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November 2, 2022

How to talk about your rates as a freelancer (to make more money)

How to talk about your rates as a freelancer (to make more money)

Want to learn how to negotiate like your life depends on it (because it kinda does)? In this blog, you'll find our top tips on negotiating (higher) rates with your clients, new and existing. We've included some conversation starters and prompts to keep the conversation going.

Because sometimes negotiating with clients feels like negotiating with unreasonable hostage-takers. Or hungry toddlers. Which makes sense: Talking about money isn't easy. But as a freelancer, it's an invaluable skill. 

Read on for these 3 scenarios:

⁉️ You don’t know what to charge

📈 You want to raise rates for existing clients

🙄 You’re negotiating with clients that want 'cheap'

How much should I charge as a freelancer?

Here’s the scenario: you simply don’t know what to charge. You’re new to freelancing and trying to determine your rate, or a client comes to you with a new type of project. 

When a potential client asks you for your hourly rate, project rate, or simply wants you to name a price – without there being a specific scope of project on the table, you’re lacking information. That’s what you’re trying to solve in the conversation that follows.

The first rule of freelance club? Don't talk about rates without knowing anything about the project. If a client is not willing to chat about that, it's safe to assume all they are doing is collecting rates to pick the cheapest one in the end. Or that they don’t really know what the project will look like: so tread with caution.

How to negotiate your price as a freelancer

''Before discussing price, let’s discuss the project and what you’re hoping to achieve, so I can give you an accurate estimate. The way I see it, every project and client have different needs. I try to adapt my pricing to that with custom prices, so no client pays for something that's not right for them.''

If they keep pushing, you can either push back and decide this client might not be a right fit, or give them a wide bracket of prices, in which you should be safe.

How can I raise my rates as a freelancer (without losing clients)?

If you want to raise your rates for existing clients, but are afraid they'll leave, it’s time to do some math. Not fun, I know, but hear me out.

Newsflash: sometimes, clients leaving kind of the point. You’re not trying to collect a huge stack of clients and end up with an unmanageable workload (unless you’re planning to turn into an agency and outsource).

Raising your rates can and should be used to buy back some of your own time. If one or two clients opt-out, don't panic yet: if everyone else stays, you could still be making the same amount as before. Or maybe even more! Just with more free time. 

How to communicate you’re raising your rates

This will help you kick-start the conversation:

  • You've loved working with them so far, and would love to continue to. Make it specific, maybe mention a past project, talk about the good times you had. Reminisce.
  • Explain that it's time for you to raise your rates, according to your experience and/or increasing rates in the industry.
  • Think from your client’s perspective—what’s in it for them and what’s your actual value? Finding a good freelancer takes time and money and clients REALLY want to avoid extra hassle.
  • Keep your reasoning short. Research says that providing more than three reasons actually decreases your chance to persuade someone. It gives the impression that you are trying too hard.
  • Say you wish to continue to provide them with that value and grow together!

But then…what if they don't agree?

  • Tell them that this is what's best for your business. You're sad to see them go, but understand that this is part of business. 
  • ALWAYS end on a good note: offer them to either change the deliverables for a price that they can afford, or help them find a new freelancer from your network who fits their budget. No need to leave with a fight!

How to avoid lowballing clients as a freelancer

Someone else can always do it cheaper, sure. If a client replies to your proposal that the guys on Fiverr can do it for half your price, don’t lower your price to that point and don’t start screaming either.

Start by taking a few deep breaths. Get up out of your chair, take a walk. Once you've cooled down, sit back down and continue the conversation like this:

How to respond to clients asking for a discount

''All clear! If the budget is the main priority for this project, that's completely understandable. However, my quote is based on efficiency/maximum impact/impressive designs (whatever fits your biz). I'd be happy to chat further about your goal for this project and see how we can make it work.''

Learn from other freelancers

Want to try out your negotiating skills on fellow freelancers before taking them to the table, or share experiences with people who know what it’s like? Join our Slack channel and connect with freelancers from all over the world!

Want more freelance advice? Sign up for our biweekly newsletter to get first-hand freelance tips delivered straight to your inbox.

Go forth and raise your rates,

Vicky from Corgee 🖖

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