How to Raise Your Fees With Existing Clients

Once you’ve been in business as a freelance writer for a while, you sometimes end up with one or two clients that you’re charging significantly less than your other clients.

How did you end up in this situation? Maybe you quoted way too low to begin with. Or maybe you’ve been bringing on new clients at higher rates.

Whatever happened, the rates you been offering to these one or two clients is no longer sustainable.

Unfortunately, raising your fees is never easy. And it’s especially challenging with existing clients.

Why? Because any new fee you introduce will be “anchored” to the client’s existing fee. In other words, they’ll always compare your new rate to what they’re currently paying!

Fortunately, you can take steps to get out of this situation (and avoid it in the future!).

Implementing a One-Time Increase

Here’s how you can bring those clients back in line with what others are paying you:

1. Consider how important the client is to you

Any time you raise an existing client’s fees, you run the risk of losing them.

So before you try it, think carefully. If you lose this client, how will it impact your business? If it would be devastating, you may want to hold off.

At the same time, consider whether you actually like the client. Do you enjoy the people and the projects? Or are you ready to let them go, even with a fee increase?

2. Explain your new rate

If you decide to proceed, explain that you’ve held your old fees because you value them as a client.

But unfortunately, you can’t continue to offer them those rates when you’re bringing in new clients that pay much more.

3. Gently highlight the risk of going with a lower cost writer

Don’t underestimate your value! There’s a risk to your client in going with a different, lower-cost writer.

What do they do if new writer doesn’t work out? What if they don’t deliver in time or deliver an inferior product?

Also, consider the hassle of having to find a new writer and get them up to speed.

You, on the other hand, have the advantage of being a “known” entity. You know their business, and they know you.

A new writer, in contrast, is an “unknown.”

This is something that you can gently highlight to the client.

4. Give them a grace period

No one appreciates getting hit with an unexpected rate increase. So you’ll want to soften the blow by giving them a grace period.

Set a period where you’ll continue to offer the lower rate. Thirty to 90 days is typical. After that, your higher rate kicks in.

5. If they don’t want to move forward, let them go gently.

If they’re not okay with the new rate, then gently let them go.

You can say something like:

“I hate to lose you. I completely respect where you’re coming from. But I hope you can understand that based on where I am, I just can’t continue this work for this fee. As much as I love working with you, we’ll just have to call it a day. If things should change in the future, if you’d like to revisit this, I would welcome the opportunity.” 

I’ve found in most cases that most clients are okay with a rate increase when using this approach. It all proceeds very professionally on both sides.

However, while you can use this process to get a client’s fees back in line, you’ll only run into the same problem again in a few years as your business continues to develop.

So you also need to make an annual fee increase part of your process.

Implementing an Annual Fee Increase

In many ways, implementing an annual increase feels more organic than implementing a one-time increase.

After all, businesses across all industries have annual fee increases. It’s something most companies expect!

All you need to do is send out a letter or email in September of each year announcing an across-the-board increase that will take place in January (for example).

You can specify that for X, Y and Z projects, the new fees will be $A, $B and $C.

An added benefit of this approach is that it can incentivize clients to award you (and even prepay) a stack of projects at your current rate (i.e. before the increase kicks in).

How much of an increase should you implement? I’ve found that, generally speaking, a 10 percent annual increase is about right.

That’s aggressive enough to make a difference in your pocketbook—but not so high that you’ll turn clients off.

Five percent feels too insignificant for the work and stress of implementing the change.

Most importantly, by implementing an annual increase, you’ll avoid the situation of having to AGAIN implement a one-time increase to get a client back into line and risk losing them altogether.


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