ASK US WEDNESDAY: “How do I raise my fees with a long-time client?”

by Rachel Smith
21 March 2018

I’m stuck in a holding pattern with a client that I can’t seem to get out of. We’ve worked together for years (nearly 4) and in all that time I have not raised my rates and my client has not offered more money. I completely take the blame for this, because I’m a total chicken talking about money at the best of times, so I’ve just let it go. Now that I want to change things, I have no idea how to approach them or what to say. I guess a part of me worries I’ll scare them off and they’ll decide to end our working relationship and find someone cheaper. Any advice? J

I firstly want to say this: you’re not alone in freaking out about the money side of things and feeling tongue-tied about bringing it up. Rather than broach the issue, we can easily start to doubt ourselves, become a victim to the negative voice in our head, perhaps even (wrongly!) convince ourselves we’re not worth a raise or that suggesting we are will force a client’s hand in a way we can’t come back from.

Of course it’s easier to zip it, stay in your comfort zone and accept fees that by rights should’ve gone up years ago. But – and you know what I’m going to say – you’ve GOT to find a way to climb over those super awkward feelings and become okay with the dreaded money discussions. Okay enough to have them regularly – at least once a year. Utilities go up. The cost of living goes up. Why shouldn’t your fees?

In regards to scaring them off – don’t. You might not think so, but you’re actually far more valuable to this client than you were when they hired you four years ago. You know about their customers, their style, their processes and what they like / don’t like. They would be crazy to ditch you for a cheaper newbie who is coming in cold, and they know it.

We cover how to broach this in our 25 Scripts ebook and the key is really to keep it friendly, simple and unapologetic. Bite the bullet and do it via email. You may agonise over what they’ll think, but chances are they’ll think, ‘Oh okay, cool’ and that will be that. Here’s a basic script idea:

‘Hi Dorothea. I wanted to get in touch to let you know I’m making a few changes to my services and my rates, and raising my rates across the board on July 1. I’ve attached my new rates card to this email. Happy to discuss if you have any questions – otherwise, looking forward to catching up with you at Friday’s meeting.’

(If you don’t have a rates card, you can find our free, customisable rate card here.)

When it comes to new clients, some ways to change your rates include doing it regularly – like every 6 months, you might raise your hourly rate by $10 or $20. It becomes part of how you do business, you let clients know with an updated rate card, and that’s basically it.

You can also think about ways to add value to your existing services. For example, I’m often asked to write blog posts for clients and I recently started bundling the content work along with pic research and social media, presenting it as a package for which I naturally charge more. Every single client says yes when I offer the ‘package’ because it saves them a heap of time, they get professionally-written social teasers they can plug into their platforms, and correctly sized images they don’t have to fiddle with. Of course, I still offer the ‘lower tiered’ price package for those who just want content, too.

I hope that helps – and please let us know how you go with your client!

How do you raise your raise with your clients?

Rachel Smith

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