5 Ways to Increase Your Freelance Rate with Old Clients

03/07/2017 45 comments

When was the last time you asked your client to increase your freelance rate? Have you actually dared to do it at all? How much you charge your clients for the services you provide them should reflect your freelance skill clearly. As a new and inexperienced freelancer, it’s normal to charge lower rates, but as your skill improves, you need to start thinking about ways to increase your freelance rate. Simply put, you have to start thinking about getting your freelance business to the next level and getting paid more is a part of this.

With new clients, this is relatively easy, as they don’t know how much you charged before. You could be charging your current clients $50 per hour and then tell your new clients that your rate is $100 per hour. Since they don’t have anything to compare your current rate with, it all depends on whether the client believes it’s worth paying that much. But when a client is used to paying you one rate, it gets a bit trickier to tell them that you want to increase your freelance rate with them.  You already agreed on one price, so why should they pay you more?

Freelancers are often wary of asking old clients for more money. You never know how a client might react. So if you’re going to bring the news to them, you have to be gentle and diplomatic. In my several years as a freelancer, I found that the following 5 ways to increase your freelance rate with current clients are almost guaranteed to work.

1. Work Fewer Hours, but Use Them More Wisely

This is a non-direct way to increase your freelance rate by actually working less. One of the biggest obstacles a client might have to increase your rates is his own budget. They might be willing to raise your rate, but they simply don’t have enough funds in their budget to do this. Now, you can accept that as a fact and say that you at least tried, or you can take the first opportunity to ditch this client and look for someone who can pay you more.

Or, you can start being more productive and offer the client to work less hours, but for more money per hour. You’ll actually earn the same amount from that client as you did before, but working fewer hours for them will free you some time that you can invest somewhere else, like finding a new client. At worst, you’ll at least have more free time on your hands.

Of course, this approach works whether you’re getting paid per hour or on a fixed rate. The main thing here is to increase your productivity. You can use tools like Trello to help you get more organized, Evernote to save your notes and you can track your time with Toggl. All of these tools are free (some have premium features as well) and can help you be more productive. Apart from them, you can also check a few other freelance tools that can make your life easier.

2. Give Them a Test Run at the Same Price

You can start by offering your new and improved services at the same price as you did so far. I’d use a smaller project for this, since you’ll be spending a bit more time on this than you normally do on other project and, as a result, will actually lose a bit of money. But only in the short run. In the long run, you naturally stand to gain. And so does your client. The trick is just to make them see things your way.

Tell the client that, if he likes the service, you can set up a call to negotiate the new rate for you. If not and if the client doesn’t think that your new services are not enough for them to increase your rate, that’s that. Basically, with this, you’ll giving the client a way out if they think you’re not worth the extra money or simply can’t afford to pay you more.

3. Offer a Better Service to Increase Your Freelance Rate

The client won’t pay you a dime more for the same product they’re usually getting from you. This is why you need to start offering them a more premium product. If you just approach them and say that you want to increase your freelance rate, they’re going to want to know for what. You can imagine this won’t go all that well for you.

The thing is, you’re already probably offering a better product that you used to when you started working with this client. Let’s say that you’re initial rate when you started working for a client was $50 per hour and you worked with them a full year or so. Don’t tell me you didn’t improve one bit in those 12 months. The client is already getting a better product from you. If you were a full-time employee of his, he would have raised your rate at least three times by now.

4. Stop Being an “All Rounder” and Specialize

If you’re pitching yourself as a freelance writer who can “write about any topic”, you’re doing it all wrong. Although you’ll always be able to find clients who want articles on, for instance, gardening, SEO, roofing, plumbing, skin care and a few other topics (actually had a client like this once), don’t expect to be able to get a very high freelance rate from them.

On the other hand, if you specialize in one or two topics, for instance digital marketing and Internet security, that usually means you know a lot more about these than you’re average “generalist” freelancer. This means the client will get a better product from you and that improved product deserves to be paid more. So stop being an “all rounder”, switch your approach to “specialist” and look at those rates fly!

5. Get More Involved in Helping Your Client

So far, you’ve only been a hired help for your client. He would give you a task, say “write me something about this” or would give you a headline or a keyword to work based on, and that’s it. All you have to do is write the article. With a little research, a bit of time to write, edit and proofread your article, it’s usually ready to be sent to the client in 24 hours or less.

But in order to increase your freelance rate, you need to stop thinking as a hired guy and start thinking as someone who aims to deliver a service tailored for this specific client. Think how you can help them solve a business problem behind the project you’re working on for them, track and analyze their key performance indicators (KPI) and try to help them increase their conversion rate for example, or see how you can improve their ROI.

This won’t be easy and is probably the hardest way to increase your freelance rate, but in the end, if all goes well, it can be the best thing for your client in the longer run. Most clients do genuinely want the best for their business and will listen to advice from someone who’s involved in it as you are.

Can you recommend any other way to increase your freelance rate with an old client? Let me know in the comments below, don’t forget to share this article with anyone who wants to earn more as a freelancer and subscribe to my blog if you’d like more advice on being a better freelancer.