ASK US WEDNESDAY: “Modify your freelance rates for smaller clients – yes or no?”

by Rachel Smith
25 August 2021

Originally published in 2018

Hi Rachel and Co.  You’ve written a lot on the blog about setting your rates, but what you do think about different rates for different clients? For example if you’re pitching for a job with a blue chip client, do you modify your freelance rates accordingly, compared to if you’re trying to lock in a client who runs her own business and doesn’t have any staff? Or do you advise keeping your rates the same across the board? Dan

[Dan asked this question back in 2018 and we reckon it’s still just as valid now in 2021 so here goes a re-worked version.]

There’s the argument that you should have one set of rates and stick to it for all clients no matter what. I see the appeal: you don’t have to worry which rates you’ve charged which clients and you can have a set rate card you send out every time someone asks for it. Easier. Less hassle.

But is it realistic? In the market we all operate in, not so much.

For example, if a colleague recommends you for a project with a high-paying corporate client, you’d be crazy not to chat to your colleague about what they pay freelancers and to price yourself accordingly. No point offering up $80/hour when the client would happily pay $120 for the same work, right?

Similarly, we get a range of different jobs coming onto the board, and while one might be a blue chip client paying big bucks for an ongoing project, another might be one-man-band with a small project and a small budget. Would you be crazy to pitch for the small project with the kind of rates you’d charge for the blue-chip client? Well no, but your likelihood of landing that job would be much lower.

If you really want that smaller job, know you can do it, and think it could lead to more work with that client and possibly referrals, modifying your rates to something that a) you can do efficiently and still make money on and b) fits in with what you suspect or know the client’s budget is, is a win-win.

This isn’t something you want to be doing ALL the time, mind you. A mixture of high-paying clients and plugging the gaps with regular bread’n’butter clients is ideal. And sometimes the smaller clients are the ones that really drive more business to you. I have one small client in alternative care and she has sent two other clients my way. They have only been small jobs of under about $2000, but they’re quick to do and they have meant a fair bit of repeat business, too.

Another way of approaching this is to educate your potential client about industry rates and consider sending them a copy of our Pay Rates Report as a guide. A little bit cheeky but you may even find you won’t need to modify your rate when the client understands the value within your rate…

Listers – over to you: Do you modify your freelance rates from client to client? Or perhaps you revise your rate for differing projects? Let us know in the comment section below.

Rachel Smith

2 responses on "ASK US WEDNESDAY: “Modify your freelance rates for smaller clients – yes or no?”"

  1. Emma Lovell says:

    I loved this! Such a brilliant perspective and a good strategy.

    I’ve had so many people say to me that I should never budge on my rate, and I know there is the risk of getting stuck in the lower rate rut. But it’s always worked out ok for me.

    You weigh up the options. Work out if you feel valued and you feel happy to do that work. If it all checks out, do it.

    No – it is not sustainable to be only seeking $100 p/h plus clients – lucky if you can, but we need to be making an income consistently.

    Thanks for the reassurance.

  2. Rachel Smith says:

    I think I used to feel the same, Em – you had one rate and you stuck to it. But so many freelancers work for a range of big and small clients, and modifying your rate on occasion can, as you say, be the ticket to a consistent income. And referrals and repeat business!

We'd love to hear your thoughts...

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