3 Tips to Renegotiating Rates with Clients (or Prospects!)

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Ouch. You bid too low again.

While you’re happy to have the work, you know that you can’t keep taking on clients below your ideal rates.

Now you’re stuck at that rate forever, right?

Wrong!

You can (and should) renegotiate rates with clients. You can even do it with prospects!

How My Rates Have Changed over the Last Two Years

My rates have changed a lot over the last two years. I started off taking whatever work I could, then I set my sights on $.10/word and more recently $.25-.30/word. My current minimum rate is $250 per post.

My freelancer self from two years ago would spaz out thinking about multiple hundreds of dollars per post. And that’s not even the cap!

Personally, I’ve been paid as much as $500 per blog post. But friends of mine have made $1,000 per post. That’s what I’m working towards next. (And yes, my current freelancer self spazzes out a little when I think of $1,000 per post!)

And the way I’ve been able to accomplish this is:

  • Knowing that others were getting paid these rates
  • Believing that my work was good enough to warrant a higher rate
  • And ASKING to be paid my worth

You can’t do the first two and forget about the third – you’ll only be able to raise your rates if you ask!

Renegotiating Rates with a Recent Prospect

Some clients take a long time to come to fruition. Like months (and for some even years!).

I had a prospect contact me for a quote based on some profiles I was writing for a peer of his. Thinking they were going to be the same amount of work and using my rates at the time, I bid $150 per profile (or case study). He agreed that was fair and said he’d be in touch to discuss further.

We finally scheduled a Skype call to chat more about it a few months later. But over the course of those few months, my business changed and so had my rates (I wasn’t actively pitching for new writing work).

And although I was scared (I really look up to this person), I knew I would regret it if I didn’t ask for more money. So I did.

I asked for $250 per post. After five seconds of hesitation on his part, he agreed. And I received my first paycheck from him last week.

But I wouldn’t have gotten paid my worth if I didn’t ask. If I let fear get the best of me.

(Side note: This project was way more than double the work of my other client, so I’m doubly glad that I raised the fee – it was a lot of work!)

I want you to get paid your worth too.

And not settle for the first rate that you agree to with clients. As you grow your freelance business and get more experience under your belt, you deserve to be paid more. Plus, it’s really hard to make a liveable wage as a freelance writer for pennies per word.

Here are three tips to help you when renegotiating rates with clients (or prospects)!

1. Be Prepared to Part Ways

This is probably my best tip for renegotiating rates with clients.

If you’re not prepared to walk away, to lose the client, then you might not want to ask for a raise. Because, if you ask and they say no and you continue working with them, you’ve lost any negotiating power you had.

Instead, you should be confident that you can replace them with another higher paying client (or in a worst case scenario equally poor paying one) if they say no. The conversation could look a lot like this:

Hey Mike, I wanted to use this opportunity to reassess our rate agreement. I know we started at $.X/word, but my rates have changed with the new business year and are currently at $.X. Do you have any room in your budget for an increase?

(Obviously, you should only ask if you know they’re happy with your work and you enjoy working together. If not, it might be time to just part ways. But it doesn’t hurt to ask anyhow and get some negotiating practice in.)

They are either going to respond yes or no. If no,

“I’m sorry that won’t work on your end. I’d be happy to finish out the month (next few weeks, etc.) if that works for you, but then I’m afraid I’m going to have to move on. I’d be happy to introduce you to another writer if you want though.”

This is a very professional way to leave things. You offered to finish out your work (and then some), set clear boundaries and even offered to help them find a replacement. If they say yes on the other hand,

Great, I’m glad it’s going to continue working out for both of us. Just to be clear, this will start with my next article (month’s work, etc.), correct?

Not too hard, right?

2. Keep Pitching

You want to know the best way of increasing your confidence that you can replace a client if you part ways due to them saying no to a raise?

It’s to keep pitching. Early, often and consistently.

At a minimum, I would send one new pitch per day. And do it first thing every day. Make it a priority and don’t let yourself shove it to the side for “when you have more time.”

