

Bad news doesn’t have to be presented as bad news. You can spin the whole message in a positive way, making it seem nearly beneficial to your clients.

For example, you can convey how important they are to you – and how important you are to them. Show value in the relationship, and make it two-sided. Talk about past results you helped the client achieve, or mention how much time you’ve been able to free up for this person.

Remind them of the good stuff you’ve brought to their life.

Talk benefits, too. Not benefits for you – I mean how this rate increase will be beneficial for your clients. Explain how your new writing rates will allow you to provide them with better service, increased attention, or higher-level skills.

Because it will. Low rates have a way of keeping people stuck in a situation where they can’t do the best possible job. Higher rates tend to benefit everyone involved, including clients, so point out exactly how they’re good for your client, not just for you.

Excuses, Excuses

When you send out your email about your rate increase, don’t go into in-depth excuses or drawn out justifications on these new rates.

Avoid talking about cost of living, industry increases or rising expenses that caused the rate hike. This only serves to remind clients of their own financial woes, making them even less likely to want to give you more money.

Remember, you have no obligation to explain yourself to your clients. You’re in business, and it’s your business.

And don’t feel like you have to apologize, because you don’t. Never sound like you’re worried about the client possibly leaving, either. If you’ve expressed how this rate increase benefits your clients, then you’ve conveyed the right message.

Assume the best outcome. That confidence will shine through. Your clients will respond to it.

Clear as Day

Make your notice as clear as possible. Use shorter sentences – no fluff at all. Tell your clients what the new writing rates will be, and for which types of work. Tell them when it goes into effect.

Tell them how long you expect these new rates to last. (For example, “At least a year.”) You aren’t planning to fall back to old prices, but give clients reassurance that these new rates are locked in for a certain time so they don’t start thinking they’ll receiving new rate-hike notifications every month.

Wrap up on a positive note. Stress how much you appreciate the relationship you have with your client, why you enjoy working with them, and that you look forward to maintaining this relationship in the future. You can also give them a second reminder of the benefits they’ll see from this rate change, if you’d like.

Finally, finish off by inviting customers to contact you if they have any questions or concerns. If they do, it provides you with an extra opportunity to show why this rate increase is good for all involved.

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.

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  1. Anthony says:

    Firm and fair; softly, softly. I like your approach, James. Giving great service is very difficult to maintain at a the rate some wish to offer. I know I could have ‘as much work as I wanted’ and good reviews(!) for a dollar an hour, but those clients don’t help us prosper, which we need to do in order to continue to serve.

  2. I love your tips on how to frame the email notice. This is the scariest part!

  3. Jonathan says:

    This is a terrific article, James. Great point you made about giving clients a buffer period before higher rates go into effect.

    Bookmarked for future reference.

  4. Thank you, James! This touchy matter came up with me just yesterday. I sent a Letter of Agreement to one of my long-time clients for manuscript editing for the next 12 months at the rate I’ve always charged her in the past, but had the agreement renewable halfway through that term (at the start of the 2016 calendar year). My reasoning was that we could then assess how pleased she was with my work at the end of the year and then renew for the rest of the term pending her satisfaction – but she thought I did it so that I could raise the rates on her halfway through the term. At her wishes, I revised the contract for the entire 12 month term – but it surprised me how concerned she was that I was going to hike my rate on her…until it dawned on me. I had mentioned to her two months earlier how I was raising my rates for other services I provide, and it must’ve made her nervous. Lesson learned #1 is to perhaps watch how much I share with my clients regarding rates; lesson learned #2 was a reminder to be sensitive to my client’s perceptions while, at the same time, being unapologetic regarding when I raise my rates and why. Your insights here were quite helpful and will guide me as I move forward in the short- and long-term growth of my writing, editing, and publishing business.

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