One thing new writers tend to realize very quickly is that there’s far more to the profession than unfolding a laptop and letting the words flow. There’s the hustle for new clients, accounts and admin tasks, and the constant need to maintain focus and motivation. The most difficult thing of all, for many writers, is negotiating rates – especially when the time comes to approach a client to ask for more money.
If you find this part of being a freelance writer scary and intimidating, you’re not alone. But it’s something that has to be done. If you avoid these negotiations, you can end up working for less than you deserve. With the cost of living increasing all the time, it’s essential to make sure your income keeps pace.
This article will help. It looks at some typical reasons to increase your rates, considers how to best time your negotiations, and provides the strategies you need to approach the discussions with confidence.
Reasons to Increase your Rates
There are various reasons to increase your freelance writing rates. Every client relationship is different, so there’s always a mixture of factors in play. Usually, those factors will include one or more of the following:
Getting Closer to “Market Rate”
Working out a “market rate” in the freelance writing world is incredibly subjective. On nDash specifically, average assignment rates are between $175 and $200, but there are myriad factors to consider.
For starters, some writing assignments are dramatically easier than others. Writing on a subject you know inside-out can take far less time than completing a research-heavy job involving a less familiar topic. Similarly, there may be some gigs where you’ve agreed on a low rate to give you some exposure to a new niche and to boost your portfolio.
As such, “market rate” is always a judgment call. However, you will know, deep down, when you get to a stage where working for a specific client for a specific rate is no longer fair or sustainable. Maybe you’ve proved yourself in that niche and feel that it’s time for the “introductory discount” to come to an end.
Researching what other jobs pay is important, but following your gut instinct has its place here too.
Covering Increasing Expenses
Another reason to increase your rates is to ensure you keep up with increasing expenses. If your utilities, accountancy bills and software subscriptions have all gone up in price, but your client hasn’t seen an increase in months or years, it’s time to redress that balance.
This is a perfectly fair position to take, and one that good clients will empathize with.
Aligning Different Client Rates
A common scenario for freelance writers is ending up with long-term clients on lower rates than people who’ve come along more recently. You may, for example, have clients paying rates that were acceptable when you were more of a novice, but are now far below average.
There’s no harm in being honest about this. Obviously, it’s important to tackle things diplomatically, but which clients are paying the least for your time is more of a factual reality than a bargaining chip.
Making the Work Feel Worthwhile
The chances are you will have some writing gigs that you enjoy more than others! While you sometimes need to grit your teeth and pay your dues, there are occasions when certain jobs only feel worthwhile if the price is right.
Fiddly writing that involves lots of research and revision may not be worth what it takes in your time and spirit for $100 – but you may feel very differently about $200.
Making Ends Meet
You may feel you need to increase your writing rates because you’re not, in totality, managing to make enough to live on. Unfortunately, unless you’re habitually undercharging, this isn’t a great reason to seek increases.
It’s important that other factors are in play too, and that your request for a rate increase is properly warranted. If you know, in your heart, that what you really need is to find more clients, or to boost your skills to qualify for better-paid work, that is what you should do instead of trying to squeeze money from existing clients.
Getting the Timing Right
Timing really is everything when it comes to negotiating increases to your writing rates. You certainly don’t want to spoil a well-considered approach by catching the client at the wrong moment.
Consider the following:
- Learn about the client and put yourself in their shoes: Are they just back from holiday and plowing through hundreds of emails? Probably not the time to ask!
- Consider your recent performance: When would seem a better time to request more money: Shortly after one of your articles went viral? Or when you recently missed a deadline or didn’t quite get the tone of a piece quite right?
- Think about how the company is doing: It’s always good to make efforts to properly understand each company you work for. If you know what’s going on, you can time your approach for when they’ve just landed an exciting new contract, not for when they’re laying off staff and cost-cutting.
How to Make the Approach
It’s important to remember that negotiating freelance rates is neither a game nor an episode of The Apprentice! It’s not about playing people off and having one party win while the other loses. Honesty and integrity are paramount, so keep the following in mind:
Decide the format for your approach
No two client relationships are identical. You may speak to some of your customers by video chat, others by instant message, and others entirely by email. Regardless, it’s worth giving thought to the best channel of communication for “the big discussion.”
There’s no right or wrong answer, as it completely depends on what you’re comfortable with, and what you think will work best in each case. Keep in mind, however, that this probably isn’t the time to be a shrinking violet. Phone and video calls may not be your favorite thing, but it could be worth plowing through the discomfort for a better chance of success.
Have a fair, justifiable rate in mind
Obviously you’ll need to know what exactly it is you’re asking for. While there may be some element of “ask for $200, get an offer of $100 and compromise on the $150 you really want,” it’s best to keep this kind of game-playing to a minimum.
Instead, name the rate, and be ready to justify how you arrived at it. Most clients will respect this honesty.
Decide on a fall-back position
There’s always a chance your client may say “no” to your request. As such, you need to know in advance what you will do in that position. One option is to try to agree to an increase at some clearly-defined point in the future instead.
Most importantly, you must know if you’re willing to walk away (with dignity!) if you cannot agree on a new rate. If you’ve properly considered your reasons, you should know exactly where your “red lines” are.
Don’t be arrogant – but don’t be too humble either
Presumably, if you’re confident enough to ask for a rate increase, you’re confident you’re doing a good job for your client. If this is the case, replacing you won’t necessarily be that straightforward. On-boarding a new writer and getting them up to speed probably isn’t a prospect your client will relish.
So do keep this in mind as you raise the subject and enter your negotiation – so long as you don’t cross the line into arrogance. Equally, don’t give yourself an unrealistic view of your indispensability.
Don’t be scared!
Asking for a rate increase IS intimidating, but there’s no reason to think you won’t be successful. As long as what you’re asking for is fair, justifiable and supported by facts, you could well find that your client agrees more readily than you expect.
Everyone’s used to rising household bills, price increases in supermarkets, and everything costs more than it did last year. It’s not unreasonable to expect your freelance writing rates to keep pace with this reality.
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