More time doesn’t happen. Do it right away.

By consistently pitching, you can be pickier about who you take on as a client. You won’t need to take on any client that says yes or comes your way. Instead, you can ask for what you want and keep pitching until you find someone that says yes.

And even if you have a full roster, you should continue pitching at higher rates. Again, then when someone says yes, you can do one of three things:

  1. Find room in your schedule and take them on in addition to your current client load.
  2. Break up with one of your lower paying clients and “trade them out.”
  3. Use this new client as leverage for renegotiating rates with current clients that you like working with, but wish they paid better.

Leverage is a good thing!

3. Ask

I know I mentioned this in my prospect illustration above, but it’s worth repeating.

If you don’t ask for a raise, your clients aren’t going to volunteer one.

My coach is really great about helping me to reassess my client list from time-t0-time. If you want to earn more money as a freelance writer (VA, designer, developer or any other type of freelancer), taking on more clients isn’t the only answer.

And it’s usually not the best answer either. Raising your rates is.

But clients in my area don’t pay more than $X.

Then look outside your area. We live in a global business world these days. There’s a reason that property prices in California are much higher than Texas. And I’m gonna bet that residents of California earn more on average than those living in Texas.

As freelancers, we’re not limited to the rates of our geography. We can work with clients all over the country and all over the world.

But you won’t be able to raise your rates if you don’t ask to be paid more.

In Conclusion

As a freelancer, it’s normal for your rates to change over time. And although long-term client relationships are ideal, the same rate for years on end isn’t.

Rather than replacing those long-term clients with new ones right off the bat, I’d encourage you to renegotiate with them instead. Be prepared to part ways if they say no, make sure you’re consistently pitching and marketing your business and most importantly, you have to ask to be paid more in order to get a raise.

Have you ever asked a client for a raise? How’d it go?

Photo credit: María Victoria Heredia Reyes via Unsplash

9 thoughts on “3 Tips to Renegotiating Rates with Clients (or Prospects!)”

  1. Love this, Gina! Keeping this one in my forever file. Great advice. The hardest part is actually knowing what you’re worth so that you know what to ask for in increase. That’s an exercise in self-confidence, for sure! Thanks so much for the awesome tips!

    Reply
    • For sure! You’ll get better at it the more practice you get. I say every other conversation go for more than you’d normally ask – it’ll get easier and some people just might say yes!

      Reply
  2. You are killing it with this post. Thanks for encouraging us all to be more confident and charge what we are worth. Also, I downloaded the 7 Tips sheet and love your shout out to your husband. As the primary parent in my household, I can tell you that it’s always nice to be recognized.

    Reply
  3. Hi, nice post as usual, but I wanted to give you a quick heads up. “Spaz out” is actually quite a derogatory term, which I’m sure you don’t really mean. It’s a shortening of “spastic cerebral palsy”, which is a medical condition where one symptom is uncontrolled muscle spasming. Apparently it’s not as offensive in the US, but in the UK it’s quite an offensive term.

    Reply
    • Noted – I had no idea and no, it’s not an offensive term (at least in my circle) in the US. I’m never intentionally offensive, but I can’t promise that this is the last time I use a term that can be misconstrued… Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      Reply
  4. I’ve been freelancing for a year and half now, and during the past year and a half I was not being paid what I am worth. I was way to nervous to ask for what I was worth, and lacked confidence in myself. However, I’ve taken on a new outlook this year to work on my business grow it, and get paid what I am worth. I am currently negotiating with a client about pay rate right now and for the first time I actually asked to be paid what I am worth. The pay is likely to give me a hefty percentage split on any revenue my work brings into the website, plus I get paid per post that I write for the company on top of this. As a result I asked to be paid 10 cents per word. Hopefully I can achieve 20-30 cents per word with clients who don’t offer a revenue percentage. Thank you for the article Gina it was just what I needed, as I reassess my business this New Year.

    Reply

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