At the end of each year, I like to review rates to identify opportunities for a freelance raise.
I make a client spreadsheet of each recurring project with how much it pays to determine if I’m leaving any money on the table.
Last year was the first year I had some difficult money conversations with long-term clients. But I stuck to my guns and received the raise I asked for.
Here are two keys to negotiating a raise for yourself.
Don’t Focus on the Money
The first step is overcoming mental roadblocks like not believing you’re worthy of a raise.
Let’s nip that in the bud right away.
You’re worthy of a raise if you’ve been churning out great work consistently over an entire year and you’re getting underpaid. Period.
There’s always going to be someone who’s willing to do the work you do for less, so focusing on just the money during negotiations isn’t going to get you far.
You have to explain how you bring value to your client in time saved, deadlines met, and quality of work.
If you can prove why your work makes the client more efficient and provides them great results, you’re going to do much better in the negotiation of a higher rate.
Another huge factor to bring up is how long it’s going to take to train someone to do the job you do.
After all, you’ve taken the time to learn the ins and outs of how the business operates and the brand’s identity. This counts for something and can open your client’s eyes to how much they need you.
Be Willing to Walk Away
Pitch a rate to your client initially that’s on the high end of your scale and leaves you a little room for negotiation, but give yourself a baseline.
If your baseline isn’t met, walk away.
I discovered this is the hardest yet most important part of negotiating rates as a freelancer.
Walking away when something is no longer working for you isn’t just necessary for your bank account, it’s necessary for your mindset.
Being constantly at the mercy of clients that nickel and dime for services makes you believe your effort is not very valuable. This puts you on a vicious cycle of underpricing your work across the board.
Plan out ways you can replace the client before negotiating, so you can cut ties if they’re unwilling to accept your new rate.
You can reach out to past clients for more work or ask for referrals. You can even consider getting a part-time job until you can fill your roster at the new rate.
Understand that you’re doing yourself a disservice if you notify clients of a rate increase and then accept a price below your baseline.
Freelancers are usually experts at the art form, i.e., graphic designing, writing, or growing engaging social media followings.
But these skills can’t sell themselves. It’s our job to show our clients the true value.
If you feel like you’re in need of a raise, Q4 is a good time to start reviewing your current rates and taking action towards increasing them in 2018.