Hey bloggers and freelancers! It’s time we talked about how to negotiate with your clients on pricing.
Are you sweating already? I know asking for pay raises or money 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.
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Ask for a Raise: Why It Matters
And yes, freelancers, bloggers and consultants 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.
As you learn to negotiate with your clients on pricing, it is good practice to ask for a raise. Here is how you go about 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.
Negotiating with clients on pricing is not really an all or nothing deal. 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.
Sometimes, as a freelance writer, virtual assistant, blogger or consultant, 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 a writer!
#5 Don’t be apologetic.
When you’re negotiating with your clients on pricing or raising your rates, remove any language from your vocabulary that implies you have anything to be sorry for or ashamed of.
After all, you are a professional. You run a business. There’s nothing to be apologetic about. You have costs and expenses, and they continue to rise, so you need to be able to increase your prices too.
Never say things like, “I’m sorry, but…” or “Is that okay?” Doing so only undermines your authority as a professional. And you are 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 over explain.
Similarly, don’t get stuck in the trap of over explaining your reasoning, which can also make you look weak. Keep it simple. State your price, or price increase and that’s it.
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 only 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.
Tell they how you help them, how much time and stress you will save them. Don’t over do it. Don’t beat them to death with it. But concentrate on how much better their life is, or will be, with your service.
Never Negotiate Price, just scope
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.
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 after you see how well my work performs?”
That way, they know they still haven’t reached your desired rate, and you know you’re not locked into this lower rate. Once you dazzle them, and prove yourself, it will be much easier to revisit your price increase.
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!”
Be pleasant, fair and “keep that door open.” Maybe you are not right for them, but maybe they refer you to someone else who does have that budget!!
How to Raise Your Rates on Current Freelance Writing Clients
If you have negotiated with a client on rates, have been working with them a while and now feel it’s time to increase rates, this can feel a bit tricky.
How can you convince them to pay more than they’re already paying you? By showing them the value you provide.
The truth is, you are in the best position to negotiate your rates with your clients because they are already working with you. They know how good you are and how much time and energy you save them. You already make their lives easier.
So my best tips for raising your rates on existing clients are
- Do it after a 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. Perfect!
I also knew that I wanted this new job but, my prices had increased since the last article. I needed to find a way to negotiate with my client on my price increase – before I accepted the work, or course.
This is how the conversation went:
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? Thanks!”
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? “
“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? My current rate is $xx”
“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 as 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 so much.”
“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, when you are negotiating with your clients on pricing, you need to 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 think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. :)
UPDATE: 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?