Hey freelancer! It’s time we talked about how to negotiate with clients on pricing.
Are you sweating already? I know asking for pay raises makes everyone nervous, but honestly, why should it? If we can take the fear and shame out of talking about money, more people and businesses would thrive.
If you’re a freelancer, particularly a freelance writer, below I’ll show you how to negotiate your rates and how to negotiate pricing in email.
Ask for a Raise: Why It Matters
And yes, freelancers should be demanding fair pay, especially if you’re a woman. Here are some hard facts:
- Female creative entrepreneurs make 32% less than their male counterparts for the exact same job. (Source: Honeybook)
- Men are 4.5X more likely to be making $150K+ a year freelancing than women. (Source: AND CO)
- Female freelancers are more likely to get paid late than male freelancers, at a rate of 31% versus 24%. (Source: Bonsai)
There is a simple solution to the very real gender gap in freelancing: Women, ask for a raise (and demand clients pay on time). Clients, pay women the same you would pay men of equal skill and experience.
I say this not to knock on the freelancin’ fellas, but to encourage my fellow female freelancers because I know most of my readers are women.
So, it’s good practice to ask for a raise as a freelance writer. Here’s how to do it!
How to Negotiate With Clients on Pricing If You’re a Freelance Writer (Also Applies to Others)
#1 Take stock of your inventory, and theirs.
Before beginning any negotiation, it’s important to know what you’re bringing to the table and what the other person already has.
First, take a look at your inventory: Can you afford to lose this client? If this deal falls through, do you have other deals? Next, look at the value you have provided or can provide for this client. How can you show proof of that? For example, have you written for this client before? Have your articles been their most popular ones?
Second, take stock of their inventory (or at least the parts you can see). Has this client told you how much she loves working with you? Are you her only writer, or does she have a pool of countless others she can depend on? You’re trying to gauge your client’s perceived value of your work. Ideally, you want to be indispensable to them (which you will be if you do stellar work).
#2 Decide beforehand what you want out of this.
Now that you know what you have, decide what you want. You need to know exactly what you want out of this freelance writing rate negotiation and what the bare minimum is that you’ll accept. This is because you need to know at what point you will walk away from negotiations (if needed), which we’ll talk about in the next point.
#3 Be ready to walk away.
Before you begin the negotiations, you have to accept that there is a possibility that the answer will be “no,” in which case, you must walk away. Why? Because if you don’t, the client will realize you were bluffing and they will no longer trust you.
I mean, how weak does this look?
Client: “We pay $50 per blog post.”
Freelance Writer: “My minimum is $250 blog post.”
Client: “I’m sorry. We can only afford $50.”
Freelance Writer: “Oh, in that case, $50 is just fine!”
If you do that, you’ll lose credibility. So be prepared to walk away.
#4 Be open to non-monetary compensation.
You don’t have to be open to this if you’re strictly after cash, but for freelance writers, there are some things that are more valuable to our careers than cash.
If the client cannot provide a higher payment, ask them if they can provide other valuable items, such as:
- An author bio
- A link to your website
- Promise of recurring work
- A shining recommendation to another editor
These things will pay off in the long-run in ways that a higher rate can’t. And, sometimes, as a freelance writer, having a byline in a prestigious publication will amount to loads of money later when other higher-paying publications want to hire you based on your previous bylines. It’s sad, but yes, sometimes “exposure” really is worth something, particularly for writers.
#5 Don’t be apologetic.
When you’re raising your rates, remove any language from your vocabulary that implies you have anything to be sorry for or ashamed of. You are a professional. You run a business. There’s nothing to be apologetic about.
So don’t say things like, “I’m sorry, but…” or “Is that okay?” as they undermine your authority as a professional.
Sometimes, if I ask anything at all, I will say something like, “Is that something you can do?” or “Is that within your budget?” That way, it shifts the focus to what they are able to do, and takes away the “asking for permission” bit that happens when you ask “Is that okay?”
#6 Don’t overexplain.
Similarly, don’t get stuck in the trap of overexplaining your reasoning, which can also make you look weak. Keep it simple.
Example: “In an effort to provide higher value, I am choosing to work with only a select few clients and am raising my rates from ____ to ____.” Done.
#7 Move the focus away from cost and toward value.
