Freelancers should raise rates with some regularity – but it’s hard to know WHEN to do so. Fortunately, there are a few key indicators that will let you know it’s time to raise ’em… without much second thought.
1. When the terms change
Being asked to do more work? Supervising more people? Heading up higher-level projects? Taking on a new gig or position?
If the terms of your employment are changing – and especially if you’re regularly being given more responsibility – it’s a good time to raise your rates. If a current client wants more from you, they can invest in you!
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2. When you bring more value
If you’ve recently upped your skills in a real, relevant way, your rates should be reflective of that upgrade. If you’ve gotten a degree, added a new skill set, or significantly advanced your experience, start charging new clients accordingly.
Take an honest self-evaluation. Has your portfolio significantly improved since you last set rates? Have you landed any big clients? Are you becoming much more visible in your field? Have you diversified your experience (or become a specialist)? Up those rates!
3. When you’re overworked
When you started freelancing, you were scrambling for work – and even the scantiest wages might have been a much-needed relief. But if you’re finding yourself overloaded and fraught… it may be time to price out some existing clients.
You may choose to raise your overall rates, or you may use pricing to eliminate your least-favorite clients; it may not be impartial, but it’s all fair. Don’t overwork and underprice – it’s ACTUALLY not worth it.
4. When you’ve been working with a client for a while
If you’ve been working with a client for a long time, you may be afraid to rock the boat. But you absolutely have the right to raise your rates; again, a client should be willing to invest in your long-term relationship.
Raising rates once a year is quite conservative; if you work in a competitive field (or if you match any of the other criteria on this list), you may be able to negotiate a raise more often. Myself, I like to make the bump in rates big enough so I don’t have to bring up the subject too often – again, that is personal preference.
Sometimes, there is no wiggle room. This is inconvenient, but true – sometimes, a client just cannot pay more. However, there is no harm in asking; if you don’t ask, you’ll rarely (if ever) get… and any client who Judges You Harshly for asking for a deserved raise is probably not a great client, anyway.
Push past uncomfortable feelings. If you meet these criteria, go for it! You have the right to raise your rates!
Kate Shea lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily. You can catch up with her on Twitter at @katerone.