How to raise your freelance copywriting rates

raise your freelance copywriting ratesYou know it’s time.

You’ve gathered some great case studies. You have fantastic testimonials. You’ve studied your craft, taken classes and honed your skills.

So, why is it so hard to tell your clients, “I’m raising my freelance copywriting rates?”

I get it. I really do. The good news is – your clients (probably) won’t tell you to jump in a lake. The bad news is – you may lose some folks, especially if you don’t raise your rates the right way.

Ready to take the plunge? Here are some things to consider if you’re thinking of raising your copywriting rates.

1. Should you raise your freelance copywriting rates? Or change your target market?  Are your current small business clients paying you $75/page – and you think your rate should be closer to $400/page?  There may be a disconnect there. You may be worth every penny – but your small business clients probably won’t be able to afford you. If you’re looking at a major rate hike, carefully consider your current niche. Will it be able to generate the income you need? Or is it time to consider a new target market with deeper pockets?

2. How much more do you want to get paid? Clients tend not to care much about small, graduate rate increases. If you want to raise your rates 30-50+ percent, you may receive some kickback. That doesn’t mean that you would never get a 75 percent rate increase. It does mean that will need to clearly demonstrate your profit-driving expertise – and how you’ve made your clients’ lives easier.

3. Ask yourself – would YOU give you a raise? If you’ve missed deadlines (even if you had a good reason,) had repeating quality issues or had any weird “stuff” happen, a rate raise will be touchy. In this situation, your client will not remember all the wonderful things you’ve done for them. They will remember exactly how and when you’ve screwed up. Best case scenario, you ease into a rate raise very slowly and have a few glitch-free months under your belt first.

4. Consider who you’ll lose. You may have a wonderful small business client that you love with all your heart. But, their micro budget can’t pay your bills – and you honestly can’t afford to work with them anymore. It’s always hard to “fire” a client that can’t pay your new fee. But know this –  you’ll have to let them go if you want your business to grow.

5. When would the rate raise become effective? Never send a client an email that says “Just so you know, I’ll be raising my copywriting rates next month by 25 percent.”  No client likes a rate raise (even if they think you deserve it!). They’ll like it even less if you don’t give them time to plan and budget.  It’s good to give your clients three months notice before your rate change becomes effective. (Working with a new client? Why not charge them your new rate now?)

6. Keep your “I’m raising my rates” email professional.  You may have a huge IRS bill, need more money to make your bills and have tons of child-related expenses. Don’t use your personal life as the reason to raise your rates. Your clients won’t care – and bringing that stuff up makes you look extremely unprofessional. And for goodness sake – don’t beg for a rate increase or say, “I really need the money.” That’s a sure way of getting fired…for good.

When you’re ready to take the plunge, write a very straightforward and friendly email. Recap your successes, outline your new copywriting rates and when they’ll take effect. Will you lose some clients? Sure. Will it be OK? Yes.

As my father used to say, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”

Isn’t it time to finally make the money you deserve to make?

11 replies
  1. Amy C. Teeple
    Amy C. Teeple says:

    Unlike tactics used by ISPs and phone companies, I prefer to reward loyalty – not try to lure new clients with lower rates. Because of this, there have been times where I raise rates for new clients, but keep my current clients at the old rates – it’s less expensive to keep a client than to get a new one.

    There have also been times where I have lost returning clients because rates had increased in their absence. In these cases, I had clients who paid me very little when I was first starting out – when I established myself and started charging rates that would allow me to sustain a business, these clients returned and wanted to pay me very low rates. I explained why my rates increased and gave them the choice to stay with the new rates or to find another writer. The ones who went elsewhere weren’t looking for GOOD content, they just wanted filler … I was fine letting them go.

  2. Nolan Wilson
    Nolan Wilson says:

    Like Amy, I usually raise my rates when I add new clients and reward my long term clients by keeping rates the same. Sometimes good clients are hard to find and it is good to have the ability to count on consistent income from long term clients.

  3. Damien
    Damien says:

    Some great points here. I have never gotten round (i.e. had the guts) to letting existing clients know I am raising rates ( I probably should bite the bullet and do that!), but new clients get told the current “new” rate upon asking.

    This ends up with charging 2 or 3 different rates for different clients, which is less than ideal…

    I think you’re right that one has to be careful that small businesses can still afford the new rates, as it would be a shame to have to say goodbye to a client with whom you have a long-standing, prosperous relationship.

    If you’re going to take the time to contact each client individually, I wonder if there is some scope for negotiation or sounding out?

  4. Heather Lloyd-Martin
    Heather Lloyd-Martin says:

    @Damien, you bring up an interesting point. You talked about “saying goodbye to a client with whom you have a long-standing, prosperous relationship.”

    But if you want to make more money – should you keep your rates low for a certain segment of your clients? Is keeping an “old” client preventing you from moving your business forward?

    Just a thought…

  5. Erin Raub
    Erin Raub says:

    I think there’s a little wiggle room with certain clients. For example, if a client works in a niche that you enjoy, or that you’d like to expand your business, or that is easy for you (requires less research/effort) to produce copy, then you might be able to “afford” lower rates. Because there’s added value to that client – a mutually beneficial relationship.

    I might also consider a courtesy rate for nonprofits or causes I believe in. But for everyone else, I ask what I’m worth.

  6. Carole Seawert
    Carole Seawert says:

    I hadn’t raised my rates for about six years so my accountant calculated what the inflation rate had been over that period and told me what my new rate should be in order to keep pace with inflation. When I told my clients that I had not raised my prices in six years and was now doing so to keep up with inflation they were all fine with it. I couched it in terms that they had been getting a good deal for the past few years. Thinking about it, that was four years ago so probably time to get back to my accountant….

  7. Jamie Thomson
    Jamie Thomson says:

    Some great advice here Heather and good to hear about other writers’ experiences too. I’m just about to raise my rates for the first time and I’m really hoping I don’t lose anybody. I’ll let you know how I get on…


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