It’s not about the money. Really. For your client, it’s about the value you provide; it’s about how working with you will make their lives easier and their businesses richer. During your negotiations, highlight the achievements you’ve helped them or other clients win. Help them imagine how much better their life would be working with you. Don’t fixate on “price,” “cost,” “budget,” or “discounts.” The more you hammer home that they’ll need to reach for their wallets, the more likely they are to keep them closed.
I’d also like to touch upon another guideline I do believe in: Never negotiate on price, just scope. Again, it is a guideline, so I guess “never say never.” But in general, you don’t want to undercut your prices because then, again, you’re focusing on price, not value.
Here’s an example of what that might look like: Let’s say you’re a content writer offering a monthly blogging package that includes keyword research, six 1,000-word blog posts, and image sourcing for $1,200 a month. But the potential client tells you they can only afford $1K a month. Instead of discounting your package, simply take parts of it out (the scope) such as cutting it down from six blog posts to five.
#8 Keep the doors open.
Everything is negotiable. That’s my motto. Even if they can’t give you your desired rate now, who’s to say they can’t do that later? Keep the doors open.
If the rate they offer you now is lower than your desired rate but still higher than their originally stated one, and you’re okay with this, you can say something like, “Yes, I can work with you at that rate for now. May we revisit the rate when your budget grows?” That way, they know they still haven’t reached your desired rate, and you know you’re not locked into this lower rate. You can revisit it later with no surprises.
If the rate they offer you now is still too low for you to work with them, you can say something like, “I understand my rates are above your budget right now. I would love to work with you when your budget grows. Please feel free to reach out then. Thank you!”
How to Raise Your Rates on Current Freelance Writing Clients
If you want to raise your rates on existing clients, it can feel a little tricky. How can you convince them to pay more than they’re already paying you? By showing them the value you provide.
So my best tips for raising your rates on existing clients are
- Do it after a major win. If you’ve just written a knock-out article that went viral, that’s a great time to let your editor know that you’re raising your rates. Your value to them is fresh in their mind after major wins.
- Do it at the end of the year. It makes sense to raise your rates in the New Year, and since it’s a time most clients are planning their budgets, right before the holiday season makes sense to send them a rate increase email so they can prepare.
How to Negotiate Price in Email: Actual Emails I’ve Sent to Raise My Freelance Writing Rates!
Freelance Writing Rate Increase Email #1
Context: I had written for this publication two times before, and the editor had actually reached out to me previously because she loved the first piece I’d written for them. So I knew that the editor appreciated my work and that my work was worthy of a raise.
Email exchange: (Identifying information has been redacted.)
I’d like time to line up an interview and read parts of the books mentioned; I think I can get this to you by August 30. Would that work?
Also, since this piece is a bit more involved, would you be able to do a rate of $480?
Freelance Writing Rate Increase Email #2
Context: I had just finished my first paid test piece for them, but their rates per post were very low. When the editor loved my paid test piece and invited me to become a regular contributor, I knew it was the perfect time to ask for a raise.
Here’s the email exchange: (Identifying information redacted.)
Wanted to let you know that your story on [topic] is all scheduled to post on [publication]. I loved your piece and had very minimal edits, if any at all, to make. That said, it would be great to keep working with you and assign you to write one of your other original pitches. Would this be of interest to you? Thanks Amy!”
“Thank you, [Editor]! I’m thrilled to hear that. Yes, I would love to keep working with you. Is there any room in your budget to bump up the payment per piece?”
“Wonderful! Would $— per piece work for now? That’s about as high as I can go at the moment.”
“Thanks, [Editor]! I understand and am happy to work with your $— rate for now. May we revisit in the future if your budget grows?
For the next piece, here are two of my original pitches plus a new one:
– [Pitch 1]
– [Pitch 2]
– [Pitch 3]
Let me know which one you’d like me to pursue next. Looking forward to it! Thanks, Amy”
“Hi Amy, Thanks so much for understanding and for your patience in hearing from me! Yes we can definitely revisit the budget for assignments in the future.”
Now, Go Ask for a Raise!
Overall, remove the fear and emotion surrounding negotiation talks. It’s business as usual, and any client worth working with will understand that. Now that you know how to negotiate pricing with clients—go ask for a raise! I dare you. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. :)
In the past month, I’ve asked three different freelance clients for a raise—and all three have said yes. So what are you waiting for?
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