You don’t have to spend much time within editorial groups on social media before someone will assert the blanket statement, “You need to raise your freelance rates.” I suppose that’s fine advice in the fashion of “You should exercise more” and “You really ought to eat more broccoli.”
Some of your peers may have talked about raising their freelance rates at the beginning of the year. Maybe you did so yourself. That’s a solid first step. But there are specific times the market and your business may be signaling that your prices could use an upward bump–especially earlier in your freelance career, since you’re gaining experience and expertise at a fairly rapid rate.
Some signals that your work warrants a higher price tag:
- You can’t remember the last time you had to market yourself. (In other words, you’re seeing strong demand at current rate levels.)
- Other freelancers with comparable skills, experience, and/or target clients are successfully charging higher rates than you are.
- You are reaching for a higher-end niche or industry.
- You are cultivating business in a major metro area.
- Personal circumstances/budget needs dictate an increase in rates.
- A project represents extraordinary long-term value for a client. (For example, instructional materials or a stylebook that might be used for years.)
- Holidays or vacations are coming up (time is tight and the extra dough would be nice!).
- Your skills and portfolio have improved since the last time you ran the numbers.
- A client has a history of being extra-challenging. (Sometimes known as a hassle fee or PITA surcharge.)
- You never or rarely get turned down for a project based on price. To me, this represents the most important (and obvious) signal that you should be charging more.
You don’t even need a specific occasion or reason to raise your rates, either. At the Editorial Freelancers Association conference last year, Adrienne Montgomerie suggested that at least once, try doubling your rate and see what happens!
There’s no reason to make a big deal of raising your freelance rates. After all, you’re not a public utility that has to announce a change to its customers. You always have the option to keep certain clients at lower rates if you believe an increase might jeopardize your relationship.
Ultimately, success in a freelance business comes down to understanding the value of your talents and matching that to what the market will bear.