How to raise rates without losing clients
Raising your rates is guaranteed to rack up the nerves. As a freelancer, you have put precious blood, sweat and tears into building good client relationships to make sure you keep your business busy. But the time will inevitably come when you need to make the difficult decision to up your prices, and it's hard to feel like that won't come at a cost.
Changing the game is never easy but business is business. Raising your prices? It's the legitimate evolution of a freelance career, whether your bank manager is predicting bust and demanding it of you, or if you simply think you are worth it.
You're not a greedy so-and-so, but there is a knack to how this is done without looking like one and costing yourself customers:
Offer them a little something extra.
A price hike is not as hard to swallow if you are getting something in return so add in a little more for your customers. Check to see what your client needs are - perhaps you can offer an hour a week to maintain a system or manage some processes, depending on your service. It's a small complimentary gesture that should not be taxing on your time, but it will make your client feel considered and better off.
In the run up to your price changes, you need to be doing everything you can to impress your customer. Outdo their expectations and show them why they need you. They will have your good work fresh in their minds when you break the news.
The power of rebranding should never be underestimated.
A new look and new name can do a lot to give your brand a new lease of life. It will give the image to your client that someone is investing in themselves, their career and must be doing well to be able to afford it. If you pair your price changes with a successful rebrand, you're projecting an image of success which your client will want to be associated with.
Good manners work wonders.
Everyone likes to be appreciated and your client is no different. By saying you love working with them and thanking them for their loyalty, you can guarantee the price change will, at the very least, be better received. For your most faithful customers, be open to compromise - it will show, in real terms, that you've appreciated their loyalty and want them to stick around long-term.
Never apologise for raising your rates.
No really, don't do it. If you don't believe in being paid more then why should they? An apology or defensive behaviour smells of someone who isn't sure about what they're doing and that undervalues you. Write down your reasons for your change, learn them inside out and believe in them. Because if you don't, your clients won't and they'll be reluctant to pay more.
Let them get ahead of the game.
It wouldn't really be fair to let a client know about a price hike with an immediate effect. Give them a few months' warning to prepare in the run up to a change - they will get used to the idea and it also gives them time to find the necessary funds.
A raise should come with a reason.
If a client has to give you more money, they will want to know why. You don't need to give them an overbearing essay explaining everything, but do acknowledge why you're changing things. You're not just hoping for a better profit margin. You may be raising your prices because of added costs that have come your way. You may be learning new skills that will up the quality of your service. A little information will make the new total a lot more palatable.
Help them help you.
If your clients have stuck around so far, you're doing something right. So help your cause and bring it to their attention - have you successfully helped them achieve specific goals? Have you become indispensable? If you quantify the ways you've been useful you'll find they are less likely to want to let you go and more likely to give you what you want.
Know your value.
Freelancers, particularly those in creative industries, regularly undercharge. As your confidence and skill set improves, it is natural to expect to get more for your time. Do your homework and understand what your competitors get paid - if you're charging at the lesser end of the scale but have strong experience then you need to re-assess. Your prices are an indication of what you think of yourself and if you are undercharging, this will reflect badly on you. As your profile and credibility increase pick a price to go with it.
You can never predict how your clients will react to a raise in rates. Sure, it's natural to assume they wouldn't be happy about it but some might just as well be wondering what took you so long. Freelancing is a game of confidence so if you've made the decision that the time is right for a price hike then seize the day - if the change is fair and you've worked hard, customers will stick with you and you'll have the rate you're truly worth.